Summary: Signs from the present era that this may be the generation that will see Jesus’ reappearance.
In every era since the church began, there have been those who have been convinced that the signs were right for Jesus’ return. It is a natural instinct for Christians to watch for the signs of His second coming, for Jesus’ return for us is one of the great hopes the Bible teaches.
Jesus taught in His parable of the fig tree that as His reappearance nears, that generation will see the signs but not know the moment:
Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you, also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the very doors. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things are fulfilled. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will be no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, no not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Matthew 24:32-36).
We learn from Jesus’ parable that as Christians we will be aware as the time approaches, because we will see the signs, but that no one but God the Father will know the exact day and moment of Christ’s reappearance.
In the passage preceding the parable of the fig tree, Jesus identifies some of the signs. Well, you may think, all we need to do is study His list and we will know when the time is ripe. It’s not quite that easy, because many of the signs Jesus identifies in Matthew 24:4-31 have been present in every generation. This is part of the mystery, I believe, which the Holy Spirit intentionally left for us to ponder. That is because God wants us to be always vigilant and always ready to come face-to-face with Jesus, and always faithful as if that might happen today, rather than to grow complacent because of some assurance that the time isn’t right for Jesus’ return. As we discussed in our study last week, that is the important message of Matthew 24: Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. . . . Therefore you also be ready . . . (Matthew 24:42,44). He wants us to remain faithful, to be prepared to meet Him when He comes!
Jesus describes many signs of His imminent return in Matthew 24:4-31, in response to the question from His followers asking when He would return and what would be the sign of His coming and the end of the age:
And Jesus answered and said to them: Take heed that no one deceives you. For many will come in My name, saying, I am the Christ, and will deceive many. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not troubled; for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. And there will be famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in various places. All these are the beginning of sorrows. Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. But he who endures to the end shall be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come.
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place (whoever reads, let him understand), Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! And pray that your flight may not be in winter or on the Sabbath. For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened.
Then if anyone says to you, Look, here is the Christ! or There! do not believe it. For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.