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SIGNS OF THE TIMES AND
I believe the pre-tribulation rapture could now come at any moment. But I do not think it could have come at any time in history before the state of Israel came into existence in 1948. And I do not believe that the rapture could have occurred before the other basic signs were fulfilled. Since the late 1940s the signs have all been in place, and the rapture could now come at any time.
Why is this important? Simply because the signs are taking place all around us right now! If we don't preach on the signs, we are neglecting one of the greatest evangelistic and doctrinal subjects in the Bible, given specifically by God for the days in which we live!
When the disciples asked Jesus, "What shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" He did not rebuke them or correct them. Instead, He answered them! He gave them a whole string of signs. They include:
1. Religious deception, Matthew 24:4, 11.
2. False Christs, Matthew 24:5, 24.
3. Wars capable of ending the world, Matthew 24:6.
4. Ethnic strife, Matthew 24:7a.
5. Famines, pestilences and earthquakes, Matthew 24:7b.
6. The persecution of Christians, Matthew 24:9.
7. Confusion, coldness and apostasy in the churches, Matthew 24:10, 12.
8. World-wide gospel proclamation, Matthew 24:14.
To be sure, most of these phenomena have been present throughout the church age, but as the Scofield note on Matthew 24:3 points out,
All that has characterized the age gathers into an awful intensity at the end.
I believe that this "awful intensity" is present right now, and that the "signs" given in Matthew 24:4-14 are now present, and should be preached on vigorously to show how the rapture and the following tribulation are very near.
I. The sign of Israel beginning to return to their land.
The Bible speaks of this clearly in several passages of Scripture. Notable among them are these words from the prophet Hosea. Turn to Hosea, chapter three:
"For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days" (Hosea 3:4-5).
I believe that we are now seeing the fulfillment of the first part of Hosea 3:5, "Afterward shall the children of Israel return…" The rest of the verse is to be fulfilled in the future, but since May, 1948, with the rebirth of modern Israel, the first part of verse five is literally being fulfilled, as the Jews return to their homeland in Israel.
After pointing out many other passages which predicted the return of the Jews to Israel, Dr. M. R. DeHaan said this in 1951, three years after the state of Israel was reestablished:
Those who have been preaching this literal restoration of the nation of Israel were discounted and ignored, while the teaching that the church now is spiritual Israel and that God is all through with the Jews as a nation and with Israel was taught and believed by the masses. Thank God that we have lived to see these prophecies fulfilled and our own words verified. Our own teaching has been vindicated; our own ministry has been approved by the things which have happened. The spiritualizers of these prophecies have been silenced once and forever. Israel is back in the land. God has kept His Word literally. Those of us who have preached for years, "The Jews are going back as a nation to Palestine," were absolutely right. It always pays to believe what God says and to stick to it, no matter how impossible it may seem…Now in our own generation, during these past few years, all of this has begun to take place. The Scriptures tell us that when that happens the coming of the Lord is very near. If there were no other sign of the last days, this alone [the rebirth of Israel] would be sufficient. Jesus is coming again (M. R. DeHaan, M.D., Signs of the Times, originally published by Zondervan, 1951; reprinted by Kregel, 1996, pp. 30-31).
Before His ascension back to Heaven, the Disciples asked Jesus a question I want you to read. Turn to Acts, chapter one, verse six:
"Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel? And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power" (Acts 1:6-7).
They asked Jesus if God would restore Israel at that time, when they were living. Jesus told them that it was not for them to know the times or seasons when God would do this. He did not say the Kingdom would never be restored. He just said it was not for them to know when it would happen.
But you and I know that it began in 1948, when the Jewish state of Israel was reestablished - and that this state of Israel will eventually culminate in the fully restored Kingdom, when Christ returns. So, while the Disciples did not live to see the beginning of the fulfillment, you and I have seen its inception, beginning in 1948.
The reestablishment of the state of Israel in the middle of the twentieth century is a great sign that the rapture is rapidly approaching.
I do not believe that the rapture was imminent, coming at any moment, before this great sign was fulfilled in 1948. Now the rapture could indeed come at any moment.
