The Signs of His Coming
May 6th, 1984 @ 8:15 AM
THE SEVENTEEN SIGNS OF HIS COMING
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-06-84 8:15 a.m.
It is a joy for us in this First Baptist Church of Dallas to welcome the great multitudes of you who share the hour with us on radio. These are meaningful days for me. I have never studied more in my life than I am during these present days. In our preaching on the Great Doctrines of the Bible, we have come to the climactic sections, and the section in which we are now engaged is the “Second Coming of Christ.”
There are eleven messages in this section, and because of lack of time I have broken up this message entitled The Signs of His Coming. I’ve broken it up into two parts. Last Sunday morning we spoke of signs, that the Bible is a Book of signs, and that God is a book of signs. God says. “I will do nothing but first I will reveal it unto My servants” [Amos 3:7-8]. Isn’t that an astonishing thing for God to say? So He speaks to us in signs. And the second part of the message is delivered now: the seventeen signs—the prophetic signs that are being fulfilled before our eyes today—seventeen signs of the second coming of our Lord.
The background, of course, is the word of Jesus in Matthew 24:3, “What shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the age?” And then we have Matthew 24-25, we have Mark 13, we have Luke 21. Now, we are not date-setting. That coming of our Lord is in the will and the purpose of the Father. Jesus said in Mark 13:32, “Of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels in heaven, neither the Son, only the Father.” He said to His disciples in Acts 1:7 when they said, “Lord is this the time You are going to restore the kingdom to Israel; is this the time of the millennial return?” [Acts 1:6]. And the Lord replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath placed in His own power” [Acts 1:7]. We’re not date setting. But we are to live in the imminency—i-m-m—in the imminency of the coming of Christ. It was our Lord who said and repeated it, and in your passage, you close the reading of the Scripture, “Watch” [Matthew 24:42; Mark 13:37]. We are to watch. It was our Lord who gave us the signs of His coming, and it was our Lord who said in Luke 21:25 and 28:
There shall be signs in the heavens and upon earth distress of nations . . .Then shall they see the Son of Man coming in a cloud of glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Signs are remarkable pointers, spelling out coming mighty events. As I said a moment ago, God always reveals to His servants what He is going to do [Amos 3:7-8]. Signs and happenings and phenomena are the ABCs, making up words and sentences that speak to us. They say something to us, “And who has eyes to see, let him see [Matthew 16:3]; and who has ears to hear let him hear” [Matthew 11:15]. The signs, the phenomena, the happenings that we read in the daily papers indicate what God is doing and the purpose of God in doing it. As the leafing of a tree indicates the coming spring and summer, as the rapids indicate Niagara, so these happenings indicate what God is going to do. Despite their variety they have a common alphabet and they point to the same thing. One: they point to the end of the world; and two: they point to the coming of our Lord.
Now there are seventeen prophetic signs of the coming of Christ being fulfilled today; you can see them. When you read the Bible it’s like reading the headlines of the daily newspapers. I am overwhelmed by the signs that I see and the prophecies that are daily fulfilled. Verily, as Paul says, we are the people upon whom the ends of the world have come [1 Corinthians 10:11].
Now the first one: the riveted attention of the world on the Middle East is a prophetic fulfillment of the Word of God and a sign of the denouement of history and the end of the age. God says that the climatic story of the human race will be dramatized; it will be enacted in the Middle East. We cannot escape it. For example in the oil crisis of 1973, we learned that in the Middle East there is the power to wreck, or to stabilize, or to control the whole world. That is illustrated in Revelation 16:13-16, that in the Middle East—over there in Israel—will be the denouement of the age.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
For they are the spirits of demons . . . which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty . . .
And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Har Megiddo—Armageddon.
That’s over there in Israel in the Middle East; that’s the first sign, the first prophetic sign. The attention of the world is always riveted over there in the Middle East.
