Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.”‘ (Matthew 24:3-8, NIV)
‘”There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”‘ (Luke 21:25-31, NIV)
‘Now, brothers and sisters, about dates and times 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.’ (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3, NIV)
The Proper Reading of Signs
I remember many years ago (when I imbibed adult beverages for recreation) that I was invited by friends to a popular college bar. One of the peculiar features of this particular night spot were the signs posted on the restroom doors. The sign on the men’s room door pointed to the women’s restroom and visa versa. In other words, even though the sign on the door read, “Men,” the correct door to enter was actually the door which was posted, “Women.” One needed to pay close attention to avoid walking into the opposite gender’s restroom; otherwise screams, jeers, and howls of humiliating laughter were the consequences. The problem became more acute if one continued to consume alcoholic beverages to an intoxicating level. For regardless of how many times one used the facilities, the ingestion of mind-altering chemicals made sign-interpretation a more difficult task (especially with a full bladder.) Throughout the evening, sign misinterpretation was demonstrated time again by loud outbursts from gender-specific restroom patrons who were surprised by more frequent intrusions from members of the opposite sex.
Since the founding of the Christian faith through the Apostles (in the First Century), believers have looked forward to the return of the Messiah to purge the world of evil and wrong-doing, and establish the promised kingdom of God. The severe persecution of the Early Church (by the will of successive Roman emperors) fueled speculation as to the time when Jesus would return and restore justice on Earth. Believers have continued throughout the centuries to look for the signs spoken of in Scripture. In more modern times, a number of end-times scenarios have incorporated wider speculation through magazine articles, books and films. And up until the present, all of those prior predictions of Jesus’ impending return have been wrong.
I believe one of the gravest errors a believer can make is trying to second-guess God by attempting to predict the future beyond what God has revealed in Scripture. There is a reason and purpose to what God has planned for mankind, thus far, and He has not chosen to consult with human beings prior to formulating or carrying them out. It is presumptuous and arrogant on the part of any human being to suppose he or she knows as much as (if not more than) God does. By making such speculative end-times predictions, well-meaning believers undermine the credibility they might have gained through godly living in the rest of an unbelieving world.
Besides, the references in Scripture to the return of Jesus were not given for the purpose of disaster preparedness. The apocalypse to come is inescapable. Therefore, preparing for the apocalypse to come is not a physical preparation or planned escape route to safer ground. The revelation of Jesus’ return to Earth is a God-promise given to encourage believers who shall find themselves in dark times as the end approaches. The signs are simply God’s down payment on His promise. It is like the final buzzer at the end of the basketball game; when it happens, it is indeed the end of things.
Believers need not worry about the signs themselves. In fact, we should be encouraged if we are living godly lives by faith in Christ. The fall out of the end times is for the unbelieving world, a last-minute opportunity (as it may be offered by a merciful God) for sinners to repent before the Judgment Day arrives. And as the Scriptures attest, no one will be excused from God’s Judgment though many may be saved from condemnation through faith in Christ.
Are there many great earthquakes crippling entire nations today? Yes. Are there wars and rumors of wars breaking out across the Middle East and North Africa? Yes. Does it mean the end times are here? No. Does it mean the end times might be nearer than we realize? Perhaps. The proper reading of the signs is left to you.
Are you ready for the return of the Messiah, the Christ? Where will you stand on the Day of Judgment? Who will ask for mercy on your behalf before the God who created you?
Be wise. Be prepared. The choice is yours.
(copyright 2011, Gregory Allen Doyle)