17. Signs of the Times

There is a large body of prophetic information in the Bible, which refers to major events that will occur in the world before and during the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. These signs of the times help us understand the unfolding of God’s divine plan for humanity, so we can be better prepared for future events. The Lord expects of us to heed these signs as their message is just as obvious as the signs of nature (Luke 12:54-56). The Israelis know that when clouds gather from the Mediterranean Sea in the west, rain is coming. When a strong southerly wind blows across the plains of the hot Negev desert, they know that it will be a very hot day. Those who fail to interpret the signs of the times are branded as hypocrites – spiritually blinded people who are ignorant of what the Lord is communicating to them through the very obvious fulfilment of biblical prophecies.

There will nevertheless be a surprise element in the rapture as most of the signs will only have their final fulfilment during the seven years of tribulation between the rapture and the Second Coming of Christ. However, these signs will become more and more obvious as we approach the time of the rapture, which is the secret coming of the heavenly Bridegroom to take away all true believers from the world (Luke 21:36; John 14:2-3; 1 Thess. 4:16-17). We should be able to discern the early beginnings of these signs as an indication that the time of our departure is at hand (Luke 21:28). The following are the most important signs of the end-time:

1. The restoration of Israel

The Lord promised that, in the latter days, He would gather the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone (Hos. 3:5; Jer. 23:8; 31:8-11; Ezek. 36:22-25; 37:21). A very important aspect of their restoration is the status of the city of Jerusalem. According to Luke 21:24, Jerusalem would be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. The physical recapturing of biblical Jerusalem (the Old City) occurred in 1967 during the Six Day War, which was a prelude to its political restoration as Israel’s eternal and indivisible capital city in August 1980. The latter event inaugurated the terminal generation of the present dispensation (Luke 21:32). According to the Bible, there will be a great end-time struggle for the control of Jerusalem (Zech. 12:2-3; 14:2) because Jesus Christ will return to this city at His Second Coming (Zech. 14:4-5). His enemies will await Him here, but the ensuing battle will lead to their utter destruction (Zech. 14:12-13). Events in Israel are very important signs of the times.

2. The Russo-Arab invasion of Israel

In Ezekiel 38 and 39, a Russo-Arab invasion of Israel is described. The ruler of Russia is called Gog and his country Magog. This is an ancient name for modern Russia, as it refers to the large area to the north of the Caucasian Mountains and the Black Sea. The major allies of Russia are identified as Persia (present Iran), Ethiopia, Libya, Gomer (probably referring to Germany) and Togarmah (present Turkey). It is clearly indicated that they will invade Israel in the latter days (Ezek. 38:3-8,16). In Ezekiel 39, the destruction of Gog and his hordes is described.

3. The restoration of Babylon

Revelation 18 refers to a metropolis with the name of Babylon. It is the same city as the one that existed in ancient times, but in the end-time it will be restored to its former glory. As the birthplace of the Ancient World’s pagan religions, this city must again emerge as the seat of a false universal religion. Babylon is situated on the banks of the Euphrates River in Iraq. It is no coincidence that two of the last six chapters of the Bible are devoted to Babylon. In Revelation 17, mystery Babylon is described and identified as the mother of harlots. This is an indication that all the false religions that originated from Babylon will be organised into a single ecumenical body in the end-time (Rev. 17:1-6). Their final abode will be the restored city of Babylon. The revived commercial city of Babylon is described in Revelation 18. Babylon will have to be restored before its final destruction during the great tribulation (Isa. 13:19-22; Jer. 51:61-64; Rev. 18:1-2,8-10,17-21).

4. The Revived Roman Empire

The ancient Roman Empire also has to re-emerge in the end-time as a power-base for the Antichrist. In the image of Daniel (Dan. 2:31-45), the Roman Empire is represented by the legs and ten toes. In the night visions of Daniel, the vicious beast with ten horns on its head also depicts the Roman Empire, from which the Antichrist will arise (Dan. 7:7-8,19-26). The symbolism of the beast with the ten horns is also found in Revelation 13:1-2, which describes the Antichrist. From these prophecies it is evident that the Roman Empire will again dominate the world. It will comprise countries from Western Europe, Eastern Europe, The Middle East and North Africa. The European Union is rapidly expanding and will constitute the revived Roman Empire.

5. The New World Order

The Antichrist will be the head of a new world order, which includes all nations. He will establish a world empire based on political, religious and economic power bases (Rev. 13:2,4,7,16-18). The present new world order, aimed at globalisation, paves the way for this future dispensation.

