"There have always been floods and droughts and earthquakes," skeptics may say. But your Bible reveals signs to watch for that will show true Christians that the return of Jesus Christ is near. Can you recognize those signs?
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus' disciples asked Him what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age. What signs and prophetic trends did Jesus mention in response? We need to know what the Bible says!
Over the centuries, many have made predictions and set dates, anticipating Jesus Christ's return. So far, all have failed. But does this mean Jesus will not return? No, it does not! Ever since Adam and Eve, human beings have believed false prophecies proclaimed by deceivers and pretenders. But the prophecies in your Bible have proven to be valid, time and time again!
More than 100 prophecies in the Old Testament foretold Jesus Christ's first coming. Among them is Isaiah's prophecy that the Messiah would be a descendant of King David, the son of Jesse (Isaiah 11:1), that the Messiah would be born of a virgin (7:14), that He would live in Galilee (9:1–2), that His mission would include the Gentiles (42:1-4) and that He would die with the wicked (53:9). Other prophecies foretold that He would be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2), that He would be betrayed for 30 pieces of silver (Zechariah 11:12-13), that He would enter Jerusalem on a donkey (9:9) and that He would be like a smitten shepherd (13:7).
Those prophecies were fulfilled. And the same Bible that foretold Jesus' first coming also foretells His second coming. Dozens of passages in both the Old and New Testaments prophesy of Jesus Christ's second coming. Look at what Jesus Himself said: "Let not your heart be troubled; you believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. 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" (John 14:1–3).
Why do so many fail to believe Jesus' own words? He said: "I will come again." The prophet Zechariah even tells us where He will return: "And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, from east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south" (Zechariah 14:4).
The Mount of Olives is just east of the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. On the southeast slope is an old road that leads to the village of Bethany. Jesus spent time there with Mary, Martha, Lazarus and His disciples. My wife and I have walked that same road from Bethany to the Mount of Olives. It took us just about a half-hour.
When Jesus returns to the Mount of Olives, there will be a massive earthquake, and the mountain will split in two. Notice the time setting. "Behold, the day of the Lord is coming, and your spoil will be divided in your midst. For I will gather all the nations to battle against Jerusalem" (Zechariah 14:1–2). The world's armies will gather at Megiddo and come down to Jerusalem to fight Christ at His coming. Revelation 16:14 calls it "the battle of that great day of God Almighty"—more popularly called "Armageddon."
The book of Acts also confirms Christ's return. In Acts 1, the disciples witnessed Jesus' ascension. "And while they looked steadfastly toward heaven as He went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel, who also said, 'Men of Galilee, why do you stand gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will so come in like manner as you saw Him go into heaven.' Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day's journey" (Acts 1:10–12).
Here we have seen three plain scriptural references to the second coming of Christ—and there are many more. Remember the announcement of the seventh trumpet: "Then the seventh angel sounded: and there were loud voices in heaven, saying, 'The kingdoms of this world have become the kingdoms of our Lord and of His Christ, and He shall reign forever and ever!'" (Revelation 11:15).
Note also this passage from Revelation 19: "He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: King of kings and Lord of Lords" (Revelation 19:13–16).
Jesus said that, preceding His return, there would be false religions, and false signs and wonders that will deceive many. He stated: "For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect" (Matthew 24:24). There will be powerful religious deceptions. Not just the few, but the many will be deceived by false religions—even false Christianity.
How can you know what is true and what is false? You need to check up on us—and all preachers—by reading your Bible! In praying to the Father, Jesus said: "Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth" (John 17:17). God's word, the Bible, is truth! Many carelessly assume that their minister or priest is preaching from the Bible. But many doctrines commonly "taken for granted" are not in your Bible! You need to prove for yourself what the Bible says. Remember: "Test [the KJV says "prove"] all things; hold fast what is good" (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
You need not be deceived. Jesus Himself gave the prophetic trends and signs that would precede His second coming. You need to know what they are. One of the signs preceding Christ's return will be the ascendancy of a powerful false religion with immense influence. You can read about that system, which Revelation 17 labels as "the great harlot." The false prophet, about whom the Apostle Paul wrote will lead that system. You can read about the "man of sin" in 2 Thessalonians 2:3. For more detail on this prophetically significant matter, contact our Regional Office nearest you (listed on page 30 of this magazine) to request your free copy of our booklet, Who or What Is the Antichrist?
Another specific sign Jesus told us to watch for is a future profaning of the holy place in Jerusalem. Jesus said: "'Therefore when you see the "abomination of desolation," spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place' (whoever reads, let him understand), 'then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains'" (Matthew 24:15–16). Notice that the great false prophet, the man of sin, will profane the temple of God. This "abomination of desolation" is one of the signs Jesus said would precede His return.
What other signs will precede Christ's second coming? Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:7 that there would be "earthquakes in various places." How powerful can earthquakes be? The historic Mississippi Valley earthquake on December 16, 1811, near New Madrid, Missouri, actually reversed the course of the Mississippi River! The Tangshan quake in China, in July 1976, killed as many as 779,000 people. Earlier this year, on January 12, a powerful earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter Scale killed more than 220,000, injured more than 300,000 and left as many as a million Haitians homeless. Hard as this may be to imagine, Scripture reveals that there will be even more severe earthquakes in the future—even affecting regions that have not previously experienced them.
The book of Revelation mentions several powerful earthquakes. After two-and-a-half years of the Great Tribulation spoken of by Jesus in the Olivet prophecy, the heavenly signs—the sixth seal of Revelation—introduce the Day of the Lord. Notice what happens: "I looked when He opened the sixth seal, and behold, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became like blood" (Revelation 6:12).
