An Overview of the
Signs of the Times
The great variety
that point to the Lord's soon return.
David R. Reagan
Many people believe there is
nothing that can be known about the timing of the Lord's return
because Jesus said He would return like a thief in the night (Matthew
But Paul makes it clear in 1 Thessalonians 5:1-6 that Jesus' statement
does not apply to believers: "But you, brethren, are not in
darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief. . ."
He then proceeds to explain why: "for you are all sons of light
and sons of day. We are not of night nor of darkness; so then let
us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober."
Paul is referring, of course, to the light of the Holy Spirit who
indwells all true believers and who can enlighten us through our
study of Scripture to know the season of the Lord's return (1 John
As a matter of fact, God
is obligated by His character to warn the world of the imminent
return of His Son. The reason is that Jesus is returning in great
wrath to "judge and wage war" (Revelation 19:11), and
God never pours out His wrath without warning.
God does not wish that any should perish, but that all should
be brought to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). Therefore, God always
warns before He executes His wrath. He warned the world through
Noah for 120 years. He warned Sodom and Gomorrah through Abraham.
He sent Jonah to warn the pagan city of Ninevah, and He sent Nahum
to the same city 150 years later.
Likewise, God is warning the world today that His Son is about
to return. He is calling the world to repentance. The message
of the hour to unbelievers can be summed up in these words: "Flee
from the wrath that is to come by fleeing into the loving arms
of Jesus now." Jesus came the first time as an expression
of God's love; He came to die for the sins of Mankind. But when
He returns, He will come in vengeance to pour out the wrath of
God on those who have rejected God's love and grace.
The soon return of Jesus also carries with it a message for believers.
Lukewarm Christians and carnal Christians are being called to
commit their lives to holiness:
The night is almost gone,
and the day is at hand. Let us therefore lay aside the deeds
of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us behave properly
as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual
promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. But
put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the
flesh in regard to its lusts. - Romans 13:12-14
God is alerting believers
of the soon return of His Son through what are called "signs
of the times." These are prophecies concerning world events
that we are told to watch for, prophecies that will identify the
season of the Lord's return.
The Bible is full of these signs. There are about 500 prophecies
in the Old Testament that relate to the Second Coming of the Messiah.
In the New Testament, one out of every 25 verses is concerned
with the return of Jesus.
In fact, there are so many signs that it is difficult to grasp
all of them. The best way I have found to do this is to put them
1) The Signs of Nature - We are told to watch for earthquakes,
famine, pestilence, and signs in the heavens (see Matthew 24:7
and Luke 21:11).
This is the least respected category of signs for several reasons.
For one thing, many people simply shrug their shoulders and say,
"There have always been natural calamities, so what else
is new?" Note that Jesus says these signs will be like "birth
pangs" (Matthew 24:8) that is, they will increase in frequency
and intensity as the time draws near for His return. In other
words, there will be more intense earthquakes and more frequent
ones. That is exactly what is happening today.
Another reason these signs are given little respect is because
most Christians are so rationalistic that they do not really believe
in the supernatural, and they therefore find it difficult to believe
that God speaks to the world through signs of nature. Yet, the
Bible teaches this principle from start to finish.
God dealt with the world's sin through a great flood in the days
of Noah (Genesis 6). He called the nation of Judah to repentance
through a terrible locust invasion (Joel 1). In like manner, He
called for the nation of Israel to repent by sending drought,
wind storms, mildew, locusts, famine and pestilence (Amos 4:6-10).
The prophet Haggai pointed to a drought as evidence that God was
calling the people to get their priorities in order (Haggai 1:10-11).
The New Testament begins with a special light in the heavens marking
the birth of the Messiah (Matthew 2:2). On the day that Jesus
was crucified, there was three hours of darkness and an earthquake
(Matthew 27:45-51). And when Jesus returns, the earth will experience
the greatest earthquake in its history as every mountain is lowered,
every valley is raised, and every island is moved (Revelation
God has always spoken through signs of nature, and He continues
to do so today. We had better pay close attention to them.
2) The Signs of Society - Jesus said that society will
become increasingly lawless and immoral as the time approaches
for His return. In fact, He said it would become as evil as it
was in the days of Noah (Matthew 24:12,37-39).
Paul paints a chilling picture of end time society in 2 Timothy
3:1-5. He says it will be characterized by three loves the love
of self (humanism), the love of money (Materialism), and the love
of pleasure (hedonism). He then points out that the payoff of
this carnal lifestyle will be what the philosophers call nihilism
that is, a society wallowing in despair. Men's minds will become
depraved (Romans 1:28), and people will call evil good and good
evil (Isaiah 5:20).
We are seeing these prophecies fulfilled before our eyes today
as we watch our society reject its Christian heritage and descend
into a hellish pit of lawlessness, immorality, and despair. Even
worse, we are exporting our nihilism around the world through
our immoral and violent movies and television programs.
