Time of the Signs - By Terry James -
This generation of passengers on Planet Earth is passing through a corridor John the apostle and prophet called "the last time" (1 John 2:18). More to the point, we are somewhere near the very end of that corridor, and signs the size of billboards are on either side of the broad way that leads the world's inhabitants toward Armageddon. The only way to miss those gargantuan signs, for the true child of God, is to deliberately ignore them, choosing instead to focus on things of this world that perspective hides in the distant blackness.
We are, as my good friend Chuck Missler says, in the time of the signs. They are signs so dramatic, so blatant, that the whinnying and violent snorting of the four horses of the apocalypse can almost be heard as they angrily paw the earth with rage, straining to burst to full gallop, determined to carry their death-dealing riders on their missions of globe-shattering devastation.
Jesus Christ, the Creator of all things and the One who holds all of creation together (Colossians 1:16-17), gave the signs that would be most prevalent at the time just before His return to earth. These primary signals are found in three of the Gospels: Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21. We will first look at the Matthew account of the signs He gave for the final generation of human history, just before His second advent.
Sign 1: Deceivers who Claim Christ
Jesus was directly asked by His disciples: 1) When would the things Jesus prophesied be? 2) What would be the signs of His second coming? and 3) When would be the end of the world?
He gave the following answer: "...Take heed that no man deceive you, For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:4-5).
Jesus gave "deception" as the first major sign that will alert the spiritually attuned believer that His second coming is near. Jesus, as recorded a few verses later, amplified His words on "deception" that would be manifest at the very end of the age:
"And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many" (Matt. 24:11).
The Lord begins by saying that Many will come in His name. This means, I think, that these end-times deceivers will claim to come as true believers in Jesus Christ. They will use His holy name to convince the undiscerning that the individuals making the claim are of the Church, the body of Christ.
These are those who will be among the individuals Jesus condemned, as recorded in the following Scripture: "But he shall say, I tell you, I know you not whence ye are; depart from me, all [ye] workers of iniquity" (Lk. 13:27).
However, this prophecy that Jesus gave as the first sign of the very end of the age goes, I'm convinced, much deeper. These deceivers will be declaring that they, themselves, will be Christ-like, not in the sense of being a true Christian who is a Spirit-filled follower of Jesus Christ, but in the sense that they have powers and abilities like Jesus himself. They will claim to be the special conduit from God, used by the Almighty to read minds, receive special telepathic words from Him upon command, and even to raise the dead.
But, it will all be smoke and mirrors. There will not be a single validated case of any of these supposed miraculous activities direct from the portals of heaven to the mortals of Planet Earth.
The question to ask, then, while considering the time of the signs and whether we are indeed at the very end of the age as predicted by Jesus is: Do we see today any sign, any indicator, that there are such "deceivers" among us?
There have always been deceivers and those specifically claiming to be Jesus Christ. Some have been certifiable lunatics, some have been proven charlatans, and have faded into the darkness of the exposed and deposed. Today, it seems, to me at least, they are announcing their Christ-like powers from the very billboards mentioned earlier-the ones lining either side of that broad way that leads to destruction during these troubling days.
We see many of them as glitzy, projected TV images calling the gullible to give their money to special programs they proclaim God has told them about, which can make the members of their audiences healthy, wealthy, and wise beyond their wildest imaginations.
These promote the outward-turning message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ only in a minimal way, their messages designed to turn thoughts inward to the feel-good message that God wants them to materially prosper. Viewers are deceived because they can see through glazed, mesmerized eyes that the wealth message certainly works for the rich and famous purveyors of the prosperity gospel. Their desire to obligate the God of heaven to provide overflowing wealth and health, based upon the TV magicians' special formulas for success, make the deluded open their wallets with glee.
Paul the apostle's prophetic words ring true for our time: "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; And they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables" (2 Tim. 4:3-4).
