Modern Day Signs of the Times
by Dr. David R. Reagan
A survey of signs pointing to the soon return of Jesus that are unique to our day and age.
Whenever I present an overview of the signs of the times that point to the soon return of Jesus, I am often confronted by someone often a professing Christian — who will say, "Come on David, these signs you are talking about have always existed in one degree or another, so what else is new?" They will then proceed to point out that there have always been wars and rumors of war, there have always been natural calamities, and throughout history Christians have always been persecuted. Then comes the inevitable challenge: "Show me something really new and unique that clearly points to our day and time as the season of the Lord's return."
The challenge is understandable, but it is not entirely legitimate. That's because Jesus said the end time signs would be like "birth pangs" (Matthew 24:8). In other words, the signs would increase in frequency and intensity as the time draws near for Jesus to return. There would be more earthquakes, and more intense ones. Wars would be more frequent and more horrible in their degree of devastation. And that, of course, is exactly what has happened in this century. All the signs have been increasing exponentially in both frequency and intensity.
But still, it is legitimate to ask if there are any signs that are truly unique to our day and time — signs that have never existed before. Are there new signs that clearly point to this period of history as the time of the Lord's return? The answer is yes.
A Key Prophecy
A verse that immediately comes to mind in this regard is found in Daniel 12. Daniel was given many prophecies by the Lord. Those relating to his day and time he clearly understood. He even seemed to understand prophecies that the Lord gave him relating to distant times, such as the succession of Gentile empires that would ultimately lead to the establishment of the Roman Empire. But when it came to prophecies about the end times — the period leading up to the Lord's return as King of kings and Lord of lords — Daniel did not understand what was revealed to him.
He wrestled mightily with the prophecies and finally cried out to the Lord in despair. "I have heard," he said, "but I do not understand! What do these events mean?" (Daniel 12:8). The Lord, in effect, responded by saying, "Cool it, Daniel, because it is not for you to understand!" The Lord's actual words were: "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time" (Daniel 12:9). It was Daniel's responsibility to deliver the prophecies, not understand them.
Note that Daniel was told the prophecies would not be understood "until the end time." In fact, in the very next verse the Lord told Daniel that at the proper time "those who have insight will understand" (Daniel 12:10).
Accordingly, there are many end time prophecies that have never been understood until now, either because their understanding depended on historical events or because they were dependent upon technological developments. The fact that these prophecies have become understandable in recent years for the first time ever is proof positive that we are living in the end times. Let's look at some examples from the book of Revelation.
1) The Tribulation Slaughter — Revelation 6 says that the Tribulation will begin with a series of judgments that will result in the death of one-fourth of Mankind. The world's population is approaching six billion. That means one and a half billion people will die in the initial judgments, reducing the world's population to 4.5 billion. The next series of judgments, recorded in Revelation 8 and 9 will kill another third of Mankind. One-third of 4.5 billion is another one and a half billion. Thus, in the first 3 years of the Tribulation, a total of 3.5 billion people will die. That's half the population of the world!
Is this possible apart from the use of nuclear weapons? Only if it is a supernatural intervention of God. But God normally works through natural processes.
The unparalleled carnage of the Tribulation seems to me to point to nuclear weapons. Revelation 8 speaks of one-third of the earth being burned and one-third of the seas being polluted (Revelation 8:7-8). Later in the Tribulation, near the end, we are told that people will suffer from "loathsome and malignant sores" (Revelation 16:2). That sounds like one of the effects of radiation poisoning.
The advent of nuclear weapons makes possible for the first time the overwhelming Tribulation carnage portrayed in Revelation. I think nuclear power was what Jesus referred to in His Olivet discourse when He said that the end times will be characterized by "men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:26, emphasis added).
The prophecies concerning the Tribulation carnage have clearly depended upon a major technological breakthrough for their understanding. We are living in the time of that breakthrough.
2) The Army of 200 Million — Chapters 9 and 16 of Revelation state that an army of 200 million soldiers will march "from the east" toward Israel. Daniel 9 indicates that this will be an army representing nations in revolt against the Antichrist.
Demographers estimate that the total population of the world at the time the Apostle John wrote Revelation (95 A.D.) was only 200 million. How could an army that size march out of the east? It made no sense. In fact, it took 1,650 years for the world's population to double to 400 million! At the beginning of this century the total world population was only 1.6 billion, still too small for an army of 200 million to march from the east.
