Last time, we studied the Olivet Discourse and learned that it is the way of seeing not only the destruction of the temple in AD 70 and the Day of Judgment, but a recurring, intensifying pattern throughout these last days between his first and second coming. This is called a telescopic prophecy: for a prediction that comes true repeatedly at increasing scale and intensity. This is obvious because the Earth’s population is larger, more wicked, and has more technology to engage in destructive and sinful acts than ever before. Two modern examples of widespread destruction are WWI and II which were possible because of technologies that enabled wars that circled the earth.
Jesus says there are visible signs that foretell these events just like approaching skies threaten rain:
Matthew 16:23 The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. 2 But He replied to them, “[bWhen it is evening, you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.’ 3 And in the morning, ‘There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? 4 An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a [dsign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah.” And He left them and went away.
In Matthew 24, he uses the analogy of the fig tree predicting seasons:
32 “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;33 so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
This is confusing because it also says, “Recognize that He is near, right at the door,” which suggests that the Day of Judgment is imminent when you see such signs, but Jesus also reminds that this is a recurring pattern. It’s like you’re walking through a series of valleys: in the bottom of one, you don’t know that there are others until you walk to the top of the next mountain though the next mountain could always be the last. The signs portend coming judgments which are consequences of acts of iniquity by peoples on the earth. Matthew Henry perfectly explains this in his commentary on Matthew 24
24:4-28 The disciples had asked concerning the times, When these things should be? Christ gave them no answer to that; but they had also asked, What shall be the sign? This question he answers fully. The prophecy first respects events near at hand, the destruction of Jerusalem, the end of the Jewish church and state, the calling of the Gentiles, and the setting up of Christ’s kingdom in the world; but it also looks to the general judgment; and toward the close, points more particularly to the latter. What Christ here said to his disciples, tended more to promote caution than to satisfy their curiosity; more to prepare them for the events that should happen, than to give a distinct idea of the events. This is that good understanding of the times which all should covet, thence to infer what Israel ought to do.
Our Saviour cautions his disciples to stand on their guard against false teachers. And he foretells wars and great commotions among nations. From the time that the Jews rejected Christ, and he left their house desolate, the sword never departed from them. See what comes of refusing the gospel. Those who will not hear the messengers of peace, shall be made to hear the messengers of war. But where the heart is fixed, trusting in God, it is kept in peace, and is not afraid. It is against the mind of Christ, that his people should have troubled hearts, even in troublous times. When we looked forward to the eternity of misery that is before the obstinate refusers of Christ and his gospel, we may truly say, The greatest earthly judgments are but the beginning of sorrows. It is comforting that some shall endure even to the end. Our Lord foretells the preaching of the gospel in all the world. The end of the world shall not be till the gospel has done its work. Christ foretells the ruin coming upon the people of the Jews; and what he said here, would be of use to his disciples, for their conduct and for their comfort. If God opens a door of escape, we ought to make our escape, otherwise we do not trust God, but tempt him. It becomes Christ’s disciples, in times of public trouble, to be much in prayer: that is never out of season, but in a special manner seasonable when we are distressed on every side. Though we must take what God sends, yet we may pray against sufferings; and it is very trying to a good man, to be taken by any work of necessity from the solemn service and worship of God on the sabbath day. But here is one word of comfort, that for the elect’s sake these days shall be made shorter than their enemies designed, who would have cut all off, if God, who used these foes to serve his own purpose, had not set bounds to their wrath.
Christ foretells the rapid spreading of the gospel in the world. It is plainly seen as the lightning. Christ preached his gospel openly. The Romans were like an eagle, and the ensign of their armies was an eagle. When a people, by their sin, make themselves as loathsome carcasses, nothing can be expected but that God should send enemies to destroy them. It is very applicable to the day of judgment, the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in that day, 2Th 2:1. Let us give diligence to make our calling and election sure; then may we know that no enemy or deceiver shall ever prevail against us.
Emphasis mine. What are the signs of the times for our own civilization? The most pressing things for our elites are infanticide, normalizing homosexuality and transgenderism even among small children, disarming the population, and starting more wars. This seems to be what much of the upper middle class and lower class wants also. The push for these things is as much from the bottom up as the top-down. Abortion is a form of birth control for the poor and a form of virtue signalling for aspiring-elites. I think it’s fair to say, as do most Christian ministers these days, that the American people have made themselves “loathsome carcasses.” Many will object that only half the population engages in these acts but this fails to appreciate the decadent state of the Protestant Christian church in the US. Protestant Christianity is the marrow of our civilization. The red-state areas I’ve visited, and I’ve been to many, that are still “Christian” are largely only culturally-Christian. This is a great thing since it restrains evil, but it’s not a lasting thing. I estimate that there are fewer than 30 million Bible-believing Protestants who regularly attend church in the US despite the statistics that the country is overwhelmingly Christian. There is simply no proof that we are a Christian country.
Next time, we will think more about the character and quality of judgment and what Bible-believing Christians ought to do in light of it. God has promised to cut the days of destruction short for the sake of the elect as he did in AD 70 and often provides an escape like he did for Lot, the first century Christians, and so many others for the past 2000 years.