Do You Recognize the Sign of Jesus’ Presence?
NO ONE wants to be seriously ill or to be caught in a disaster. In order to avoid such calamities, a wise person takes note of the signs pointing to danger and acts accordingly. Jesus Christ described a particular sign that we need to recognize. What he was pointing to would have global impact and would affect all mankind. That includes you and your family.
Jesus spoke about the Kingdom of God, which will remove wickedness and make the earth into a paradise. His disciples were curious about this and wanted to know when that Kingdom would come. They asked: “What will be the sign of your presence and of the conclusion of the system of things?”—Matthew 24:3.
Jesus knew that following his execution and resurrection, centuries would pass before he would be enthroned in heaven as the Messianic King to rule over mankind. Since his enthronement would be invisible to humans, Jesus gave a sign that would enable his followers to recognize his “presence” as well as “the conclusion of the system of things.” This sign is composed of several facets, which together make up a composite identifying mark, or signal—the sign of Jesus’ presence.
Gospel writers Matthew, Mark, and Luke each carefully recorded Jesus’ answer. (Matthew, chapters 24 and 25; Mark, chapter 13; Luke, chapter 21) Other Bible writers added details to the sign. (2 Timothy 3:1-5; 2 Peter 3:3, 4; Revelation 6:1-8; 11:18) Space does not permit a close look at all the details, but we will consider five key elements that make up the sign mentioned by Jesus. You will find that this is relevant and important to you personally.—See box on page 6.
“An Epoch-Making Breach”
“Nation will rise against nation and kingdom against kingdom.” (Matthew 24:7) German newsmagazine Der Spiegel reports that prior to 1914, people “believed in a golden future with more freedom, progress, and prosperity.” Then everything changed. “The war that began in August 1914 and came to an end in November 1918 was a dramatic event. It made a historic break, separating the old from the new,” states the magazine GEO. More than 60 million soldiers from five continents engaged in savage conflict. On average, some 6,000 soldiers were killed each day. Since then, historians of each generation and of all political persuasions have viewed “the years 1914 to 1918 as being an epoch-making breach.”
World War I forced irreversible changes on human society and thrust mankind into the last days of this system of things. The rest of that century was characterized by more wars, armed conflicts, and terrorism. Things have not changed for the better in the early years of the present century. Besides war, other facets of the sign are visible.
Famine, Pestilence, and Earthquakes
“There will be food shortages.” (Matthew 24:7) Hunger hit Europe during the first world war, and famine has haunted mankind ever since. Historian Alan Bullock wrote that in Russia and Ukraine in 1933, “hordes of the starving wandered across the countryside . . . Corpses were piled by the sides of the roads.” In 1943 journalist T. H. White witnessed famine in the Chinese province of Henan. He wrote: “In a famine, almost anything becomes edible and can be ground, consumed and converted to energy by the human body. But it requires the terror of death to provoke the imagination to eat what, hitherto, is unedible.” Sad to say, famine in Africa has become almost commonplace during recent decades. Although the earth produces enough food for everyone, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimates that 840 million people worldwide have too little to eat.
“In one place after another pestilences.” (Luke 21:11) “The Spanish influenza is estimated to have killed between 20 million and 50 million people in 1918, more than the plague or the first world war,” reports the Süddeutsche Zeitung. Since then, untold numbers have been stricken by such diseases as malaria, smallpox, tuberculosis, polio, and cholera. And the world looks on aghast as AIDS spreads unabated. We now have the baffling situation that persistent disease exists alongside astonishing medical progress. This paradox, hitherto unknown to mankind, helps identify our extraordinary times.
“Earthquakes.” (Matthew 24:7) During the past 100 years, earthquakes have snuffed out the lives of hundreds of thousands of people. According to one source, earthquakes with the power to ruin buildings and split open the ground have averaged 18 per year since 1914. Deadlier quakes strong enough to level buildings have occurred about once a year. Despite advances in technology, the death toll remains high because many rapidly growing cities are located on earthquake fault lines.
