The Signs of His Coming
The Signs of His Coming
During the past year in my own congregation we have been greatly blessed by the birth of a significant number of new babies. Now, we all knew that these babies were coming and had a rough idea as to when they would be born but we did not know the exact time of their arrival. It was impossible to predict the precise moment at which they would make their entrance into this world. In some respects it is the same with the return of Christ. We know, for sure, that He will come. We have no doubt about the fact of his return. We know that his return is nearer now than ever before but we do not know the exact moment when the clouds will open and Jesus will descend in power and glory. Indeed, Jesus himself, speaking according to his human nature, asserts:
For of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father onlyMatthew 24:36
However, in Matthew 24 Jesus tells us that there are certain things that are going to happen before he comes. These ‘signs of his coming’ are normally divided into two categories – the general signs and the particular signs. There are things that are going to occur during the whole period of the last days. Throughout the period in which we now live between the ascension of Jesus and his return certain things will happen – the general signs. There will probably be an intensification of these things before the return of Christ. Also Jesus, and the New Testament writers, speak about other things that will happen a short time before his appearing – the particular signs. Of course we have to be very careful how we handle these signs. In our last article we stressed the suddenness of Christ’s appearing and the need to be ready for his coming at any moment. We have to live with the tension of knowing that his return will take men by surprise and the awareness that certain things will occur before he comes.
In this article we want to consider three of the general signs which are outlined by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse:
And you will hear of wars and rumours of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places ... 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 24:6, 7 and 14
All of us are familiar with war and conflict. Some will remember the Second World War whilst many of us can recall Vietnam, the Falklands and, currently, the struggle in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Every generation has experienced war in some form or another and Jesus tells us that this will be the case until he comes: ‘nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom’
Earthquakes, famines and pestilences←⤒🔗
The world, the physical creation, ever since the fall of man has been out of joint and these tragic occurrences will continue to occur throughout the last days. Not only in Matthew 24 but also in Luke 21:11 Jesus reminds us of these things – ‘And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences.’
The gospel will be preached to all the nations←⤒🔗
Of the general signs that we have considered this one has caused considerable debate within the church. Perhaps the best way to find out what it means is by asking two questions.
Who are the nations? This term is consistently applied in the scriptures to the Gentile nations. In the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19 & 20) Jesus is commanding his disciples to reach out with the gospel beyond Israel, beyond the Jews ‘...make disciples of all nations’. As such when we think of the gospel being preached in all the nations we are essentially thinking of worldwide evangelisation.
In what sense will the gospel be preached to all the nations? Some suggest that what Jesus is teaching here is that when he comes he will return to an essentially Christianised world. However, William Hendriksen has probably correctly understood this statement of Jesus when he says:
Jesus is saying that the nations shall have the opportunity at one time or another during the course of history to hear the gospel.1
In other words every nation will at some point during the course of its history be significantly impacted by the gospel of Jesus Christ. The gospel, the Christian faith, will be a dominant and significant force in the life of every nation at some point during its history.
Now the outworking of all of this is both sobering and challenging. 2009 marked the one hundred and fiftieth anniversary of the 1859 revival. It was good to recollect the glorious working of God’s Holy Spirit in days of revival and to hear of how thousands had been swept into the kingdom of God. Many are, quite rightly, praying for such things to happen again. However, we must recognise that there is no guarantee that this will be the case. Whilst we long to see God at work in power in our nation again we must soberly acknowledge that the gospel has been a mighty force in the life of our nation for many years. I sincerely hope that I am wrong but we must come to terms with the possibility that our day of gospel prosperity has passed. A glance towards North Africa is a solemn reminder to us of how nations that once were alive with the gospel can in time turn aside from Christ and his truth.
The challenge arising out of all of this is two-fold. As a Christian, I have my part to play in bringing the gospel to all the nations of the world. Yes, I know that God is sovereign and I do believe passionately in the doctrine of election. But Jesus tells me that I have to go into all the nations. I have my part to play in terms of going, giving and praying.
If you are not a Christian this ‘sign’ should really trouble you. Thanks to the rapid development of computer technology and the remarkable advances being made with mobile phones and related gadgets the gospel is advancing into many nations, including many ‘closed’ lands, at an incredible rate. This sign is being fulfilled before our eyes. Take note. Take note and prepare, in repentance and in faith, for the return of Christ.
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