Signs of the Times
And the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and to test him they asked him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered them, “When it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘It will be stormy today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the times.
Matthew 16:1–3, ESV
In light of Covid-19, every store owner restaurant and business owner had to get creative, please social distance, mask up, etc! If they were going to survive you had to try. The best is the one I saw a sign on a truck the other day, it was advertising a food catering services, it said we speak English and we deliver! Signs are everywhere. You see them at stores, in the neighborhoods, and all over the roadways! On my way to the church, I see signs everywhere. Some inform me about a road closure. Others tell me there is a detour, others tell me to go slow, especially in the construction zone. Everywhere there are signs. Where there is construction we always find more signs. Signs actually serve a purpose they are intended to help you with directions and to get safely to your destination.
As believers, we can take comfort that God has not left us without direction. We have God’s word, God’s people, God’s spirit with us to help us navigate through this life. The entire Christian life is said to be a journey, and on this journey, we will have ups and downs. Our goal is to make the most of it (Ephesians 5:16).
As we look at the Bible and read about prophecy are there signs of the times that help us get home to heaven? Does Jesus really talk about this? What’s the Bible say? Before we jump into this we need to be aware of two tends to be two extremes in our culture today.
TWO EXTREMES TO AVOID
First, there are scoffers. The scoffers… scoff! The mock or make fun of those that pay much attention to prophecies and end times events. Labeling those that do, sensationalists, crazies, or head in the cloud Christians. These people often discount the importance and value of biblical prophecy. They understand little about it and they operate out of ignorance. They simply don’t know. Hence this is why most people don’t like what they don’t understand. As long as the scoffers don’t understand they will continue to understand.
Second, the setters! The date setters are the upsetters. Many may recall the Televangelist that proclaimed that Jesus was going to return very soon and some went so far as to set a date on the actual return of Christ. When in fact Jesus doesn’t even know, the day nor hour, (Matthew 24:36) and furthermore Jesus said himself that it wasn’t for us to know. So the date setting business ought to be closed immediately. Yet, individuals such as Harold Camping did his best to set a date on the return of Christ on national television in the ’90s and the day of his prediction came and went. No return. Then he apologized, said he got it wrong, and tried it again in the early 2000s and was wrong once more.
We must avoid these extremes, but we must ask what we should look for? Does Jesus speak about these signs? Does the Bible offer us insights to discern when Jesus' second coming will take place? While there were 109 prophecies fulfilled by Jesus in His first coming, there are 224 yet to be fulfilled in his second coming!
In Matthew 16:1-3, Jesus talks about signs. A group of religious leaders are eager to see more signs by Jesus. Signs here in the context are to imply more than signal, but a powerful demonstration of might to authentic him as a prophet or the Messiah. Jesus is being tested. He had already performed many miracles, yet the religious leaders want more. Hopefully for something spectacular! Maybe fire being called down like Elijah, or turn a stone into bread? They wanted something sensational!
In asking for another sign, they were in a sense saying that Jesus’ miracles and messages were not good enough or real. Jesus takes offense to this, by calling them an evil and adulterous and generation (verse 4). They fabricated a fake God to their own liking in their imagination, reject Jesus, and miss the Messiah! As a result, the only sign they will get is the sign of Jonah which was the sign that foreshadowed the death burial, and resurrection of the Messiah. Jesus had already mentioned this sign to them (Matthew 12:38-45) and because of their rejection of him, he wasn’t going to be used to wow them like a Showman! The Sign of Jonah was central to all other signs, it authenticated him as the God, who would raise from the dead on the third day! Conquering sin and satan, and securing salvation for all who believed in him. This sign is what the Apostle Peter preached about at the start of the first Church after Jesus' death, burial, and resurrection. (Acts 2:2)
Despite Jesus not being willing to share signs with the Pharisees, this doesn’t mean that Jesus doesn’t want to share signs with his followers today! We must see first, Jesus isn’t anyone’s tool or trickster. He won’t be used for entertainment, but he will engage the humble in heart and the spiritually hungry. The Pharisees were neither.
As believers today are we to look for signs? I think the answer is yes. Absolutely. Scriptures give us reason to do so! We see in Matthew 24 the disciples ask about the signs of the times. They say… “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus responds and gives many examples of what to look for. And in Luke 21:25, 28, Jesus gives instructions about being prepared. Lastly, while many scholars have missed the exhortation for believers to be ready for the Second Coming, the scripture clearly states how we are to help one another through encouragement and support before Jesus returns. (Hebrews 10:24) Many believers are blind to his second coming. Jesus called his followers to discern the signs of the times.
Why do you think it would be helpful to know the signs of the times? Where do you fall in the extremes? Where do you tend or trend towards? Take a minute to pray and ask God for humility and help to discern rightly the signs of the times and the fortitude to press ahead and learn about the scriptures concerning prophecy.
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