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Do You Recognize the Signs of the Times?
By Britt Gillette
About two thousand years ago, Jesus rebuked the religious elites of His day. He criticized them for their failure to recognize His Coming. He told them, “You know how to look at the sky and predict the weather, but you don’t know how to recognize the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:1-3). Just like you and me, the religious leaders could see dark clouds on the horizon and know a rain storm was on its way. In the same manner, Jesus said they should have seen the signs and prepared for His arrival. The Pharisees and Sadducees knew the Old Testament Messianic prophecies, yet they failed to recognize the Messiah.
But their failure is relevant to our day and time as well. Why? Because Jesus wasn’t simply addressing the Pharisees and Sadducees when He said this. He had a second audience in mind – you and me. That’s right. Jesus was also talking to our generation. The Bible is filled with prophecies about the Second Coming, and Jesus commanded us to watch for Him (Mark 13:35-37). Our generation is also expected to recognize the “signs of the times.” But are we? Do you recognize the signs of the times?
The World is Complacent
Unfortunately, much of the world (including a large number of Christians) are not watching for Jesus. They’re asleep when it comes to the Second Coming, even though Jesus warned against it. Why do I say the world is asleep? Because right now, a flood of signs surround us. Never before have so many signs of the Second Coming been present. Here are just a few from 2020:
COVID-19 – Since emerging in Wuhan, China is late 2019, COVID-19 (a.k.a. “the coronavirus”) has wreaked havoc on the world stage. It first led to the shutdown of several major cities in China. Eventually, the shutdowns spread to the rest of China, then Italy, Spain, the United States, and countless countries throughout the world. While many nations have made inroads to “flatten the curve” and even force a decline in new cases, the coronavirus is far from gone. Many fear a “second wave” while others argue the first wave never went away. While some local areas may have temporarily seen a decline in case counts, the number of new confirmed global cases has grown from 2 million in mid-April to over 8 million today. That’s a four-fold increase in two months. Far from being in the rearview mirror, the coronavirus pandemic is still an ongoing global emergency. A form of pestilence, it’s one of the signs Jesus told His followers to look for (Luke 21:11).
Global Riots – In late May, the murder of George Floyd at the hands of a Minneapolis police officer sparked nationwide protests in the United States. Unfortunately, alongside countless peaceful protests, riots erupted in several cities. Minneapolis saw several days of riots, looting, and burning buildings following Floyd’s death. In Seattle, the police and National Guard have abandoned six city blocks in the downtown area, ceding control to various radical groups. In Atlanta, rioters attacked the global headquarters of CNN. In London, authorities boarded up a statue of Winston Churchill to protect it from those threatening to tear it down. Throughout the world, we see images of arson, looting, and mayhem as a spirit of lawlessness prevails. The Bible says this is what people will be like in the last days (2 Timothy 3:1-5).
A Global Depression – Despite all the talk of a “V-shaped” recovery for the economy, no such thing is happening. The global travel industry is a fraction of what it was in early January, and it will likely be years before we see travel return to the old “normal.” Restaurants, hotels, and retail outlets have a fraction of the foot traffic they once had. Last week, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development estimated global GDP could plummet as much as 7.6% this year – twice what it previously announced in March. The World Bank estimates global GDP will fall 6.2%. If these figures are correct, the current economic downturn will be twice as bad as the Great Recession and the worst economic contraction since the Great Depression.
Last week also brought bad news on the employment front. More than 1.5 million people in the United States filed new unemployment claims. This is after most states have “re-opened” their economies. To put this number in perspective, prior to March, the largest weekly unemployment claim number in U.S. history was 695,000 in October 1982. Even with many people returning to their jobs following state restrictions, continuing unemployment claims remain over 20 million. This is the worst global economy since the Great Depression, and it doesn’t look like it will get better any time soon. This creates fertile ground for the rise of a dictator. The Great Depression paved the way for Adolph Hitler. The Bible says a similar economic catastrophe will pave the way for the Antichrist (Revelation 6:5-6).