All right, sign number two: the return of the Jew to Palestine, to Israel in unbelief—in unbelief. On the fifteenth day of May in 1948, Israel declared itself a nation; they did so in the midst of 50 million Arabs. But the amazing phenomena of that declaration is that Israel is a nation of agnostics, of atheists, and of the religiously indifferent. Outside of a small minority of orthodox, the whole country is made up of atheists and agnostics. That’s what God said, “They will return in unbelief.” In Ezekiel 36:24-28 the Lord said:
For I will take you from among the nations of the Gentiles, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. And then—
And then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, I will cleanse you.
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you . . .
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.
That is also repeated in the third chapter of the Book of Jeremiah [Jeremiah 3:12-19]. Isn’t that the most astonishing thing you could ever think for? That the regathering of the people of God is in unbelief, in agnosticism, in atheism; it’s a sign from heaven.
Sign number three is the revival of the Hebrew language. Have you ever been over there? Can you believe what you hear and what you see? That language that they’re now speaking in Israel has been dead, unspoken for two thousand five hundred years. In the eighth chapter of Nehemiah you have the recounting of the great convocation of the people under the scribe, Ezra [Nehemiah 8:1-12]. Now why did Ezra have to stand in a high pulpit above the people to interpret to them the book of the Law? [Nehemiah 8:1-5]. Because the returning captives no longer spoke Hebrew; they spoke Aramaic, which was the language of Mesopotamia. In Nehemiah 8:8, “So they read in the book of the Law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.” And it’s repeated again in the twelfth verse: “They had understanding of the words that were declared unto them” [Nehemiah 8:12].
Jesus spoke Aramaic; those original words that He spoke like “talitha cumi” [Mark 5:41], or “ephphatha” [Mark 7:34], or “eloi, eloi, lama sabachthani” [Mark 15:34]; those are Aramaic words. There are other Aramaic words such as maranatha [1 Corinthians 16:22]; such as abba, “father” [Mark 14:36]. The dead language of Hebrew was forgotten, and when they read the book of the Law [Nehemiah 8:8]—couldn’t even understand it. But the prophecy of the prophet Jeremiah was that the Hebrew language would be spoken again, Jeremiah 31:23:
Thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel;
As yet they shall use this Hebrew speech in the land of Judah and in the cities thereof,
when I bring them again from their captivity.
God says they are going to speak the Hebrew language in this place, and it has come to pass in our day and in our time.
Sign number four: the strangest of all the developments in the Middle East is that the bitter enemies, Egypt and Israel, have found a treaty of peace under Sadat, and it continues somewhat to this present day. That is a harbinger; that is a sign of the millennial peace that is yet to come. Isaiah 19:24-25 says:
In that day Israel shall be the third with Egypt and with Assyria, even a blessing in the midst of the land:
When the Lord of hosts shall bless, saying, Blessed be Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel Mine inheritance.
Can you believe that? Can you believe that those people, the Arab and the Israeli—the Assyrian, the Syrian, and the Iraqi, and the Egyptian—that all of them are going to embrace each other in brotherly love? You have a harbinger of it in the treaty that Sadat signed with Israel.
Number five, sign number five: the Lord said that Jerusalem will be trodden down by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled [Luke 21:24] and then the Lord said, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh” [Luke 21:28]. And on the day of—someday that I have forgotten—on the day of 1967 in the Six-Day War—and I was in Israel soon after that—Jerusalem was taken over by the Jewish army and the whole city is now in the hands of the Jew. And our Lord said, “When that happens you lift up your heads; for the beginning of the time of the end is at hand” [Luke 21:28].
Sign number six: the terrible expanding national enemy of Israel and of God’s people in the earth is always from the north, always. In Ezekiel 38:2 and Ezekiel 39:1, that country is spelled out; they call the king of the land “Gog” and he’s the ruler of “Magog.” And Magog is the biblical term for the country of that vast area north of the Black and the Caspian Seas. It even calls the names of the people. It calls the name Rosh, which is the country of Russia; it calls the name Meshech, which is Moscow; and it calls the name Tubal, which is Tobolsk. The growing, overwhelming, expansionist politics and policies of Russia are leading to the final Armageddon. You and I speak of Hitler as the darkest blot on human history; for some reason that I cannot understand, it was Stalin and Hitler who agreed to divide Poland between them and that precipitated the Second World War.
