What makes our generation unique to the Signs of the Times?
Whenever I present an overview of the signs of the times that point to the soon return of Jesus, I am often confronted by someone — often a professing Christian — who will say, "Come on David, these signs you are talking about have always existed in one degree or another, so what else is new?" They will then proceed to point out that there have always been wars and rumors of war, there have always been natural calamities, and throughout history Christians have always been persecuted. Then comes the inevitable challenge: "Show me something really new and unique that clearly points to our day and time as the season of the Lord's return."
The challenge is understandable, but it is not entirely legitimate. That's because Jesus said the end time signs would be like "birth pangs" (Matthew 24:8). In other words, the signs would increase in frequency and intensity as the time draws near for Jesus to return. There would be more earthquakes, and more intense ones. Wars would be more frequent and more horrible in their degree of devastation. And that, of course, is exactly what happened in the 20th Century. The signs began to increase exponentially in both frequency and intensity, and they continue to do so to this day.
But still, it is legitimate to ask if there are any signs that are truly unique to our day and time — signs that have never existed before. Are there new signs that clearly point to this period of history as the time of the Lord's return? The answer is yes.
A Key Prophecy
A verse that immediately comes to mind in this regard is found in Daniel 12. Daniel was given many prophecies by the Lord. Those relating to his day and time he clearly understood. He even seemed to understand prophecies that the Lord gave him relating to distant times, such as the succession of Gentile empires that would ultimately lead to the establishment of the Roman Empire. But when it came to prophecies about the end times — the period leading up to the Lord's return as King of kings and Lord of lords — Daniel did not understand what was revealed to him.
He wrestled mightily with the prophecies and finally cried out to the Lord in despair. "I have heard," he said, "but I do not understand! What do these events mean?" (Daniel 12:8). The Lord, in effect, responded by saying, "Cool it, Daniel, because it is not for you to understand!" The Lord's actual words were: "Go your way, Daniel, for these words are concealed and sealed up until the end time" (Daniel 12:9). It was Daniel's responsibility to deliver the prophecies, not to understand them.
Note that Daniel was told the prophecies would not be understood "until the end time." In fact, in the very next verse the Lord told Daniel that at the proper time "those who have insight will understand" (Daniel 12:10).
Accordingly, there are many end time prophecies that have never been understood until now, either because their understanding depended on historical events or because they were dependent upon technological developments. The fact that these prophecies have become understandable in recent years for the first time ever is proof positive that we are living in the end times. Let's look at some examples from the book of Revelation.
1) The Tribulation Slaughter — Revelation 6 says that the Tribulation will begin with a series of judgments that will result in the death of one-fourth of Mankind. The world's population is approaching six billion. That means one and a half billion people will die in the initial judgments, reducing the world's population to 4 1/2 billion. The next series of judgments, recorded in Revelation 8 and 9 will kill another third of Mankind. One-third of 4 1/2 billion is another one and a half billion. Thus, in the first 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation, a total of 3 billion people will die. That's half the population of the world!
Is this possible apart from the use of nuclear weapons? Only if it is a supernatural intervention of God. But God normally works through natural processes.
The unparalleled carnage of the Tribulation seems to me to point to nuclear weapons. Revelation 8 speaks of one-third of the earth being burned and one-third of the seas being polluted (Revelation 8:7-8). Later in the Tribulation, near the end, we are told that people will suffer from "loathsome and malignant sores" (Revelation 16:2). That sounds like one of the effects of radiation poisoning.
The advent of nuclear weapons makes possible for the first time the overwhelming Tribulation carnage portrayed in Revelation. I think nuclear power was what Jesus referred to in His Olivet Discourse when He said that the end times will be characterized by "men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken" (Luke 21:26).
The prophecies concerning the Tribulation carnage have clearly depended upon a major technological breakthrough for their understanding. That breakthrough occurred on July 16, 1945 when the first atomic bomb was exploded in New Mexico. When the first hydrogen bomb was exploded in 1952, we entered the era when, for the first time in human history, we could inflict upon ourselves the kind of carnage described in the book of Revelation.
