Signs

Signs.  We see them every day.  We see traffic signs that help us to safely navigate through traffic to our intended destination.  We see signs that warn us of dangers ahead, whether it is going down the road or entering a building or room, there are there to warn us.  We see signs that identify places of interests, whether it’s a restaurant we’re looking for, a hospital, a tourist attraction or a place of historical significance, or even where restrooms are located, among other places.  Signs even tell us where we can locate things like a fire extinguisher or first aid kit.  What about signs for life itself, especially signs of eternal significance?

In Matthew 16:1-3, Jesus gives the religious leaders a scathing rebuke. 

1 Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. 2 He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; 3 and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. 

NKJV

Jesus told us what signs to look out for regarding the end-times and when He will return, both His return for His Bride and when He returns to establish His Kingdom here on earth, two completely different events.  If that wasn’t enough, Jesus then proceeds to tell us something in Mark 13:32-33 and Luke 21:34-36 that reinforces the need for us to pay attention to the signs.

Jesus lets us know that ONLY the Father knows when He will return for His Bride, the Church, and then tells us to be watching for Him.  In the parable of the ten virgins mentioned in Matthew 25:1-13, in verse 6 we’re told that a cry went out that the bridegroom was coming, and that the virgins representing the bride were to go out and meet him, of which only five were prepared to do so at that time.  I believe the cry going out mentioned in the passage is the fulfillment of the signs given us in Scripture pointing to His return, and I believe that cry is resounding even now.

In Mark 13:37, not only does Jesus make it clear that EVERYONE is to be watching, but His command for us to watch is strong and with emphasis so that we will know how serious He is in this.  In Revelation 3:1-6, Jesus addresses the church in Sardis.

1 “And to the angel of the church in Sardis write, ‘These things says He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars: “I know your works, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead.  2 Be watchful, and strengthen the things which remain, that are ready to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God.  3 Remember therefore how you have received and heard; hold fast and repent. Therefore if you will not watch, I will come upon you as a thief, and you will not know what hour I will come upon you.  4 You have a few names even in Sardis who have not defiled their garments; and they shall walk with Me in white, for they are worthy.  5 He who overcomes shall be clothed in white garments, and I will not blot out his name from the Book of Life; but I will confess his name before My Father and before His angels.  6 “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”‘

NKJV

In this passage, we find that one of the issues Jesus had with the church in Sardis was that they were not being watchful.  He then commands them to repent and to watch, warning them that if they don’t do so He will come upon them as a thief and they won’t know it.  He then follows this up with the admonishment that those who do so, those who overcome, shall be clothed in white garments, and that He will not blot out their name from the Book of Life.  Here we see Jesus addressing Christians who were not watching for His return, and with that commanding them to repent and start watching for Him, otherwise they would in essence be left behind as a consequence of not doing so.

In Revelation 16:15, Jesus again accentuates the need for us to be watching by telling us that those who do so will be blessed, and then rebuking those who didn’t and were left behind when He came back for His Bride.  Jesus’ command to watch and pray regarding His return is not a casual suggestion as some would like to believe, nor is it something that can be negotiated if we don’t think it necessary or vital.  Jesus does something that too few of us do, yet it is something that we all should be doing, and that is the fact that Jesus means what He says, and He says what He means.  If He tells us to watch and pray regarding His return, then He means just that and nothing less or more.

I’ve had Christians tell me that they don’t need to be watching for Christ to return, citing the belief that when He returns, they will automatically be ready and caught up to be with Him.  This is a very dangerous position to have on three accounts.  First, those that believe this way are saying they know better than Jesus as to whether they need to be watching for Him or not, much less praying that they’re ready when He does return.  Second, they are, in essence, in rebellion to Him if they are choosing to disobey His command to watch and pray.  And third, they are under the false assumption that all professing Christians will be caught up to meet Christ in the air, something that Scripture very clearly states is not the case.

I remember one Christian, a pastor, tell me one time that we don’t need to be watching for the return of Christ, and this on the basis that just living the Christian life as we ought to be is the same as watching.  If living the Christian life as we ought to be is good or enough, then why would Jesus speak so strongly about us watching and praying that we’re ready for Him when He does return?  Again, this way of thinking discounts Christ’s commands to watch and pray, and hat is a very dangerous position to be in.  I should add, however, that this pastor doesn’t even believe in the physical and literal rapture of the Church to Christ, much less a tribulation period, but rather an emotional and euphoric experience.

