Signs of the Times
Compiled from the writings of David Berg
When Jesus' disciples went out from Jerusalem to the Mount of Olives and asked Him, "What shall be the sign of Thy coming and of the end of the world?" He didn't reply with only one sign, but with dozens (Matthew 24:3). In fact, His Word is full of specific "signs of the times"--signs of the last days, of the endtime, signs that you should look out for and expect, so that you will know when you are near the end, how near the end you are, and what is going to happen at the very end.
He has been quite generous in His revelations of the future. He has specified what the various endtime events will be and has even given us approximate timeframes leading up to the very end, which will climax in the Antichrist reign before the Second Coming of the true Christ, followed by the idyllic age of the thousand-year reign of Jesus Christ here on earth, the kingdom of God on earth, all of which we will cover in detail in later chapters of this book. But for now, let's examine some of the specific biblical predictions and prophecies regarding conditions and events during the last days of man's current rule on earth, as foreseen by God's prophets thousands of years ago.
"And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet. For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows" (Matthew 24:6-8). We've had these things for two millenniums since Jesus was here. He said they're only the "beginning of sorrows."
Although the world had never been completely free from war prior to 1914, until then, war had never been so widespread. From 1914 to 1918, with World War I, a world war was waged, and then again from 1939-1945, with World War II. In the latter, only 12 small nations of the earth were not actually or technically involved, and altogether 93 million people served in the armed forces of both sides. At the 21st session of the International Red Cross in 1969, it was reported that more than 90 million people had been killed in wars since the twentieth century began, over trillion had been spent on arms, and 130 conflicts on five continents had been waged.
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come" (Matthew 24:14). Never has the gospel been preached in all the world to all nations as much as it is being preached right now. If not directly by missionaries, travelers, and visitors, it is certainly being preached by the modern mediums of radio, television, and printed literature [and now the Internet].
The modern means of communication and transportation that make the fulfilment of the preceding prophecy evident bring to mind another prediction regarding conditions in the last days, given to the prophet Daniel in 534 B.C.: "But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased" (Daniel 12:4). Here the Lord is telling His prophet, who had just received some of the most detailed, specific, descriptive prophecies regarding the one-world Antichrist government in the entire Bible, "Daniel, I'm giving this vision to you, but it's not for you. It's not for your time and it's not for your people. It's for an endtime when many shall run to and fro and knowledge shall be increased."
People's means of travel--horse and buggy, wagons, camels, sailboats, etc.--hadn't changed for thousands of years until just a little over 100 years ago. Until then, man still traveled in the same fashion that Adam traveled. He walked or rode an animal or something pulled by an animal. But in this very short period of time, mankind has advanced from a state little different from Adam's to one in which a man not only drives at enormous speeds, but flies and even goes to the moon and beyond.
People travel more today than they ever traveled before. International tourism is a huge business, with millions of people traveling outside their own countries every year throughout the world. Cars today can travel at up to 300 mph, planes at 2,000 mph, and spaceships at 100,000 mph. A jet can fly around the world in 58 hours, a spacecraft can circle the world in 80 minutes, and in less than one second a radio message can reach the ends of the earth!
2,600 years ago another prophet actually foresaw, "in the days of the Lord's preparation" (before He returns), our modern highways and their racing, raging automobiles: "The chariots shall be with flaming torches in the day of His preparation, and the fir trees shall be terribly shaken. The chariots shall rage in the streets, they shall jostle one against another in the broad ways: they shall seem like torches, they shall run like the lightnings" (Nahum 2:3-4).
Imagine this prophet seeing a vision of future highways, our superhighways, and scores of cars speeding along with their headlights on at nighttime! Cars at night with their headlights must have looked like lightning to him. And they certainly jostle one another in the broad ways. Thousands of people are killed every year in auto accidents from this jostling.
"And knowledge shall be increased." More has been discovered by science in the last 100 years than had been discovered or invented in the previous 6,000 years. Knowledge has been increased within this past hundred years almost beyond imagination, but much of the world still toils to try to scrape together enough to eat.
"Knowledge" has "increased," but without God and without His Word, what good is it all if people have no purpose in life and no love of God and fellow man? Unwittingly, they've fulfilled another prophecy about the latter days: "This know also, in the last days, men shall be ever learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth" (2 Timothy 3:1,7).
