What are the signs of Christ’s return?
Now that we have addressed several foundational questions on the pre-Rapture signs, I want to show you how the Bible provides overwhelmingly clear evidence of other pretribulational signs demonstrating Christ’s impending return to earth. I will now begin to deal with every major sign in the New Testament to show that Jesus’ statement, “When ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:33), is being fulfilled in our day and age.
Matthew 24:3-14 declares: And as he [Jesus] sat upon the Mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying. Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: For all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and
kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows.
Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake. And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another, And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold. But he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.
This passage may be among the most misunderstood of all prophetic pronouncements.
The problem has arisen because many Christians still fail to see that God has two elect groups upon earth-the nation of Israel (Romans 11:28) and the Church (1 Peter 1:2). Romans 9-11 tells the entire story of God’s chosen people, Israel.
• Chapter 9 concerns Israel’s past.
• Chapter 10 its present.
• Chapter 11 its future.
Regarding its glorious past, Romans 9:4 declares that Israel was given the promises, including prophetic pledges. In chapter 10, we find: “But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Esaias saith, Lord, who [among them] hath believed our report?” (Romans 10:16)
Presently, they are blinded to their calling and promises, but in the future, “All Israel shall be saved: as it is written. There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).
Why will God perform this?
Romans 11:29 provides the answer: “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” God chose Israel (Deuteronomy 7:7-8) and He has never canceled His selection. Therefore, Israel remains God’s chosen people and heir to His promises as stated in Romans 11:28.
The signs of Matthew 24 are presented to the elect- yes, elect Israel. We know this to be true in this chapter because of the regard for the Sabbath day (Matthew 24:20), because of the connection with synagogues (Luke 21:12), and because the setting of Matthew 24 is Jerusalem (Matthew 24:1). Only Bible manipulators, antidispensationalists, and antiliteralists could make Gentiles out of these Jews.
Included in this group are the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. Twelve thousand shall be chosen from each of the twelve tribes. Twelve thousand times twelve equals 144,000.
The tribes are Juda, Reuben, Gad, Aser, Nephthalim, Manasses, Simeon, Levi, Issachar, Zabulon, Joseph, and Benjamin (Revelation 7:4-8). These signs are for Israel, who is looking for the return of her King in Revelation 19. They are not signposts for the Rapture.
The group looking for the fulfillment of signs in Matthew 24 is preaching a different gospel in (Matthew 24:14). Gospel means “good news,” and their good news is the gospel of the kingdom or the good news that their King is about to return (Revelation 19:16).
They will be traveling around the globe, 144,000 strong, singing “The King is coming! The King is coming!” Although the signs will be fulfilled in their entirety after the Christians are gone, we already see the tantalizing beginning of each of these signs. Again, this means that if these signs pointing to our return with the King are already in their initial stages, we must be snatched away very soon in order to prepare for our return to earth with Christ the King.
In Matthew 24:3, Jesus was asked, “When shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [to earth], and of the end of the world [or age of grace]?” He replied, “Many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many” (Matthew 24:5).
Since the year 1900, more than eleven hundred people claiming to be Christ have appeared on the world scene.
These include Father Divine, Prophet Jones, Sweet Daddy Grace, Father Riker; Daniel Swalt, Moses Guibbory, Maharaj Ji, and Sun Myung Moon, not to mention scores of lesser-known, self-proclaimed messiahs who enjoyed a few fleeting moments of media fame.
Presently, while they might not refer to themselves as “false Christs,” certain members of our liberal clergy are playing such a role. Take, for example, a survey of the beliefs and attitudes of the Church of Scotland ministers. They have rightfully caused a stir within the denomination as the foundational truth of the
Bible-the virgin birth of Christ-was recently called into question by religious leaders. The shocking results of the survey of 150 ministers were that 16 percent did not believe in the Immaculate Conception of Christ and 15 percent said that they “didn’t know.” An amazing 17 percent said that the Virgin Mary was not a virgin in twentieth-century terms, and 6 percent thought that Jesus was the product of Mary and Joseph having sex outside of marriage. (See Matthew 7:21-23 and 2 Peter 2:1-3.)
Such abuse of Scripture is yet another sign of the times.
However, eventually, the ultimate false Christ-one who is probably alive even at this moment-will proclaim himself as the true Christ and become accepted on an international scale.
The Bible predicts such an hour, when the Antichrist, “who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped… sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:4) and is accepted as such.
This internationally deified dictator will inaugurate a world-peace program which will hold the world spellbound for forty-two months, or three and one-half years. Then, in the middle of the seven-year period of tribulation, he will break all of his pledges and destroy his contractual obligations with Israel (Daniel 9:27).