II. The sign of movement toward rebuilding the Temple.
Talk about rebuilding the Jewish Temple is another great sign that we are living near the end of this age.
Herod's Temple was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. But Jesus predicted that the Temple would be rebuilt in the last days. Turn to Matthew 24:15,
"When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains" (Matthew 24:15-16).
This must refer to the rebuilt Temple of the last days, since Jesus had said that Herod's Temple would be destroyed, which it was in A.D. 70, by the Romans. Christ gave this prediction about Herod's Temple, given in Matthew 24:1-2. Please turn to it:
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down"
That is exactly what happened with the Roman armies came in 70 A.D. They literally destroyed and dismantled the Temple. The Arch of Titus in Rome has a carved relief showing the Romans removing the candlesticks, the Ark of the Covenant, and other items, from the Temple. In verses one and two of Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that the Temple will be utterly destroyed. Yet in verses 15-16 He tells us that the Holy of Holies in the Temple is to have the abomination of desolation set up in it. The passage in Matthew 24:15-16 reveals the future temple of the tribulation period, the Antichrist's temple.
You will see the Tribulation Temple in other passages of Scripture as well. Please turn to II Thessalonians, chapter two:
"Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God" (II Thessalonians 2:3-4).
This is a plain declaration that there will be a Temple in the end times, and that the Antichrist, the "man of sin," will go into that Temple, and sit there.
Now, turn to Revelation, chapter eleven, and verse one:
"And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not…"
John saw this vision in 95 or 96 A.D., more than twenty years after the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed. This, then, was John's vision of the rebuilt Temple of the Tribulation period.
Thus, the New Testament predicts the rebuilding of the Temple. Why is that important to us today? It's important because of activity around the Temple Mount and talk about rebuilding the Temple. None of this activity or talk could have happened before in the entire history of the world, since A.D. 70!
Talk about rebuilding the Temple and Arab/Israeli activity on the Temple Mount are signs that the rapture is near.
Ed Hindson has said:
Every major crisis in the Middle East - those that took place in 1948, 1956, 1967, 1973, and 1991 - has led to…prophetic speculations with…teachers announcing that the end is just around the corner. What the most recent crises show us is that the old animosities have not died out and the potential for a major Arab alliance against Israel is still a very real possibility in the future - but that future and the accompanying last days could be a month, a year, ten years… (Ed Hindson, Final Signs, Harvest House, 1996, p. 49).
III. The coming of the Son of man.
Now turn with me to Luke, chapter twenty-one, verse twenty-five:
"And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; Men's hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh" (Luke 21:25-28).
I take the older view, that this refers to the rapture. It makes a lot of sense. It falls in order - the signs, followed by the rapture. It cannot apply to the end of the Tribulation simply because there won't be any living Christians to "look up" at that time!
Now, the rapture could come at any moment. When it comes, "The dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed" (I Corinthians 15:53). This will happen, "In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye" (I Corinthians 15:52a). Dead Christians and living Christians will be picked up to meet Christ in the air, "Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them [the resurrected dead Christians] in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air" (I Thessalonians 4:17).
Every sign points to the fact that the rapture could now come at any moment! Are you ready? As Fanny Crosby put it, "Oh, can we say we are ready, brother? Ready for the soul's bright home?" ("Will Jesus Find Us Watching?" by Fanny J. Crosby, 1820-1915).
What if Christ should come in the air tonight? Would you be raptured, to meet Him? Or would you be left behind? "They that were ready went in with him to the marriage: and the door was shut" (Matthew 25:10).
When the rapture comes, it will be too late for you to get saved and be raptured. "And the door was shut" (Matthew 25:10).
That's why you need to be converted now. Give up your false hopes. Examine your own heart. Distrust yourself and turn from your sins to Christ. Be washed in His Blood. Believe on Him! Trust Him! Be converted to Him!
(END OF SERMON)
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at www.realconversion.com. Click on "Sermon Manuscripts."
Scripture Read by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan Before the Sermon:
Matthew 24:1-21; II Thessalonians 4:16-17.
Solo Sung by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith Before the Sermon:
"He is Coming Again" (by Mabel J. Camp, 1871-1937).
THE OUTLINE OF
SIGNS OF THE TIMES AND