When shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming?

by Phillip Wareham

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This was of course the disciple's question to Jesus when he told them of the coming destruction of Herod's temple. It is also our question now. The Lord told them clearly, 'of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.' (Matthew 24:36) It is a very closely guarded secret. Before that, though, the Lord gave them signs to watch out for, to indicate when that day and hour is approaching. It is these signs that we now want to focus our attention on.

I have listed seven, and, as we see each of them coming to the fore in our time, we understand 'that day' is fast approaching.

The first sign is an historical one, for which we need to go to the book of Daniel to understand where we are in the history of the world. But just before we do that, it is good to note, in passing, that the history of man upon this earth, from the creation of Adam up to the present day (2011) is approximately six thousand years. It is not millions of years of evolving from lower primates. That is the devil's lie. If you cannot just believe as a little child that God spoke and created the heavens and earth, and the various different life forms of vegetation, fish, birds, and animals, and created man uniquely in his own image, I cannot see how you can believe the rest-the resurrection of Jesus, his return to this earth, and the creation of a new heaven and earth. As Jesus asked Nicodemus 'If I have told you earthly things, and ye believe not, how shall ye believe, if I tell you of heavenly things?' (John 3:12) The Lord revealed to Daniel whilst in captivity in Babylon, that the future history of the world (in relation to his Son and his consistent focus to, 'set my King upon my holy hill of Zion')(Psalm 2:6) would be dominated by four successive kingdoms ' Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. These were represented in Nebuchadnezzar's dream in Daniel chapter two as a great image with a head of gold, breast and arms of silver, belly and thighs of brass, legs of iron, and feet and toes, part of iron and part of clay. Later these kingdoms were again revealed to Daniel in chapter seven as beasts, and we know that they have come and gone, just as the Lord told Daniel. But the fourth kingdom, the Roman kingdom, shall be revived in the end time, depicted by the feet and toes, part of iron, part of clay. These toes correspond to the ten horns of the dreadful beast. And these 'ten horns out of this kingdom are ten kings that shall arise: and another shall arise after them'. And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High.' (Daniel 7:24-25) This is the antichrist. This is the 'wicked profane prince' that shall come to confirm a covenant with Israel at the beginning the seven years of great tribulation. (Ezekiel 21:25 and Daniel 9:26 - 27) This antichrist will arise out of this revived Roman Empire. This is what we are seeing today in the formation of the European Union, starting with the Treaty of Rome in 1957, encompassing Western Europe (broadly the same countries included in the old Western Roman Empire at its height) and expanding now to encompass most of Europe. Now, it is necessary here to digress a little and have a very brief history lesson on the fall of the Roman Empire. We need to do this in order to understand what it really means for us to see its revival in these last days, and to understand what is the spiritual power behind the temporal (political/economic/military) power. Christianity had spread to all parts of the Roman Empire, though the Christians themselves were cruelly persecuted. As the might of Rome was waning, there were attacks from without and also civil wars within as rivals for the throne battled each other for supremacy. In AD 312 a Roman general, Constantine, did battle with a rival general called Maxentius. Before the battle, Constantine was meant to have had a vision of the cross in the heavens and, the words 'in this sign conquer.' He then had all his troops display this sign on their shields, and subsequently won the battle and became Emperor. He also became a 'Christian'. But only one outwardly, not a 'new creature', as we see in the bible. He issued his Edict of Toleration in AD 313 and proclaimed his version of Christianity as the official religion of the empire. But it was really only the old pagan gods and ceremonies taken originally from Babylon, and dressed up with 'Christian' trappings to make it acceptable and popular. (See 'The Two Babylons' by John Hislop) After Constantine moved his headquarters in AD330 to Byzantium (later called Constantinople, and today called Istanbul), Rome was in turmoil, and the Roman bishops of this false church gained much of the power and elected one of their own to rule as Pope. The old political and military office of Caesar had become the office of the Pope, and even retained the old title: 'Pontifus Maximus'. As the old Caesars were worshipped as God on earth, so were the popes as God's representatives on earth and later declared to be infallible.

