Most people, given the opportunity, would welcome the opportunity to look into the future. God, who knows the end from the beginning, has revealed important information about what is to come in the Bible. One of the key biblical passages that speaks with the greatest detail about the future is found in Mark 13.
As He was going out of the Temple, one of His disciples said to Him, “Rabbi, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” And Yeshua said to him, “Do you see these great buildings? Not one stone will be left upon another which will not be torn down.” (Mark 13:1-2)
The Temple was the most important place on earth for Israel. It was the place where the Sanhedrin met, where the sacrifices were offered, and where God dwelt among His people. It was one of the glories of the ancient world. It was the heart of the Jewish nation. The Temple was the equivalent of the White House, Senate, House of Representatives, Supreme Court, the Washington and Lincoln memorials, Library of Congress and the Federal Reserve Bank combined into one. King Herod began renovating the Temple to try to curry favor with his Jewish subjects, who had little love for him. He was an evil king, but a master builder, and allocated huge amounts of money and manpower enlarging the Temple. Herod’s Temple was immense and magnificent in its construction. Some of those huge stones can still be seen today in what is known as the “Rabbi’s Tunnel,” the recently excavated area that runs along the base of the Western Wall. Some of those foundation stones for the outer retaining wall of the ancient Temple area are huge.
Some are forty feet long and five feet high, weighing multiplied tons. Nevertheless, Yeshua predicted that this magnificent structure would be totally destroyed. To a first-century Jewish mind, saying that the Temple would be destroyed was like announcing the end of the world. It’s not surprising that Yeshua’s inner circle of disciples asked Him more about this cataclysmic event: As He was sitting on the Mount of Olives opposite the Temple, Peter and James and John and Andrew were questioning Him privately, “Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign when all these things are going to be fulfilled?” (Mark 13:3-4) This catastrophic destruction of the Jerusalem Temple became the jumping off point for Yeshua to teach about a series of events leading to His Second Coming. Ten signs are given which indicate when we are getting close to Messiah’s Return.
Sign # 1 False Prophets and Messiahs
And Yeshua began to say to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!’ and will mislead many.” (Mark 13:5-6)
The first thing to watch out for are false religious leaders. While there has been spiritual deception since the Garden of Eden, we are forewarned that spiritual deception will reach its zenith in the Acharit HaYamim – the Last Days. There have been at least seventy or eighty false Messiah’s in Israel’s long history. Recently, for the first time in a long time, a false messiah is again affecting the Jewish world.
A certain sect of the Chassidic Jews continue to proclaim that their old rabbi who died a few years ago, has in some way been raised from the dead, and that we are to pray to him – that he is in fact Israel’s messiah. Outside of the Jewish world, there are many false messiahs who claim to be God’s messenger, or even God Himself. We must be careful that the Yeshua we follow is the Yeshua of the Bible, the One to whom the Apostles gave witness. Another way to understand “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!'” is by observing the so called “Christian cults.” They come in the name of Yeshua, claiming to be Christian, but what they teach is not what Yeshua taught. These false teachers may teach from the Bible, and claim to have Yeshua’s endorsement, but what they teach denies that claim. We need to be very careful that we learn from spiritual leaders who faithfully and accurately teach God’s Word. Yet another way to understand, “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am He!'” is the belief that man must bring forth the “god” within. We are being encouraged to say, “I am He – I am christ. I am god.” Twenty years ago if you said you really believed in God, most people thought that you were a little crazy. Now those same people are saying that our problem is that we just don’t realize that we are god! We are living in an age of the deification of man.
Sign #2 Increase in Wars
When you hear of wars and rumors of wars, do not be frightened; those things must take place; but that is not yet the end. For nation will rise up against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. (Mark 13:7-8a)
After the Soviet Union disintegrated and the Berlin Wall came down, many had the feeling that we were in for a time of peace. Unfortunately, there haven’t been fewer wars in the post-cold war period. There are some forty wars being fought right now, and we can expect to see more armed conflicts in the days ahead. Approximately one trillion dollars is still spent each year for armaments.
Sign #3 Earthquakes and Famines
There will be earthquakes in various places; there will also be famines. (Mark 13:8b)
Messiah Yeshua tells us that we are to view earthquakes as one of the signs of His return. There seems to be an observable increase in earthquakes in the twentieth century: The number of killer earthquakes remained fairly constant until the 1950s, averaging between two to four per decade.
