“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).
Many years ago the French scientist, Pierre Bercheldt made a very dramatic statement. Bercheldt said (back in 1860), “Within one hundred years of physical and chemical science, man will know what the atom is.” And he went on further to say, “It is my belief that when science reaches this stage, God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys and will say to humanity, ‘Gentlemen, it’s closing time.'”
Bercheldt was right on the first part of his prediction. One hundred years have passed and men have found what the atom is—and we have reason to believe that the second part of his prediction may soon come true just as well. God will come down to earth with His big ring of keys and will say to humanity, “It’s closing time.”
One of the truths repeated over and over again in the Bible is the fact that Jesus Christ is coming to the earth twice. He came once nearly two thousand years ago (born as an infant and laid in a manger); He is going to come again (to reign as King of kings and Lord of lords). He is not going to come as the lowly Nazarene; His coming will be with great power and great glory. The New Testament says, “The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).
None of us knows just when He is going to come, but Jesus did speak of a number of events and conditions that would take place on earth just before He returns to reign. And God expects us to know something about general conditions that will prevail on earth just before Jesus returns. Hebrews 10:25 says “Exhort one another daily, and so much the more as ye see the day approaching.” The Scripture clearly implies that it is possible for us to see the day of the Lord approaching. 1 Thessalonians 5:4 says further, “But ye brethren are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief; ye are all the children of light.” It is true that the coming of the Lord will be like a thief in the night, but believers have the Scriptures and are thus not in darkness about His coming. We should be able to see as the time draws near.
Jesus says that we ought to know when the time is close at hand (Matthew 24:33). There are a number of signs that tell something about the times in which we live, and we want to see what the Bible says about the signs which point to the approaching end of the age.
1. Physical Signs
We refer to signs that will occur in the physical universe. The disciples asked, “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?” And Jesus (in Matthew 24:7) talked about famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places.
There have always been famines, but the worst famines in history have occurred in the Twentieth Century. Twenty million people starved to death in Russia during the years that followed World War II. And then there are countries of Asia and parts of Africa where the Sahara is advancing southward that have a real dearth of food. The problem of food supplies is a major concern of about ninety percent of the nations of earth. The population of the earth is rapidly increasing and as a result scientists are fearing a time of mass starvation.
And then too, pestilences are on the increase. My grandfather (who was a farmer) never bothered to spray his potatoes and beans and the trees in his orchard. There were no massive pestilences like there are today. Many farmers in our day say that as soon as they spray for one pest (and think they’ve got that one conquered), behold another bug appears and they have to start all over.
Jesus said that earthquakes will be multiplied and intensified as we approach the time of the end. There was an average of ten earthquakes each year in the time of Christ. That number was increased to five hundred each year during the Seventeenth Century. Today the Geodetic Survey says there must be at least one billion earthquakes each year. They state further that the earth is in a continuous quiver. The instruments scientists use to record earth tremors are called seismographs. The seismograph is a device that has a scale ranging from zero to ten and is used to measure the intensity of an earthquake. The 1965 earthquake in Alaska was the most severe quake ever recorded. It measured 8.6 on a scale that only goes up to 10. There have always been earthquakes, but there has been a remarkable increase not only in number but also in intensity—and this is another indication that we are approaching the end time.
2. National Signs
There are signs among the nations that point to the soon coming of our Lord. One of the national signs is the indication that nations are preparing to march on Israel. The 38th chapter of Ezekiel tells about a military invasion of the land of Israel by a great army which comes from the north. The Bible says, “In the latter years, thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel” (Ezekiel 38:8). Verse 15 of the same chapter says, “And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts.” The country that lies north of Palestine will come upon the land of Israel in the last days to carry away plunder. Russia’s attempt to control the Middle East is evidence that this prophecy is coming closer to a fulfillment in our day.
Another sign related to the nations is that world leaders are distressed and perplexed. Jesus says, “And there shall be signs in the sun and in the moon and in the stars, and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity” (Luke 21:25). Jesus said that as we approach the time of His coming again, nations are going to be engulfed in problems for which they can see no way out. A noted evangelist recently said, “It has been my privilege during the past few years to sit down with some of the world’s top leaders to discuss world conditions. Few of them are hopeful; most of them are at their wits end; none of them are optimistic.”