Some Christians take another approach to the subject of watching for Christ’s return.  When they see or hear the news, or even some of what is happening around them, they get so angry or depressed that they stop wanting to know more of what is happening.  In many ways, it’s as if they are choosing to stick their head in the sand so they don’t have to see or hear anything more.  These Christians are dealing with a “gloom and doom” perspective, having no real hope of better things ahead for them in Christ.  Even though what we see and hear can be very disheartening and depressing, if we see these things as not only signs of the times, but also signs pointing to His very soon return, then we can see these things with excitement and joy knowing that our Redeemer is soon to return for us.  This doesn’t mean that we are to be insensitive to what is happening, but that we need to keep a right and proper perspective of what is happening so we can be a light to those around us.

Some time ago, while I was watching television a thought crossed my mind.  Christians in America, for the most part, are very distracted in what they are focused on.  Instead of maintaining a healthy perspective of watching the signs pointing to the soon return of Christ for His Bride, many Christians are caught up with watching several other things.  Some are watching news and politics to see how it will impact them and their standard of living, or even how it will impact them as Christians.  Some are caught up with looking for prosperity and material gain they think they are entitled to as Christians.  Some are caught up with spiritual manifestations and the feelings associated with them, even if false doctrine is present and promoted alongside such manifestations.  Some focus on building the kingdom of God here on earth and establishing a strong Christian presence in the “seven mountains of influence”, forgetting that this is not our home to create a “Christian utopia” in, and that is now what we are commanded in Scripture to do.  Some even focus on and take the role of what I’ve called for years, the doctrine police, focused more on identifying and exposing false doctrine that pointing people to truth and the need to be prepared for Christ’s soon return.  Amid such distractions, Christians in America seem to lose sight of what we are to be focused on, and that is to live a life pleasing to God while actively watching the signs for His imminent return for us.

We are clearly living in the last days, and the signs we’ve been given in Scripture to be watching for are clearly converging together for their ultimate fulfillment.  It is imperative that we be paying attention to them.  Some see the signs but have become desensitized to them because their fulfillment is not happening as quickly as they want or in the manner that they anticipated, and that is something we need to be guarded against happening within our own heart and mind.  We’re told in 1 Peter 3:3-4 that in these last days people would mock and scoff of the fulfillment of God’s promise to us because that’s all we’ve heard about since the beginning, but nothing has happened so far.  We live in a “microwave” society, where we think things should happen quickly and in a preconceived manner, and because of it many are becoming disillusioned to the reality of the days we are now living in.  Unlike any other time in history, all the signs we’re given pointing to the last days are happening all at once, and we need to be aware of them and making sure we’re prepared as we ought for when Christ returns for His Bride.

I grew up in church, and I remember as a kid hearing lots of discussions and teachings regarding the end-times, whether it was about the Rapture, the Tribulation period, or anything else related to them.  That seemed to be the overwhelming talk during that time in my life, and the belief in the Rapture, especially the pre-Tribulation Rapture, seemed to be the majority belief among Christians.  That is no longer the case.  In fact, it seems that more and more Christians, those who at one time believed in the literal, pre-tribulation Rapture, are no longer embracing these teachings as though they are not real or true, or that these events will not take place anytime soon.  On top of that, there is almost no teachings from the pulpits in America’s churches about the end-times or the Rapture, and in some cases more and more teachings against them.  One prominent minister who has written books and teaching materials for Christians and churches to pursue purpose, he has actually written that Jesus tells us as He supposedly told the disciples, that the timing and the signs of His return is none of our business, and this minister says that anyone who engages in the study or the teaching of Bible prophecy and the end-times is not fit for the kingdom of God.  Wow!  There is a major attack within Church circles against the study and teaching of Bible prophecy and the end-times, and this is part of what was prophesied for these last days.

Are you watching the signs, or are you distracted with other things of life, or have you been choosing to “stick your head in the sand” because you don’t want to see or hear them being fulfilled?  Jesus makes it very clear, that those who are not watching but are otherwise distracted with life and other pursuits will be left behind when He returns for His Bride, and I don’t want that for you.  That doesn’t mean we stop living and sit in lounge chair on the patio with a sweet tea in one hand and a smart phone in the other, staring up into the eastern sky, but rather in all we do it is with the awareness that the signs being raised all around us are pointing to His very soon return, and that our life needs to reflect that as we live in a way that is pleasing and honoring to Him in every way, not being ashamed to live for Him even it if means offending those who don’t understand or feel the same way.  Our eternity hinges on it.

Before we end today’s podcast, I must ask each of you two questions.  First, if you were to die within the next few minutes, do you know whether you would go to heaven or not?  This is an important question that each of us need to ask ourselves.  Second, and this is a bit more thought provoking, if you were to die within the next few minutes and find yourself face to face with Jesus, and I’m not saying that is how it would be, but if He were to ask you why He should let you into heaven, what would your answer be?  Some people believe that everyone will eventually make it to heaven, and others believe that just because they’ve been good then that should automatically afford them eternal access into heaven, but that is not so.  In Ephesians 2:8-9 we’re told that salvation is simply a gift of God, something that is obtained by His grace and through faith.

Eph 2:8-9

8 For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, 9 not of works, lest anyone should boast.

NKJV

If salvation is something nobody can earn or deserve, then how can one be saved, not just in this life but in the life to come on the other side of eternity?  Well, let’s keep this as simple as “ABC”, because it is simple.

Unlike other religions, Christianity does not require you to do works to receive salvation because it’s a gift from God.  Rather, it’s as simple as “ABC”.  To begin with, “A” stands for your need to “ADMIT” that you are a sinner.  Romans 3:10 tells us that no one is righteous, no, not one.  And why is that?  In Romans 3:23 we’re told that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  This means that nobody is good enough, no matter how good they may be.  Romans 6:23 tells us that the wages of our sin is death, but the gift of God, the gift of God, is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.  Like we mentioned earlier, in Ephesians 2:8-9 we’re told that this gift of salvation is nothing that any of us can earn or deserve.  It’s simply a gift that He offers us by grace and through faith.  So, the first thing one needs to do is to admit that they are a sinner.

The second thing a person must do, and this is “B” in the “ABC’s”, is to “BELIEVE” in their heart that Jesus Christ died for your sins, was buried, and that God raised Him from the dead.  Romans 10:9-10 tells us that if we confess with our mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in our heart that God raised Him from the dead, we will be saved.  It’s not just a mental believing as some would like it to be, but rather a believing that dictates the way one lives their life.  It’s a way of life that reflects and supports what they say they believe.  In James 2:19 were told that even the demons believe, and they tremble, but salvation is not available to them.  Just having a head knowledge is not enough.

The third thing a person must do, and this is “C” in the “ABC’s”, is to “CALL UPON THE NAME OF THE LORD.”  You need to call Jesus Lord, and to do so means one must surrender their life to Him.  There is coming a time when every knee will bow before Him, and every tongue will confess to God that He is Lord.  Now is the time for salvation, and now is the time to voluntarily surrender your life to Him.  The eternal rewards for surrendering your life to Jesus is far greater than anything this world could ever hope to give you.

Is a relationship with Jesus like I’ve described important and worth it?  YES!  Yes, it is.  I won’t say that life will be easier or with less problems, but it will be more fulfilling, and with that there is a Blessed Hope for all Christians to embrace and pursue.  More and more people are beginning to feel hopeless with life, especially when they see everything that is happening around them and around the world, but as Christians we have a hope that is solid and independent of anything this world could ever hope to offer us.  The signs we are seeing across the news headlines now days only energizes the hope we have of Jesus’ ever imminent return for us.  It is that same hope, that Blessed Hope, that encourages Christians to keep the faith and to continue living for Him and Him alone.  Are you one of those who place their trust and hope in Jesus?

If you do not have a saving relationship with Jesus, and you would like to, I encourage you to talk to God right now.  It doesn’t have to be anything fancy or eloquent, just a sharing of your heart to Him.  If that is you, and you’re ready to give your life to Jesus, then say this prayer from your heart and to Him.  Again, it’s not a formula, just a sharing of your heart to Him.

“O God, I am a sinner.  I’m sorry for my sin.  I want to turn from my sin.  I believe Jesus Christ is Your Son; I believe that He died on the cross for my sin, that He was buried, that You raised Him to life, and that He’s coming to take me back to His house in heaven very soon.  I have decided to place my faith in Jesus Christ as my Savior and Lord, trusting only in His shed blood as more than sufficient to save my soul and to take me to heaven.  Thank You, Lord Jesus, for saving me.  Amen.”

In closing, if you haven’t been doing so already, you need to start paying attention to the signs pointing the very near return of Jesus for His followers.  These signs are seen in the fulfillment of Biblical end-time events, and while some may become depressed or discouraged with what they are seeing, and while others get their focus misdirected off of Jesus and His imminent return to focus on things here on earth, this is truly the most exciting times to be living in as Christians, as followers of Christ!  Watch the signs!

John Johansson

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