Are We Living in the End Times?

Biblical Signs of End Times Point to Jesus Christ’s Soon Return

End Times
MATJAZ SLANIC / Getty Images

Increasing unrest on planet earth seems to indicate that Jesus Christ will be coming again soon. Are we in the End Times?

Bible prophecy is a hot topic now because it seems current events are fulfilling predictions made thousands of years ago. Overall, the End Times, or eschatology, is an extremely complex field, with as many opinions as there are Christian denominations.

Some scholars question whether more prophetic events are happening in the world today or whether reporting of them has simply accelerated because of 24-hour cable news and the internet.

Christians agree on one thing, however. Earth history will culminate in the reappearance of Jesus Christ. To see what the New Testament says about the subject, it makes sense to review the words of Jesus himself.

Jesus Gave These End Times Warnings

Three Gospel passages provide signs as to what will happen as the End Times approach. In Matthew 24 Jesus says these things will occur before his return:

  • False messiahs, false prophets will appear
  • Wars and rumors of war
  • Nations and kingdoms will fight each other
  • Earthquakes and famines
  • Persecutions, betrayals
  • Increase of wickedness
  • Preaching the gospel to the whole world
  • Darkening of the sun and moon, stars falling, heavenly bodies shaken.

Mark 13 and Luke 21 repeat the same speech, almost verbatim. Luke 21:11 gives this somewhat vague warning:

"There will be great earthquakes, famines, and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven." (NIV)

In Mark and Matthew, Christ mentions the "abomination that causes desolation." First mentioned in Daniel 9:27, this term prophesied the pagan Antiochus Epiphanes erecting an altar to Zeus in the Jerusalem Temple in 168 BC. Scholars believe Jesus' use of it refers to the destruction of Herod's temple in 70 AD and another atrocity yet to come, involving the Antichrist.

End Times students point to these circumstances as supposed fulfillment of the conditions of Jesus' reappearance: cults' mistaken dates for the end of the world, constant warfare on earth, earthquakes, hurricanes, floods, famines, AIDS, Ebola, persecution of Christians by ISIS, widespread sexual immorality, mass shootings, terrorism, and worldwide evangelism campaigns.

More Warnings in Revelation

Revelation, the last book of the Bible, gives more warnings that will precede the return of Jesus. However, the symbols are subject to at least four different types of interpretations. A common explanation of the Seven Seals found in chapters 6-11 and 12-14 coincide roughly with Jesus’ warnings from the Gospels:

  • First Seal: False prophets 
  • Second Seal: War
  • Third Seal: Famine
  • Fourth Seal: Plague
  • Fifth Seal: Tribulation (persecution)
  • Sixth Seal: Heavenly signs

Revelation says after the Seventh Seal is opened, judgment will come upon earth through a series of catastrophes that conclude with Christ’s return, final judgment, and the establishment of eternity in the new heaven and new earth.

Rapture Vs. Second Coming

Christians are divided over how Jesus’ return will be manifested. Many evangelicals believe Christ will first come in the air in the Rapture, when he will gather the members of his church to himself. They suggest a Second Coming, after the events of Revelation take place on earth, will come much later.

Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Anglicans/Episcopalians, Lutherans, and some other Protestant denominations do not believe in the Rapture, but only a Second Coming.

Either way, all Christians believe Jesus Christ will return to earth because he promised on several occasions that he would. Millions of Christians think the current generation will live to see that day. 

The Most Important Question: When?

A reading of the post-resurrection New Testament reveals something surprising. The Apostle Paul and other epistle writers thought they were living in the End Times 2,000 years ago.

But unlike some modern ministers, they knew better than to set a date. Jesus himself had said:

"But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." (Matthew 24:36, NIV)

Still, Jesus commanded his followers to be on guard all the time because he could come back at any moment. That seems to contradict the idea that many conditions must be met before his return. Or does it imply that those conditions have already been met, over the past two millenniums?

Regardless, several of Christ's teachings in parables give instruction on being prepared for End Times. The parable of the Ten Virgins advises Jesus' followers always to be alert and ready for his return. The parable of the Talents gives practical guidance on how to live in readiness for that day.

As things deteriorate more and more on earth, many feel Jesus’ return is long overdue. Other Christians believe God, in his mercy, is delaying as long as possible so more people can be saved. Peter and Paul caution us to be about God’s business when Jesus does come back.

For believers worrying about the exact date, Jesus told his disciples before his ascension into heaven:

"It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority." (Acts 1:7, NIV)

Sources