3) The Spiritual Signs - There are both positive and negative
spiritual signs that we are to watch for. The negative ones include
the appearance of false christs and their cults (Matthew 24:5,11,24),
the apostasy of the professing church (2 Thessalonians 2:3), an
outbreak of Satanism (1 Timothy 4:1), and the persecution of faithful
Christians (Matthew 24:9)
These negative spiritual signs began to appear
in the mid-19th Century when Christian cults started forming.
First came the Mormons, then the Jehovah's Witnesses, and then
a great variety of spiritualist groups like the Church of Christ
Scientists and the Unity Church.
The apostasy of the mainline Christian denominations began in
the 1920's when the German school of higher criticism invaded
American seminaries and undermined the authority of the Scriptures,
teaching that the Bible is Man's search for God rather than God's
revelation to Man.
During the 1960's Satanism exploded on the American scene and
has since been exported worldwide through American movies, books,
and television programs. Dabbling in the occult has become commonplace
in the form of astrology, numerology, crystal gazing, transcendental
meditation, and channeling. The whole trend has consummated in
the appearance of the New Age Movement with its teaching that
Man is God.
As society has secularized, true Christianity has come under increasing
attack. Judeo-Christian values, once the foundation of Western
Civilization, are now openly mocked, and those who still adhere
to them are castigated as "intolerant fundamentalists"
by the media.
The positive spiritual signs include the proclamation of the Gospel
to the whole world (Matthew 24:14), a great outpouring of the
Holy Spirit (Joel 2:28-32), and spiritual illumination to understand
prophecies that have been "sealed up" until the end
times (Daniel 12:4,9).
As with the negative signs, we are seeing these positive signs
fulfilled in our day and time. Through the use of modern technology,
the Gospel has been proclaimed throughout the world in this Century,
and the Bible has been translated into all major languages.
The great end time pouring out of the Holy Spirit that was prophesied
by the prophet Joel has also begun. Joel called it "the latter
rain" (Joel 2:23), and he said it would occur after the Jews
had returned to their land. The state of Israel was re-established
in 1948. In 1949 God anointed two ministries that would have a
worldwide impact the ministries of Billy Graham and Oral Roberts.
Then, in the 60's, came the Charismatic Movement which prompted
renewal in worship and gave emphasis to the continuing validity
of the gifts of the Spirit.
The acceleration in the understanding of Bible prophecy began
in 1970 with the publication of Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great
Planet Earth. It seemed to open up to popular understanding many
prophecies that had been "sealed up" until the end times
(Daniel 12:4, 9). Remarkably, it became the number one best seller
in the world with the sole exception of the Bible for the next
4) The Signs of Technology - The book of Daniel says that
there will be an explosion of knowledge in the end times and that
people will move about quickly (Daniel 12:4).
There are many Bible prophecies that cannot be understood apart
from modern technology. For example, how can the whole world look
upon two bodies lying in the streets of Jerusalem (Revelation
11:8-9)? Modern television satellite technology makes it easy.
How can the False Prophet build an image of the Anti-Christ that
appears to be alive (Revelation 13:15)? The answer, of course,
is the science of robotics. How can the False Prophet require
all people on earth to take the mark of the Anti-Christ in order
to buy and sell (Revelation 13:16-17)? It would not be possible
apart from computers and lasers.
Jesus said that the Tribulation will be so terrible that all life
on earth would cease to exist if He did not cut the period short
(Matthew 24:21-22). How could all life be threatened prior to
the advent of nuclear weapons? Another reference to nuclear power
is likely contained in Luke's statement that men in the end times
will "faint from fear" because "the powers of the
heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:26). That certainly sounds
like a reference to the splitting of the atom.
5) The Signs of World Politics - The Bible prophesies that
there will be a certain pattern of world politics that will characterize
the end time geopolitical map.
The focus will be the re-established state of Israel (Zechariah
12:2-3). It will be besieged by a menacing nation from the "remote
parts of the north," the nation of "Rosh" or modern
day Russia (Ezekiel 38:2,6). There will also be a threatening
nation to the East that will be capable of sending an army of
200 million namely, China (Revelation 9:13-16 and Revelation 16:12-13).
A third source of danger to Israel will be the Arab nations that
immediately surround it. They will covet the land and will try
to take it from the Jews (Ezekiel 35:10 and 36:2).
Another key player on the world political scene in the end times
will be a coalition of European nations that will form a confederation
centered in the area of the old Roman empire (Daniel 2:41-44,
Daniel 7:7,23-24, and Revelation 17:12-13). This confederation
will serve as the political base for the rise of the Anti-Christ
and the creation of his worldwide kingdom (Daniel 7:8).
Other international political signs include wars and rumors of
wars (Matthew 24:6), civil wars (Matthew 24:7), and general international
terrorism and lawlessness (Matthew 24:12).