In the 1950s there were nine.
In the 1960s there were 13.
In the 1970s there were 51.
In the 1980s there were 86.
From 1990 through 1996 there have been more than 150 (pg. 296, The Apocalypse Code by Hal Lindsey).
There has been a rapid increase in major California earthquakes. Since 1980 the state experienced 18 quakes worse than 5.0. That’s the same number of 5.0-plus quakes experienced in the entire century before 1980! (pg. 86, Planet Earth AD 2000 by Hal Lindsey). Messiah Yeshua told us that there would be famines in the Last Days. There have, in fact, been terrible famines in this century. Currently, almost two billion of the world’s six billion people are malnourished in some way, and millions more face starvation. To make matters worse, the Third World’s population is expected to grow by several billion people in the next few decades. They will need 75 percent more food than they are currently producing. With a world population of six billion and growing, the likelihood of severe famine only increases (ibid, pg. 129, see also pg. 84, The Apocalypse Code).
At this point, some may ask, “Haven’t we always had earthquakes and famines? Haven’t there always been wars, false prophets and messiahs?” For twenty centuries men have anticipated that Yeshua’s return would take place in their day. Nearly every generation thought Yeshua was returning in their time, because of the signs they thought they saw in the events of their day. But Yeshua gave us the key to understand these signs when He compared them to a woman in labor. These things are merely the beginning of birth pangs (Mark 13:8b). A woman’s labor pains increase in two ways: in intensity and in frequency. The labor pains become more intense and the contractions come closer and closer together until the very end, when the pain is most agonizing, and the contractions almost continuous, one right after the other, and then the child is born. Rabbi Yeshua is telling us that the world is going to go through more troubles and disasters, which will increase in frequency and intensity, until the very end, when they are almost unbearable, and nearly continuous, one coming right after the other. Then He will return, bringing with Him a delightful new time in history, the golden age of man. Since Israel became an independent nation in 1948, the intensity and frequency of these signs have increased like the birth-pangs of a woman approaching her time of delivery, exactly as Messiah foretold. As we get closer to His return, expect these ancient prophecies to come into clearer focus. Major prophecies will develop simultaneously, and the pace of fulfillment will quicken like birth pangs.
Signs #4-5 Persecution and the Advancement of the Good News
But be on your guard; for they will deliver you to the courts, and you will be flogged in the synagogues, and you will stand before governors and kings for My sake, as a testimony to them. The Good News must first be preached to all the nations. When they arrest you and hand you over, do not worry beforehand about what you are to say, but say whatever is given you in that hour; for it is not you who speak, but it is the Holy Spirit. Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents and have them put to death. You will be hated by all because of My name, but the one who endures to the end, he will be saved (Mark 13:9-13).
Yeshua predicted that this period of time will be so difficult that only genuine believers will endure to the end. This persecution will be of such an intense nature that it will constitute a real threat to faith. Some will be put to death. Adding to the anguish, others will be betrayed by family members. As those tensions and pressures increase, sometimes resulting in death and the severing of the dearest family ties, there will be many who turn back under the pressures and tensions of those days. They will reveal that they never really had God’s life within them. Not surprisingly, in this century there has been an unprecedented rise in persecutions against Christians, especially in Moslem and Communist countries. Much of Western Civilization, the ancient bedrock of Christianity, is becoming increasingly hostile to Christianity. In spite of terrible persecution, the genuine children of God will hold out to the end. By placing their trust in Yeshua, by testifying boldly about Him, and by not loving their life in this world, they gain eternal life in the world to come. At the same time that hostility against Yeshua’s followers increases, the Good News will be preached to all the nations. This has never happened in 2,000 years of history. In 1800 the Bible had been translated into a mere 71 languages. By 1930 it was up to 900. Today the Word of God is available in 1,700 languages, with another 1,000 languages in progress, and we are finally within sight of translating the Bible into every known language. Prior to 1800, the Christian Faith was primarily limited to Europe, the United States and parts of the Middle East. Today there are Christians and Messianic Jews all over the world. The Messianic Jewish movement continues to pick up momentum among God’s Chosen people. The Church is rapidly growing in Third World countries, especially in Africa and Asia. There may very well be more true Christians in China than in any other country on earth by the end of the twentieth century.
