by Pastor Bob Conway
Matthew 23:29 -25:46
THE THIRD PROPHETIC SIGN THAT WILL SIGNAL CHRIST’S RETURN IS A RISE IN FAMINE AND PESTILENCE. There will be an increase of devastating, widespread famine. In our generation, we are faced with severe drought and famine conditions throughout portions of Africa , India , and southeast Asia. many nations in these areas are already unable to properly feed their large populations. Because of severe drought, millions of acres of fertile, agricultural land have been transformed into arid wasteland.
Large quantities of precious topsoil are lost each year. Tropical rain forest, which contribute significant amounts of our planet’s oxygen and water supply, are shrinking every year.
Compounding these problems are the staggering statistics concerning the growth rate of the world’s population. Every day more than 225,000 people are added to the earth’s population with the largest percentage born in third world nation where food supplies are already compromised.
Luke 2:11 adds “pestilence” as a sign here. In our generation, health officials have discovered more than 25 new infectious diseases for which there are no known cures or treatments. Growing urbanization, poor sanitation and the increase in air travel have all helped to spread these deadly diseases throughout our world. Though we try to protect ourselves with antibiotic drugs, health officials now find that we may have compounded the problem. Increasing numbers of diseases are showing resistance to traditional antibiotics. Many diseases of the past—bubonic plague, smallpox, diphtheria, yellow fever, malaria—are remerging as strains that are resistant to standard treatments and are becoming deadly threats to human populations. Sexually transmitted diseases are also on the rise. Of these, the AIDS virus is the most dangerous plague in history.
Toxic substances are also proliferating in our environment. Untested chemicals created in laboratories every year are casually introduced into the earth’s biosphere without adequate tests of their effects on humans, animals or plant life. Scientists readily recognize that a large percentage of cancers and cancerous tumors are caused by exposure to hazardous substances in our environment. In addition, the pestilence of pesticides has created an emergence of a new strain of germs highly resistant to chemical eradication.
Plagues and epidemics typically follow famine and war, compounding their terrors. Jesus warned that worldwide pestilence would signify His imminent return. During the coming holocaust of the tribulation, these epidemics will decimate one-fourth of the world’s population according to Revelation 6:8 —
I looked, and there before me was a pale horse! Its rider was named Death, and Hades was following close behind him. They were given power over a fourth of the earth to kill by sword, famine and plague, and by the wild beasts of the earth.
tribTHE FOURTH PROPHETIC SIGN PRECEDING CHRIST’S RETURN WILL BE EARTHQUAKES IN VARIOUS PLACES.
Both Jesus Christ and the OT prophets prophesied that the last days would see an increase in the number and severity of earthquakes. Jesus also indicated that earthquakes would occur in diverse places. In our century, we have experienced an unparalleled increase in the frequency and intensity of “killer” earthquakes that register 6.5 or higher on the Richter scale.
In 1964, when I was in the War Room, I got the rescue operation started for the Alaskan Earthquake, which was one of the biggest at 9.0.
The reported number of severe earthquakes between 1900-1970 totaled only 37. There were 56 occurrences in 1970s, and the 1980s witnessed 74 major earthquakes. The first half of the 1990s posted a record of 125 killer earthquakes worldwide, a significant jump in the geological annals.
Seismologists can calculate an estimated time when the strain along the fault would be great enough to cause an earthquake. As an example, after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake of 7.0, the measurements showed that in the 50 years prior to 1906, the San Andreas fault accumulated about 10 feet of displacement, or movement, at points across the fault. The maximum 1906 fault slip was 21 feet, so it was suggested that 50 years x 21 feet/10 feet, about 100 years, would elapse before sufficient energy would again accumulate to produce a comparable earthquake. If that calculation is correct, we are about three years away from another killer earthquake along the San Andreas fault .
According to Jesus, the intensity of earthquakes will increase like birth-pains before He comes. These are prelude to the great earthquake that is predicted in Revelation 6:12-17 “I watched as [the Lamb] opened the sixth seal. There was a great earthquake. The sun turned black like sackcloth made of goat hair, the whole moon turned blood red, and the stars in the sky fell to earth, as late figs drop from a fig-tree when shaken by a strong wind. The sky receded like a scroll, rolling up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. Then the kings of the earth, the princes, the generals, the rich, the mighty, and every slave and every free man hid in caves and among the rocks of the mountains. They called to the mountains and the rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who sits on the throne and from the wrath of the Lamb! For the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?” False Messiahs, Wars and Rumors of Wars, Famines, Pestilence, and Earthquakes are the beginning of birth pains. Birth pains are mild warnings compared to the pains that accompany birth. These ever increasing birth pains precede the Lamb opening seven seals of the Title Deed to the Earth that bring Tribulation upon the earth as has never been seen before nor ever will be seen again!
At the end of the seven years of Tribulation, Jesus will return to the earth to judge the nations and establish His kingdom.
