Sign of the Times and the Last Days
The first thing to understand about the Last Days is that Jesus Christ
will return to Earth to establish his Father's Kingdom. The Bible says
so quite plainly.
"Men of Galilee," they said, "why do you stand here looking into the
sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will
come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven." (Acts 1:11)
"The Last Days" is the term used to describe the period of time
immediately before the actual re-appearance of Jesus. This is why the
subject is of such great interest to Christians today.
The "Signs of the Times" are those events, which suggest to us that the
return of Christ is imminent. This is a great source of encouragement
for Christians and a warning sign to those who have not committed
themselves to Christ that their window of opportunity is closing.
The Signs of the Times are detailed particularly in Matthew chapter 24
and the parallel account in Luke. Jesus is talking to his disciples
about the destruction of the Temple and they asked him when this would
happen. Jesus replied:
"Teacher," they asked, "when will these things happen? And what will be
the sign that they are about to take place?" (Luke 21:7).
Jesus then proceeded to list a series of signs. Before we look at the
signs, it is necessary to understand that in prophecy, there are often
minor as well as major fulfilments. The minor fulfilment, which
normally happens soon after the prophecy is given, provides proof that
the greater fulfilment will also come to pass. So we need to consider
what the minor and major fulfilments are. But first, let's detail what
the signs are, as listed in Luke 21.
- False Christs (Verse 8)
- Wars and Revolutions (Verse 9 & 10)
- Earthquakes (Verse 11)
- Famines (Verse 11)
- Plagues or Pestilences (Verse 11)
- Fearful Events (Verse 11)
- Signs from heaven (Verse 11)
- Persecution of Believers by Authorities(Verse 12)
- Betrayal of Believers by those close to them (Verse
- Believers hated because of Christ (Verse 17)
- Jerusalem surrounded (Verse 20)
- Jews will fall by the sword, be taken prisoner and
be dispersed (Verse 24)
- Jerusalem trampled by the Gentiles (non-Jews) until
the end of the Gentile times (Verse 24)
- Signs in the sun, moon and stars (Verse 25)
- Nations will be in anguish and perplexity (Verse 25)
- Men will faint from terror (Verse 26)
In verse 27, is describes the return of Jesus. Then in verse 29, Jesus
tells the parable of the fig tree, saying that when the leaves come out
summer is near. For reference, we will call that sign 17.
The minor fulfilment of Christ's words concerned the destruction of
Jerusalem in AD 70 by the Roman army. This followed a rebellion by the
Jews, which is mentioned in our second sign. The relevance of the signs
we have numbered 11, 12, and 13 is immediately obvious, but it also
introduces something called the Gentile times, which we need to deal
The seventeenth sign, as we have numbered it, is the parable of the fig
tree. This tree is a symbol of Israel and appeared on many coins etc.
Therefore the renewal of the fig tree symbolises the renewal of Israel.
This happened in 1948, when the Jews returned to the land to establish
an independent state.
The Times of the Gentiles were ended when Jerusalem ceased to be
trampled by non-Jews. This happened in the "Six Day" War of 1967, when
Israel expelled Jordan and gained total control of the city.
These two events that have taken place in direct fulfilment of Bible
prophecy, strongly suggest that we re in the Last Days, but what about
the other signs?
It is worth noting that critics of Bible prophecy often argue that
these "signs" have always happened; for instance, there have always
been wars, there have always been famine, earthquakes, plagues etc.
This is true, But Jesus himself says in verse 32 "I tell you the truth,
this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things
have happened." So the major fulfilment will occur when ALL these
events happen within a certain timescale. The most likely timescale is
40 years, which is the Bible "definition" of a generation. So when all
these things have come to pass, there is a definite time-limit. If, for
instance the last sign to be fulfilled was the re-capture of Jerusalem
from Gentile hands in 1967, then the latest time Jesus could return in
order to fulfil prophecy would be 2007.
