Friday, January 16, 2015

Sequence of Signs Preceding the Coming of Christ

The Temple Mount in Jerusalem
In order to know the signs that will happen before the return of our Lord Jesus Christ, we should consult the synoptic gospels, where it is recorded what He Himself prophesied would happen.  This is a study that shows what Jesus said would be the signs of the end times.

It's important to note that the context for these signs was that the Lord had predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem.  In response to that, His disciples asked specifically, “When will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?”  The following signs given by the Lord were a direct answer to that question:

Deception
The first thing He warned about was deception.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
4 Jesus answered: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 5 Jesus said to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. 8a He replied: “Watch out that you are not deceived.


False Christs
The next thing He warned about was False Christs, which is the next sign to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
5 For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and will deceive many. 6 Many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and will deceive many. 8b For many will come in my name, claiming, ‘I am he,’ and, ‘The time is near.’ Do not follow them.

Also see my article called The Rise of Antichrists

Wars and Rumors of Wars, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, fearful events and great signs from heaven
The next sign the Lord told us would occur was a period when there would be wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, fearful events and great signs from heaven, which is the next sign to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
6 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. 7 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. 8 All these are the beginning of birth pains. 7 When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. 8 Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be earthquakes in various places, and famines. These are the beginning of birth pains. 9 When you hear of wars and uprisings, do not be frightened. These things must happen first, but the end will not come right away.”10 Then he said to them: “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.


Persecution of witnesses, who will bear testimony for Jesus
The next sign the Lord told us would occur was a period when there would be Persecution of witnesses, who will bear testimony for Jesus, which is the next sign to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
9 “Then you will be handed over to be persecuted and put to death, and you will be hated by all nations because of me. 9 “You must be on your guard. You will be handed over to the local councils and flogged in the synagogues. On account of me you will stand before governors and kings as witnesses to them. 10 And the gospel must first be preached to all nations. 11 Whenever you are arrested and brought to trial, do not worry beforehand about what to say. Just say whatever is given you at the time, for it is not you speaking, but the Holy Spirit. 12 “But before all this, they will seize you and persecute you. They will hand you over to synagogues and put you in prison, and you will be brought before kings and governors, and all on account of my name. 13 And so you will bear testimony to me.  14 But make up your mind not to worry beforehand how you will defend yourselves. 15 For I will give you words and wisdom that none of your adversaries will be able to resist or contradict.

Also see Persecuted or Popular?

Apostasy, love of most growing cold, betrayal, hatred, and false prophets; preaching the gospel of the kingdom
The next sign the Lord told us would occur was a period when there would be apostasy, or falling away from the faith, the love of most growing cold; there will be betrayal, hatred, and false prophets. Meanwhile, there will be the true witnesses preaching the gospel of the kingdom, which is the next sign to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
10 At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, 11 and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people. 12 Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, 13 but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 14 And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. 12 “Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child. Children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death. 13 Everyone will hate you because of me, but the one who stands firm to the end will be saved. 16 You will be betrayed even by parents, brothers and sisters, relatives and friends, and they will put some of you to death. 17 Everyone will hate you because of me. 18 But not a hair of your head will perish. 19 Stand firm, and you will win life.

Under these conditions (i.e., persecution, apostasy, cold love prevalent even among believers, betrayal, hatred, and false prophets) will this gospel of the kingdom be preached in the whole world just before the end comes -- not under peaceful conditions, in which the righteous are dominating the world or reigning on seven mountains!

Jerusalem surrounded by armies, nearness of desolation, abomination of desolation, time of punishment
The next sign the Lord told us would occur was a period when there would be Jerusalem surrounded by armies, the nearness of its desolation, the abomination of desolation in the temple, and the time of punishment on Israel, which is the next sign to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
15 “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’[a] spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 Let no one on the housetop go down to take anything out of the house. 18 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 14 “When you see ‘the abomination that causes desolation’ standing where it does not belong—let the reader understand—then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 15 Let no one on the housetop go down or enter the house to take anything out. 16 Let no one in the field go back to get their cloak. 20 “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. 21 Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. 22 For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written.

Close up view

In Matthew and Mark, Jesus gave a close up view of what will occur in the holy place in Jerusalem.  It is the abomination in the temple that causes desolation to Jerusalem and the rest of Judea, which we now call Israel.  By combining the words of Jesus recorded in Matthew and Mark, we have him saying essentially, “When you see standing where it does not belong (i.e., in the holy place) ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel...” (Also see Daniel 9:27; 12:11).

As the apostle Paul said, "Let no one in any way deceive you, for it will not come unless the apostasy comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, displaying himself as being God." (2Th 2:3-4). 

