Bible Study Helps and Lessons
By Pastor George Rice
Most Christians believe that human history will be brought to a conclusion one way or another (see the study on the return of Jesus). The big question is, How will we know when it is approaching? Jesus Himself gave His followers signs to watch for that will help them to know the end is near. He used an illustration from nature, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near–at the doors!” (Matthew 24:32, 33).
Throughout the Bible, inspired writers give various signs of the approaching end. Jesus’ instruction on this topic can be found in the following chapters: Matthew 24,25, Mark 13, and Luke 17, 21. Throughout these chapters, Jesus repeatedly warns us, “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matthew 24:44).
The exact day and hour of Jesus’ return is not given. Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matthew 24:36). There is a logical reason for this. If Jesus had given the exact time of His return, people in the generations that preceded the time would not have taken serious their spiritual preparation for heaven. Also, those living in the generation of Jesus’ return would put off the necessary spiritual preparation until the last minute, but if they die just before Jesus’ return, they would not be prepared. Procrastination is a dangerous thing.
Jesus did give one sign that comes closer to a set time for His return than any other, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14). This sign is being realized today in a way that has never been seen before. If the Bible did not give us any other signs, this one alone tells us that history is about to close.
Here are some other signs given to us that help us to understand when the end is near.
1. Increase in knowledge, Daniel 12:4. This verse has been understood by Jewish rabbis to mean that at the end of time there will be an increase in Bible study. As a result of running to and fro through the sacred pages of the Bible, biblical knowledge will be increased. And this has happened. Perhaps there is an additional meaning of this verse, the phenomenal increase in the speed of travel and the increase of knowledge in various fields of technology. Our forefathers one hundred years ago could have never foreseen automobiles equipped with computer guidance systems or a hand held computer stored with amounts of information that boggles the mind.
2. The events that opened the sixth seal of Revelation 6:12-17. The prophecy of the sixth seal opens with a gigantic earthquake, followed by the sun being darkened, the moon becoming blood red, and the stars falling from heaven. Check the encyclopedias as see what you find about the Lisbon Earthquake (1755), the Dark Day and the change in the color of the moon (1780), and the Star Shower (1833). These events in nature opened the sixth seal, and this seal closes with the return of Jesus, “Fall on us” the lost cry out to the crumbling mountains, “and hide us from the face of Him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of His wrath has come, and who is able to stand?” (Revelation 6:16, 17). We are now living in the sixth of the seven seals presented in Revelation.
3. Popularity of false religious teachers and teachings. Read Matthew 24:23-27; 1 Timothy 4:1, 2; and 2 Timothy 4:3, 4. Now think of all the false teachings that are being presented as religious truth ranging from transcendental meditation to the New Age, to the teachings found in the Christian Church which do not have a biblical base.
4. Decline in morals. Second Timothy 3:1-5 and Matthew 24:12 give a good picture of the moral condition of the world.
5. Increase in fear. Jesus said that at the end, fear would grip the hearts of people as they anticipate additional disasters coming upon the earth (Luke 21:25-27).
6. Plagues and pestilence. Plagues and pestilence will be on the increase, like AIDS, the bird flu, etc. (Luke 21:11).
7. Yet amid war, terrorism, disasters, plagues, and pestilence, people will cry “Peace and safety, everything is alright and there is nothing fear.” It is right at this time, Paul says, sudden destruction will come (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4).
There are many more signs of Jesus’ return, especially in the prophetic books of Daniel and Revelation. All of these events transpiring in the world at the same time led Jesus to warn His followers to be ready for the end. Here is another warning given by Jesus. “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming” (Matthew 24:42).