What are the signs of Jesus coming back?
Recently, I received the following question: “I think that Jesus is coming back soon. What shall we expect and how will we know when Jesus will return? How will we recognize him?”
Last week, I talked about whether or not I think Jesus is coming back soon and, more importantly, what we should be doing while we wait for his return. Today, I want to chat about what we should expect regarding his return.
In Matthew 24, the disciples asked Jesus this same question. Here is his response:
[Jesus’ disciples asked him,] And what is the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus replied to them: “Watch out that no one deceives you. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Messiah,’ and they will deceive many. You are going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, because these things must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these events are the beginning of labor pains.
“Then they will hand you over to be persecuted, and they will kill you. You will be hated by all nations because of my name. Then many will fall away, betray one another, and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. This good news of the kingdom will be proclaimed in all the world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”
Let’s draw out some big principles from this passage.
First, don’t be deceived. Lots of people will come claiming to be some spiritual guru or leader and lead people astray. Cults and cultic leaders have always been around and they continue to exist in full force. Don’t point at every weirdo and think, ‘Maybe that’s Jesus.’ When Jesus comes, you’ll know. Trust me, you’ll know.
Second, don’t be alarmed. Wars, earthquakes, bombs, famine and the like is normal. There always has been and always will be difficulties. Remember that while we might be experiencing peace in Cape May, there are people all over the globe who are suffering. If they were reading this same passage in the D.R. Congo, they would mourn over the tragedies in their own backyard. The moment something happens to us, we shouldn’t think that the sky is falling. We are just experiencing what the majority of the world wrestles with on a daily basis and has for generations.
Third, don’t be surprised. Persecution - the world hating you - is normal and expected. Persecution is not suffering for being an idiot. Try not to do that. Make sure you know the difference between the two and do not be surprised when the people in this world and in your own lives find your faith disgusting. Paul said in his letter to the church in Corinth that faith in Jesus was a fragrance of life to some people and a repulsive fragrance of death to others.
Fourth, don’t panic. It is going to get worse before it gets better. Don’t be shocked when school systems, politicians, media outlets, and kids' shows begin to applaud things that the Bible speaks against. Why should any of this surprise you? People will hate the Law of God. People will hate holiness. People will abandon Jesus because it seems like it isn’t worth it. Don’t panic - Jesus said it would happen.
Fifth, don’t stop. Our task is to proclaim the gospel until the whole world has the opportunity to respond. That hasn’t happened yet, but it is feasible that it could happen in our lifetime. Keep moving forward. Keep obeying Jesus. Keep loving God. Keep loving people. Persevere until the end.
Jesus final words to his disciples were words of commission and comfort. Matthew 28 reads: Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
We would do well to remember the commission, the cost, and the comfort.