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02 September 2019

"Know the Signs of the Times"


Jesus Teaches
Christians often reiterate how Jesus commanded us to “know the times and the seasons”; that believers are to understand the signs of the end so they can discern the nearness of the coming of Jesus (and related events). This has been repeated so often that is it taken as established fact. But did Jesus ever say anything like this?
On one occasion, the Pharisees and Sadducees asked Jesus for a “sign from heaven” to prove his identity. He responded with a challenge of his own: “When it is evening, you say, It will be fair weather: for the heaven is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to-day: for the heaven is red and lowering. You know how to discern the face of the heaven; but you cannot discern the signs of the times. An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of Jonah(Matthew 16:1-3). Jesus refused to give them a “sign from heaven.”
The “sign of Jonah” refers to the summons of the prophet to the inhabitants of Nineveh to repent. The record records no “sign” or miracle performed by Jonah. In contrast to the religious leaders of Israel, the pagan Gentiles of Nineveh repented in response to Jonah. The Pharisees and Sadducees had already heard that call from John the Baptist, and now from Jesus. What good would another “sign” do for them?
Jesus did warn his disciples that after his departure many deceivers would come and “deceive many; false messiahs and false prophets.” They would show “signs and wonders” in order to deceive the very elect (Matthew 24:4-8, 24:24).
What about the “signs of the times” from Christ’s Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24:4-8)? Jesus warned of deceivers who will come in his name, and the disciples will
hear of wars and rumors of wars.” But they must not be troubled (by whom?). They will also hear of earthquakes and famines. Such things must come to pass “but the end is not yet”; at most, they are harbingers of the eventual end, but they are not “signs” by which one can calculate the nearness of the end. The stress on “hear,” if anything, suggests the deceivers will spreading the rumors of war, pointing to natural and manmade catastrophes as “signs” of the end of the age.
A few verses further on, Christ warned that false prophets will spread disinformation about the coming of Jesus (“he is in the wilderness”; “he is in the secret chamber”). In contrast, when Jesus arrives it will be like lightning flashes across the sky; there will be no missing that event.
What Jesus did say about the timing of that day is crystal clear: “No one, not the angels of heaven or the Son knows the day or the hour of the coming of the Son of Man, except the Father alone.” Ever since false prophets and other deceives having expended great effort to invent then sledgehammer loopholes into these words of Jesus. He even declared, “Take ye heed, watch and pray: for ye know not when the season is…Be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you least expect him” (Mark 13:33, Matthew 24:44).
In John’s gospel, Jesus complained how “Except you see signs and wonders, you will not believe” (John 4:48).
But the most damning passage for this common belief is in Acts 1:7. Just before his ascent to heaven, the disciples asked Jesus when he would restore the kingdom. His answer was explicit: “It is not for you to know times and seasons, which the Father has put in his own authority.” Instead, the disciples were to wait in Jerusalem until they received the gift of the Spirit, then they were to take the gospel from Jerusalem to the uttermost parts of the earth.
The problem with this claim is that it is nowhere found on the lips of Jesus, at least, not in the written record. Instead, Jesus said the exact opposite.

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