Earthquakes Sign of Christs Return
Christ is Coming!
Bible Teaching About Christ’s Return to Earth
It was once fashionable in religious circles to say that Jesus Christ would never return to the earth. There are still plenty of professing Christians who believe that. But there are now many others who have come to believe that the Second Coming is a very important event.
True Bible Students have always taught that the Return of Jesus Christ to the earth is vital to the fulfilment of the purpose of God.
Behold Your King!
But what is the Second Coming of the Lord going to be like? For example, would it be possible to miss it altogether and not even be aware that it had occurred? Will it be visible or invisible? Will Jesus be there in person or merely a spiritual presence? And will he come to the earth or only towards the earth?
Jesus Christ rose bodily from the grave. He was not an invisible spirit creature but One who could be seen, handled and held (1 John 1:1; Luke 24:39,40). His body was marked by the evidence of his suffering on the cross. Yet he was no longer subject to the limitations of human existence. He could come and go despite locked doors, and on Mount Olivet he ascended bodily to heaven, defying the law of gravity. The disciples had seen him go; he would return visibly. As the angel later said: “Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him” (Revelation 1:7). Or as Zechariah the Old Testament prophet had predicted, long before the crucifixion, “They shall look upon me whom they have pierced and they shall mourn for him” (12:10).
So, it will not do to say that only those who look with faith will see the Lord. Some will look, see, and mourn (Revelation 1:7). Nor will it do to say that Jesus will come invisibly, for the Lord himself warned:
“Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christ’s and false prophets . . .” (Matthew 24:23,24).
Nor will it do to argue that the Bible talks of the presence of the Lord, meaning that it will be an invisible one. The New Testament also talks about the revelation of the Lord, using a word that means uncovering or manifesting. In fact, the presence (Greek: parousia) of the Lord turns out to be an especially suitable term. One of the most authoritative Greek Lexicons available says of the word:
“It became the official term for a visit of a person of high rank, especially of kings and emperors visiting a province” (Arndt and Gingrich).
It is such a visit by a King that the Scriptures foretell. The crowds who welcomed King Jesus into Jerusalem when he sat astride a donkey and they threw coats and’ palm branches before him, shouted out greetings that referred right back to the Promises of God: “Blessed be the kingdom of our father David that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Mark 11:10). Matthew comments that the rejoicing was a foretaste of what had been forecast by Zechariah the prophet, when he wrote “Behold, thy King cometh unto thee”.
Now if the initial royal visit was attended by such joy and rejoicing, consider what the next one will be like! The prophet had declared:
“Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold thy king cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation. . . and he shall speak peace unto the heathen; and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth” (Zechariah 9:9,10).
This Scripture illustrates a widely used feature of Bible prophecy: its joint short and long-term character. Jerusalem rejoiced at the Kingly coming of Jesus — “Lowly and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass” — just as the prophet had said. But their joy was short-lived, for he did not then go on to establish worldwide peace, or commence to rule from Jerusalem over a Kingdom that was to last forever. Jesus completed enough of the prophecy at that time to demonstrate that he was the Coming One, and to give us confidence that he will return to complete the promised transformation of the earth. Zechariah compressed the two comings in such a way that there appeared to be no interval between them. This has led some people to argue that the Kingdom will never come, because, they say, even Jesus expected it in the First Century, or at most shortly afterwards. It has thus been dismissed by some as an early Christian hope, which has now been superseded by a superior understanding. But when all the Scriptures are studied carefully, it becomes clear that the Coming of Jesus was not to occur immediately after his ascension to heaven.
The Day and the Hour
Any attempt to show that Jesus was mistaken about the time of his Coming is doomed to failure. He clearly stated, more than once, that he did not know:
“Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36).
As he later said, this was something that the Father had reserved within His own authority (Acts 1:7). But Jesus did know that some long time would elapse before his Second Coming. He told parables to indicate that his coming would not “immediately appear” (Luke 1 9:11), that it would be “after a long time” (Matthew 25:19), and that there might be some delay for those who were waiting (25:3). Like their Lord, his followers were to appreciate that they could “not know what hour” he would come.
