In this lesson we will study "The Signs of Christ's Coming", and the obvious place to begin is with the pointed question which the disciples asked Jesus about this subject.
Matt. 24:3: "What shall be the sign of thy coming?"
When we open the Bible to look for the answer to this question, we discover three significant facts about the signs of the coming of our Lord.
Fact 1—Jesus wants us to "watch" for the signs of His coming
How do we know this? Because, immediately following the disciples' question in Matt. 24:2, Jesus devoted nearly 100 verses to the "signs" of His coming, and the attitude His people should adopt toward these signs (see Matt. 24 and 25). These two chapters are punctuated by the solemn warnings "watch" and "be ready" (see Matt. 24:42, 43, 44; 25:13). Obviously, these warnings would be pointless if there were no signs, or if we could not recognize them!
Fact 2—Jesus expects us to "discern" the signs of His coming
Matt. 1 6:1 -3: "Can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (To "discern" means to see, to perceive, to recognize, to interpret, to understand.)
Heb. 10:25: "As ye see the day approaching."
Matt. 24:32, 33: "Know that it is near, even at the doors."
Fact 3—Jesus has made it as easy to tell when His coming is near as it is to tell the time of day
When we see the minute hand, "World conditions," coming nearer and nearer to the point of agreement with the hour hand, "Bible signs," we can know by that sure token that our Lord's return is near! Consider these twelve great signs of the return of Jesus, which are being fulfilled in our day:
The "Scoffers" sign (2 Pet. 3:3, 4)
Peter predicted that the prevailing mood of the "last days" would be one of open skepticism about the signs of Christ's coming. This is certainly true today. Every modern scoffer is a walking, talking sign of the coming of the Lord. The Christian can say to the scoffer: "Friend, Peter made a prediction about you. You are the latest sign I've seen!"
The "War" sign (Matt. 24:6, 7)
The 20th century has witnessed the two greatest wars of all history (1914-1918; 1939-1945. Total of over 70 million killed, wounded or missing). The years 1900-1970 have been the most bloodstained 70 years on record.
The "Famine" sign (Matt. 24:7)
Our century has witnessed four of the greatest famines of all history (Russia 1921, 1933; China 1928-1930; Bengal 1943-1944. Estimated deathroll totalled over 20 million).
The "Pestilence" sign (Matt. 24:7)
Our century has witnessed one of the greatest pestilences of all history ("Spanish Influenza" epidemic, 1918. Estimated 21 million victims).
The "Earthquake" sign (Matt. 24:7)
Our century has witnessed two of the greatest earthquakes of all history (China, 1920. Killed 180,000 people. Japan, 1923. Total casualties 1,500,000, of whom 200,000 perished). The Japanese earthquake was described at the time as "The greatest single disaster since the Flood!"
The "Knowledge" sign (Dan. 12:4)
Today we are witnessing "an epidemic of human inventiveness". Man has made more spectacular advances in science, inventions, medicine, transportation, communication, and in almost all other areas of knowledge in the past century, than in all previous centuries put together!
The "Speed" sign (Dan. 12:4)
Never in all history was there such an unparalleled "running to and fro" as there is today. Never were there such amazing facilities for rapid and easy travel. Never was there such an obsession with speed. Never were such fantastic speeds achieved, or dreamed of.
The "Perilous Times" sign (2 Tim. 3:1-3)
In spite of the most ingenious and costly equipment for fighting crime—violence, murder, robbery and rape are increasing at an alarming rate. Law enforcement agencies can curb, but they cannot cure.
The "Fear" sign (Luke 21:25, 26)
Since the advent of the atomic bomb, our dream of peace and security has turned into a nightmare of terror! At the very time when man's mastery of his environment ought to guarantee freedom from fear, "Stark fear has the world by the throat!" says one observer.
The "Noah's Day" sign (Matt. 24:37-39)
In Noah's day advanced civilization and great learning were marred by unbridled violence and scandalous immorality. So it is in our day. But the most alarming aspect of the current moral landslide is the fact that it is occurring in spite of the most superb enlightening and civilizing agencies ever available to man!
The "Gospel" sign (Matt. 24:14)
During the past 75 years, through the magic of the printing press, the aeroplane, radio, television, and—latest of all—Communications Satellites, the preaching of the Gospel on a world wide scale has become an actual possibility. One man can now address an audience of tens—even hundreds of millions of people! The Bible is translated into over 1,300 languages, and is being distributed at the rate of 100 million copies every year.
The "All These Things" sign (Luke 21:28-32)
When confronted with this impressive list of signs, some people argue: "But crimes, and wars, and earthquakes, and pestilences have always been happening. There's nothing abnormal about these things; so how can you treat them as signs? Besides, sincere people in the past have expected the Lord to return in their day, and have been disappointed. They misinterpreted the signs. Couldn't we be making the same mistake?"
Those who raise this objection overlook one immensely significant difference between our generation and all past generations. It is simply this:
Today, for the first time since the risen Lord ascended to heaven, all the predicted major signs of the end of the age are synchronizing! One or more of these signs may have occurred in earlier generations, but never have they all occurred simultaneously, as we see them today!
Jesus has never asked us to believe in the nearness of His coming on the strength of one sign alone.
One solitary snowflake does not make an avalanche. But when all the rapidly multiplying signs are allowed to bear their accumulated testimony, they make an avalanche of irresistible power. So unmistakable are the signs of Christ's coming that no intelligent person should fail to recognize them. They are as plain as if God were to speak in thundertones from heaven, or to write in giant, blazing letters in the skies!
Why do you think God has given us a chance to hear these tremendous tidings? So that we might "discern the signs of the times" and be ready to welcome Jesus with eagerness and joy.
Luke 21:28: "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh!"
Frank Breaden writes from Melody Park, Australia