Signs of the Times | Present Time

Matthew 16:1-4 part 6 and Matthew 24:1-14

Matthew 16: 1-4
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times. 4An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of Jonah.” So he left them and departed. (ESV)

Last week we left off in part 5 of the Matthew 16:1-4 study looking at why it important to study the Signs of the Times in God’s Word. Just like the Pharisees and Sadducees we are really good at studying and paying attention to a prediction about weather but when it comes to recognizing and interpreting the signs of the times which is something that is for sure, not just a prediction, well we are not so good at that. (: Which is kind of sad. Really it is, but again as we saw in the last study we have to be very careful because apart from the illumination of God’s Spirit we can’t recognize the truth so it really isn’t that surprising. The sad part is that by His grace God offers His Holy Spirit to all who have faith in Him and He wants to talk to each of us through His Word, the only thing getting in the way is our own lack of belief and/or spiritual discipline. In fact, God’s talks to us A LOT about the signs of the times in both the Old and New Testament. That is why it is even more troubling that the religious leaders of the synagogues who studied the Old Testament were completely blind to the Messiah. Who are we to think that we may be any less susceptible? Let us then seek Him with our heart until every hindrance is removed! (Joel 2:12-13)

Christ’s Second Coming
Christ first came fulfilling all Old Testament prophecies including the miraculous conception and birth to a virgin. Although fully God He was also fully robed in the flesh of man and yet lived without sin. His mission – to minister to the lost and bring salvation and healing to the sick – aka all humanity. We are all sick in the soul – walking spiritually dead people apart from Christ! However, Revelation 19:11-16 describes His Second Coming like this:

Then I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse! The one sitting on it is called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he judges and makes war. 12 His eyes are like a flame of fire, and on his head are many diadems, and he has a name written that no one knows but himself. 13He is clothed in a robe dipped in blood, and the name by which he is called is The Word of God. 14And the armies of heaven, arrayed in fine linen, white and pure, were following him on white horses. 15 From his mouth comes a sharp sword with which to strike down the nations, and he will rule them with a rod of iron. He will tread the winepress of the fury of the wrath of God the Almighty. 16On his robe and on his thigh he has a name written, King of kings and Lord of lords.

and Matthew 24:30 says that

..the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn and beat their breasts and lament in anguish, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory and He will send out His angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather His elect from one end of the universe to the other.

Doesn’t sound like something that you don’t want to be prepared for does it?

Some Biblical Context
As Christians however we long for the rapture and for His second coming because we long for Him. We long to be free from these bodies of flesh which is freedom from the battle between His Spirit and our fallen nature. With worshipful reverence we long to see His face and that is not something to be dreaded for those that are covered with His blood because His blood covers and protects us from the wrath of God. It is by the blood of His Son that Christ’s righteousness is imputed on all who believe through the propitiation of our sins (Romans 3:23-26, Hebrews 2:17 and 9:12-28, I John 2:2, I John 4:9-10). We long for and yearn for this day since we are no longer of this earthly kingdom but are adopted children of God (Romans 8:13-17, Romans 9:8).

Even so we solemnly recognize that His patience is salvation (II Peter 3:7-10) and in sorrow we are reminded that it will be a dreadful day for those apart from Christ (Amos 5:18-20). That is why it is God’s calling for all Christians to fulfill the Great Commission (Mark 16:15-20) and to pray (Matthew 9:38) for God to thrust workers out into the harvest for the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few (Matthew 9:26-38). Did you catch that?  Not only are we called to share the gospel with others, but also to get down on our faces and pray earnestly for God to send out workers because today, right this instant, there are people out there who are ready to be harvested into the Kingdom of God! Let us throw off our complacent slumber and become a true disciple of Christ. As He puts in Matthew 16:24 AMP, “if anyone desires to be my disciple let Him deny himself [disregard, lose sight of and forget] himself and his own interests and pick up his cross and follow Me [cleave steadfastly to Me, conform wholly to My example in living and, if need be, in dying also]”. Let us literally disregard our own plans, our own desires, ourselves! Let us crucify the flesh and all its desire to that cross and follow Jesus (Galatians 5:24)!

