The Definitive Sign

When the subject of the Second Coming is raised, inevitably, the question of what recognizable “signs” will precede it is asked. Invariably, wars, earthquakes, tsunamis, famines, and similar catastrophes are pointed to as harbingers of the rapidly approaching return of Jesus. But he gave the definitive answer to this question, one that has nothing to do with spectacular calamities and wars, namely, The completion of the mission of the Church to proclaim his Gospel in every inhabited corner of the Earth.

After his final visit to Herod’s Temple, he predicted the destruction of the Temple and the city of Jerusalem. Because Israel had rejected her Messiah, “All these things shall come upon this generation. Behold, your house is left to you desolate. Truly I declare to you, there shall not be left one stone upon another that shall not be thrown down” - (Matthew 23:34-39, 24:1-2).

Globe Map - Photo by Arpit Rastogi on Unsplash
[Photo by Arpit Rastogi on Unsplash]

In response, the disciples asked two questions. First, when will the predicted destruction of the Temple occur? Second, what will be the “
sign” of the coming of the Son of Man and the consummation of the age?


His immediate response was to issue a dire warning - Beware of false messiahs and false prophets who will deceive many. His disciples will hear of wars, earthquakes, international conflicts, and famines as deceivers point to such things as evidence of the End’s proximity.

However, these things are NOT indicators of his soon return. Disasters must occur but the “end is not yet.” Deceivers and false prophets will point to these very events as “signs” of the end and thereby raise false expectations about that day’s imminence - (Matthew 24:4-8, 2 Thessalonians 2:1-4).

Human and natural catastrophes happen regularly in the world, therefore, followers of Jesus must "not be alarmed" when they do occur. Incidents of this kind are NOT chronological markers whereby anyone can calculate the timing of the end. At most, they are a “beginning of birth pains,” harbingers of the inevitable end of this evil age. Moreover, nowhere did Jesus predict that the frequency or intensity of earthquakes, wars and other disasters would increase as the “season” of his coming drew near.

To the first question, he answered, within “this generation.” The generation that was contemporary with him would see the utter destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem. This occurred when a Roman army destroyed the Temple and city in A.D. 70, exactly as he predicted, and within one generation - (Matthew 3:7, 11:16, 12:34-45, 16:4, 17:17, 23:33-36, 24:34).


Regarding the timing of his “coming on the clouds,” no man knows the day or hour except God alone, and therefore, his disciples must always be prepared for its unexpected and sudden arrival.

Detailed knowledge about the “times and seasons” belongs to God alone, and any man who claims such inside information arrogates to himself knowledge that even the Son of Man does not possess - (Matthew 24:36, Mark 13:33, Acts 1:7-9).

As to the requested “sign,” Jesus gave us one explicit goal that must be achieved before he returns in glory - the “proclamation of this gospel of the kingdom in the whole habitable earth for a testimony to all nations.” Only “then will the end come.”

The Assembly, the “body of Christ,” must preach the Gospel to ALL nations before the Son of Man arrives to gather his saints to himself and judge the nations - (Matthew 24:14).

In the Greek clause, the demonstrative pronoun for “THIS Gospel” (houtos) is emphatic. It is, “THIS Gospel of the Kingdom” that must be proclaimed; presumably, the same one preached by Jesus and his Apostles.

That is the task he assigned to his disciples. They must “Go and teach all nations to observe all things whatsoever I commanded you; behold, I am with you even unto the end of the age.” This task must be finished before he returns - (Matthew 28:18-20, Acts 1:6-8, 1 Corinthians 15:20-28).

How do we know when this task is completed? According to Jesus, when the end does arrive! The fact that it has not yet come is irrefutable evidence that the task remains incomplete.

The words of Jesus are clear. His Father alone knows the timing of the end. Not even the “Son of Man” has that information. In the interim, his disciples must remain busy completing the task assigned they received from him.

This understanding raises and answers the question – Why the (apparent) delay of over 2,000+ years before the return of Jesus?  Because the church has yet to complete its mission. He is waiting for us to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of God to every nation.


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