Everyone wants to know what the future holds. With world trends and conditions growing more grim, what lies ahead for all nations has become the very greatest concern today. Millions are searching—wondering about the course of daily events.
Jesus’ disciples asked Him about the “end of the world [meaning, the age]” (Matt. 24:3). The prophet Daniel spoke of “the time of the end” (Dan. 12:4). The apostle Peter foretold: “…there shall come in the last days scoffers…” (II Pet. 3:3). And the apostle Paul warned, “…in the last days perilous times shall come” (II Tim. 3:1). This phrase makes the subject more serious.
Has this final interval in world history arrived? Can you be sure? Many sense or even firmly believe that we are in the last days. We hear from them daily. But these have rarely sought to prove this. They should know whether we are. And so should you. You can know—in fact, God expects you to!
It has become painfully obvious that this world is in terrible trouble. Let’s pull back and look at the big picture.
Mankind is overwhelmed with every kind of trouble, evil and ill—war, terrorism, violence of every kind, famine, disease, pollution, overpopulation, political upheaval, religious confusion, and tremendous economic turmoil and decline that threaten to make the Great Depression look like child’s play. Then there are the hundreds of millions who live in abject poverty, ignorance and oppression. Now add rampant and worsening immorality and perversion in every Western nation—growing hatred, unrest and the never-ending cycle of war in the Middle East—deteriorating conditions throughout Africa—frightening weather patterns across many parts of the world—devastating fires, earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, drought and floods occurring with greater frequency and intensity—and headlines screaming of murder, rape, robbery and crimes of every kind. These mushrooming problems now threaten all nations.
Is all of this really only a little temporary worsening of what is otherwise “business as usual” for planet Earth? Many—and much louder!—are the voices that say time is running out to solve the really big problems facing the world. More and more world leaders are expressing pessimism about the rise of troubles within and between nations. So are educators, military planners, sociologists and scientists. Yet, because this is also an age of religious sundowners and doomsayers, most will not pay real—serious!—attention.
How long until Jesus Christ returns? For those who believe He will, no question is bigger. But there are other questions, some big, that must be answered first. This Personal will look at perhaps the second biggest question.
The Bible speaks of the period preceding Jesus’ Return as “the last days”—“the time of the end”—“the end of the age”—“the end of these things”—“the end of the days”—and of a time when the course of human history (as we know it), Daniel wrote, “shall be finished” (Dan. 12:7).
Of course, many professing Christians do not believe in a literal return to Earth by Christ. Of those who do, most think that it could be decades or even hundreds of years away. Some believe it could be “a thousand years away.” Others feel time may be short, but see no way to know.
What do you believe?
The original apostles thought for a time that Jesus would return in their lifetimes. Paul spoke of the resurrection of the dead at Christ’s Second Coming, and twice used the phrase “we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord” (I Thes. 4:15, 17) because he expected to still be alive when this happened.
Paul later came to realize that he had misunderstood the timing of specific events that must precede Christ’s Return. In fact, he had to warn of those who would deceive others about when this would occur. He wrote about “the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ” and that brethren should be careful to “let no man deceive you by any means…” (II Thes. 2:1, 3).
Could you be deceived about this all-important timing?
So then—have we entered the last days? Do you and I live at the time of the end? If so, how can you know for sure?
Jesus told His disciples, “I will come again” (John 14:3). Forty days later, as He was ascending to heaven, two angels added, “…this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as you have seen Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). Matthew records Christ’s words: “For as the lightning comes…so shall also the coming of the Son of man be” (24:27). Seven times just in this chapter, Jesus spoke of His Coming again, and the need to watch for key events, trends and conditions preceding it.
Is the world nearing Christ’s Return? Again, can we know?
Make no mistake! The Bible is plain about the Return of Jesus Christ. Many verses speak of His Second Coming to Earth. It will happen—and it does not hinge on the opinions of men—yours or mine! But in the period leading to this climactic event, many things are foretold to happen—some, in fact most of them, catastrophic! Can you afford to be in the dark?