But this century has witnessed an exponential increase in population. The population count is now at 5.8 billion, and just one country to the east of Israel — namely, China — could field an army of 200 million.
Here we have a clear example of a prophecy about the end times that could never be understood apart from historical developments.
3) The Two Witnesses — Revelation 11 reveals that two great witnesses of God will preach in the city of Jerusalem during the first 3.5 years of the Tribulation. Then, in the middle of that terrible period, the Antichrist will kill them.
We are further told that their dead bodies will lie in the streets of Jerusalem for 3.5 days and that all the people of the world will look upon them. How could that be? Prior to 1957 that prophecy was not understandable in natural terms. There was just no way that all the people of the world could look upon two dead bodies in the streets of Jerusalem.
All that changed on October 4, 1957 when the Russians sent up the first Sputnik satellite. Today, 30 years later, our planet has many man-made satellites circling it, making possible all sorts of instantaneous communication. When those two prophets lie dead in the streets of Jerusalem, all someone will have to do is point a TV camera at them, send the signal up to a satellite, and all the world will be able to look upon them. Once again, modern technology has made an ancient prophecy understandable for the first time.
4) The Nation of Israel — Revelation 12 focuses on the nation of Israel. It makes clear that in the middle of the Tribulation Satan will motivate and empower the Antichrist to annihilate the Jewish state and its people. A remnant of the Jews will flee into the "wilderness" where they will be supernaturally protected by the Lord (Revelation 12:14).
At the time the book of Revelation was written, Jerusalem had already been destroyed by the Romans and the worldwide distribution of the Jews had begun. Until this century, there was never any prospect that the nation of Israel would ever exist again. There were, of course, prophetic scholars who pointed to the many promises in Scripture that say the Jews will be regathered in the end times and the nation of Israel will be reestablished once more. But people laughed at these scholars and wrote them off as "dreamers" who were out of touch with reality.
Then, on May 14, 1948 the "dream" came true. The independence of the nation of Israel was proclaimed, and the Jewish state came back into existence for the first time in almost 2,000 years.
All the end time prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures make it clear that the Lord will return when the Jews are back in the land (Ezekiel 37) and back in their capital city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12). Jesus emphasized these two events in His teaching. He pointed to the reestablishment of the state in his fig tree parable (Matthew 24:32-35), and He stressed the importance of the reoccupation of Jerusalem in His Olivet discourse (Luke 21:24). He stated point blank that when Jerusalem is no longer under Gentile control, all the end time events would take place. Jerusalem ceased to be under Gentile control on June 7, 1967.
The central piece of the end time world political puzzle is now in place for the first time.
5) The Image of the Beast — Revelation 13 says that the Antichrist's religious leader, the False Prophet, will make an image of the Antichrist that will appear to come alive and speak. This trickery will amaze most of the world's population and will cause many of them to give their allegiance to the Antichrist.
What is the explanation of this event? Many have concluded that Satan will empower the False Prophet to give the image life. But Satan does not have the power to create life. Satan is a liar and a deceiver.
So, again, how can the False Prophet give an image life? I don't see any way for him to do it apart from modern technology. The illusion can be created through the use of modern robotics.
Thirty years ago in 1967 I took my family to Disneyland. We went into a theatre where we saw a man who looked exactly like Abraham Lincoln get up out of his chair in stage center, walk to the edge of the stage, grab the lapels of his jacket, and proceed to quote the Gettysburg Address. When he finished, a lady behind me exclaimed, "Wasn't he a good actor!" He was not an actor. The "actor" was a robot. That was thirty years ago. Think what could be done today with the advances in computer technology.
6) The Mark of the Beast — Another prophecy in Revelation 13 that is dependent on modern technology is the famous one that states the Antichrist will control the world's economy by requiring people to bear his mark or name on their hand or forehead in order to buy or sell anything.
Again, how could this be possible before the invention of laser and computer technology?
The Uniqueness of our Age
Nor is the list above an exhaustive one. I could name many other signs unique to our day and time — such as the reunification of Europe, the exponential increase in travel and knowledge, and the preaching of the Gospel to the whole world.
Even the phenomenal success of Hal Lindsay's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, is a unique sign of the times. Keep in mind that this book was the number one best seller in the world, with the sole exception of the Bible, for ten consecutive years, from 1970 to 1980 (as authenticated by Time Magazine). What was it that the Lord told Daniel? — "Seal it up to the end of time when those who have insight will understand."
The bottom line, my friends, is that we are living on borrowed time, because Jesus is coming soon!