Jesus is not done with the
world. He will soon
Return to Planet Earth to Rescue believers.
The Liberator is not finished with human
history. Jesus will return to our planet, and he could do that at any
moment. So when will he return?
Before we attempt to answer this, let me emphasize that Jesus stated no man knows the day or the hour of his return. He said he didn't even know when it would be. Only the Father knows. (Mark 13:36) So all we can and should do is look at the signs the Lord gave to let us know when we are in the last days. Once we learn this, we'll want to live our lives in the shadow of his soon return.
The Signs for Christ's Return
Late in the Passion week before Jesus was crucified, as he and the disciples were leaving the temple grounds, his disciples remarked: "Look, Teacher! What massive stones! What magnificent buildings!"
"'Do you see all these great buildings?' Jesus replied. 'Not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'" (Matthew 24:1-2; Mark 13:1-2; Luke 21:5-6).
Jesus was referring to the destruction of the temple. He had talked about this in more detail earlier (see Luke 19:41-44) but now his prediction prompted the disciples to ask when this would happen and also what would be the sign of his coming at the end of the age. Jesus gave an extensive answer to their questions and lays out for all of us what will come upon us as we enter the last days. First he talks about the signs of the times:
"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.
"Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." (Matthew 24:4-14).
In these passages, Jesus gives us what I think of as a "short list" of the beginning signs which will happen before he returns:
1) Wars and rumors of wars; nation will rise against nation. I don't think anyone can dispute that the world has had an unusual number of wars in the last 150 years. Certainly the Second World War, which encompassed most of the globe, and spawned so many conflicts afterwards was like nothing the world has ever known. The so-called "cold war" have definitely not ended between the US and Russia. There is still the constant threat of conflict and even of thermonuclear warfare hanging over the world with North Korea, China, Iran, Russia, the United States and many others all saber rattling with threats. But Jesus tells us not to be alarmed by this.
2) Earthquakes in various places. There are two main fault lines running around the globe where the majority of all earthquakes have traditionally taken place. But there have been an increasing number of earthquakes in unusual places. Horrific tsunamis caused by these earthquakes have risen alarmingly in the last few years.
3) Famines and plagues (see also Luke 21:11). Famines are caused by droughts and they are dramatically increasing in the world. Water shortages are becoming one of the biggest issues facing the world's increasing population. There have been many plagues over the years including the black death, cholera, the Spanish influenza outbreak which killed 20 million in the last century. And now we have the nuclear "plague" coming from Fukishima. While many of these signs have already come to pass, Jesus says that these things are just the beginning of the birth pangs. So there is far more to come.
4) Persecution and murder of believers. Right now, the rate at which Christians are being killed each year is about one hundred thousand! No other religious or racial group have more followers slaughtered than Christianity. Recently, the number of believers being slaughtered in Moslem countries has started to rise dramatically. But Jesus stated it will get much worse.
5) A great falling away of Christians. The worse the persecution gets, the more believers will begin to fall away. In places like the US there is already a great falling away. There has been a strong movement away from biblical Christianity. Many churches have grown corrupt with greed centered messages. Europe is full of huge monolithic church structures that house people who no longer believe in the true gospel. As the end times progresses, true Christians will become the enemy of the state and many other groups. Jesus states that many who fall away and will hate and betray each other. Its not a pretty picture for believers to look forward to.
6) Many false messiahs and false prophets. Within the US a lot of denominational and independent churches have moved towards presenting heretical messages. The churches no longer teach repentance; they focus on making sinners feel too comfortable. There are many modern-day false prophets whose teaching have corrupted the message of the true Church. Keep in mind that false prophets don't just teach error. They mix heresy with the truth and that's how they deceive true believers.
In the last few years many who have claimed to be the Messiah. Sun Myung Moon, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, Baha'u'llah, Jim Jones, Father Divine (George Baker), Wayne Bent, and L. Ron Hubbard to name a few. These men have claimed to be Jesus Christ or the devil (or both) and have founded their own religions.
