The Bible prophesies that this age of human misrule will end, and Jesus Christ will return. But how can we really know if we are in the end times?
The Bible talks about the time of the end or the last days in many places. It is shorthand for the time when human sin and evil will bring us to the brink of annihilation, when only God’s intervention will save us.
What people believe about whether we are living in the end times
“In the United States, 39% of adults say they believe ‘we are living in the end times,’ while 58% say they do not believe we are living in the end times,” according to a Pew Research Center survey.
“Christians are divided on this question, with 47% saying we are living in the end times, including majorities in the historically Black (76%) and evangelical (63%) Protestant traditions. Meanwhile, 49% of Christians say we are not living in the end times, including 70% of Catholics and 65% of mainline Protestants who say this.”
What does the Bible say about the end times?
Probably the best place to start exploring this subject in the Bible is in the Olivet Prophecy.
Jesus had sobered His disciples by telling them the impressive stones of Herod’s temple would all be thrown down (Matthew 24:2). So they asked Him, “Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (verse 3).
The rest of chapter 24 and 25 give Jesus’ answers. (This prophecy is also recorded in Mark 13 and Luke 21.)
Prerequisites to the end times
Jesus explained a number of trends and conditions that would come first.
Some of these began at that time and will intensify through the end times. These include religious deception, wars, famines and disease epidemics (Matthew 24:4-7). (Read our article “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” to see the correlation with the first four seals of the book of Revelation.)
Persecution and lawlessness will crescendo in the end times, culminating in an unprecedented time of “great tribulation” that will threaten human extinction. But, Jesus said, “All these are the beginning of sorrows [literally, birth pangs]” (verse 8).
Persecution and lawlessness will also crescendo in the end times (verses 9-13), culminating in an unprecedented time of “great tribulation” (verse 21). This time will threaten human extinction (verse 22). That’s something that was not possible before the creation of nuclear weapons and other weapons of mass destruction.
Jesus also warned of the “abomination of desolation” that Daniel explained would cause the ending of daily sacrifices (Daniel 12:11). Of course, before this could occur, not only would Jews have to control Jerusalem (which occurred in 1967), but they would have to begin making animal sacrifices (which has not happened yet; see “Does Bible Prophecy Require a Third Temple to Be Built?”).
Key signs we are near the end times
- Humanity is in danger of self-destruction (see “Weapons of Mass Destruction and Bible Prophecy”).
- Tensions over Jerusalem and the Temple Mount are growing (see “Jerusalem: A Paradox of Biblical Proportions”).
- The gospel of the Kingdom of God is being preached (Matthew 24:14; see “What Is the Mission of the Church?”).
Things that have not happened yet (but could happen suddenly)
Jesus said in Matthew 24:34, “This generation [apparently the generation that ‘sees all these things,’ verse 33] will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” This sets an outer limit of a generation for these end-time events. But He also said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only” (verse 36).
Jesus stressed the importance of watching and always being ready, because some end-time events can happen suddenly.Jesus stressed the importance of watching and always being ready, because some end-time events can happen suddenly, “at an hour you do not expect” (verse 44).
What are some of the end-time events to be watching for?
- Daily sacrifices will begin in Jerusalem.
- According to Daniel 11:40, a “king of the South” will push at a “king of the North” (a European power in the spirit of the Holy Roman Empire).
- An “abomination of desolation” will end the daily sacrifices, and humanity will suffer 3½ years of “great tribulation.”
- Near the end of this period, seven trumpet plagues, with the seventh involving seven last plagues, will punish the world before Jesus’ return.
After the end
The Bible does not stop with the “end.” In fact, the end of the day of man signals the beginning of the incomparable day of God. After God’s wrath at sin, Jesus will return and bring restoration, healing and peace. He will set up the beautiful, joyous Kingdom of God.
What should we be doing?
In Matthew 24 and 25, Jesus addressed much more about what we should be doing to prepare for His return than about when He will return.
Study about the faithful servant (Matthew 24:45-51), the five wise virgins (Matthew 25:1-13), the good and profitable servants (verses 14-30), and the generous and serving “sheep” (verses 31-46).
Strive to be like them and not like their evil, foolish, unprofitable and uncompassionate counterparts.