How can we know when Jesus will return and the Kingdom of God established?
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(All quotations from the King James translation unless stated otherwise).
The answer to this depends upon matching the current events in the world with the prophecies in the Bible; which is difficult to do.
If we look at Jesus’ prophecy concerning the Jews and Jerusalem:
Luke 21:24 And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.
In 1948 Israel became a nation again in her own land. In 1967 Israel captured Jerusalem. In 1980 Jerusalem became the Capital of Israel.
This does not of itself constitute the end of the treading down of Jerusalem by the gentiles (non-Jews) for according to other prophets there is to be a final invasion and capture of Jerusalem before Christ returns to deliver Israel.
Zechariah 14:2 For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city.
The fact that the Jews are back in the land and in control of Jerusalem makes the third and final overturning possible.
Ezekiel 21:27 I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.
Ezekiel gives a lot of detail concerning this final invasion in chapters 38 and 39.
Ezekiel 38:2 Son of man, set thy face against Gog, the land of Magog, the chief prince of Meshech and Tubal, and prophesy against him... 8... in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them.
Ezekiel 38:14 Therefore, son of man, prophesy and say unto Gog, Thus saith the Lord GOD; In that day when my people of Israel dwelleth safely, shalt thou not know it? 15 And thou shalt come from thy place out of the north parts, thou, and many people with thee, all of them riding upon horses, a great company, and a mighty army: 16 And thou shalt come up against my people of Israel, as a cloud to cover the land; it shall be in the latter days, and I will bring thee against my land, that the heathen may know me, when I shall be sanctified in thee, O Gog, before their eyes.
Israel is back in the land but we do not yet see them dwelling safely as Ezekiel 38:14 requires. There needs to be some long term resolution of the Palestinian conflict.
The other signs that Jesus speaks of:
Luke 21:25 And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; 26 Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. 27 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.
Whether the signs in the sun, moon and stars are literal or political or both we cannot yet be certain. What seems clear is that we have not yet reached the point where the nations are distressed with perplexity (that is: with seemingly no solution). Neither can the sea and the waves (which in scripture represent peoples) said to be roaring.
When these things begin to happen those who are watching will know that the return of Christ is imminent.
In a parallel prophecy in Revelation, the ten horn/kings have not yet surrendered their political power to the eighth head of the beast.
Revelation 17:12 And the ten horns which thou sawest are ten kings, which have received no kingdom as yet; but receive power as kings one hour with the beast. 13 These have one mind, and shall give their power and strength unto the beast. 14 These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
We see the nations in process of forging a European federation of Nation States and it is not yet clear how Revelation 17:13 will be fulfilled. Handing over political power to one specific political power is hardly going to produce the current aim of a democratic solution.
The return of Christ as a thief (Revelation 16:15) to raise the dead and to gather his saints would seem to occur at a point just prior to the gathering of the nations to Armageddon. From Zechariah 14:2 ‘For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle’ we might reasonably conclude that Armageddon is symbolic reference to the invasion of Israel and capture of Jerusalem.
Revelation 16:13 And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs come out of the mouth of the dragon, and out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet. 14 For they are the spirits of devils, working miracles, which go forth unto the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of God Almighty.
15 Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.
16 And he gathered them together into a place called in the Hebrew tongue Armageddon.
The unclean spirits like frogs (spirits of devils), the beast, the dragon and false prophet are not supernatural entities but symbols. The beast and the dragon represent two major political powers, the false prophet is not Islam but apostate Christianity headed up in the Papacy. I believe that ‘the unclean spirits like frogs’ relate to a common (anti-Semitic) foreign policy which unites them; inasmuch as it brings them all into conflict with Christ at Armageddon.
If what has gone before is a correct interpretation of the end times then we can surmise that we are close but not quite there. I could be mistaken as many have been before me. The instruction to us all is to watch so that we might be found doing the Lord’s work when he comes.
If Christ remains away, his coming is still as near as the day of our death. The next thing we will know will be resurrection and judgment. At that point our ability to read the signs of our times will have no relevance.
Luke 21:36 Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man.
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I hope you have found this helpful.
May God bless you,