2) The Army of 200 Million — Chapters 9 and 16 of Revelation state that an army of 200 million soldiers will march "from the east" toward Israel. Daniel 11 indicates that this will be an army representing nations in revolt against the Antichrist (Daniel 11:44).
Demographers estimate that the total population of the world at the time the Apostle John wrote Revelation (95 A.D.) was only 200 million. How could an army that size march out of the east? It made no sense. In fact, it took 1,650 years for the world's population to double to 400 million! At the beginning of the 20th Century the total world population was only 1.6 billion, still too small for an army of 200 million to march from the east.
But the 20th Century has witnessed an exponential increase in population. The population count is now at 6.7 billion, and just one country to the east of Israel — namely, China — could field an army of 200 million.
Here we have a clear example of a prophecy about the end times that could never be understood apart from historical developments.
3) The Two Witnesses — Revelation 11 reveals that two great witnesses of God will preach in the city of Jerusalem during the first 3 1/2 years of the Tribulation. Then, in the middle of that terrible period, the Antichrist will kill them.
We are further told that their dead bodies will lie in the streets of Jerusalem for 3 1/2 days and that all the people of the world will look upon them. How could that be? Prior to 1957 that prophecy was not understandable in natural terms. There was just no way that all the people of the world could look upon two dead bodies in the streets of Jerusalem.
All that changed on October 4, 1957 when the Russians sent up the first satellite called Sputnik. Today, 52 years later, our planet has many man-made satellites circling it, making possible all sorts of instantaneous communication.
When those two prophets lie dead in the streets of Jerusalem, all someone will have to do is point a TV camera at them, send the signal up to a satellite, and all the world will be able to look upon them. Once again, modern technology has made an ancient prophecy understandable for the first time.
4) The Nation of Israel — Revelation 12 focuses on the nation of Israel. It makes clear that in the middle of the Tribulation Satan will motivate and empower the Antichrist to annihilate the Jewish state and its people. A remnant of the Jews will flee into the "wilderness" where they will be supernaturally protected by the Lord (Revelation 12:14).
At the time the book of Revelation was written, Jerusalem had already been destroyed by the Romans and the worldwide distribution of the Jews had begun. Until the 20th Century, there was never any prospect that the nation of Israel would ever exist again. There were, of course, prophetic scholars who pointed to the many promises in Scripture that say the Jews will be regathered in the end times and the nation of Israel will be reestablished once more. But people laughed at these scholars and wrote them off as "dreamers" who were out of touch with reality.
Then, on May 14, 1948 the "dream" came true. The independence of the nation of Israel was proclaimed, and the Jewish state came back into existence for the first time in almost 2,000 years.
All the end time prophecies of the Hebrew Scriptures make it clear that the Lord will return when the Jews are back in the land (Ezekiel 37) and back in their capital city of Jerusalem (Zechariah 12). Jesus emphasized these two events in His teaching. He pointed to the reestablishment of the state in his fig tree parable (Matthew 24:32-35), and He stressed the importance of the reoccupation of Jerusalem in His Olivet Discourse (Luke 21:24). He stated point blank that when Jerusalem is no longer under Gentile control, all the end time events would take place. Jerusalem ceased to be under Gentile control on June 7, 1967.
The central piece of the end time world political puzzle is now in place for the first time.
5) The Image of the Beast — Revelation 13 says that the Antichrist's religious leader, the False Prophet, will make an image of the Antichrist that will appear to come alive and speak. This trickery will amaze most of the world's population and will cause many of them to give their allegiance to the Antichrist.
What is the explanation of this event? Many have concluded that Satan will empower the False Prophet to give the image life. But Satan does not have the power to create life. Satan is a liar and a deceiver.