This also highlights the problem or trying to guess too accurately the
return of Jesus. He himself said that he return will not come with
"careful observation" but rather it will come suddenly and unexpectedly
as a "thief in the night".
Lastly, Jesus stated that co-one knew when he would return. Jesus did
not know himself. Only God knows.
Again, the minor fulfilment gives us encouragement, because Jesus said
the words in approximately AD 33 and the destruction of Jerusalem took
place in AD 70, just within the 40 year "limit".
There have been numerous False Messiahs over the centuries. One very
recent and prominent one was David Koresh, leader of the Branch
Davidian sect who perished in the flames of the Waco siege in Texas,
USA, 1993. It seems important to false messiahs that they die, rather
than admit the failure of their prophecies. They also prefer to take as
many as possible of their followers with them. In March 1997 in San
Diego, 39 Heaven's Gate followers poison themselves believing UFO would
pick them up. In October 1994 in Switzerland, 48 Solar Temple members
found burned in chalets. In November 1978 in Guyana, 914 drink cyanide,
led by the Rev. Jim Jones.
We don't need to think hard about the issue of wars. In the last 40
years, there has been the Korean War, the Falklands War, the Vietnam
war and the Gulf War, to name but a very few. At this precise moment,
there are 14 United Nations-recognised wars in progress, including Iraq
The study of earthquakes is an interesting one. Obviously,
communications are much better than they were 500 years ago and the
world is more densely populated, so we hear a lot more about
earthquakes than we used to. However, if we just look at the last 30
years, in 1970, there were 4,139 recorded earthquakes, in 1980 there
were 7,348 earthquakes, an increase of 77% on ten years before. In 1990
there were 16,612 recorded earthquakes, an increase of 126% over the
1980 figure. In 2000, there were 22,256, an increase of 34% over the
1990 figure. So obviously, something is going on!
Again, there have always been famines. The Bible speaks of them often.
But they were always either preceded or followed by prosperous years
and in this way, the people could put by a little grain each good year
to help them through the bad years. The Genesis story of Joseph and the
seven fat and seven thin cows bears this out.
The difference now however is that countries are not recovering.
Climate changes and Man's inhumanity to Man are causing countries such
as Ethiopia and Sudan to be permanently short of food, despite all the
best efforts of the Western Aid agencies.
There have always been plagues and pestilences, but once more, we see a
"cluster" of AIDS, BSE, CJD, Foot and Mouth and ME all been prominent
in the last few years.
Signs in the heavens, or in the Sun, Moon and Stars can be taken two
ways. The first way is the literal way and there have been numerous
astronomical "signs" in recent years, such as comets, meteorites etc.
The other possible meaning is the symbolic one, where the "heavens"
(often translated the "high places") represent government and the Sun
Moon and Stars represent rulers. Taking this route, there are many
situations that could have this prophecy applied to them.
We then have three prophecies concerning the persecution of Christ's
followers, namely Christians. This is one prophecy where the past
really does seem to have more examples than the present, although
persecution does exist, for instance in China and Islamic nations.
Perhaps this is one prophecy where we will see greater fulfilment in
the near future.
The persecution of the Jews has been a common pastime in western Europe
for over 1,000 years. They were persecuted in England in the Middle
Ages and In 1858 Lionel de Rothschild became the first Jewish MP who
was permitted to take his seat without taking the oath that involved
the words "by the true faith of a Christian" and in 1890 the last of
the government posts became open to members of the Jewish faith.
Russian pogroms, particularly between 1903 and 1906 saw many Jews
killed. And of course, we can never forget the 6 million Jews killed in
the Second World War.
I hope it is clear that these prophecies apply to the times we are
living in now. This means that the return of Christ is imminent. As
Jesus says in Luke 21:27 "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." And again, "36 Be always on the watch, and
pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and
that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man."
If you want to learn how to gain your own redemption and be able to
stand before the Son of Man when he returns, please contact:
The Christadelphians, Carmel House, 130 Western Road, Bletchley, Bucks,
Back to Top