Summary: A study of how people have seen the signs of the coming of Jesus in every century from the First Century to ours
The Christian Faith The End of Time
IS THIS THE END- AGAIN?
“When you see all these things take place you will know the end is near- I tell you the truth this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place.” (Matt. 24:33-34)
Signs of the End
Just before He died, Jesus Christ preached a sermon on two subjects: the destruction of Jerusalem in about 40 years (AD 70); and His return and the end of the world as we know it. This is found in Matt. 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. He promised certain historical events (signs) would signals that His return was near. What makes it hard to interpret is that some, or all, of these signs would announce the destruction of Jerusalem forty years later in 70 AD. In fact this entire sermon to when the Temple would be torn down. (Mt. 24:1-3). The 10 signs most people agree on are:
False messiahs and prophets,
Wars and news or wars,
Persecution of Christians,
An increase of wickedness,
The gospel preached to allthe world,
Bewilderment among the nations,
An evil expression of anti-Christ (Mt.24:14; 2 Th. 2),
Increased wisdom and travel (Dan. 12:4)
Jews would return to Palestine and Jerusalem
IN THE FIRST CENTURY
(Matt , 16:28 / Matt. 24:34)
Jesus said, “This generation will not pass away until all these things (the signs) take place.” (Mt. 24:33). First Century Christians expected the return of the Lord. Peter said in the first church sermon that we are living in the “last days” (Acts 2). Twenty years later James said, “The coming of the Lord draws near / the Judge is standing at the door.” (5:8-9)
During this time the church believed that the “day of the Lord had come” (2 Thess. 2:1); e.g. the signs had been fulfilled and Jesus was at the door. As Christianity spread from Persia to England Paul said the “gospel has been preached to the whole world” (Col. 1:15). But Paul knew one sign had not appeared- the rise of anti- Christ to destroy Jerusalem. He called him the “man of sin” (2 Thessl. 2). But Paul also knew this did not have to be in some far out in the future..
He said his “lawless spirit” was, “already at work in the world.” (2 Th. 2) Forty years later after the Temple had been destroyed and more than a million Jewish people killed, John said the anti-christ had already come. He saw him in the cruelty of the Roman Empire as it was now persecuting the church and in the false teachers in the churches saying Jesus was not both God and man (Gnosticism). He wrote:
“You have heard that the anti-Christ is coming.
Many anti-christs have come / Who is THE
anti-Christ except the one who say Jesus has
not come in the flesh?” (! Jn. 2).
A lot of wild pictures of some end time world ruler are being taught today, but John does an amazing thing. He looked at Gnostic teachers in the churches, who said Jesus could be God or human but not both and called them “the antichrist”.
SIGNS THROUGHOUT HISTORY
When we think of false teachings (apostasy from the faith), earthquakes, hunger, etc. we know every generation from the First Century has them so it is no surprise that every generation believes they could expect Jesus could come in their lifetime. These signs are part and parcel of history. Every generation of Christians could have sung:
Jesus is coming to earth again / What if it were today?
This is the way God intends for us to live. The First Century people were not wrong. Jesus is always at the door. The New Testament did not teach Jesus would come, but that He could. We need to live every day as if Jesus was coming today, and work for Him as thought He was not coming for another thousand years. Now lets glance as our brothers and sister in the past as they looked up and said, “Even so, come Lord Jesus” ().
Expectations All Through History
Europe 999 AD The place is Rome. The date is December 31, 999 AD. Pope Sylvester raises his hands before a packed house in St. Peter’s as the clock moves to midnight. All people are weeping, some are trembling with fear; some lie prostrate on the ground and some were not there because they had literally died of fright. Terror has settled over Europe like a fog. In almost every village and town, people were giving their goods and homes to the poor. Some were confessing sins to those they wronged. Some brought money to the church to pay for their sins. Some were beating themselves or each other with rods and whips as a sing of penance. As midnight approached, whole towns gathered together around makeshift crosses.