7) Because of the increase in lawlessness the love of most people will grow cold. Within the United States, the age of civility is over. Professional racial bigots are constantly fomenting conflict between the races by accusing others of racism. Police have turned lawless, breaking into houses without warrants, pulling out weapons if anyone videotapes their actions and even killing unarmed civilians with immunity. As our world continues to polarize, good men are now becoming more fearful of doing good works because they feel the backlash of so many groups. In all the years that I've lived, I've never seen people's hearts growing so cold.
8) The gospel will be preached in the world to all nations. There are Christian organizations who have kept track of all the nations and ethnic groups within the world and almost every area has had some kind of gospel presentation. Certainly this sign can be considered fulfilled even though many still have not heard.
Israel Will Become a Nation Again
Towards the end of the Lord's answer about his return, Jesus gives a short parable:
"Learn the lesson from the fig tree," he said. "When its branch has grown tender, and you see the leaves coming out, you notice it and know summer is near. So when you see all of these things taking place, realize the kingdom of God is at hand. Truly I say to you, that generation will not pass away before all these things will have been fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away." (Matthew 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31).
The Lord used parables both to confuse his enemies and enlighten his followers. This is just such a case. Most people would miss what he was saying here, but it is obvious from second century documents that the disciples grasped his message.
To understand this, know that Jesus had given an earlier parable in his ministry about a vineyard owner who has waited three years for fruit to appear on his fig tree (Luke 13:6-9) only to find no fruit. He is ready to cut down the tree but is encouraged to give it a little more time before axing it. This symbolism of the fig tree was obviously aimed at unrepentant Israel. He offers that particular parable right after he has talked about Jews dying at the hands of Pilate and when the tower in Siloam fell. He then says, "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish." (Luke 13:1-5). In that parable, Jesus reveals that God is about to cut down the nation of Israel because it did not bear the fruit of changed thinking by believing in the Messiah who has been sent to them.
Most Jews did not repent during the Lord's ministry. So right after the Triumphal Entry when Jesus cleanses the temple and condemns their defilement of his Father's house, Jesus also curses a fig tree that he finds which has leaves but no fruit. Immediately it begins to wither. The temple cleansing and the fig tree are joint statements about how Israel has turned its back on Christ and how God feels about it.
The very next day, Jesus utters this parable about the budding fig tree, right after he has cursed a real fig tree. He knows the disciples will eventually discern that it is about more than just an example of watching the seasons change. Jesus was consistently using the fig tree as a symbol for Israel. so when he says that it's branches and leaves will grow tender, something is coming.
For Israel to be a
budding tree once again, it would need to be replanted. The Lord had already
predicted at this point that Jerusalem and the temple would cease to be (in just
about 40 years). So for this sign to come true in the last days, Israel would have
had to become a nation once again. Christians as far back as the second
century believed that this parable referred to Israel coming back into the
Of course this happened on May 14, 1948; the nation of Israel was reestablished in the land. Never in history has any nation been reestablished after it has been out of existence for so long. Israel did not exist for 1,900 years, yet the Jews never lost their cultural and religious identity and many have now come back into the land. Because this is such an amazing prophetic feat (and it was also predicted by many of the earlier Hebrew Prophets) it means that this particular sign holds great significance for those who want to have a better understanding when the End Times will begin.
I believe Jesus was saying, when you see Israel come back into the land, know that the kingdom of God is near. When you see "all these things taking place" then "that generation will not pass away before all these things will have been fulfilled." This might mean that the generation who witnesses the nation of Israel being reborn will also see Christ's return. Some of those who were alive in 1948 may be alive to see Christ's return (or at least the beginning of tribulation events).
The Abomination of Desolation
Jesus gives another powerful description of what will happen and includes a specific detail that provide a clear (if somewhat illusive) sign:
"When you see 'the abomination that causes desolation' standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! Pray that this will not take place in winter, because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again.
"If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. At that time if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Messiah!' or, 'Look, there he is!' do not believe it. For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time." (Mark 13:14-23).
