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? Matthew 24:3
Recently a group of religious believers spent a restless night on Staten Island,
New York. According to the prophetic “revelations” received by group members, that
particular Saturday evening was the time when the Messiah would return. Obviously,
Christ did not return, so the group members eventually returned to their homes
anticipating an early explanation of their error by their leader.
This incident occurred recently, but judging from the reports of the past several
years, a similar situation could repeat itself somewhere during the month you are reading
this chapter. Despite the clear teaching of Jesus that no one knows the “day and hour” of
his return (Matt. 24:36), many religious sects overstep this limit to biblical revelation and
give dates to mark the return of Christ. Some groups, such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses
and Seventh-day Adventists have predicted numerous dates over the years only to have to
change the date or redefine the event after the fact.
With all the fanaticism related to watching for the return of Christ, one might
wonder if there are “signs of the times” that do give some warning that Christ might be
soon appearing. Jesus said, “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” (Matt. 24:32, 33). Later
Jesus stated two words every serious student of Bible prophecy should heed, “Watch
therefore” (Matt. 24:42).
No one will ever know the date of Jesus’ return until they see him coming in the
clouds. Still, there are certain things happening in our world today that suggest the day of
his return may be very close. We must be careful to obey the Scriptures and accurately
interpret the evidences of Christ’s return without abusing the Scriptures in an attempt to
somehow date his coming.
THE COURSE OF THIS AGE
Two passages of Scripture present for us a prophetic history of the major trends of
our age. When Jesus gave his “kingdom parables,” some commentators believe he was
chronologically outlining the characteristics of this present age. Later, as Jesus evaluated
the seven churches of Asia, he may also have presented a second clue concerning the
future history of this church age.
Kingdom parables. Much of the ministry of Jesus during his earthly life was
devoted to teaching his disciples. Parables were among his favorite techniques. They
enabled him to address a large group, but speak specifically to a smaller group who
would understand the real message of the parable. Matthew 13 records seven such
parables in which Jesus sought to teach his disciples “the mysteries of the kingdom of