The signs of end times seem to be a subject that draws an element of sensational, if not almost mystical, attention. There appears to be an innate interest, both within and without the community of the Christian faith, in knowing the signs of the times and where we are in the timeline.
Let’s look at a biblical text that specifically mentions “the signs of the times.”
Matthew 16:1-3, NKJV
Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.
Let’s give consideration to several things from this text.
First of all, the Pharisees and Sadducees were looking for a sign from heaven. Interestingly, the sign they imagined was the Messiah who would set up His earthly Kingdom. In that sense, they were looking for a premature sign. Christ will come to set up His Kingdom, but in the proper timing.
Chronos vs. Kairos
Next, let’s look at the phrase “signs of the times.” I thoroughly enjoy studying words and their meanings as it expands our understanding of the text. Many are familiar with the word love which is translated from at least three Greek words in the Biblical text.
The same is the case for the word time. There are two main words in the Greek which are translated time.
The first is chronos (χρονος), from which come many concepts and ideas in English; things like chronic, calendar, clock, and chronology. By its very nature, chronos begs “what time is it?”.
The other word often used in the Greek is kairos (καιρος). Kairos does not ask what time it is, but rather what is the reason for, or the purpose of, this moment.
So back to the subject at hand. In Matthew 16:1-3, Jesus is responding to the Pharisees and Sadducees when asked for a sign from heaven. He states, and I paraphrase, “You are able to understand what is happening in nature, red in the evening: fair weather coming, red in the morning: foul weather that day. But you cannot discern the ‘signs of the times.’”
Now which of these two words do you think is referenced in this passage? If you have chosen Kairos(καιρος), you are right. Jesus is not saying anything about chronological events. He is inferring that they were able to have their “signs from the heavens”, but were unable to understand the purpose for the moment, namely, to recognize Him as their personal Messiah and accept Him.
This lays a good foundation for the way in which we approach the subject of the “signs of the times.” It seems God is not interested in our knowing some chronological process to follow to know that time is about to end. Rather, He wants us to have a relationship with Him.
Sign of The Prophet Jonah
Look further in Matthew 16:4: “‘A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.’ And He left them and departed” (NKJV).
What exactly was the sign of the prophet Jonah? Some would say it was the entire, three-day event in the belly of a great fish. I rather think the sign Jesus references is the fact that Jonah was sent with the message of repentance and the Kingdom of Heaven to the Ninevites, a heathen people outside the community of faith, and they repented. So I contend that if we are seeking a sign, we may receive the same treatment as the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Blood Moons & Tetrads?
As of this writing, we have just past a set of “blood moons,” or tetrads. These would supposedly give a special signal about end times events like the rapture of the church, or an extraordinary event in the life of the Jews. As far as I know, neither of these have occurred.
Also take note: nowhere does the Bible speak about a tetrad or anything like that, and connect it to the Jews. I think some people are taking a rare–and albeit interesting–celestial phenomenon, and are attempting to laminate it onto Biblical text. The Bible does speak about the moon turning to blood, but that is in the context of judgment found in the book of Revelations.
I do believe that the next event in God’s chronicles is the rapture of the Church; therefore we should be ready. I don’t think anything else must happen before the rapture of the Church. This is the next event to occur in God’s time-table. So let’s be aware of the “signs of the times”, the Kairos moment, that of repentance and a relationship with Jesus, and be ready when He comes.
|Lester Swartzentruber lives in Plain City, Ohio with his wife Janet. They have three daughters, Abigail, Rachel, and Esther. Lester graduated from Rosedale Bible Institute in 1979, and went on to spend two years in West Berlin, Germany where he worked with drug addicts and alcoholics. For the past ten years, Lester has served at Elnora Bible Institute where he teaches in the Bible department. His classes include Genesis, Psalms, Matthew, John, Romans, and Hebrews. A sideline interest is Jewish studies.