Signs of Jesus' Return
Jesus promised to eventually return in order to gather up or "rapture" His believers. Most Christians believe this will be the event that marks the beginning of a seven-year "tribulation" period, in which the anti-Christ comes to power.
Some might wonder what the signs of His coming would be.
Jesus tells us in Matthew 24:36: "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father."
Here, He makes it clear that no one will know exactly when He will return. I believe this to literally mean that even people who guess, or try to pinpoint a time and/or day, will be wrong. Jesus is telling us straight, that "no one" will ever guess it correctly. But are we able to approximately determine the time?
The Bible says that we can "know the season" of Jesus' return to earth. Prior to His return, there will be events or "signs" that will signal that His Return is going to happen very soon. Let's look at them.
Matthew 24:5: "For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ (or Messiah),' and will deceive many."
Infamous names such as James Warren "Jim" Jones (May 13, 1931 - November 18, 1978) of the Guyana tragedy and David Koresh (August 17, 1959 - April 19, 1993) of the Branch Davidians, Waco, Texas siege, immediately spring to mind. Both of these men claimed to be Jesus and attracted a significant number of followers.
Others such as Klaus Kinski, Michael Travesser, Marshall Applewhite (of the "Heaven's Gate cult) and Sergei Torop, also believed themselves to be Jesus or some form of re-incarnated Jesus.
Matthew 24:6: "You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come."
Since it seems that man is always going to be making war, Jesus wants us to understand that war alone is not a sign by itself. Many people felt that both World War I and World War II were going to usher in the return of Christ. Horrible as they were though, many other signs had yet to be fulfilled.
Matthew 24:7-8: "Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains."
Jesus goes no to reiterate that many nations will be fighting, in some form or another when the return occurs. An interesting note here is that Jesus compares all of the signs above, to birth pains. In the birth process, labor pains are typically mild and widely spaced at first, but as the birth draws near, the pains get more intense and closer together. Although there have always been wars, famines and earthquakes, if one were to compare the frequency or number of these events that have occurred in the last five years versus twenty years ago, it would be noticed that they have increased significantly. A web site called Rapture Ready, keeps an "index" of end time signs and assigns them a numerical value based on events occurring within that category. The site's webmaster, Todd Strandberg, points out, anything above 145 is considered to be "fasten your seatbelts", or more plainly, the Lord may return at any moment. The Rapture Ready Index has not been below 145 in at least the last three years.(1)
Matthew 24:9: "Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me."
To say that Christians are "liked", outside of the Christian community, is somewhat of a stretch. The majority of people, worldwide, find Christians to be, at best, obstructionist and at worst, bigots, intolerant elitist and hypocrites. In many countries of the world, being a Christian is frowned on by the government, and in some places, downright illegal. Christians are routinely jailed in countries like China and Saudi Arabia. In many places, Christians loose their lives, as the local government either endorses or ignores their persecution. The Voice of the Martyrs web site has numerous articles and a list of almost 40 individuals who have been jailed for professing a faith in Jesus Christ. Thousands of Christians have been put to death, world wide, over the last five years alone.(2)
Special interest groups, such as the homosexuals, find it nearly impossible to contain their dislike, bordering on almost outright hatred, for Christians who hold to a Biblical Truth/Moral Absolutes viewpoint. In many cases, major Christian denominations have chosen to embrace a doctrine of social acceptance of the homosexual agenda, instead of holding true to the teachings of the Bible. More on that later.
On my Blog, I posted an article in which a major homosexual activist was quoted as saying; "All churches who condemn us will be closed." (3) An idle wish? Maybe not. In numerous court decisions, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) along with others, has forced schools and local governments, through the threat of lawsuits, to expunge the word "Christ" from the public square. In many places, the traditional opening prayer has been removed and the mere mention of the name "Jesus" will bring thunderous criticism or worse. Quite clearly, Christians are being hated throughout the world.
Matthew 24:10-11: "At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people."
As I pointed out above, many "Christians" have found it more desirable to "pick and choose" what portions of the Bible they believe, so that they can avoid conflict with society on difficult issues. I propose not only are the cult leaders, I outlined above, false prophets and deceivers, but many pastors of non-Bible believing congregations could be considered "deceivers" as well.