So, again, how can the False Prophet give an image life? I don't see any way for him to do it apart from modern technology. The illusion can be created in several ways through the use of modern robotics or holograms.
In 1967 I took my family to Disneyland. We went into a theater where we saw a man who looked exactly like Abraham Lincoln get up out of his chair in stage center, walk to the edge of the stage, grab the lapels of his jacket, and proceed to quote the Gettysburg Address. When he finished, a lady behind me exclaimed, "Wasn't he a good actor!" He was not an actor. The "actor" was a robot.
That was forty years ago. Think what could be done today with the advances that have been made in robotics and computer technology.
A couple of years ago the Dallas Morning News reported that the governor of Texas had "appeared" at a technology conference being held at the University of Texas at Dallas. Actually, the governor's appearance consisted of a three dimensional hologram that was projected from his office in Austin, Texas!
I recently shared this hologram story at a Bible prophecy conference. When we opened up the session to questions, a man in the audience made the point that the hologram technology was nothing new. When I asked what he meant, he replied, "They've been doing that for years on Star Trek. Haven't you ever seen them stand on a special platform and say, 'Beam me up, Scotty'?"
6) The Mark of the Beast — Another prophecy in Revelation 13 that is dependent on modern technology is the famous one that states the Antichrist will control the world's economy by requiring people to bear his mark or name on their hand or forehead in order to buy or sell anything.
Again, how could this be possible before the invention of laser and computer technology combined with the positioning of orbital satellites?
Such technology is already greatly advanced. In the year 2000 when I was in London, I discovered that taxis in that city were being tracked by satellite. Semi-trucks here in America are being tracked in the same way. Veterinarians are advertising that they can implant microchips under your pet's skin. These chips can be read by a scanner in the event your dog or cat gets lost. It will only be a matter of time before a more advanced chip will enable your pet to be traced by satellite.
We have almost become a cashless society, with most purchases being made by credit card. The problem with the cards is that they can be lost or stolen. A good solution would be to use a laser to put your credit card number on your hand in such a way as to be capable of being read by a scanner.
The point is that for the first time ever the technological tools are in place for the Antichrist to exercise control over the world's population.
7) The Euphrates River — Since all good prophecy teachers always have seven points, let me add another modern day sign from the book of Revelation.
As I mentioned previously, in chapters 9 and 16 we are told that an army of 200 million led by "the kings from the east" will march across Asia toward Israel during the Tribulation, most likely in revolt against the Antichrist. Revelation 16:12 indicates that this army will be held up at the Euphrates River until its water is suddenly dried up, enabling them to cross and proceed to the Valley of Armageddon.
Now, the Lord could dry up the water of the Euphrates River without any trouble at all, just as He parted the Red Sea for Moses and dried up the Jordan River for Joshua. But I think it is very interesting that this can now be accomplished over night through natural means. In 1990 Turkey completed the construction of the massive Ataturk Dam on the Euphrates, and they in fact cut off the flow of the river in order to fill up the lake behind the dam. This action almost resulted in a war with Iraq.
Other Unique Signs
The list of modern day signs given above is not an exhaustive one. They are simply some that I have pulled from the book of Revelation. There are others that are unique to our day and time that can be found in prophetic scriptures outside the book of Revelation. Let me just mention a few.
The first that comes to mind is the acceleration of life. In Daniel 12:4 we are told that the speed of transportation and the volume of knowledge will vastly increase in the end times. We have witnessed the fulfillment of this prophecy in our life time. When the 20th Century began, the vast majority of people were still traveling the same way they had been since the dawn of human history — namely, walking and riding a horse. Today we have autos, bullet trains, supersonic airplanes, and space ships. And all of this developed in only 80 years!
Similarly, the growth of knowledge has been overwhelming. Technical knowledge is doubling every two years. One edition of the New York Times Sunday edition contains more information than the average person in the 19th Century was exposed to in a life time! Through the World Wide Web, I can almost instantaneously access research resources all over the world. With the click of a computer key, I can go to the Vatican Library, and from there to the Library of Congress, and from there to the Jerusalem Museum.
