Signs of Christ's Presence
In considering the signs of Christ's presence it is imperative that we are cognizant of three scriptural points. First, if as established in the previous chapter, the Greek word parousia means presence and not coming, then the signs that many accept as evidence of Christ's imminent coming actually prove that he is already present. Second, Luke 17:26,27, Matthew 24:37, 38, and many other scriptures reveal that Christ is present before the tribulation period.
And as it was in the days of Noe, so shall it be also in the days of the Son of man. They did eat, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noe entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all. Luke 17:26, 27.
The point of comparison is not between the arrival of Noah and the arrival of our Lord. It is not even between the coming of the flood and the coming of our Lord. The comparison is between the days of Noah before the flood and the days of the presence of our Lord before the tribulation with which this Gospel Age ends. In both periods, the people were in ignorance of the coming trouble. The days of the Son of man are the days of his parousia, presenceinvisible and unknown to the world. Therefore, we should expect to see signs of Christ's presence before the tribulation.
Third, these signs are to be recognized by faithful Christians as a proof that Christ is present. This precludes the instantaneous gathering of the living church at Christ's return. The dead in Christ are raised "first" when Christ returns, but the "living in Christ" remain on earth for a period of time after his return and see signs of his thief-like presence. The Scriptural teaching of the living saints being "caught up together" with the returned Lord will be considered in detail in a later chapter.
There are many proofs of Christ's presence, fourteen of which are here considered.
" the fig treewhen his branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves." Matthew 24:32 It is generally accepted by students of prophecy that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel (Jer. 24). In Matthew 21:19, Jesus cursed the fig tree because he found no fruit on it and it withered away. Shortly thereafter, he proclaimed judgment on the nation of Israel, "Behold, you house if left unto you desolate." (Matt. 23:38), because they had not borne fruitage to God. Israel was subsequently scattered and persecuted. Historians agree Israel's rebirth is a miracle of history. Never before has a nation been destroyed, its people dispersed to the ends of the earth and then nearly 2,000 years later, regathered to their homeland and re-established as a nation. The fig tree coming back to life, putting forth leaves, represents Israel coming to life as a nation and receiving God's favor increasingly.
Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28 and Luke 21:29 all say when "the fig tree putteth forth leaves ye know that summer is nigh." Matthew and Mark follow this by saying, "so likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things know ye that it is near, even at the doors." Some claim that the word "it" in Matthew 24:33 and Mark 13:29 should be translated "he" and feel the verse means that when Israel (the fig tree) brings forth leaves, then not "it," but "he" (Christ) is near at hand. This plainly is not correct. The "it" refers back to the "summer" in the previous verse. When the fig tree shoots forth, then "summer is nigh." Summer is the kingdom time of favor on earth that follows the destruction of the present social order by Christ. Christ is already here when the fig tree returns to life. His presence brings about the restoration of Israel and the destruction of our present evil world to make room for his kingdom that will rule from the rivers to the ends of the earth.
Can we be certain that the "it" refers to the kingdom and not to Christ? It is wonderful how the Bible is its own interpreter. Again, the Bible interprets a key word by means of a parallel account.
In the Luke 21:29-31 account, verse 31 replaces the word "it" of Matthew and Mark with the phrase "kingdom of God." Compare Luke 21:29-31 with Matthew 24:32, 33 and Mark 13:28, 29.
And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Luke 21: 29-31
Many Christians will agree that the fig tree, Israel restored, is the greatest sign of our Lord's prophecy. Actually, Israel's reappearance is a proof that Christ is present.
Jerusalem No Longer Trodden Down
Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Luke 21:24
Jerusalem, in this passage, has been generally interpreted two ways. One: "Jerusalem" is the literal city. Therefore, the maximum extension of fulfillment would be 1967 when the old city, Biblical Jerusalem, was captured and became a part of the modern Israeli State.
The other interpretation is that "Jerusalem" is symbolic of the Jewish people, and that the incipient fulfillment began when World War I resulted in the guarantee of a national homeland for the Jews.
Jerusalem, ceasing to be trodden down of the Gentiles, was given by Jesus as a sign of his parousia. Parousia means presence, not coming. Therefore, whichever application we place on "Jerusalem," Christ must now be present because Jerusalem is no longer trodden down by the Gentiles.
Other New Nations
"Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth " Luke 21:29, 30 If the "fig tree" is symbolic of the new nation of Israel, then it is logical to conclude that all the other trees shooting forth picture the birth of other new nations. Israel and all the new nations are signs of Christ's presence. Since 1948, over 80 new nations have joined the United Nations. The birth of so many new nations is further proof that Christ has returned.
