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Every morning, I always check the weather, because I want to know how to dress. Will it be warm? Will it be cool? Will it be raining? But I have come to realize that my guess is as good as the so-called experts. So often they will say it will be clear, and then it rains. Or they will predict rain, and it is clear. But I can guarantee one way that it will rain: wash your car. It works every time.
Just as we can read the weather, Jesus said there would be signs of the times we need to look for that will indicate he is coming back again. He said, “You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times” (Matthew 16:3 NIV).
Sometimes signs are not all that clear, and at other times, they are very clear. In the Bible, God has given us signs of the times, if you will, to be looking for that will signal the return of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, the following are without question signs of the times – signs that these are indeed the last days: the regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland of Israel; the isolation of Israel and threats to annihilate her; the growing nuclear threats from North Korea and Iran; the increase in global turmoil, ranging from increased earthquakes to tsunamis; the crash of the stock market and rapid changes in global economics; the fading of the United States as the economic superpower with the emergence of new nations; and the move toward a one-world currency.
Jesus said we are to pay attention to the signs of the times. While the study of Bible prophecy is an endlessly fascinating subject, we must not approach it only with our minds, but also with our hearts. In other words, we don’t want to merely discuss these things in an academic way; they should also move us as individuals. The realization that judgment is coming on the world should impact us personally.
When God revealed to the prophet Daniel what was about to unfold in the future, he dropped to his knees. He was stunned. He was unable to say a word. Daniel’s understanding of end-times events moved him deeply. And the same should happen to us. In fact, if we really understand what the Bible is saying about the imminent return of Jesus Christ, it should cause us to want to be on our toes spiritually. When Bible prophecy is properly taught and understood, it should move our hearts, giving us a sense of urgency and a desire to reach others.
God surely must have wanted us to learn about last-days events, because 30 percent of Scripture is dedicated to the subject. It is important to study Bible prophecy, because it not only teaches us about our future, but it also assures us that God keeps his promises. Just as surely as God kept his word with prophecies that foretold the arrival of the Messiah, he wants us to know that he will keep his word about the prophecies pertaining to his return.
Author Tim LaHaye, who has written extensively on the subject of Bible prophecy, points out, “No scholar of academic substance denies that Jesus lived almost two thousand years ago. And yet we find three times as many prophecies in the Bible relating to His Second Coming as to His first. Thus, the Second Advent of our Lord is three times as certain as His first coming, which can be verified as historical fact.”
When Jesus was asked what the signs of his return would be, he painted a picture of a world torn by strife, war, and famine in the midst of plenty; a world rocked by great earthquakes and ravaged by pestilences. He said, “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken” (Luke 21:25–26 NIV).
We have always had earthquakes, hurricanes, and tsunamis, but we can expect to see more of them as we get closer to Christ’s return. The catastrophic tsunami on December 26, 2004, was caused by the fourth most powerful undersea earthquake on record, an earthquake so intense that it moved the entire island of Sumatra 100 feet to the southwest. The tsunami claimed the lives of at least 230,000 people from 12 countries, with as many as 168,000 people killed in Indonesia alone. It was so powerful, geologists reported that it vibrated the entire planet, interfering with Earth’s rotation to the extent that time stopped for three microseconds.
According to the U.S. Geological Society, the number of earthquakes has been increasing over the past five decades – and they are not just minor quakes, but killer ones. More than 80,000 people were killed in the 2005 Pakistan earthquake, and more than 69,000 people died in the 2008 earthquake in China.
Yet tragically for planet Earth, the worst is yet to come. Jesus likened these signs to a familiar human occurrence: “All these are the beginning of birth pains” (Matthew 24:8 NIV), indicating that natural disasters will begin to increase in frequency and intensity and in concert with each other shortly before his return.
So how should we live in light of the fact that Jesus Christ could return at any moment? First, we are to wake up. In speaking of Christ’s return, the apostle Paul wrote, “So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be alert and self-controlled” (1 Thessalonians 5:6 NIV). There are people today who are asleep in the church. They have become spiritually lethargic. Rather than apply the spiritual truths that are being taught, they become spiritual connoisseurs: “Well, that sermon wasn’t as good as that sermon the other day. But I like this other preacher a little bit more …” We need to wake up. The signs of the times are around us. Jesus Christ is coming back again.
We also need to sober up, because we can be intoxicated by many things in life. Jesus said, “Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap” (Luke 21:34 NIV). To be sober means that we are to be clear-headed and alert. We are to have our eyes open and are to be sane and steady, awake and alert – not drunk and sleeping. As C.H. Spurgeon said, “It is a very blessed thing to be on the watch for Christ. It is a blessing to us now. How it detaches you from the world!”
The understanding of Christ’s imminent return should cause us to want to live a godly life and be as ready as we can be. We don’t have to be perfect – no one is. But we need to be prepared and ready. Are you?