Jesus and the future: Signs before Jesus’ return (Part 7)

In Matthew 24:21-29, Jesus returned to the other question that the apostles posed, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Just before the Lord’s return, signs would appear that would make His return clear to Christians.

“For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Christ!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time.

“So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

“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.’”

When Jesus said that there will be unequaled, terrible events just before His Second Coming, He spoke with brutal honesty. As stated previously, the Antichrist will fight against the Church, bringing this “distress.” It is a “frightening image of an unprecedented period of persecution of the people of God immediately before the return of the Lord. Such days will likewise be cut short for the sake of his elect.” Recall that Jesus’ return alone ends the Antichrist and his persecution. Daniel 7:21-22 says the Antichrist “was waging war against the saints and defeating them, until the Ancient of Days came and pronounced judgment in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came when they possessed the kingdom.”

In addition, Daniel 12:1 had a similar prophecy. It says, “There will be a time of distress such as has not happened from the beginning of nations until then. But at that time your people—everyone whose name is found written in the book—will be delivered.” In the midst of this frightful prophecy, notice the Good News: people will be saved if their names are in the book of life.

Mentioned seven times in Revelation, the book of life is a register of the citizens of heaven. During persecution, those who continue to trust Jesus for salvation will receive the promise that the church of Ephesus received in Revelation 3:5. “He who overcomes will, like them, be dressed in white. I will never blot out his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before my Father and his angels.” Jesus continued to explain the end. The threat of false Christs performing wonders in the end will continue, but the real indicator of Jesus’ return will be astronomical. Christ revealed that signs will appear in the sun, moon, and stars. He was summarizing prophesies from Isaiah 13:9-11 and 34:4.

See, the day of the LORD is coming—a cruel day, with wrath and fierce anger—to make the land desolate and destroy the sinners within it. The stars of heaven and their constellations will not show their light. The rising sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light. I will punish the world for its evil, the wicked for their sins. I will put an end to the arrogance of the haughty and will humble the pride of the ruthless…All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine, like shriveled figs from the fig tree.

The precursors to Jesus’ Second Coming will be impossible to miss. These cosmic occurrences will be seen globally, so much so that there will be two reactions to them: panic or preparedness. In Luke 21:25-28, it says,

“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. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Jesus noted how both believers and unbelievers will respond to these heavenly convulsions. While unbelievers will panic, believers will prepare for Christ’s return. One group understands and can read the signs correctly, while the other cannot. These unbelievers do not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, saving faith, nor the knowledge of the Scriptures. For them, there is only terror. But for the Christian, there is anticipation of Jesus’ return. It will be as obvious as a flash of lightning or a buzzard around a dead body. Jesus will come back through the clouds, not hidden in a room or in the desert.


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