Signs of the Times

5 Min Read

On the 20th of March 1980, a shallow 4.2 magnitude earthquake rocked Mount Saint Helens, a dormant volcano located in the Pacific Northwest of the United States. The volcanic mountain had been dormant since the 1840s and 1850s but this new earthquake signaled that the sleeping giant was stirring after a century of hibernation. 

Over the next few weeks the volcano showed more and more signs of not only being awake but preparing for a major eruption. Government officials began to warn residents who lived on the mountain that they needed to prepare for evacuation but no one listened.

By the beginning of April the north face of the mountain began to bulge as a result of intruding magma which remained invisible just beneath the surface. This was followed by explosions of ice, ashes and rock which sullied the pristine snowfall crusting the top of the mountain, turning it into thick grey sludge. 

At this stage officials ordered residents to evacuate. The majority heeded the warning but there were a few who resisted the orders. Among them was a homeowner who wasn’t willing to abandon his home and a handful of campers who didn’t really believe they were in imminent danger.

On the 18th of May at 8:32 a.m. Pacific Standard time the volcano erupted, causing the north slope to fall away in the largest recorded landslide in history. The wall of ice and debris raced down the hill at 500 miles an hour, torn loose by an earthquake that shook the mountain during the eruption. 

Fifty-seven people lost their lives.

The truth is no one needed to die on the mountain that day. If everyone paid attention to the signs around them and listened to the warnings issued by the authorities there wouldn't have been a single casualty.

Signs are important. They give us direction, alert us to danger, and provide guidance in an emergency. We need them but more importantly, we need to pay attention to them.  

Jesus gave his disciples an entire sermon about signs. Specifically, the signs surrounding his second coming. Alongside these, he intertwined signs that would signal the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romand in A.D. 70. Jesus gave these signs as a means of preserving life and preparing people for what was coming.

Standing on the summit of the Mount of Olives took in Jerusalem at a glance. He especially noted the temple, the crowning jewel in the Jewish national crown. The temple was not only a symbol of national pride it was also a display of national might. Made of massive white marble blocks the temple seemed indestructible.

The disciples had been quick to point this out to Jesus as they were leaving the temple earlier that day. In their minds the destruction of the temple and the city was impossible. But Jesus shattered their hopes by telling them that not a single stone would remain stacked on top of the other. Not only would the city be sacked but the temple would be razed to the ground as well.

Shaken and curious, the disciples asked Jesus to tell them more. When will these things be? And what will be the signs of the end of the world? Because surely, the temple would only be destroyed at the end of the world, not when everything else kept moving on as it always had. 

The first sign Jesus gave them was a warning against false messiahs. There were many who rose up prior to the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. Most of them were idealistic young zealots bent on saving their nation from Roman oppression. All of them, and their followers met a brutal end. 

Similarly Jesus warned that false prophets and false messiahs would rise up prior to his coming. This is something we’ve seen in the past several decades. Cultic leaders have risen up convincing scores of people to poison themselves in anticipation of being transported to an orbiting comet or live in the remote jungles of Guyana. False prophets have deceived so many honest hearted people, leading them away from the word of God and towards a religious system of their own making. 

Jesus then detailed political, economic and social upheaval that would lead to war and conflict. This would be followed by natural disasters; famines, pestilences and earthquakes. All of this would be the beginning of sorrows. 

His followers would be persecuted and betrayed by those closest to them. Lawlessness would run rampant throughout the world. Amid all this chaos, the good news of Jesus would be preached across the globe.

While Jesus emphatically declared that no one would know the exact day or hour of his coming he did say that the time immediately before it would resemble a woman in labor. Just as contractions during labor grow in frequency and intensity, finally climaxing in birth the signs of Jesus coming would grow more frequent and intense until they climaxed in his return. 

When we look at the world around us today we see that the majority of the signs that Jesus foretold have come to pass. Not only that, they are also increasing in both frequency and intensity. Earthquakes are more common, famines are more intense, widespread pandemics are crippling the world and warfare is now at its deadliest with some of the world’s most powerful countries stockpiling nuclear weapons. 

As we keep an eye on the events around us we need to make sure that we turn our hearts towards Jesus. Ultimately what will prepare us for his coming is not just a knowledge of the signs that point to its nearness but a soul-deep relationship with him that is both transforming and fulfilling. 

What is your spiritual condition? Do you frequently enjoy fellowship with Jesus through Bible study and prayer? Do you lean on him when you’re faced with trials? Do you trust him when everything seems bleak? Have you experienced his power in your life? How you answer these questions will determine how ready you are to face the greatest event in earth’s history. 

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