The Bible Advocate has evolved over more than one hundred fifty years with several changes in name, ranging from Hope of Israel to today’s title. One thing that has not changed is the belief that Jesus Christ will return again and establish His kingdom on this earth.
This message is important because it provides hope for a world filled with violence and ever-increasing evil. It also lends a tremendous sense of urgency to the gospel message.
The return of Christ is rapidly approaching, although it is impossible to set an exact date. (In fact, I wrote a book on the subject.) Still, Jesus did not want us to be ignorant concerning His return.
In Matthew 24 He provides some specific signs to watch for. Two of these are distinct to recent history and critical regarding the return of Christ.
Rebirth of Israel
The first sign within the modern era is the miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948. This occurred after nearly two thousand years of desolation following the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem by Titus Vespasian in ad 70.
If you read Matthew 24 closely, you will find that the discussion concerning signs of the end began with the disciples calling attention to the beautiful buildings of the temple. Instead of sharing in their fascination, Jesus gave them a somber prophecy.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “Truly I tell you, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down” (Matthew 24:1, 2).
Jesus knew of Israel’s pending desolation following the decimation of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, predicted in the book of Daniel. Leviticus 26 also provides a preview of the destruction and desolation that would be inflicted as punishment for disobedience:
“I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. I myself will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled. I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins” (Leviticus 26:31-33).
Despite this extreme punishment, Jesus knew the nation of Israel would be reborn before His second coming. Consider what Jesus said later in Matthew 24:
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24:32-34).
The prophet Hosea tells us that God describes Israel in terms of a fig tree (Hosea 9:10). Jesus used the same metaphor in the previous passage.
Ironically, the rebirth of Israel in the modern era can be directly linked to the Holocaust. Adolph Hitler wanted to exterminate the Jewish race and killed more than six million Jews.
However, this horror became the driving force for establishing a homeland for Jews, who had been trapped in other nations under Nazi control. The Bible prophesied this dramatic event as a second regathering of the people (the first after the Babylonian captivity), and those brought back were described as a surviving remnant.
In that day the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from Assyria, from Lower Egypt, from Upper Egypt, from Cush, from Elam, from Babylonia, from Hamath and from the islands of the Mediterranean. He will raise a banner for the nations and gather the exiles of Israel; he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth (Isaiah 11:11, 12).
Back to the Promised Land
Note that Isaiah refers to a regathering not only from many countries but also from the four quarters of the earth. Following the horrible events of World War II, Jews from around the world migrated back to the Promised Land, and in 1948 they declared their independence as a sovereign nation.
In 1949 the U.N. officially admitted Israel as a member. This miraculous sign happened just a few short years ago, in terms of history. The Jews’ return was prophesied to occur because Christ will also return to the Mount of Olives to enter the final battle centered on the Jewish state.
Then the Lord will go out and fight against those nations, as he fights on a day of battle. On that day his feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, east of Jerusalem, and the Mount of Olives will be split in two from east to west, forming a great valley, with half of the mountain moving north and half moving south (Zachariah 14:3, 4).
On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and supplication. They will look on me, the one they have pierced, and they will mourn for him as one mourns for an only child, and grieve bitterly for him as one grieves for a firstborn son (12:9, 10).
Clearly the battle Zachariah describes has yet to be fought. I know of no time when Jesus (the one they pierced) stood on the Mount of Olives during a battle of all nations where the Mount of Olives was split in two.
This future battle could not take place without the rebirth of the nation of Israel. The regathering of Jews from around the world following the Holocaust and the creation of a sovereign nation from this surviving remnant is nothing short of an earth-shattering miracle.
Spreading the gospel
The second sign that is distinct to recent history is preaching the gospel to all nations. The good news has been preached for nearly two thousand years, but never with the saturation that has be enabled within this modern era.
“And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
Technology has greatly assisted spreading the gospel, beginning with the invention of the printing press in 1439. However, radio, television, satellites, and the Internet were all invented in just the last century.
There has literally been an explosion of media technology, especially with the Internet and smartphone. You can visit libraries or people around the world from the comfort of your home or even on a commute to work.
Penetrating the darkness
Because of this recent technology, oppressive regimes have been penetrated by the gospel, including the worst-case countries like North Korea. Gospel-centered programs are broadcast every day into this nation and heard over thousands of smuggled radios.
Although impeded by governments, Christianity still exists in Russia, China, and even the Middle East. The Pew Research Center (2011) estimated the Christian population in Russia to be 105 million (73 percent), China 67 million (5 percent), and the Middle East-North Africa to be 13 million (4 percent).
A 2011 article published by the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association noted that the world could be only ten to fifteen years away from seeing the Great Commission fulfilled.
Bible translation growth
Researcher Alexander Atkins states the Bible has been translated into more than five hundred languages and is the world’s best-selling book of all time. Matthias Gerner PhD, ThM, an internationally respected expert in linguistics, has published two academic books and written more than thirty peer-reviewed journal articles concerning language and translation.
In 2017, Gerner wrote that the exponential growth of worldwide Bible translation can be modeled by a mathematical function. Based on current trends, Gerner states it is possible to project the end of the history of pioneer Bible translation sometime between 2026 and 2031.
There is no way to know exactly when the Great Commission will be fulfilled, but does anyone doubt we are quickly approaching that time? Remember the words of Jesus. He said the gospel of the kingdom would be proclaimed throughout the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Christianity and the gospel message are not hidden in today’s world of exploding communications technology.
Middle East tensions
Many would agree that we live in perilous times, with thousands of nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons spread across the world. These weapons have the capacity to exterminate the human race many times over. The Middle East could explode at any time and possibly drag nations into a third world war.
Most of the tension in this region exists because of an extreme hatred focused on the nation of Israel by neighboring countries, mostly based on centuries-old religious ideology. Simply stated, some of the nations despise Israel because she dares to exist.
Death and life
The return of Christ may come soon, but the end of this world could occur for any of us at any time. Romans 5:12-16 tells us that death as punishment was passed on to humanity through one man, Adam, and that eternal life can be found through just one man, Jesus. Christ was not sent to condemn the world but to save whosoever believes from the certainty of death (John 3:17).
Too often the good news is not presented in this light but rather as a message of condemnation. Adam caused the condemnation of humanity, and Satan caused the fall of humanity through deception. Satan called God a liar and told Eve that she and Adam would not die but be like God when they ate the forbidden fruit (Genesis 3:1-5). This is why Satan is known as the father of lies and the deceiver of the world.
The Bible Advocate has proclaimed the coming kingdom of Christ from its inception. However, we all have a responsibility as individuals to share the good news of the gospel.
That message tells everyone that there is a way to escape death, there is hope for the fate of humanity, and that way is through Jesus Christ and Him alone.
Scripture quotations are from the New International Version.