So they asked Him, saying, “Teacher, but when will these things be? And what sign will there be when these things are about to take place?” 8 And He said: “Take heed that you not be deceived. For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He,’ and, ‘The time has drawn near.’ Therefore do not go after them. 9 But when you hear of wars and commotions, do not be terrified; for these things must come to pass first, but the end will not come immediately.” 10 Then He said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. 11 And there will be great earthquakes in various places, and famines and pestilences; and there will be fearful sights and great signs from heaven. 12 But before all these things, they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons. You will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. 13 But it will turn out for you as an occasion for testimony” (Luke 21:7-13)
When Jesus told His disciples of the coming destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, the centre of Jewish worship, they were keen to know when this would occur. Jesus gave them a list of events that would signal the end, and when we read this list, we are reminded of things we see on the news and experience ourselves. Just as he urged his disciples in their day, we too should look up, for our redemption is drawing near. Jesus will return one day to establish his kingdom in all its fullness. In that day, the world will be judged but those who have become part of His kingdom through faith in Him and forgiveness of sin will be received into their eternal home.
Throughout the past 2,000 years, people have time and again looked at such signs and expected Jesus’ imminent return. Some even tried to figure out specific dates for the Second Coming of Christ, yet they were disappointed. In the light of this knowledge, we can easily become cynical and question: Is His return really as close as we might think? Or could it be another 2,000 years? Or even, will He ever come? Could Jesus just have spoken symbolically? Was this message only for His hearers in the first half of the first century? After all, Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed in A.D. 70 so all that remains today is the “Wailing Wall”.
While these questions are legitimate, there are current developments in the environment, in society and in politics that point to the ultimate fulfilment of prophecy. We do not know the date; Jesus warned us not to speculate. However, He did admonish us to take heed of the signs and look up and, as we do so, His words appear timelier than ever.
As in those days, people’s hearts are failing them. Scientists are considering where we could go when the earth becomes either too overcrowded or even uninhabitable. People are feeling hopeless or looking for hope in populist leaders and/or new religious ideas. Paul explains this to the Thessalonian church (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10): And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming. 9 The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, 10 and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved.
Let us be alert. Let us be true to God even in the face of opposition. Let us not fear with those who have no hope because they do not believe. And let us be ready to tell others about the hope that is in us (1 Peter 3:15) so they may share that hope in Christ with us.