Seven Great Signs of the Second Coming of Christ
May 28th, 1995 @ 7:30 PM
SEVEN GREAT SIGNS OF THE SECOND COMING OF CHRIST
Dr. W. A. Criswell
5-28-95 7:30 p.m.
And wonderful pastor, thank you for inviting me to deliver this message on the Seven Great Signs of the End of the World and of the Coming of Christ. I have to confess, I did not look for anybody here tonight. This is a Memorial weekend and Sunday night, and to see you here from side to side is such an encouragement to my heart and a tribute to you, precious and wonderful pastor.
Now this is not a sermon; this is a biblical study. So I want you to be at ease, and just listen. If you would like to write down these points, why, of course do so. Better would be to get a copy of the message that is brought, then you would have it all in detail.
The Scripture never uses the word “second,” the “second” coming of Christ. Always the Scripture says “the coming,” ho erchomenos, “the coming.” And there are three words that are used to describe the second return of our Lord. The first one is parousia, and you have it in our text. In the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew:
Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, Tell us, when these things shall be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the world?
So, “the sign of Your coming,” there is our first word: parousia, “the presence” of the Lord [Matthew 24:3]. Then a second word that is used to describe the return of Jesus is apokalupsis, “apocalypse,” and that is the word used in Revelation 1, verse 1 [Revelation 1:1]. Then a third word that is used to describe the return of our Lord is epiphaneia. We spell that out in English exactly as it is in Greek, except we pronounce it “epiphany.” And that is usually translated as “the appearance”, epiphany. For example, in Titus 2:13, that famous word, “Looking for the glorious epiphany, appearance of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.”
So the Bible speaks of the return of our blessed and wonderful Savior. In [Luke 21:25], he writes, “And there shall be signs,” plural, “in heaven and on earth.” That refers to remarkable providences that foreshadow the mighty events that precede the coming of the Lord. And these signs, plural, are events; they are the ABCs making up words and sentences that say something everlastingly vital and important. And God would say to us, “He who has eyes to see, let him see; and he who has ears to hear, let him hear” [Mark 4:9].
In Luke 21:19-31, these signs indicate and point out just the same thing Jesus says in the passage that you read. The leafing of a tree portends and heralds the coming of spring and summer; so these signs portend, portray, and herald the coming of our Lord. And despite their variety—which we will see—they all have the same alphabet and point to the same things; namely, they point to the end of the world. In the passage we read in Matthew 24:3, “the end of the world.” And in [Matthew 24:35, “Heaven and earth shall pass away.” They point to the end of the world, and they also point to the coming of our Lord. In Matthew 24:30, “Then shall appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven.”
Now let me just for a moment by introduction, speak of the pointing to the end of the world. Everything in creation, as far as the eye can see, presents nothing but death and deterioration: dead trees, dead flowers, dead animals, dead men, dead planets, dead seas. It is never built up; but always our universe presents a running down. Our universe is like a clock wound up and running down. And that leads to the depths of pessimism and despair if you are not a child of God.
I can never forget—and are you old enough to remember? The beautiful actress named Marilyn Monroe; what happened to her? She committed suicide. Why? Because she saw her beauty fading away and the loss of her assignment in the movies, and in despair she took her life. All of life is like that: it goes down, it wanes, it dies.
So the world, I say, is plunged into despair and pessimism and death; but in Christ you, but in Christ we are learning to read the signs that God presents to us. We see in the transitory, the abiding; in the dying, the living; in the passing, the coming; in the dissolution, the eternal; and in the cataclysm, the triumph of our Lord.
So we come to this message from the Bible, the seven signs of Christ’s coming triumph. In Matthew 24:3, our text, the disciples showed deepening interest and asked, “What are those signs?” In the thirty-sixth verse of that chapter, we cannot know, our Lord says, the exact time: even Christ said, “I do not know.” Only God the Father in heaven knows the exact time of the end of the age and the coming of Christ [Matthew 24:36]. And in Matthew, that same twenty-fourth chapter, verses 42 and 44, we are encouraged to watch and to be ready: He may come any day, any time, any hour; and we are to be ready for the return of the Lord [Matthew 24:42, 44]. So we’re going to look in the Scriptures at seven of the signs of the return of Jesus.
Now as you listen to them, you may respond, “Pastor, that is amazing to me, what you are avowing the Scriptures teach.” But that’s what I see in the Word of God. So you just come along with me as we look at that Holy Scripture, and for my part, be amazed at what it says and what is coming to pass before our very eyes, even now.