"Many Shall Run
To and Fro and
The events of Daniel 12:4 occur when Michael the archangel (Dan 12:1; Jude 9) stands up in the Time of the End. 1 Thessalonians 4:16 shows that Christ's return is accompanied by the symbolism of "the voice of the archangel." Therefore, the events that follow Michael's (the archangel) standing up in Daniel 12 are proofs that the Lord is present.
Selden's first automobile in 1877 marked the leap forward in transportation. Today there are over 200,000,000 cars. Through increased and numerous modes of transportation millions are crossing and recrossing each other's paths around the world. In the past 100 years, man has increased his travel from 30 mph to 25,000 mph right off the planet to the moon. Sophistication in communications, additionally, allows man to see and hear almost anywhere in the world instantly.
If the increase of knowledge from the dawn of history to the 1800's is given a value of one, then knowledge has doubled 16 times within the last 10 years. One hundred years ago, 90 percent of the world's population could not read or write. Today, 40 percent of the world's population can read and write. Ninety percent of all scientists who have ever lived are alive today. Fifty percent of the world's inventions have been created in the last decade.
The noted historian Barbara Tuchman has observed, "Man entered the Nineteenth Century using only his own and animal power, supplemented by that of wind and water, much as he had entered the Thirteenth, or for that matter, the First. He entered the Twentieth with his capacities in transportation, communication, production, manufacture and weaponry multiplied, a thousandfold by the energy of machines." (The Proud Tower, foreward, xvi) Unprecedented travel and increase of knowledge mark the presence of Christ.
Evils are Exposed as Never Before
Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts 1 Corinthians 4:5
Never in all the annals of history have ecclesiastics, statesmen, men in government, heads of industry, labor leaders and the rich been so-cross-questioned, criticized and exposed as now at the bar of public judgment. Notwithstanding their determined effort to avoid the examination, they are obliged to endure the trial. Watergate, Agnew and exposed manipulations by the multi-nation oil interests, are but a few examples. The most significant thing about Watergate is not that it took place (corruption is as old as human history), but that it could not be covered up. Try as they would, it could not be hidden. Why? We are living in the time that the hidden things of darkness will be made manifest. Even a totalitarian state like Russia is powerless to prevent exposure as evidenced by the Solzhenitsyn affair. His expose gained worldwide coverage. Further exposures resulted in the overthrow of the communist empire. These world-wide exposures of corruption are another proof that we are at the time of our Lord's return and the end of the world.
Little Faith on the Earth
When the Son of man cometh, shall he find faith on the earth?" Luke 18:8 " his appearing the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables. 2 Timothy 4:1-4
Infidelity is rampant from university to pulpit. In the professed church of Christ the Word of God is no longer the standard of faith, the guide of life. Human philosophies are theories are taking its place. Even heathen vagaries are flourishing in places formerly beyond their pale.
A survey taken among delegates to the National Council of Churches revealed that over one third could not state they had a firm belief in God; thirty-one per cent could not say there is life after death; sixty-two per cent did not believe miracles happened as the Bible says they did; seventy-seven per cent did not believe the devil actually exists; and eighty-seven per cent rejected the Bible concept of inherited sin. Our day is in such marked contrast with the past that church historians speak of it as the post-Christian era. This world-wide scarcity of faith means the Son of man has come.
Signs of the Last Days
"In the last days will come time of trouble. Men will love nothing but money and self [affluence and materialism]; no gratitude, no piety, implacable in their hatreds, scandalmongers, intemperate and fierce [drug addiction and senseless violence], despisers of those that are good, traitors lovers of pleasure rather that lovers of God, men who hold an outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality." 2 Timothy 3:1-5 N.E.B., K.J.V.
These verses read like Twentieth Century headlines. A further word about one of these signs:
"Lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God." This has been remarkably fulfilled in a prevalent philosophy of today. "Hedonism," the philosophy that the end and object of life is pleasure, is not new. But today, for the first time, it has received general acceptance throughout the world. The various conditions predicted in 2 Timothy 3:1-5 are further proof that we are in the "last days" of this "present evil world."
Capital and Labor Strife
Ye rich men, weep and howl your riches are corrupted the rust of them shall be a witness against you ye have heaped the treasure together for the last days. Behold the hire of the laborers who have reaped down your fields, which is of you kept back by fraud, crieth: and the cries of them which have reaped are entered into the ears of the Lord of sabaoth. James 5:1-4.
