Recognizing Signs of the Times
What are the specific signs that point to the Lord's soon return?
A year ago I felt compelled to resign my membership in a prophecy study group because the director suddenly revealed that he did not believe there were any signs pointing to the soon return of Jesus, with the possible exception of Israel. I was astonished by that statement, and I wrestled with what to do about it. I finally decided that I had no choice but to resign from the organization.
After all, I have devoted my life to proclaiming that the signs of the times point to the soon return of Jesus. How could I be a member of an organization whose director denies that any such signs exist? I concluded that my continued membership in the organization would put me in the position of being a house divided against myself. So, I resigned.
The signs of the times that point to the Lord's soon return are so plentiful and obvious that I don't know how anyone with any spiritual discernment could be blind to them. This, in fact, is an area that even amillennialists and premillennialists can and do agree on.
In 1995 I was privileged to participate in a prophecy conference in Orlando, Florida that was sponsored by Midnight Call Ministries. One of the speakers was a remarkable man of God from Abilene, Texas by the name of Elbert Peak. This is a man who has been preaching Bible prophecy for over 60 years.
His first topic at the conference was "The Signs of the Times." He began his presentation by saying: "I began preaching on the signs sixty years ago when there were very few that you could actually see. Today they are everywhere. I am no longer looking for signs; I am listening for sounds!"
I shouted, "Amen!" It is no longer necessary to search for signs. We are inundated with them. There are so many and they are so clear, that it's like the Lord has a neon sign in the sky blinking on and off, saying, "Jesus is coming soon!" As Elbert Peak put it, we should be listening for sounds — the sound of a trumpet blast and the shout of an archangel (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18).
The Meaning of Signs
What is a prophetic sign? It is basically a prophecy concerning an historical event or technological development that will characterize a future time. Let's consider the First Advent of the Messiah as an example. The prophet Micah prophesied that the Messiah would be born in the town of Bethlehem (Micah 5:2). Daniel said the Messiah would be "cut off" 483 years after an edict was issued to rebuild Jerusalem (Daniel 9:25). He also stated that this would take place before the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. And David stated in Psalm 22:16 that the Messiah's hands and feet would be pierced.
One of these signs is geographical — the birth site of the Messiah. The second is historical. The edict it refers to was issued in 457 BC. Counting 483 years from that date brings us to 27 AD. The Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. So, the Messiah had to be "cut off" (that is, killed) sometime between 27 AD and 70 AD. The third sign is technological in nature. The method of execution at the time David wrote Psalm 22 was stoning. Crucifixion was not even invented by the Romans until 700 years later.
Jesus was born in Bethlehem. He was executed in 31 AD, during the "historical window" between 27 AD and 70 AD. And he was executed by crucifixion. The fulfillment of these signs in the life of Jesus serves to validate that He was the prophesied Messiah.
There are over 300 prophecies in the Hebrew Scriptures about the First Coming of the Messiah. But many are repetitious. For example, it is said more than once that the Messiah will be of the house of David. When you cull out all the repetitious prophecies, you are left with a total of 109 which were fulfilled in the life of Jesus. (For a detailed listing of these prophecies, order our publication entitled "The First Advent of Jesus in Old Testament Prophecy.")
On one occasion when Jesus was teaching, the Pharisees and Sadducees came and asked Him to give them a "sign" to prove that He was the Messiah (Matthew 16:1-4). What they wanted was a miracle. But Jesus responded by playing with the word, "sign." He asked them why they could read the weather but could not "discern the signs of the times." Jesus used the word, "sign," to refer to fulfilled prophecies in His life.
The same principle applies to the Second Coming of Jesus. There are more than 500 prophecies in the Old Testament about the Second Coming, and one out of every twenty-five verses in the New Testament also speak of this great event. These prophecies contain many signs that we are to watch for, signs that will indicate that the time of the Lord's return is drawing near.
Jesus Himself emphasized this point in His Olivet discourse. He presented a long list of signs that would characterize the end times, and then He said, "when you see all these things, recognize that I will be near, right at the door" (Matthew 24:33). Paul also made the point that we can recognize the season of the Lord's return. In 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 he stated that even though the Lord will return like "a thief in the night," He is not coming for believers in that manner because we are "sons of light." He is referring here to the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit who can open our eyes to the signs of the times so that we are not caught by surprise by the Lord's return. In like manner, the author of Hebrews states that we are to "encourage one another" as we see the day of judgment drawing near (Hebrews 10:25).
Signs of the End Times
The re-establishment of the nation of Israel is a classic example of an end time historical sign. Over and over again the Hebrew Scriptures prophesy that in the end times, right before the return of the Messiah, the nation of Israel will be re-established (Isaiah 11:10-12; Ezekiel 37:1-12; Amos 9:13-15; and Zechariah 12:1-3). Jesus emphasized this sign in Matthew 24 when He told us to watch for the rebudding of the fig tree (a symbol of Israel). When that happens, He said, the generation that sees it "will not pass away until all these things [the return of the Lord] take place" (Matthew 24:34).