The apostles also acknowledged that they could not know the precise time of the great event for which they waited. Peter warned about people who would scoff, as so many have, at the “promise of his coming” (2 Peter 3:4). Indeed he poured scorn on their faithlessness, what he called “wilful ignorance” — people believing what they wanted to believe, regardless of the evidence. And Paul was in no doubt either, for he went on record as saying:
“But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh . . .” (1 Thessalonians 5:1,2).
Can you complete that quotation? It holds the key to two vital matters concerning the early return of the King. Notice first what the verse above says. There would be general indications available — what Paul calls “times and seasons” — which would help keep the believers prepared. And the verse continues:
“. . . the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night.”
When it happens the Lord’s Coming will be swift, sudden and unexpected. No-one expects thieves to strike. But they often succeed because people overlook the dangers. It is also the case that speed is vital to a successful robbery, which is why the figure is used by Jesus (Matthew 24:43), Paul (1 Thessalonians 5:2), and Peter (2 Peter 3:10), to emphasise the vital point. We must be on our guard, watchful, prepared, vigilant. The Lord could come at any time! He will come when we least expect him!
The Times and Seasons
That is why when Jesus explained what was to happen before his Return, he very carefully emphasised the need for watchfulness. Sitting with his disciples one day on the Mount of Olives, from where he would later ascend to heaven, he gave them some general indications of what was to happen prior to his “coming and the end of the world” (Matthew 24:3). This prophecy presents a fascinating challenge, for it combines a short-term prediction about the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, with a long-term forecast of world events.
A list of the predicted events in the three Gospel accounts (Matthew 24, Mark 1 3 and Luke 24), which does not claim to be a structured sequence of prophetic events, shows the following:
- The rise of false Christianity and false Christs
- The persecution of true Christians.
- Wars and rumors of wars, nation against nation.
- Earthquakes, famines and pestilences. World Earthquakes Increase
- Jerusalem surrounded by armies.
- The Jewish nation dispersed.
- Jerusalem in non-Jewish occupation.
- Tribulation and distress.
- Signs in the sun, moon and stars.
- The powers of heaven shaken.
Notice how believers are warned about the rise and growth of false Christianity. It is the Lord’s first concern. His words were fulfilled by the rapid development of wrong teaching in New Testament times (e.g. Acts 20:29), and are being fulfilled again at the close of this age. Elsewhere the message is that the true believers will comprise a very small remnant, compared with those who hold a distorted form of Christianity.
The apostles also warn about this development. Paul was emphatic that there would be manifestations of false Christianity, for he prophesied that the Day of the Lord:
“shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped” (2 Thessalonians 2:3,4).
The apostle Paul describes the man of sin in language that refers back to the prophet Daniel, who accurately foretold the rise and fall of four empires that exercised power in the Middle East. He traced the development from them to a false religious system, involving the Holy Roman Empire and the papacy, that is opposed to Christ and his true followers. This is counterfeit Christianity, and the apostle Paul describes it as “the mystery of iniquity” which was already at work, and “a strong delusion”.
The other thread of teaching in the Lord’s catalogue of future events concerned trouble. There were to be wars and rumors of wars, both within and between nations; there would be natural disasters and widespread hardship, earthquakes, famines and epidemics; terrors and fearful sights would be in the heavens, causing much fear and distress. People would not know which way to turn for fear of what was about to happen on earth.
To some extent these problems are as old as man. The tendency to war against one another is evident even in the first book of the Bible, and famine features there too. But even within Bible history the atrocities of which man is capable become increasingly ugly, and since then even more widespread horrors have been seen. The powers now available to mankind are enough to make any sane person fear for the future. More than ever before, these words of Jesus are coming true:
“There shall be . . . upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:25-27).
The reference to the sea and waves roaring, like others to signs in the sun, moon and stars, may be either symbolic or literal or some combination of both. The prophet Isaiah, for example, wrote about the wicked being “like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt” (57:20).
