There have always been wars, rumours of wars, nation rising against nation and kingdom against kingdom and famine and earthquakes in various places, pestilence, spiritual deception, persecution of New Covenant believers, apostasy and also many antichrists who collectively teach us about the final antichrist to come (Matthew 24:5-13) (1 John 2:18).
Many Bible believers in past history within the Body of the Messiah thought that the end of the age was at hand. The ‘signs’ mentioned by the Messiah in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke has always marked history since the first century onwards.
Having said this, what makes this time in which we live different from all pervious times in history? In fact how close are we to the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus?
We know from what the Messiah our Lord Jesus Himself said that no man knows the day or the hour of His Second Coming and also at that time even the angels and He Himself did not know. Of course in heaven in eternity He knows now that day set by God when He will judge the world in righteousness by the man He has appointed for this task being the Messiah our Lord Jesus (Matthew 24:36) (Acts 17:31). This is an appointment that everyone will keep!
While we cannot know the day or the hour when the Messiah our Lord Jesus will come back to earth, we can know the times, the signs and the events that will precede it. Let’s look at these briefly…
1. The ‘Birth Pains’ (Contractions)
In Matthew Chapter 24 the Lord Jesus spoke about the signs that would indicate the end of this present age and likened them to the contractions a pregnant woman experiences just before she gives birth (Matthew 24:4-8).
When the contractions start they come infrequently and then they start to increase in frequency and in intensity, however when they start coming one upon another without let up you know that the birth of the baby is about to happen.
So when we see spiritual deception spiralling out of control, those with a false anointing jamming the airways and standing in many pulpits, wars and rumours of wars, nation rising against nation in ethnic conflicts and kingdom against kingdom in major wars, famine and earthquakes in various places and persecution and apostasy on a scale never seen in previous history we know that the birth of the Messianic kingdom is about to happen.
The Lord Jesus also said that as New Covenant believers in Him not to be alarmed because these things must precede His Second Coming and that even when they increase that the end is not yet and that there would be more to come (Matthew 24:6).
He encouraged us to not buckle over at the knees in fear but to stand up and look heavenwards with expectant faith because our complete redemption was about to come! (Luke 21:28). He was in fact telling us to be aware of the birth pains and to discern the times but not to focus on them but rather to focus on the birth of the Messianic kingdom.
The pregnant woman experiences the birth pains and they must come before the birth, however, once the baby arrives, the birth pains are quickly forgotten in the euphoria of the new life! So it will be for all that eagerly yearn for the return and appearing of our Great God and Saviour the Messiah our Lord Jesus! The afflictions of this age will be forgotten as the new Messianic age commences. So then when we see the signs mentioned by the Lord Jesus coming one upon another without let up we know that His Second Coming is drawing near!
2. The Days of Noah and Lot
In Matthew Chapter 24 :37-34 and in Luke 17:26-30 the Lord Jesus told us that just before His Second coming the whole world would be living in the same way that the people were living in the time of Noah and of Lot. In the time of Noah there was the demonic infiltration of the human race, great wickedness in all its forms.
People’s imaginations were continuously set on evil as we see today especially in the cyber world of virtual reality and coming over the internet. The thoughts and intents of people’s hearts were evil all of the time. Violence was rampant and out of control (Genesis 6:1-5). In this modern age ungodly images are constantly bombarding people’s minds; whole nations are sliding down the slippery dip of hedonism and wickedness to be confronted with the wrath of God! In the time of Noah God gave people 120 years to repent and to turn from their sins and to turn to God and come into the ark of salvation that Noah was building, but at the end only eight were saved and the rest perished and that without reprieve.
The ark of course represents the salvation only found in the Lord Jesus and that He is the only refuge from the coming wrath of God upon a Messiah hating, Messiah rejecting world. We know that unnumbered multitudes have been saved down through history and in the Time of the Great Trouble that is coming many more will be saved, but in light of the population of the world it will be only a remnant of faithful New Covenant believers who will ultimately be rescued from the coming wrath. As we read; “who gave Himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen!” (Galatians 1:4).
In the time of Noah and Lot people were fixatedly occupied with the daily affairs of life such as eating, marriage, giving in marriage, business and pleasure and having things so good in this world and not even caring about their impending doom. We see this illustrated when the Titanic hit the iceberg. People thought the ship could not be sunk and most went on partying into the night not realising that dark and deep watery grave that awaited them.
In the time of Lot it was the same conditions that happened in Noah’s time however, in the case of Sodom you had rampant, violent homosexuality and even Lot was persecuted at the end and escaped with his life and nothing more. So it will be at the end of this age which is fast approaching. Two will be living, one saved and the other unsaved. One will be swept away or taken away in judgement and the other one swept into the Messianic kingdom (Matthew 24:40-41). See also (Psalm 28:3) (Zephaniah 1:2-3) (Proverbs 21:7) (Psalm 73:19) (Psalm 58:9) (Psalm 90:5) (1 Samuel 12:25).