Matthew 24:9-31 covers the Tribulation Period, and does not apply to our future since the Church will have been raptured before the wrath of the Lamb. So we will skip down to…
THE NEXT SIGN OF CHRIST’S RETURN THAT APPLIES TO US, MATTHEW 24:32-35 — Now learn this lesson from the fig-tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
This sign relates to what happened on the second day of Holy week; we are told in Mark 11:12-14
“The next day as they were leaving Bethany, Jesus was hungry. Seeing in the distance a fig-tree in leaf, he went to find out if it had any fruit. When he reached it, he found nothing but leaves, because it was not the season for figs. Then he [literally] said to the tree, “No more into the age, no one may eat fruit out of you.” The fig tree symbolizes Israel .
Fruit represents righteousness acts, but Jesus looked, He found none!
Fig leaves picture self-righteousness works as it did with Adam and Eve.
Mark 11:20-21 tells us what happened on the third day of Holy Week —
In the morning, as they went along, they saw the fig-tree withered from the roots. Peter remembered and said to Jesus, “Rabbi, look! The fig-tree you cursed has withered!” Symbolically, Israel had withered! The nation of Israel had been set aside by God until it bears fruit. But before it can bear fruit its twigs must get tender and its leaves come out. In 1948, the fig tree’s twigs became tender and its leaves came out. The nation of Israel that had been dead for centuries came back to life — physical life; not spiritual life just as predicted in the Vision of the Valley of the Dry Bones of Ezekiel 37.
Today, there is an unsaved nation of Israel that awaits its redemption! It is near, right at the door! I believe “summer” (the heat of Tribulation) that will bring about Israel ’s salvation is close. Why do I believe it? Jesus said that “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” Not the generation of Jesus’ day but the generation that sees the Israel the rebirth of the nation of Israel . How long is a generation? Psalm 90:10 tells us — The length of our days is seventy years–or eighty, if we have the strength; yet their span is but trouble and sorrow, for they quickly pass, and we fly away.
You do the math! Summer is near! Jesus goes on to speak of . . .
THE SUDDENNESS OF HIS RETURN, MATTHEW 24:36-41
No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. For in the days before the flood, people were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, up to the day Noah entered the ark; and they knew nothing about what would happen until the flood came and took them all away. That is how it will be at the coming of the Son of Man. Two men will be in the field; one will be taken and the other left. Two women will be grinding with a hand mill; one will be taken and the other left.
Was Noah surprised by the Flood? No! God had warned Noah and told him to get ready 120 years before it came. The entire world was oblivious to the coming judgment, except for Noah and his family. When the time came, God commanded Noah to take his whole family into the ark and seven days later came the flood waters.
Noah typifies the removal of God’s people before wrath. The day of God’s wrath did not surprise righteous Noah or come as a thief in the night, but it surprised the ungodly!
The Second Coming of Christ will come in two stages. First, His coming in the air to Rapture the Church and take His bride to heaven, and then after seven years of Tribulation, His return to earth with the hosts of heaven to fight the Battle of Armageddon, followed by the establishment of His millennial kingdom on earth.
JESUS THREE PARABLES CONCERNING HIS RETURN, MATTHEW 24:42-51.
All three parables deal with the unexpectedness of His coming. The second parable of the Ten Virgins deals with His return at the end of the Tribulation Period. The third Parable of the Talents speaks of His judgment of one’s faithfulness or unfaithfulness, which results in rewards or Hell!
The first parable makes it clear in uncertain terms that we need to be watching, ready, and serving Christ when He comes. Matthew 24:42-51 — Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom the master has put in charge of the servants in his household to give them their food at the proper time? It will be good for that servant whose master finds him doing so when he returns. I tell you the truth, he will put him in charge of all his possessions.
But suppose that servant is wicked and says to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he then begins to beat his fellow-servants and to eat and drink with drunkards. The master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he is not aware of. He will cut him to pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Jesus delay has unsettled some in the church and discouraged others. To counter this unsettling feeling, Jesus gave His disciples an ongoing sign of His death, resurrection, and second coming on Thursday night of Holy Week.
THE SIGN OF CHRIST’S COMING IN THE LORD’S SUPPER
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.” Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you. This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.
Jesus has declared in this symbolic act the purpose of His first coming — the giving of His life for the forgiveness of our sins. But death is not the end for Jesus; there is resurrection and His second coming — for He goes on to say in Matthew 26:29 — I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom. Jews vows not to drink wine again until the “Father’s kingdom comes, which is Christ’s earthly reign on David’s throne.” The LORD’S SUPPER, therefore, points both to the past and to the future — to Christ’s death at Calvary and to His messianic banquet, which is His kingdom.
Every time we partake of the LORD’S SUPPER, we look back to our redemption as He hung on the Cross, where He died to exchange our sins for God’s righteousness.
And we look forward to “that day” when He will drink of the cup with us in His Father’s kingdom.
This is the ongoing sign for the Church that believes Jesus is coming again!
Scripture is taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION.