We’ve made it into the year 2000 without mishap. There was no Y2K bug and everything is running pretty well. It turns out that all the doomsday prophets were wrong about the world ending in the year 1999, or 2000 for that matter. We’ve made it beyond the famed Mayan apocalypse. And of course we’ve survived Harold Camping’s doomsday (both of them in fact!) I say shame on the Christians who fell for these supposed doomsdays and woe to the ones making them. They shouldn’t have been making the predictions anyway. The Bible clearly states that the day and the hour of Christ’s return are unknown. In Mark 13:32 states that “No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the father.” How foolish it is for anyone to say they know when Christ will return and the end of the age will occur when even Christ didn’t know the time.
But are there signs that Christ’s return is imminent? The Bible clearly lays out a diagram of events that shows the events that will occur around the time of Christ’s return. So fasten your seatbelts, we may all be in for a bumpy ride coming up pretty quickly.
Despite the fact that no one knows when Christ will return, he gave us signs of when he will return. Such signs are very apparent in today’s world and have caused many Christian leaders to expect Christ to return soon. How soon, none of us know. We know that the signs are all about us though. In Thessalonians 5 Paul writes “Now brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying ‘Peace and safety’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.” If there has ever been a cry for peace and safety, it is certainly now.
In Matthew 24 Jesus gives a very straightforward description of what the signs surrounding his return would be. Verses 4-8 predict that many would come claiming to be he and would deceive many people. We will hear of wars and rumors of wars. Today, at any given time there are around 40 wars going on in the world. Nation will rise against nation actually was written that ethnos would rise against ethnos. Today we so often hear of Ethnic wars and “ethnic cleansing” and so much more of it isn’t covered by the news networks. Jesus said that there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. Millions of people are starving over the world today while over 14000 earthquakes rock us each year. Just thirty years ago, there were less than 1200 earthquakes a year. “All these are the beginnings of birth pains.” Jesus states, “the beginning of the end.”
Verses 9-13 say that Christians will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death. In America it may be hard to picture this kind of persecution happening but it is incredible in many countries. Over 400 Christians are killed for their faith EVERY DAY around the world. In China it means death if you are found to be a Christian. In many Middle Eastern countries Christians are tortured and put to death for their faith. It is possible that America was the last “Christian” nation, but that time has passed. While the United States continues to send out missionaries, missionaries are also coming in from other countries. The United States has the third most missionaries in it! That’s not going out, that’s coming in. The death knell has sounded for the United States as a Christian nation. Surely there are still Christians and many of them, but it can hardly be considered a Christian nation any longer. This gives cause to believe the statement that we as Christians are hated by all the nations, just as Jesus said would happen.
Many people have abandoned their faith in the face of this persecution. Others have been led astray by those claiming to be prophets. i.e. Mormons and their gold tablets found in a field or the many cults that have appeared. Jesus also stated that there would be an increase in wickedness and the love of most people would grow cold. Certainly this has taken place as all you need to do to notice this is compare today with the 1980’s. But Jesus also gives us hope at this time. “…he who stands firm to the end will be saved.”
Verse 14 speaks of the way the gospel will be preached throughout the entire world. This was something with which the people of Jesus’ time must have had trouble. Today it is easy to understand this with nearly instant communication and planes that will take us into the deepest parts of Africa and allow us to travel anywhere. Verse 14 ends with Christ saying, “…and then the end will come.” Once all these things have taken place, the end will come. Seeing all these things about us, our only question left is how soon it will happen. After these things the rapture will happen, calling all those who believe in Christ into the sky to be with Him. As it says in 1 Thessalonians 4:17 “After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever.”
What happens after all this, is really little concern to Christians because they will already be with Christ. However it is written as a warning for those who don’t believe. After this the tribulation will begin, when God releases his wrath upon the earth. A man known as the Antichrist will appear then and deceive those who are left. He will set up a temple on the temple mount in Jerusalem, where the Muslim Dome of the Rock sits now, and there he will begin sacrifices once again. But 3 1/2 years into the tribulation the Antichrist will stop the sacrifices and order the people to worship him only. At that time the Jews who are still alive will finally realize that they missed the first coming of Christ. Then they become Christians and will be persecuted by all those around them.
Plague after plague will fall upon the earth, only causing many unbelievers to curse God instead of worshipping him. At the end of the seven years of tribulation, a battle between Christ and Satan, known as the battle of Armageddon will occur. Satan will be defeated and locked up in the abyss. And Christ will return to reign on earth as king for a thousand years. This time will be known as the millennial kingdom. At the end of the thousand years Satan will be set loose and the people will rebel once again. This is the last time though and brings about a final judgment.
Unbelievers will be sent to the great white throne of judgment where they will be judged accordingly but still all sent to the lake of fire. Christians will be judged too, but at the judgment seat of Christ and according to what we have done for him. There we will be given rewards accordingly. Then we will live with Christ in heaven forever.
Of course no one knows for sure when all things will take place. Matthew 24:42-44 makes this clear. But we must keep watch expecting his return. Most importantly, we must be ready for his coming. We must have accepted Christ as our savior from our sins and we need to tell all our friends about him too.