This earthquake, along with the astronomical phenomena, introduces the Day of the Lord—the year that precedes Christ's second coming. "And the stars of heaven fell to the earth, as a fig tree drops its late figs when it is shaken by a mighty wind. Then the sky receded as a scroll when it is rolled up, and every mountain and island was moved out of its place. And the kings of the earth, the great men, the rich men, the commanders, the mighty men, every slave and every free man, hid themselves in the caves and in the rocks of the mountains, and said to the mountains and rocks, 'Fall on us and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?'" (Revelation 6:13–17). Yes, the earth will be in turmoil during the Day of the Lord, described here as "the great day of His wrath." This will be a time of God's judgment on the nations.
Notice what God says will happen to the earth and the heavens. The writer of Hebrews instructs us: "See that you do not refuse Him who speaks. For if they did not escape who refused Him who spoke on earth, much more shall we not escape if we turn away from Him who speaks from heaven, whose voice then shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying, 'Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven.' Now this, 'Yet once more,' indicates the removal of those things that are being shaken, as of things that are made, that the things which cannot be shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve God acceptably with reverence and godly fear. For our God is a consuming fire" (Hebrews 12:25–29).
Our Father in heaven wants the best for each of us. He is giving carnal humanity 6,000 years—and giving each of us individually a lifetime—to learn. If we heed God's warnings, we can escape the most horrendous judgments yet to be executed on our Western nations, and eventually the whole world.
Another trend the Bible warns us about is drought. World temperatures are shifting in dramatic ways. Australia recently came out of its worst drought in more than 100 years, and some experts forecast a continuing recurrence of droughts over the next 20 to 30 years. "Droughts could hit the country twice as often as now, cover an area twice as big and be more severe in key agricultural production areas" according to a report issued by Australia's Bureau of Meteorology and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Research Organization).
"Is water the new oil?" asks writer Juliette Jowit. She points out that 1.4 billion human beings now live in areas "exposed to water stress." Demand for water is forecast to rise 50 percent by 2030. And this is not just a "Third World" problem; Jowit reminds us that in November 2007, the Red Cross was called in to provide water to the town of Orme, Tennessee. "'I thought, "That can't be the Red Cross. We're Americans!"' resident Susan Anderson told a reporter" (The Guardian/UK, November 2, 2008).
Meanwhile, other parts of our planet are ravaged by flood. Flooding in Pakistan this year began on July 22 and continued through September, making more than 20 million Pakistanis homeless, and exposing as many as six million, according to World Health Organization estimates, to the risk of life-threatening diseases borne by dirty water.
Unless we wholeheartedly turn to God, our world will experience even more severe weather extremes. The Creator God gave this warning through the prophet Amos: "'I also withheld rain from you, when there were still three months to the harvest. I made it rain on one city, I withheld rain from another city. One part was rained upon, and where it did not rain the part withered. So two or three cities wandered to another city to drink water, but they were not satisfied; yet you have not returned to Me,' says the Lord" (Amos 4:7–8).
Incredible as it may seem, some denominations now teach that the "last days" mentioned in scripture might continue on for "two years or two thousand years or two million years." Often the implication is: "Don't study Bible prophecy; it's just a distraction." Such statements ignore the very instructions of our Savior. Just after Jesus speaks of His second coming, He states: "Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!" (Matthew 24:32–33). Jesus expects His true followers to be knowledgeable about these signs.
Jesus foretold that before His return, there would be "wars, and rumors of wars" (v. 6). Skeptics and scoffers may point out, "There have always been wars!" Indeed, mankind has rarely known peace; historians Will and Ariel Durant famously determined in their 1968 book, The Lessons of History: "In the last 3,421 years of recorded history only 268 have seen no war" (p. 81). But in our modern day, there is a difference—only in the last 70 years or so have human beings had the technology, through nuclear, chemical and biological weapons, to destroy all life on planet Earth. When you read the descriptions of end-time war in the book of Revelation, you see that in the end-times, wars are not just regional concerns; they envelop the whole globe.
Yes, there have always been scoffers, but now is the time to wake up and heed what is happening around the world. God spoke to the prophet Ezekiel about the skeptics and scoffers. "Son of man, what is this proverb that you people have about the land of Israel, which says, 'The days are prolonged, and every vision fails'?" (Ezekiel 12:22). What does God say about man's skepticism? "Tell them therefore, 'Thus says the Lord God: "I will lay this proverb to rest, and they shall no more use it as a proverb in Israel."' But say to them, 'The days are at hand, and the fulfillment of every vision'" (Ezekiel 12:23).
The time is coming when God will intervene even more dramatically than ever before. Scientists, statesmen and world leaders have warned us about the many dangers that can end life on our planet. Those warnings have not come from religious people, but from experts familiar with the realities of our modern weapons of mass destruction and the history of human nature. But the most important warning comes from the Savior of the world, Jesus Christ. He stated: "For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened" (Matthew 24:21–22).
Thank God that those days will be shortened. Jesus Christ will return to save humanity from self-destruction. He will usher in the Kingdom of God on earth. All nations will ultimately learn the true way to lasting peace, prosperity, and reconciliation. Jesus tells us to "Watch… and pray always" (Luke 21:36). May we all be spiritually alert for the signs of Jesus Christ's second coming. Then we can look forward to His return with confidence, hope and faith. Thank God that His Kingdom is coming. Thank God that Jesus Christ will soon return to save us!