It has been said that familiarity breeds contempt. It also breeds indifference.
There is a lot of discussion on the Internet about current events and whether or not they are tied to Biblical prophecy. I have to admit, some of it is eerie and can be a bit unsettling.
In Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21 (all of which I strongly recommend you read), Jesus’ overwhelming message is to pay attention and be prepared. Pay attention to what is happening, understanding that God will provide signs for us to let us know the time is near, and be prepared for Christ’s return.
What are some of the signs? Go back and read those chapters if you haven’t already.
“Wars and rumors of wars” and “nation will rise against nation.” (Matthew 24:5, Mark 13:7-8, Luke 21:9-10) Could that be North Korea? Or perhaps China, or Russia?
What about “nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea”? (Luke 21:25) Does that have anything to do with three hurricanes in the Atlantic, two creating history as the first two category four storms in that ocean at the same time? And these right on the heels of Hurricane Harvey decimating the coast of Texas.
What about “the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light” or “the stars will fall from the sky”? (Matthew 24:29, Mark 13:24-25) That sounds a lot like the great American eclipse – the first of its kind in nearly a century – that recently occurred. I witnessed it first hand with my family. The moon was black, and the sun no longer gave its light. Even the crickets thought it was nighttime.
This eclipse was, by the way, in many areas preceded the week before by meteor showers, visible in the night sky as a plethora of falling stars.
Recently my wife received a text from a dear friend, worried about what all this means and fearful that Jesus’ second coming was imminent. When she told me of the text, I (somewhat flippantly) reminded her that earthquakes were also a foreboding sign (“there will be earthquakes in various places” – Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11) but that we hadn’t seen those yet. I awoke the next morning to the news of an unforeseen earthquake in Mexico rating 8.4 on the Richter scale.
I have to be honest. The news rattled me – more than I expected.
The Internet’s shrinking of the global community made the seeming “America-centric” nature of many of these events not as diminishing. Anyone watching or reading the news anywhere in the world would know of them.
And then of course, there’s this: “Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man” (Matthew 24:30).
What does that mean? A sign in the sky about Jesus? Many have been focused on the sign in Revelation 12 which seems to clearly be a heavenly sign about Jesus’ first coming:
And a great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars. She was pregnant and was crying out in birth pains and the agony of giving birth. And another sign appeared in heaven: behold, a great red dragon, with seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads seven diadems. His tail swept down a third of the stars of heaven and cast them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she bore her child he might devour it. She gave birth to a male child, one who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron, but her child was caught up to God and to his throne, and the woman fled into the wilderness, where she has a place prepared by God, in which she is to be nourished for 1,260 days. (Revelation 12:1-6)
What’s that all about? A woman, clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet, twelve stars at her head as a crown, and giving birth to a male child.
It just so happens that this year, in less than two weeks, a sign exactly like that will be in the heavens, specifically appearing over Jerusalem. Although it will not be visible to the naked eye since it happens during the day, astronomic calculations and easily accessible computer simulations make it known to anyone who can Google. The constellation Virgo (the virgin) will rise with the sun in the constellation and the moon will rise behind her at her feet. At her head, the constellation of Leo (the lion), which according to some normally has nine primary stars, will be joined by the planets Mercury, Venus, and Mars, all also appearing as stars, and together making a crown of twelve stars at her head.
And if all that wasn’t enough to freak you out, how about this extra tidbbit? The largest of our planets, Jupiter, will be in an elliptical, retrograde motion orbit, that is, it will have appeared to go around in a small loop within the constellation of Virgo, around her midsection – for 40 to 42 weeks, or around nine months. Jupiter will exit Virgo between her legs after nine months (or the human gestation period), on the same day as she rises clothed in the sun, with the moon at her feet, with twelve stars on her head, over Jerusalem.
Not spooked enough? How about the timing of this event? The coming of the Son of Man is supposed to be heralded by a loud trumpet (Matthew 24:31, 1 Corinthians 15:51-52, 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, Revelation 11:15-18). On what particular day does this heavenly sign appear over Jerusalem? September 23, 2017. But this particularly year, this day just happens to correspond to an Old Testament Jewish Feast – which is meant to foreshadow Christ – the Feast of Trumpets. Yes, trumpets. It also happens on the first day ending the Hebrew year 5777 (that’s three sevens, or three – the number of the Divine Trinity – sevens, or the number of finality and completion). The Feast of Trumpets precedes another Jewish Feast, the Feast of Tabernacles, or the feast celebrating God coming to dwell with man. Right after the Trumpets. On the day that the sun, moon and stars will be telling the story of Christ’s first coming.
Oh, and by the way, all this happens on a Saturday, or the Old Testament sabbath day, the holy day.
So, what does all this mean? Is Jesus coming on or near September 23 of this year?
I have no idea. In fact, neither does Jesus (Matthew 24:36).
I fully realize that some of the things foretold by Christ in these accounts have already come to pass. Some of it is even recorded for us in the Acts of the Apostles. Persecution. Martyrdom. The destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. But the Son of Man has not yet come again.
What I do know is this – there have been all these signs at various times throughout history. I don’t know, however, if they have ever all converged into a single time frame as they are now. And whether or not these are the mystical harbingers that are foretold in the Scriptures, one thing is certain. They have together made me take Jesus’ return much more seriously than I ever have. It has made His words “He is near, right at the door” (Matt 24:33) much more real, and urgent, and pressing.
Is Jesus coming in two weeks? The only certain answer is maybe. But He may also be coming tonight. Or tomorrow morning. Or sometime in October. Whenever He comes, my responsibility is simple and clear:
Pay attention. Be on guard. Be awake. Watch for the signs.
The first time Jesus came, it was to save. The next time He comes, it is to judge.
In each of the gospel accounts, Jesus closes His predictions of His Return with two stories. The first is of a fig tree. His simple point is if we can look at a tree in leaf and know that summer is near, we likewise should be able to see the signs given to us by His Heavenly Father, and know that the time of His coming is near.
The second story is the most sobering. It is an account of the servants in the master’s house. This is an allegory about Christians in the Church. Jesus’ point is crystal clear – don’t grow complacent, don’t be slack, and act as if the master is long in coming. Don’t act as if you have plenty of time. If you do, you will be surprised and will not be ready. And for those in that condition when He comes, His words are grim indeed:
The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:50-51)
Cut to pieces. With the hypocrites. Those are the people who claim one thing, but live another. They profess to believe in God, and to love and follow His Son. But that’s not how they live.
Is Jesus coming soon? I don’t know. And the truth is, it doesn’t matter. I’m supposed to live every day in sober anticipation of the unchanging truth. What is that Truth? That He is coming.
It is more real to me now than ever. Whether the concurrence of events happening right now are some kind of cosmic fire drill, or the real thing – the point, the essence of it all – remains the same.
He is coming.
The question is – am I?