I have become somewhat dismayed with Christians who rebuff the idea that the return of Christ is near. Not all Christians, mind you, only those who have been enlightened by the facts yet still reject this idea. It’s as though they’re walking around with blinders on. The term willingly “ignorant” comes to mind – something the Bible warns us against being repeatedly. Here we are living in what has to be the most thrilling time to be alive to witness firsthand the fulfillment of end time Bible prophecies that immediately precede Jesus’ second coming! To realize that 6,000 years of human history on this planet is rapidly coming to a close and we are the generation that is alive to watch the final events unfold!
Yet, sadly most Christians avoid this topic like the plague! Why is that? I find that the mere mention that Jesus may be coming back within our lifetime can cause one or more of varying responses. Usually there ensues a very uncomfortable silence and the subject is quickly changed, or they argue profusely that we cannot know and shouldn’t even try to know when Christ will return. And sometimes they just look at you as though you’ve grown a third eye.
These responses confuse and concern me. After all, Christians should look forward to and have a longing for the time when God will lift His followers out of this fallen world to be in the presence of our Lord Jesus Christ. [2 Peter 3:13-14] We know this world has never been a friend to those who profess to know Christ and who live for Him [John 15:19-21] so this thought should not cause us to be afraid or angry, but to rejoice! This is our hope!
The scriptures are teeming with evidence that Jesus Himself expects us to be on our guards and constantly watching! [Matthew 7:15, 24:4, 42, 43, 25:13, 26:41, Mark 13:35, 37, and Luke 21:8, 36] Matthew 25 is a parable of ten virgins who were told to keep watch for the Lord’s return. Sadly, only five of the virgins kept watch while the other five fell asleep. When the bridegroom suddenly returned, five of the virgins went in to the marriage supper of the Lamb while the other five were shut out. This parable is a sad scenario of the last days when only half of professing Christianity will be watching for signs of the Lord’s return. In Matthew 24 and Luke 21, Jesus tells His disciples precisely what the signs would be that would precede His second coming.
Unprecedented Natural Disasters
Let’s consider that this past decade in America alone, we have seen natural disasters occur in unprecedented proportions from the east coast to the west. Forest fires and floods have ravaged California, the east and northeast have experienced record freezing temperatures and snowfall, hurricanes in the south, and killer tornados in record numbers across the Midwest.
We were a mere 12 days into the year 2010 when a massive earthquake measuring 7.0 on the Richter scale struck the Haitian city of Port-Au-Prince killing hundreds of thousands of people. The U.S. Geological Survey has called this quake the strongest earthquake since 1770 to ever hit that region.
Then barely six weeks later, on Saturday, February 27, 2010, an earthquake measuring 6.9 on the Richter scale struck Okinawa, Japan. It barely got any press because the very next day, Sunday, February 28, 2010, an earthquake 250 to 350 times more powerful than the one that devastated Haiti, demolished the city of Concepcion in Chile. This earthquake measured 8.8 on the Richter scale and is said to be the seventh largest quake in recorded human history. In fact, scientists report this quake was so massive that it caused the earth to shift on its axis.
People watch with concern and confusion as record-breaking natural disasters from earthquakes, tsunamis, hurricanes, tornadoes, and so on, wreak havoc around the world. These catastrophes have become so frequent and severe, that international news sources have begun asking the question, “Is the world coming to an end?” It seems as if the earth is writhing in pain as if an unseen force is exerting unbearable pressure upon it in an effort to push mankind toward extinction.
Signs of the End of the Age
So here is the unavoidable question… “Is the world in fact coming to an end?” And if so… when?
Nearly 2,000 years ago, Jesus addressed this very question when asked by His disciples what would be the signs of the end of the age.
Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. “Do you see all these things?” he asked. “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Matt. 24-1-3
Interestingly, even first century believers were anticipating the end of the world. Yet, instead of trying to dissuade their concerns, Jesus addressed their concerns by not only warning them to be on their guard, but by telling them what specific signs to look for that would signal the end of the world was near. And what are those signs?
Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Christ, ‘ and will deceive many. You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of birth pains.” Matt. 24:4-8
First and foremost, Jesus warns believers to watch out for false prophets. This is a warning that pertains to our generation more than any other because at no other time in human history has religious deception permeated the church like it does today. [1 Tim. 4:1, 2 Tim. 3:1-5, 2 Tim. 4:3-4, Rev. 3:7-22] The gospel of Jesus Christ has been so watered down within so many churches today that it barely resembles the gospel anymore! The tragedy of this is that multitudes who think they are on the road to heaven through good works, will tragically find out too late that they were on the road to hell all along. (Matt. 7:13, 14, 21-23; Rev. 3:14‑16)
Then Jesus goes on to warn of “wars and rumors of war,” “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom,” “famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places.” And then in verse 8 He says, “All these are the beginning of sorrows” or “birth pains.” Jesus compares our planet in the last days to a woman in labor because it is an analogy we are all familiar with in one way or another. As a woman in labor experiences contractions with more frequency and intensity as her delivery approaches, so too in the same way, our planet is experiencing “contractions” as the time of the end draws near. These “contractions” manifest themselves by the occurrence of more frequent and more intense natural disasters around the world.
The Apostle Paul uses this same comparison in I Thes. 5:2-3:
“For you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.”
Keep in mind… God always warns His people! All throughout the Bible, God warned His people of the impending disaster that would befall them if they refused to repent and turn back to Him. And likewise, God is warning us today through record breaking natural disasters, wars, diseases, pestilences and the like, that the end of the age is near.
Yet, so often I hear the same ‘ol argument, “Yes, but… mankind has experienced these kinds of natural disasters and catastrophes since the beginning of time. Every generation says Jesus is coming back in their lifetime so nothing is any different today.” The Apostle Paul warned us that this would be the argument of many:
“First of 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 fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens existed and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the Day of Judgment and destruction of ungodly men.” 2 Peter 3:3-7
Without question, past generations have claimed Jesus’ return would be within their lifetime, only to have that generation come and go. So then how can we be certain that our generation is in fact the generation living in the final days leading up to the second return of Christ?
The Fig Tree
Jesus gives us a key historical event that, unlike other generations in the past, our generation alone can claim. Jesus said:
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you will know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth; this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” Matt. 24:32‑35
Some suggest that Jesus is referring to 70AD when the Jewish temple was destroyed and millions of Jews were massacred. However, the problem with this argument is that the generation of the first century did not pass away so obviously Jesus could not have been referring to them. So what generation was Jesus referring to in this passage? He says the generation that sees the tender twigs and leaves come out on the fig tree.
What does the fig tree symbolize? We find that in Jeremiah 24:4‑10, God refers to the Jews as “figs.”
Then the word of the Lord came to me: “This is what the Lord, the God of Israel, says: ‘Like these good figs, I regard as good the exiles from Judah, whom I sent away from this place to the land of the Babylonians. My eyes will watch over them for their good, and I will bring them back to this land. I will build them up and not tear them down; I will plant them and not uproot them. I will give them a heart to know me, that I am the Lord. They will be my people, and I will be their God, for they will return to me with all their heart. “‘But like the poor figs, which are so bad they cannot be eaten,’ says the Lord, ‘so will I deal with Zedekiah king of Judah, his officials and the survivors from Jerusalem, whether they remain in this land or live in Egypt. I will make them abhorrent and an offense to all the kingdoms of the earth, a reproach and a byword, an object of ridicule and cursing, wherever I banish them. I will send the sword, famine and plague against them until they are destroyed from the land I gave to them and their fathers.’ ”
If “figs” are “Jews,” then it would make sense that a “fig tree” would be a Jewish nation. Therefore, if we apply this understanding to Matthew 24:32-35, we rightly conclude that the generation that is alive to see the rebirth of a new Jewish nation (the fig tree), would be the generation that would see the return of Jesus Christ. And that is precisely what happened on May 14, 1948. Against all odds, the State of Israel was reborn!
To fully understand how miraculous this event truly was, history records that the Jews were exiled from the land of Palestine over 2,500 years ago when they were taken captive by the Babylonian Empire in 486BC. So the fact that the Jewish people – who make up less than 2% of the world’s population, who have been dispersed throughout the world, persecuted, enslaved and nearly exterminated on numerous occasions, yet remained a separate and distinct people only to be brought back together to form the State of Israel – can be described as nothing less than a miracle ~ the Almighty Hand of God at work!
God told the Prophet Ezekiel that there would be a miraculous rebirth of the nation of Israel after a long period of time. That is the vision of the valley of dry bones in Ezekiel 37. God said He would put life back into the old, dry bones [Israel] and He has done just that!
So Jesus said the generation that witnesses the rebirth of the nation of Israel would not pass away before seeing the return of Christ. That’s us.
How long is a generation? God’s Word tells us in Psalm 90:10 that… “The length of our days is seventy years or eighty, if we have the strength…” If we add 70 to the year 1948, we arrive at the year 2018. Since we are presently in the year 2010, that means the Lord will return within seven years, perhaps as long as 17 years. But perhaps today.