Swarms of Locusts – This year also saw the emergence of one of the worst locust plagues in decades. Swarms of billions of locusts, ranging anywhere from a third of a mile to a 100 square miles or more, have attacked crops on two continents. The hardest hit areas so far have included East Africa (Kenya, Somalia, Sudan, South Sudan, Uganda, and Ethiopia), the Middle East (Yemen, Saudi Arabia, and Iran), and Southwest Asia (Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India). The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization projects these swarms will continue to thrive and spread well into late-July. As these locust swarms destroy crops, millions face the prospect of famine in parts of the world where food insecurity is already common. Famine is one of the signs Jesus said to look for (Matthew 24:7).
Rumors of War – On July 1, the Israeli government will formally consider annexation of large parts of the West Bank. If it does, Jordan has said it will end its 27 year-old peace treaty with the Jewish State. The Palestinian Authority has said it will end its relationship with Israel, and Hamas has warned any such annexation will ignite a new Intifada. If Israel moves forward with plans to annex all or part of the West Bank, it will almost certainly face widespread condemnation in the international community and violent resistance from its longtime enemies. Only time will tell what July brings, but rumors of war are widespread. Jesus said rumors of war will be another sign of His coming (Matthew 24:6).
The Converging Signs
But these are just the latest signs. Many of the signs Jesus and the prophets said to look for appeared long before 2020. Generations of Christians lived and died without witnessing a single sign of the Second Coming. Yet our generation is witness to all of them. Those signs include:
Israel Back in the Land – God promised to bring the Jewish people back into the land of Israel before He returned (Jeremiah 23:7-8). He said He would call them from “among the nations” (Ezekiel 39:28), from “the farthest corners of the earth” (Isaiah 11:12), and from “north, south, east, and west” (Psalm 107:3). He promised to welcome them home from the lands where they were scattered (Ezekiel 20:34). When they did, He promised to return and establish His everlasting kingdom (Isaiah 11:11-12).
Israeli Control of Jerusalem – Jesus said armies would surround Jerusalem, destroy the city, and enslaves its citizens. This happened in A.D. 70 when the Roman legions did exactly that. Jesus then said people other than the Jewish people would control Jerusalem for a time, then the Jewish people would once again control Jerusalem. When they did, Jesus promised to return (Luke 21:24-28). Since 1967, the Jewish people have been in possession of Jerusalem.
The Gospel Preached Throughout the World – When asked about the end of the age and the signs of His coming, Jesus said the Gospel will be preached throughout the entire world. Every nation will hear it. Then, the end will come (Matthew 24:14). For centuries after the crucifixion, the Gospel was confined to a small area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea. In the past two centuries, Christians have brought the Gospel to every nation in the world. Today, missionaries live in every nation. The Bible is translated in hundreds of languages, and the message of Jesus is sent around the world by radio, TV, satellite, and the Internet. Our generation is literally on the verge of spreading the Gospel to every last person on earth.
Increased Travel and Knowledge – Six hundred years before Jesus, an angel gave Daniel a special message. He said “travel and knowledge” will increase in the end times (Daniel 12:4). For centuries of human history, dramatic gains in travel and knowledge did NOT take place. Yet the last two hundred years have seen explosions in the speed and frequency of travel as well as the amount and availability of knowledge.
Arrival of the Exponential Curve – Jesus said a variety of global signs will come before His return and the end of the age. These signs will be spiritual, natural, societal, and political in nature. And He said they will appear in a distinct way – “like birth pains” (Matthew 24:3‐8). This means the frequency and intensity of these signs will increase as we near His return. Our generation has seen the exponential increase in war and famine Jesus said to look for. In the 20th Century alone, more people died from war and famine than lived on the earth when Jesus spoke these words.
Israel Surrounded by Enemies – The Bible says enemies will surround Israel in the end times. Those enemies will say “Come, let us wipe away the nation of Israel. Let’s destroy the memory of its existence” (Psalm 83:4) and “Let us take for ourselves these pasturelands of God” (Psalm 83:12). Ezekiel said Israel’s neighbors will say “God has given their land to us” (Ezekiel 11:14‐17), and “Israel and Judah are ours. We will take possession of them. What do we care if their God is there?” (Ezekiel 35:10). Ever since the rebirth of Israel in 1948, the daily headlines have included these Bible verses. Israel’s Muslim neighbors claim the land of Israel for themselves, and they have no regard for the God of Israel.
