My God and My Neighbor

Apr 24, 2024

Signs of the End

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Does all the trouble in the world mean the end of the world is near? Many think so. But in this episode we’ll see that people have guessed wrong about this many times before our generation. What does God Himself say about this question? Be ready to open your Bible to Matthew 24 and other passages for the answer!


Read about this subject:
  • Scriptures: Mark 13:32; II Peter 3:10; I Thessalonians 5:1-3; Matthew 24: 1-35
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Kerry Duke: Hi, I’m Kerry Duke, host of My God and My Neighbor podcast from Tennessee Bible College, where we see the Bible as not just another book, but the Book. Join us in a study of the inspired Word to strengthen your faith and to share what you’ve learned with others.

I’m sure you’ve heard a lot about all the trouble in the Middle East. And it may be that you’ve listened to a podcast or you’ve heard a sermon that raises the question, “Is there a connection between all these things that we’re hearing about and the Bible?” In other words, are all the events that are taking place in the Middle East signs or indications that Jesus is coming very soon and with him, of course, the resurrection of the dead, the judgment day, and the end of time.

That’s what we’re going to be talking about today. We’re going to begin with some Bible answers. We’re going to look at some verses that address specifically this question of whether we can know when Jesus is coming. So let’s turn straight to the Bible. We’re going to start in Mark chapter 13, verse 32.

I realize that some of you may have access to your Bible because you’re at home or you’re in a place where you can open it and look at these verses with me. But if you’re driving or if you’re busy and you’re listening, then you can go back and get these verses later. But either way, it’s very important to recognize the authority of the Bible and realize that we need to keep this as our foundation and hold on to these verses as our anchor so that we don’t drift away from what the Bible actually says about this. So in Mark chapter 13 verse 32, Jesus gives us an answer. He says, “But of that day and that hour knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” Now notice what He says.

He says, “of that day and that hour,” that is, concerning this time, the time of His return, He says no man knows. So let those words sink in. No man knows. Now if Jesus said that nobody knows, then how can anybody today say that he does know? Secondly, you notice that He says not even the angels which are in heaven know when Jesus will return.

Now, that’s very interesting because the Bible tells us that when Jesus does come back, the angels will come with Him. There are a lot of passages that teach that. One of them would be Matthew 25, 31 through 46. But even they don’t know. So, the angels are coming with him, but those angels don’t know when.

So, even the angels don’t know when Jesus is coming, and if they don’t know, then again, the question is how can anybody on earth today say that he knows? Not only that, but Jesus says not even the Son, that is, He himself, Jesus, knows when that day will be. Now, I believe that this refers to Jesus’ state or his condition on earth.

In other words, he was dwelling in a human body. He was in physical form. This is during his days on earth. And at that time, he didn’t know when he would return. I believe when he ascended back up into heaven, then he regained that knowledge. But at any rate, what He does say is that while he was on the earth, He did not know that time.

And the question arises again. It’s a very simple question. If Jesus, the greatest preacher who ever lived, did not know when that time would be, how can any preacher today say that he can predict it or that he knows? It doesn’t make any sense for a man to even go down that road, does it? Now then, in 2 Peter 3, verse 10, you have the statement by Peter which says, “But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night.”

Now, that’s very simple. The day of the Lord here is Jesus’ coming, and the Bible says what His coming will be like. In other words, this is an illustration of how He will come. He will come as, or like, a thief in the night. First of all, He’s coming at night. That is, the thief is. That’s the illustration. Now, whether Jesus comes day or night depends on what side of the earth you’re on.

But at the same time, the illustration is that a thief breaks into a house, or he breaks into your car, or he breaks into your business, usually at night. Typically, that’s when he does it so that he doesn’t get caught. But secondly, he is a thief who comes in the night because he comes unannounced. He comes unpredicted.

There are no signs. There are no announcements. There are no indications as to when he will break in and steal. That’s how a thief operates. Jesus uses that illustration to make the point that this is how He will return. There will be no announcements. There will be no signs. There will be no prior indications that Jesus is coming at such and such a time.

That’s not how it works. And Paul uses that same illustration in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5. Notice in 1 Thessalonians chapter 5 beginning in verse 1 and going through verse 3 that he uses this illustration of a thief. And the interesting thing about this is that if you go back up into chapter four, you’ll notice that in chapter four, beginning in verse 13 and going through the rest of the chapter that Paul talks about the coming of the Lord.

