A major advertisement appeared a while back in various newspapers throughout the country. It was titled: “Christ Is Coming ‘Very, Very Soon.’”
The piece begins like this: “The evidence for the soon return of Christ is overwhelming.” Several “clues” then were offered whereby one might calculate that Jesus’ return is quite near.
The advertisement suggested that several “signs” (purportedly found in the Scriptures) hint that the time of Christ’s return is imminent. We will consider each of these.
It was alleged that the nation of Israel was “miraculously reborn on May 14, 1948,” and that this is “God’s time clock” indicating that the end is near. Amazingly, not one passage of scripture is cited to prove this baseless assertion — the reason being, there is none. Furthermore, there was nothing “miraculous” about anything that happened on that date.
It is argued that 2 Timothy 3:1ff, which describes a “plummeting morality,” reveals that Jesus’ return is impending. First, there is not a word in this context about the Lord’s Second Coming. Second, the verb in verse 5, “turn away,” is, in the original language, a present, middle, imperative form. The imperative mood reveals that it is a command to Timothy. The middle voice suggests that Timothy is to personally turn himself away from the evil persons thus described. The present tense “be turning away,” reveals that Paul’s young companion was living in the time of this corruption, i.e., the “last days” (v. 1), at that very moment. The expression does not focus, therefore, on an event 2,000 years in the future.
“Signs of Matthew 24”
It is contended that the “signs” of Matthew 24:6-8 (e.g., famines, wars, and earthquakes) indicate that Jesus is coming “very, very soon.”
But the “signs” of Matthew 24:6ff, had to do with the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, not this modern era. Christ plainly taught that “this generation” (v. 34) — i.e., the generation contemporary with Him (Arndt, p. 153) — would witness these signs.
There is ample historical evidence to document the presence of such events in the forty-year interval between the time of the Lord’s death and the fall of Jerusalem.
There were conflicts in the administrations of Caligula, Claudius, and Nero (Josephus, Antiquities, 20.1.6). Josephus penned a work designated, The Wars of the Jews. The title itself is a commentary on these tumultuous times.
It is well-known that famines were frequent during these four decades (cf. Acts 11:28). Suetonius, a Roman historian, described the administration of Claudius as characterized by “continual scarcity” (Claudius c.18).
As for earthquakes, they were devastating during this era. Such were recorded by Josephus (Wars_, 4.4), Tacitus (_Annals xii.58; xiv.27; xv.22), and Seneca (Epistle 91).
It is futile to apply the predictions of Matthew 24 to our own historical framework (see Jackson, 1998). Is it not strange that Christ, who gave these signs, did not know when the “end” would be (Matthew 24:36), yet modern “prophets” can read them and provide us with a precise schedule? How superior they must be to our Lord!
It is suggested that Daniel 12:4 prophesied concerning an increase in travel and education at the end of time, and that such is clearly characteristic of our age.
This passage is quite ambiguous, and various views are entertained by good scholars — e.g., that “run to and fro” really means to “read thoroughly,” and thus encourages a careful study of this inspired book (Rose and Fuller, p. 392).
At any rate, there is nothing in the passage that can identify a particular age. The fact is, transportation and knowledge have accelerated in every period of human history, and will continue to do so until the end of time. That is the nature of human genius. It is useless to cite Daniel 12:4 as a clue to the end of Earth’s history.
“Cults and the occult”
The advertisement under review alleges that the current explosion of “cults and the occult” is detailed in biblical literature; we therefore can know that the terminal generation is at hand on this basis. Two passages are cited as proof-texts — Matthew 24:24 and 1 Timothy 4:1.
Again, though, Matthew 24:24 — a prediction of false “Christs,” bogus prophets, etc. — has to do with that period prior to Jerusalem’s demise (v. 34). Josephus recorded that the administration of Felix, a Roman procurator in Judea (A.D. 52-60), was known for its “impostors” (Antiquities 20.8.5).
Justin Martyr, an early Christian apologist, said that Simon Magus went to Rome, where he deceived many with his magic and he was honored as deity. He cited an inscription that bore these words: “To Simon the holy God” (Apology, I.26).
The reference found in 1 Timothy 4:1ff is a general allusion to the apostasy that would defect from the apostolic faith throughout the Christian age. The expression “latter times” is equivalent to “latter days” (cf. 2 Timothy 3:1), i.e., the final dispensation of time, the Christian era. Though Paul intended to warn regarding the future, he nonetheless saw the apostasy as already in operation (cf. White, p. 120).
In fact, this point is made quite clear in 2 Thessalonians 2:7, where the “mystery of lawlessness” is “already at work.”
This context contains no clue as to the end of time.
“New world order”
It is asserted that the Bible predicts the rise of a “new world order” involving a “centralization of world financial and political power” in the end times, and that these conditions are current. Daniel 7 and Revelation 13 are cited vaguely as proofs.
The truth is, both of these contexts have to do with developments out of the ancient Roman empire (see Jackson, 2004, pp. 59-84). They do not refer to America!
“Visits by angels”
Finally, it is claimed that just as angels announced Christ’s first coming (Luke 1:26), even so, angels recently have visited a number of folks, reporting that the end is near.
This testimony is about as reliable as those who declare that they have been abducted by space aliens. There is no evidence whatever that angels are appearing to, or communicating with, people today.
There is no biblical information regarding the time of the Lord’s return. The end will occur unexpectedly (Matthew 24:36ff.).