Jesus may have been drawing upon such imagery to describe a world that was full of trouble because it was full of wickedness. He may also have been teaching us to look out for some upheaval of the physical order, like tidal waves, which would also be an indication of the end of the age. Certainly there have been many earthquakes and natural disasters over the past few years, all over the world. The apostle Paul described the whole world order as groaning and travailing in pain (Romans 8:22), like a woman waiting to be delivered of a child. It is thus evident that our present troubles are the birthpangs of a new and better world, soon to begin.
In both Testaments we are told that the tribulation that will come at the end of human government is the final herald of the Second Coming. It will be:
“a time of trouble such as never was” (Daniel 12:1);
“the time of Jacob’s (Israel’s) trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7);
“great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21).
Will the believers waiting for their Lord have to suffer this trouble, or will they be spared? The likelihood is that present-day believers will live through this time of trouble, indeed that they have already begun to do so. Jesus promised that for the elect’s sake that time would be shortened (Mark 13:20). But those who finally stand approved before the Judge are those “which came out of the great tribulation, and they washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (Revelation 7:14).
As that trouble increases, and God pours out His wrath upon the earth, there are indications that true believers will be sheltered from that outpouring. Isaiah describes the great shake-up of human society when God intervenes:
“Come, my people, enter into thy chambers. . . hide thyself as it were for a little moment, until the indignation be overpast. For, behold, the LORD cometh out of his place to punish the inhabitants of the earth for their iniquity” (Isaiah 24:18-23, 26:20,21).
We must therefore consider carefully what Jesus said:
“When these things (the signs of which he spoke) begin to come to pass, then look up and lift up your heads, for your redemption draweth nigh” (Luke 21:28).
We should not wait until total disaster has struck, and there is no escape route left. It is better to learn the lesson now, that this is the time immediately before the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The Lord will come! Christ is Coming Soon
In these dying moments of human government, the powers of heaven will be shaken as men’s hearts fail them for fear. The nations will be engaged in a battle around Jerusalem. Then the Lord will come!
Unexpectedly, suddenly, in great power and glory, bringing salvation for those who have faithfully waited and prepared for this central event in their lives; but bringing judgement upon all those who have wilfully ignored the faithful promises and gracious invitation of God:
“The Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, in flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power: when he shall come to be glorified in his saints, and to be admired in all them that believe” (2 Thessalonians 1:9,10).
It is vital therefore that we believe what the Bible so clearly promises. We cannot simply “wait and see”, because Jesus is coming to save those who already believe, not to give reasons for faith to those who have had clear evidence, but no inclination for the things of God.
When the Lord spoke to his followers about his eventual return to earth, he focused their attention more on the consequences of his Coming than on the sequence of events itself. To this day we cannot know for sure when Jesus will come. But we know perfectly clearly that when he comes he will call us to account, and ask us how we spent our lives on the eve of his return:
“Take heed . . . be not led astray . . . be not troubled . . . take heed to yourselves . . . preach the gospel . . . be not anxious . . . endure to the end . . . flee . . . pray . . . believe not false prophets . . . take heed . . . look up and lift up your heads . . . take heed to yourselves . . . watch . . . BE READY” (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21).
The apostles make the very same points as they reflect on the nearness of the Lord’s Return.
“What manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness . . . be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace, without spot, and blameless” (2 Peter 3:11-14).
“Denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:12,13).
“When he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is. And every man who has this hope in him purifieth himself, even as he is pure” (1 John 3:2,3).
Take Heed to Yourselves
The Bible is our guidebook to the future, just as it is our handbook for the present. It alone will show us what God wants us to do. From it we can learn God’s purpose and promises. The first thing is to understand and believe those things that are true. We shall then come to appreciate the need for obedience to God, starting with baptism. And thus we shall be doing what Jesus commanded.
The coming Kingdom of God on earth will transform human experience. We need to learn to live now in harmony with our Creator. The Lord is at hand! It is now an urgent matter for us all to examine our lives, so that we are properly prepared for the Coming of the King.
BY TECWYN MORGAN