So just because it says chapter five here does not mean that he’s starting a new topic. It’s the same subject. He’s just continuing it. So he says, based on what he said about the Lord coming in chapter 4 and Christians meeting Him in the air and so forth.

In chapter 5 the Bible says, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. It’s the same illustration that you find in 2 Peter chapter 3 verse 10. But he adds these words in verse 3. He says, “For when they say, Peace and safety, Then sudden destruction comes upon them as labor pains upon a pregnant woman, and they shall not escape.”

So Paul did not say that when Jesus comes again, everybody’s going to be saying gloom and doom. They’re going to be crying peace and safety like everything is all right—just the opposite of the picture that you see painted by many people today. Now, when you look at these three passages together then, I think it’s very clear:

Mark 13:32—Jesus said no man knows. No angel knows and even the Son of man when He was on earth did not know the time of Jesus’ return.

II Peter 3:10—He will come as a thief in the night.

I Thessalonians 5:1-3—He will come as a thief in the night and also people are going to be saying peace and safety, and then the sudden destruction will come upon them.

It will come unannounced and unexpected. Now, some people say, “Well, I hear what you’re saying. I understand those verses. But, what about what Jesus said in Matthew 24 when he said, ‘You will hear of wars and rumors of wars’? That’s what we’re hearing today. And he also said that you’re going to hear about famines and pestilences and earthquakes and all kinds of troubles and all kinds of sorrows. Don’t you think that that’s what we’re seeing today? I mean, things are getting really bad out there. Don’t you think that all those things say that the Lord is coming anytime soon?”

Well, let’s go to the Bible and see what He’s talking about. And more importantly, not only what He’s talking about when He said “You shall hear of wars and rumors of wars,” but when He was talking about those things occurring.

Matthew chapter 24. Now, in this chapter, Jesus has been teaching in the temple, and so they exit the temple, He and his disciples, and His disciples show him all the buildings of the temple. And the Bible says that Jesus said in verse 2, “Do you not see all these things? Verily I say to you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down.”

In other words, all this is going to be destroyed. All these beautiful buildings, the temple and the buildings surrounding it, are going to be demolished. Well, obviously, that had to shock the disciples because this was the pride and joy of the Jewish nation.

And so, the Bible says that “When they came to the Mount of Olives, they asked Jesus privately, Tell us, when shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the world?” And that’s when Jesus began to say, You need to take heed; you need to watch, because there will be many coming and saying, “I am Christ, and shall deceive many.” Then He said in verse 6, “And you shall hear of wars and rumors of wars.”

And then He says in verse seven, nation shall rise against nation. There will be famines and pestilences and earthquakes in diverse places. He talks about many false prophets arising. He talks about the love of many waxing cold, the gospel being preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations, and then the end would come.

The end of what? Well, you have to keep reading to see what that’s about. Then He said that “When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by Daniel the prophet stand in the holy place, who so reads let him understand.” That’s Matthew 24 verse 15. Now according to Luke’s account, in Luke chapter 21, you find that the abomination of desolation refers to the armies specifically, He says the armies that surrounded Jerusalem. Now, that took place in 70 AD, when the Roman armies attacked the city of Jerusalem. They surrounded it, they leveled the place, they destroyed that place. And a Jew himself named Josephus recorded those events. He lived from 37 AD to 100 AD. He was there when it happened.

And so that is the context here. Jesus is warning them about the Romans coming in and destroying the city of Jerusalem. And we know that’s the case because in verse 16, he says, let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains. When you see those armies coming into Jerusalem, you better get out. You run to the mountains.

Now, folks, it is very, very clear that he can’t be talking about the end of time. He can’t be talking about Jesus’ second coming because it’s not going to do you any good to run to the mountains when Jesus comes back. This is about an earthly war that happened many, many years ago. So, what we find then in Matthew chapter 24 is that Jesus said all this is going to be destroyed and you’re going to see these signs before that happens.

Before what happens? Before he comes in destruction of Jerusalem. You see, that is a coming of the Lord in a sense that the Bible talks about because the Lord was behind the sending of those Roman armies.

