In a discussion of the signs of the second coming, if brevity were our goal, we could simply say, there are none. However, because of the many times we hear preachers and others speak of the signs of the times and other statements indicating that we can know the Lord is coming soon because of events that are transpiring, it is needful that we do a little more than to say, “there are no signs”. In most cases the only scripture that is sited to show that the time is coming soon is found in the three parallel accounts of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. For this reason, we will spend most of our efforts examining these texts. Matthew’s account is the most detailed, so we will mostly use it.
One of the extremely important details of understanding God’s word is to be sure of the context in which a statement is found. This is true in any speech of man as well. We have all heard some politician quoted only to find that whoever quoted him or her had taken what was said out of context to make it sound as if the politician had said something he or she had not said. The same error is made concerning the signs mentioned in our text. Let us start by setting the context in which certain things were said.
Matthew’s account begins with Jesus and His disciples leaving the temple. His disciples bring Jesus’ attention to the great buildings that made up the temple. Jesus then told them that, “There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:1-2). Later, the disciples asked Jesus in private, “saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world? (Matt. 24:3). Notice there are three questions, but they can be combined into two, for the second coming of the Lord and the end of the world will be at the same time (II Pet. 3:3-10). Thus, we have two questions to be answered. First, when will the temple be destroyed? And second, when will the second coming be?
The answer to the first question, “when will the temple be destroyed”, is found in Matt. 24:4-35 as well as Mark 13:5-31 and Luke 21:7-33. Since we live long after the temple was destroyed, we know from historical accounts when that event happened. Because of rebellion, the Roman Empire sent her armies under Titus and the city of Jerusalem, including the temple was destroyed in the year 70 A.D. Note at the end of the section answering the question of when the temple will be destroyed, Jesus said, “Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matt. 24:34). Thus, all that is spoken of, from verse four through verse thirty-five, took place during the life of those present at the time. Therefore, we know for sure that all that was said about “wars and rumors of wars, nations rising against nations and kingdoms against kingdoms and famines, and pestilences, earthquakes and such were to take place prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in the year 70 A.D. In the event that this is not clear enough, note some of the things said in the text that would make no sense whatsoever if Jesus was talking about the second coming. When the Lord returns, it will do no good to flee to the mountains (v. 16). It will not matter whatsoever if one is with child or has a small child, if it is winter or if it is the sabbath day. However, such would matter if one is talking about seeing the armies of Rome advancing on the city.
Now, consider the answer to the second question. When will the second coming be? The answer is found in Matt. 24:36 and further explained in the remainder of the chapter, as well as the first thirteen verses of the next chapter. Let Jesus answer the question in just a few words. He said, “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matt. 24:36). Honestly, one will have to have help to misunderstand what Jesus said. But, since much help is available, He went on to illustrate by way of the flood of Noah’s day (vs. 38-39), the Goodman of the house not knowing when the thief would come (vs. 42-44), the evil servant (vs. 45-51) and the ten virgins (Matt. 25:1-13). He concludes with these words, “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh” (Matt. 25:13). Jesus tells us that only the Father in heaven knows when the second coming will be (Matt. 24:36). That should suffice for any that believe in Jesus.
There were signs to warn the saints in time to flee from the city of Jerusalem prior to its destruction, but no signs of the end of time and the second coming. The Lord will come as “a thief in the night” (I Thess 5:2; II Pet. 3:10). The really important thing to be concerned with is not “when” the Lord will return, but “am I ready” for the Lord’s return. It will be too late to prepare once the time arrives. As Amos told Israel, “prepare to meet thy God” (Amos 4:12).
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