Strikes and walkouts, the cries of laborers for their wages, are signs of the last days. We hear them steadily increasing. As we have seen from 2 Peter 3:3,4, these "last days" occur during the parousia or presence (mistranslated "coming") of Christ. The exorbitant profit of the industrialist and capitalist have heaped up until the "last days." The "Lord of sabaoth" has heard the cries of the workers. Since the return of the Lord, much of the injustice against the working man has been corrected. The protection of the rights of the working man is a phenomenon of our time. We have only to reflect back to 1894 when the then-future president Howard Taft wrote of the Pullman Strike of 1894, "It will be necessary for the military to kill some of the mob they have only killed six as yet, this is hardly enough to make an impression." The Proud Tower by Barbara W. Tuchman, page 478.
Never before in human history has the right of the worker to pressure management for higher wages and better working conditions been guaranteed by laws. But both capital and labor are tarred by the same sin of selfishness. Labor's demands will continue to increase for both just and fancied rights. Management will share just so much of its profits and the death struggle will be upon us. This equalizing of the scales of justice between capital and labor marks us as in the "last days" of James 5:1-4. Another sign that Christ has returned.
Revolution and Anarchy
For the day of the Lord is at hand: for the Lord hath prepared a sacrifice, he hath bid his guests. And it shall come to pass in the day of the Lord's sacrifice, that I will punish the princes, and the king's children, and all such as are clothed with strange apparel. In the same day also will I punish all those that leap on the threshold, which fill their masters' houses with violence and deceit. Zephaniah 1:7-9
Throughout the Christian Age, economically speaking, there have been basically two classes: the "haves" and the "have-nots." A large middle class is a peculiarity of our era and locates us in the Day of the Lord. For centuries, the wealthy have been aligned with church and state in the exploitation of the masses.
We are in the "Day of the Lord" spoken of by Zephaniah. To recompense the exploitations of the past, the returned Lord has prepared a sacrifice from the avaricious accumulations of the wealthy. And the guests (masses) have been invited to share. This economic leveling has resulted in the large middle class of our day.
Demonstrations, riots the struggles between capital and labor, racial majorities and minorities will progressively get worse in the day of the Lord's presence until they end in complete anarchy. Already, anarchy is just below the surfaceready to burst forth at the slightest provocation.
While the Lord is balancing the scales of justice for the past wrongs of the vested interest class, the exploited class by their unjustified demands and violence reveal that they have nothing better to offer. Because their ideologies are honey-combed with selfishness and deprivation, they will accomplish but one thing: the destruction of our social order.
The events that Zephaniah foretells take place during the Day of the Lord. The magnitude of the prophecy rules out a 24-hour dayor a shorter period of time. The masses are invited to share the economic excess of the wealthy and time is required to reveal the deceit and violence of the exploited as they rebel against the status quo.
The whole revolutionary trend of our day, with its periodic violent eruptions, is another sign that the Lord has returned.
Wars and War Preparations
Prepare war, wake up the mighty men, let all the men of war draw near; let them come up: Beat your plowshares into swords, and your pruninghooks into spears; let the weak say, I am strong. Assemble yourselves, and come gather yourselves together round about Joel 3:9-11
Joel 3:1 identifies the events of this chapter as occurring during the regathering of Israel. As already seen, the regathering of Israel is a proof of Christ's presence, therefore, in the days of Israel's return (Joel 3:1), the wars and intensified was preparations are further signs of Christ's presence. A phenomenon of our era is the two World Wars affecting every corner of the globe. By 1980, civilian breeder reactors in forty countries will turn out, as a by-product, enough plutonium to make 5,000 nuclear bombs a year.
Sociologist Andreski, the noted expert on wars, writes, "Our own century has so far been much more warlike then its predecessor." Time magazine (March 9, 1970) in concurring, observes that 100,000,000 have died in wars since the being of the 20th century, while only 3,845,000 died in the 19th century. The premium is on nuclear armaments. Wars and intensified war preparations are another proof of the return of Christ.
"Let the Weak Say I Am Strong"
The previous scripture in Joel 3:10 reveals that during the intensity of war and war preparations, the weak nations say, "I am strong." For centuries the weaker nations placated and satisfied the whims of the stronger nations in fear of the consequences. This has changed in our day. In the United Nations, the weaker powers stand up to the great powers, verbally assailing and influencing them as never before. The bar of world opinion and power politics limit the harassment of weaker nations by major powers.