Those Roman armies came into the city of Jerusalem like they had done several times before especially, let’s say, in the book of Jeremiah. God had sent foreign armies in the past into the land of Judah and into the land of Israel to punish his people for their sins. That’s exactly what Jesus is talking about that will happen in the future from His time not far away. So He said what’s going to happen before that is that you’ll see all kinds of troubles.

You’ll see nation rising against nation. You’re going to hear of wars and rumors of wars. There will be these famines and pestilences and earthquakes and people turning against each other and the church being persecuted and yet the gospel being preached in all these places. And so he says this (now notice this in the same chapter, verse 32) “Now learn a parable of the fig tree. When his branch is yet tender and puts forth his leaves, you know that summer is near. So likewise, when you shall see all these things…” All what things? All these things that we just mentioned: the wars, the rumors of wars, and the troubles, and all that. When you see all these things—when you people that He’s talking to then, He’s talking to his disciples then, almost 2, 000 years ago)—He said, “When you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.”

Now, the critical verse is verse 34. “Verily I say to you, this generation…” Now, when Jesus is talking to his disciples and He says something about this generation, if you were one of his disciples, what generation would you be thinking about?

You’d be thinking about them. You’d be thinking about their generation. Because he’s talking to the people in that generation. That generation is the generation that Jesus was living in, the generation that the disciples were living in. He said in verse 34 “This generation (almost 2, 000 years ago) shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.

So everything that Jesus has talked about up to that point happened in the first century, folks. When He says in verse 34 “this generation” He’s not talking about our generation today. He’s talking about their generation. Again, how else would you understand it if you had heard those words in the first century?

Now in other verses, people don’t have any problem seeing this. In Matthew 12, 41, Jesus said, “The men of Nineveh shall rise in judgment with this generation.” What generation was he talking about? Well, the common sense answer is, that He was talking about the people then, the people of his generation, their generation in that time.

And that’s true. In Matthew 12:42 Jesus said, “The queen of the South shall rise up in the judgment with this generation.” What generation? Again, the common sense answer is the generation that He was talking to and living in, the people back in that day and age. And that’s exactly right. He’s not talking about our generation today.

So when Jesus said in Matthew 24 verse 34 that this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled, that means that everything that you read in Matthew 24 up to that point happened almost 2,000 years ago. And it happened when those Roman armies came into Jerusalem and they destroyed that place.

That’s what He’s talking about there. And to put the markers down, so to speak, just to put the boundaries down, as far as the Bible context is concerned, I want you to notice something here in your Bible. Now again, if you can get to your Bible, you’ll be able to see this a little bit better, but if you can’t get to it right now, go back to it later and look at this.

In Matthew 23, just before this, Jesus is rebuking the scribes and the Pharisees. He’s teaching in the temple which He says a little bit later is going to be destroyed. But in Matthew chapter 23, He talks about the fact that he’s going to send wise men and scribes and He’s going to send out, in other words, the apostles and the prophets and the disciples.

That’s what he talks about in verse 34: “Wherefore, behold, I send to you prophets and wise men and scribes.” Now that’s going to happen after Jesus goes back to heaven and the church begins in the book of Acts. He said, I’m going to send them out to you and some of them you’ll kill and crucify and some of them you’ll scourge them in your synagogues and persecute them from city to city.

Now, all that’s going to happen. And you see, he elaborates on that in Matthew 24. But here again in Matthew 23 verse 35, he tells those Jewish leaders that all this is going to happen that “upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zacharias, son of Barachias, whom you slew between the temple and the altar.”

Now notice what he says. He said all that blood, in other words, the guilt is going to come upon you. And what that means is these people are going to be punished. The people that he’s talking to are going to receive and incur the wrath of almighty God. And he says in verse 36. “Verily, I say to you”—and the word verily means truly, you can mark it down; this is going to happen—”Verily, I say to you, all these things…” What things? The things he just talked about in verse 34 and 35. I’m going to send my disciples out. You’re going to persecute them and all this guilt that has been building up for all these centuries is going to come upon your head. And He says in verse 34, “Verily I say to you, all these things shall come upon this generation”—your generation, the generation that I’m living in, the generation that I’m speaking to.