By abandoning God, the Bible, and Christianity, and putting nothing in its place, life becomes just a meaningless, chaotic process of evolution! If there's no God, then there's no ruler. And if there's no ruler, then there are no rules. And if there are no rules or laws, then nothing is either right or wrong. Chief Justice Fred Vinson of the U.S. Supreme Court summed things up perfectly when he said, "Nothing is more certain in modern society than the principle that there are no absolutes." You cannot have any kind of order without some kind of moral basis, a code of conduct, a sense of right and wrong, of good and evil, of what's right to do and what you shouldn't do.
Things are not going to get better and better, as evolution purports. The Bible predicts just the opposite. "In the last days, evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving, and being deceived" (2 Timothy 3:1,13). In fact, Jesus Himself said that "as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:37). In the days of Noah, the world was so bad that God was sorry He had even made it--sorry He had even made man. It says in Genesis, "And God saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually. The earth also was corrupt before God, and the earth was filled with violence" (Genesis 6:5, 11).
"And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold" (Matthew 24:12). With today's selfish and self-indulgent "me generation," this prophecy by Jesus about the endtime is being fulfilled. Another passage of scripture regarding this is found in 2 Timothy 3:
"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, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God" (2 Timothy 3:1-4).
Abortion is one of the major sins of this generation. God says, "In thy skirts is found the blood of the souls of the poor innocents: I have not found it by secret search, but upon all these" (Jeremiah 2:34). Such people today are not only "without natural affection," but they have no respect for the sanctity of life, the holiness of life, God-given life, and are taking the lives of babies while they're still in the stomachs of their mothers.
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring" (Luke 21:25). The peoples of the earth are likened unto the sea and the waves in the Bible (Isaiah 57:20-21). So here Jesus is speaking symbolically of the peoples and nations of the world--their wars and rumors of wars and riots and terrorism--the waves of their various wars and conflicts and uprisings.
Is this happening today? Every time you turn on the television, it roars. Every time you turn on the radio, you can hear the waves of a new war roaring, a new riot, a new rebellion, a new revolution, more terrorism, more strikes--the sea of the peoples of the earth, roaring in the last days.
"And men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth" (Luke 21:26). Do you know what is one of the greatest causes of death in the Western world today? Heart failure. I can remember, when I was younger, the days when people were not living in fear and terror. They might have been living in poverty and destitution and sometimes they might have been hungry, but they didn't live in fear of getting murdered on the street or of being annihilated with an atom bomb in a nuclear war. But the atomic bomb put a pin in their balloon and created one of the world's greatest problems: the awesome specter of a nuclear holocaust and the world's most horrendous war.
Another prediction regarding the endtime has to do with the interest in the occult, psychic phenomena, spiritism, demonology, and witchcraft which the world is experiencing. "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy, having their conscience seared with a hot iron" (1 Timothy 4:1-2). There have been all kinds of weird religions attracting wide followings, particularly among the youth. In their pursuit of genuine spirituality, many young people have gone into ancient mysticism, drugs, and the occult.
Another major sign of the very end predicted in the Bible is regarding a one-world government, led by a powerful superhuman anti-Christ dictator, which is going to arise in the last days of man's rule on earth just before Christ returns to take over. The world's going to have to have a tough dictator to rule a tough people! When lawlessness becomes rampant, it will be necessary to have a really tough totalitarian dictatorship to get things under control.
Regarding this soon-coming anti-Christ dictator, the apostle Paul wrote: "Now we beseech you by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto Him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, as that the day of Christ is at hand. (He said that then, 2,000 years ago.) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day (of Christ's Second Coming) shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God" (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).
In the book of Revelation, this Antichrist and his government are referred to as a "beast," whom all the world will wonder after and finally worship (Revelation 13). Everything that was prophesied in the Bible about all the various world empires down through history has all come true, so we know this last government of man will also come to pass. According to scriptures which we will study in detail later in this book, the Antichrist will reign for seven years: The first half will be a more or less general world peace as he consolidates his power and establishes his kingdom, and the second half will be 3½ years of "great tribulation" such as the world has never known.
The Bible gives us several specific glimpses into this final one-world government's policies and methods to help us recognize it when it arrives. The scriptures show that he will make a seven-year pact or covenant of compromise and religious freedom in Jerusalem, and give the Jewish people permission to rebuild their temple in Jerusalem. But exactly 3½ years after he has confirmed this religious covenant, he suddenly breaks the agreement and wants everybody to worship him as God or be killed. At that point he places the "abomination of desolation in the holy place," which apparently is his image or idol erected in the rebuilt temple area in Jerusalem (Matthew 24:15).