6) The Signs of Israel - The signs related to the state
of Israel are prolific and very important.
The most frequently repeated prophecy in the Old Testament is
the prediction that the Jewish people will be regathered from
the "four corners of the earth" in the end times (Isaiah
11:10-12). The Bible states that a consequence of this regathering
will be the re-establishment of the state of Israel (Isaiah 66:7-8).
The Scriptures say that once the Jews are back in their land,
the land itself will experience a miracle of reclamation (Isaiah
35). The desert will bloom and people will exclaim, "This
desolate land has become like the garden of Eden" (Ezekiel
Another end time miracle will be the revival of the Hebrew language
(Zephaniah 3:9). Most people are not aware of the fact that when
the Jews were dispersed from their land in 70 A.D., they ceased
to speak the Hebrew language. The Jews who settled in Europe developed
a new language called Yiddish a combination of German and Hebrew.
The Jews who migrated to the Mediterranean basin created a language
called Ladino a combination of Hebrew and Spanish.
Other significant signs of Israel that we are told to watch for
in the end times include the re-occupation of Jerusalem (Luke
21:24), the resurgence of Israeli military strength (Zechariah
12:6), and the re-focusing of world politics on Israel (Zechariah
All these signs have been fulfilled in this century. The nation
has been re-established, the land has been reclaimed, the ancient
language has been revived, the Jews are back in Jerusalem, and
Israel is the focal point of world politics.
Jesus says in Luke 21:28 that when these signs begin to happen,
we should "straighten up and lift up our heads" because
"our redemption is drawing near."
The most important signs
are the ones that relate to Israel because God uses the Jews throughout
the Scriptures as His prophetic time clock. By this I mean that
very often when the Lord is revealing an important event that
will take place in the future, He will point to the Jewish people
and state that when a certain thing happens to them, the important
event will also occur.
A good example of this principle can be found in Daniel 9 in the
famous "Seventy Weeks of Years" prophecy. The prophet
tells us to watch for a decree to be issued that will authorize
the rebuilding of Jerusalem. He then says that the Messiah will
come sixty-nine weeks of years (483 years) after that decree is
issued to the Jewish people.
There are two key prophecies which relate the return of Jesus
to events that have occurred in Jewish history since 1948. These
two events clearly established the period in which we are now
living as the season of the Lords's return.
State of Israel
The first is the re-establishment
of the state of Israel which occurred on May 14, 1948. Jesus singled
out this event as the one that would signal His soon return.
His prophecy is contained in the fig tree parable (Matthew 24:32-35)
which He presented in His Olivet Discourse. The day before He
delivered this speech, He had put a curse on a barren fig tree,
causing it to wither (Matthew 21:18-19). This was a symbolic prophecy
that God would soon pour out His wrath upon the Jewish people
because of their spiritual barrenness in rejecting His Son.
The next day Jesus reminded His disciples
of the fig tree. He said to watch for it to bloom again. In other
words, He said watch for the rebirth of Israel. He indicated that
when the fig tree blooms again, He would be at the gates of Heaven,
ready to return (Matthew 24:33).
Equally significant, He added an interesting observation: "Truly
I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these
things take place" (Matthew 24:34). What generation? The
generation that sees the fig tree blossom.
We are that generation. The fig tree has blossomed. Jesus is at
City of Jerusalem
The second key event was
prophesied by Jesus in the same speech, as recorded by Luke: "[The
Jews] will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive
into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot
by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled"
The first half of this prophecy was fulfilled in 70 A.D., forty
years after Jesus spoke the words. In that year the Romans under
Titus conquered Jerusalem and dispersed the Jews among the nations.
Jerusalem remained under Gentile occupation for 1,897 years until
June 7, 1967, when Israel won the city back during the Six Day
The Jewish re-occupation of the city of Jerusalem is proof positive
that we are living in the season of the Lord's return. Jesus said
it would mark the end of the Gentile Age.
Call to Action
There is no way to escape
the conclusion that we are living on borrowed time. The signs
of the times are upon us, and they are shouting for our attention.
Are you ready? If Jesus were to return today, would He be your
"Blessed Hope" (Titus 2:11-14) or would He be your "Holy
Terror" (Revelation 6:12-17)? If you have never received
Him as your Lord and Savior, now is the time to act. Repent of
your sins, and call upon the name of the Lord that you might be
saved (Acts 2:14-39).
And if you are a Christian, are you living as if Jesus might return
any minute? Have you committed your life to holiness? Are you
praying for the lost and witnessing the Lord when you have an
Are you yearning for the Lord's return? Can you say with Paul
that you are a candidate for a "crown of righteousness"
because you have lived your life "in the love of His appearing"
(2 Timothy 4:7-8)?
And if I go and prepare
a place for you, I will come again, and receive you to Myself;
that where I am, there
you may be also. - Jesus, in John 14:3.