And then in Matthew chapter 24, he just further elaborates on that. And so, When you look at Matthew chapter 23 verse 36, just look at that as a boundary, a contextual boundary, because what follows after verse 36 especially, and going all the way down to Matthew chapter 24 verse 35 and verse 34, especially where he says, “Verily, I say to you, this generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled”—everything in between means that that generation experienced, that generation saw, those things come to pass. He is not talking about our day and age. That is just a far-out view, folks, that is completely wrong, completely out of the context of what Matthew is recording here. Now, in verse 36, Jesus said, “But.”

In other words, here’s a contrast. In verse 36, he says, “But of that day and hour knows no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” So, he’s saying to them, to his disciples, you can know, there will be signs before Jerusalem is destroyed. And that’s a much bigger event. That is a much more biblically significant event than many people realize. He says you can know the signs, the indications that the destruction of Jerusalem is about to happen.

But in verse 36, He said, as far as the second coming of Jesus is concerned, you can’t know that. You cannot predict it and there won’t be any sign. But the amazing thing is that no matter how plain these verses are, people still try to do it. In other words, they still try to predict when Jesus is coming again.

And it seems that every time there is a major catastrophe on earth, especially if there’s some kind of war, and even more especially, if it pertains to or is in the Middle East, you have preachers coming out of the woodwork trying to predict the second coming of Jesus Christ. So, let me just go back a few years.

Now, some of you will remember some of these examples better than others because you’re older. If you’re younger, these may be new to you. But no matter how much you have heard and how much you have seen and heard in your lifetime, some of these examples will go way before your time. So, let’s go back to the year 2011.

Do you remember that there was a man in 2011 that not only predicted the year that Jesus would return, but he even said that he knew the day that Jesus would come back. He said it would be May 21st, 2011. Now that preacher’s name, and he’s now deceased, was Harold Camping. He said the Lord is coming May the 21st, 2011, and of course Jesus didn’t come.

But then he said, well, I need to readjust that. And so he gave a second date, which was October the 21st, 2011. Of course, he didn’t come then either, but there were some people that actually believed that. Now, if you turn back the clock a little over a decade before that. You come to the year 2000. Now, what happened in 2000?

Well, you had the Y2K scare, the year 2000 scare. Now, some of that didn’t have anything to do with religion or with prophecy and the Bible or anything like that. Some people were just worried that the computers wouldn’t work right and they’d lose the money in the banks and so forth. And so there was what was called the Y2K scare.

But in addition to that, there had been for many years many people who believed that there was something special about the year 2000 and that the end of time would happen in the year 2000. So let me read to you something here first of all from a commentator named Adam Clarke. Now Adam Clarke was a Methodist commentator.

He wrote a commentary on the whole Bible. And I’m reading here his comments at the beginning of the section of Daniel chapter 7. Adam Clarke, notice this, lived from 1762 to 1832. Here’s what he said in his commentary on Daniel chapter 7. He talked about some of the events that would occur after the section that he’s commenting on here in Daniel chapter 7.

And he said “this hypothesis will bring the conclusion of the period to about the year of Christ 2000, a time fixed by Jews and Christians for some remarkable revolution when the world, as they suppose, will be renewed, the wicked cease from troubling the church, and the saints of the Most High have dominion over the whole habitable globe. But all this is hypothesis.”

Now, that was Adam Clarke saying that it had been a settled conviction, a common view for many, many years, that the end of the world, or at least a big change, would come in the year 2000.

But let’s go back farther than that. Let’s go back to a man who lived in the 2nd century AD.

His name was Irenaeus. Here’s what he said in a book called Against Heresies. He said, “For as in many days as this world was made, in so many thousand years shall it be concluded. And this for the whole reason that the scripture says, ‘Thus the heaven and the earth were finished and all their adornment, and God brought to a conclusion upon the sixth day the works that he had made, and God rested upon the seventh day from all his works.’ This is an account of all the things formerly created, as also it is a prophecy of what is to come.”

Now listen very carefully. This is Irenaeus. He lived from 120 to 202 AD. He said, “For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years.” Now that is a complete taking out of context second Peter chapter three verse eight.

That’s not what second Peter chapter three verse eight says at all, but Irenaeus thought that that’s what it meant. He says, “For the day of the Lord is as a thousand years. And in six days, God created things that were completed, and it is evident, therefore, that they will come to an end at the 6, 000th year, which would be the year 2000.”