In light of these things we are to remain spiritually alert and watchful, not having our hope in this age or in the things of this age and on uncertain riches, but in the world to come (Matthew 24:42) (Luke 21:34-36). Remember Lot’s wife. She was escaping with Lot but looked back and perished! It would seem the fashions, the restaurants, the social contacts and the pleasures and pursuits of living in high society was too much for her to resist and she did not make it out in the end.
3. The Apostasy and the man of Sin
In his second letter to the assembly of New Covenant believers at Thessalonica Paul; wrote to them concerning the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in relation to the last days which he had already been teaching about when he had spent only several weeks with them. Eschatology was high on the list of his teaching (2 Thessalonians 2:5). He clearly taught them that the second Coming of the Lord Jesus and the rapture and resurrection could not happen until three things had occurred first.
Firstly, he mentioned the apostasy (Vs.3). This was not just a general falling away from the faith due to the increase of wickedness which the Lord Jesus mentioned would happen down through history (Matthew 24:12). The apostasy describes a widespread and deliberate rejection of Biblical salvation by those professing to be saved within Christendom (Structured denominationalism).
While apostasy has always been a mark within wider Christendom since the first century it really kicked in from the time of Constantine the Roman Caesar who professed to be a Christian and made Christianity the official religion of the empire. From this time onwards the apostasy started to really kick in when pagan ceremonies, rituals, idols and traditions were ‘Christianised.’
Today apostasy is rampant within wider Christendom! We see interfaith, ecumenism, seeker friendly, purpose driven marketing strategies for church growth, hyper faith prosperity, and kingdom dominion, and the fanfare of the emerging church with its emphasis on sacraments and religious practices and observances and worship services conducted like rock concerts and geared to entertain rather than to see the saints sanctified!
Secondly, the apostasy will open the way for the man of sin to be revealed who is ultimately doomed to an eternal conscious torment in the lake of fire (Revelation 19:20). He will be worshipped within wider Christendom. He will make himself to be God and demand worship both within Israel and within wider Christendom (Vs. 4). This is a whole subject in itself.
Thirdly, there will be an infestation of all kinds of satanic counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders that will be so powerful that even the very elect saints of God will be in danger of spiritual deception as the Lord Jesus Himself said would happen (Matthew 24:24).
These false manifestations will be accompanied by every sort of evil that deceives those who are perishing because they refuse to love and obey the truth and so be saved (Vs.9-11). God Himself will have sent them a powerful delusion to believe the lie of the man of sin, instead of the truth as it is found only in the Lord Jesus and in the Word of God (John 14:6) (Psalm 119:160).
Those who have chosen not to believe the truth and whose conscience has been seared as with a hot iron making them incapable of responding to spiritual truth, will stand condemned because they have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness. This wickedness is not primarily referring to outward acts but to a heart that hardens itself to the truth of God’s Word fully expressed in the person of the Lord Jesus. God calls this delighting in wickedness! This is why we must make God’s word the only and final compass for our sojourn and journey through our temporal life in this world (Psalm 119:105).
4. The Rebirth of Israel
The prophet Isaiah foretold of this event that would happen at the very end of this present age when God spoke through him. “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once? As soon as Zion travailed, she also brought forth her sons. “Shall I bring to the point of birth and not give delivery?” says the Lord. “Or shall I who gives delivery shut the womb?” says your God” (Isaiah 66:8-9). In 1948 after almost 2,000 years of exile Israel as a nation was reborn! It happened in a time of great travail and trouble for the Jewish people yet God was in it.
This was a fulfilment of Isaiah’s prophecy and affirmed by the other prophets such as Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Daniel, Amos, Micah and other prophets who all wrote the Spirit-breathed Word of God (2 Peter 1:20-21) (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
Israel is God’s prophetic time clock for the nations. In 70AD it broke down but not beyond repair. The hardening of Israel’s heart as a nation towards God was a partial hardening that will be completely removed when the Lord Jesus comes back (Romans 11:25-27). After a long period where God was repairing His prophetic time clock for the nations it started ticking again in 1948. Since that time Israel has been the main focus of world history and this is no accident because the Messiah, the King of the Jews and our Lord and Saviour is coming back to the Mount of Olives and to make his headquarters at Jerusalem.
5. The Gospel of the Kingdom
The Lord Jesus gave us the last and greatest sign that will mark the end of this age. He said; “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations and then the end shall come” (Matthew 24:14). In the midst of all of the ‘birth pains’ we have looked at there will be one great sign that will mark the end of this present age and that will be the gospel of the kingdom being proclaimed in all nations on earth. Today with modern technology this is fast becoming a reality and yet there are still millions who as yet have never heard the gospel of the Kingdom being preached to them.