I do not know why, but while the attention of the whole world was focused on Hitler, at that very time, Russia invaded Finland—she destroyed Estonia and Latvia and Lithuania and a part of Romania. She is now destroying Afghanistan; she is ever moving south and is even entering Central America, right down here in the continent where we live. The United States fleet is in the Mediterranean Sea and it’s in the Persian Gulf, and it is there for one reason: to confront Russia. And this is Armageddon.
Sign number seven is the developing Russian confederacy. In Ezekiel 38:5, it says with Russia are Persia—that’s Iran—and Ethiopia and Libya. When I visited those countries and preached in them, all three of them, they were the friends of the United States. They are now aligned with Russia; Russia dominates Ethiopia and Libya. When you see all of that trouble and terror that comes out of Libya, back of it is the cruel, blood-dripped hand of Russia. And when you read all of the things that are going on in Iran, they have become our bitter and implacable enemies.
I could not help but notice yesterday as I drove in my car back from the airport, I could not help but notice: the report of the correspondent in Peking said that the Chinese government had accorded to Arafat—a dirty, low-down rat if there ever was one in the earth, that they had accorded to Arafat, the terrorist—they had accorded to Arafat the same gracious, national celebration of reception and welcome as they had to the president of the United States of America, Ronald Reagan. Then I remembered that in the ninth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, in that final confrontation in Armageddon, the East—which would be China, is present there with an army of two hundred million men [Revelation 9:16]. These Chinese may open their hearts somewhat to us, but in the final denouement of the age, God says they’re over there on the other side. And I listened to that yesterday and thought about that prophecy.
Sign number eight: the revival of the old Roman Empire; the ten-nation European confederation, the NATO alliance and the European Common Market. In Daniel 2:44-45, the stone that comes out of the mountain, “cut out without hands,” that’s our Lord Jesus Christ, “strikes the fourth kingdom,” which is Rome, “the fourth kingdom on its toes,” ten of them [Daniel 2:34-35]. And in Daniel 7:23-27, the final ten kings—the final ten kings arise out of that fourth kingdom, which is the Roman Empire, and one of those kings is the Antichrist. The old Roman Empire is being presented to us today in the form of those ten nations: the NATO alliance, the European Common Market. What occurs in human government concerns God. It’s an unusual word that Paul writes in [Romans 13:1] that the powers that be, these governments, are ordained of God.
Sign number nine that we see fulfilled today: the distress of nations. Jesus said in Luke 21:25-26:
And there shall be signs in the heavens;
and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity. . .
Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth.
It is the scientists and the military men and the politicians who are the preachers today. H. G. Wells, in one of his books said, “I predict that the generation in which you and I live is the last generation upon the earth.” Professor Albert Weber, in his book Farewell to European History, said, “To one endowed with historical perspective, it must be clear that we are at the end of the world history as we know it.” And Arnold J. Toynbee, one of the greatest historians of all times, in the New York Times said, “The stable characteristics of the past six thousand years of civilized history are being changed and are falling apart.” These are students of history.
It is in this atmosphere and is in this setting that the ultimate world dictator, the Antichrist, will arise. The statesmen of the world are following every avenue known to man to find a solution for world peace, and they all lead to a dead-end. The world will receive a man of skill who says, “I have the solution to the confrontations of the nations of the world.” He will be followed and he will be declared “the man of the century.” The ultimate dictator, this Antichrist, is described in 2 Thessalonians 2 [2 Thessalonians 2:3-10] and Revelation 13 [Revelation 13:1-10], and in Daniel 7 [Daniel 7:7-8, 24-26], and 9 [Daniel 9:26-27]. He leads the world into the last great war, Armageddon: the ultimate destruction of the present world system.
War is a sign from God; war is a judgment of God. And the heavens will be used to fight this war. Those space platforms, those satellites that encircle the globe will be the platforms from which atomic and hydrogen bombs are dropped. That’s described in Luke 21 [Luke 21:25-26], in 2 Peter 3 [2 Peter 3:10-12], and in Matthew 24 [Matthew 24:29]. It is the purpose of God to save us out of this present world system of death and of destruction [1 Thessalonians 1:10].