The world today is seething and boiling with misunderstanding. Racial tensions, and bitterness and unrest, unruly demonstrations, and an increasing brutality in warfare are sending a shudder through the hearts of men and women all over the world. From Cuba to Korea, from Lebanon to Angola, from South Africa to Latin America—no matter where one turns—there is disturbance and unrest. There is “upon the earth, distress of nations, with perplexity.” A noted historian, who once thought that the world is moving toward a paradise, said in one of his last books: “This world is at the end of its tether; the end of everything we call life is close at hand.” The mental attitude of the world today reminds us of the words of Jesus, when He said, “Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.”
3. Jewish Signs
When God called Abraham many years ago, He said that He would raise up a great nation from his offspring—and God promised the land of Palestine to be their inheritance. God later told the whole nation of Israel that if they obeyed Him, He would bless them in their land; if they disobeyed God, He would bring chastening and expel them from the land. A careful reading of Deuteronomy 28:1-6, 15, 63-64 will verify the statement above.
We know the history of Israel. The Jewish nation disobeyed God, and as a result the people were carried away captive into foreign nations. Down through the centuries, they were scattered from one end of the earth to the other—dispersed among the nations, just as God had said they would be. But the Bible not only predicted that Israel would be scattered; it also says that Israel will be regathered again into her ancient homeland (Deuteronomy 30:1,3,5).
For twenty-five centuries the Jews were without a kingdom and scattered among the nations—but they never lost their identity, and on May 14, 1948, Israel became a nation again. That is indeed a miracle.
Where are the Hittites and the Hivites and the Jebusites and the Girgashites? These were thriving nations in the Middle East too. How many of you have a neighbor who is a Philistine? These and other former kingdoms have been absorbed by the nations of the world and have lost their identity—but not so with the Jews! Skeptics and unbelievers said the Jews would never return again to Palestine. They said it would be impossible to weld together into one nation a people estranged from each other for so many centuries (and speaking so many different languages), but today Israel is officially re-established in her ancient homeland.
The return of the Jews to Palestine, and the rebuilding of the nation of Israel has happened exactly as it was prophesied to happen. This fact alone should be enough to convince any unbeliever of the power of God and of the accuracy of the Bible.
4. Moral Signs
Jesus said that moral conditions on the earth (just before He returns) would be like the days of Noah. And the days of Noah were days of great wickedness and moral corruption. Genesis 6:5 says, “And God saw that the wickedness of man was great on the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.” That is what it was like in the days of Noah.
Luke records too that conditions before the coming of Christ will be as it was “in the days of Lot” (Luke 17:28-30). The people of Sodom were exceedingly wicked. The Apostle Peter says that Lot’s righteous soul was vexed from day to day with their unlawful deeds and with their filthy conversation (2 Peter 2:6-8). Isn’t that a picture of conditions that exist today? Our society is saturated with “unlawful deeds” and “filthy conversation.” If you spend some time around the average group of factory workers today, or the average group of truck drivers, or the average group of school teachers—you’ll wonder if some people ever have a decent thought in their heads! Moral standards in America have gone down more in the past decade than in the entire previous hundred years.
Our day is characterized by drunkenness and loose living. Most people have sold out to amusements, gambling, and sports. There is more carnality and more crime and more lying and more adultery and more easy divorce and more desecration of the Lord’s Day than at any other time since the creation of Adam—with the possible exception of the days just before the Flood in Noah’s time.
Literature and entertainment are filled with illicit sex, nakedness, lust, violence, crime, drinking, filth, obscenity, etc.—until one is almost sickened by the thought of it. The moral standards of many in our society are about like those of an alley cat. One company is distributing grandson dolls with male sex organs for the children to play with. Groups of married couples gather, mingle, and exchange partners (called “swinging”) and engage in sexual orgies of an almost unbelievable nature. Homosexuals are loudly appealing for “gay rights.” It is quite evident that Sodom lives again in the wickedness of our own social structure—and these are all indications that the coming of our Lord is moving closer and closer.