By the time of Charlemagne, the then reigning pope, Hadrian 1, produced a document called the 'Donations of Constantine' in around AD 790, which claimed that Constantine had made the Roman church, headed by the then Pope Sylvester 1, heir to most of the Roman Empire. Charlemagne was crowned Emperor in AD 800 by the then Pope Leo 111, and established his 'Holy Roman Empire' over much of Europe, with the Roman Church pulling the strings behind the scenes. This apostate Roman church then ruled over the peoples of Europe and their expanding empires through fear and deceit. Through their false teaching of papal succession, transubstantiation in the mass, purgatory, the confessional and priestly forgiveness and indulgences, the rulers and the people of Europe were held in superstition and darkness. It alone is responsible for the torture and death of millions of martyrs of Jesus throughout these times with their inquisitions.

It has always been an organization of political intrigue and continues to be so today. In 1933 the Vatican signed concordats with Hitler, Mussolini and Franco, the three Nazi or Fascist dictators in Germany, Italy and Spain, protecting the Roman church and enabling these dictators to launch their attacks on neighbouring countries, bringing about the Second World War. The Roman church is the state church of so many countries like Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, Poland and most of South America. With its massive wealth, it is the richest single organization in the world today. It is the 'great whore' and 'Mystery Babylon' of Revelation chapters seventeen and eighteen, clearly identified as such in verses nine and eighteen of chapter seventeen. Rome is the city built on seven hills, and, at that time, was the undisputed ruler 'over the kings of the earth.' It is the spiritual power and driving force behind the creation of the EU, the revival of the old Roman Empire. Around the miter worn by the Pope is inscribed the Latin words 'VICARIVS FILII DEI' which translated means: 'in the place of the Son of God.' This in itself is blasphemous enough to denote this apostate church as antichrist. But when we further translate these words into the equivalent Roman numerals we find they add up to 666, (a) the sign given in Revelation thirteen, verse eighteen for the false prophet which causes the world to worship the beast or the antichrist. Now, I feel I must write a few words especially to any reader who may be in this system and not realise it. Jesus said it is a mystery. It is not apparent. Outwardly professing to be Christian but denying the salvation and authority of Christ and his word. No priest can forgive your sins, for all have sinned. Only Jesus Christ can forgive your sins. No man can take the place of Christ on earth, as the Pope purports to do. Jesus Christ is the living head of his own church. There is no 'Queen of heaven', only the King of Kings. And Jesus pleads with you to 'come out of her my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of plagues'. (Revelation 18:4) So the revival of the old Roman kingdom, the increasing power of the Roman apostate church, and the rise of the antichrist are intertwined and concurrent. They must go together.