All right, sign number one: the presence of the Jew; he is a sign. The Bible says Christ will personally meet with him. He has been here four thousand years. And when I turn to Matthew 24 and read verse 34, this is what our Lord says: “Assuredly, amen,” the Greek, “Assuredly, I say to you, This genea will by no means pass away, till all these things come to pass” [Matthew 24:34]. Well, what does He mean “this genea”? You have it translated here “generation,” but you don’t get the meaning when they translate it like that; genea means “this race, this kind, this descent, this offspring.” They’re going to be here, they are a sign of the coming of our Lord, that Jew [Matthew 24:34]. And I often facetiously say, “Did you ever hear of anybody, who ever saw anybody, who ever heard of anybody, who ever heard of a Canaanite, or a Hittite, or Hivite, or a Moabite, or a Jebusite, or an Amorite, or a Girgasite?” I never heard of anybody, who ever saw anybody that was an Assyrian or a Babylonian. All of those ancient races have passed away for hundreds and hundreds of years. But Jesus says in this passage right there, that, “This race, this descent, this genea will be here until I come” [Matthew 24:34]. And all you’ve got to do is walk up and down the streets of Dallas or any other city, and there you will see him.
May I read one other passage about that race, that genea, that Jesus says “will be here when I come.” You listen to Jeremiah:
For let all Israel know, from the least of them to the greatest of them, that I will forgive their iniquity—
and their sin I will remember no more.
Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for a light by day, and the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night . . . The Lord of hosts is His name:
If those ordinances depart from before Me, says the Lord, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being a nation before Me for ever.
You look up there in the sky; and God says here, As long as that sun shines by day and those stars shine by night, “just so long will there be a nation of Israel before Me.”:
Thus says the Lord, If heaven above can be measured, and the
foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off the
seed of Israel for all that they have done, says the Lord.
No matter what they have done, and no matter into what infidelity they may fall, God says, “That Jew will be here when I come” [Matthew 24:34]. Now that’s the first sign, just look at him; And that is a sign that Jesus is coming back.
All right, sign number two: that Jew will return to his home in Palestine. God’s Book says that Palestine belongs to him forever. I read in Psalm 105:
God remembers His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded for a thousand generations.
Namely, the covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath to Isaac;
And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, to Israel as an everlasting covenant:
Saying, To you I give the land of Canaan, as the allotment of your inheritance.
And however history may swing, or the United Nations may divide, God’s Book says that Palestine belongs to the Jew forever. It is a sacred covenant between God and Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and the children of Israel.
So this same Bible avows that the Jew will return to that land. Listen to it, in Ezekiel 36: “I will take you from among the nations, gather you out of all countries, and bring you into your own land” [Ezekiel 36:24]. Well, the Jew returns to Palestine and they re-create their nation, and they gather their people from the ends of the earth. But they come to their land in unbelief. That’s what the Book says, and we’re going to see it.
I can’t tell you the amazement of my soul—and the pastor has been there forty-eight different times—I cannot describe to you the amazement of my soul that the Jew in Palestine is an atheist; he doesn’t believe in God. It’s the most astonishing of all of the providences of life: he returns, the Bible says, in unbelief! There’s a little group of them that believe; but the great mass of the Jews of Palestine are atheists.
Now something’s going to happen there; and this is the wonder of wonders: when God gathers them there, when they return home, as they are doing before your very eyes, when the Jew returns home God says there and then:
I will sprinkle clean water on him, and he will be clean. I will cleanse him from all his sins.
I will give him a new heart and a new spirit. I will take the heart of stone out of him and give him a heart of flesh.
I will put My Spirit with him and cause him to walk in My ways.
Then he shall dwell in the land that I gave to his fathers; and he will be My people, and I will be his God.
What an amazing thing! And now I’m not just reading from the Old Testament. Let me read from the New Testament.
What’s going to happen to the Jew when he returns to Palestine? In the eleventh chapter of the Book of Romans: “I would not have you without knowledge of this mustērion,” spelled out exactly, “mystery.” A mustērion is a secret that God kept in His heart until He revealed it unto His holy apostles:
I would not have you without knowledge of this mustērion,
lest you be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the plērōma of the Gentiles be come in.
And so all Israel will be saved.
Now you can think of that ten thousand lifetimes, and you won’t understand it until you believe that when Israel is regathered in the land, Jesus, as He says in the Book of Zechariah, is going to appear to them personally. And, “They are going to look on Him,” as the Book says, “whom they have pierced, and they are going to weep” [Zechariah 12:10]. And there is going to be a great, great, great repentance, nationally [Zechariah 12:11], and turning to God:
So all Israel will be saved: as it is written, The Deliverer will come out of Zion, and He will turn ungodliness from Jacob:
For this is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins.
Concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but concerning the election, they are beloved for the sakes of the fathers.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
God has it in His heart that He is going to appear personally to that Jewish nation, and they are going to bow down in weeping and in tears and in repentance; and they are all going to be saved [Zechariah 12:11-14]. “So all Israel will be saved” [Romans 11:26], the most amazing thing I read in the Word of God.
All right, sign number three: we turn to Jeremiah 31, Jeremiah 31; and here in Jeremiah 31 is the beatenest prophecy. The pastor came up to me, and he said, “I could hardly believe such a thing.” In chapter 31 of Jeremiah, “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel; They shall speak again this language in the land of Judah and in its cities, when I bring back their captivity” [Jeremiah 31:23]. I can’t believe that! Sweet people, when the Jewish nation was carried into Babylon, they sat down over there by the rivers of Babylon, and they forgot their Hebrew tongue. They never spoke it again. They spoke Aramaic, they spoke the land of their captivity. And when they came back, in 568 BC, they came back speaking Aramaic. They could not understand their Hebrew language.
Let me give you an illustration of that. In Nehemiah chapter 8, Ezra the scribe builds him a pulpit of wood, and the people all gather together. And do you remember what it says? “And when [Ezra] opened the book, all the people stood up” [Nehemiah 8:5]. That’s the reason I think it wonderful here in our precious church: when we read the Bible, we all stand up. That’s what they did in Nehemiah chapter 8: “And all the people stood up [Nehemiah 8:5]. And Ezra the scribe read to them out of the Scriptures,” in Hebrew; and he had to translate it. He had to explain to them the meaning of the passage in Hebrew [Nehemiah 8:7-9]. They lost that language; in 587 BC they lost that language. And today when you go over there, what language do they speak? What does the prophet say? They’re going again to speak in the land of Judah and in its cities that holy language in which the Book of God is written [Jeremiah 31:23]. And when you go over there today, they’ll speak Hebrew.
I can make an aside about that. Those Jewish people over there are gathered from the ends of the earth. I mean literally from every nation under high heaven. And every one of them speaks his own language as he comes into the land. They had to do something to conceal, to congeal the people together. And the way they did it was, everybody is taught Hebrew. And everybody speaks Hebrew, just according to the Word of God. It’s one of the signs of the coming of our Lord: they’re speaking Hebrew again, after two thousand five hundred years. I can’t believe such a thing: that a language could be dead two thousand five hundred years; after two thousand five hundred years they are speaking Hebrew again, just as it’s written in the Word of God—a sign of the coming of our Savior [Jeremiah 31:23].
All right, sign number four: I turn to Matthew 24, I turn to Matthew 24, and read verse 14: “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations; and then the end shall come” [Matthew 24:14]. That, oh dear! I used to have the most impossible understanding of that of any passage I ever read in the Bible. The whole world is going to hear the gospel, and then, the end will come. Well, what bothered me in the years and the years as I looked at that, and wondered how under high heaven is the world going to hear the gospel; you can’t send out enough missionaries, Debbie, to tell the whole world of the Lord Jesus.
I’ll give you an example of it. I was preaching in Thailand, and I was in Bangkok. And right down through the middle of that peninsula is a great mountain chain. And on either side is an alluvial plain. And on the western side on that alluvial plain is the city of Bangkok; and I was preaching there in Bangkok, and I was out on that plain with a missionary. And as I stood there by the side of that missionary, he made a sweep of his hand like this, and he said, “Do you see that great mountain chain?” He said, “There are four to five million people in that mountain chain who’ve never heard the gospel of Christ.” In that one spot, beside two billion other people in this world, four or five million who’ve never heard the name of Jesus.
Well, how in the earth is this passage coming to pass? Before the end, one of the signs of Christ’s coming: the whole world is going to hear the gospel [Matthew 24:14]. So here is what I learned: I was meandering around, just gawking, in the Fiji islands, and I saw a Fiji islander lying there on his side, he was lying on the ground, with his head like that. Well, I went over there and looked at him, and he had a little radio about that big; it was about two inches thick and about four inches long. He had a little radio pressed on the ground. And on top of that radio he was pressing his ear, lying there on his side. Well, I got down there by his side just to listen to see what that Fiji islander was a-listening to. And I am not exaggerating when I tell you he was listening to a sermon just as good as we heard this morning from that preacher right there. He was listening to a glorious Christian message. And as I laid down there by his side with my ear close enough to listen to that sermon, I had my answer: the world is going to hear by radio and by television. And preacher, that’s why I am so grateful to God for this network that we have over which we preach the gospel, and for your gesture to get this church back on television. You have it on a small station now. I want you to get it on the biggest televised station in this part of the earth. I think that’s God’s will for the whole world to hear by radio and by television. That’s one of the signs of the coming of our Lord [Matthew 24:14].