Sign number ten: the multiplication of knowledge. In Daniel 12:4 God said to Daniel, “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” That’s a sign of the end time. What the human race knew, the whole human race knew, from the birth of Christ to 1750, that knowledge was doubled from 1750 to 1900. And that was doubled from 1900 to 1950. And that was doubled from 1950 to 1960, and it’s being doubled every few years ever since. And the double time is decreasing with every passing day.
Travel time has been shortened: used to walk, then ride a donkey, then maybe a horse, then a car, now a jet. Communication has increased unbelievably: we can sit in our living rooms and watch what is happening over there in Peking. World government would demand that you would have to have computers to control the people; you’d have to have information from satellites to know what is going on, and you’d have to have rapid transit for the movement of armies and for weapons.
Sign number eleven: the gospel is to be preached to all the nations of the world. In Matthew 24:14 the Lord said, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations; and then shall the end come.”
I was over there in Warsaw, speaking with those Baptist brethren in the capital of Poland, and they asked me to help them to sustain a transmitter that they had in Monaco, down there on the Mediterranean Sea. It is a five hundred thousand watt station and they broadcast the gospel in forty-two languages to the whole world. And last week they briefed me on KCBI; KCBI—on a little plateau, a little elevation north of Dallas—KCBI is building a transmitter, a short-wave one. And that transmitter is going to preach the gospel to Eastern Europe, to Russia, and to the Orient, to the Chinese. Can you believe? We’re in it ourselves.
You heard me talk about that Fiji Islander. As I walked around I saw one of those Fijis with his head on the ground and his ear turned to the earth. And I got down there beside him to see what in the world he was doing. He had a little tiny radio about that big, and he was listening to a sermon in English—in English, a Fiji Islander! That’s one of the signs of the end of the world: the gospel is heard by the nations of the world [Matthew 24:14].
Sign number twelve: a general unbelief in Christ’s coming. In 2 Peter 3, “There shall come in the last days scoffers . . . saying, where is the promise of His coming? All things continue as they were from the beginning of the creation” [2 Peter 3:3-4]. Then Peter continues: the first world civilization was destroyed by water [2 Peter 3:5-6], the second present civilization shall be destroyed by fire [2 Peter 3:7, 10].
Number thirteen, sign thirteen: the gross ignorance of divine things and especially those things with reference to the prophecies and the signs of His coming. Nobody pays any attention, “I heard, but I understood not” [Daniel 12:8], then Daniel goes ahead and the Lord says, “those people of unbelief do not know and do not understand” [Daniel 12:8-10].
In the second Thessalonian letter, chapter 2, Paul writes, “Because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved . . . God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie” [2 Thessalonians 2:10-11]. Let me tell you one of the great truths: “universal lie.” When a man turns away from the truth, he turns—I don’t care who he is: a professor, a tycoon, a corporate leader—when a man turns away from the truth, he turns to delusion and deception and ultimate destruction; there is no exception to that.
Sign number fourteen—the opposite sign of this is found among God’s faithful followers: there will be an intense spirit of inquiry among these devout followers of Christ concerning His coming [1 Thessalonians 5:1-11]. Isn’t that a strange thing? While the world pays no attention to the signs of God, it is the faithful few followers of Christ who intensely seek God’s answer to the meaning of what is happening in the world [1 Thessalonians 5:4-6]. I haven’t time to read these passages.
Sign number fifteen: the Laodicean spirit of the church [Revelation 3:14-21]. There are seven church ages [Revelation 2:1-3:22] and the sixth age is the Philadelphian age which is the age of the open door [Revelation 3:7-13]. That’s this past age when the whole world was open to the Christian missionary. Now those doors are being closed and closed and closed. There are vast, vast, vast areas of the world in which you have no opportunity to send a missionary [Revelation 3:14-21].
