Jesus Christ described spiraling troubles that would lead up to His second coming, when He will return to save humanity from self-destruction. Then He said:
“Watch therefore, and pray always that you may be counted worthy to escape all these things that will come to pass, and to stand before the Son of Man” (Luke 21:36).
What was He telling Christians to watch? Why should we watch? And where are we now in the panorama of prophecies being fulfilled in these end times?
Watching the fulfillment of prophecy in the news
Jesus Christ and the prophets of the Bible gave a broad overview of events that would happen before Jesus’ return to the earth.
Some prophecies describe trends that develop over a long period and crescendo at the end.
Many other prophecies detail a quick succession of events that will suddenly occur in the last few years of the end times.
Watching these prophecies being fulfilled is part of what Jesus meant when He told His followers to watch and pray. The other part, which is even more important, is His call for us to maintain spiritual readiness at all times. We must watch our own spiritual condition.
What to watch in prophecy in the news
In the cacophony of 24/7 news, what are we to watch? It’s impossible to watch it all, and too much of what is pushed out by the news media can be frivolous, titillating, degrading, divisive, depressing and downright harmful to your mental well-being. Instead of trying to drink from the firehose of information, we need a strategy for collecting what is most important.
Where should we focus our attention?
Focus on what is true. Too many news and opinion outlets slant their coverage or are willing to publish unverified stories. Focus on the highest-quality journalism across the center of the spectrum of sources. Be aware of the biases of the right- or left-leaning media, and note the facts agreed upon by both. See “Fake News or Good News” for more tips on discerning the true.
Then focus on the areas the Bible focuses on. End-time Bible prophecy primarily focuses on the Middle East, on a multinational government arising in Europe and on the descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel. It also involves threats to human existence and a horrendous moral decline that provokes God’s wrath.
Prophetic trends to focus on
- The Middle East. The Middle East will be the site of major events, such as the battle between the king of the North and the king of the South, the “abomination of desolation,” the gathering of armies at Armageddon and the return of Christ. Read more about this in our section “Middle East in Bible Prophecy.”
- Europe. The Bible predicts an end-time union of 10 nations or groups of nations (Revelation 17:12-14) that will be based in Europe, serving as a revival of the power and glory of the Roman Empire. Learn more about this in “Europe: Looking for a Savior?”
- The end-time descendants of the 12 tribes of Israel. The tribe of Judah is still easily identified and can be found in the state called Israel today and in the Jewish communities around the world. But 10 of the 12 tribes were scattered after their captivity by ancient Assyria. The Bible gives promises and clues that lead us to conclude the lost 10 tribes can be found in the English-speaking nations and many of the nations of northwestern Europe. Study the biblical, historical and prophetic details for yourself in our free book The United States, Britain and the Commonwealth in Prophecy.
- Threats to human existence. Jesus explained that humanity would be on the brink of extinction at His return (Matthew 24:22). Read more in our article “Weapons of Mass Destruction and Bible Prophecy.”
- Moral decline. The Bible shows that humanity’s continual downward slide into moral confusion and depravity leads to all the end-time curses and plagues (Leviticus 26:14-45; 2 Timothy 3:1-7; 2 Peter 3:3). Learn more in “Why Is Our Modern World Under Ancient Curses?”
Study these and additional key prophetic trends to watch in the news in our article “Five Prophetic Trends to Watch.” See also our “World Watch Weekly” section of the Life, Hope & Truth Weekly Newsletter for assistance in identifying a few of the most significant prophetic news items each week.
But does God want us to just passively watch prophecy in the news?
Why should we watch prophecy in the news?
Though Christians should keep an eye on news and trends, we don’t have to become news experts or fixate on prophecy above all else. We aren’t to become puffed up with knowledge (1 Corinthians 8:1). Nor should we desperately try to figure out the day and the hour of Christ’s return. Jesus said “no one knows” that except the Father Himself (Matthew 24:36).
Watching the fulfillment of prophecy in the news is intended to accomplish much more important purposes.
