In His Olivet Prophecy, Jesus Christ tells us we should watch and pray because we don’t know the day or hour Christ will return. Find out which trends in today's world we can watch for an indication of the end times and Christ's return.
[This first appeared in the May/June 2014 issue of Discern magazine.]
Jesus Christ was quite emphatic. After answering His disciples’ questions about the end of this evil age and the signs of His return, Jesus said, “Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these [terrible] things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
The context in this famous Olivet Prophecy makes it clear that we should watch and pray because we don’t know the day or hour Christ will return, and we must not let it come on us “unexpectedly” (verse 34). We must not slip into the traps and temptations of the end-time age, such as “carousing, drunkenness, and cares of this life” that would make us unprepared to meet our Savior and King (verses 34-35).
So we must watch our own spiritual condition. And we must be about the work God has given His Church to do of challenging people to align their lives with God’s standards (repent) and announcing the good news of the soon-coming Kingdom of God (Mark 1:14-15; Matthew 24:14).
But the context also includes the many signs that Jesus gave. These outlined major world events and trends that He wants us to watch.
What are some of these key prophetic trends we should be watching? So much is happening in the world that sometimes watching the news can just seem to be a negative cacophony of unrelated events. What are the most important things to watch?
Prophetic trend 1: watch threats to human existence
Jesus Christ warned, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been since the beginning of the world until this time, no, nor ever shall be. And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect’s sake those days will be shortened” (Matthew 24:21-22).
Jesus prophesied that humanity would come to the brink of self-destruction. This was not possible till we invented and began stockpiling weapons of mass destruction. Now nations (and perhaps soon, terrorist groups) have the capacity to wipe out their enemies, but perhaps not before they retaliate with unrestrained destruction. This raises the specter of overkill—and the potential for total annihilation of the human race.
But Jesus ended His statement with the good news that, because of the faithful remnant of elect Christians serving Him and preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God, He will return to save humanity from itself.
In the meantime, we should watch these threats to human existence and pray daily for God’s Kingdom to come (Matthew 6:10).
Prophetic trend 2: watch the Middle East
The geographical focus of the Bible is on the Holy Land, so it is no surprise that the focus of end-time biblical prophecy is on the Middle East, and especially on Jerusalem.
Jesus said, “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near” (Luke 21:20). This has happened before in history, but the final time will be just before Jesus Christ returns to the Mount of Olives and defeats the armies of the earth who will fight against Him (Zechariah 14:1-4; Revelation 16:14-16; 19:19-21).
But much is prophesied to happen in the Middle East leading up to that time. Daniel tells of an end-time Middle Eastern king of the South who will attack the king of the North, provoking a whirlwind invasion (Daniel 11:40-43). The Bible also prophesies the Abomination of Desolation, Armageddon and other important end-time events. How will these things play out? The volatile situation in the Middle East is not clear at this point, so we need to keep watch.
Read more about the prophecies for the Middle East in the LifeHopeandTruth.com section on “Middle East in Bible Prophecy.”
Prophetic trend 3: watch Europe
Above, we mentioned the powerful king of the North, also known in the Bible as the beast. See our article on the “King of the North” to see how this ancient empire was swallowed up by the Roman Empire, and how the Roman Empire has gone through several revivals through the centuries.
One final restoration is prophesied for the end time, centered in Europe and intimately connected with a powerful religious leader. Read more about this in the article “What Is Babylon?” and related articles.
Bible prophecy was given for several purposes, but one of the major reasons is to show us the cause of the bad things that happen on earth. ... God wants us to take warning and change—to repent!These important prophecies also bear watching, as Europe continues to unify and the role of the Roman church evolves.
Prophetic trend 4: watch moral trends
Bible prophecy was given for several purposes, but one of the major reasons is to show us the cause of the bad things that happen on earth. Sin—disobedience to God’s laws—is the cause of much of the evil and suffering humanity faces. Leviticus 26 and Deuteronomy 28 lay out clearly the terrible consequences of sin, as well as the blessings of obedience. God wants us to take warning and change—to repent!
So, as we see the decline in moral values in the world around us, we should take note and “sigh and cry over all the abominations” (Ezekiel 9:4). Jesus said we must not allow the lawlessness around us to cause us to let our love grow cold (Matthew 24:12-13).
We especially watch the moral trends in nations that had strong biblical traditions and that have received the blessings of Abraham. Read more about this in the Life, Hope & Truth section “12 Tribes of Israel.”
Prophetic trend 5: watch the ride of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse
Jesus listed religious deception, wars, famines, pestilences (disease epidemics and pandemics) and earthquakes as “the beginning of sorrows,” or birth pangs that will lead to the birth of a new world of peace (Matthew 24:5-8). A careful analysis of the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse” shows that the mysterious horsemen John saw represent these same four trends (Revelation 6:1-8).
We will strive to watch these trends that will intensify in the end times.
Watch and prepare
There are many more prophecies we will be watching, but these five represent key trends we need to be aware of. We hope our World Watch Weekly section (part of the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter) and the “Insights Into News and Prophecy” items posted regularly on the Life, Hope & Truth website will help you in fulfilling Jesus Christ’s command to watch world events.
And, as we mentioned earlier, the most important thing to watch is ourselves. Are we living a righteous life in anticipation of Christ’s return? Christ’s parables following the Olivet Prophecy in Matthew 25 illustrate that He will come with judgment. Some will be prepared, and others will not.
Download our Change Your Life! booklet and study the biblical action plan of repentance and the entire process of conversion. This booklet can help you watch yourself and be prepared for His return.
For additional study, we recommend the other articles in our section about the prophetic “End Times.”