Others, appearing more sophisticated and high-minded, claim to have Christ within their pontificating, but are turned far from truth found in God's Word. These ecclesiastical elitists fit the mold of false prophets/teachers found in forewarnings of Paul and Peter:
List of 2 items:
"This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come...For men shall...[have] a form of godliness, but [deny] the power thereof..." (2 Tim. 3:1, 5).
"But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction" (2 Pet. 2:1
These, though under the guise of Christian clergy, join the ecumenists who proclaim that there are many ways to God and heaven. By this heresy, they deny the Lord Jesus, who said: "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the father, but by me" (Jn. 14:6).
Sign 2: Wars and Rumors of Wars
The second sign of the very end of the age given by Jesus is in His declaration: "And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: See that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet" (Matt. 24:6).
"What is so different about hearing of wars and rumors of war?" one might ask. Such has been part of the human condition since history first began to be recorded. The key to what makes this profoundly different is found in Jesus' words in Matthew 24:21: "For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be."
The Lord himself said that the time of the end will be worse than any in history. This declaration, by its very nature, makes the "wars and rumors of wars" He predicts well beyond the norm. We see just how far beyond the norm they will be, as recorded in His next statement: "And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened" (Matt. 24:22).
Christ's words indicate something of humankind-ending power. This statement follows His warning of wars and rumors of wars for the very end of the human history timeline that immediately precedes His second advent. All flesh will die if Jesus doesn't return upon His divinely scheduled appointment time!
The question naturally emerges: Do we see any such power upon the world scene today? I, perhaps, don't even need to go into answering that-at least not very deeply. That power to destroy all flesh has been on the scene as a major sign of where we are on God's prophetic timeline since 1945. The first atomic bomb test at Alamogordo, New Mexico, flashed that sign across the night desert sky in a stupefying instant. Soon "Little Boy" and "Fat Man" incinerated and blew apart almost 200,000 Japanese citizens of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.
The hydrogen bomb tests, coupled with intercontinental ballistic missile developments, made the whole world aware that the planet's inhabitants could well be living on borrowed time. These weapons, yielding unfathomable power to destroy, continue to scream from the billboard of forewarning while this generation nears the denouement of the age. Weapons of such horrific magnitude must certainly be the subject of and reason for Jesus' "wars and rumors of wars" sign being issued for the terminal generation. And this prophetic sign must, it follows, because of that world-destroying weaponry being ubiquitous today, refer to our present generation of earth dwellers.
Third-World powers and terrorist organizations lust after weapons of mass destruction. Potential for developing atomic weaponry is on the agenda of governments. North Korea, Iran and other nation-states race forward with nuclear programs, defying the international community as the G-8 and others try to prevent World War III.
Sign 3: Nations and Kingdoms in Distress
The most obvious category given by Jesus that we are in the time of the signs is that involving the geopolitical disposition of nations. No observer of the world scene today who believes that God has told the end from the beginning can look at the way countries are prophetically juxtaposed and not see the end times are upon this generation. Let's look more closely at this third end-times prophecy Jesus put forth while on top of the Mount of Olives, overlooking the Jerusalem of His time while still in His flesh body: "Then said he unto them, Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom" (Lk. 21:10).
The Lord forewarned tremendous ethnic upheaval at the time just before His second advent. We've looked many times at the Greek term used here, translated into the KJV as "nation." The Greek term is ethnos, meaning "ethnic" in English. Jesus said that the end times would be marked by ethnic hatred and strife.
"Kingdom" against "kingdom" can be interpreted nation-state entities or countries will be at war or about to go to war. These wars and rumors of war will present unprecedented levels of danger to the peoples that inhabit the "kingdoms," is the implication. We have looked at why this is so. The nuclear and other threats from weaponry of mass destructive capability brings our time to this level of concern.
Jesus, when considering the Luke account of His Olivet Discourse, goes on to express this fact in expanding upon the time of the signs: "And there shall be...upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity..." (Lk. 21:25b).