The second sign is the rebirth of Israel as a nation in 1947 just after the end of the Second World War. This had been coming for some time but the war and the systematic murder of millions of Jewish people was the catalyst to finally bring it about. Without this taking place all the events we read in the bible of the end time would have no meaning. Furthermore, Jesus said to his disciples (along with the other signs of his coming),'Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves ye know that summer is nigh.'(Matthew 24:32) In different places of the bible, the fig tree is used as a picture of Israel. In Jeremiah chapter twenty four the Lord compares those of Israel prepared to go into captivity as good figs, but those in rebellion as bad or rotten figs. And Jesus himself, in a parable in Luke chapter thirteen compares the nation of Israel to a barren fig tree. (Luke 13:6-9) So when Jesus speaks here of the fig tree putting forth its leaves (after the long winter), he is referring to the rebirth of the nation of Israel after so long a time. This had been foretold before by Israel's prophets. We read in Ezekiel, 'And I will bring them out from the people, and gather them from the counties and will bring them to their own land,'(Ezekiel 34:13) and again, 'When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered'. Then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to my servant Jacob.'(Ezekiel 28:25) The scattering took place in AD70 when the Roman general Titus sacked Jerusalem, which was foretold to Daniel: 'and the people of the Prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary'. (Daniel 9:26) The ingathering has been happening mainly from the end of the First World War when Britain was given a mandate over Palestine, as it was then called, and gathered pace after 1947 when Israel was declared a separate nation. Even the rebirth of the Hebrew language is a wonder after so long a time being only spoken by a few scholars. The Jews, having learnt the different languages of the lands to where they had been scattered, could not understand one another when they finally returned to the land of Israel. This also was foretold by one of their prophets. In Zephaniah we read, 'for then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the Lord to serve him with one consent.' (Zephaniah 3:9) The rebirth of the nation of Israel was met with bitter opposition, and but for the Lord, could easily have been still born. The sentiment that prevailed in the neighboring Muslim countries is expressed in the words of the psalmist: 'They have said, come, and let us cut them off from being a nation: that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. For they have consulted together with one consent; they are confederate against thee.' (Psalm 83:4 - 5) In 1967 the 'Six Day War' saw Israel launch preemptive air strikes against the Muslim countries about, which were planning to attack them, and the aftermath of this war saw Israel extend its borders to include the ancient capital of Jerusalem. This is the city of David. This is where Solomon's temple was built and where it will be rebuilt in the end time. It will be in this rebuilt temple that the the man of sin, the antichrist 'who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped. So that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.' (2 Thessalonians 2:4) So after nearly two thousand years, Israel has regained control over the temple site. We are told that the 'Orthodox Jews' have everything secretly ready to build and to equip this temple when finally they are given the green light. But of course there is a rather large obstacle in the way ' a Moslem mosque called the Dome of the Rock, which is meant to be the second most holy site in Islam. The Moslem nations around about Israel are determined to regain control of this site, and Israel is equally determined to retain control. So, we have then a huge impasse. Yet we know that the temple will be rebuilt, and the antichrist will sit there. It is now only awaiting the covenant between Israel and the false Christ, to rebuild the temple and recommence the daily sacrifice as of old.

The third sign is the rapidly deteriorating moral and spiritual state of the world, compared by Jesus to the time just prior to the flood. This was a time when men were filled with violence toward each other and when 'every imagination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.' (Matthew 24:37-39 and Genesis 6:5) And it was a time when the Lord's people generally lost their separation from the world, just as we see happening today. Paul warned Timothy that 'In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God.' (2 Timothy 3:1-14) What a list! As the bible goes out of our schools, our homes and our governments, so we see the increase of each and every one of these despicable traits in our society. As the television becomes more and more filled with violence, pornography, and the occult, we see a corresponding obsession with these things in our societies, and the consequent huge and tragic loss in, particularly, young lives.

The fourth sign, I believe, leads on from this: 'nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.' (Matthew 24:7-9) Nations are simply made up of people, and these people are increasingly 'proud, trucebreakers, fierce, and traitors.' So no wonder we are seeing an increase in wars, violent revolution and civil strife. These are the beginnings of God's judgments, the beginning of sorrows; the Lord taking peace from the earth. (Revelation 6:4) The word 'sorrows' here is really the Greek word 'odin' which literally means birth pangs. So these are the pangs or pains the earth will be experiencing to give birth to the new nation of Israel, at first, and then the glorious kingdom of our Lord and saviour Jesus Christ. And like birth pangs they will increase in frequency and severity until birth. Famines and pestilences are on the increase, with droughts, plagues of locusts etc., and all forms of diseases. Even with all the advances in technology, medical science, and chemical pesticides, the problem just gets bigger. The spread of AIDS like wildfire around the world with millions dying each year is a further tragic consequence of sin. As Paul wrote in Romans: 'When they knew God they glorified him not as God, neither were thankful'' wherefore God gave them up to uncleanness'..unto vile affections: for even their women did change the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet.' (Romans 1:21-32) I live in a city, Sydney, which has just staged it's annual 'Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras Festival' where homosexuals parade their perversions without shame or fear. They do not want to retain God in their knowledge, or forget that God has already judged Sodom where that same sin was rampant.(Genesis Chapts. 18 and 19) And so God's judgment of AIDS. The increase of earthquakes in the last fifty years has been well documented, and together with the earthquakes, often come the devastating tsunamis which Jesus spoke of saying: 'the sea and the waves roaring.' (Luke 21:25) During the writing of this chapter, there has been a major earthquake in Christchurch, New Zealand. Soon after, another in Japan and the accompanying tsunami, with tragic loss of life. There were scenes of devastation, panic, fear, and bitter sorrow. Some will tell us this is all due to climate change and global warming because of our industrial pollution, and land clearing, and so we must do all we can to stop the emission of 'greenhouse' gases.(b) This is another of Satan's lies to hide the real issue of man's pollution ' his sin and rebellion against his creator and the creator of this earth. We certainly are called to be good stewards of God's earth, and to 'keep the garden'; (Genesis 2:15) to nurture this beautiful environment around us. But it is God that is shaking this earth. He is crying out: 'O earth, earth, earth hear the word of the Lord.'(Jeremiah 22:29) Not only is the 'green movement' reaching almost religious tones to 'save our planet', but is yet another push forward in the march towards one world government under the antichrist. As Christians stand in the truth, live godly and separated lives, and declare these things without fear, they will be hated of all nations for his name's sake. It is estimated that there have been more saints martyred for Jesus sake in the last century than all the preceding centuries together. And it will get worse. May the Lord fill us with his love for our fellow saints, follow our Master, and not be among those who will hate and betray one another.

