The times we are living in are unprecedented in many ways, due to modern technology, the mass migration of people, and globalization on many fronts. Modern life often leads to people feeling isolated, adrift, or without a clear moral compass in ways that other generations didn’t experience to the same extent. We are witnessing struggles related to racism, discrimination, and bias; questions about authority and violence; corruption in high places, and concerns about the future health and sustainability of the planet. We certainly are living in troublous times in many ways.

Of course, every generation has experienced its own unique set of challenges, struggles, and growing pains. If we look through history, we can see this constant pattern. This is not surprising to Christians, as we know that we live in a fallen world and that sin is a reality that must be confronted in every generation, as it is manifested in the evils of poverty, oppression, war, and inhumanity. We are not surprised by world conditions, as we know what the cause is: humanity’s broken relationship with God and the effects of that brokenness.

As Christians, however, our ultimate hope isn’t in this world or its political systems, as we know these are temporal and will pass away. We count ourselves amongst those described in Hebrews who have no lasting city on this earth, but desire “a better country, that is, a heavenly one” (Hebrews 11:16). We eagerly look forward to Jesus’ Second Coming, when all the pain, suffering, evils, and injustice will be made right and “the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Isaiah 11:9). Nearly 2,000 years have passed since John wrote at the end of the book of Revelation, “Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!” and believers have wholeheartedly echoed this sentiment since then, and we continue to do so today.

Many Christians in recent times—as they have in times past—have sought to understand the relevance of current events and contemporary culture as they relate to the timetable for Jesus’ return. Are current world conditions—including modern technology, globalization, the widespread preaching of the gospel, the move to cashless economies and worldwide digital currencies—signs that we are entering the final seven years that will precede the Second Coming of Jesus Christ? How are we to interpret current events in light of their relevance to what the Bible teaches about this momentous period of world history, and what conclusions can we draw?

The answers to such questions are to be drawn first and foremost from Scripture and what the Bible cumulatively teaches us about the period immediately leading up to Jesus’ Second Coming. Of course, the exact details of how these events will play out are not as detailed as we would like, but the Bible does provide a clear outline of what we can expect to see, collectively referred to as “the signs of the times.” Let’s review some of these.

Signs of Jesus’ coming

When Jesus’ disciples asked Him: “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3), Jesus replied: “You will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains” (Matthew 24:6–8). The version in the Gospel of Luke includes pestilences in this list (Luke 21:11).

As we look through history, we can see that this “beginning of birth pains” has been occurring since the time of Jesus, referred to in the Bible as the “last days” to describe the period of time between Jesus’ first and second coming (1 John 2:18). There have been wars and rumors of wars, though in some periods of history much more so than today. There have been, and continue to be, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. Jesus referred to these as being only the beginning of sorrows (Matthew 24:8 NKJV).

However, the Bible describes some clear signs that we will see and that will allow us to know that the end is “at the very gates” (Matthew 24:33). Among other things, the Bible tells us that we will see the following signs before the Second Coming of Jesus:

  • Lawlessness will increase and the love of many will grow cold (Matthew 24:12).
  • The gospel will be preached in all the world for a witness to all nations (Matthew 24:14).
  • There will come a great falling away (or rebellion) from God (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NKJV).
  • The Antichrist and his powerful empire will rise (2 Thessalonians 2:3–9).
  • The institution of the Antichrist government’s “mark of the beast,” without which no one will be able to buy or sell (Revelation 13:16–18).
  • The great tribulation and persecution of Christians for three and a half years (Matthew 24:21–22).

When attempting to discern whether we are seeing the signs of the times being fulfilled in our lifetime, it is also important to bear in mind that they are a collection of events, not a single event. As Jesus explained: “When you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” (Matthew 24:33 NKJV).

Always prepared

There is no question that every day that passes brings the world closer to Jesus’ return. As Christians, we await this triumphant event with eager anticipation, and we want to be prepared for it. Will we experience His Second Coming in our lifetimes? We can’t know that until we see the fulfillment of the definitive signs Jesus and others gave us in the Bible.

What kind of preparation should we be concerned with as followers of Jesus? After describing in Matthew 24 what His followers will face during those final days, Jesus goes on to say: “Therefore you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” And Jesus, as if in answer to their unspoken question of how to live in that state of constant readiness, goes on to say:

“Who then is the faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them their food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions” (Matthew 24:45–47).

Jesus refocuses the conversation on faithfulness with this reference to the faithful and wise servant, who has been given a responsibility for the master’s household and performs his job diligently. He doesn’t know when his master is going to return, but that doesn’t sway him; he is focused on being faithful in his work. When the master returns, that servant will be blessed.

Whether or not we will personally live to see the final seven years of world history in our lifetime, how we live our lives during the time God gives us on earth is what ultimately counts. As Christians, we are called to love God, love others, share the gospel, and do our best to live the teachings of Jesus. If we are faithful to do these things, we can trust that we will be prepared for whatever comes.

May we be faithful to pattern our lives according to God’s Word, to follow Him closely, and to share the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ with as many people as we can.