As a child I loved to play hide and seek. I loved it no matter if I was the one hiding who was trying not to get caught, or if I was the one seeking who was trying to catch the unexpecting. Although I haven’t played in a while, I remember the seeker, or “it” as we always called him would close his eyes and count to 100 so that all the others could hide. Now sometimes the seeker would cheat a little bit as he would peep around and then you could hear him count, “One, two, three, fourteen fifteen, sixty one and so on.” Then you would hear him scream out, Ready or not here I come.”
Four things were always certain:
1- He was surely coming
2- He was coming when he got ready
3- He was coming whether you were ready or not
4- If you were not ready, then you would pay the consequences
Little did I realize as a child how much this fun game paralleled the second coming of Jesus Christ. The Bible says we cannot know the time of the Lord’s return (Matthew 25:13). But the Scriptures make it equally clear that we can know the season of the Lord’s return (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6). This passage asserts that Jesus is coming like “a thief in the night.” But then it proceeds to make it clear that this will be true only for the pagan world and not for believers. His return should be no surprise to those who know Him and His Word, for they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to give them understanding of the nature of the times.
I have found that the best way to deal with them is to put them in categories, and in doing that, I have come up with three categories of end time signs from Matthew 24.
1) The Signs of Nature (v. 7)
This category of signs has always been the least respected, even among believers. The mere mention of it usually evokes a sneer accompanied by the words, “Come on, what else is new? There have always been earthquakes and tornadoes and hurricanes and famines.” But those who have this attitude forget that Jesus said the signs would be like “birth pangs” (Matthew 24:8). That means they will increase in frequency and intensity the closer we get to the Lord’s return. In other words, there will be more frequent natural disasters and more intense ones.
Earthquakes: According to a Wikipedia list of earthquakes, the past 500 years have witnessed the following number of earthquakes described as a magnitude 7.0 or greater: 15th Century – 2 earthquakes, 16th Century – 3 earthquakes, 17th Century – 7 earthquakes, 18th Century – 13 earthquakes, 19th Century – 29 earthquakes, 20th Century – 123 earthquakes. The first decade of the 21st Century has already witnessed 144 earthquakes with a magnitude of 7.0 or greater, putting humanity on course for 1,440 such earthquakes over the next one hundred year period!
Famines: According to a Wikipedia list of famines, the past 500 years have also witnessed an increase in the frequency of famines: 15th Century – 6 famines, 16th Century – 10 famines, 17th Century – 24 famines, 18th Century – 28 famines, 19th Century – 30 famines, 20th Century – 44 famines. The first decade of the 21st Century alone has already witnessed 12 famines, putting humanity on course for 120 famines over the next one hundred year period.
2) The Spiritual Signs (v. 5, 11, 24)
in fulfillment of these prophecies, we have experienced an explosion of cults since 1850. Some of the negative spiritual signs that are specifically prophesied include the following: false christs, cultic groups, heresies, apostasy, skepticism, deception, occultism, and persecution.
False forms of Christianity have become increasingly popular in our culture and it seems there is a resurgence of interest in things “spiritual.” The most obvious sign of the spiritual decline of the church is apathy – apathy towards the house of God, the Word of God and the presence of God. Apathy sometimes overtakes a believer – even an entire body of believers – before they are even aware anything is wrong. The fruit of apathy is apostasy.
3) The World Politics Signs (v. 6-7)
The magnitude of warfare in the 20th Century is another fulfillment of end time prophecy related to world politics. The 20th Century was one of unparalleled war. Like birth pangs, the frequency and intensity of war increased exponentially. It is now estimated that more people died in wars during the 20th Century than in all the previous wars throughout all of recorded human history.
The Bible prophesies a very specific end time configuration of world politics. Israel is pictured as being re-established (Ezekiel 37:21-22) and surrounded by hostile Arab neighbors intent on its destruction (Ezekiel 35:1 – 36:7). This, of course has been the situation in the Middle East since the Israeli Declaration of Independence in May of 1948.
The signs that relate to Israel are the most important of all because the Jews are God’s prophetic time clock. Scriptures will often tie a prophesied future event with something that will happen to the Jews. We are told to watch the Jews, and when the prophesied event concerning them occurs, we can be sure that the other prophesied event will also occur.
There are many prophecies concerning the Jews in the end times, many of which began to be fulfilled in the 20th Century, but there are four key ones. The first is their worldwide regathering in unbelief (Isaiah 11:11-12). In 1900 there were only 40,000 Jews in Palestine. By the end of World War II that number had risen to 800,000. Today, there are more than 5.7 million who have come from all over the world. Very soon there will be as many Jews in Israel as died in the Holocaust. The prophet Jeremiah says twice that when history is completed, the Jewish people will look back and conclude that their worldwide regathering was a greater miracle than their deliverance from Egyptian captivity (Jeremiah 16:14-15 and 23:7-8). The second key prophecy concerning the Jews is a natural consequence of their regathering. It is the re-establishment of their state which occurred on May 14, 1948 (Isaiah 66:7-8). The third key prophecy is the re-occupation of Jerusalem which occurred on June 7, 1967 during the miraculous Six Day War (Zechariah 8:4-8). The fourth key prophecy is the one whose fulfillment we are witnessing today — the re-focusing of world politics upon the nation of Israel (Zechariah 12:2-3). All the nations of the world, including the United States, are coming against Israel over the issue of the control of the nation’s capital — the city of Jerusalem.
To the Unsaved: Christian writer and commentator Warren Wiersbe, tells about a town where a horse bolted and ran away with a wagon carrying a little boy. Seeing the child in danger, a young man risked his life to catch the horse and stop the wagon. The child who was saved grew up to become a lawless man, and one day he stood before a judge to be sentenced for a serious crime. The prisoner recognized the judge as the man who, years before had saved his life; so he pled for mercy on the basis of that experience. But the words from the bench silenced his plea: “Young man, then I was your savior; today I am your judge, and I must sentence you to be hanged.” One day Jesus Christ will say to rebellious sinners, “During that long day of grace, I was the Savior, and I would have forgiven you. But today I am your Judge.”
To the Saved: David Peterson, missionary to England and my good friend, told about a time when he was preparing his sermon. His little daughter came in and said, “Daddy, can we play?” He answered, “I’m awfully sorry, Sweetheart, but I’m right in the middle of preparing this sermon. In about an hour I can play.” She said, “Okay, when you’re finished, Daddy, I am going to give you a great big hug. He said, “Well, I’ll look forward to that. Thank you very much.” She went to the door and (these are his words) “Then she did a U-turn and came back and gave me a chiropractic, bone-breaking hug.” David said to her, “Baby, you said you were going to give me a hug after I finished.” She answered, “Daddy, I just wanted you to know what you have to look forward to!”
Are you ready for Jesus to come back?