It is in this light that we are going to study the signs of the times, bearing in mind that the reason we are here is because there is a harvest out there. Otherwise we would be taking the sign of the times out of context. We can’t ignore the mission while studying the times, the mission IS the context within which the signs of the times become meaningful!

Observations & Life Application | Matthew 24: 4-14
Since I am a visual learner I laid out my observations in a table while I was reading this portion of scripture. I noticed Jesus not only teaches us some pretty clear signs but He also tells us the “why I’m telling you this” for us to not only meditate on but to spur us into action on behalf of the Kingdom of God. He further brings to light His understanding to us through some illustrative comparisons and parables later on in Matthew 24 and in Matthew 25. I encourage you to take some time to make a table too before reading through the ones below, make two columns – 1 for the signs and 1 for our charge. There are a few time-line indicators that organize the signs as well, I either indicated these in italics or bold lettering.

Matthew 24:4-14 | Signs of the Times
Present time & history since time of Christ
What is our Charge from God?
  • Many will come falsely in Christ’s name and lead many astray.
  • You will hear of wars and rumors of wars
  • Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom
  • There will be famines and earthquakes in place after place.
Be Careful that no one misleads you.

 

See that you are not frightened or troubled for this must take place, the end is not yet


These are the beginning of the birth pangs (early contractions)

  • Then they will hand you over to suffer affliction and tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake
  • And many will be offended and repelled and will begin to distrust and desert and will stumble and fall away and betray one another and pursue one another in hatred.
  • And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error
  • And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity.
  • And this good news of the kingdom (the Gospel) will be preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.
 

 

 

 

But the one who endures to the end will be saved

Then will Come the End

The period between Chris’s first and second coming is known as the last days (II Peter 3:2-4, II Timothy 3:1-8, Hebrew 1:1-3, Acts 2:16-18, Joel 2:28-29). How can we tell? By looking at the signs! We know we are still part of the last days described in Matthew 24:1-14 because the gospel has not yet been preached throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations.  We are getting closer and closer however as Christians go out in obedience spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth. Also there is still some love left in the great body of people, it has not yet completely fizzled out although you do hear news reports of people dying on sidewalks, people ignoring others in peril and the distrust/lack of love for others is on the rise in regards to the general population due to lawlessness and iniquity multiplying. Christ compares the signs of the times to the contractions a woman has who is going into labor. As we know the contractions can start out weeks before the actual labor takes place and start out faint and far between growing a little bit strong and closer together until the actual birth. What does Jesus tell us to do as we recognize them taking place?

  1. Be careful that no one misleads you.
  2. See that you are not frightened or troubled for this must take place, the end is not yet.
  3. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.

Praise the Lord for His clarity and truth. By Him who gives us strength we can endure, steadfast in the faith till the end even as the lawlessness of humanity multiplies and even as the persecution, betrayal and desertion of the church grows! Oh and we must be careful! That word careful doesn’t annotate carelessness or lack of attention, mediate on that word…to be careful that no one misleads you! How? By reading and studying God’s Word, seeking to be filled with His Holy Spirit, praying for wisdom, discernment and understanding. Praying for Christian friends and meeting with them on a regular basis, praying for and actively listening to sound Biblical teaching – doing all of this with care and paying attention to the details of His Word and commandments in all applications of life. Things will go from bad to worse as the “contractions” increase in intensity and grow closer together but God has warned us about all of this not so that we will be afraid but so we can trust in Him. We have the true hope that He is with us even after death and that He is sufficient in all suffering, he is our Provider in all situations. Praise the Lord for the hope we have in Him!

“Be patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. 8You also, be patient. Establish your hearts, for the coming of the Lord is at hand. 9Do not grumble against one another, brothers, so that you may not be judged; behold, the Judge is standing at the door.” James 5:7-9

For More:
To dive deeper into scripture study in regards to the Last Days I recommend Using Bible Gateway’s Dictionary of Bible Themes as a starting point: http://www.biblegateway.com/resources/9000-Last-things/dictionary-of-bible-themes . This dictionary provides you with scriptures to look up in order to be able to study God’s Word directly and to provide you a resource for study in context as opposed isolating scriptures which leads to out of context misinterpretation.

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