The Definitive Sign

When the subject of the Second Coming is raised, inevitably, the question of what “sign” or “signs” will precede it is asked, and invariably, wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, and similar catastrophes are pointed to as harbingers of the End. But Jesus himself gave us the definitive answer to this question, namely, the completion of the mission of the Church to proclaim his Good News of his Kingdom to all the nations of the Earth.

After his final visit to Herod’s Temple, he predicted the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. 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).

Globe Abstract - Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash
[Photo by Louis Reed on Unsplash]

In response, the disciples asked two questions. First, when will the predicted destruction of the Temple occur; and second, what will be the “
sign” of the coming of the Son of Man and the consummation of the age?

His immediate response was to issue a dire warning - Beware of false messiahs and false prophets that will deceive many! His disciples would hear of wars, earthquakes, international conflicts, and famines as deceivers pointed to such calamities as signs of the End’s proximity.

However, such events are NOT indicators of the rapidly approaching End of the Age. Disasters must occur but the “End is NOT yet.” Deceivers and false prophets will point to these very events as the definitive “signs” of the soon return of Jesus and thereby raise false expectations among disciples about that final day’s imminence - (Matthew 24:4-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

Human and natural catastrophes happen regularly around the world, therefore, followers of Jesus must "not be alarmed" when they do occur. Such events are NOT chronological markers by which one can calculate the timing of the End. At most, they constitute a “beginning of birth pains,” harbingers of the inevitable end of this evil age.

Moreover, nowhere did Jesus predict that the frequency or intensity of earthquakes, wars and other 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 utter destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, which, in fact, did occur when a Roman army destroyed the Temple 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 the timing of his “coming on the clouds,” no man knows the 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” belongs to God alone, and any man who claims such knowledge arrogates to himself information that even Jesus did not possess - (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:33, Acts 1:7-9).

As to the requested final “sign,” Jesus gave us one explicit goal that must be achieved before he appears “on the clouds,” 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 the Kingdom of God is Good News for all men who hear and obey it. But the Body of Christ must bear witness to ALL nations before the Son of Man will arrive, gather his saints to himself, and judge the nations - (Matthew 24:14).

In the Greek clause, the demonstrative pronoun for “THIS Gospel” (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, and 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 will be completed before the Lord returns to consummate the kingdom, raise the dead, destroy the “last enemy, death,” and so on - (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-8, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

So, how do we know when that task is complete? According to Jesus, when the End does arrive! The fact that it has not is irrefutable proof that the task 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 the date of his return. Nevertheless, all past attempts to do so have failed.

The words of Jesus are clear. His Father alone knows the timing of the end. Not even the “Son of Man” has that information. In the interim between now and his “coming,” we must remain busy completing the task given to us by the Lord. That is what matters, not having accurate information about signs, “times and seasons,” and prophetic timetables.

This both raises and answers the question. Why the (apparent) delay of over 2,000+ years for the return of Jesus?  Because his saints have yet to complete their mission. If anything, he is waiting for us to finish proclaiming the Good News to every nation, “even to the uttermost parts of the Earth.”



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