All right, sign number five: there will be, toward the end of the age, there will be a great, great increase in knowledge and in technology. In the Book of Daniel, in the twelfth chapter, the last chapter of the Book of Daniel, the angel says, “But you, Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book” [Daniel 12:9], and that book stayed sealed until the angel gave into the hands of John that sealed book, and he opened the seals [Revelation 6:1-12, 8:1]. “Seal the book, until the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase” [Daniel 12:4]. Oh dear! what a sign of the coming of our Lord is that!
I can’t believe the changes in the technological world. Just look at this for one instance. My great-grandpap, John Yancy Criswell, left Knox County, Kentucky in the 1820s and came to Texas. And he came in a covered wagon. And it took him three solid months to get here from eastern Kentucky up there in those hills, three solid months in a covered wagon to get here to Texas. You know what happened? I was going to an engagement to speak in Virginia, and I got on an airplane here in Dallas, and we had a tailwind, and we flew over Knox County, Kentucky, and I looked at my watch, and it was one hour and thirty-five minutes. What took my grandpap, my great-grandpap three solid months to negotiate; I did it in one hour and thirty-five minutes. That’s the technological world in which we live. And I have notes down here that I’ll not try to enter into of the computer. I never heard such things as they are planning to present to you in your house and home; the world of the computer. Oh! and that’s exactly what it says here, that at the end time one of the signs of our Lord, the great, vast increase in technological achievement [Daniel 12:4]..
Now, sign number six: each convert coming down that aisle is a sign of the coming of our Lord. “Well,” you say, “Preacher, I just don’t believe that.” Well, let’s just let God speak to us. Whenever you see somebody come down that aisle that is a sign of the coming of Jesus.
“I would not have you without knowledge,” I just read, “concerning them, that you in your understanding may come to see that blindness in part has happened to Israel, until the plērōma, until the plērōma of the Gentiles has come in; and then God is going to turn, and all Israel is going to be saved” [Romans 11:25-26].
“Well preacher, what does that mean that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the plērōma of the Gentiles be fulfilled, be come in?” [Romans 11:25]. Well, plērōma is the simple word for “the full number.” Up there in heaven our Lord has a book; and on the inside of that book are the names of the all the children of faith—every one that’s going to be saved is in that book, every one of them. And when the last one comes down that aisle whose name is in that book, Jesus is going to come [Romans 11:25].
I tell you, when I see these people come down that aisle, pastor, I can’t keep that out of my heart and out of my mind. There is a certain number of the Gentiles that are going to saved, whose names are in the book! And when the last one of those Gentiles comes down the aisle, the plērōma, the full number, then Jesus is going to come [Revelation 11:25]. What an amazing revelation in this precious Word of God!
Now sign number seven—preacher do you have time for me to expatiate on one thing? There are two vocabularies in human speech and in the Bible. One of them is a nomenclature up there in heaven; and the other is a nomenclature, a vocabulary, down here in earth. And if you will keep them separate, you’ll never have any problem, you’ll never have any trouble. This is the nomenclature of heaven: foreknowledge, only God has foreknowledge. Predestination, only God can predestinate. Foreknowledge, omniscience, omnipresence; all of those words are heavenly words, they never apply to us. Our words, our vocabulary is choice, repentance, dedication, commitment; all of those words are ours down here. And sweet people, if you’ll keep those separated—up there in heaven, foreknowledge, only God knows the future; predestination, only God can predestinate—all of the wonderful things of omniscience and omnipotence and omnipresence, all of that’s up there in heaven; and down here it’s an appeal for faith and commitment and repentance and giving your heart to Jesus. Just keep them separate and you’ll never have any problem, either with the Bible or in your own life and understanding of the presence of God in the pilgrim way.
Now, as I was going to speak, so the last: the seventh sign is the apostasy of the Laodicean church [Revelation 3:14-22]. I, oh dear—the apostasy of the Laodicean age: this is our age. In Matthew 24:22 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3, in 2 Timothy 3:1-5, in 2 Peter 3—I wish I had time to read all those passages—there is described the kind of a faith and religion and church you’re going to have when Jesus comes.
So let’s take the Book of the Revelation. In chapters 2 and 3 you have a roll call of the church periods, seven of them [Revelation 2-3]:
- the Ephesian church period, where they leave their first love [Revelation 2:1-7];
- the Smyrnan church period, where the church of the martyrs is described [Revelation 2:8-11];
- the Pergamian church period, where the church is wed to the world [Revelation 2:12-17];
- the Thyatirian church period, the church of the rich and the idolatrous [Revelation 2:18-24]—you just look at those big cathedrals and marvel at them.