The idea of the end of the world has been a subject of speculation, ridicule, discussion, fascination and fancy for almost 2,000 years. Sadly, most do not realize how much the Bible shows can be known about this time.
In Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus, “Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?” (vs. 3). After a detailed answer, Jesus added, “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (vs. 36).
Does this mean we cannot know the general time of Christ’s Second Coming?—and then also about the last days before it? Many think so—and therefore shrug off any need to be concerned with either. Then what does the next passage mean? “The lord of that servant shall come in a day when he looks not for him, and in an hour that he is not aware of, and shall cut him asunder, and appoint him his portion with the hypocrites…” (vs. 50-51). Most will simply not be looking for Jesus’ Return at the right time. Worse, many will not be looking for Him at all. But Christ’s indictment shows they will have no excuse.
Why will so many be unable to recognize the onset of such an awesome, world-altering event as Christ’s Return?
In this same chapter, Jesus included a parable that helps answer the question: “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When [its] branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near: so likewise you, when you shall see all these things, know that [He] is near, even at the doors” (vs. 32-33). Since this could only apply to those alive at the end, Jesus states we—“you”—can know the “season” of His Return, or when He is “at the doors.”
Do not be willing to settle for less than what the Bible reveals!
Years ago, a catchy tune called “A Sign of the Times” became popular. You may remember it. The title actually came from a verse in Matthew. Religious leaders had confronted Jesus, desiring a sign. He called them hypocrites, adding, “You can discern the face of the sky; but can you not discern the signs of the times?” (Matt. 16:3).
While the intent of their question was to get a sign that Jesus was the Messiah (read Matthew 12:38-40), His point was that they were unable to discern events they were witnessing all around them—or the “signs of the times”—and in that case, the “signs of their times” regarding Jesus’ first coming!
Can you discern the signs of our times?
Jesus told His disciples, “When these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draws near” (Luke 21:28). The “these things” He referred to include a whole series of events foretold to occur for the first time in history! They are happening—and intensifying—now!
A closer look helps to see the “signs of the times.”
First know this. The apostle John recorded the words of Christ that open the book of Revelation (realize this book is Christ’s revealing of things to come, not John’s): “The Revelation of Jesus Christ…to show [meaning reveal, open up] unto His servants things which must shortly come to pass…blessed is he that reads, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand” (1:1, 3). Revelation concludes with this emphasis: “…Seal not the sayings of the prophecy of this book: for the time is at hand” (22:10).
Two thousand years later, how much more—today!—has the time for understanding colossal prophecies come! You can comprehend the message they bring, if you are determined to obey God—if you are determined to become one of His servants—and this begins with if you are willing to research these prophecies.
But time is short.
God has allotted man 6,000 years to try his own governments, philosophies, religions, values and forms of education. But humanly devised ideas do not and could never solve the world’s truly big problems. They always fail in the end. In the last 200 years or so, the world has changed dramatically—and rapidly. Events are speeding up in a way that has never been seen before! The 6,000 years are almost up.
Everyone is familiar with sign-carrying kooks on street corners saying, “Repent! The end is near!” Hollywood has depicted many. For the most part, these people are not taken seriously—and should not be. But times have changed, and, I repeat, now many are the voices who report, for those who will listen, that something is terribly wrong! This has caused the idea of one world government, designed to save the planet and mankind from itself, to be heard more often. I read articles calling for this. However, no one seems to know how to create such a government and then acquire the cooperation of everyone necessary to make it succeed!
Look all around. What do you see?
As a whole, the world was a much more stable place until the early 19th century. At that time, technological advancements gave birth to the Industrial Age. It was not until about a century ago that men began to drive cars and fly, and civilization went from the Industrial Age to the Nuclear Age, on to the Space Age, and then to the Information Age—all in a little more than 70 years.