At this time, Russia will begin a world war as she invades Israel (Ezekiel 38:11). This war will eventually involve all nations (Zechariah 14:2).
This is God’s outline from the Bible.
First, the international dictator will establish global peace, and when the world believes that Utopia has arrived, the bottom will fall out of their hopes and aspirations: “For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them” (1 Thessalonians 5:3). We now move to even more dramatic signs that signify our Lord is coming soon.
What is the significance of today’s wars, famines, and increasing pestilences?
From the proclamation of Matthew 24:6-7, we see that the world can expect nothing but rivalry and battles until the Antichrist produces the false peace of the Tribulation era. More than 176 limited wars have been fought since the end of the Second World War. Today one out of every four nations on earth is engaged in some kind of military conflict.
Soon, however, we will experience the greatest global confrontation in history, for we are marching swiftly toward Armageddon at this moment. Over a decade ago, CIA and British Intelligence reports about the Soviet Union were grim. They reported the development of new weapons systems located throughout the Soviet Union, along with expenditures of enormous sums for underground civil defense shelters that meant that Russia was preparing for war. Many did not believe these pronouncements at the time.
Even today, while there is a semblance of peace (although the signs of a reemergence of the Cold War are increasing), we must not be lulled into thinking that Russia has changed her ways-especially since enormous numbers of nuclear warheads remain hidden in underground silos throughout the southern provinces of that vast land. I’ve noted that people no longer laugh at the prophecies uttered by Ezekiel in chapters 38 and 39 that picture the Russian hordes from the north swarming to the Middle East. Today, as the end-time clock continues to wind down, the red horse of the Apocalypse is about to appear.
Christ continued in Matthew 24:7, “And there shall be famines, and pestilences.” More than two billion of the world’s inhabitants go to bed hungry each night. There are nationwide famine in the Sudan and Rwanda and reports of widespread cannibalism in North Korea-with news coming from Indonesia, the earth’s fourth largest nation that millions of people on those scattered islands remain on the brink of starvation.
Thousands are dying painful deaths throughout our world, while scores of others are too numb with hunger to realize what is happening. One writer said it poignantly, “First the belly swells, then the hair turns gray and the skin cracks, after a while the victim dies in mute misery.” Such an experience will soon be the fate of millions of people. Paul Erlich, a biochemist at Stanford University, said it’s already too late to prevent famines that will kill millions, because already one-half billion are starving and another billion are malnourished. He may be right. There seems to be no possible solution in the near future, because it is too late to produce enough food.
America will undoubtedly be included in this suffering in the days ahead. In fact, the number of the beast, 666 (something we’ll address in a later question and answer), may come into existence through an international rationing plan. Soon the voice of Revelation 6:6 will sound, “A measure of wheat for a penny.“
A measure in Bible times was a quart, and a penny was a day’s wages.
Imagine a loaf of bread for a day’s labor. Pestilence, the twin sister of hunger, is also on the rampage. The swine flu scare, legionnaires’ disease, AIDS, and other diseases-many already fully resistant to antibiotics and other medications-are only the beginning. Years ago I read an article in Reader’s Digest, reprinted from an article in Time entitled, “The Bugs Are Coming.” And they have come indeed . . . and will continue to come in plague like fashion during these final days.
Even as I write these words, other pestilential plagues are in their preparatory stages. The South American fire ant has advanced from its initial beachhead in Mobile, Alabama, and now infests more than one hundred billion acres in nine southern states, sometimes driving farm workers from the fields because of its fiery sting. In forest areas the gypsy moth, the spruce budworm, and the southern pine beetle have wreaked devastation on huge areas of woodland, defoliating and killing millions of valuable trees-enough, in fact, to build 910,000 houses per year! Corn borers and rootworms have attacked crops in the Corn Belt at an incredible rate. The boll weevil costs United States farmers millions of dollars in crop losses annually. The mosquito is infecting one million humans per year in Africa and killing thousands annually with malaria, while the black fly in the Volta River basin blinds hundreds of thousands each year.
Entomologists estimate that the number has now climbed to one quintillion, representing five million different species. If a person could weigh all insects together, their combined weight would be twelve times that of the entire human race. Can there be any doubt that the pestilence Jesus predicted will soon rear its head in monstrous proportions and that world hunger will be felt by every country on earth? This, along with what comes out of the bottomless pit in Revelation 9:2 (causing the plague of verse 3), is just around the corner. Listen to the prediction: “There came out of the smoke locusts upon the earth: and unto them was given power, as the scorpions of the earth have power.” Their purpose is to destroy and kill.
The Rapture is near, my friend … the signs are all around us.
A MESSAGE OF HOPE FROM DR. JACK VAN IMPE