Signs of the times
Updated: Dec 24, 2019
With the advent of the internet came a great surge in the flow of information. Like most things, this has its pros and cons. Some of the pros for students of the Bible is the volume and speed of studying that used to be much more laborious and time consuming. Large and expensive study materials have been replaced with quick, free, and easy websites, articles, programs, etc. At least one con is that this also gives people who are not accurate in their interpretation a voice they would not have otherwise had, and it gives people who are not astute in their study of scripture much more opportunity to be exposed to wrong interpretations. The student of the Bible must be better than ever at discerning truth from error. Unfortunately, this has discouraged some from even trying, especially when it comes to prophecy. We should not “throw out the baby with the bathwater”, but rather make the effort to know the truth and weed out false doctrine.
Although some principles were covered in lesson 1, we should revisit and apply them to the specific topic of signs of the end times. One infamous error is date setting. When we try to get too specific about when the rapture of the church or the second coming of Christ is, we make ourselves false prophets and contradict the plain sayings of Jesus Christ Himself. In His discourse on when Jerusalem and the temple would be destroyed and when He would come back in Matthew 24, the Lord said His return would be as the lightning (vs 27), as the days of Noah (vs 36-42), and as a thief (vs 43-44). Peter reiterated the analogy of a thief (2Pet 3:10). All three of these comparisons show us clearly that He will come quickly and suddenly without a specific warning of the exact time. The Lord also said, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father (Mk 13:32)”. Even after the Lord’s resurrection, His disciples were still wondering about the timeframe. Just before His ascension, they asked Him, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power (Acts 1:6-7)”. Paul wrote, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night (1Thes 5:1-2)”.
The Bible does give us signs to watch for which will indicate a general timeframe for when the end will be, but not a specific calendar year or date. One popular sign people point to is the rebirth of the nation of Israel. This is certainly an important sign because some prophecies can only be fulfilled if there is a nation of Israel. Jesus said, “Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (Lk 21:24)”. Daniel, Ezekiel, and Paul spoke of a temple in Jerusalem (Dan 9:24-27, Eze 40-48, 2Thes 2). Zechariah said the Lord would return to the mount of Olives (Zech 14), as did the angels at the ascension of Christ (Acts 1:10-11). The Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 A.D. as Jesus had predicted. Israel was recognized as an independent state in 1948. However, we should be aware of some mistakes which have been made regarding this, and one in particular. Some people interpret Matthew 24:32-34 to mean that the generation that saw the rebirth of Israel would be the last before the rapture and second coming. They say that the reference to a fig tree is speaking of the rebirth of Israel. There are several issues with that which serve to illustrate how we need to be good students of the Bible. There are only three places in the Bible that connect Israel to a fig tree (Hos 9:10, Mt 21:19-20, Lk 13:6-9). None of them have to do with prophecies of the end times. They have to do with Israel bearing good fruit unto God, and it could be said that the one in Matthew does not specifically refer to Israel. So, there is not really a scriptural precedent for saying Israel is the fig tree in Matthew 24. This reference also appears in Mark 13:28-29 and Luke 21:29-31. In all three places, Jesus is referring to the signs He had been speaking about with no reference to the rebirth of Israel. The phrase “and all the trees” in Luke 21:29 shows us Jesus was not referring to the fig tree as a symbol of Israel, but as a symbol of trees in general indicating what season it is. So, what was Jesus referring to when He said, “this generation shall not pass”? We should note that this whole passage is referring to two timeframes - the destruction of Jerusalem and the end of the world. We now know that these two events are separated by millennia. So, we need to pay attention to which event the Lord is referring to. There was the generation that would see the destruction of Jerusalem. Josephus said that no Christians were in Jerusalem when it fell because they heeded the warning of Jesus to flee when they saw it surrounded by armies. Then there will be the generation which will be alive for the rapture. If “this generation” means the one that sees the rebirth of Israel will be the last, then how long is a generation? Israel was reborn in 1948. Also, Jesus said when we see the signs, we should know that it is near and nigh, but not exactly how near.
Another consideration we must keep in mind is that history repeats itself. We can find signs in many places and points in history, but we could not point to 2 things until recently:
1. All of the signs leading up to the rapture fulfilled
2. All of the signs happening at once and with such intensity
He could come in 5 minutes or in 50 years. So, we should live like He is coming in 5 minutes
but plan like He is not for 50 years. We must be careful not to be too dogmatic about pinning certain signs to certain events. Don’t be a false prophet. That is very serious. This error has been made many times before, even by well-respected preachers. Don’t unscripturally mysticize events. This is also a common error. The next exciting application of prophecy to current events may be a false one. Do your research. Don’t just repeat or repost something you saw without checking it yourself, even if it came from someone you respect. Many well-meaning people have furthered errors this way. Be a Berean and save yourself embarrassment (Acts 17:10-12). President Reagan said, “Trust but verify”.
Now let us look at signs that are actually in the Bible and let them speak for themselves. The Old Testament has some signs we can look for. Daniel spoke of a conglomeration of nations at the end (Dan 2:40-45, Dan 7:17-27, Dan 9:24-27). He mentions ten kings who shall arise. During their time the antichrist will be manifested and the Lord will come. There are differing opinions on exactly how this will be fulfilled. Jesus referred to Daniel 9:24-27 in His discourse in Matthew 24:15. There are many correlations between the books of Daniel and Revelation:
1. Dan 2 & 7: 4 beasts - kingdoms, 10 horns - kings; end w. second coming
2. 7-year period divided in half (Dan 7:25, Dan 9:27, Rev 11:2, Rev 12:14, Rev 13:5)
3. wording in Dan 7
a. Dan 7:8 - mouth speaking great things (Rev 13:5)
b. Dan 7:9 - garment was white as snow, and the hair of his head like the pure wool (Rev 1:13-14)
c. Dan 7:10a - thousand thousands ministered unto him, and ten thousand times ten
thousand (Rev 5:11)
d. Dan 7:10b - the judgment was set, and the books were opened (Rev 20:11-15)
e. Dan 7:11 - the beast was slain, and his body destroyed, and given to the burning flame (Rev 19:20)
f. Dan 7:13 - one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven (Rev 1:7)
g. Dan 7:21- the same horn made war with the saints and prevailed against them (Rev
Zechariah 14 is a prophecy about the second coming of Christ, and it correlates with Revelation. It says Jerusalem will be attacked (Zech 14:2 & 13-14, Rev 11:12), which means Jerusalem would be rebuilt (vs 11). Day and night will be changed (Zech 14:6-7, Rev 21:23). Living waters will flow from Jerusalem (Zech 14:8, Eze 47:1-12, Rev 22:1-2). The LORD shall be king over all the earth (Zech 14:9, Rev 19). There are signs which Jesus gave (Mt 24, Mk 13, Lk 17, Lk 21):
1. Deception (Mt 24:4-5, 11, 23-26 - false Christs and false prophets)
2. Wars and rumors of wars (Mt 24:6-7a)
3. Famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Mt 24:7b)
4. Persecution (Mt 24:9)
5. Offense (skandalizō - place stumbling block - make to fall away), betrayal, hate (Mt 24:10)
6. Iniquity abound, love cold (Mt 24:12)
7. Gospel in all the world (Mt 24:14) - then the end
8. When ye (that generation or the last?) abomination od desolation (Mt 24:15) - when ye see Jerusalem compassed with armies (Lk 21:20-21)
9. Sun and moon dark, stars fall, powers of heavens shaken (Mt 24:29)
10. As days of Noah, eating and drinking, marrying, knew not (Mt 24:37-39)
11. As days of Lot, did eat, drank, bought, sold, planted, builded (Lk 17:28-30)
12. Jerusalem trodden down of Gentiles until their time fulfilled (Lk 21:24)
13. Perplexity (Lk 21:25a)
14. Sea and waves roaring (Lk 21:25b)
15. Men’s hearts failing for fear (Lk 21:26)
There are signs the apostles gave:
1. They shall say peace and safety (1Thes 5:3)
2. Falling away, man of sin, letting taken out of the way (2Thes 2:1-2)
3. Perilous times (2Tim 3:1-7) - lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud,
blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection,
trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof…ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.
4. Some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats (1Tim 4:1-4)
5. There shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying,
Where is the promise of his coming? for since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation… they willingly are ignorant …the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished (2Pet 3:3-6)
The book of Revelation has many signs. Chapter 13 shows us there will be one world government (vs 1-2). This is represented as a beast which is all four of the beasts in Daniel 7 combined into one. The antichrist will be the head of this government. The word beast is used 34 times in Revelation to describe him and his government. This chapter also describes one world religion (vs 11-15), and the false prophet (Rev 16:13, Rev 19:20, Rev 20:10). This correlates with Revelation 17. Revelation 13:16-18 shows us there will be one world economic system.
Without dogmatically asserting a specific interpretation pf prophecies, or fitting them into one specific set of modern occurrences, it is interesting to look at the recent resurgence of Islam and see some possible correlations to prophecy:
1. Arabs began with Ishmael (Gen 12:1-3,16:1-16 - verse 12, 17: 18-21, 21:9-18)
2. The Bible says that at the end of the world there will be a peace treaty giving the
holy mount in Jerusalem back to Israel. That treaty will be broken, and the antichrist
will enter the re-built Jewish temple and take control of it. This will lead to the
battle of Armegeddon when the nations will gather to destroy Israel. Jesus will
return at that moment (Dan 9:23-27, Mt 23:37-39, Mt 24:1-3,15 and 21, Rom 9-
11, 2Thes 2:3-4, Rev 11:1-2). Who currently controls the temple mount and is
seeking to destroy Israel? The Muslims. This is jihad.
3. The colors of the four horsemen are white, red, black, and pale green (Rev. 6:1-8).
The colors of the flag of every Muslim state are white, red, black, and pale green.
What will the horsemen bring? Conquering, removal of peace, famine, and death.
Jihad? The next verse, verse 9, speaks of the martyrs. Who are currently the main
persecutors and murderers of Christians? Muslims.
4. Who thinks they are doing God service by killing Christians (Jn 16:2)? Muslims.
5. Rev 9:11 speaks of an angel called Abaddon or Apollyon unleashing torments. Both
these names mean destroyer. What spirit might this be? Verse 14 speaks of 4 angels
in the Euphrates river being loosed to kill? Where is the Euphrates? In Muslim Iraq.
6. Rev 12:11, 13, 14, and 17 speak of Satan persecuting and killing Christians. Again,
who are the main persecutors today? Muslims.
7. Rev 13:5-10 speaks of the beast blaspheming God, the tabernacle, and His people;
and killing with the sword. Although the sword has been replaced in modern warfare
by the rifle, who uses swords to kill Christians? Muslims.
8. Rev 16:6 speaks of murderers of saints and prophets. Verse 12 speaks of the
Euphrates river being dried up to prepare for the coming army of Armegeddon.
Where is Euphrates? In Iraq. Also see Ps 2:1-8 and Zech 14:2-3,14, and 21. Rev 16:19
speaks of Jerusalem divided into 3 parts. Could it be Jew, Christian, and Muslim? Then
Babylon is mentioned. Where was Babylon? Iraq. The same is true for Rev 17 and 18.
9. Rev 17:6 says Babylon is guilty of the blood of saints, as do 18:24 and 19:2.
10. Rev 20:4 says that the martyrs were killed by beheading - the method of the Muslims.