MORE ABOUT JESUS' RETURN
The moment had come. On the Mount of Olives, the disciples of Jesus gathered. They were overjoyed to be with their Master, for only a few weeks earlier, he had been in the tomb.
Jesus spoke to them in words of deepest tenderness. Then he held up his hands in blessing. "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." (Matthew 28:20)
Then he ascended into heaven, and a cloud of glory finally hid Jesus from the disciples' eyes. The disciples continued gazing upward in awe, and then two angels came to them and said, "Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)
The early believers prayed, waited and shared the good news of Jesus Christ wherever they went. Jesus himself had given them the great commission: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you." (Matthew 28:19,20)
The blessed hope of Jesus' return inspired them to face all hardships and trials, for they expected Jesus to return at any moment. But the years rolled by--ten. . .twenty. . .thirty years passed, and he did not return. Why has he been delayed? They knew Jesus wanted to have his followers with him again. They knew he had paid for them with his life. What was the reason he had not come back yet?
Jesus once told a parable about the harvest of the world a farmer he said, doesn't harvest, a field of grain before it is ready. If he did, a whole season of seeding and care would be wasted. So, too, Jesus is waiting for his field to be fully mature before he comes to harvest it.
Jesus is waiting for everyone who has a sincere desire to follow him to be ready for his return. He is waiting for our relationship with him to be what it ought to be--what it can be through his grace. As we draw closer and closer to him, we will want him to come as soon as possible, and we will give ourselves entirely to doing his will.
Knowing the exact time of his coming is not important. As a matter of fact we can't know it, for Jesus himself said, "But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." (Matthew 24:36)
What is important is to live our lives in such a way as to be ready for his coming at any moment! Although we can't be sure of the exact time of his coming, we can be sure it is very near. Jesus himself gave us certain signs to let us know when the time is drawing near.
After a confrontation with the Jewish rulers, Jesus went out from Jerusalem. He and his disciples were on the Mount of Olives overlooking the city with its glorious Temple. Jesus shocked the disciples by telling them that one day the Temple would be torn to the ground. The disciples, almost speechless, finally asked, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3)
So Jesus gave them a panoramic view of the happenings that would precede his coming. He told them these things to encourage them. He said, "When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh." (Luke 21:28)
Jesus said there would come a time of short duration, possibly a generation, when certain events would more or less happen all at once. This would be the "end time," the time in history when all the signs of his coming would converge at one point. More and more people who read the Scriptures in view of current events feel that we are now living in that time. We have entered into the final act of the drama of the ages.
So, friend, lift up your head; for your redemption draweth nigh. The day of Jesus' return is at hand. As that great preacher, Dr. G. Campbell Morgan, said, "I never begin my work in the morning without thinking that perhaps He may interrupt my work and begin His own. . .I am looking for Him."
The great evangelist, Dwight L. Moody, used to say: "I never preach a sermon without thinking that possibly the Lord may come before I preach another."
Great religious leaders and students of the Bible have become more and more deeply aware of how accurately today's history is fulfilling Bible prophecy. Let's take a look at some of these dramatic predictions of end time events.
One of the most dramatic signs Jesus mentioned was war. "Ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars," he said, "For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom." (Matthew 24:6,7) Jesus said that just before his return, wars would be widespread and frequent. As soon as one war was over, another would take its place. Already in this century, we have had two world wars with devastation unequalled by all the previous wars combined.
We've had Korea, Vietnam, the Middle East. . .and the list goes on and on. We live in an era when the whole world seems to behurtling toward another war far greater than anything known before. This war--World War III--can be touched off by a minor event. . .a mistake, a small angry nation, a mad dictator.
In the midst of all these wars and impending wars, the Bible says talk of peace shall abound, and yet, on the whole these talks will be useless. "For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them. . .and they shall not escape." (1 Thessalonians 5:3) Never has there been so much talk of peace. Treaties seem to be only bandaids that cannot heal the wounds between nations. Dag Hammarskjold, not long before his death, summed it up this way: "I see no hope for permanent world peace. We have tried so hard and we have failed so miserably. . .Unless the world has a spiritual rebirth within the next few years, civilization is doomed."
Other great statesmen feel much the same way. The conditions for peace become more and more complicated. One day they will run out of even feeble answers to world problems, and then--". . .upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity." (Luke 21:25) Jesus told his disciples that before his coming nations would face blind alleys in their search for solutions. This would happen not only on international levels, but also in the hearts of men. Jesus spoke of "men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth." (Luke 21:26) This is another sign--the world's strained mental state.
The pressures of daily life are building as never before. Never before have people been so on edge, so easily hurt and offended. As Jesus said, "Then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another." (Matthew 24:10) This betrayal and hate is happening in the very foundation of society, the homes themselves. Never has there been a time when the homes crumble so fast--an almost 50% divorce rate in many nations. Even without divorces, there is widespread and often bitter animosity in homes that stay together. The world's mental state is clearly near collapse.