Matthew 24:14: "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."
With the advent of the Internet, modern communications was changed forever. Now, vast amounts of information or virtually any topic is a mouse click away. Also, with the prevalence of satellite communications, the Christian message can be beamed to the most remote points in the world. Not even allowing for advanced communications, standard broadcast radio, television and short wave radio broadcast have been beaming the Word of God to the furthest reaches of the world for years.
I ran across an interesting idea concerning the topic of this verse. The point was made that some accounts in the Bible, entire households (families) and in some cases entire towns were converted to Christianity after being exposed to the Word. One must wonder, in these accounts, did every single person hear the word directly, or did it spread by word of mouth after it's initial presentation? Could it be said that preaching the gospel to a majority of the people in a town or village, the same as preaching it to the whole town? I can't pretend to know the answer to this, since the Bible doesn't give us those types of details, but it does make for an interesting topic for contemplation.
So what else does the Bible say about end times?
The book of Daniel, in the Old Testament, actually contains some accounts of end time signs, prophesied many years before the birth of Jesus. It is somewhat lengthy, but I want to review it in order to show how much has already occurred.
In Daniel chapter 9, Daniel prays to God for the people of Israel, who have, for many years, been under the control of the Babylonians. In answer to Daniel's prayer, God sends the angel Gabriel, to present an answer. God's answer tells about signs that will take place during the tribulation period, after the Christians have been taken away or "raptured" by Jesus. The temple will be rebuilt through the efforts of the anti-Christ. Then the anti-Christ will make a seven-year peace treaty with Israel, but break it half way through. He will desecrate the temple until Jesus' return ends it.
From Ezekiel 38, the areas know as Gog and Magog are prophesied to attack Israel in a great battle, during the end time. God will actually enter the fight and destroy the forces of these nations in a showing of His divine power. God and Magog are generally held to be the areas of Southeast Europe and Southwest China.
1 Timothy 4:1: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons."
2 Timothy 3:1-4: "But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God-"
Both of these passages address the apostasy (or falling away) of the church from Biblically sound teachings. I mentioned above, the acceptance of the homosexual agenda, as an example of one such "falling away" that many churches today are embracing. Beyond that, we are certainly seeing the central premise of societal norms shifting from a "do unto others what you would have them do unto you" mentality to a "what's in it for me" mentality. People do love money above most everything else, children are very disobedient to their parents and people forget that they owe not only everything they own to God, but their very existence here on earth to Him. Our "sue happy" society is a perfect example of the "unforgiving" and "slanderous" nature of modern people. On top of all that, we are a society of "lovers of pleasure". Look at our television programs and magazines, loaded with sexual suggestions in almost every program or page, sex on demand from the pay-per-view TV channels and the Internet and even drugs available to enhance our sexual performance. Yes, I would say that as a society, we meet all the criteria for being in the last days!
So what will happen?
Well, those of us who remained true to the teachings of Jesus and diligently pray for the Holy Spirit to give us guidance, will be "taken up" to meet Jesus in the air and live in Heaven with Him until He returns to earth. I've always thought the word "rapture" in this context was too hard to understand, but it does fit. This paragraph from my friends, Ben and Jen, at Contender Ministries really describes it well:
"The word rapture (in Greek harpazo, in Latin rapere) means to be caught up or taken away suddenly. The rapture refers to the sudden removal of all of God's people on the earth. In the twinkling of an eye, born again Christians will suddenly be transformed out of our human bodies and will rise up into the air to join Jesus Christ." (4)
What is meant by "born again"? It means to have a relationship with Jesus Christ. It is imperative that you believe in Jesus, if you intend to miss out on the horrors, which will follow the rapture of Jesus' faithful, during the tribulation period.
If you would like to know more,follow this link.
Thank you for taking the time to read this article.
Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian Family
1. Rapture Index
2. The Voice of the Martyrs
3. Jesus is Lord, A Worshipping Christian's Blog
4. Contender Ministries