God has given assurance that Jesus Christ is coming again. For the righteous, He is coming with eternal life. For the ungodly, He is coming with eternal condemnation (John 5:28-29). Speculations abound concerning the timing, the nature, and the events of that day. Many prophecies have been given concerning the date of Christ’s return. All have failed. This should neither surprise us, nor should we heed any man who claims to know the day or hour of His coming. For as the scripture says, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (Matt. 24:36).
What About The “Signs Of The Times”?
When we talk about God’s judgment, many people fix their attention on the “signs” which Jesus discusses in Matthew chapter 24. Do these signs pertain to the last day, or to some other event? The discourse in this chapter took place during the last week before Jesus’ crucifixion. As He viewed the temple with His disciples, He foretold its utter ruin and destruction. “Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Matt. 24:2). Later, as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples questioned Him on this, saying, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matt. 24:3).
The “signs” Jesus presents in Matt. 24:4-35 are in answer to the disciples’ question. They pertain to the destruction of Jerusalem. He said to His disciples that they would “hear of wars and rumors of wars” (Matt. 24:6), but that they should not be troubled, “for such things must happen, but the end is not yet” (Mark 13:7). There would be great tribulation, earthquakes, pestilence and famine. Then would come the “abomination of desolation”, which refers to the destruction of the Jewish temple and the end of the sacrificial system (Dan. 9:27; 12:11). At that time people would flee into the mountains and there would be false reports of Christ’s return.
Are we still waiting for these things to happen? Should we expect to see “wars and rumors of wars,” and increased earthquakes, pestilence, and famine to signify that the end of the world is near? Jesus gives the timeframe for these signs. “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place” (Matt. 24:34). “This generation” refers to people living in that day. In other words, looking back from the 21st century, all of these “signs” have already happened. The great tribulation, the fleeing of the people, the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem, all of it took place in the first century A.D.
No Signs for the Last Day
As Jesus continues His discourse, He goes on to describe another day that would be different from the destruction of Jerusalem. This would be a “day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, but My Father only” (vs. 36). Observe the abrupt change in language. Signs abounded for the judgment on Jerusalem. Now Jesus describes something that would take place at an unknown time and without warning. Read verses 35 and 36 together: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, but My Father only.” Having used the passing of heaven and earth as a comparison, Jesus now turns to that event—the last day.
For that day there will be no signs. No one will know when the end is about to come. There will nothing to tell us to get ready except the admonitions already provided in the Scriptures. There will be no fleeing. We should not expect any great tribulation or famines or pestilence beyond what is common in the world. All will seem normal. Jesus goes on to illustrate, “For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be” (Matt. 24:38-39).
When the Thessalonians had questions concerning the coming of Christ, Paul reminded them, “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night” (1 Thess. 5:1-2). Will a thief notify the master of a house that he is coming? Will he provide signs that his arrival is near? No. The nature of Jesus’ second coming will be like that of a thief in the night—when it is least expected and without warning. Thus, Paul continues, “For when they say, ‘Peace and safety!’ then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape” (1 Thess. 5:3).
Jesus uses the analogy of a thief in the night to show the attitude we need to have concerning the last day. “But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into. Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (Matt. 24:43-44, emph. mine DP).
Are You Ready?
Could Jesus come today? Yes. Could He come in ten years, fifty years, or one-hundred years? Yes. When He will actually come no one knows but the Father. Ours is not to second-guess what God is going to do or when He is going to do it, but to heed what He says and to make ourselves ready. “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober” (1 Thess. 5:6). “Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour in which the Son of Man is coming” (Matt. 25:13).
Are you ready for that day? Are you watching? When the Master comes will you be caught by surprise, or will He find you ready and working?