The greatest power in the world today, the United States, has bitterly experienced the "weak" saying, "I am strong." In the war against North Korea and again in the conflict with North Vietnam, the United States was unable to wage total war for fear of the consequences of world opinion. With hat in hand, the United States gradually withdrew from Vietnam, hoping not to lose too much face in an impossible situation. The strangle hold of the small oil-rich nations on the economies of the great world powers is another fulfillment of this sign.
The weak nations saying, "I am strong," is still another proof that Christ has returned.
"Peace and Safety"
Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth. For when they say Peace and Safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them " Luke 21:26; 1 Thessalonians 5:2,3
"The Day of the Lord" is marked by fearful nations crying for peace in conferences, but to no avail. The trouble comes upon them in spasms, as "travail upon a woman with child."
In 1907 a world court was set up at the Hague, Netherlands, to arbitrate international disputes. War was outlawed. "Peace and safety" were assured. Then World War I shook the world with an impact unprecedented in history as a whole world order began to crumble. In 1938 Neville Chamberlain "appeased" Hitler with part of Czechoslovakia and returned to England pronouncing, "peace in our times." Shortly after, the nations were embroiled in World War II.
Since the end of World War II, no previous generation has witnessed such a frenzy of peace-efforts, both on the United Nations level and nation-to-nation negotiations. Yet, war and sudden destruction continued to erupt as in Korea, Vietnam, Asia, Africa, the Middle East, etc. The Cold War ended with the fall of the Soviet Union. No longer was there rivalry between two super-powers, the United States and the Soviet Union. Seemingly, the world would now have peace. Then smalls wars like Desert Storm and the Yugoslavian ethnic wars broke out. The scriptures also indicate that Russia will again become a power to reckon with. The unprecedented peace efforts prove the presence of Christ.
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved Matthew 24:21,22
This unprecedented trouble is a sign of Christ parousia (presence, not coming). Watchful Christians discern Christ is invisibly present during this "great tribulation." Therefore it cannot apply to a seven-year period between "a secret rapture" and his visible return.*
*See detailed discussion on the "seven-year tribulation" theory, Appendix B.
Historians agree we are in such an era of unprecedented trouble. For example:
Looking back from the vantage point of the present we see that the outbreak of World War I ushered in a twentieth-century 'Time of Trouble' from which our civilization has by no means yet emerged. Directly or indirectly all the convulsions of the last half century stem back to 1914 and Sarajevo: the two World Wars, the Bolshevik Revolution, the rise and fall of Hitler, the continuing turmoil in the Far and Near East, the power-struggle between the Communist world and our own Edmond Taylor, The Fall of the Dynasties, Doubleday, N.Y., 1963, p. 16.
We have seen that twentieth century wars have cost the lives of 100 million, but unprecedented wars are only one aspect of this great tribulation.
Tribulation as a result of Christ's presence is everywhere. it has never been so widespread and intense.
Population Explosion: Before 1650 A.D. the population doubled every 1,000 years; it doubled in 1850 (200 years later); doubled again in 1930 (only 80 years later); and doubled again in 1965 (only 35 years later). In 1990 the world population was 5.5 billion. By 2000 A.D. it will increase by one billion. Up to 15 million people die of starvation annually. There are 30 million refugees and 100 million homeless. Each day 40,000 babies die of starvation in Third World countries while Americans spend over $900 million yearly feeding dogs and cats.
Pollution: The U.S. has 5% of the worlds population, but annually disposes of 290 million tons of toxic waste, uses 26% of the worlds oil, release 26% of the worlds nitrogen oxides, produces 22% of the worlds carbon dioxide emissions.
Solid wastes, radio-active and toxic chemical wastes are contaminating our rivers, lakes and oceans. Air pollutants from car exhaust and industry spawn disease. Deaths from respiratory disease doubles every five years. Skin cancer caused by the depletion of the ozone layer is rapidly increasing. Acid rain is destroying our forests, which in turn will produce "global warming." This "greenhouse effect" could melt polar ice caps causing oceans to rise and wipe out hundreds of thousands of miles of densely populated coastal lands (affecting 2 billion people). Also, it would dramatically increase temperature variations. This would trigger life-threatening droughts and heat waves turning "breadbasket farmland" (like our Midwest) into barren desert. Severe food shortages would result. Time is running out, according to Lester R. Brown, president of the highly respected WORLDWATCH INSTITUTE. "Preceding generations have always been concerned about the future, but ours is the first to be faced with decisions that will determine whether the earth our children inherit will be inhabitable." Scientists are now concerned that the population explosion could hasten and increase the effect of Global warming. (New York Times, Jan. 18, 1990). Drastic climate changes resulting in economic disaster in many nations could trigger wars for survival.