Most facets of the sign of the last days are distressing. But Jesus also told of welcome news.
“This good news of the kingdom will be preached in all the inhabited earth for a witness to all the nations.” (Matthew 24:14) The work that Jesus himself started—preaching the good news of the Kingdom—would reach a climax during the last days. This has truly been the case. Jehovah’s Witnesses are preaching the Bible’s message and are teaching willing people to apply what they learn in everyday life. Currently, over six million Witnesses preach in 235 lands and in over 400 languages.
Note that Jesus did not say that life would come to a standstill because of the distressing world conditions. He also did not say that the whole world would be engulfed by one facet of the sign. But he did foretell a multitude of events that together would constitute a sign that would be identifiable from anywhere on earth.
Looking beyond single events or isolated incidents, do you see a pattern, a composite sign of global importance? What is happening affects you and your family. But why, we might ask, do so few people take notice?
Own Interests Come First
“No Swimming,” “High Voltage,” “Reduce Speed.” These are some of the signs and warnings that we see but that are often ignored. Why? We are easily swayed by what we consider to be in our own best interests. For example, we may feel the need to drive faster than the law permits, or we may have a strong desire to swim where it is forbidden. But ignoring signs is unwise.
For instance, avalanches in the Alpine mountains of Austria, France, Italy, and Switzerland sometimes claim the lives of tourists who ignore warnings that urge them to ski or snowboard only on secure routes. According to the Süddeutsche Zeitung, many tourists who ignore such warnings live by the maxim, No risk, no fun. Sadly, ignoring warnings can have tragic results.
What reasons do people have for disregarding the sign described by Jesus? They may be blinded by avarice, numbed by apathy, paralyzed by indecision, bogged down by routine, or gripped by fear of losing prestige. Could any of these be causing you to ignore the sign of Jesus’ presence? Would it not be wiser to recognize the sign and act accordingly?
Life on a Paradise Earth
A growing number of people are heeding the sign of Jesus’ presence. Kristian, a young married man in Germany, writes: “These are gloomy times. We are undoubtedly living in ‘the last days.’” He and his wife spend much time talking to others about the Messianic Kingdom. Frank lives in the same country. He and his wife encourage others with good news from the Bible. Frank says: “Because of the situation in the world, many people today are anxious about the future. We try to encourage them with Bible prophecies of a paradise earth.” Kristian and Frank thus help fulfill one facet of Jesus’ sign—the preaching of the good news of the Kingdom.—Matthew 24:14.
As the last days reach their climax, Jesus will wipe out this old system and the people who support it. The Messianic Kingdom will then administer affairs on earth, which will be brought to its foretold Paradise condition. Mankind will be freed from sickness and death, and the dead will be resurrected to life on earth. These are the delightful prospects awaiting those who recognize the sign of the times. Would it not be the wise course to learn more about the sign and what one must do to survive the end of this system? Surely this ought to be a matter of great urgency for everyone.—John 17:3.
[Blurb on page 4]
Jesus foretold a multitude of events that together would constitute a sign that would be identifiable from anywhere on earth
[Blurb on page 6]
Do you see a pattern, a composite sign of global importance?
[Box/Pictures on page 6]
IDENTIFYING MARKS OF THE LAST DAYS
Increasing lawlessness.—Matthew 24:12
Critical times hard to deal with.—2 Timothy 3:1
Inordinate love of money.—2 Timothy 3:2
Disobedience to parents.—2 Timothy 3:2
A lack of natural affection.—2 Timothy 3:3
Loving pleasures rather than God.—2 Timothy 3:4
A lack of self-control.—2 Timothy 3:3
Without love of goodness.—2 Timothy 3:3
Taking no note of the impending danger.—Matthew 24:39
Ridiculers rejecting proof of the last days.—2 Peter 3:3, 4
Global preaching of God’s Kingdom.—Matthew 24:14
[Picture Credit Lines on page 5]
WWI soldiers: From the book The World War—A Pictorial History, 1919; poor family: AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi; polio victim: © WHO/P. Virot