The fifth sign will be the increase in false prophets, as Jesus said: 'Take heed that no man deceive you. For many shall come in my name saying I am Christ; and shall deceive many''And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.'(Matthew 24:4-5 and 11) Now what we have here goes beyond the deception whereby 'the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not,' (2 Corinthians 4:4) although at the very core it is essentially the same: 'sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it slew me.' (Romans 7:11) Christians are by no means immune from this deception. Paul wrote to the Hebrew believers to take heed,' lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. But exhort one another daily, while it is called today; lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.' (Hebrews 3:12 - 13)So the first thing we must take heed to is ourselves ' our own heart, and guard our relationship with our Lord very closely, as we read in Proverbs: 'keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life.'(Proverbs 4:23)We need to keep short accounts. But I think principally this particular sign and warning from Jesus relates to deceivers and false prophets coming to the saints with the word of God. Already in the early church there were many false prophets and all the New Testament writers warned the saints of them. Paul called the elders of the church at Ephesus together and remonstrated with them saying: 'Take heed unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers to feed the church of God, which he has purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them.' (Acts 20:28-30) A little later John wrote to the saints: 'Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.' (1 John 4:1) Let me say now that there is no need for any of his people to be deceived. We have the word of truth and the spirit of truth, which Jesus said would guide us into all truth. But we need to take heed, and not be careless. Now the very nature of deception is that it is not obvious, and would ordinarily contain an element of the truth, but in the end leads us away from the truth. Anything that breaks down the believer's sanctification is error (doctrine of Balaam). (Revelation 2:14) Anything that seeks to divide the body and put a priestly class over the body of saints is error (doctrine of Nicolaitans). (Revelation 2:15) Anything that denies the deity of Christ is error (Mormons, Jehovah Witnesses, Muslims). Anything that adds to the finished work of Christ on the cross as our full and complete sacrifice for sins is error (the Catholic mass, veneration of Mary, doctrine of purgatory). Anything that professes to be a new revelation or experience outside of the word of God is error (many Pentecostal groups teaching the baptism of the spirit as a separate experience from the new birth, the need to speak in tongues as proof of conversion, slain in the spirit etc.). And so when we have the U.S. president, Barrack Obama, say in a speech in Germany before his election: 'The walls between Christian and Muslim and Jew cannot stand,' (Berlin 24th July 2008) we know the deception is well advanced. How can the saints be one with those who deny that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Son of God? Well, they may, and we may, but God will not, as Paul says in Timothy, 'If we believe not, yet he abideth faithful: he cannot deny himself.' (2 Timothy 2:13)