Jesus mentioned another sign that would cast fear into the world- -the sign of lawlessness. He said, "As lawlessness spreads, men's love for one another will grow cold." (Matthew 24:12, NEB) Moral breakdown plagues today's world. The law of God as seen in the Ten Commandments is almost totally ignored as murder, rape, thievery, lying, and deception increase. Our cities in many cases are in the claws of the drug lords. Even so-called law-abiding citizens often indulge in continual immorality.
All of this, the Bible says, is a sign of the last days. "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come." (2 Timothy 3:1) Perilous, dangerous times, when it is often unsafe to go out alone, night or day. "For men shall be lovers of theirown selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers. . ." (2 Timothy 3:2) It will be an attitude of me first. . .the only important person in the world is me.
People will also be "disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection." (2 Timothy 3:2,3) Our schools face the greatest problems ever faced because of the lack of discipline. Our homes are often battlefields between youth and parents.
The list goes on. People will be "trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent." (2 Timothy 3:3) These immoral people will not only live a lifestyle of continual sin, but they will also seek to destroy those who live according to God's will. They will be "despisers of those that are good." (2 Timothy 3:3) People on the whole will be "traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God." (2 Timothy 3:4) Can any doubt exist that people in general fit this description today? In an age of materialism most people seek the things that give them pleasure. Only a small percentage think seriously about God and his way of giving and of righteousness.
We turn now to another sign of the last days--the moral state of the world. Jesus said, "As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man." (Luke 17:26) What were things like in Noah's day? Bad enough that God saw best to cleanse the earth with a flood. "God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually." (Genesis 6:5)
In today's entertainment and advertising, the influence we see is more for evil than for good as men use their imaginations to snare the unwary through subtle propaganda. In the business world, politics, and almost every area of life, people are out to win over other people at all costs. Jesus said that Noah's time was marked by overeating, overdrinking, and a high rate of divorce and remarriage. What about today? The world is on an immoral binge found in the arts, cinema, television, and dozens of other areas. Human nature, without God, has reached the depths of sin and despair. Jesus said this would be a sign of the end.
Another sign of the end was the great increase in knowledge and travel. An Old Testament writer by the name of Daniel was told by God: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end." (Daniel 12:4) Apparently Daniel's book would not be fully understood until the last days, but then in the light of current events and history, the book of Daniel would be opened for serious Bible students. One of the signs that this book predicted for the time of the end was, "Many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased." (Daniel 12:4)
Knowledge has increased by more in the last 50 years than in all the rest of history combined, and it now doubles at the rate of once every ten years. Concerning travel, we see that in one generation man has gone from Kitty Hawk to the moon. Besides space flights, man possesses the ability to travel around the globe at amazing speeds. The saddest part of all this is that although man's store of knowledge has mushroomed, his wisdom to use it properly seems to have decreased. Too often he uses new inventions and techniques to destroy his fellow man. He uses his ability to travel to often bring fear and destruction to others.
Besides manmade disasters, Jesus said that natural disasters would abound as never before. "There shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places." (Matthew 24:7) Today more than 10,000 people die every day from widespread famine and the diseases it brings. Hardly a day goes by when we don't hear about a new earthquake with loss of life and property. Earthquakes in places that never before had them are increasing in force dramatically. For a while it seemed that science would wipe out many of the death-bringing pestilences. But now new and stronger diseases are rearing their heads as the medical world struggles vainly to keep pace. Even now some of these diseases seem unstoppable as they ravage the earth.
Many other signs were mentioned by Jesus and the prophets-- persecution of God's followers among them. "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you." (Matthew 24:9) True religion will be largely infiltrated and warped by deceivers. "Many false prophets shall rise. . ." (Matthew 24:11) But the greatest sign of all will be worldwide evangelism! Not that a majority of people will accept the way of Jesus Christ, but everyone will hear his good news and either decide for or against it. As Jesus said, "This gospel of the Kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (Matthew 24:14)
In the year 1500 the Bible had been printed in only 14 languages. Today it is in over 1,250 languages and dialects. Missionary outreaches have gone into the hearts of jungles around the world. . .to remote mountain villages, almost to every area. Radio, television, and printed material is proclaiming the good news of Jesus Christ worldwide.
Friend, as we seriously and prayerfully study the words of Christ and the prophets concerning the last days on earth, we cannot help but come to the conclusion: Jesus is coming again very soon. To the believing Christian, this is good news. He knows that "when Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory." (Colossians 3:4) The follower of Jesus knows that soon God will restore him to his own likeness. As the Biblesays, "When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is." (1 John 3:2)
Friend, don't you want to be looking forward to the coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Don't you want to have his strength working in you, helping you through the trials and temptations that are coming upon our world? You can. By accepting Jesus as your personal Savior, and by following him day by day, you will be ready.
Dear heavenly Father, thank you for warning us of what is coming upon our world. Thank you for telling us what we can do, and for giving us strength and hope in Jesus Christ, our Savior. Now help each of us to be ready for his coming. We thank you in the name of Jesus, who made it possible for us to share in eternal life with him. Amen.