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What Are the Signs of the Times?

So, if Jesus may return for His faithful at any time, what should we believers do today? Tell others the gospel! Finally, we need to press closer than ever to Christ, as intimacy with Him is the best antidote to falling away from our faith.

Updated Oct 31, 2022
What Are the Signs of the Times?

In the Bible, the Pharisees and Sadducees like to team up to test Christ by demanding that He perform a miracle.

In Matthew 16:2-4, Jesus refuses in disgust, saying, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' ... Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign” (NKJV).

Christ here uses for “times” the Greek “kairōn,” meaning “an opportune period for events to come together.” This is equivalent to the Hebrew “ittîm” as described in 1 Chronicles 12:32 of the sons of Issachar as ones “who had understanding of the times.”

Jesus never does a miracle — a “sign,” the Greek “semeion,” as he says in Matthew 16:4 — to prove Himself. Such requests disgust Him in showing a lack of faith and discernment.

Rather, our Lord directs the Pharisees and Sadducees to look for what God is doing in their midst: giving them the Messiah for whom they say they long and showing Jesus is He by fulfilling numerous prophecies from Hebrew Scripture.

What, Then, Are the Signs of Our Times?

Christ, when not discussing the operation of the Kingdom of God, usually talks of the era of His return, the next major epoch in spiritual history. His disciples ask Him, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, what will be the “sign” — singular of His coming.

However, our Lord responds by listing several qualities of that period so that His own can, as He states in Matthew 16:3, “Discern the signs of the times.”

Jesus does not want His followers to look for a single unusual work that could be faked by the enemy. Paul warns in 2 Thessalonians 2:9, “The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders.”

The three terms for the Antichrist’s seemingly miraculous doings are the same as Christ’s, with one exception: the addition of “lying,” the Greek “pseudos,” meaning “of falsehood.”

Predicting Christ’s Second Coming

Just how close are we to pinning down when our Lord will appear? In Matthew 24:32-36, Jesus tells the Parable of the Fig Tree. Christ says we will know His coming season, more specifically, the “generation.” That is from when a baby is born to when the individual has children, usually about 30 years.

While many on social media try to set precise dates for the Lord’s return, He states this is not possible.

Are Jesus’ Signs of His Return Fulfilled?

Here are the conditions our Lord gave in The Olivet Discourse of Matthew 24:

1. “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will deceive many” (Matthew 24:5). There are a handful of people claiming to be “the Christ” who have sizable followings.

One is Alan John Miller, born in 1960, a former Jehovah’s Witnesses elder who leads the Divine Truth movement out of Australia. He proclaims his lordship in seminars and other events with partner Mary Suzanne Luck, who says she is the reincarnated Mary Magdalene.

2. “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars” (v. 6). There are 44 armed conflicts globally that have caused at least 100 casualties in the past year.

Insofar as “rumors” — literally, from the biblical Greek, “reports heard or speculated upon” — China is threatening Taiwan, North Korea is ready to bomb South Korea, and Iran is making nuclear weapons for a likely strike against Israel.

3. “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom” (v. 7). These are different types of conflicts. “Nation” is “ethnos,” meaning ethnicity.

Over the last decade, there has been a reignition of racial strife in the United States, the UK, and many other countries, based mostly on false premises promoted by biased news media.

“Kingdom” is the Greek “basileia,” used for a politically ruled realm, verified by the high number of armed clashes globally.

Physical Disturbances

1. “There will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places” (v. 7). Famine’s end was pronounced in 2015 by The Lancet, a prominent British medical journal, due to advancements in technology and transport. However, by early 2020 — before COVID-19 — there were five famines worldwide.

All were due to religious or ethnic trouble, not weather or other typical origins. Further, U.N. World Food Program head David Beasley in July 2022, estimated 345 million globally were “on the brink of starvation,” a 156% increase from COVID-19’s start and 25% from the beginning of the Ukraine-Russia war.

2. “Pestilence,” the Greek “loimos,” is a plague or other major disease. The world has lost over six million people to the coronavirus as of 2022, and monkeypox has begun to claim lives.

However, even more serious may be reports of bubonic plague in Africa, Asia, and South and North America, as well as the comeback of tuberculosis, polio, and other maladies once thought controlled.

3. Earthquakes: the world’s number of earthquakes of 5.0+ on the Richter Scale of higher increased by 54% between 2020 and 2021, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, and the latter’s three of 8.0 magnitude or higher were the highest since 2007.

Persecution Without, False Brethren Within

“They will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake” (v. 9).

Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List reports a record 55 of the globe’s 195 countries have the nonprofit's highest level of persecution of Christians, virtually all in the 10/40 window, most greatly needing evangelism. “An all-time high 76 nations have an extreme, very high or high level of Christian persecution and discrimination, adds Open Doors.”

“Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another” (v. 10). To be “offended” is a constant in the headlines today, as is the term “haters.”

Those offended and hating generally have little reason to do so, “speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their own conscience seared with a hot iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).

The progression found in 2 Thessalonians 2:3 has been hastened by a surge in heresies such as the prosperity gospel (God’s own are to have great worldly wealth), Arianism (Christ is distinct from and inferior to the Father), antinomianism (a believer’s behavior does not matter), and Judaizing (Christians must keep the Law of Moses).

Falling Away and World Evangelism

“Because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold” (v. 11). This is a disregard for spirituality and statutes so bad that “agape,” God’s kind of love, is lost.

Per the former, 2022 surveys by George Barna for Arizona Christian University indicate a lowest-ever 63% of Americans claim Christianity.

Only 24% of those practice the faith at least minimally by, for example, attending an online or in-person service once a month or more.

Just five percent of professing Christians have a biblical worldview. As for laws, the U.S. federal government, for example, is not enforcing immigration statutes on the southern border, allowing 4.9 million illegal aliens to enter in less than two years.

“This Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations” (v. 12). The Greek of this verse indicates the Good News is proclaimed across the globe as a whole as evidence of God’s Lordship over all people groups (“ethnesin”).

The first part of this has already happened, as mass media cover every inch of the earth with the gospel. Wycliff Bible Translators estimates that 98% of the world's population has at least some Scripture published in its language.

There also are groups such as Faith Comes by Hearing that are getting audio tapes of the Bible to some of those last ethnicities without printed translations.

Rapture Ready?

Therefore, all the signs Christ gave of the season of His return are now fulfilled. Most — but not all — evangelical Christians believe He will come for His own in The Rapture, and The Tribulation will begin once they have left (Revelation 3:10).

So, if Jesus may return for His faithful at any time, what should we believers do today? Tell others the gospel! The U.S. has fewer attending churches per capita than many Third World countries. We also must live the Scripture as a witness (2 Corinthians 3:2).

Finally, we need to press closer than ever to Christ, as intimacy with Him is the best antidote to falling away from our faith.

For further reading:

What Does the Bible Really Say about the Rapture?

How Has the End Times Become a Moral Panic?

What Are the Signs of the Apocalypse?

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Zbynek Pospisil

SWN authorKyle Huckins has three careers of over 20 years: journalism, higher education, and ministry. He’s won 25 awards for his professional media work and three honors for his scholarly research. Huckins is also an ordained pastor whose evangelism outreach, Eternity Now, has reached over 1 million for Christ in its first two years. See more at EternityNow.


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