Signs #6, 7, 8, 9 Anti-Christ, the Temple, Israel’s Restoration, and Anti-Semitism
But when you see the Abomination of Desolation standing where it should not be (let the reader understand), then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. The one who is on the housetop must not go down, or go in to get anything out of his house; and the one who is in the field must not turn back to get his coat. But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! But pray that it may not happen in the winter. (Mark 13:14-18)
Sign #6 The Rise of Anti-Christ Yeshua reminds us of the book of Daniel, which describes an abomination that causes devastation which will defile the Jerusalem Temple. Paul refers to that same desecration when he speaks of the “man of sin” who will appear, who will take his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming that he himself is God (see 2 Thessalonians 2:3-5). This is the world-wide religion of the Last Days – the claim that man is god, that we do not need any other god, that man himself is sufficient to his own ends. “We can solve our own problems. Man is god!” This religion will be personified in a person who sits in the Temple of God. He is the anti-Christ, the political and religious ruler of the world who will be in power before Yeshua returns. The world is being prepared even now for his rise to power. We can already see the trends toward a single global government and economy. In order for there to be an abomination that causes desolation, there must also be a Temple in Jerusalem. Of course it was destroyed in 70 AD, and has never been rebuilt… yet.
Sign #7 Rebuilding the Temple As it happens, there is new interest for rebuilding the Temple, and the desire to restore the sacrifices. Twenty years ago if you talked about this, the average Jewish person would have thought you were crazy. But there is an increasing interest (mostly among the orthodox), in the rebuilding of the Temple. There are several organizations already involved in this process. Some are preparing instruments and vessels for worship; others are training Jewish priests and Levites to serve in the Temple. There are even preparations underway for breeding special animals for sacrifice.
Sign #8 Israel’s Restoration Anti-Christ will launch a persecution against those living in the Land of Israel. There will be an immediate and sudden peril to those believers who are in Jerusalem and the surrounding area. Then those who are in Judea must flee to the mountains. This implies the existence of Jews living once again in the land of Israel in the Last Days. In the past one hundred years we have seen the miraculous return of Jews to the land of Israel from more than seventy countries. We have witnessed the amazing restoration of the Hebrew language, something unheard of in the history of man. We have seen our ancient capital, Jerusalem, once again under Jewish control. We have seen the dramatic blossoming of the desert. For fifty years we have seen God’s miraculous protection of the state of Israel. In spite of six or seven wars, surrounded by two hundred million hostile Arabs, the God of Israel has graciously protected us.
Sign #9 The Rise of Anti-Semitism Anti-Semitism has been with us since the time of Pharaoh. There have been periodic attempts to destroy the Chosen People. Yeshua warned us that there would be a time of unprecedented troubles for Israel. Anti-Semitism will reach its height during the End Times. Satan, working through anti-Christ, will try one last time and with all of his power, to destroy the sons of Israel. Yeshua’s instruction, when anti-Christ defiles the Temple and launches a persecution against those Jews living in Israel, is to immediately head for the hills. In the meantime, we are to pray that it may not happen in the winter, when it will be more difficult to be a refugee. Unfortunately, trouble won’t be limited to Israel.
Sign #10 World-wide Destruction
For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will. Unless the Lord had shortened those days, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom He chose, He shortened the days. (Mark 13:19-20)
This will be a time of unprecedented trouble for the world. Things will get so bad that, unless God limits the duration of the trouble, human life on planet Earth would cease to exist. Not surprisingly, for the first time we do have the ability to destroy the entire planet. We have environmental degradation, along with the proliferation of nuclear, biological and chemical weapons of mass destruction. What should we do in light of these signs that indicate that Yeshua’s Second Coming is getting near? First and foremost, we need to avoid false messiahs and prophets.
And then if anyone says to you, “Behold, here is the Messiah”; or, “Behold, He is there”; do not believe him; for false messiahs and false prophets will arise, and will show signs and wonders, in order to lead astray, if possible, the elect. But take heed; behold, I have told you everything in advance. (Mark 13:21-23)
Messiah Yeshua emphasized that this will be a time of world-wide religious deceit. There will be many false prophets in the Last Days who will use signs and wonders to mislead people. The signs and wonders they are able to perform are apparently so impressive that without discernment by the Holy Spirit, even God’s elect sons and daughters would be deceived by them. Obviously, something more than mere trickery is involved. These miracle-workers will be empowered by Satan, whom they unwittingly serve in the name of God. Tragically, many will believe that their ability to prophesy, cast out demons and perform miracles proves that they belong to God. Their signs and wonders are so impressive that the accuracy and truth of their doctrine and the purity of their lives no longer seems to matter. Isn’t this the situation that we can see developing in our day? It is crucial that every child of God be able to discern who these false prophets are. Know who they are, but don’t listen to them, don’t believe them, and don’t follow them!