Crime and Violence continue to spiral. Automatic weapons are readily available to the "kid" on the street. An estimated 100,000 guns are taken into American schools daily. In large cities, students are scanned for weapons upon entering school and the halls are patrolled by armed police. There is an upsurge in the most violent types of crime by teens of all races, classes and life-styles. Once muggers robbed a person and ran off. Now they beat, violate or murder them. There were over 2200 homicides in New York City during 1990. Also, every 2½ weeks a child was murdered in New York by a parent. Over three million wives are battered each year in the U.S.
Drugs: We are losing the drug war because the huge profits are too corrupting. In 1989 the major U.S. chemical companies sold 18.5 million pounds of chemicals to "front companies" in South America who in turn sold these chemicals to drug cartels. There are 2.2 million hard-core drug users in the United States. While 1 out of 40 persons in New York City is hard-core, nationally 1 out of 100 are hard-core users. The number of casual users is substantially higher. Is it any wonder the crime rate is spiraling? Seventy percent of New York Citys drug users are affluent. One thousand drug addicted babies are born every day.
Economic chaos: The U.S. entered the 1990s with a staggering debt of over $3 trillion and a perilous foreign trade imbalance; the S & L Associations on the verge of complete collapse; the commercial banks in serious trouble; insurance companies failing; 1300 companies claiming bankruptcy per week. The nineties witnessed the bankruptcy of many corporate giants.
In 1983, the U.S. was the worlds largest creditor nation. By 1990 it became the biggest debtor nation (C. Fred Bergsten, head of the INSTITUTE FOR INTERNATIONAL ECONOMICS, 1990). Weekly monitoring shows the U.S. debt has swelled to over $4 trillion. Many economists predict it will soon top $5 trillion. No longer are we the unchallenged economic power of the world.
Out of the 2,500 Savings and Loan Associations, over 1,000 needed to be bailed out. It is more than a fiasco of high risk loans and mismanagement. S & L heads have swindled astronomical sums. Government regulators are accused of hiding facts to avert election issues.
Indeed, our generation IS experiencing a "Time of Trouble such as never was since there was a nation."
This unprecedented trouble is a sign that Christ's coming is not imminent but he already is here.
Nations On The
"Woe unto you that desire the day of the Lord! to what end is it for you? the day of the LORD is darkness, and not light. As if a man did flee from a lion, and a bear met him; or went into the house, and leaned his hand on the wall, and a serpent bit him." Amos 5:18, 19, 20
In Amos prophecy the fleeing man represents the worlds experiences in this dark "time of trouble." At the dawning of our era, Great Britain ruled the most expansive empire on earth. The lion in this prophecy, Britains national symbol, appropriately illustrated the mighty nation that devoured (colonized) weaker nations. Colonialisms suffocating grasping led to the worlds fleeing to another form of government.
The man in Amos 5:20 escaped the lion only to meet the beara form of government diametrically opposed to the grasping greed of colonialismcommunism! The former Soviet Union, the "bear" of Amos prophecy, offered man another hope for safety in this time of trouble. Communisms failure to rescue man was underscored by its precipitous fall. The nations are now seeking another hope of securitynationalism.
Entering the "house" of nationalism has been anything but comfortable for the world. Bosnia, Serbia, Germany and other nations now seeking safety in nationalism are suffering civil war, economic malaise, the rise of new "hate groups" and other ills. While in the supposed security of ultra-nationalism (will church and state reunite?) the people place their hand on the wall. Seeking rest in the supporting structure of human government will result in being bitten by the serpent. That old Serpent, the Devil and Satan, which once deceived the nations that they were Christs Kingdom (Revelation 12:9) will bite them again. Then the nations will feel the rebuke of Jehovah in the great time of trouble.
Nations on the run is one of the signs of the "day of the Lord," the day of Christs presence.
There are many additional signs that prove Christ as already returned, but the ones we have considered are more that adequate to establish a point. "What shall be the signs of thy parousia [presence]?" The fact that we have seen these signs fulfilled in our day proves we are living in the period of Christs secret presencethe period before "every eye shall see him."