Faith musings from the seat of a forklift.
“The Sign” was a Swedish pop hit around 1994. In 1996 it was the song playing at bar in Bali when a female asked me “Hey baby, what’s your sign”. My snarky answer was “Go out the door, turn right, walk to the end of the street, and look up”. Now then, when she came back, her response was “very funny wise guy”. Now then, I suppose you may wonder as to what she would have seen. Actually, there was only one thing she could have seen. A sign. It said “STOP”. To quote Jeff Foxworthy, “There’s your sign”.
Working in shipping, I often find myself unloading trailers in which half or better of the trailer was completely hand stowed. This means that the freight is stacked by hand from floor to ceiling. Now then, many of the trailers I work with have a steel plate on the floor that extends four feet back from the front of the trailer. Such being the case, when unloading a trailer that is completely hand stowed, when you get to the steel plate in the floor, that is an indicator that you are nearing to end of the trailer. In other words, “there’s your sign”.
The modern church is almost infatuated with the idea of signs. Spend a day on facebook and you will see it. There is almost always somebody going off on some tangent about a sign. Many who do so are looking for something and want something to prove their belief. For some it is a conspiracy that they are out to prove. Other are looking for a sure sign that we are about to witness the return of Christ Jesus. Then there are those who are looking for something else, though I would be hard pressed to know or understand what. Simple truth, just about everybody is looking for a sign, never mind that some of these signs could actually be false.
In regards to signs, Jesus had something to say about them. In the Gospel of Matthew, the Pharisees ask Jesus for a sign. Jesus tells them rather plainly “An evil and adulterous generation craves for a sign; and yet no sign will be given to it but the sign of Jonah the prophet; for just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the sea monster, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth”. In short Jesus was telling them that the only sign he was going to give them was his resurrection. Other than that, Jesus was not interested in giving something to appease them.
Later the disciples would also ask Jesus about signs. In particular, they wanted to know what the sign would be regarding his coming and the end of the age. Jesus was more willing to divulge some information to them, but not very much. In this regard his response was “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray. And you will hear of wars and rumors of wars. See that you are not alarmed, for this must take place, but the end is not yet. For nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, and there will be famines and earthquakes in various places. All these are but the beginning of the birth pains.” Jesus then went on to explain to them that they would suffer tribulation and persecution. He also made it plain that the Gospel would be preached to all the nations before the end came.
Truth is, much of this has happened. Yet, the end has not yet come. Truth is, we can not truly know when the end will be. Many fundamentalist churches believe that one major sign that is yet to come is the “rapture”. I have previously covered this doctrine elsewhere, and have little interest in discussing it again. However, one of the verses used to support it also condemns the doctrine. Specifically, 1 Corinthians 15:52, which reads “at the LAST trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed” (emphasis added). Thus, if there is a truly a rapture, it would seem it would be at the end of the tribulation period, not the beginning. Bear in mind that even non-believers know that many Christians believe that the tribulation will last seven years and that is would be easy to count down seven years until Christ’s return using all three major calendars, Gregorian, Julian, and Hebraic. This is a direct contradiction to where Jesus states plainly in Matthew 24:36 “But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only”. This verse, in its proper context, makes it clear that we can not properly know, at all, when the end will come. The people of Noah’s day didn’t know until it was too late, and so shall it be at the return of Christ.
The signs of the return of Christ Jesus abound. His return is certainly soon. I can not honestly say how soon. It seemed quite soon to Paul and Matthew, such that they had need to write and give everyone a chance to know what God had in store for all of humanity. However, it could yet be 2000 more years. There is nothing in scripture that dictates that we will live to see his return. Yes, without stating it directly, it is implied that there will be a generation that will yet be alive when Christ returns. However, nothing says it must be ours.
For those who believe, no sign of the Lord’s return is necessary. We believe that he will return and that is all that matters. For the unbeliever, no sign will suffice. They will continue in their unbelief until it is too late. We may attempt to use the signs to point out that Christ is soon to return, but we much bear in mind what is written in 2 Peter 3:4, “They will say, “Where is the promise of his coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all things are continuing as they were from the beginning of creation”.” Of course, they will (and do) deny the creation, believing in evolution and thus denying that they will be held accountable by God. Sadly, denial won’t nullify their sins. Only repentance can to do that.
Signs are nice. They can be a great indication of something, when appropriate. However, we should not base all of our hopes upon such things. If our only hope is in the signs themselves, they will fail us. On the other hand, Jesus won’t fail us, as long as we believe in him and what he did upon the cross, dying for our sins, being buried, and rising again on the third day. Yes, the only sign that matters, that of Jonah. Jesus fulfilled that sign and will come again. Until he returns, let us believe and tell all the message of the Gospel. May it be when he comes, we are found fulfilling his command to preach the Gospel, rather than worrying about signs that may not be and what they might mean.