What are some of the signs that we’re nearing the time of Jesus’ return?
Perversion of the Gospel
We don’t know if Jesus’ stepbrother, Jude, believed what many others did. That was their expectation of Jesus returning in their own lifetime, but he did seem to have a sense of an end-time scenario. By the way, most of the first-century church lived with the expectation of Christ’s return. Obviously, they missed it by at least 2,000 years. But are there signs today that precede Jesus’ coming? Jude writes as if he is writing about today, saying, “I found it necessary to write appealing to you to contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints. For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 1:3-4). These ungodly “people blaspheme all that they do not understand, and they are destroyed by all that they, like unreasoning animals” (Jude 1:10). Jude writes that “in the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions. It is these who cause divisions, worldly people, devoid of the Spirit” (Jude 1:18-19). A clear sign of Jesus’ coming are these distorted versions of the Gospel, which can be seen everywhere today. There are unbelievers everywhere, scoffing at the idea that there is even a God at all.
The Days of Noah
Jesus referred to the end of the age by saying, “As it was in the days of Noah, so will it be at the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:37-39). In other words, it will be business as usual. And just as the people in Noah’s day never would have expected a flood, neither will many expect Jesus to come and bring a flood of judgment against all unbelievers. Perhaps another sign that it’s just as it was in Noah’s day is that “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight, and the earth was filled with violence. And God saw the earth, and behold, it was corrupt, for all flesh had corrupted their way on the earth” (Genesis 6:11-12). Sounds like today’s headlines, doesn’t it? The phrase “the earth was filled with violence” is repeated twice in this chapter because God is emphasizing the fact that violence had grown so bad that the whole earth or population of man was full of it (Genesis 6:11, 13). Can you see how this same violence that was taking place in Noah’s day is similar to what’s happening today in our streets?
Natural and Man-made Catastrophes
Jesus, in giving the so-called Olivet Prophecy, said just before His return that “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places” (Matthew 24:7). These are not the signs of His return, but they are like “the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:8). During the time leading up to Christ’s return, “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken” (Matthew 24:29). And only after this “will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other” (Matthew 24:30-31). The darkened sun and blotted-out moon could be from volcanic activity, earthquakes, meteorites, or asteroids striking the earth. Most somber of all could be the result of a nuclear winter after another global or world war.
We can’t pin down every single sign of Jesus’ soon return any more than we can understand all prophecy, but that’s okay. We’re not commanded to understand all prophecy; we are commanded to be ready at any moment. Jesus says, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:36-37). “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44). Those who sit on the fence about Christ today might be cast into hell with those on the other side someday. Today is the day of salvation (2 Corinthians 6:2), as there is no guarantee for either of us that tomorrow will even come. It’s too great a risk to delay your salvation. Come to Christ today and you will be ready for His return; delaying could prove disastrous (Revelation 21:8).
It’s great to understand prophecy and be looking for the signs of Jesus’ return, but this can take our eyes off Jesus. He must remain the central focus of our studies in the Word. We don’t know when Jesus will return; we only know He will, which means we have work to do while it’s still day. The time is coming when no one will be able to work and the age of grace will be over. We must warn others of the coming wrath of God (Romans 2) so that the grace and mercy of God will be relevant to them. Unless we tell them of the need to repent and believe, they will die in their sins with the wrath of God abiding on them (John 3:36b). Let God use you as a means to save some by bringing them to Christ and then letting Him save them (John 3:16; Acts 4:12).