The growth in communication speed is breathtaking. In the 19th Century it would have taken months for the news of the recent Mumbai terrorist attack in India to reach the United States. Even during the first half of the 20th Century it would have taken several days to a couple of weeks. But today, the news arrives instantaneously. Consider the years it took to reach a market audience of 50 million people: Radio, 38 years; Television, 13 years; Internet, 4 years; I-Pod, 3 years; and Facebook (an Internet sharing community), 2 years. That is truly exponential acceleration!
Some of the most exciting signs that are unique to our day and age are spiritual ones. In Joel 2:28-32 we are told that there will be a great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the end times, right before the return of the Lord. This chapter also tells us that this outpouring will occur after the Jews have been regathered to the land of Israel (Joel 2:18-28).
The nation of Israel was re-established in May of 1948. One year later the ministry of Billy Graham took off like a rocket, resulting in the Gospel being preached to more people than ever before in history. This important development was followed by the birth of the Charismatic Movement and the explosive growth of the Pentecostal Movement, both of which put an emphasis on the power of the Holy Spirit and the importance of worship.
Spontaneously, all over the world, the Tabernacle of David (Amos 9:11) began to be resurrected as churches returned to Davidic praise worship. This movement accelerated in the early 1980's when the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem started a yearly celebration of the Feast of Tabernacles. Thousands of Christians came from all over the world, and many were introduced to Davidic worship for the first time. They took the concept home with them in their hearts and introduced it to their churches.
In like manner the Holy Spirit has empowered world evangelism. Seventy per cent of all the missions work done by the church in its two thousand year history has been accomplished since 1900. Seventy per cent of that has been done since 1948, and 70% of that has been accomplished in the last ten years! In other words, the proclamation of the Gospel is on an exponential curve.
Much of the modern increase in missions outreach is due to technology, through the use of radio, television, movies, satellites, and the Internet. In April of 1996 Billy Graham preached a sermon that was broadcast to 200 countries in 40 different languages. It is estimated that 2.5 billion people heard or saw the message. The presentation was followed-up with the distribution of 445 million pieces of literature in over a hundred languages.
"The Jesus Film" produced by Campus Crusade in 1979 has been shown to over 6 billion people worldwide. Based upon the Gospel of Luke, the film has been translated into over 1,000 languages and is currently being shown in almost every country in the world by more than 2,500 teams.
The "10/40 Window Project" has focused the attention of Christians to pray for the success of evangelistic efforts in the area across Africa and Asia from 10 degrees latitude north of the equator to 40 degrees latitude north of the equator. Of the 55 least evangelized countries, 97% of their population lives within this geographical window.
The result has been a great harvest of souls. More Muslims have come to Jesus in the past twenty years than in the previous one thousand years.
What we are witnessing in missions outreach is a fulfillment of Jesus' words when He said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go to the Father" (John 14:12). The accelerated success of missions worldwide is also a partial fulfillment of a prophecy Jesus spoke in His Olivet Discourse: "This gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in the whole world for a witness to all the nations, and then the end shall come" (Matthew 24:14).
The Uniqueness of our Age
After reviewing the prophecies listed above, I don't think we need any handwriting on the wall to indicate to us that we are living in a unique age. Historical developments and technological inventions are making it possible for us to understand many end time prophecies for the first time.
Even the phenomenal success of Hal Lindsey's book, The Late Great Planet Earth, is a modern day sign of the times. Keep in mind that this book was the number one best seller in the world, with the sole exception of the Bible, for ten consecutive years, from 1970 to 1980 (as authenticated by Time Magazine). What was it that the Lord told Daniel? — "Seal it up to the end of time when those who have insight will understand."
The bottom line, my friends, is that we are living on borrowed time, because Jesus is coming soon!