In 1988 a booklet titled 88 Reasons the Rapture Will Be in 1988 was published. The premise of the book was that the return of Jesus Christ would take place during the Jewish holiday of Rosh-Hashanah, on Sept. 11, 1988. More than 3.2 million of the booklets were published and distributed to pastors throughout the United States. Thousands took the predictions seriously, some quitting their jobs to prepare for the rapture.
As the date approached, a popular Christian television network interrupted its regular programming to provide special instructions on preparing for the coming of Christ. When Christ did not return on that date, the author followed up with predictions for Christ’s return in 1989, 1993, 1994 and finally 1997. Many people were left disappointed and disillusioned by these predictions. Others have attempted to put a date on Christ’s return. All of them have proven to be false.
The Bible clearly teaches the second coming of Jesus Christ. First Thessalonians 4:13-18, 1 Corinthians 15:51-54 and 2 Peter 3:8-10 encourage us with the truth of our Savior’s return; but when will this be? It is tempting for believers to interpret the turmoil and violence in our world today as signs of the imminent return of Christ. Yet, there must be a balance in our watching and waiting for His coming. His return is certain. Yet, we must be careful of speculation and fanciful date setting.
Jesus told His disciples to beware, to be careful not to be deceived and fall into error regarding the second coming of Christ.
In Mark 13:1-8, Jesus gave His disciples some basic characteristics of the age leading up to His return. In verse 1, Jesus was departing the temple for the last time before His crucifixion. As they pass through the beautiful and awesome temple structure, He made a startling revelation. Not one stone would be left upon another. Later at the Mount of Olives, the disciples asked Jesus the meaning of this statement. Their question concerned the temple and its destruction in A.D. 70 when the Romans ransacked the entire city. Jesus’s answer, however, went far beyond that to the end of the age and His own return.
He gives us three characteristics of the age leading up to His return. These are signs that His coming is soon, but not yet here.
There Will Spiritual Deception
Many spiritual imposters will claim to be the Messiah or to speak for Him. False cults will continue to arise as the coming of Christ approaches. Christians must compare carefully the teachings of those who claim to speak for God with the clear teaching of Scripture.
There Will Be Political Unrest
There will be wars and rumors of wars. Humanity will become more violent as the end times approach. Today’s news seems to be filled with terrorist activity and military skirmishes in the Middle East. These are signs that we are living in the days preceding the coming of Christ.
There Will be Natural Disasters
Earthquakes and famines are happening more and more frequently. These are not indicators that the end is near. We are not to be overly troubled by them. They are the beginning of birth pains.
As any mother knows, birth pains begin slowly and then build in intensity until the moment of birth. This will be true of the time preceding the coming of Christ. Spiritual deception, political unrest and natural disasters have been common to every age since the coming of Christ and should not incite panic or worry, but instead ground us with the hope that Jesus’ return is imminent. The term birth pains also can be translated death throes. Jerry Vines, in his commentary on Mark, tells us that these signs are the death throes of the old age and the birth pains of the new.
Our hope is in the coming of Christ. He is the main event of the end times. Our hope is in Him and His glorious appearing. We must be careful not to be deceived by world events, but look forward to the greatest event in history, the return of Christ for His Church!