The Bible says we cannot know the time of the Lord's return (Matthew 25:13). But the Scriptures make it equally clear that we can know the season of the Lord's return (1 Thessalonians 5:2-6):
"You yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night... But you brethren, are not in darkness, that the day should overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober."
This passage asserts that Jesus is coming like "a thief in the night." But then it proceeds to make it clear that this will be true only for the pagan world and not for believers. His return should be no surprise to those who know Him and His Word, for they have the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to give them understanding of the nature of the times.
Furthermore, the Scriptures give us signs to watch for — signs that will signal that Jesus is ready to return. The writer of the Hebrew letter referred to these signs when he proclaimed that believers should encourage one another when they see the day of judgment drawing near (Hebrews 10:25-27). Jesus also referred to the end time signs in His Olivet Discourse, given during the last week of His life (Matthew 24 and Luke 21). Speaking of a whole series of signs which He had given to His disciples, He said, "When you see all these things, recognize that He [the Son of Man — that is, Jesus] is near, right at the door" (Matthew 24:33).
A Personal Experience
Every time I think of "Signs of the Times," I am reminded of a great man of God named Elbert Peak. I had the privilege of participating with him in a Bible prophecy conference held in Orlando, Florida in the early 1990's. Mr. Peak was about 80 years old at the time.
He had been assigned the topic, "The Signs of the Times." He began his presentation by observing, "Sixty years ago when I first started preaching, you had to scratch around like a chicken to find one sign of the Lord's soon return."
He paused for a moment, and then added, "But today there are so many signs I'm no longer looking for them. Instead, I'm listening for a sound — the sound of a trumpet!"
The First Sign
One hundred years ago in 1907 there was not one single, tangible, measurable sign that indicated we were living in the season of the Lord's return. The first to appear was the Balfour Declaration which was issued by the British government on November 2, 1917.
This Declaration was prompted by the fact that during World War I the Turks sided with the Germans. Thus, when Germany lost the war, so did the Turks, and the victorious Allies decided to divide up both the German and Turkish empires.
The Turkish territories, called the Ottoman Empire, contained the ancient homeland of the Jewish people — an area the Romans had named Palestine after the last Jewish revolt in 132-135 AD.
In 1917 Palestine included all of modern day Israel and Jordan. In the scheme the Allies concocted for dividing up the German and Turkish territories, Britain was allotted Palestine, and this is what prompted the Balfour Declaration. In that document, Lord Balfour, the British Foreign Secretary, declared that it was the intention of the British government to establish in Palestine "a national home for the Jewish people."
The leading Evangelical in England at the time was F. B. Meyer. He immediately recognized the prophetic significance of the Declaration, for he was well aware that the Scriptures prophesy that the Jewish people will be regathered to their homeland in unbelief right before the return of the Messiah (Isaiah 11:11-12).
Meyer sent out a letter to the Evangelical leaders of England asking them to gather in London in December to discuss the prophetic implications of the Balfour Declaration. In that letter, he stated, "The signs of the times point toward the close of the time of the Gentiles... and the return of Jesus can be expected any moment."
Before Meyer's meeting could be convened, another momentous event occurred. On December 11, 1917 General Edmund Allenby liberated the city of Jerusalem from 400 years of Turkish rule.
There is no doubt that these events in 1917 marked the beginning of the end times because they led to the worldwide regathering of the Jewish people to their homeland and the reestablishment of their state.
Since the time of the Balfour Declaration, we have witnessed throughout the 20th Century the appearance of sign after sign pointing to the Lord's soon return. There are so many of these signs today, in fact, that one would have to be either biblically illiterate or spiritually blind not to realize that we are living on borrowed time.
I have personally been searching the Bible for years in an effort to identify all the signs, and it has not been an easy task to get a hold on them. That's because there are so many of them, both in the Old and New Testaments.
I have found that the best way to deal with them is to put them in categories, and in doing that, I have come up with six categories of end time signs. We will explore these catetories beginning in Part 2 of this series.