Jesus will return to earth I believe in the near future. He was very careful to say that no-one knows the day nor the hour, but He also took pains to tell us that we should stay awake and be prepared by knowing the signs of His future return.
Paul tells us that only those who are ‘sons of the light and sons of the day’ will be ready for His return [1 Thessalonians 5:1-6]. In other words, if we claim to be a Christian, a son [or daughter] of God, then we must make it our business and our duty to be reading the signs of the times. But it’s not automatic – that’s why Paul strongly encourages us to be watchers so we can see the signs as they are come into view.
What are some of these signs Jesus gave us? Our home Bible Study group recently were studying the Gospel of Mark, so my references will come from that gospel.
1. The Sign of False Leaders. [Mark 13:5,22] The very first sign Jesus gave His disciples who asked about His return to set up the Kingdom of God, was the warning that there would be false messiahs and teachers. The history of Christianity has been full of men like these and the situation is worse today than ever – and guess what? They have emerged from the Church and today a lot of them are actually leading Churches, and fulfilling prophecy by deceiving many, many people. So in that sense we have always been in ‘the last days’ as Peter taught in Acts 2, but there is a much greater number of these false teachers and messiahs than ever before in Christian history. All the major heresies that developed in the first few hundred years of the faith exist today in wild profusion. It is our duty to follow them up and detect their faulty teachings so we can warn others.
2. Wars and Rumours of Wars. [Mark 13:7] History has been full of conflict, revolutions and wars. Today is no different except for the scale and the number of on-going conflicts. Who thinks the Middle East crisis is going to disappear before the antichrist casts his spell over the world? After Putin’s behaviour towards Ukraine and his replication of Hitler in Czechoslovakia, there will be something else. State-based and sponsored terrorism of Muslims against Christians is also the worst ever known in world history. Are you actually watching what is going on? I don’t mean speculating and becoming a false prophet ourselves, I mean drawing others’ attention to these prophecy-fulfilling signs.
3. Earthquakes. [Mark 13:8] There have always been earthquakes, but the actual increase in the number of reported earth tremors and those causing tsunamis has earth scientists baffled. They realise the earth is going through something unusual at the moment, but most won’t admit that what is happening is an increasing sign of the coming of Jesus.
4. Famines. [Mark13:8] While famines have always been with us, we can notice several main features. Weather-based famines are a common occurrence in many countries that rely on timely rain [eg, India], proper government priorities [eg, North Korea] and whatever other reasons. As populations increase there are always problems with production, markets and distribution. During and after a civil war [such as in Syria] there will always be a problem with food production and distribution. Conflicts always lead to famines. And secondly, artificial famines will often be created to alienate ethnic and tribal groups just as effectively as a weather-driven famine does.
I guess the point here to make is that these four warning signs by Jesus to have us continually ready for His return are pretty clear for those of us who are trying to follow in His steps. Are you trying to warn others and waking people up? Are you trying to obey Jesus’; commands? Only by obeying His commands can we show our love for Him and our active faith – how can we say we love Him if we don’t obey His commands? How can we obey His commands if we don’t ‘watch and pray’ and warn others?
But there’s more! Next time I intend to reiterate Jesus’ warnings about persecutions, the status of Israel and Jewish worship as well as the nature of society when He returns.