Revelation: Signs of the Times
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 (NIV)
Read the headlines of any newspaper, watch cable news, or even spend time on social media today and you might understandably conclude we’re living in the Final Days depicted by John through the visions he wrote down in the Book of Revelation.
Consider: over two years living with a global pandemic and new viruses on the horizon, wars or major armed conflicts occurring in over 21 countries on four continents, warnings of “catastrophic” coming global food shortages, millions of Christians around the world living under the fear of persecution and discrimination, people everywhere seeking pleasure over the love of God, children turning against their parents, treachery and corruption from our leaders …
It’s easy to see how these and a thousand other things might convince many that the End Times have arrived. And perhaps they have.
In the last ten years, deaths from armed conflicts worldwide have risen over 120%. Around the globe, 690 million – nearly 9% of the world’s population – is malnourished or starving. Social order is breaking down daily. Crime seems to be spiraling out of control. More and more people are abandoning their faith. Evil appears to be everywhere.
Scripture describes the period just before “the last” days in various ways:
- 2 Peter 3:3-4 foretells of scoffers despising and ridiculing God’s Word, following their own desires
- 2 Timothy 3:1-5 describes a time of terrible moral decay
- Daniel 12:1 prophesies that it will be a “time of such distress such has not happened from the beginnings of the nations”
- Amos 8:11 proclaims a time is coming of great famine, not of bread or water, but of ‘hearing the words of the Lord”
- Matthew 24 lists a series of signs including wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution, betrayal, and wickedness
Indeed, these do seem like dire times. It would be natural to feel depressed or even like we’re running out of hope.
This past month, I spent 28 days re-reading and studying the Book of Revelation, taking my time with each chapter and verse, cross referencing both Old Testament and New Testament passages, and bringing a fresh pair of eyes to what many consider the most difficult and hard-to-understand book in the Bible.
For some, Revelation is dreadful and distressing. It’s true that John writes of terrible and deadly days facing mankind at the end of time. The seven woes or plagues, the persecution of the church, the endless suffering of non-believers, the Beast and False Prophet, the deaths of nearly half the world’s population. the final cataclysmic battle where hundreds of millions are slain … such a contrast to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount and his message of God’s Kingdom. What makes it equally difficult are all the visions and metaphors, making the meaning hard to understand.
Yet, I came away from this reading with a different perspective.
First, I realized it’s fruitless to try and read into Revelation the current times in which we live. There have always been wars, and hunger, and death, and suffering. Trying to take a headline or event and find it precisely in Revelation has led to countless failed predictions of when the world would end. Jesus himself proclaimed “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 24:32)
Second, I remembered what Jesus told his disciples in John 16:33 as he described the things that must come to pass: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” There is nothing in this world that can overcome God’s love for us His promise of Salvation.
Finally, the real message of Revelation is not one of defeat or destruction for those who faithfully follow the word of God, but rather a message of eternal victory, hope, and even joy! We know how the story will end, and we know who will emerge triumphant. Those who remain true and steadfast in Christ will “inherit all this” and will be God’s children, drinking freely from the spring of the water of life (Revelation 21:6-7).
Ultimately, Revelation is a reminder. A reminder to stay vigilant. A reminder to stay faithful. A reminder to place our trust in the One who was, and is, and is yet to come.
Are we living in the Last Days? Most assuredly. And the growing signs are everywhere, as they have been since the day Jesus emerged from the empty tomb and conquered death for us all.
Are we near the end? Only God Himself knows. Our role is to pay attention to the signs and remain watchful.
Take heart, friends. Jesus is returning and bringing salvation with him.
May God continuously lead your path