5. Religious Signs
The Scriptures state that certain signs of our Lord’s coming will appear even within the professing church. One of the sad notes of prophecy is that as the age draws to a close, much of the church, instead of becoming better, will grow worse, and ultimately end in apostasy. The Bible says, “Let no man deceive you, for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first” (2 Thessalonians 2:3). And again we read, “in the latter times some shall depart from the faith” (1 Timothy 4:1).
Departure from the faith is evident today on every side. There are those in the professing church who laugh at the verbal inspiration of the Bible, ridicule the vicarious blood atonement of Jesus Christ, poke fun at the miracles, and lay aside some of the ordinances clearly taught in the New Testament. It is true that records for church building have been broken, and in many places church membership rolls are fairly large—but the vast majority of church members are indifferent to spiritual truth and unconcerned about the souls of lost persons. Many in our churches know more about Hollywood than they know about Heaven, and they know much more about sports than about the Spirit. Jesus says that as we approach the time of the end, the love of many “shall wax cold.”
One of the joyous signs in the religious realm is the fact that the Gospel is being proclaimed to all nations (Matthew 24:14). The enormous outreach of radio broadcasting during the past three decades, the use of airplanes to help those serving in remote mission stations, and the wide distribution of printed literature is all part of the effort to share the Gospel with earth’s tribes and nations. The Wycliffe translators are working hard at the great task of publishing the Scriptures in the languages of the various cultures on every continent. When the disciples asked the question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the age?”—Jesus said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
6. Travel Signs
The prophet Daniel says that in the time of the end “many shall run to and fro” (Daniel 12:4). There is going to be lots of travel.
When George Washington traveled from Philadelphia to New York for his inauguration, it took nearly two weeks of difficult travel. Today the same trip takes only a relatively few minutes. Isaac Newton was one of the most brilliant men that ever lived. He discovered the laws of gravitation; he divided light into its seven component parts; he invented the calculus. But Newton had a strong faith in God, believing the Bible to be true. He said (way back in the 1600’s) concerning the passage in Daniel 12: “Personally I believe these words concern the end of time. Men will travel from country to country. There may be some means of travel invented which will enable people to go much more quickly than now.” Newton went on to say that he believed that someone might invent some means of locomotion which would enable men to travel at the astonishing rate of fifteen or twenty miles per hour. The people said, “He’s crazy; look at him; an intelligent man; but he’s out of his mind over his religion.”
The kind of travel that seemed altogether impossible eighty years ago is now a commonplace thing. Transportation eighty years ago was mostly by horse and buggy. Automobiles were a novelty; airplanes were unknown; most people traveled only a few miles from their homes during an entire lifetime. Today it is altogether different. Trains travel one hundred miles per hour; ships cross the Atlantic in a few days: planes travel across the Atlantic ocean in a few hours; space ships have carried men completely around the earth in less than ninety minutes. One can board a Concorde jet plane in London at 12:00 noon and arrive at Dulles Airport in Washington D.C. at 11:00 A.M. the same day because the plane travels faster than the earth rotates. Men are running to and fro, and the prophet Daniel was inspired to write that then shall be the time of the end.
When Jesus spoke about His coming again, He told a parable about ten virgins. Five were wise and five were foolish. Five had oil in their lamps and five had none. And while those who had none hurried to buy some, the bridegroom came, “And they that were ready, went in with him to the marriage and the door was shut” (Matthew 25:10). These words make it clear that when Jesus returns there will only be two classes of people—the wise who are prepared to go with Him, and the foolish who will be left behind. Today the invitation to receive Jesus Christ is still open, and God in His mercy has withheld judgment. If you have never done it, won’t you admit that you have sinned against God and that the penalty for sin is death? Won’t you believe that Jesus died as a Substitute to pay the penalty for your sins? Won’t you become a disciple of His, and promise to be an obedient and loyal servant to Him?
It is true that Jesus will make demands on your life; there are some things you will need to give up; you might lose some old friends. But think what you’ll get! Your sins will be forgiven; the peace of God will flood your soul; at the end of the road you’ll go out to live with God the Father and God the Son forever.
For those who know Christ, the hope of His soon coming should spur righteous living day after day. Our prayer is that the Lord will help each of us to live every day, as if it were our last day before the coming of Jesus.