6. Religious deception

In the last days, heretical teachings promoted by demons, will have disastrous consequences in many Christian churches (1 Tim. 4:1). False teachings will proliferate everywhere (2 Tim. 4:3-4; 2 Pet. 2:1-2; Matt. 7:21-23; 24:4-5,11,24; 2 Cor. 11:2-4; Gal. 1:6-9; 1 John 4:1).

7. Moral decline

Serious moral decline will occur in the end-time (2 Tim. 3:1-5). Many Christians will also be detrimentally influenced by this rising tide of immorality (Matt. 24:12). It will be like the times of Noah and Lot, as wickedness, violence and homosexualism will be rife (Matt. 24:37).

8. Natural disasters

In the end-time there will be a great increase in natural disasters such as earthquakes, droughts, pollution of the air and fresh water resources, heat-waves, unprecedented hailstorms, and burning fragments of heavenly bodies that will fall on the earth and in the sea, causing huge waves (Matt. 24:7; Rev. 6:12-13; 8:8-12; 11:6; 16:4,8,18-21). The tsunami in Southeast Asia on 26th December 2004 was one of the worst natural disasters in recorded history. It was caused by a massive earthquake on the seabed. Natural disasters will greatly increase in the coming tribulation period and cause severe panic and a big loss of lives (Luke 21:25-26).

9. Famines and pestilences

Famines and pestilences will be common (Matt. 24:7), causing many deaths in the great tribulation. Food will become very scarce and expensive. Pestilences refer to disease epidemics that will increase and spread beyond control. HIV/Aids could be one of them.

10. Wars

The tribulation period will be a time of unprecedented wars, leading up to the great battle of Armageddon (Matt. 24:6-7; Rev. 6:4,8; 16:13-14,16; 19:19-21; Zech. 14:2-3,12-13). A big military invasion from the East, probably by China and its allies, is also described (Rev. 9:13-19).

11. World evangelism

One sign of the end-times which has a positive nature is that of world evangelism. Before the end comes, the gospel must be preached to all nations (Matt. 24:14). All Christians should dedicate themselves to achieving this objective (Luke 14:23).

The wrath of God

The signs of the times graphically illustrate the fact that the God of love, who wants to save all people (1 Tim. 2:3-4), is also the God of wrath who will severely judge unrepentant sinners (Heb. 2:3; 1 Thess. 1:10). We should not emphasise only certain attributes of God at the cost of others, as we may end up with “another Jesus” who is an invention of the human mind (2 Cor. 11:4), and consequently not true to Scripture. God is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance (2 Pet. 3:9). But unrepentant sinners will be judged.

During the coming tribulation, when the wrath of God will be poured out upon the world, most of the hardened sinners will become more wicked, to the extent of even cursing God because of all the plagues (Rev. 9:20-21). For that reason, they leave a loving God no choice but to judge them. Our command is to heed the signs of the times by facing the fact that the greatest part of the world population will become more evil, selfish, immoral, untrustworthy, violent and God-rejecting in the end-time. We must, at all times, refrain from joining the licentious crowds of the end-time (Rom. 13:12-14). The world is heading for its darkest hour, and also a great tribulation which will be unprecedented in human history (Matt. 24:21-22). But as in the times of Noah and Lot, the principle remains that God’s wrath is never poured out upon true believers (Luke. 21:36).

Personal commitment

The signs of the times are motivating me to be ready for the coming of the heavenly Bridegroom. By His grace, I will escape the divine judgements upon a sinful world just as sure as Noah and Lot escaped the judgements upon the wicked people of their time. I embrace this promise, and therefore do not have an Antichrist expectation but a Christ expectation. After the true church of Christ (the wise virgins) has departed the Antichrist will be revealed without any resistance, deceive the masses and institute his reign of terror on earth. I realise that in a time such as this I must, more than ever before, guard against spiritual backsliding and moral sins (Matt. 24:12) as the power of delusion is very strong. Satan’s spirit of deceit is intent on inducing Christians to forsake their faith (1 Tim. 4:1). Through the signs of the times, Christ admonishes us to remain true to Him, to be ready for His sudden coming, and to use the remaining time in the best possible way by warning others against the impending judgements of God.

Questions

1.    What is the significance of Israel as a sign of the end-time?

2.    Who are the enemies that will invade Israel according to Ezekiel 38?

3.    In what regard does the European Union play a role in the fulfilment of biblical prophecies?

4.    What is the new world order and what are its three power bases?

5.    Describe the moral and spiritual standards that will prevail in the last days.