- We are to watch prophecy in the news so we won’t be deceived. See Jesus’ warnings about counterfeit religion and false prophecies in Matthew 24:4-8 and 23-25.
- We are to watch prophecy in the news so we will endure. The forewarning about persecution and troubles is designed to help us endure to the end (verse 13).
- We are to watch prophecy in the news so we will know what to do. Those in Judea are given specific instructions (verses 15-16). Other responsibilities fall on the entire Church. The warnings and the promises of the coming wonderful Kingdom of God are not just for us. They should motivate us to support the effort to share the good news of the Kingdom “in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come” (verse 14).
- We are to watch prophecy in the news so we will be prepared. “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect” (verse 44). Jesus wants us to be the “faithful and wise servant” who works diligently and serves wholeheartedly (verses 45-47). We must not be complacent, oblivious, lazy and selfish (verses 37-43, 48-51). The three parables in Matthew 25 continue this theme of preparation, hard work and service. The apostle Peter wrote that a knowledge of prophecy should provoke us to strive to be better people “in holy conduct and godliness” (2 Peter 3:11). We must be spiritually prepared at all times.
- We are to watch prophecy in the news so we will have hope. At the end of the Bible, God encourages us: “Behold, I am coming quickly! Blessed is he who keeps the words of the prophecy of this book” (Revelation 22:7).
So, knowing prophecy and striving to recognize its fulfillment are meant to motivate us to change—to always be seeking the Kingdom of God and to always be preparing to meet our Maker and welcome Him and serve Him.
We must watch not only prophetic news, but our own spiritual condition. This is much more important than mere intellectual knowledge of prophecy and current events. As Jesus told His disciples, “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matthew 26:41).
Where are we now? Which prophecies should we watch for next?
Our article “Where Are We Now in Bible Prophecy?” addresses this in more detail, showing the many prerequisites to the end times that are already in place. It shows we have not yet entered the time known as the Great Tribulation.
What events are yet to come? Here are a few major prophetic events that we should be watching for in the news (some of these will be concurrent and not necessarily in this order):
- A final revival of the Roman Empire will form in Europe, with 10 “kings” giving power to one known in prophecy as the beast (Revelation 17:12-14) and the king of the North.
- A king of the South will attack the king of the North but be quickly defeated (Daniel 11:40-43). The king of the North will enter the Holy Land and conquer Egypt.
- Sacrifices will begin in Jerusalem, then will be stopped and the “abomination of desolation” set up (Daniel 12:11).
- Jerusalem will be surrounded by armies (Luke 21:20).
Also see our article “Discerning the Signs of the Times” for many more news events and trends to watch.
Cautions for watching prophecy in the news
Like any aspect of life, watching prophecy in the news can have pitfalls. Here are some cautions to help avoid the dangers:
- Consider all the relevant prophecies; reading one verse out of context can lead to misunderstanding.
- Recognize what is clearly stated in Scripture vs. what is speculation. Speculation can be exciting, but can lead to misunderstandings and discouragement when a speculation proves wrong.
- Don’t assume unverified news reports are completely accurate. Compare what varied news sources say.
- Don’t let watching prophecy in the news consume all your time and attention. Make sure to put first such top priorities as God, family and job.
- Remember the purposes of prophecy. Watching the fulfillment of prophecy should help motivate us to watch our own spiritual condition. God wants us to change to become more like Him and to be ready to serve with Jesus Christ when He comes.
Remember Christ’s words
“Take heed, watch and pray; for you do not know when the time is.
“It is like a man going to a far country, who left his house and gave authority to his servants, and to each his work, and commanded the doorkeeper to watch.
“Watch therefore, for you do not know when the master of the house is coming—in the evening, at midnight, at the crowing of the rooster, or in the morning. …
“And what I say to you, I say to all: Watch!” (Mark 13:33-35, 37).
In addition to the many resources linked to throughout this article, download our free booklet The Book of Revelation: The Storm Before the Calm. It helps clarify and demystify this essential book of prophecy that is so relevant to our lives today and in the near future.