- The church of the Sardians, the church of the reformation [Revelation 3:1-6];
- the church of Philadelphia, the church of the open door [Revelation 3:7-13];
- and the last one, the Laodicean period of the church, where Christ is outside knocking at the door [Revelation 3:14-22].
Now, I have lived from the close of that Philadelphian period to the Laodicean period in which we now worship God. I want to show you the change that has come, even in my life, from the Philadelphian period of the church to the Laodicean period of the church, in which we now live.
I was grown before I ever saw anybody divorced. Do you believe that? I was grown before I ever saw anybody divorced. When I was growing up, I never saw a working mother. I never saw a family destroyed.
All right, again: when I was growing up, I never saw a door locked, not in all of my life. If anybody had a car, I never saw a car locked. But one of the most amazing things to me now is not only do we lock that door, but we have an agency that puts alarms in the whole system in order to protect the house. I can’t believe the change.
When I was growing up, I never heard of an athletic game on Sunday, not in all of my life, not in the world. If you were to ask me, “When will the Superbowl be played?” I would say to you, “It’ll be played on Sunday.” I never saw that growing up.
I had no fear of crime or terrorists when I was growing up. I never saw a liquor store when I was growing up. I lived in the days of prohibition: I never saw a liquor store. And I never heard of a gay, of a homosexual. I never heard of AIDS. I never heard of all of those diseases that we read about, such as Ebola that threatens the very existence of Africa.
The pastor and I were talking not very long ago, a day or two ago, about Uganda. If there is not a cessation of the death of AIDS, by AIDS, in Uganda, the nation will cease to exist. There have been millions and millions in Uganda who have already died. It is an amazing, overwhelming thing!
Matthew 24:12 avows, “And iniquity shall abound.” Oh dear! What a change from the day of Philadelphia [Revelation 3:7-13] to the day of Laodicea [Revelation 3:14-22].
Well, to sum up the whole vista of the end of the age and the coming of Christ: first, there is the rapture when God’s people are gathered home [1 Thessalonians 4:13-18]. Second, there is the great tribulation down here in the earth when we are in heaven [Matthew 24:21]. And third, there is the war of Armageddon [Revelation 16:16]. O God! I wish I had time to expatiate upon some of the facets of that awful conflict! From the East there is an army of two hundred million that are in that war [Revelation 9:16]. O God! Then in the midst of the war of Armageddon, Jesus comes [Revelation 19:11-21]. And the first thing that happens when Jesus comes, He binds Satan; and for a thousand years he’s in the bottomless pit, he’s in the abyss [Revelation 20:1-3]. At the end of the thousand years, he is liberated for a moment to deceive the nations once again [Revelation 20:7-10]. And then the great, awesome white throne judgment, when the dead who are lost are raised, and they are judged according to their works, and sent into the everlasting torment of the lake of fire [Revelation 20:11-15]. O God! O God! What it is to be lost!
Then beyond, after that final judgment, there is a new heaven and a new earth, and our beautiful home in the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:1-7]. Dear me! when Jesus comes again!
It may be at noonday, it may be at twilight,
It may be, perhaps, that the blackness of midnight
Will burst into light in the blaze of His glory,
When Jesus comes for His own.
Oh, joy! Oh, delight! should we go without dying,
No sickness, no sadness, no dread and no crying.
Caught up through the clouds to meet our Lord in glory,
When Jesus comes for His own.
O Lord Jesus, how long, how long
Ere we shout the glad song,
Christ returneth! Hallelujah!
[“Christ Returneth,” H. L. Turner]
What a gospel and what a hope we have!
Now, can you kids sing “One Day”? Do you have a book there with “One Day” in it? I want you to turn to it, just you. And, have you got that number? You’ve got it all down? All right, I want you to sing it in a minute.
And pastor, I want you to come up here and stand right there, and stand right there, facing our precious congregation.
And while our choir and orchestra play and sing that song “One Day,” and while you remain in the presence of Jesus our Savior, is there somebody you tonight to give his heart to Jesus? “I accept Him as my Savior for all that He has promised to be.” A somebody you to come into the fellowship of our dear church; or a somebody you answering the call of the Spirit of God in your heart; while our choir and orchestra sing and play, and while our [pastor] is there. From the balcony, from side to side, a somebody you coming to Jesus [Romans 10:9-10, 13], and God bless you as you come, while they sing and while we wait.