The arrival of new inventions, at the fastest rate in history, is changing life daily. Just think of the impact of the printing press and you can appreciate how dramatically a single invention can change the whole world. Computers have done the same—and there is no turning back from the huge impact, good and bad, of just this one invention. Remember, jet travel arrived just over 60 years ago.
Although estimates vary, it is believed that mankind’s total fund of knowledge is doubling every few years. Some think this could soon accelerate to every six months!
In the early 1970s, a book appeared titled Future Shock. I read it. It described a certain psychological stunning or shock effect on minds due to the high speed of changes in society. And that was over 40 years ago. The author demonstrated that these changes began in the 1970s at such a rate that people could no longer properly process them. Society as a whole began to go into what was described as mental overload—or “shock”—explained as the “future” slamming into the “present” so fast that people were “short-circuiting” in a way never seen before. The picture was not good, and has only grown worse! Sometime after, he wrote a sequel describing this worsening.
With all man’s supposed “advancement,” his problems have never seemed greater or more insoluble!
The HIV/AIDS epidemic continues to wipe out over a million children and adults per year in Africa. With about a million people becoming newly infected annually, entire sections of Africa’s population could be wiped out in a few years by this single, awful disease.
Earth’s population of over seven billion people is rising steadily at 1.1 percent each year. This means it will reach 9.5 billion by 2050—if time were to permit, and it will not! This is despite the fact that disease and starvation are worst in the fastest-growing parts of the world! High fertility rates in less-developed parts of the world have already brought these increases right on schedule.
Let’s look at some passages that describe other crucial, end-time prophecies!
We explained that Paul came to realize he did not live in the age when Jesus would return. However, God did use him to record what conditions would be like when that time finally came. Consider this description of the widespread degeneration of attitudes and character just before Christ’s Return: “This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away” (II Tim. 3:1-5).
This is a graphic picture. It describes a complete breakdown of character in the last days. This time has come!—and these conditions grow worse daily! Again, look around. People’s conduct is rapidly changing—always for the worse. More authority figures are sounding the alarm that human nature is running wild—and conditions are exploding out of control!
No thinking person could disagree.
The degeneration of people’s attitudes and behavior is stark when compared to only one generation ago. There have always been acts of violence but now they come more often, and are more depraved. There have always been liars but now deceit is more pervasive. There has always been adultery but the percentage of people who commit it is now epidemic. There has always been divorce but today it is much more common. There have always been disrespectful young people, but soon an entire generation will have forgotten the Fifth Commandment, “Honor your father and mother.” There have always been thievery and fraud, but statistics show these are exploding—particularly in the most affluent countries, where people have a lot, but covet more.
Much more could be said of each term used in Paul’s prophecy. And we have not talked about pornography, child abuse, crime and trends in perverted sex, drug abuse, hatred, war and others! All these conditions have combined to create an age correctly described as “perilous”—or dangerous!
They become another powerful indicator that these are the last days!
Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13 contain Jesus’ Olivet Prophecy. We saw Matthew’s account begins with His disciples asking about events that would precede the “end of the world”—the end of civilized society as we know it. They had originally believed this would occur in their lifetimes because they misunderstood Christ and tied it to the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem. While the temple was destroyed by the Romans in AD 70, Christ knew that His Second Coming would be almost 20 centuries after. He prophesied certain other, much later events would precede it.
Jesus also described the breakdown of character. He warned that conditions would mirror the days of Noah, which Genesis 6 describes this way: “The earth also was corrupt before God, and…filled with violence. And God looked upon the earth, and, behold, it was corrupt; for all flesh had corrupted his way upon the earth” (vs. 11-12).
Corruption is mentioned three times in this one short passage. But this description is at the same time highly specific and speaks of men as having individually and collectively degenerated into absolute corruption—with civilization “filled with violence.” God uses both the singular “his” and the collective “all” to drive this point home!