So that’s an old, old idea that surfaced again in the year 2000. Now, let’s roll back the clock another decade. Let’s go back to about August of 1990. And especially January and February of 1991. What happened then? Well, that was the Gulf War. And because the Gulf War was in Iraq, and because ancient Babylon that is mentioned in the Old Testament, is also mentioned in the book of Revelation, because the ruins, the physical ruins of ancient Babylon are in Iraq, there were many preachers that said, well, this has to be it. This has to be the end. This is a sign. This has to be Armageddon. These are the wars and rumors of wars. This is Matthew 24. This is all those passages that are being fulfilled in our time. In the midst of the Gulf War crisis, there was a book written and actually revised from 1974, but it was published in 1990 and the title of that book was Armageddon, Oil, and the Middle East Crisis: What the Bible says about the future of the Middle East and the End of Western Civilization.

Well, 1990 came and went, and 1991 came and went, and there were all these books written, all these sermons preached. And the Lord did not come. It didn’t happen as they said. Let’s go back another decade to the year 1988.

The world Bible society published a book called “88 reasons why the rapture could be in 1988.” First and foremost, probably because that was 40 years after 1948, which was the year that Israel regained its independence in the Arab Israeli war. And there were many denominational preachers that said, well, that has to be a sign of the end.

God is bringing everything to a conclusion here and Israel is regaining her power and so forth.

Let’s go back even further. Let’s go back to World War II because there were many people that thought that that was the end. Again, just about any time that you have a major war, you have many people saying, This has to be it. This has to be Armageddon. This has to be the end of time.

But let’s go back to World War I. Now, that was a time of great trouble. That was a time of great tribulation. First of all, the war. That was a war that Woodrow Wilson described as being the war to end all wars because it was really, really bad and millions of people died.

But the world went on, the world made it, but also connected with that, of course, was the Spanish flu, which killed millions and millions of people worldwide. Well, there were many people that put all those things together and said, well, this has to be the end. I mean, Jesus talks about all these wars and he talks about all these plagues. This has to be the end of time.

So there was a Jehovah’s Witness by the name of Judge Rutherford. His name was J. F. They call him Judge Rutherford, who released his book in 1920. It was entitled, Millions Now Living Will Never Die.

But let’s go back even further. Let’s go back into the 1800s. In 1843, a man by the name of William Miller said that the Lord would return that year.

Now, he was not just guessing at that. It was speculation, of course, and it was taking verses out of context, but he didn’t just pull that year out of the air, so to speak. He had some kind of mathematical formula that he had devised from the book of Daniel. The book of Daniel has a lot of numbers in it.

And so you’ll read in the book of Daniel about the 1290 days and the 1335 days, which many people believe represent years. Well, Miller took those verses and other verses in the book of Daniel and he created a mathematical formula that gave him the sum of 1843. And he said that’s the year when everything will end.

Well, it didn’t and his followers were disappointed and some still believed him because he said, well, I missed it by a year. And so he recalculated and he said, it will be the year 1844. And tragically, some of his followers believed him then, but he was wrong. And I ask you, how many times does this have to happen before people wake up?

Ironically, the same pattern just keeps happening over and over again. It just keeps recycling. And that is every time that there is some kind of major crisis, some kind of catastrophe, and especially if it’s war, and even more especially if it’s a war that involves the Middle East or Russia, then preachers just jump all over that.

They start trying to be prophets when they’re not. They misuse verses of Scripture, they deny the plain meaning of the verses that we began with today, and more than that, they also get people distracted from what they ought to be doing, because instead of trying to guess when Jesus is coming again, people ought to be preparing themselves and getting ready for when Jesus does come again.

Because if you’re ready, it doesn’t matter when He does come again. If you’re prepared for the Lord’s coming, the date of His coming is not the big matter. But these people, in a semi-political, religious way, try to make that the focus of everything that they’re doing, and that is simply not biblical.

Remember, if Jesus said that no man knows, then no man knows.

Thank you for listening to My God and my Neighbor. Stay connected with our podcast on our website and on Apple, Spotify, YouTube, or wherever fine podcasts are distributed. Tennessee Bible College, providing Christian education since 1975 in Cookeville, Tennessee offers undergraduate and graduate programs.

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