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.

How’s the Weather? (Matthew 16:1-4 study part 5)

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)

Today we are going to look at the second part of Jesus’ response, He speaks to them about their ability to predict the weather and inability to interpret the signs of the times. I love this portion of this scripture! In fact it is what God caught my eye with about these verses initially, which started the Matthew 16:1-4 study.

Weather Prediction
I love it when there is a portion of scripture that I can relate to. I might not be able to fully relate to selling donkeys or I may fall short of fully appreciating subtle messages in Christ’s parables due to my lack of familiarity with Middle Eastern culture…however I can definitely relate to predicting the weather! Can’t we all?  It looks like in Jesus’ day they would predict weather by paying attention to the sky at sunset and by simply looking up at the sky. I remember learning about sailors using the sunset to predict the next day’s weather in school when I was young, apparently this type of weather prediction goes back to ancient times. As far as looking up at the sky goes not much has changed, we do that all the time do we not? (: No matter what the weather channel says we still take a peak at the sky throughout the day to determine the course of weather. Just like the Pharisees & Sadducees, if we see a threatening looking sky then we can recognize foul weather is upon us. I bet even weather men and women look up at the sky instead of putting their full faith and confidence in the forecast they delivered that morning. How come? Because as much as we love to check our weather we all know that it is that – a forecast, a prediction – it is not fully guaranteed. You know the expressions; she/he changes <fill in the blank> like the weather? We have those sayings for a reason! (:

Still, with weather being only a prediction we sure do spend a lot of time on it don’t we? We have full time jobs in science and news casting dedicated to it. We have Doppler radar and can track storm systems such as hurricanes or blizzards. We have full time TV networks and websites dedicated to weather prediction 24 hours a day, 7 days a week 365 days a year! Not only that but weather dominates our conversations. From small talk to serious talk our lives and plans often revolve around the weather. Why is that? The weather determines what we can do, so if you think about it our infatuation with the weather is really an infatuation with ourselves. With OUR plans, our days, our activities, with what WE can do…and boy are we good when it comes to that aren’t we!

What is something we are not so good with though?….Oh yeah that is right, the signs of the times:

Why Interpret the Signs of the Times?
Ah, the signs of the times, we can talk about weather with just about anyone but the second you mention the signs of the times the majority of people look at you like you are little off kilter or even if they don’t things get a little uncomfortable don’t they?  As a whole our generation tends to scoff, mock, laugh at and ignore the signs of the times. Some do this because all they have seen or heard about the signs of the times are the loony misinterpreting false teachers and cults making headlines. When you open scripture though it doesn’t take long to find out that while we might like to shoot the breeze talking about them storm clouds on the horizon God has a lot to talk about when it comes to the signs of the times. So in reality, making a mockery of the signs of the times or to ignore them altogether is like making a mockery of billowing storm clouds above us in the sky or just ignoring a hurricane warning and going to the beach. Not too smart, who looks like the fool then?

The problem is that as John 1:10 puts it, “He came into the world, and though the world was made through Him, the world did not recognize Him.” We cannot properly interpret scripture or the signs of the times without the illumination of the truth of God’s Word through the Holy Spirit of God. This can only happen if you have faith and accept the invitation of salvation as the Spirit of God knocks onto the door to your heart, choosing to believe in Jesus, confessing your sins, repenting from your former ways and accepting Him as your Lord and Savior. Then as you seek Him out through the Word of God the Holy Spirit will open your eyes to see more and more of His truth.

Although these Pharisees and Sadducees in Matt 16:1-4 were eye witnesses to the fulfillment of the Messianic scriptures (that they studied and taught for a living) they hardened their hearts and did not believe in Jesus, as a result they could not interpret the signs of the times. The signs of the times being that the Messiah, the Light of the World, the Son of God was standing in their midst! As I Corinthians 1:22-23 (AMP) puts it:

21For when the world with all its earthly wisdom failed to perceive and recognize and know God by means of its own philosophy, God in His wisdom was pleased through the foolishness of preaching [salvation, procured by Christ and to be had through Him], to save those who believed (who clung to and trusted in and relied on Him).

22For while Jews [demandingly] ask for signs and miracles and Greeks pursue philosophy and wisdom,

23We preach Christ (the Messiah) crucified, [preaching which] to the Jews is a scandal and an offensive stumbling block [that springs a snare or trap], and to the Gentiles it is absurd and utterly unphilosophical nonsense.

24But to those who are called, whether Jew or Greek (Gentile), Christ [is] the Power of God and the Wisdom of God.

Just as John 1:10 and I Cor 1:21 put it, even we fail to recognize and perceive God on our own in the 21st century since the time of Christ. Many follow either the path of the Jews or Gentiles who did not accept Christ: either demanding signs and miracles out of a spirit of unbelief and reacting to the gospel as a scandal or offense or by pursuing earthly wisdom and philosophy and reacting to the gospel as being absurd and illogical nonsense.

So why, as Christians should we still talk about the signs of the times? Because as I Cor 1:21 also says, God in His wisdom has saved those who believe, spreading the gospel across the globe, through the foolishness of preaching. Preaching – foolish? Have you ever tried to preach to someone about something in their life that needs to change, doesn’t work out too good does it?! But preaching the Word of God in a fashion that is led by the Spirit (according to God’s timing and will) sends out His Spirit laced Word which lands on on the soil of the hearts of men and the Word of God has the power to save. It is the Spirit of God accomplishing salvation, not the preacher of God.

It is so important to pray for the hearts of men to be readied for the Word of God and to pray for the preacher not to preach from his own earthly philosophy and motive but to allow the Spirit of God to speak God’s Word through Him…prayer is a vital part of the preaching and teaching process!

So when studying the signs of the times it is really important to stay focused and within context of God’s Good News:

  1. Christ the Messiah has come
  2. Christ has made atonement for the sins of the world
  3. Christ rose from the dead conquering death once and for all
  4. Everyone who truly believes in Him (which results in repentance and picking up their cross and following Him) shall be saved from eternal damnation.

As a result the most important thing for us to presently do is:

  1. Seek Him first and foremost with all of our hearts on a daily basis
  2. Allow Him to use His gifts through us by the power of the Holy Spirit so the gospel may go out to the ends of the earth.

Studying the signs of the times has everything to do with this because it opens our eyes to the reality of the times and creates an urgency in our hearts to live for God and for others to be saved. It is so easy for us to fall into the “slumber trap” where we walk around in a daze just trying to get through each day of work or to deal with family that we forget to bask in the presence of God, meeting Him in the secret place and being in a state of readiness for His will to be done.

21“Therefore, if anyone cleanses himself from what is dishonorable, he will be a vessel for honorable use, set apart as holy, useful to the master of the house, ready for every good work.” II Timothy 2:21

Next time: Signs of the Times