Israel’s Exceedingly Great Army – Ezekiel said, in the end times, Israel will field “an exceedingly great army” (Ezekiel 37:10). Zechariah said Israel will be like a fire among sheaves of grain, burning up the neighboring nations (Zechariah 12:6) and even the weakest Israeli soldier will be like David (Zechariah 12:8). Since 1948, Israel has fought no less than four conventional wars against its neighbors. Despite being outnumbered more than 50 to 1, Israel has achieved overwhelming victory every time.
Rise of the Gog of Magog Alliance – The Bible says a military alliance that includes Russia, Iran, Turkey, and a number of Muslim nations will attack Israel “from the north” (Ezekiel 38:15; Ezekiel 39:2) “in the latter days” (Ezekiel 38:8) when God brings His people home from among the enemy nations (Ezekiel 39:27). Today, we see those very nations forming an alliance that has never existed in world history, and all three have troops in Syria – a nation on Israel’s northern border.
Rise of a United Europe – The Bible says a revived Roman Empire will come to power in the end times (Daniel 2, Daniel 7, Revelation 17). According to Daniel, it will be a ten nation alliance of weak and strong nations. Some parts will be as strong as iron, while other parts will be as weak as clay (Daniel 2:42). We see the beginning of this alliance in the European Union – a coalition of weak and strong nations struggling to stay together.
The Rise of Global Government – The Bible says a single government will rule the world politically (Revelation 13:7), religiously (Revelation 13:8), and economically (Revelation 13:16‐17) in the last days. It will rule over “all people, tribes, and languages” on the face of the earth (Revelation 13:7). Its authority will be so complete no one will be able to buy or sell anything without its permission (Revelation 13:16‐17). For centuries, a true global government was impossible. Today, world leaders openly discuss it. And cryptocurrencies and electronic banking foreshadow an economic system where people can be shut off from commerce.
Denial of the Signs – Almost two thousand years ago, Peter issued a warning. He said in the last days people will mock the idea of Jesus returning. They will make fun of those who believe in the Second Coming and say things like, “I thought Jesus was coming back? What happened to His promise? Generation after generation has said He’s coming. Yet, since the beginning of the world, everything has remained the same!” (2 Peter 3:3‐4). This is exactly what we hear people say today.
Given all these signs, you can be certain of one thing: Jesus is coming, and ours is the generation that will witness His return. How can I be so sure? Simple. All these signs are converging. Jesus said when you see these signs come together, you can know His return is near. In fact, He said the generation witnessing these signs will not pass away before He returns (Matthew 24:34). Keep in mind – for 1,878 years of Christianity (A.D. 70 – A.D. 1948), none of these signs were present. Today, all of them are. That means Jesus is right at the door (Matthew 24:33).
As in the Days of Noah
When the disciples asked Jesus to describe the signs of His coming and the end of the age, He pointed to many signs. But one of the most overlooked is the idea that when He returns, the world will be “like it was in the days of Noah.” Jesus said, “In those days before the flood, the people were enjoying banquets and parties and weddings right up to the time Noah entered his boat. People didn’t realize what was going to happen until the flood came and swept them all away. That is the way it will be when the Son of Man comes” Matthew 24:38-39 (NLT).
Look around. Despite all the chaos and turmoil, people are living their lives as if everything is normal. As in the days of Noah, they don’t realize what’s coming. Noah’s generation didn’t think the flood would come, but it came. Our generation doesn’t think Jesus will come, but He will. And all the signs say He’ll come in our generation.
Britt Gillette is the founder of End Times Bible Prophecy and the author of Coming To Jesus and Signs Of The Second Coming. Receive his book 7 Signs of the End Times for FREE when you sign up for his monthly newsletter.