The Sign of the End

When the subject of the return of Jesus is raised, the question of what “sign” or “signs” will precede it is asked. Invariably, wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, and similar catastrophes are proposed as harbingers of the End. However, Jesus himself gave us the definitive answer to this question, namely, the completion of the mission of the Church to proclaim his salvation and lordship to all nations.

After his final visit to the Temple, Jesus predicted its destruction. Because Israel had rejected her Messiah, “All these things shall come upon this generation. Behold, your house is left to you desolate. Truly I declare to you, there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” - (Matthew 23:34-39, 24:1-2).

Lantern Beach - Photo by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash
[Photo by Thomas Lipke on Unsplash]

In reaction, the disciples asked two questions. First, when would the predicted destruction of the Temple occur? Second, what would be the “
sign” of the coming of the Son of Man and the consummation of the age?

He began by issuing a dire warning - Beware of false messiahs and false prophets who will deceive many. His disciples would HEAR about wars, earthquakes, international conflicts, and famines. False prophets and other deceivers would point to such events as signs of the rapidly approaching End.

However, calamities of this sort were NOT indicators of the End. Disasters would occur but the “end is not yet.” Moreover, the false teachers among his followers would point to these very things as “signs” of his imminent return and thereby raise false expectations - (Matthew 24:4-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

Human and natural catastrophes have happened regularly throughout History, therefore, his followers must "not be alarmed" when they inevitably do occur time and again. They are NOT chronological markers by which the Church can calculate the timing of the End. At most, they constitute a “beginning of birth pains,” harbingers of the inevitable conclusion of the present age.

Moreover, nowhere did Jesus predict that the frequency or intensity of earthquakes, wars and other natural and manmade disasters would increase as the End drew near.

To the first question, his answer was - Within “THIS GENERATION.” The generation that was contemporary with him would see the destruction of the Temple, and this happened when a Roman army destroyed it and Jerusalem in A.D. 70, exactly as he predicted - within one generation - (Matthew 3:7, 11:16, 12:34-45, 16:4, 17:17, 23:33-36, 24:34).

THE SIGN


Regarding his “coming on the clouds and the conclusion of the age,” Jesus declared that no man knows that day or hour EXCEPT GOD ALONE, and therefore, his disciples must always be prepared for its unexpected and sudden arrival.

Knowledge of the “times and seasons” belonged to God alone, and any man who claimed such knowledge either lied or arrogated to himself inside information that even the Son of Man did not possess - (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:33, Acts 1:7-9).

As to the requested “sign,” Jesus gave one explicit goal that must be achieved before he returned – Namely, the “proclamation of this Gospel of the Kingdom in the whole habitable earth for a testimony to all nations.” Only “then will the end come.”

The message of his Kingdom was and remains Good News for all men who hear and obey it, and his Assembly must bear witness to it throughout the Earth before the “Son of Man arrives… to gather his saints” and judge the nations - (Matthew 24:14).

In the Greek clause, the demonstrative pronoun translated as “THIS Gospel” or ‘houtos’ is emphatic. It is, “THIS Gospel of the Kingdom” that must be proclaimed, presumably, the same one preached by Jesus and his Apostles.

That is the task he assigned to his followers. They must “Go and teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you; behold, I am with you even unto the end of the age.” This mission must be completed before he returns and consummates God’s kingdom, raises the dead, destroys the “last enemy, Death,” and gathers his elect - (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-8, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

So, how do we know when the task is done? According to Jesus, when the End does arrive! The fact that it has not arrived is rock-solid proof that our mission remains unfinished.

The human desire to know when Jesus will arrive is understandable. The desire for certainty about the future drives our attempts to discern the “times and seasons” and calculate dates. Nevertheless, all past attempts to do so have failed; date-setting always results in disappointment and failure.

Philippines - Photo by Jeriel Jan del Prado on Unsplash
[Photo by Jeriel Jan del Prado on Unsplash]

In the interim between now and his return, his disciples are called to preach the Gospel until it has reached the “
uttermost parts of the Earth.” Completing this mission matters far more than having accurate information about signs, “times and seasons,” and prophetic timetables.

This both raises and answers the question – Why has his return been “delayed,” supposedly, for 2,000+ years?  The answer is clear. Since the Church has yet to complete its mission, he is waiting FOR US to proclaim the Kingdom of God to every corner of the globe, and only then will he appear “on the clouds of heaven.”

Jesus is not late, nor has God “delayed” his return for some reason known only to Him. The Risen Lord is waiting for his Assembly to complete the one paramount task assigned to his people by him.



RELATED POSTS:
  • The Mission - (The mission of the church between until the return of Jesus is to proclaim the Good News of his Kingdom to all nations – Matthew 24:14)
  • The Message - (Jesus summoned his disciples to proclaim the Good News of his Kingdom to every inhabited corner of the Earth)
  • The Era of Salvation - (The Gospel of the Kingdom announced by Jesus of Nazareth offers salvation and life to men and women of every nation and people)

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