Jesus Himself said that when you shall see this Antichrist's image, this abomination of desolation standing in the Jewish temple area, then will begin the last 3½ years of man's rule on earth, a time of "great tribulation." That's going to be the first sign that you're nearing the very end, the last 42 months of this age, and you'll know that you're only 3½ years from the coming of Jesus! He says that then shall begin the Great Tribulation, the last 3½ years of man's history, the last half of the seven-year reign of the Antichrist. Jesus said that after that tribulation, you'll then see the sign of the coming of the Lord in the air.
"Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken. And then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He shall send His angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together His elect (His church) from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other" (Matthew 24:29-31). Hallelujah! The glorious Second Coming of Jesus Christ to resurrect and rapture His own!
In the next verse of this beautiful, prophetic, "signs of the end" chapter of Matthew 24, Jesus very simply and plainly tells us more about how we can tell when these final, tremendous, earthshaking events are about to happen: "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors" (Matthew 24:32-33). He said that just as you see the blossoms of the trees and the flowers and you know that summer is coming soon, so you'll know that His Coming is near when you see these different events which we've covered here come to pass. You say, "Most of them don't sound like blossoms and flowers to me! They sound more like thorns and thistles and briars and horrors." Not for us who love Jesus.
To us, all of these signs are flowers and blossoms and beautiful fulfilments of his prophecies and signs of His soon-coming--signs of the summer that is near, of the beautiful golden age, the springtime of the coming of Jesus and the springing up of His flowers from the earth, "the dead in Christ that shall rise first" (1 Thessalonians 4:16)--the Resurrection. Spring is like a resurrection! Throughout the winter it seems as if everything is dead, but as it grows warmer day by day, life begins to spring from the earth. That which seemed to be dead arises and there's a resurrection of the earth in the springtime.
"And when these things begin to come to pass"--when you see these things happen, even when they begin to come to pass, what does He tell us to do? "Then look up, and lift up your heads." Don't be discouraged; don't look down! Don't do what Peter did; don't look down at the waves and start to sink. "And lift up your heads, for your redemption"--your salvation--"draweth nigh" (Luke 21:28).
When all these terribly bad things begin to happen, start looking up, because Jesus is coming soon! "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled" (Matthew 24:33-34). He wasn't talking to His disciples back then, 2,000 years ago, because they didn't see all these things being fulfilled. The generation that sees all these things will not pass away till all these things are fulfilled.
Many people never seem to sense impending doom or things that are about to happen until it's too late. It reminds me of what Jesus said to the Scribes and Pharisees: "Ye can discern the face of the sky, but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matthew 16:3).
Most people just still go on, business as usual. Unwittingly, they themselves become a fulfilment of another prophecy about the latter days: "Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, 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" (2 Peter 3:3-4). In other words, "There's no danger! Business as usual."
Just like Jesus said about the days of Noah, "They ate and drank, married and were given in marriage, and knew not until the flood came and swept them all away, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be" (Matthew 24:37-39). Most people today are just going on, business as usual. "Oh, they've been preaching this business about Jesus coming for centuries, and He hasn't come yet." He is coming, and you'd better be prepared by having Him in your heart and believing in Him, or you're apt to be swept away with the rest of the scoffers and procrastinators in the judgments of God that are going to be poured out after Jesus returns.
Noah preached to those unbelieving people of that wicked world for 120 years before the flood, and they never repented! They were probably waiting to see if it was really going to rain, if it was really going to happen, then maybe they'd climb on board with him. In the meantime, they laughed, sneered, jeered and persecuted him and his sons as they worked on that ship for 120 years. Then Noah and his family finally went in, and it says that God shut the door so that nobody else could enter (Genesis 7:16). And by the time it started to rain and rain and rain and began to flood, it was too late for that wicked generation, who were left behind to drown in the flood of their own iniquity!
The only hope is Jesus. He said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life: No man cometh unto the Father but by Me" (John 14:6). He loves you and will forgive your sins and give you His love, His joy and His peace if you will just humble yourself and pray, asking Him into your heart. So receive Jesus today and prepare for His Coming by serving Him and telling others about His love, so that He may say to you, "Well done, thou good and faithful servant: enter thou into the joy of thy Lord" (Matthew 25:21).