Greg Laurie is the author of 12 inspirational books, which are available online.
There are many religious books that people look to for guidance today. But there is only one book that dares to predict the future not once, not twice, but hundreds of times – and that book is the Bible.
In fact, a substantial portion of Holy Scripture is prophecy. Many of the Bible’s prophecies have been fulfilled so far. Therefore, if many of the Bible’s prophecies have already happened exactly as God said they would, I have no reason to doubt that the remaining ones will be fulfilled just as God’s Word has predicted they will.
I remember hearing Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel tell the story of how, in early November, he noticed Christmas decorations already up at the mall. He commented to his wife, Kay, “Honey, it is almost Thanksgiving.”
She said, “These decorations are not up for Thanksgiving. They are up for Christmas.”
He said, “I know, but if Christmas is close, Thanksgiving is closer.”
That is a good analogy for the times in which we are living. When we see the signs of the times around us, showing, for instance, that the Antichrist could emerge at any time, we know the return of Jesus Christ is even closer.
Let’s consider another analogy: labor pains. We find a key statement in Mark 13:8 at the conclusion of a list of events that will take place in the last days: “These are the beginnings of sorrows.” Here, the word “sorrows” could be translated “birth pains.” The apostle Paul, describing the time leading up to the coming of the Lord, said:
For you know quite well that the day of the Lord will come unexpectedly, like a thief in the night. When people are saying, “All is well; everything is peaceful and secure,” then disaster will fall upon them as suddenly as a woman’s birth pains begin when her child is about to be born. And there will be no escape. (1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, NLT)
Any woman who has given birth knows that labor pains build up gradually and lead to the arrival of her child. That is how the Bible describes events of the Last Days. It will be like labor pains. You will see something take place that reminds you the Lord is coming back. Then maybe a little time will pass and you will see something else. Then you will start seeing a few things happen in rapid succession. What does that mean? It means that it is getting close to the Lord’s return.
I believe we are living in that time right now. We are seeing things happen on a yearly basis – and even on a monthly basis – that remind us Jesus Christ is coming back.
What are the signs, or birth pains, so to speak, that we should be looking for? Jesus’ disciples asked Him this very question: “Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, ‘Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?’” (Matthew 24:3)
Before we look at the Lord’s answer, let’s take a moment to revisit the events that led up to this important question. It all began with the disciples’ admiration of the temple: “As Jesus was leaving the Temple grounds, his disciples pointed out to him the various Temple buildings.” (Matthew 24:1, NLT) Mark’s Gospel gives us even greater detail. One of the disciples exclaimed, “Teacher, look at these tremendous buildings! Look at the massive stones in the walls!” (Mark 13:1, NLT)
There was no exaggerating here. The Jewish Temple was considered one of the great wonders of the ancient world. Under construction for 46 years at this point, it was near completion, which would come in A.D. 63, a mere seven years before it was destroyed. Located in a place where it had dominance over ancient Jerusalem, historians described the Temple as appearing like a mountain of gold because of its nine massive gates. The incredible size of the foundation stones was the equivalent of a railroad boxcar. The Temple was a magnificent structure. It would be startling to look at even today, much less at that particular time in history.
Jesus said, “Do you see all these buildings? I assure you, they will be so completely demolished that not one stone will be left on top of another!” (Matthew 24:2, NLT) The disciples’ jaws must have dropped when Jesus made that statement. They probably thought, “Are you kidding? There is no way you could dismantle the Temple, even if you wanted to.” It would have been just as far-fetched if someone had said on Sept. 10, 2001, “I predict that the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center will come crashing to the ground in one day.” Who would have thought that such a thing was possible? But they did fall. In a similar way, it wouldn’t have seemed possible to the disciples that the Temple could be dismantled.
Jesus was describing something that was in their future but that is now in our past. With 20/20 hindsight, we can look back at what Jesus was pointing toward and see that these events happened exactly as our Lord said they would. In A.D. 70, the Roman general, Titus, built large, wooden scaffolds around the walls of the Temple buildings, piled them high with wood and other flammable items, and set them ablaze. The fires were so intense that the stones of the Temple crumpled. To retrieve the melted gold from the temple walls, Roman troops dismantled the Temple stone by stone, fulfilling exactly the prediction of Jesus Christ. Why is that important? Because if this happened as Jesus said it would, and other things happened as Jesus said they would, then we know that what is yet to come also will happen just as He said.
In my next article, we’ll take a look at some of the signs, or birth pains, so to speak, that indicate that we are indeed living in the Last Days.