"The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?" (Matt. 16: 1-3)
The Pharisees wanted to see "signs," evidences of the Messiahship of Christ. Yet, Christ affirms that such signs were all around them. However they were blind and did not see or "discern" them. Likewise there is today numerous signs that point to this being the times foretold by the biblical writers for the coming again of Christ and the day of judgment and one must be blind not to see them. The words of the Psalmist are appropriate: "We see not our signs: there is no more any prophet: neither is there among us any that knoweth how long." (Psa. 74: 9)
Those who believe that the "rapture" of the church will precede the coming of the Lord often ridicule the idea of there being any signs. Sometimes they will say that there are no signs of the rapture but that there are signs of the end that comes later after the rapture. It is often the case that those who argue in this manner are inconsistent for they will often speak as if there are indeed signs. We often hear of those who say such things point to the reestablishment of Israel in their land as a sign of the soon coming of the Lord. It is as if they have forgotten how they have elsewhere affirmed that there are no signs of the coming rapture. Because of their views on "imminence" they are often heard saying that there is nothing that must happen prior to the rapture. In a future series I plan to deal with this issue.
In the previous postings we have shown how there are "signs of the times" present in our day to show that the coming of the Lord is indeed near and it is hoped that we all be about getting ourselves ready for that day.
"And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matt. 24: 3)
Obviously one cannot affirm that there are to be no signs of the coming of the Lord and the end of the world (age). In answering the threefold question of the apostles Jesus gave forth various signs for his return and for the end of the age. The question of the disciples was not so much "what" will happen when the Lord returns and the age ends, but "when" will it occur? Christ did not respond by criticizing the question or saying that there can be no knowledge of that coming. Though he would say that "no man knows the day nor the hour" (vs. 36) when he shall come again, he did not preclude that one could have no idea at all of the time of his return. It would help us in understanding this to remember that Christ often compared his coming to a woman giving birth, that the end of the age would come "as travail upon a woman with child." In regards to the birth of children, no one can predict with certainty what day and hour a child will be born. However, it is often possible to predict the general time, within a month or so. Notice these verses from Jesus' Olivet Discourse.
"...for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet." (vs. 6)
"And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come." (vs. 14)
These words of Jesus show that he wanted his disciples to have some knowledge as to when he would return and that they should look for the signs. Again, the pretribulation advocates say that they do not look for signs but look for Jesus. But, this is a false dichotomy. He who is looking for Jesus is also looking for the signs of his coming. One does not exclude the other. The words of Jesus also show that Jesus taught there was a divinely appointed chronology to end time events.
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." (vs. 32-33)
The rapture takes place at the coming of the Lord and since there are signs of his coming, there are likewise signs of the coming rapture.
"For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words. But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you." (I Thess. 4: 15-5: 1)
The "times and seasons" relate directly to the coming of the Lord and to the rapture. For one to say that there are no signs, no times and seasons, to the coming rapture, is to deny the clear teaching of the apostle. Further, many teach that the coming rapture of the church is to be a secret silent event, but who can affirm such in light of the above verses?
"For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be...And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other." (Matt. 24: 27, 31)
Again, there is nothing secret or silent about the coming of the Lord and the gathering together of the elect. Further, in this discourse the Lord gives many signs of this coming event.
The purpose of the giving of the signs of the Lord's coming is in order that the people of God may be ready and not caught off guard. They are given to strengthen our faith and confidence in the promises of God.