Look for the Messiah from Heaven The true Messiah will suddenly come from heaven. His return will be accompanied by dramatic occurrences in the heavens. The true Messiah will regather His people to the Land of Israel.
But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will be falling from heaven, and the powers that are in the heavens will be shaken. Then they will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And then He will send forth the angels, and will gather together His elect from the four winds, from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of heaven. (Mark 13:24-25)
At the end of this age, the perfection and steadiness of the heavens will be shaken. Evidently some tremendous cataclysm upsets the whole solar system, perhaps even the galaxy. Then Messiah Yeshua will return to Earth in the clouds with power and glory accompanied by the armies of His people and His good angels. The King of Israel will send out the angels to begin the gathering in of His saints from all over the world, to His capital, Jerusalem. Finally, our Coming King gave us two illustrations to drive home the response that He wants.
The Fig Tree
Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away. But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone. Take heed, keep on the alert; for you do not know when the appointed time will come. (Mark 13:28-33)
Yeshua expects us to be able to recognize the general time when He will return, but no man knows the exact time. Yeshua emphasized this by saying that even the angels and He Himself didn’t know the exact time. This means that anybody who claims to have a revelation as to when this event is going to take place has been deluded. But we can and should know the general time of His return. Messiah expects us to know about End-time prophecy, and be familiar with the prophecies of the Last Days. This subject is not too difficult, and it is very relevant. When trees are sprouting leaves in the Spring, it doesn’t take a nuclear physicist to know that summertime will soon follow. When we see these signs increasing in frequency and intensity, especially when Israel is back in the Land, and the Jerusalem Temple is about to be rebuilt, we are to know that He is almost here. In the midst of all the chaos, suffering, persecution, and troubles that will come upon the Earth, and in the heavens, we need something solid to rely on. Yeshua tells us that the foundation of our stability in tumultuous times needs to be Him and His words. He claims here that the universe will pass away before His words will. Imagine a carpenter saying that! And yet as He predicted, His words have endured for 2,000 years. Yeshua’s words are quoted more often, His teaching is more studied, discussed, debated and sung about; they are truer, more relevant, powerful, and more enduring than the words of any other man who has ever lived. That is our stability and security in the tumultuous days ahead.
The Man on a Journey
It is like a man away on a journey, who upon leaving his house and putting his slaves in charge, assigning to each one his task, also commanded the doorkeeper to stay on the alert. Therefore, be on the alert, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming, whether in the evening, at midnight, or when the rooster crows in the morning – in case he should come suddenly and find you asleep. What I say to you I say to all, “Be on the alert!” (Mark 13:34- 37)
Messiah summed up the intervening time between His First and Second Comings and divided it into four watches, one long night, and He says, “You don’t know whether My coming will take place early in that time, or in the middle of it, or three-quarters of the way through, or all the way at the end. No one knows. But it is like a man going on a journey who gives his servants work to do, and he expects them to do it. He puts a doorkeeper in charge to make sure that nobody gains entrance into the house, and ruins or steals what he has. The doorkeeper is to be alert and keep an eye on things so that everything will be in order when the master returns.”
Yeshua’s final word to us is, “Be alert; don’t go to sleep; keep watch! Until I come, be faithful to do the work that I have assigned you. Don’t let anything distract you. Be busy doing your appointed tasks. That is the way you watch. Don’t look up into the sky all the time, waiting for My coming. That will happen when My Father is ready. Temptations and pressures will assault you, to make you think that it is all a lie, to make you give up and stop living like a Christian or Messianic Jew, to stop walking in faith, stop believing the truth of God. Watch out for that.
In the meantime, be alert that you are not deceived. Pray; read your Bible; become a functioning member of a good congregation, treat people with kindness, and tell others about the Way to eternal life.” What an exciting age to witness to others! With one sharp, arresting, ringing word of command, Yeshua ends his message: Be on the alert!
I am indebted to Ray Stedman and Dr. David Reagan for parts of this article.