There Will Be No Signs!
It is not uncommon to hear people discussing the end of time and delineating the “signs” that, they say, are proof that Christ’s return is imminent. These signs include “wars and rumors of wars,” “earthquakes,” and various political/military events that one observes on the evening news. These loud proponents of gloom claim to be representing the Bible in their calculations and forecasts. Of course, to date, every attempt to pinpoint the date of Christ’s return has failed.
The fact is that earthquakes could not have been intended by God to be a sign of the end of the world. Since 1900 alone, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) estimates that several million earthquakes occur in the world each year. Many go undetected because they hit remote areas or have very small magnitudes. The National Earthquake Information Center (NEIC) now locates about 50 earthquakes each day, or about 20,000 a year (NEIC Web Team, 2003). Since earthquakes have been fairly constant for the last 2,000 years, and occur on a daily basis, they would be completely useless in attempting to recognize the end of the world. However, if Jesus intended them to be immediate signs, contemporaneous with the first century, they would have served a useful purpose.
Consider for a moment what the Bible actually teaches on this matter. In Matthew 24, Jesus pinpointed numerous signs by which His disciples and Jewish Christians could recognize the occasion of the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. The signs that Jesus mentioned included “wars and rumors of wars” (vs. 6), “famines and earthquakes” (vs. 7), the Gospel preached to the whole world (vs. 14), and the approach of the Roman armies (vs. 15; cf. Luke 21:20). These events functioned as signals by which the faithful could identify the “end” (vss. 6,14) of the Jewish commonwealth. Jesus provided descriptive detail in response to the disciples’ question concerning the destruction of the temple (vss. 2-3). Just as tender branches and fresh leaves signal the approach of summer (vs. 32), so the multiple signs that Jesus pinpointed would signal the coming of Christ in judgment on the Jewish nation (vs. 33) in A.D. 70.
Then, beginning in verse 36, Jesus turned His attention to the question of the end of time and His Second Coming. Notice the difference! Jesus went out of His way to stress the total absence of signs signaling the end of the world and the Second Coming. He declared that His final coming would be comparable to the Deluge of Noah’s day (vs. 37), in that it will be totally unexpected. Right up to the very day that Noah and his family entered the ark, life was going on as usual. No signs! Jesus said farmers will be in the field as usual (vs. 40); women will be involved in their activities as usual (vs. 41). Jesus even likened the unexpected nature of His final coming to the exploits of a thief (vs. 43). Both Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2) and Peter (2 Peter 3:10) repeat this analogy. As the coming of a thief in the night is preceded by absolutely no signs, so the final coming of Jesus will be preceded by absolutely no signals.
Contrary to the prevailing notions of today concerning “the signs of the times,” the Bible asserts that there will be a total absence of signs to prepare the world for the end of time. The only hope of the entire world is to render obedience to the written revelation of the Bible (Matthew 24:46). Noah preached, apparently for many years, in hopes of alerting the world’s population to the coming judgment upon them. They refused to listen. Likewise, the only “tip off ” available today is the Gospel of Jesus Christ that instructs every accountable individual what to do to be right with God. When one brings one’s life into compliance with those directives, “signs” by which to anticipate the return of Christ are completely superfluous.
NEIC Web Team (2003), “Earthquake Facts and Statistics,” [On-line], URL: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/eqlists/eqstats.html.