Section 9: The End Times
Week 1: Christ’s Return
Day 3: Jesus’ Return Will Be Preceded by Certain Signs
The Bible says Jesus’ return will be preceded by certain signs:
The gospel will be preached to all nations: Jesus told his disciples, “this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:14, emphasis added). This doesn’t necessarily mean each and every person will hear the gospel, but “in a representative sense at least” the gospel will reach every nation.[i]
False prophets will try to deceive believers: Jesus warned that “False Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect–if that were possible. See, I have told you ahead of time. So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the desert,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man'” (Matthew 24:24-27).
The Man of Lawlessness will be revealed: The Thessalonians were worried that they had missed Christ’s return. To calm their fears, Paul reminded them the day of the Lord would not come until “the man of lawlessness is revealed, the man doomed to destruction. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped…For the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendor of his coming. The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with the work of Satan displayed in all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders, and in every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing” (2 Thess. 2:3-4, 7-10). The man of lawlessness is typically identified as the Antichrist.
There will be an unprecedented time of tribulation: Jesus said that before his return, “There will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now–and never to be equaled again. If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened” (Matt. 24:21-23). Many theologians refer to this time of great distress as the Great Tribulation and connect it to the judgments that unfold throughout the book of Revelation.
Miraculous signs will appear in the sky: Prior to Christ’s return: “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other” (Matt. 24:29-31).
Pause and think through the signs of Jesus’ return we just discussed.
Why do you think that God gave us signs? Are these the kind of things that could pinpoint a date? What does that tell you?
[i] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Doctrine, Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House (1994), 1101.