One of the Church’s recurring themes has been our expectation of Christ’s return as Lord and King. Jesus and His apostles warned of the proximity of that event and of the need to prepare and be alert (Luke 21:34-36; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3; James 5:7-9; 2 Peter 3:10-12).
Despite these warnings, the lack of interest in this subject fluctuates. If the prophetic signals of Scripture seemed implausible and repetitive back then (2 Peter 3:3, 4), how much more they are today. The Devil wants people to fall asleep, forgetting to watch and losing the inspiration that Christ will return according to God’s promise (Hebrews 10:25).
Some signs of Christ’s return occur often, with greater or lesser intensity. Some say that these signs are not very weighty — mere repetitions of events and trends of the Roman Empire, at which time they were written. As we revisit some of these signs, notice the difference in quality now from any past fulfillments.
Wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6a). There have always been wars, but the past hundred years are unique. With the first two world wars and the development of nuclear, biological, and chemical military arsenals, continued life on earth is at risk for the first time in history.
Famines, pestilences (Matthew 24:7b). This is a paradoxical age. The world has never been so rich in material goods, but millions still can’t satisfy their basic needs. Despite advances in medicine and human welfare, the mass movement of people today allows for infectious epidemics to spread rapidly around the globe.
Earthquakes and other natural disasters (Matthew 24:7c). From ancient times, natural disasters have caused suffering and death. In recent years they have increased in frequency and intensity (The Economist, October 12, 2013, p. 93).
Moral, religious decline (Matthew 24:4, 5, 12, 23, 24;
2 Timothy 3:1-5). Moral decay and religious confusion have long existed. Now, however, those who claim connection to Jesus Christ are divided into hundreds of streams and movements, sometimes antagonistic to each other and often far from the Lord’s Word. Also, societies descending from the Judeo-Christian root suffer a moral crisis as never before, losing their biblical roots for immoral lifestyles condemned by God. “Nevertheless, when the Son of Man comes, will He really find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8b).
Skeptics disregard these signs because they are not really unique and have occurred over several time periods of human history. So let us see if our era is unique in events that, according to the Bible, will precede the second coming of Christ.
Seen in the light of the Bible’s information, recent history reveals singular events that have been fulfilled in our days. These should provide a strong warning that Jesus’ coming is getting closer.
Rebirth of Israel in 1948. After centuries of dispersion, persecution, and suffering, the people of Israel are back in their land and have re-founded the nation. This unprecedented event in the Christian era relates to biblical prophecy and the promises concerning Messiah’s coming (Zechariah 12:8-10). What’s happening around Israel today is one of the most important signs to watch regarding Jesus’ coming as King to reign in Jerusalem (Psalm 83:1-8).
Exponential scientific development. The modern era has no equal. Since the industrial age began in the early 1800s, a revolution has continuously accelerated and multiplied in all fields of science, expanding to boundaries that seemed unattainable just a few years back. Rather than attract humans to perceive a God who can be clearly seen in nature and scientific revelation, this new stage of knowledge empowered men with the illusory belief of self-sufficiency, that believing in a Creator God is mere superstition (Romans 1:18-22; Daniel 12:4b).
Global village. Maritime discoveries, driven mainly by fifteenth century Portuguese and Spaniards, began a new era in world globalization. This closer relationship between all countries and their people accelerated in the second half of the twentieth century. Now the world lives in ever more interconnected ways — economically, politically, and socially in a complex system. Never before has humanity witnessed such interdependence of local and regional realities as a truly universal system, where barriers of distance and language cease to be of great significance. The Bible calls this global system and interdependent life of humanity “Babylon the great” (Revelation 18:1-3). Prophecies say that everyone will be affected by these events (Luke 21:25-27). This apparently robust world system creates conditions for a more intense global crisis, making us nearer in world relationships but more fragile and insecure than ever. This is mirrored in the figure of a “giant with feet
. . . of clay,” portrayed by the statue in Nebuchadnezzar’s vision. The statue symbolizes the human governance systems since the time of Babylon to the present (Daniel 2:33, 42).
Global gospel. This movement has also allowed the near-fulfillment of a prophecy regarding Christ’s return: God’s Word with its gospel message will be available around the world (Matthew 24:14; Revelation 14:6). Today the Bible has been translated, in whole or in part, into more than twenty-five hundred languages. Radio, television, and Internet distribute the gospel further and further. For the first time, most of humanity can receive God’s Word in some way. Another generation soon will take the gospel to the last unreached people group, and then “the end will come” (Matthew 24:14).
These recent unique signs regarding the Second Coming should break the skepticism of those who look at the Bible and scoff at the imminence of that event. Despite growing evidence that should warn us all, many will become more skeptical toward the Word. If not careful, those in the church can fall prey to the same attitude and risk of unbelief (vv. 12, 22, 36-39).
Hanging on to hope
More than guessing the day of Christ’s coming, the Bible’s signs should alert us to the need to prepare for that day and for hard times and sudden changes in this globalized world (Luke 21:25-27; 1 Thessalonians 5:3-11).
To a humanity that’s more and more despairing, we must counter-pose with the hope brought in God’s Word. The present and future sufferings are no more than a brief moment announcing a kingdom of happiness, harmony, and love that Jesus will set up when He returns.BA