Threat of calamitous destruction, should there be all-out nuclear war, is obvious. Worry about such potential catastrophe certainly fits Jesus' prediction of end-times perplexity and distress among the nations. The causes of this Armageddon-like potentiality, however, seem to be now coming into focus.
During the Cold War, there seemed little rhyme or reason why kingdom should rise against kingdom and want to destroy each other and the rest of the world with thermonuclear warfare. The unofficial doctrine termed "Mutually Assured Destruction" (MAD), in fact, kept the superpowers, with their potentially world-ending nuclear stockpiles, from doing the unthinkable-attacking each other just for the sake of empire building or stopping empire building. Again, there was no rhyme or reason-at least not enough-that convinced the leaderships of the superpowers to pull the nuclear trigger. Warfare on such a horrific scale was absolutely a no-win scenario for all concerned.
Now, in this, our generation's time of the signs, a reason to go to Armageddon-like war might just be in view. The catalyst that just might be a large part of galvanizing the nations of the world into a collective mindset that throws MAD out the window of sanity, thus bringing all into the valley of Jehoshaphat (Joel 3:2), isn't so far-fetched to contemplate.
The thirst, thus the lust, for petroleum looks more and more like a potential reason to cause all to gather at Megiddo on the plain of Jezreel. The nations in distress, with perplexity, exactly describes the industrialized nation-states of Planet Earth while they scramble to secure for themselves the black liquid gold that can fire their engines of wealth production.
While there is talk of alternative fuels, none of practical development and implementation looks to be in view for decades ahead. The oil-rich Middle East is the logical place to look first in the attempt to secure energy-producing fuels. Oil in the region surrounding God's chosen nation, Israel, is the quickest, most accessible such arena of supply.
The Nations in this Time of the Signs
The alignment of the nations pertinent to Bible prophecy, as they are presently positioned and are dynamically rearranging, are eerily similar to the configuration Jesus and the Bible prophets forecast for the time just before Christ's return to put a stop to Armageddon, and to prevent the end of all flesh on Planet Earth.
Rosh (Russia) sits due north of Jerusalem. The nation who will produce the evil leader called "Gog," those of us who hold to pre-trib rapture eschatology believe, struggles internally and externally to become again a superpower to rival the United States. To do this, that prophetic nation will need energy to fire the engines of its industrial base.
Iran, the area where ancient Persia largely sat, is in the throes of international turmoil while it seems inalterably determined to produce nuclear weapons. At the same time, it is allying in many ways with Russia, in keeping with the Ezekiel 38 and 39 prophecy that foretells its joining forces with Gog to attack over the mountains toward Israel. All the while, its leader declares his desire is to erase all Jews from the Middle East.
Nations of the area of the ancient Roman Empire have put aside centuries of disputes and warring to form a reviving Roman Empire. The EU looks more and more to fit the prophetic Daniel 9:26-27 template in a way that can be denied only by those who refuse to acknowledge that Bible prophecy is to be interpreted as literal.
The great dragon nation, China, is perhaps the oil-thirstiest of all of the industrial giants. The prophetic scenario is not difficult to embrace that this behemoth, which by itself could field the astonishing, prophetically stipulated 200-million-troop force, will move toward the Middle East at some point yet future.
Despite recent attempts to slow the use of petroleum a degree, this emerging industrial titan, with its one-and-a-half-billion people, looks to be developing into becoming the king of the kings of the East of Revelation 9 and 16.
Modern Israel, the greatest sign in this time of signs, is positioned almost precisely where the prophet Zechariah foretold, as recorded in Zechariah 12:1-3. Most all of the distressed, perplexed nations of the world seem focused on God's chosen people as the key to war and peace in the Middle East, thus the key to world peace. Again, modern Israel sits at the center of the region where the planet's greatest pools of petroleum reside beneath what the world calls the Holy Land. It is a land destined for man's most destructive war, then to become the heart of Christ's glorious 1,000-year kingdom.