I was over there in India and the Foreign Mission Board asked us—my companion and me, Dr. McCall and me—asked us to talk to the leaders of India about sending a missionary to India. We talked to them and it was absolutely, emphatically refused. The Philadelphian age, the sixth age of the church is already closing [Revelation 3:7-13]. And the seventh age, the Laodicean period of the church is at hand [Revelation 3:14-22]. There is a vast lukewarmness in the great body of the Christian faith toward evangelization and the missionary enterprise in the earth. All of these old mainline denominations—every one of them, no exception to it—the graph of their missionary interest is down like that.
When I was in India, I walked up and down with those few Indians who were Christians, and they at that time were closing down the mission’s stations founded by William Carey himself. “Because iniquity will abound, the love of many shall wax cold,” said our Lord [Matthew 24:12]. Paul said they shall “have a form of godliness, but deny the power thereof” [2 Timothy 3:5]. And Peter said in the last days there will be scoffers saying, “Everything stays just as it was. There is no sign of His coming” [2 Peter 3:3-4].
Sign number sixteen is the great apostasy, 2 Thessalonians 2:3 says:
Let no man deceive you. . .That time shall come when there is a he apostasia—
“the” apostasia; he, “the,” apostasia, apostasy, “the falling away”—
Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?
For the mystery of iniquity doth already work.
[2 Thessalonians 2:3-7]
And our Lord said, “Many shall come, saying, I am the Anointed One; shall deceive many” [Matthew 24:5]. The false christs, and the false teachers, and the false prophets, and the false sects, and the false cults—I can’t believe what I hear on the radio. So 1 Timothy 4:1 said:
Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrine of demons.
And our Lord said, “When the Son of Man cometh, will He find faith in the earth?” [Luke 18:8]. And the last hundred years there has been a gradual lessening of the percentage of evangelical Christians in the earth, until when the year 2000 comes, we will number less than 2% of the earth’s population. Every day there are 120,000 people and more who are in this world, not Christians—moving toward a million a week. The seven churches of Asia [Revelation 2:1-3:22], have you ever been over there? They are so long gone, there’s hardly a vestigial remnant that they ever lived. The British people are destroying their churches; they call it the Redundant Program. They’re destroying their churches by the thousands, not by the hundreds—by the thousands.
And the last and the seventeenth sign is the abounding iniquity in the world [2 Timothy 3:1-4]. I haven’t time, I’ve got to quit. Yesterday, listening to that radio program—I hate to say this, I don’t like to—but yesterday listening to that radio program, the commentator was saying that there was a balance of power in the city of Dallas and he said there are 100,000 sodomites in the city of Dallas; 100,000 sodomites in the city of Dallas. If you read the paper at all, it’s the 250,000 sodomites in the city of San Francisco, which is no larger than ours, that control the political situation in San Francisco; they elect the mayor, they elect the alderman, they elect the councilman. That’s just one little sign and I haven’t time to speak of it, of the depths of depravity and iniquity into which our nation is being plunged.
And the whole world is like that. These are days when God says “Look up, look up” [Luke 21:28]. God intervenes; He always has, He always will. God intervenes; it’s a concern to Him who sits on the great throne; it’s a concern to Him how things are in this world. He presides over history, He presides over the nations, He presides over human life. And it is the purpose of God to save us out of death [Ezekiel 33:11], and destruction, and abounding iniquity, and the sorrow, and the terror that accompany it. It is God’s purpose to save us out of it [John 10:27-30].
And we are going up in one of two ways: if we die, we are going up in a resurrection; if we are here when He comes, we are going up in a rapture [1 Thessalonians 4:14-17]. Our home is not here, it’s there [John 14:2-3]. Our inheritance is not here, it’s there [1 Peter 1:4]. Our eternal abiding place is not here, it’s there [John 14:2-3; Revelation 21:1-3]. And God bids us come, and welcome [Revelation 22:17].
Now may we stand, may we sing? And while we sing this song, to give your heart to Jesus [Romans 10:8-13], to put your life in the church, to regive yourself to the Savior, welcome, while we sing.