Many Christians all over the world are starting to ask, ‘Are these the end of the days?’. COVID-19, political chaos, climate change, and very tough economic situations have resurfaced this age-old question. I have taken the title of this article from Daniel 12:5 which concludes this prophetic book with the instruction to Daniel:
“As for you, go your way till the end. You will rest, and then at the end of the days you will rise to receive your allotted inheritance.”
I selected this on purpose because Christian predictions of the end times and the second coming of Christ are too often based on a combination of a futurist reading of the book of Revelation together with the book of Daniel.
However, before I explore this further, let’s consider how those from previous generations might have viewed the ‘end times’.
End times of the past
The First World War lasted for over four years and ended in mid-1918. Those must have been particularly brutal times for people living in Europe. Twenty million people died and an equal number of people were severely wounded. What must soldiers fighting in the trenches for endless days of terror and deprivation have thought of the condition of the world? Would they not have cried out the question, “Are these the End of Days?”
Then no sooner had that terrible war ended than the great Spanish Flu struck. Fifty million people died and the social and economic situations of nations were ruined once again. People were walking around with their noses and mouths covered just as ours are today and poverty, despair, and fear stalked the streets of the great capitals of the world. Did the people of that day not voice the question, “Are these the End of Days?”
Then, just twenty years later, the world was again engulfed in a global war. Seventy-five million died during the Second World War. Six million of these deaths occurred in the Nazi concentration camps. Many people probably survived the first war and the Spanish pandemic only to find themselves in the horror of mass torture and extermination. If they hadn’t asked the question before they would have then: “Are these the End of the Days?”.
And here we are with over two million dead from COVID-19 and, judging by the current statistics, another million still to die within the next three months. Add to this the uncounted number of people who will suffer ongoing disabilities from the disease. Also add to this the yet uncomputed multiple trillions of currency lost, plus the joblessness and deprivation of millions of people, and it is no wonder that the age-old question has resurfaced.
Date Setting and Other Futile Prognostications
Premillennial Dispensationalists in every recent generation have tried to overlay a calendar on biblical passages such as Daniel and Revelation to calculate when the end will come for the human race. They have all been proven as wrong as the passionate prophets in the USA who predicted a second term for President Trump. In 2014 I wrote an article motivated by the predictions of one Harrold Camping and you can find it HERE. He, and many like him, tried to reinterpret the Lord Jesus’ words concerning the end of the world. He said; “No one knows about that day or hour” (Matthew 24:36). Mr. Camping claimed that this only applied to the disciples Jesus was addressing at the time and some others have claimed that even if we cannot know the exact day or hour we can know the year and the month!
Signs of the Times
Although Jesus did not indicate an eschatological time-table, he did instruct us to keep watch and be ready. Matthew 24 (and Mark 13 and Luke 21) contains his teaching on the sort of things that should alert us. Things like the appearance of false prophets and Christs, wars, natural disasters, persecution, apostasy, and the proclamation of the Gospel around the world. The problem is that most of what Jesus had to say was fulfilled in the years leading up to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. (I am planning to write a follow-up article on this). Both Mark and Luke present the question Jesus answered as pertaining only to the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, but Matthew’s account opens up the possibility that Jesus was also referring to later times.
The book of Revelation backs up this idea as it presents a series of recurring cycles that increase and escalate over the ages – Conquest – war – pestilence – persecution – judgement.
To try to narrow things down, several commentators have turned to the book of Daniel in the hopes of finding a secret time-line hidden there. Unfortunately for them, Daniel accurately predicts the world events from about 540 BC right through to the crucifixion of Jesus in 30 AD, but no further.
So, the book of Daniel does not provide a future calendar and nor does the book of Revelation. However, both books, particularly Revelation, present us with detailed descriptions of the kind of things we can expect in times of distress. I have written a concise commentary on the book of Revelation that you can access HERE but nothing on Daniel as yet. The descriptions given by the Lord Jesus remain the most helpful, so let me turn to them.
The Indicators Jesus Gave
Jesus warned of an infestation of false Christs and prophets and we are certainly seeing this in our times. Another word for a false Christ is antichrist. ‘Anti’ means both opposed to and instead of. The Radical Socialism of recent days is patently opposed to Jesus Christ and there is no shortage of people claiming to be world-saviours. Some of them are political figures or movements and others are religious.
As for false prophets, well they are abundant and over-active on TV channels and media. Again, some are secular futurists and others are of the “thus sayeth the Lord” variety.
Jesus warned of wars, famines and natural disasters in various parts and there is surely an escalation of these in our age.
He also predicted that his followers would be persecuted and that there would be a wholesale falling-away from the Faith (apostasy). This has been true in every age but never as acute and widespread as in our present time.
In some parts of the world true believers are being savagely persecuted, in other parts, it is more subtle, and there is every indication of ever-increasing prejudice against Jesus-followers.
Concerning the proclamation of the Gospel, Jesus had this to say: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come” (Matthew 24:12-14). The worldwide proclamation of the Gospel can only occur if the church experiences a real Holy-Spirit revival. The very first church was persecuted but because of the greatest spiritual revival of all time (known as the Day of Pentecost), the believers went out into all the earth and proclaimed the Gospel. Now the world once more languishes in thick spiritual darkness, the church has largely fallen asleep, and persecution is on its way.
What needs to happen now is a new Pentecost, a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit that will fire Jesus-centred outreach to all the earth… and then the end will come.
This then will, for me at least, be the definitive sign that the End of the Days is at hand. Jesus did, however, give one last sign that would directly precede his second coming. He said, “And then at last, the sign of the coming of the Son of Man will appear in the heavens, and there will be deep mourning among all the nations of the earth. And they will see the Son of Man arrive on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send forth his angels with the sound of a mighty trumpet blast, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven” NLT (Matthew 24:30-31).
What will this ‘Sign of the Son of Man’ be?
There are several ideas put forward but all of them are speculative. Most of the early Church Fathers taught that the sign would be the Cross of Christ appearing in the darkened sky as an ensign and standard of Christianity. Many of the later theologians held that the sign would be something like the Shekinah Glory (glory cloud) that appeared over the Tabernacle and filled Solomons Temple. More modern teachers tend to equate the sign with the actual appearance of the Lord himself as he comes on the clouds with great glory. One other explanation occurs to me and that is a near conjunction of the planets Venus and Jupiter in a similar fashion to what happened when Jesus was born (the Star of Bethlehem): I have written about the 3 BC conjunction HERE.
What Are We to Do?
To summarise, my understanding of the signs indicating that we are approaching the End of The Days are as follows:
- Rapidly increasing worldwide turmoil politically economically, and ecologically.
- The simultaneous persecution of Christians; an increase in the number of false prophets and antichrist figures working false signs and wonders and sowing confusion and fear among believers; the falling away of many Christians, and a mighty world-reaching Holy Spirit, Jesus-centred revival.
- Notable signs in the heavens including the appearance of the Sign of the Son of Man.
In light of this, what then are we supposed to do? Well, once again, Jesus gives us the answer in Matthew 24 (and other places):
- Watch out that no one deceives you.
- Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.
- So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.
- Be on guard! Be alert!
- Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap.
- Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own (Matthew 6:34)
In other words – be aware of what is happening, guard against being deceived, live each day in the presence of Jesus and do not be overly concerned with when he is coming again.
Conspiracy theories will only confuse and dismay, date-setting is futile, and wild speculations get us nowhere. So, take one day at a time, be faithful to Jesus’ example and instruction, love unconditionally, and be at peace with your assurance of an eternal future.