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Article 82 - SIgns of Second Coming?
Are There Signs of Jesus' Second Coming?
Jon Gary Williams
Over the years there have been many so-called "prophets" who claimed to know when Jesus would come again. More than 150 years ago William Miller, of Seventh Day Adventist fame, declared that Jesus would come in the year 1843. When this date failed, he revised it to the year 1844, and later had to revise it again and again.
Likewise, in the mid 1800s Joseph Smith, orchestrator of Mormonism, predicted Jesus would return in 1891. That prediction also proved to be wrong. Then, Charles Russell, instigator of the Jehovah's Witnesses, gave different dates in the late 1800s and then finally settled on 1914. Later it was changed to 1925. In the 1960s the popular premillennial writer Hal Lindsey taught that Jesus would return in 1988. That date also failed. But his book "The Late Great Planet Earth" made him a millionaire.
There have been many other false predictors of Jesus' second coming. However, one thing is certain: there is no way man can predict, even remotely, the time that Jesus will return. Of those who attempt to predict the Lord's second coming, several things are common to them all: 1) Their predictions all fail. 2) Since they place the second coming at different times, their predictions obviously contradict. But there is something else that is common to these
so-called "prophets" as well to all those who have fallen victim to the wide-ranging doctrines of millennialism - - they believe they find support for their theories in the scriptures. And invariably, they turn to the twenty-forth chapter of the book of Matthew.
The assumption is made that the events Jesus mentioned in Matthew chapter 24 help identify the time of His second coming. They emphasize verses six and seven which speak of wars between nations, famines, pestilences and earthquakes. And they assign these events to more current times. However, the fact is, such calamities are no more prevalent in current times than they have been at other times in history. In fact, there have been times in the past when events of this nature were even more prevalent.
What Was Jesus Teaching In Matthew 24?
First, observe the question Jesus was asked.
As Jesus was leaving the temple area His disciples called attention to the magnificent buildings of the temple (v. 1). In verse 2 Jesus responded by saying, "Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Jesus, of course, was speaking of physical destruction of the city of Jerusalem which occurred just 40 years later in 70 A.D.
Later, on the Mount of Olives, His disciples asked him, "Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of Your coming, and the end of the world?" We must understand that the Jews felt the only way Jerusalem could ever be destroyed would be at the end of world.
However, Jesus was not speaking of the actual end of the world. Notice carefully the occasion. Jesus spoke of the "abomination of desolation" (v. 15), which referred to the armies of the Roman Empire. This is confirmed by Luke's account of this "desolation" - - Jerusalem would be
surrounded by "armies." (Luke 21:20, 24)
It is sad that men attempt to apply these Biblical passages to a time several thousand years later - - passages that deal solely with the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century.
Second, notice the clear statement of Jesus designating the time frame of these signs. "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place." (v. 34) Clearly, the "things" (signs) of which Jesus spoke would be completed before that present generation would pass. No matter how hard men try, there is no way these "signs" can be made to refer to events more than 1900 years later.
Third, remember that Jesus was referring to a more current setting, not the end of time.
He said this would involve the "holy place," that is, the city of Jerusalem that then existed (v. 15).
Fourth, Jesus also told them that when the time came, to flee.
He said, "flee to the mountains." (v. 16) But, if this involved the second coming, what good would it do to flee to the mountains?
Fifth, Jesus warned of possible difficulties.
He said, "And pray that your flight may not be in winter, or on the Sabbath." (v. 20) Winter weather and the city gates being closed on the Sabbath would make fleeing the city difficult. But, again, if this is the second coming, what good would either of these do? This clearly shows that Jesus was speaking of something relevant to that place and that time, not the second coming and the end of time.
Remember, what Jesus was speaking of involved events that could be seen and that would take place in that generation. However, beginning at verse 36 Jesus turned his attention to something else - - to His actual second coming for which there would be no signs.
Jesus' Second Coming
Jesus now tells them about something vastly different from the destruction of Jerusalem He had just discussed, an event for which there would be no indication of when it would take place - His second coming.
Jesus compared His second coming the Genesis flood. (vv. 37-39) Of this Jesus said the people, "...did not know until the flood came." Like the flood, Jesus' second coming would be sudden with no warning, contrary to the destruction mentioned prior to verse 34, for which there would be warnings (signs).
Our Lord also compared His second coming to the sudden break-in of a thief. (vv. 42-44) The thief comes without warning, with no advanced signs to see. Of his second coming, Jesus said, "Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect."
So, while Jesus told of events (signs) that could be seen regarding the eventual fall of Jerusalem, in contrast, He said there would be no warning of His second coming. This clearly shows that the events in the early part of Matthew 24 and the second coming of Christ (beginning at verse 36) are not the same.
Lastly, of the second coming of Jesus, only God knows when this will be. "But of that day and
hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only." (v. 36) Furthermore, not even Jesus knows. (Luke 13:32) However, Jesus did know when the coming destruction of Jerusalem would occur, for He gave signs of its destruction. So, obviously, these two events were not the same.