Till last year, whenever I thought of signs of the Second Coming of our Lord, I only listed false Christs, wars and rumours of wars, earthquakes and famines. That was because I usually paid attention only to the Olivet Discourse as recorded in Matthew 24 and Mark 13. The remarks of our Lord about His Second Coming are also in three passages in Luke: 12:35-–48, 17:20–37 and 21:5–36. Matthew 24 and Mark 13 could be set side-by-side and compared verse-by-verse. The Lucan passages didn’t fit the same way, and so for making a list of the signs I relied only on Matthew and Mark.
Last year with the pandemic raging, I wondered why Jesus had not said anything about viral outbreaks being signs of His return. I found that I was wrong in thinking that Jesus hadn’t said anything about epidemics. Of course, the Bible never uses the word “virus”. Instead, “pestilence(s)” and “plague(s)” are the words used. I found the reference to the pandemics of our time in Luke 21:11, “There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.”
Why did Matthew and Mark leave out reference to pestilences/plagues in their accounts? Maybe, because they didn’t think the occurrence of diseases is as remarkable as wars, earthquakes and famines. Maybe the beloved physician’s interest in medical matters was what made him include what the others had left out. Whatever the reasons maybe, Luke has shown us that Jesus said that plagues or pestilences or epidemics would be among the signs of the end.
Some will dismiss connecting the dots between the present pandemic and the Lord’s return and classify this as an alarmist view—mere doomsday watching.
|This is your COVID wake-up call:
It is 100 seconds to midnight
That is not an announcement from a Bible-thumping doomsday prophet. That was an announcement in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
Albert Einstein and University of Chicago scientists who helped develop the first atomic weapons founded the bulletin in 1945. Two years later, they created the Doomsday Clock using the imagery of apocalypse (midnight) and the contemporary idiom of nuclear explosion (countdown to zero) to convey threats to humanity and planet earth. Every year the Doomsday Clock sets the time to countdown/the end. It is universally recognised as an index of the world’s vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and other causes of self-destruction by humans.
To: Leaders and citizens of the world
Re: This is your COVID wake-up call: It is 100 seconds to midnight
Date: January 27, 2021
“Humanity continues to suffer as the COVID-19 pandemic spreads around the world. In 2020 alone, this novel disease killed 1.7 million people and sickened at least 70 million more. The pandemic revealed just how unprepared and unwilling countries and the international system are to handle global emergencies properly. In this time of genuine crisis, governments too often abdicated responsibility, ignored scientific advice, did not cooperate or communicate effectively, and consequently failed to protect the health and welfare of their citizens… Though lethal on a massive scale, this particular pandemic is not an existential threat. Its consequences are grave and will be lasting. But COVID-19 will not obliterate civilisation, and we expect the disease to recede eventually. Still, the pandemic serves as a historic wake-up call, a vivid illustration that national governments and international organisations are unprepared to manage nuclear weapons and climate change, which currently pose existential threats to humanity, or the other dangers—including more virulent pandemics and next-generation warfare—that could threaten civilisation in the near future.”
Even though this group of scientists set the clock in such a way as to indicate that humanity risks total extinction, it is clear that they think that all that humans need to do is to pull back and do some course correction to avoid disaster. As usual, humans and their agencies think that they can fix any and every problem. We do believe that we have the power to set the clock back—to save ourselves.
We hope that the pandemic will just go away. Maybe it will. I would like it to. I have not seen my children and grandchildren, other loved ones, and very close friends for so long.
Since scientists are willing to connect the dots between the pandemic and the end of the world, it is time to pay attention to what the Word of God says about the signs of the end.
Jesus put false messiahs at the head of His list of signs (Matt 24:4–5). All over the world for the last century there have been messiahs in all shapes and shades. In India we have a proliferation of avatars saying, Ahm Brahm (I am Brahma or god). Heretic cults have formed around those who claimed to be either Christ or the Holy Spirit. There was one, Paulaseer Lawrie, who claimed that when the first moon landing took place (1969), he “felt…transformed into two persons—one Jesus Christ and the other [himself]—yet fused into one within the mighty presence of God”, who later on proclaimed himself the Kalki Avatar, the last avatar of Vishnu to come in the kaliyug, when evil comes to a climax
The Lord said there would be “wars and rumours of wars” (Matt 24:6). In the last 100 years, we have had two world wars and many outbreaks of war on many fronts, in spite of having, firstly, the League of Nations and, subsequently, the United Nations Organisation. As Paul prophesied, “While people are saying, ‘Peace and safety,’ destruction will come on them suddenly, as labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape” (1 Thes 5:3).
Just as we have had world wars, we now talk of world hunger being rampant, with India ranked 94 among 107 countries in the Global Hunger Index 2020. As our Lord said, there would be famines at the end (Matt 24:7).
Earthquakes have increased, just like Jesus said (v.7). Data compiled by the US government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration shows that the number of earthquakes per year has seen significant variation, but the overall trend shows an increasing frequency.
The Lord also said that there would be an increase in persecution of His followers (vv. 9–10). The persecution will culminate in the Great Tribulation (v.21). All over the world, the followers of Jesus are the most persecuted of all peoples.
The signs have been coming and we have largely overlooked them. Maybe because we just want things to continue in the way we have enjoyed favourable conditions in life. We make plans for ourselves and our families. Life goes on: “eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage” (v. 38).
Of Faith and Love
Jesus told His followers that they need to be watchful or alert (v.42). Watchfulness goes hand in hand with prayer (Lk 21:36). Our Lord taught about persevering in prayer and then said, “…will not God bring about justice for His chosen ones, who cry out to Him day and night? Will He keep putting them off? I tell you, He will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will He find faith on the earth?” (18:7–8).
Jesus warned that “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold” (Matt 24: 12). In the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Rev 1:1), our Lord confronted a church for having left its “first love” (2:4), and what He said to churches is for individual believers to heed—all who have ears to hear, must listen to the Spirit and overcome (2: 7, 11, 17, 29; 3:5–6, 12–13, 21–22).
The world is not looking forward to Christ’s return. Are you? Do you have faith that He will return? Do you love Him?