The book of Revelation is full of technological signs concerning the end times. Take, for example, the prophecy that one-half the population of the world will die in the first three and a half years of the Tribulation (1/4 in the Seal Judgments and 1/3 of those remaining in the Trumpet Judgments — Revelation 6-9). How could such unparalleled carnage occur apart from the development of nuclear weapons and their missile delivery systems?
Or consider the prophecy that when the two great witnesses of God are killed by the Antichrist in the middle of the Tribulation, the whole world "will look upon their dead bodies for three and a half days" (Revelation 11:9). How could this be possible before the development of television and satellite transmission?
Another prophecy in Revelation that has been waiting for historical developments is the one that states there will be an army of 200 million soldiers that will march across Asia toward Israel during the period of the Tribulation. At the time that prophecy was written (95 AD), there were only 200 million people on planet earth! It took 1,600 years for the population of the earth to double to 400 million. In fact, the earth's population did not reach one billion until 1850. This century has experienced a population explosion due to the advent of modern medicine (keep in mind that the first antibiotic, penicillin, was not discovered until 1928!). Today, the earth's population has just passed the six billion mark, and one Asian nation alone — namely, China — could easily send an army of 200 million, as prophesied in Revelation.
An Overview of the Signs
Let me present you with an outline overview of the signs of the times:
I. Signs of Nature
(Matthew 24:7; Mark 13: 8; and Luke 21:11)
- Signs in the Heavens
(Unusual weather, new discoveries in space, UFO's, etc.)
II. Signs of Society
(Matthew 24:12,37-39 & 2 Timothy 3:1-4)
III. Spiritual Signs
- False Christs & Prophets and their cultic groups (Matthew 24:5,11,2-4; Mark 13:6,21-22; and Luke 21:8)
- Apostasy in the professing church (2 Thessalonians 2:3; and 2 Timothy 3:5, 4:3-4)
- Widespread heresy in the church (2 Timothy 4:1-4)
- Movement toward a one world religion (Revelation 17)
- Persecution of true believers (Matthew 24:9-10; Mark 13:9,11-13; and Luke 21:12-19)
- Outbreak of demonic and occultic activity (1 Timothy 4:1)
- Outpouring of the Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-29)
- Revival of Davidic worship (1 Chronicles 16:1-39; Psalm 150; and Amos 9:11)
- Worldwide evangelism (Matthew 24:14 and Mark 13:10)
- Understanding of Bible prophecy (Daniel 12:4,8-9)
IV. World Political Signs
- Re-establishment of Israel. (Ezekiel 36:22-37:1-2; Zechariah 12:1-6; Matthew 24:32-34; Mark 13:28- 30; and Luke 21:29-31)
- Arab hostility toward Israel (Ezekiel 35:1-36:7)
- Russia as a menacing power to Israel (Ezekiel 38:1-39:16)
- Asian nations capable of fielding an army of 200 million (Revelation 9:15-16 and 16:12)
- Wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6-7; Mark 13:7-8; and Luke 21:10)
- Kingdom against kingdom — that is, civil wars and ethnic wars (Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; and Luke 21:10)
- Reunification of Europe (Daniel 2:41-44, 7:8, 24-25, and 9:26)
- Movement toward a one world economy (Revelation 18)
- Nuclear weapons.
(Matthew 24:22; Luke 21: 25-26; and Revelation 6:8, 8:7 and 16:2)
- Television and satellite transmission (Revelation 11:3-12)
- Robotics (Revelation 13:14-15)
- Computer and laser technology (Revelation 13:16-18)
- High speed transportation (Daniel 12:4)
VI. The Accelerator Sign
- Population explosion (Revelation 9: 15-16 and 16:12)
- Increase in knowledge (Daniel 12:4)
- Increase in violence (Matthew 24:12)
- Increase in transportation (Daniel 12:4)
- Rapid disintegration of society (2 Timothy 3:1-4)
- Signs in general to be like birth pangs, that is, increasing in frequency and intensity (Matthew 24:8)
VII. Signs of Israel
- Regathering of the people (Isaiah 11:10-12 and Ezekiel 37:1-12)
- Re-establishment of the state (Isaiah 66:7-8; Zechariah 12:1-6; and Matthew 24:32-35)
- Reclamation of the land (Isaiah 35:1-2,7 and Ezekiel 36:34-35)
- Revival of the language (Zephaniah 3:9)
- Resurgence of the military (Zechariah 12:6)
- Refocusing of world politics (Zechariah 12:2-3)
- Reoccupation of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:2-6)
God never pours out His wrath without warning because "He does not wish that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9). Jesus said that when we see all these signs come together, He will be "right at the door," ready to return (Matthew 24:33). God is warning, and Jesus is at the gates of Heaven waiting for His Father's command.
Are you ready?