The gospel of the kingdom includes the gospel but has attached to it an eschatological application. People always like to know about the future and using Bible prophecy in evangelism is a very powerful and persuasive tool in the hands of the Holy Spirit in bringing the unsaved to faith in the Messiah.
However, in most churches today, even in evangelical and charismatic circles, the end times, the place of Israel in Bible prophecy and the last judgement and the Second Coming of the Messiah our Lord Jesus, are being neglected and in many cases simply ignored in favour of kingdom Dominion and hyper faith and have it good in this world doctrines.
Today many ministers of the gospel do not want to offend people if the truth be known, and preach a one-sided gospel focusing on the goodness of God and the salvation He offers but neglecting the ‘weightier matters of the law’ such as sin, judgement, hell and accountability to God for one’s life in this world. In fact we are told in God’s Word that preaching the message of the cross Biblically is offensive to the unsaved and unsanctified until they come to repentance and faith in the Lord Jesus and are washed in His blood from all their sins and sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise.
Not everyone will be saved and the number lost will far outnumber those who are saved as God has always had a faithful remnant from Genesis to Revelation. However, before the Lord Jesus comes back the gospel of the kingdom will be being preached in every nation of the whole world bar none!
Only the Lord knows when this will be accomplished and the day of his return is fixed in God’s calendar, so in the meantime we are to be involved in the proclamation of the gospel of the kingdom. We may not be evangelists or preachers but we can all share one on one and even hand out tracts here and there or be involved in distributing gospel literature. Not all of us can be on the front line but we all should be engaged in fighting the war for the souls of men and women in some way.
To Sum up
When the Messiah our Lord Jesus comes again it will be brighter than the lightening flashing from east to west and every eye will see Him and know that His judgement and righteous reign has started (Matthew 2427) (Revelation 1:7). The earth will be in an advanced state of spiritual decay with the vultures of demons feasting spiritually on the inhabitants of the earth (Matthew 24:28). Things will be so bad that for the sake of the elect and for the very survival of the human race itself God will cut those days of Great Tribulation short and send the Lord Jesus back to save the planet! (Matthew 24:21-22).
At that time immediately after the tribulation of these days the Lord Jesus will rapture and resurrect the saints, rescue Israel, judge the nations, eliminate all opposition and inaugurate his Messianic reign on earth (Matthew 24:29-31). As we read in the Book of Revelation. “The seventh angel sounded his trumpet (the last trumpet), and there were loud voices in heaven saying: “The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Messiah, and He will reign for ever and ever” (Revelation 11:15).
When that seventh and last trumpet sounds those New Covenant believers who have persevered to the end by the power of the Messiah’s blood, the Word of God and by the power of the Holy Spirit will all be changed! As Paul writes; “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52).
Are the ‘Birth Pains’ upon us?
Today more than at any other time in history we are seeing the rapid increase of rampant spiritual deception within wider Christendom, within Israel and in the world at large. We are seeing nation rising against nation, kingdom against kingdom. We are seeing famines and earthquakes and pestilence in various places increasing and becoming widespread and ecological disasters of one sort or another in many nations. The whole world is like one reeling under the intoxication of liquor, and like a hut tottering in the strong wind and on the verge of collapse, because of the heaviness of its wickedness and rebellion against God and His Laws and Commandments.
As we read in the prophet Isaiah; “The earth is utterly broken apart, the earth is split open, and the earth is shaken violently. The earth staggers like a drunkard and sways like a shack. Earth’s rebellion weighs it down, and it falls, never to rise again. In that day the LORD will punish the host of heaven above (the fallen unseen spiritual world) and the kings of the earth below (on earth)” (Isaiah 24:19-21).
It seems we have entered into the beginning of ‘the birth pains’ but the end is not yet as there is more to come (Matthew 24:6) (Mark 13:7). When you consider the nuclear arsenal in many nations today, the increasing militancy and hostility from nations such as Russia, China, North Korea and especially from the Islamic world, the earth is on the precipice of an inferno unequalled in past history and never to be equalled again (Matthew 24:21-22).
We have seen two world wars and a third world war is to come which will wipe out a third of the world’s population, and that we are told by the three plagues of fire, smoke and sulphur. This conflagration will be a Judgement from God upon a world that will not repent of their sin and rebellion against God (Revelation 9:13-21).
How far into the future the Messiah’s Second Coming and the birth of the Messianic kingdom on earth is we cannot know. Most certainly the ‘birth pains’ are rapidly increasing in frequency and intensity in the world and very soon they may well be coming one upon another! When this starts to happen we know that our redemption out of this present evil age according to the will of God our heavenly Father is at hand! (Luke 21:28) (Galatians 1:4). Having said this, let’s not focus on the ‘birth pains.’ but rather on ‘the birth’, for when ‘the birth’ has come the birth pains are quickly forgotten!