Gospel Signs of Jesus' Return
Sane and Sensible Perspectives on the Last Days
Jesus gave us this sign, but Peter explained it. He wrote that the Father is in no hurry to bring things to a quick close because He doesn’t want anyone to perish, but all to come to repentance. For that to happen the gospel has to be preached to the entire world. That day is coming at us like a freight train…
Unprecedented Gospel Signs
Peter foresaw that the return of the Lord Jesus would be significantly delayed. He saw, too, that this unexpectedly long delay would give scoffers additional reason for doubting that Jesus would come back at all. It might even cause sincere believers to question this epic promise of the Lord. According, he gives us two important insights into the timing of the Second Coming.
Knowing this first of all, that scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires. They will say, "Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation." … But do not overlook this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day. The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance. 2 Peter 3:3-4, 8-9 ESV
We who are enmeshed in time easily “overlook” the reality that God isn’t. Because God is outside our time and space, His view of time’s passage is radically different from ours. For Him a thousand years is as one day. That Jesus said He was coming back “soon” just doesn’t sound the same to His ears as it does to ours! However, there is a further mystery here that is well worth exploring. It is the “Sign of the Seventh Year” and it relates directly to the timeline of the Lord’s Return.
The Father's Heart of Love
By far the more endearing reason for the delay is the Father’s Heart. Jesus told us, “God so loves the world” that He doesn’t want anyone to be lost. Grace shows up here as God’s gift of time—time that allows everyone the chance to repent. Well, “OK,” the Early Church may have said. “Give us a generation to get the message out.” To their understanding the world was largely confined to the Mediterranean basin—well within their reach. They had no practical concept of the immense size of the earth, or that it was already covered by far-flung nations entirely unknown to them. Ah, but not unknown to our Father!
That’s why the long delay makes perfect sense. The gospel must go out to the whole world, not just the ones who first received it. That kind of universal evangelism was a practical impossibility before the invention of modern means of transport. Interestingly, this unavoidable delay on our part in reaching around the world, would give God even more time-opportunity to bring “many sons and daughters to glory” (Hebrews 2:10 NIV). Just consider this: the population of the world then was about 300 million. Now it is over seven billion.
Our God is after an immense harvest! All the signs are saying the time is ripe for the greatest in-gathering of souls the world has ever seen.
1) The Gospel to the World
For the first time in world history, the gospel is on the verge of reaching every living person. This is all the more amazing since the numbers are increasing exponentially. By the time Jesus returns there may well be more Christians alive on the earth, than have ever lived. But as quickly as the world’s population has grown in recent years, technology has grown even more swiftly. New means of electronic communication have brushed aside all former limits to reaching the world.
Consider the different paths which are converging now. The “old school” method for reaching the lost required years of training for missionaries and Bible translators alike. They often sowed their entire lives into the mission overseas. This work progressed painstakingly slowly, but it is now reaching its zenith. The Bible is at last being targeted for translation into every known language (see Wycliffe translators). The gospel is also being carried by missionaries into every known people group as a witness to all the nations (see MorningStar's Eagle Missions for example). This monumental task is nearly completed.
Old School Meets New Tech
At the same time, recent developments have flooded the entire planet with astonishing new high-tech capacities to spread the gospel. The internet, satellite television, radio
and cell phones span the globe, bringing the message of salvation into the very air surrounding every tribe and nation. Which will get the job done first? Probably, the answer is both! There is no way, however, for us to decide the issue. We don’t even know when one individual has fairly and fully “heard” the gospel, let alone seven billion. But we are clearly getting close.
All of this had to happen first, then the end can come. Can anyone dispute it is happening?
As he sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the close of the age?" And Jesus answered them, "…And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:3-5,14 ESV
2) The Tabernacle of David
For the church as a whole, there is a little-known sign that has, perhaps, escaped the attention of many. Of course, it is well-known to those who are involved in it, but this is still a remnant portion compared to the whole. This gospel sign is the emergence of a worldwide prayer and praise movement. Prayer and praise that is offered before the Lord as continuous worship is prophesied of the end of the age.
In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up its ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old. Amos 9:11 ASV
"After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it, that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things known from of old.” Acts 15:16-17 ESV
King David commissioned a sizable troop of worshippers and musicians to offer continuous prayer and praise at the Tabernacle in Jerusalem. Except for the century-long 24/7 prayer vigil of the Moravians at Herrnhut in Germany, the earth has rarely seen such extravagant worship sustained on the Davidic scale. Curiously, this too, is one of the things God is raising up in the earth today and restoring to the life of the church. A 24/7 worship and intercessory movement began in Kansas City, Missouri in 1999. According to founding pastor Mike Bickle, The International House of Prayer (IHOP) has inspired a hundred other prayer groups all over the world to follow their lead.
3) Messianic Jewish Believers
A long-awaited sign is finally coming to pass. The conversion of Jews at the end of the age of the Gentiles is a present reality. Previous centuries have seen forced Jewish converts to Christianity who continued to practice their Jewish faith secretly. Willing, believing converts—though rare—had no other option than to be assimilated into Gentile Christianity with a resulting loss of their Jewish heritage. Such Jewish conversions were in themselves proof that the “age of the Gentiles” was still in full swing.
Something radically different is happening in our day. Messianic Jewish congregation can be found in most major cities. These are Jewish converts to Christian faith in Jesus, but who retain their Jewish heritage and identity. They continue to keep the Jewish festivals, their congregations are presided over by Rabbis, yet they enthusiastically worship Jesus as their Messiah. This phenomenon has not been seen on earth since the expulsion of Jewish Christians from the synagogues late in the first century following the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. Messianic Judaism began in the 1960s and has been growing rapidly ever since. It marks a dramatic shift towards the end of the age of the Gentiles.
And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again. For if you were cut from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and grafted, contrary to nature, into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these, the natural branches, be grafted back into their own olive tree. Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:23-25 ESV
They will fall by the edge of the sword and be led captive among all nations, and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21:24 ESV
Who Can Argue with these Signs?
These gospel signs are utterly unprecedented. Until this generation the gospel clearly had not reached the entire world. Now, it is covering the globe. Prior to 1999, continuous (24/7) prayer and praise simply didn’t exist. It has been going on non-stop ever since then, and will continue to blossom. Only a half century ago, the phrase “messianic Jew” or “completed Jew” was unheard of. Now, the emergence of Jewish converts on a large scale and of a fully Jewish character is bringing down the curtain on the exclusive faith-hold of Gentile Christianity itself. Yet, these signs are not only unprecedented, they are incontrovertible. Who can possibly argue that Biblical prophecies of the Last Days are not being dramatically fulfilled in our day?
Two More Unprecedented Signs
Jewish Signs It is a mark of God’s faithfulness that He never forgets, but always fulfills, His promises and His purposes. Long before Jesus came to earth, God chose the Jewish people to be in a unique covenant relationship with Himself. This was certainly intended for their benefit, but also for ours: Ultimately the long-awaited Savior would come to them, then through them to us. Guess what? He is getting things ready to do it again!
Global Signs When the Bible was being written the “world” to its authors was no larger than the Mediterranean basin and outlying provinces, mostly under Roman control. Before the entire world could be organized into anything like the unified whole pictured in the Book of Revelation, it first had to be explored, then subdued. When these signs were given, they were unthinkable possibilities; now they are everyday realities. Well, almost all…