It might appear that Jesus was talking about the coming destruction of Jerusalem and the temple here. The Lord had predicted that destruction earlier, and we know that in about 40 years, the Jews would revolt against Rome and Roman armies would surround Jerusalem, lay a siege against it and eventually destroy both the city and the temple completely, but not before desecrating the temple. But I don't believe that Jesus was talking here about this same event.
First, the key event that the disciples are given to mark their awareness that the last days are beginning to unfold is the appearance of the "Abomination that causes desolation." This did not happen in the first century as the Romans had already destroyed Jerusalem and slaughtered most of the people BEFORE they defiled the temple and then destroyed it. So it wouldn't have been much of a warning.
Second, whatever this abomination of desolation is, it is found where it should not be, in the holy place within the temple (see Matthew 24:15). So this means the Dome of the Rock—which now occupies the site of the temple—could not be the abomination because it isn't actually within the temple.
Third, this abomination is set up and stands so that it can be seen. That description would eliminate any virtual, holographic or invisible image.
Fourth, this will all happen after you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20).
Fifth, this will happen while Jerusalem is being trampled by the
Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. (Luke 21:24).
Sixth, Jesus clarifies that this is the same event which Daniel the prophet had predicted, so that connection offers us a lot more biblical clues as to what he was talking about.
Seventh, according to Daniel 9:26-27, the one behind the abomination is the "prince" (who is also called the Beast or the Antichrist elsewhere) who will come from the people who destroyed the temple.
Eighth, according to Daniel 11:31-32 and 12:11, he will abolish the daily sacrifice in the temple.
Ninth, the armies will
surround Jerusalem for 3 ½ years, or 42 months or 1260 days (according to
Daniel 9:27; 7:25; Revelation 11:2-3; 13:5). So this is a future event
closely associated with the Great Tribulation period which does not refer to
the destruction of the second temple by the Romans which took place back in
70 A.D. (For more details on this, you might want to read
Two things must happen before this passage can be fulfilled. First, the Jews need a new temple. Second, they must once again be sacrificing in that temple (because the prince will stop those sacrifices). Of course, this can't happen until the Jews either take control of, or have more autonomy over the temple mount. Because the Muslims currently control that area, the third temple cannot be built any time soon. If the Jews were to destroy the Dome of the Rock, it would certainly ignite a holy war of extreme proportions.
Revelation 11:1-2 offers an intriguing insight into what might happen with a future temple. "And there was given me a measuring rod like a staff; and someone said, 'Rise and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and those who worship in it. And leave out the court which is outside the temple, and do not measure it, for it has been given to the nations; and they will tread under foot the holy city for forty-two months.'"
There are many who believe that the Dome of the Rock does not actually sit on the site of Solomon's temple. If this is the case, it could be possible for the temple to be built next to the Islamic structure, side by side. This passage in Revelation appears to be from the same time period when the Abomination will be set up, so this provides an interesting possibility.
In short, the Lord's mentioning of the Abomination of Desolation as part of his list of signs is an indication that several more events will need to take place in Israel before the actual second coming of Christ.
You should know that the second
coming of Christ is actually two events. First, the Lord comes to Rapture the believers
out of this world, (but he does not actually set foot on the earth). And
then second, he
"officially" comes back to earth to judge the world and set up his kingdom.
Final Signs and the Rapture of Believers
"Immediately after the distress of those days 'the
sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will
fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.' Then will appear
the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth
will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with
power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call,
and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the
heavens to the other. (Matthew 24:29-31 NIV).
"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
"Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him." (Matthew 24:36-44 NIV).
Here the Lord talks about signs within the heavens which include the sign of the Son of Man when he comes on the clouds with a loud trumpet call, and gathers the believers from one end of the earth to the other. He states that two men will be in a field, one will be taken up and the other left. Two women will be grinding in a mill; one will be taken, the other left. Two people in one bed, one will be taken and the other left. (Luke 17:34).
This event has been called the Rapture and it involves the snatching away of believers into the air to be with the Lord. It will happen quickly. It will surprise and will probably terrify those left behind and those who see the sign of the Son of Man in the sky (whatever that is exactly). When believers are swept away like this, it will be one of the last warnings that the Lord gives that judgment is just over the horizon. With the Christians gone and the Holy Spirit restrained on earth, the coming prince (the Antichrist) will be free to cause incredible destruction on the earth.
