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Bible verses about Signs of the Times
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Matthew 24:32-33

A parable is a story drawn from human experience that has a higher spiritual meaning. This is its principal purpose, just as a psalm is primarily intended to praise God. This does not exclude its use for other ends. God creates most things with multiple functions, and the various parts of His Word are not exceptions.

The Parable of the Fig Tree is a good example. It both teaches a universal principle and prophesies of the coming Kingdom of God. As further proof of this parable's prophetic nature, Jesus gives it in the midst of the Olivet Prophecy! He has just listed several signs of His second coming, and He presents this parable to key us in on their time element. Notice He says, "when they are already budding," meaning that the events that signal His return will be happening—in motion—before we realize how close we are to the end!

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Parables and Prophecy


 

Matthew 24:42-44

In essence, these verses are Christ's opening salvo on how to be prepared and how to use your time and energy when the evidence of His return begins to appear.

Although we definitely know that we are living in the time of the end, we do not know exactly when Christ will return. So we have to live in readiness every day. The theme of this brief parable is expectation. Knowing the general signs of His coming, we live expecting the unexpected.

He illustrates this by comparing His coming to that of a thief. We normally do not look for thieves. Understandably, thieves do not advertise their coming, but by taking precautions, we prepare against their coming. All of us lock our houses and hide our valuables in safe places. Some of us have installed security alarms and exterior lighting to discourage burglary.

In the same vein, Jesus urges His people to be vigilant, alert, wakeful, and constantly watchful because a thief's principal weapon is surprise. Even to those who are aware, His coming will occur with jarring suddenness—and more so to those who are distracted by ordinary occupations, "eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage." The teaching in this parable is that to live without vigilance is to invite disaster.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

Luke 17:20-37

The original question posed by the Pharisees was, "When is the Kingdom of God coming?" (verse 20). The long section from the end of verse 20 to verse 37 is Jesus' answer, first to the Pharisees (verses 20-21) and then to His disciples (verses 22-37). His reply to the Pharisees is rather curt: "You won't be able to discern the coming of the Kingdom because you haven't recognized that I am its chief representative, though I have been among you."

In His longer explanation to His disciples, Jesus goes into quite a bit more detail about the timing and conditions of establishing His Kingdom. First, He says, do not be deceived when people tell you Christ has come (verses 22-23). We will know very well when He returns; it will be like a flash of lightning that everyone will see (verse 24). However, before this can happen, Jesus must be tortured and crucified as man's Redeemer (verse 25). From our vantage point, which the disciples did not have, we know that this condition has already been met at Golgotha or Calvary.

Then He gives details about the conditions in the world when He returns. It will be as it was in the days of Noah and Lot (verses 26-30). He highlights two major signs of the end here:

1. He will come suddenly when people do not expect Him to return. Most people will be going about their normal activities, unaware of the times.

2. When He returns, society will be degenerate and wicked just as it was before the Flood came and before God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah (see Genesis 6:5-7; 18:20; 19:1-11).

Luke 17:31-33 shows that, for His disciples, His coming will result in a test of faith. They will have to be willing to leave everything behind—their homes, their possessions, even their loved ones—in order to obey the call of God. Lot's wife turned back in longing for what she had left behind, and God's judgment fell swiftly upon her. We may have to be willing even to give up our lives for salvation, because in trying to save our physical lives, we would have to renounce our beliefs.

Verses 34-36 illustrate three scenes of judgment. These show that Christ will judge us individually, and despite how close we may be to another—a spouse, a neighbor, a co-worker—our obedience and good works will not deliver anyone else (see Ezekiel 14:12-20). We will have to prove ourselves to the righteous Judge of all (Acts 17:31; Romans 14:10).

Finally, the disciples ask Jesus where these things will take place (Luke 17:37). His reply is better translated in the Revised English Bible: "Where the carcass is, there will the vultures gather." This seems somewhat enigmatic, but if we take what He says literally, He implies that He will return at a place of great carnage. This would parallel the scenarios prophesied in Zechariah 14:1-5 and Revelation 19:11-21 (see especially verses 17-18, 21b).

All through this section Jesus is describing real circumstances, real people, and real places. He speaks of a literal Kingdom to be established at His return "with power and great glory" (Matthew 24:30).

Since the context of Luke 17:21 is Christ's second coming, and Jesus is speaking in great detail about the time, place, and conditions of His return, we must see His Kingdom as a literal government—just as real as any government of man. We cannot divorce "the Kingdom of God is among you" from this larger topic. Doing so distorts the true meaning of a literal, soon-coming Kingdom ruled by Jesus Christ that will grow to fill the whole earth after His return.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Is the Kingdom of God Within You?


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-3

The apostle speaks of those who are unaware ("they"), who are not paying attention to the signs of the times. A pregnant woman clearly shows that she is ready to give birth to her child. However, though her status is known, no one can pinpoint the exact time that the contractions will begin. A woman's labor pains parallel the signs of the times. No one will be able to pinpoint the exact time of Christ's arrival, but we can know that it is near and be prepared.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The World, the Church, and Laodiceanism


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1

Compare this to Acts 1:6-8. They had learned a great deal in the intervening nineteen years.

John W. Ritenbaugh
Don't Be a Prudent Agnostic


 

1 Thessalonians 5:1-4

Thieves send no warning messages ahead of them that they are coming, so break-ins are usually sudden and shocking events. We are assured that Christ's return will be equally surprising to most on the earth. The Bible's indications are that He will come when a majority of people least expect Him: when newscasts assure us of "Peace at last!" and the whole world is busy with the affairs of this life (Matthew 24:37-39). Then, everything will fall to pieces with a bang!

Yet, Christians should not be taken by surprise. We are supposed to be aware of the signs of the times, evaluating the course of events, and growing in the grace and knowledge of God, so that, no matter when He comes, we are prepared to meet Christ in the air. Because we are not in darkness, our eyes should be fixed on what is truly important during these troubled times: God's Kingdom and His righteousness.

Like his Master, Paul tells us to watch, and he adds, "Be sober" (verse 6). A sober person's mind is unadulterated by anything that would cause poor judgment, as a drunk's ability to make proper decisions is affected by the booze in his system. One who is sober is serious, thoughtful, cautious, calm, and not given to excesses of any kind. He weighs matters carefully and chooses the wisest course of action.

This should be our stance now, despite what people claim about the timing of Christ's return. The promise of His coming has not been delayed, and things are not as they always were. God's plan marches on; He is maneuvering events, circumstances, and individuals into place. We have been given front-row seats to witness the most astounding series of prophetic fulfillments in human history, and to keep them, we must watch, be sober, and prepare for the return of Jesus Christ.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Where Is the Promise of His Coming?


 

 




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