Consider how often acts of mass violence now occur in schools, restaurants, campuses, malls and workplaces in ways unheard of until recent years! The terms serial snipers and suicide bombers were unheard of 20 years ago. And the still relatively new phenomenon of terrorism has become global in nature. Just think of how often you hear about it.
Jesus also compared conditions before His Return to those in Sodom and Gomorrah. He leads in with Noah again. Notice: “As it was in the days of Noah, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage [society looked like it would go on], until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Likewise also as it was in the days of Lot; they did eat, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they builded; but the same day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all” (Luke 17:26-29).
Genesis 18 and 19 show that these two cities were so rotten—so evil—that, before God destroyed them, only four people were deemed worthy to escape—Lot, his two daughters, and wife, who later turned to salt. Only eight people were allowed to enter the Ark before God flooded the world.
Let’s ask: How much longer before conditions cannot grow worse?
An aside at this point that has much to do with whether you will believe Christ is necessary. Many have been told that the early chapters of Genesis do not describe real people and real events. This is to accommodate the nonsensical fiction of evolution in place of a literal Adam and Eve. But had you realized Jesus Christ said that Noah, the ark and the flood existed?—and that so did Sodom and Gomorrah, including its destruction?
Those who dismiss these and related Genesis accounts seem unaware that Christ validated this first book of the Bible. They also forget—or willingly ignore—Jesus’ and Paul’s references to Adam, and how this validated the Creation account. (Most simply do not know that, while man has been here for only 6,000 years, Earth has existed for billions of years. The key to this is understanding what happened between Genesis 1:1 and the very next verse 2. I explain it in my book The Awesome Potential of Man.)
We are left to ask: How many will believe and act on Christ’s warning about oncoming events—when He compared these future events to Bible parallels that most do not accept as true?—as having ever happened?
This Personal opened referencing scoffers in the last days. Let’s now read the verse containing it and continue reading through a warning for us today: “Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts” (II Pet. 3:3)—people choosing and following the course of human nature, as in Sodom and Gomorrah, and Noah’s time.
Now verse 4: “And saying, Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation.” So many are unwilling to believe that serious times—the last days!—could actually come.
God declares, “For this they willingly are ignorant…” (vs. 5)—this speaks for itself! Now verse 6: “Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water [the Flood], perished”—remember, Christ supported the Noachian account and signified its warning for us. Peter—who wrote this verse—also believed the events in Genesis actually occurred.
Verse 9: “The Lord is not slack concerning His promise…but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.”
Sadly, of course, most will not do this.
Next comes a stark warning to those who are not looking: “The day of the Lord [the time of God’s wrath upon a sin-sick world] will come as a thief in the night…” (vs. 10), followed by, “Seeing then…what manner of persons ought you to be in all holy conversation [conduct] and godliness” (vs. 11). The Bible also states, “Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God…” (vs. 12), and, “…seeing that you look for such things, be diligent that you may be found of [Christ] in peace, without spot, and blameless” (vs. 14).
Finally comes the very personal verse 17: “You therefore…seeing you know these things before[hand], beware lest you also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness.”
Now a caution: Be careful you are neither among the pooh-poohing, unbelieving scoffers—nor one of those who will not seek and obey God while there is still time.
The Bible promises that those who are faithful and obedient will be protected through the worst calamities that could fall upon an unsuspecting world. While the last days certainly are perilous—or dangerous—this is just the run-up period prior to the infinitely worse final three and a half years to follow before the good news of the gospel is fulfilled in Christ’s coming.
While much of Christendom accepts the false rapture theory—nowhere taught in Scripture!—God promises a special place of divine protection for the faithful in His Church. You do not need to fear the future. But neither should you listen to people who do not understand either events that are playing out now, or how God will protect His people from this greatest time of world trouble.
There is more to know about prophecy. I urge you to read Are These the Last Days? for extended proof. This booklet answers the question more thoroughly than can be done in this Personal.