How Should We Live?
So, understanding that Jesus’ return is so very near, what kind of people should we be? Paul tells us:
“But the day of the Lord will come like a thief. The heavens will disappear with a roar; the elements will be destroyed by fire, and the earth and everything in it will be laid bare. Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming. That day will bring about the destruction of the heavens by fire, and the elements will melt in the heat. But in keeping with his promise we are looking forward to a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness. So then, dear friends, since you are looking forward to this, make every effort to be found spotless, blameless and at peace with him. 2 Peter 3:10-18
“Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings.” I Peter 5:8
The Apostle Paul gave a strong warning concerning the condition of mankind in the last days:
“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 them. They are the kind who worm their way into homes and gain control over weak-willed women, who are loaded down with sins and are swayed by all kinds of evil desires, always learning but never able to acknowledge the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:1-7
I believe this accurately describes the immoral condition of our generation today.
Is Hell for Real??
The signs around us scream that time is running out! Yet the world gently whispers to mankind that he’s in no eternal danger – all the while multitudes are headed toward the horrors of hell. There is so much in this world to distract and tempt and cause mankind to turn away from God. And so people continue living their lives willingly ignorant of the mortal danger they are in. They fail to understand that to die without a personal relationship in Christ is to face eternity in hell.
The idea of hell bothers a lot of people. But Jesus, John the Baptist, and Paul all taught everlasting punishment. (Matt. 3:12; 18:8; 25:41, 46; Mark 9:43-48; Luke 3:17; 2 Thes. 1:9). If the suffering in the Lake of Fire is not everlasting, then neither is the joy of heaven because the same Greek word for “everlasting” is used for both.
I know the idea of hell seems terribly cruel and not at all consistent with what we know about God’s loving nature, but understand that there must be punishment and justice for sin or else God is not righteous. Yet Psalm 7:9 tells us that God is a righteous judge. His righteousness is part of His character just as are mercy and love. Righteousness deals with justice and justice deals with the Law. This means that God will always do that which is right and He does so according to the righteous Law that He has set forth. God cannot do anything wrong. God must do that which is right otherwise He would not be righteous.
God is also holy and just. In love, He warned Adam and Eve of the dire consequences of disobedience. To go back on His Word would make Him a liar and why would we believe anything else He said? And because God loves us so very much, He will never stop warning us to earnestly repent and be forgiven of our sins so we may enter into heaven for eternity someday.
But would a loving God send anyone to hell? The idea of a loving God sending people to hell for eternity is not easy to accept. Why would God, Who is full of mercy and grace, send people to a place of torment for ever and ever for not trusting in Jesus even though they are nice people, or never heard of Jesus, or were sincerely trying to find God? Is that fair?
When people ask these questions, they are appealing to what they perceive as fairness. They are looking at the issue from their own human perspective. But this perspective is not necessarily the right one. If God exists, and He does, then it is He who is the One who says what is right and fair, not us.
The Bible tells us that God is holy, “You shall be holy, for I am holy,” (1 Pet. 1:16). Holiness is incorruptibility, perfection, purity, and the inability to sin, all of which are possessed by God alone. Holiness is the very nature of God’s character. His character is perfect, without flaw, and He is the standard of all that is right and good.
The Bible tells us that God is love.
“And we have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us. God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.” 1 John 4:16.
God cares about us and seeks our well being and security. His love for us is eternal. This is why God does not desire that anyone go to hell, but that all come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9).
You Must be Saved!
The only way to escape the righteous judgment of God is to trust in the provision He has made. This provision is found in Jesus.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.” John 3:16
Jesus is the only way to salvation (John 14:6). Jesus is also God in flesh (John 1:1, 14; Col. 2:9). Therefore, Jesus’ life is of infinite value. This means that His sacrifice is sufficient to cleanse you of your sins. It is the only way to satisfy the infinitely righteous standard of God that is required to match His infinite holiness.
If you want to escape the eternal judgment of God, you must put your trust in Jesus and what He did on the cross and in nothing else. Without Him, there is no hope of escape on the Day of Judgment. How do you do this? First you must repent. That means to tell Jesus you’re genuinely sorry for breaking His laws and then ask Him to forgive you of your sins (John 14:14). Ask Him to come into your life and become your Lord and Savior. If you haven’t done this, what’s stopping you? I strongly urge you to do it now because the fig tree is in full bloom… time is running out!