In the last week of His life on earth with His disciples, the men who had followed Him closely during the three plus years of Christ’s pre-crucifixion ministry asked Him point blank what would be a sign of the end of the world. Two thousand years ago committed disciples of Jesus Christ had the question of end times events on their minds, and those who are students of the Word of God still do. What are the events happening in 2020 that might indicate the end is near?
Jesus did give them, in answer to their question, all they needed to know. He shared with them some precursory signs that He would label the “beginning of sorrows.” The phrase literally means “birth pangs” as that which precede a mother’s delivery of her new-born. These events include wars; international war tensions; famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places (Matt.24:6-8). There would be an increase in false prophets and false christs. Jesus then said that the gospel would be preached in all the world before the end would come. As one reads Matthew chapters 24 and 25 and follows the discourse of Jesus in His answering the original question about the sign of the end of the world, it is striking that He says in the middle of His eschatological message that a general apathy and unawareness would prevail during the time preceding His age-ending return. Life would pretty much be going on as usual. The actual end would take men by surprise, Jesus warning that one should “Watch therefore for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.” (Matt. 24:42; 25:13). To illustrate this warning the Lord told a parable about 10 virgins who were excitedly planning participation in a wedding feast, waiting with expectation the groom’s return which would begin the festivities. They were told to keep their lamps ready because the groom’s return could happen at any time. Five of the young women heeded the admonition and kept their lamps trimmed and ready for use; five became lax and preoccupied and when the moment came for action, their lamps lacked the necessary oil to get them going, thus those five unhappy ladies were left out. Jesus concluded the parable with the warning “Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of Man cometh.” (Matt. 25:13).
We are still watching and waiting. The second coming of Jesus will be in two phases; one, commonly known as the rapture when Jesus comes back for the church (I Thess. 4:13-18); and, two, when He comes back with the church following the seven years of tribulation during which time God’s wrath shall be poured out upon the earth in the form of seven rapid fire seal judgements, seven trumpet judgements that will be executed and finally seven bowls of wrath poured out upon what’s left of a sin-wrecked, judgment-riven world full of a God-blaspheming humanity. A war will occur at the time of Christ’s coming, Armageddon, and Satan will be bound for a thousand years while Christ reigns with His saints upon the renovated earth during what is known as the millennium (Rev.20:1-6). The time between the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ to the earth with the church is called the tribulation, the latter part (3 and 1/2 years) known as the Great tribulation. Interestingly, Jesus said that the nation of Israel, which rejected Him at His first coming and crucified Him at Calvary, will not have been obliterated by the antichrist though he will have waged his fiercest war against Abraham’s descendants during those seven horrific years (Matt. 24:34).
Not a few are wondering today, in light of the current world health and humanity crises, if this is not the tribulation which Jesus warned would precede His return to earth to end this present age. The best answer we can give is that what is happening now is at most “the beginning of sorrows.” The rapture of the church will precede the unmasking of the antichrist. But with the “birth pangs” intensifying, it behooves us all to “watch therefore.”
“So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.” (Matt. 24:33).
“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Matt. 24:36)