Wide-angle view
And in Luke Jesus gave the wider view of the bigger picture regionally when this sign occurs, which is armies surrounding Jerusalem.  Luke recorded Him saying, “When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near.”  So this is about the desolation of Jerusalem (see Jeremiah 30:7), and the sign occurs in that city.  Therefore, the holy place where the abomination does not belong is in the temple there.  In Luke, we have Jesus giving the wider view of the bigger picture regionally when this sign occurs, which is armies surrounding Jerusalem. (Also compare Zechariah 12:3 and 14:2-5).

Dreadful time of Great Tribulation
The next sign the Lord told us would occur is the onset of a dreadful time of distress, known as the Great Tribulation, which is the next sign to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
19 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 20 Pray that your flight will not take place in winter or on the Sabbath. 21 For then there will be great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again. 17 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! 18 Pray that this will not take place in winter, 19 because those will be days of distress unequaled from the beginning, when God created the world, until now—and never to be equaled again. 23 How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. 24 They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Jesus was speaking to His disciples and took care to have us pray that our flight would not take place on the Sabbath.  This applies to the Jews and Christians living in Jerusalem at this time.  When they see the abomination that causes desolation, standing in the holy place, and Jerusalem surrounded by armies, they will need to flee to the mountains immediately.  There will be no time to spare, not even to go inside the house to grab their coat to keep warm at night in the mountains. There may only be a matter of minutes to escape Jerusalem before it is destroyed, and it will probably not be more than an hour, so every minute will count!

I want to call attention to the fact that Jesus cared about the Sabbath.  He did not want them fleeing on that day, since their flight would deny them the opportunity to rest and worship.  But also in Jerusalem on the Sabbath, all stores and shops are closed, and all public transportation and taxis are shut down. So the only way to flee the city may be on foot or bicycle. 

He made a special note of how dreadful it would be for pregnant women and nursing mothers. If a woman is pregnant, she has special needs and if she is in the advanced stages of her pregnancy she may be impeded from walking fast or running under duress. She may need frequent stops, which would slow down her escape.  If a woman is nursing one or more babies, they will be crying loudly and their needs will need to be met, including nursing and diaper changes.  Those will add further complication to the flight from Jerusalem, since they are difficult to do while on the run, especially if the babies clothes become wet or soiled and there are not clean dry clothes or diapers on hand to change them into. And if this occurs in winter, it would present a particularly dreadful hardship for anyone fleeing to the mountains, due to the cold temperatures, but especially to these mothers Jesus spoke of.

He spoke to His disciples about the onset of the Great Tribulation as something that would occur before His coming. The sign that occurs right before this onset is the abomination that causes the desolation in Jerusalem, and the armies surrounding Jerusalem that will bring that desolation to her.  Those combined events will be the trigger that set off the avalanche of disastrous events to occur next, including this flight from Jerusalem and the onset of the Great Tribulation -- "great distress, unequaled from the beginning of the world until now—and never to be equaled again."  This will be the beginning of the period known as Jacob's Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7), which Jesus called the time of punishment (Lk 21:22), when God brings punishment upon the Jewish people, and eventually restores them according to the prophecy of Jeremiah in his thirtieth chapter.

False messiahs and false prophets performing great signs and wonders to deceive
The next sign the Lord told us would occur was a period when there would be false messiahs and false prophets performing great signs and wonders to deceive, which is the next sign to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
22 “If those days had not been cut short, no one would survive, but for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened. 23 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ do not believe it. 24 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 25 See, I have told you ahead of time.26 “So if anyone tells you, ‘There he is, out in the wilderness,’ do not go out; or, ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ do not believe it. 27 For as lightning that comes from the east is visible even in the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. 28 Wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather. 20 “If the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect, whom he has chosen, he has shortened them. 21 At that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘Look, there he is!’ do not believe it. 22 For false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. 23 So be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time. [No record of this sign in Luke's gospel]

When the people are saying ‘Look, here is the Messiah!’ or, ‘There he is!’ and ‘Here he is, in the inner rooms,’ could it be a reference to ‘the abomination that causes desolation, standing in the holy place? Perhaps, but not necessarily.  It certainly speaks of false messiahs and false prophets performing great signs and wonders to deceive many.  Many people will be drawn to these people like a spectacle.  Crowds of people, who love to feed on that which is sickly or dead, will gather around the bodies of these false messiahs and false prophets. For wherever there is a carcass, there the vultures will gather.

Some of these false christs and false prophets will literally appear or materialize out of thin air in various locations, as one of the wonders they perform to deceive many. There will be these strange people from another place that will appear on earth very soon.  Some of them could even come down in a UFO. But in reality, they are demons that will come to deceive people. There will probably be videos of this online and emails with the links to those videos of such men appearing. This will be a temptation even for believers, which we will need to resist.

Signs in the sun, moon and stars, nations in anguish, tsunamis, terror, heavenly bodies shaken
The next sign the Lord told us would occur was a period when there would be signs in the sun, moon and stars, nations in anguish, tsunamis, terror, and heavenly bodies shaken, which is the next series of signs to occur in sequence.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
29 “Immediately after the distress of those days “‘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.’ 24 “But in those days, following that distress, “‘the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light;25 the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ 25 “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 People will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.

Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and glory
The next event the Lord told us would occur is the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and glory.

Matthew 24 Mark 13 Luke 21
30 “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth[c] will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory.[d] 31 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. 26 “At that time people will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. 27 And he will send his angels and gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens. 27 At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

Everyone on earth will see this event, even those who are not ready for it.  Those who are not ready will mourn (Zech 12:10).  But the angels will gather the elect from across the earth and from across the heavens for those who are in flight, and they will be gathered together in the sky to meet the Lord.

The apostle Paul wrote: "For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so God will bring with Him those who have fallen asleep in Jesus. For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words." (1Th 4:14-18)

Also see my article, The Son of Man

One Generation to See it All
Our Lord said that the generation which sees these things begin will not pass away until they have all been completed.  He said, "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away." (Mat 24:34-35).  People, we are that generation which the Lord spoke of.

Putting it All Together
Our Lord Jesus compared these events to birth pains of a woman in labor.  Labor pains begin at a low intensity and built to a very high intensity to the point where they become unbearable, until finally the woman gives birth to the man child.  The labor pains begin at regular intervals that are spaced far apart in frequency, but as time goes on the tempo builds and becomes faster, as the pains occur more frequently intervals.

That is how we can expect these events to occur.  At first they will be spaced far apart at regular intervals, but then they will happen more and more frequently, until eventually they are happening so close together that there is no time to catch your breath between a particular sign and the one that follows it.  And when a particular sign occurs, it continues until the end.

The signs Jesus predicted were: deception, false christs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilence, earthquakes, fearful events and great signs from heaven, persecution of witnesses, who will bear testimony for Jesus, apostasy, love of most growing cold, betrayal, hatred, and false prophets, the righteous preaching the gospel of the kingdom, Jerusalem surrounded by armies, nearness of desolation, the abomination that causes desolation, flight from Jerusalem, destruction of Jerusalem, the time of punishment, the dreadful time of distress,  the onset of the Great Tribulation, false messiahs and false prophets performing great signs and wonders to deceive, signs in the sun, moon and stars, nations in anguish, tsunamis, terror, heavenly bodies shaken.  Only after all of these signs will Son of Man be seen coming in a cloud with power and glory with all His holy angels with Him to gather the elect to Himself.  That is when the rapture will occur. As Jesus said, "be on your guard; I have told you everything ahead of time."

With regard to the saints going through the entire Great Tribulation, I do not believe that will happen, unless you are a saint who is not ready for the rapture.  I believe that the saints will see the onset of the Great Tribulation, in which the abomination that causes desolation occurs and Jerusalem is destroyed. We will see the days of darkness when the sun and moon do not give their light, and other things happening during that period as I have already mentioned.  However, let us not forget that Jesus said, if those days had not been cut short, no one would survive. But for the sake of the elect those days will be shortened.

The final events that Jesus said would be signs to occur before his coming will happen at greater and greater frequency, so that the ones that occur after the abomination of desolation may happen with a very short time. This would mean that the saints only go through a very brief period of the Great Tribulation. So for the sake of the elect, whose robes are pure white and spotless, without any wrinkle, the Lord will shorten those days by coming to gather them to Himself in the rapture.  Those who are not ready will be left behind to go through the 3.5 year Great Tribulation. And believe me, you don't want to go through that!

That's why we need to pray to escape all these things.  "But keep on the alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are about to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man." (Luk 21:36).  It may not be possible to escape the part leading up to the Great Tribulation, unless someone is put to death for their faith in Christ, but once the Great Tribulation begins, I believe there will be an escape for the righteous, by way of the rapture.

These are the definite signs that Scripture says will happen before the Lord returns, and we see them taking place all around us.  It’s time to wake up, repent, and live a life of daily repentance.  We need to produce the fruit of repentance, walking in love and in the light, and serving the Lord.  We need to watch and pray, always being ready for Jesus’ return.  Then that day will not overtake us like a thief in the night.  The one who stands firm to the end will be saved. Stand firm, and you will win life.

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Temple Mount photo from Wikipedia in the public domain.

Author's note: You must take responsibility for your own actions. Nobody knows the day or the hour, and in no way am I date setting. This is only to provide you with information, so that you can make your own decisions, for which you will be accountable to God.

If you enjoyed this post, please see the sequel article called Synching Up the Seven Seals with the Gospels.  You may also like the following articles in this blog as well as other posts in this blog available through the Signs of the Times Directory.

The 311 Moment
Are you Rapture Ready?
The Day of Our Lord’s Wedding is at Hand
Rapture Revelation to Rachael Mushala
Rapture Revelation to Ayodelle Sawyerr
Rapture Revelation to Angelica Zambrano
The Timing of the Rapture
The Son of Man  

You may access my complete blog directory at Writing for the Master.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"
_________________________________________________

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

No comments:

Post a Comment