What about earthquakes, global crime, and the many strange activities presently occurring in space? How do these signs suggest that Christ’s return is at hand?
When they read Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, or Luke 21:11, some men foolishly observe, “We’ve always had earthquakes. How can this be a sign?” The Lord made this prediction around A.D. 30. According to the U.S. Geological Survey, from 1890 to 1930 there were only 8 quakes measuring 6.0 or larger. From 1930 to 1960, there were only 18. From 1960 to 1979, however; there were 64 “killer” quakes. And from 1980 to the present, there have been more than 200. Think of it! More than 200 major quakes in less than three decades-an earth-rattling reminder that the Rapture is near.
Crimes against Humanity
Christ went on to say in His pronouncement of signs, “And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold” (Matthew 24:12). What a portrait of modern-day America and the world! The U.S. Justice Department reports that about 30 percent or more of the nation’s households are victimized by serious crime every year. The U.S. attorney general says that on average one of every sixteen American families is brutalized by violent crimes such as murder, rape, and aggravated assault. The FBI index also paints a grim picture, giving us the unsettling information that a murder occurs every twenty-four minutes, a forcible rape each seven minutes, a robbery every sixty-eight seconds, and an aggravated assault each fifty-one seconds. The total figures show that a violent crime is committed every twenty-seven seconds, a property crime every three seconds. Judge for yourself: Are things getting better or worse? The answer is obvious.
Signs in Space
Matthew 24:27-31 tells us: “For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.“
I quote from these scriptures in Matthew because many believers are confused by this scenario. It is important to note that the reference here is to the Revelation-the revealing of Christ to the entire world as He returns to earth as King of kings-not the Rapture. The elect mentioned in this text are the elect Israelites of Romans 11:28. He gathers them together “from the four winds.” Gentile believers are not listed with the twelve tribes who mourn as Christ returns. Again, these are Jewish signs pointing to Christ’s coming as King of kings and LORD of lords. The people of the Tribulation Hour will know when the momentous event is near because Matthew 24:29 pinpoints the time: “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken.” The space signs are for the close of the Tribulation Hour. There is no way that they could point to the pretribulation Rapture, for we Christians will be gone when the dreadful bombardment of earth, probably with meteorites from space, occurs.
Luke adds to this account, “And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken” (Luke 21:25-26). These signs point to the close of the Tribulation Hour because they signal the return of the King to earth. Verse 27 adds, “Then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.” This describes the coming of Christ to set up His glorious millennial reign (Revelation 20:4).
Space signs, which are to take place at the conclusion of the Tribulation Hour or almost seven years after the believers’ departure via the Rapture, are already showing partial fulfillment. Such feats as humans walking, driving, and planting a flag on the moon make us realize these signs are only for twentieth-century citizens-for you and me. If a person had made such a prediction at the turn of the century, he would have become a candidate for a mental hospital. Space activity has become so commonplace today that no one even talks about the first step Neil Armstrong took on the moon in 1969.
The Space Age is with us, and Christ’s prophecies are occurring with such rapidity that only a hardened heart could doubt it. Each new venture will incorporate additional methods of placing the potentials of space on earth. Christ’s astounding prophetic statements about space are beginning to fill the skies. Some scientists and space writers are raising the possibility that the next large-scale war could be fought entirely in space. This possibility means that Satan and his demonic hosts could use the world’s inventions for the war of wars described in Revelation 12:7-9: “And there was war in heaven: Michael and his angels fought against the dragon; and the dragon fought and his angels, And prevailed not; neither was their place found any more in heaven. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.“
The Signs and Space Phenomena
I believe the rash of reports about UFOs are connected with the spirit world. The question “Is there life on other planets?” is unimportant. There is life in the heavens, for they are full of live, demonic spirits. This could easily explain the thousands of saucer sightings in recent years. Ezekiel 1 and 2 Kings 2:11 talk about angels and chariots of fire. Whoever controls them is incidental. What is important is that these strange signs in space are prophesied for the latter days. Those days are now upon us and should make us realize the coming of the Savior is near.
Do Old Testament signs primarily speak of Christ’s return to earth?
What about the signs in the Epistles?
I am asked this question repeatedly. While the Old Testament and four Gospels are filled with scores of references to Christ’s return or the Revelation, the Epistles also contain a rich storehouse of scripture that speaks about Christ’s return to earth. Look at the description in 2 Timothy 3:1-5: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy. Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good. Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.“
Let’s look at several of the signs-as recorded in the Epistles-concerning the return of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ to earth.
“Men shall be lovers of their own selves.” What a picture of the hour in which we live. You do not need to watch CNN for more than a few minutes to understand that people are living a life dedicated to self. Moreover, it is not only unbelievers who live such lives. When church members are so busy satisfying their flesh with the world’s goodies and pleasures that they have no time to pray or witness to lost souls-that is the height of selfishness. You will remember the Bible passage about the scribe who came to Jesus in Matthew 22:36-40 and said, “Master, which is the great commandment… ? Jesus said unto him. Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind. This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like unto it. Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.“
How different are we today, really? We, too, are lovers of our own selves. A person might expect this attitude in the ungodly world of pagans, but how sad when it occurs among those who are supposedly of the family of God. As selfishness accelerates and becomes the central theme at the beginning of a new century, you can be sure it is a sign that the end of the age is near.
The Love of Money
In the first century, Peter could say, “Silver and gold have I none; but such as I have give I thee; In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth rise up and walk” (Acts 3:6). Churches today have incredible wealth. We build huge buildings and enjoy elaborate campuses. Much of this is good. However it is also a problem for many ministries, because the tail is wagging the dog. Furthermore, money does not have the power to perform miracles. As we approach the return of Christ, we need to recognize that we are living in the Laodicean age. Revelation 3:15-16 declares, “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” God is saying, “You lukewarm parishioners make Me sick!” Why? “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing: and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked” (v. 17).
In our churches, many regard themselves as “upper crust.” They have money, power, and influence. Many of these Christian elite personalities feel they are too important to help others or to carry out acts of kindness in the Savior’s name-no time for anything except to earn a few more dollars. God declares, “The love of money is the root of all evil: which while some coveted after, they have erred from the faith, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows” (1 Timothy 6:10).
God says, “Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up” (James 4:10). Satan fell because of pride. Moreover millions more have followed in his wake. Imagine the gall Satan must have had to say, “I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High” (Isaiah 14:13-14).
Satan has infiltrated the hearts of millions of Christians. A man with tears in his eyes once came to me and said, “I was trying to win a young lady to Christ. She was poor and needy. Her parents are alcoholics. She was so destitute that all she had to wear was an old tattered dress. I took her to our church-a Bible-believing fellowship. When she and I walked down the aisle to our seats, I overheard a few snooty people behind me say, “Why do they bring that kind of trash to our church!'” That kind of story breaks my heart, and I hope it breaks yours. However, if you feel your pedigree is better or more important than others, then I pray that God will speak to you and show you that you are one of the signs that Jesus Christ is coming again. Our Savior said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Matthew 11:28-29).
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE