The imminence of the Lord’s return is a theme that runs throughout the NT. When Jesus said he would return soon, he meant ‘quickly’ as opposed to ‘immediately’. Immediately means straight away, while quickly means that when it does happen it will happen fast. This is an important distinction – when Jesus says he is coming soon, he means that when the events associated with his return unravel, they will unravel very fast!
One of the things that make our moment in history very exciting is that there are many signs associated with the Lord’s return that are uniquely falling into place in our time. This is important given Jesus’ instruction to ‘keep watch’ and ‘be ready’.
Let’s explore just a few of these signs that bring Scripture to life in a way that wasn’t possible until recent decades:
The ‘Mark of the beast’
Because of the signs it was given power to perform on behalf of the first beast, it deceived the inhabitants of the earth. It ordered them to set up an image in honor of the beast who was wounded by the sword and yet lived. The second beast was given power to give breath to the image of the first beast, so that the image could speak and cause all who refused to worship the image to be killed. It also forced all people, great and small, rich and poor, free and slave, to receive a mark on their right hands or on their foreheads, so that they could not buy or sell unless they had the mark, which is the name of the beast or the number of its name. (Revelation 13:14-17 NIV)
The technology for the above prophecy was unthinkable until recent decades. Not only is the technology now in place for the literal fulfilment of this prophecy, but Covid has also massively accelerated the acceptance of populations across the world into accepting a mark to carry out day-to-day transactions and being monitored. I’m not suggesting this technology is bad at all – however, I am saying that the Bible written 2000 years ago anticipated the technology we are seeing now and recent developments are the highway towards the fulfilment of this prophetic text.
The whole world watching on
For three and a half days some from every people, tribe, language and nation will gaze on their bodies and refuse them burial. The inhabitants of the earth will gloat over them and will celebrate by sending each other gifts, because these two prophets had tormented those who live on the earth. (Revelation 11:9-10 NIV)
It was not until recent decades that people from all over the world could observe the same event simultaneously without physically being present – modern satellite and internet technology have enabled people from every part of the world to use their phones (or similar devices) to watch the events unfold somewhere else in real-time. It is now possible for the whole world to observe these predicted events unfold in Jerusalem.
This is the plague with which the LORD will strike all the nations that fought against Jerusalem: Their flesh will rot while they are still standing on their feet, their eyes will rot in their sockets, and their tongues will rot in their mouths. (Zechariah 14:12 NIV)
The graphic nature of this passage is disturbing as it describes horrific events in the future, but we have now created weaponry that brings the scene to life in terrifying ways. The weaponry in use during the time that Zechariah was given this prophecy was nothing like what was described in the passage, but that has all changed…relatively recently.
The Jewish Nation coming to faith
I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers and sisters, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in, and in this way all Israel will be saved. (Romans 11:25-26a NIV)
Israel is a key part of the end time picture and this prophecy provides a firm timeline that separates one period from the next. As the Jewish people continue to regather to their ancient land in unbelief (fulfilling dozens of OT prophecies), we are nearing the time when the ‘full number of the Gentiles has come in’, at which point their blindness will be removed (also see Zechariah 12:10 for instance).
Unrestrained obsession with self
But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God — having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (2 Timothy 3:1-5 NIV)
Has there ever been a time that more accurately fits western culture at present? These verses seem to have been written to describe a time like this and there is a hint in v5 that this describes the situation within the church landscape in the end times.
These are just a few pointers which are uniquely in place now. We could include other factors such as climate change, the rampant advance of technology and the astonishing way that nations seem to be shaping up just as described in Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38/39. All of this points to the end being close and this should fill us with confidence in Scripture.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.”(2 Peter 3:3-4 NIV)
The Lord is coming soon and the stage is being set for the end time climax. None of this should be a cause of fear for the believer – it should galvanise our evangelism efforts and be the cause of anticipation that we live in such amazing times!
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age, while we wait for the blessed hope–the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ. (Titus 2:11-13 NIV)
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