Many believe that the Rapture will happen before the Great Tribulation begins. From the context of this passage, it appears that the Rapture will take place after a lot of destruction and the Abomination of Desolation is erected into the Holy of Holies. During that period of time, there will be armies surrounding Jerusalem, and the Antichrist will be playing God in the world. If all that is true, believers will go through a lot of persecution leading up to this event and it won't be any fun living during this period of time.
If the pre-tribulation Rapture theory is actually correct, believers will disappear into the sky just as the world's condition is about to become incredibly bad. For the sake of the Church, I certainly hope that this theory is correct, but keep in mind nothing is sure about when the Rapture will take place. What is sure is that it is coming. Whether the pre-trib "early Rapture" theory is correct or not, when the Rapture comes, it will be the last train out of Dodge before all hell breaks loose. So if you're still alive when it happens, you don't want to miss that train by not being ready for the ride.
Even the first-century Church believed Christ could come back at any moment to remove the believers from the coming wrath. (J. Dwight Pentecost, Will Man Survive? (Chicago: Moody Press, 1971, p. 41). There's no telling when this will happen. Jesus made it plain that no one knows the day or the hour. So we can only get close in our guesses based upon examing the many Bible prophecies on the subject of his return.
Are You Ready for the Liberator's Return?
Jesus said the last days before his coming will be "as it was in the days of Noah." Back then people were oblivious to the signs. They ate and drank and got married right up to the day Noah entered the ark. They knew nothing about what was coming until the flood swept them all away. Today we have so many diversions with television, cable, the Internet, movies, sports, music, art, celebrity worship, alcohol, pornography, a multitude of drugs and so much more. All of this stuff keeps us distracted and not paying attention to what's really happening in the world. And we're all in danger of being swept away.
The world situation is bad and is going to get much worse. Most people would rather not know. The world's problems just seem too depressing to them. But we can be sure things will get worse because it has all been predicted. As governments become more desperate for cash because they can't borrow any more money from the people who make the money, things will turn from bad to worse. Natural and man-made disasters are beginning to envelop us in ways only the ancient Scriptures could have imagined. And you really have to ask yourself if you're ready for what's coming?
"Keep watch," Jesus said, "because you do not know on what day your Lord will come." He then gives the illustration of a house owner preparing for a thief who is coming in the middle of the night. I now live in a country a lot like Israel during Jesus' day. Thieves are not very sophisticated here, but they will definitely break in to any undefended home, especially in the middle of the night. High concrete fences topped with broken glass, large metal gates, bars on the windows, dogs, and hidden weapons are all standard defensive equipment in a country like this, if you want to protect your lives and your stuff.
If you know exactly when a thief is going to come to your house you would certainly be ready for him. But because you never really know when or even if he's coming at all, its just too easy to get complacent and assume no one will ever break into your house. This is why so many homeowners make no preparations. It just seems too remote of a possibility that it will happen to you. If you have any common sense at all, you'll make the proper preparations so that when a thief does arrive you'll be prepared.
The best way to prepare yourself for the Lord's coming is to be ready to meet the God of the universe on a moment's notice. This is something that you can't put off for a more convenient day. Not only could you die tonight from any number of causes, bad events are approaching us like a freight train whose brakes have failed. If you do not have Jesus living right inside your heart, you simply don't have a survival plan for the future.
I don't care how much food you have stored in your basement. If you are not ready to fly into the sky with Christ when he comes, you're not ready for the worst case scenario here on our earth. The only way that you can be sure that you're ready to meet God is if you are found by him to be a true Christian. I've prepared several articles for you that will help you here in the Seeker's section so that you can connect with Jesus. Take a look at: How to Repent and How to Become A Christian.
The Lord could come back at any moment. No sign has to take place before he appears in the sky, with a trumpet and a shout, all Christians will rise up to him and then we will disappear, leaving the turmoil behind. Trust me when I say that you really do want to be ready for that event when your Liberator returns! The alternatives are just too horrific to contemplate.