The sixth sign is what we read of in Daniel: ''..the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.' (Daniel 12:4) Since the Second World War there has been an explosion of knowledge and travel, as the modes of transport have vastly improved and the relative cost has come right down so that even international air travel is now within the means of most in developed countries. A little before the war a trip to the moon was only talked about in comic books, and a few short years after it was a reality. There is a general feeling today that there is nothing, not even the far reaches of the universe, that cannot be attained by man with his new knowledge. That there is no sickness or disease that cannot be cured by advances in medical science, and even death itself will be conquered. With ever increasingly powerful computers, man hopes to control the weather and his whole destiny. Nothing is beyond the realms of possibility. But from God's perspective it is rather: 'Now nothing will be restrained from them which they have imagined to do.' (Genesis 11:6) There is certainly nothing inherently wrong with gaining knowledge, or travel for that matter. God, I believe, has given us a spirit to discover new things, to explore, to gain a better appreciation of other lands and peoples. It should lead us to a humility of mind to discover the incredible complexity and variety of life that God has created. Our God is not a boring God. But instead, unfortunately it often fosters an arrogance of mind. You would think that man had established the laws of the universe himself, instead of just discovering what God has put into play. And travel can be, and often is, a symptom of a restless and discontent spirit, described in airline advertising as the 'travel bug'. And knowledge can be, and often is, misused. The rapid advances in photography and computer micro processing will undoubtedly be used by the antichrist to control his subjects through camera surveillance, GPS tracking, and implanting a chip or a mark in order to buy and sell. There have been numerous books written on this subject which the reader can refer to, but it is sufficient here to note this as one of the signs of our Lord's soon return.

The seventh sign is the aligning of the world's economic and military strength with the battles and wars between the antichrist and the kings of the north, south, and east, as we read in Daniel chapters eleven and twelve, Revelation chapter sixteen, and Ezekiel chapter thirty eight. This is not one of the signs that Jesus speaks of, and it is not so clear as yet (at least not to the writer), but nonetheless a 'condition precedent' for the tremendous battles that will come in both, the lead up to the antichrist seizing power, and during his reign. In Daniel chapter eleven from verse six, where we are told that what follows is 'in the end of years,' we see a series of intrigues and battles at first between the king of the south and the king of the north, and then the king of the north invades Israel. (Daniel 11:16. See also Ezekiel Chapt. 38 where the armies out of the north, 'come up against my people of Israel') From verse twenty one, we see the rise of the antichrist (that vile person) taking power by subtlety and flatteries, and then further wars between him and the king of the south. Until, 'at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him.' (Daniel 11:40) Then 'tidings out of the east and out of the north shall trouble him,' (Daniel 11:44) and we see in Revelation what these tidings are: the kings of the east with their armies coming against him. (Revelation 16:12) Until finally we read in Revelation, 'the kings of the earth and of the whole world (are gathered) to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.' (Revelation 16:14) Now, the point of looking at all this in the context of the signs of the Lord's coming, is that it is only in very recent times (only after the Second World War, or since the rebirth of Israel) that we have seen a rapid rise in the economic power (and corresponding military power) of countries and regions to the north, south, and east of Israel, to challenge the long dominance of the west. The Arab Muslim nations to the south have suddenly grown in significance due to the tremendous oil reserves they have, which the industrialized world badly needs. Their hatred for Israel is evidenced almost daily in our newspapers.

The rise of the Russian kingdom to the north after the war saw the onset of the 'Cold War'. Though its wings have been clipped somewhat, it still remains a major power with a long history of persecution against the Jewish people and recent wars with Muslim countries. In Ezekiel we see the northern armies being led by the 'Prince of Rosh'. (Ezekiel 38:2) Finally the rise of the Asian powers to the east needs no elaborating. From the rise of Japan to challenge the west, to the new 'super power' of China as the western economies languish, we see a formidable economic and military power emerged. And the West? (That mixture of iron and clay). And Israel? Well, they shall receive the antichrist. So it is at the end of days, when Israel again has become a nation, that this generation is seeing all these signs being fulfilled. And so Jesus told his disciples (and through them, us), 'So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, (not just the fig tree) know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled'. (Matthew 24:33 - 34) Notwithstanding any uncertainty as to what period of time actually represents a generation, 70 years? the writer who was born in 1949 expects to see these things in his lifetime, if he is not called home first.

So what says our Lord to his saints? Well, firstly 'take heed to yourselves' (Luke 21:34) and 'watch and pray always'. (Luke 21:36) Secondly, 'look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh'. (Luke 21:28)