When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.Luke 21:28
When you hear people refer to “end-time signs” they are generally talking about one of two things. First, they may be referring to specific signs we were told to look for that signal the nearness of Christ’s return. Second, they may be talking about specific world conditions forming in our day that mirror the conditions described in Bible prophecy. These conditions are logically necessary for key events to occur during the seven-year Tribulation period.
I thought it would be useful to define what a legitimate end-time sign is. I also want to show that attempting to understand our time is approved and encouraged in Scripture. We are told in 1 Chronicles 12:32 that the leaders of Issachar “understood the signs of the times and knew the best course for Israel to take.” The wise men from the East (Matthew 2), the godly old man Simeon (Luke 2), and the old prophetess Anna (Luke 2) all understood the timeframe of the Lord’s first arrival, and their amazing stories are recorded for us in Scripture.
We also find that Jesus rebuked the Pharisees and the crowds of people for not knowing the signs of their day. To the scribes and Pharisees he said, “You know how to interpret the weather signs in the sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the signs of the times!” (Matthew 16:3). To the crowds he said, “You fools! You know how to interpret the weather signs of the earth and sky, but you don’t know how to interpret the present times” (Luke 12:56).
In what is known as the Olivet Discourse, Jesus responded to a question asked by his disciples. After informing them that the beautiful temple and surrounding buildings they were admiring would be completely destroyed, the disciples asked Jesus a critical three-part question.
As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. “Tell us,” they said, “when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
Rather than rebuke them or downplay the question, Jesus gave them a full chapter’s worth of signs followed by another full chapter of related parables. This central teaching by Jesus regarding the end-times signs is recorded in three of the four gospels—in Matthew 24, Luke 21, and Mark 13. It is the second largest recorded teaching by Jesus.
The apostle Paul, whom God used to take Christianity to the Gentiles, realized that the church age was the last “age” or era before the rapture and the terrible Tribulation period. He tells us in Romans 13:11-12—“This is all the more urgent, for you know how late it is; time is running out. Wake up, for our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. The night is almost gone; the day of salvation will soon be here.” If this was true in Paul’s day, it’s even truer today, since almost 2000 years have passed. And based on a careful assessment of the signs and conditions of our day—we see things converging at a rate that has never been seen before.
Even the oft quoted statement that the tribulation (known as the Day of the Lord) will come unexpectedly like a thief (1 Thessalonians 5:2) is misunderstood by many to mean we can’t know the season. But just 2 verses later Paul clears this up and gives us the most compelling proof that believers will not be surprised by the Day of the Lord. In verses 4 and 5 we read these crystal clear words: “But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness (emphasis mine).”
There you have it. A definitive statement that believers will not be taken by surprise by end-time events.
Finally, the writer of Hebrews provides the insight that those living close to Jesus’ return will be able to recognize that they are in the season of the Lord’s return. Consider the bold statement in latter part of this verse:
Hebrews 10:25—“not giving up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but encouraging one another—and all the more as you see the Day approaching (emphasis mine).”
That “Day” is “the day of the Lord,” or what is also known as the tribulation period and arrival of God’s Kingdom. This verse plainly tells us that those who are taking notice will be able to see this time period drawing close.
Some have reservations because of the admonition in 1 Thessalonians 5:2 that tells us “the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.” But, it always blows my mind that they stop reading there. Just 2 verses later we read this crystal clear proclamation that believers WILL NOT BE surprised. Read these next few verses carefully.
“But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober (emphasis mine). —1 Thessalonians 5:4-6
Friends, that is as clear as it gets. We are admonished not to sleep, but to remain awake and to keep watching! Please don’t overlook the importance of these verses. We have clear marching orders to stay awake. The implication is that many will be asleep. It will be tempting to fall asleep. Perhaps even understandable (from a human perspective) to fall asleep. But we must stay awake and pay attention to the very specific signs Jesus mentioned.
It is true we can’t know the day or the hour, but from these verses above it is clear that we can know the general season when these events are nearing. Are you watching?