In His teaching about end times, Jesus tells us repeatedly to “watch and pray”. But what are we supposed to be watching, exactly? And what are we praying about? How do we obey this instruction?
A recent poll conducted by Pew research1 discovered that a shockingly high number of all Americans believe we’re living in the last days. Even more surprising: more than half of all those asked believe Jesus is literally coming back to earth one day.
When asked if they believed we are living in the End Times, 63 % of evangelicals affirmed that yes, we are. It might be no surprise that the majority of evangelical Christians believe this, but it might surprise you to hear that almost one in four (39%) of all Americans agreed. This includes people of other faiths and none: 29% of Buddhists, Muslims, Jews and Hindus believe we are coming up to the end of world history, as well as others who had no particular religion, and there were even some atheists among their number! Perhaps even more surprising is that 55% of all the Americans polled say they believe Jesus is coming back.
We haven’t been here before
It certainly does feel a bit apocalyptic. Corona was an earth-shaking episode, and now people are struggling to make ends meet as inflation spirals out of control. Many have lost loved ones, others have lost jobs and businesses. But disasters of global proportions have come and gone throughout history—what’s so different now? A couple of things. Firstly, the formation of the state of Israel in 1948 and the reunification of Jerusalem in 1967 meant that the imminent return of Jesus is more realistic than ever. Not only has Israel been regathered physically, but we’re also seeing many Jewish people receive Jesus as their Messiah in numbers not known since the first century. Israel had to be reestablished and Jerusalem had to be in Jewish hands before key prophetic pieces could fall into place. We are living in the generation that has seen these critical events come to pass. Secondly, the pandemic pulled back the proverbial curtain, showing we’re in a new digital era where we can be tracked and monitored like never before. Israel was the first of many nations to impose tight restrictions with digital health passes, and even though these measures have been eased in some countries, the sudden removal of access to healthcare, travel, and even to our own bank accounts is no longer unimaginable. Indeed, the freezing of funds and restriction of travel has been happening around the globe.2 It should be said that just because we could theoretically be tightly controlled by the-powers-that-be, doesn’t mean that we necessarily will be, but the infrastructure for global governance and control exists in a way it never has before.
It’s time to start paying attention. And essentially, that’s what Jesus means by “watch and pray”.
We need to be astute observers of what is happening, so that we can discern how far along we are in the prophetic timeline. We need the two-lens vision of a pair of binoculars to keep an eye on the Bible and current events at the same time.
You might have noticed that there’s a fair amount of deception going on, just as the Bible warned would happen. We need to be discerning about who and what we believe. God knows perfectly well who is lying and who is telling the truth, so ask Him to help you as you look out at the world to see where we are. One place we can be sure to find truth is the Bible. Praise God for the Bible. We have it all laid out there for us, in black and white.
What are the “End Times”?
“Tell us, when will these things be, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3)
The very first thing that Jesus said when His disciples asked Him this was, “See that you are not led astray”. The end times will be full of deception. Jesus said we’ll hear of wars and rumors of wars, but not to be afraid, but that they must come along with earthquakes, famines and pestilences. These things are all happening today, but they have been happening for centuries. “All these are but the beginning of the birth pains”. According to Jesus, war, natural disasters and disease are to be expected but are not, critically, the end. They are merely the beginning of the end. This idea of pregnancy and birth is such a helpful picture for us. Something has been set in motion that will come to fruition—and it will be long-awaited and wonderful! This is something that many who get afraid seem to forget: the pains of labor are just a prelude for the most amazing and wonderful delight you can imagine! We will finally see Jesus face to face! As contractions increase in frequency and severity, so these painful things will also increase, but they have been happening for millennia. Indeed, the “end days” can be said to have started that weekend when Jesus died and rose again (see Hebrews 1:2). We are, technically, living in the end times, but I think we can all agree that He has not yet returned in glory. Some things have come to pass already but others have not.
What are we still waiting for?
Here are some of the key points Jesus gave us to look out for:
1. This gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations (Matthew 24:14)
We don’t have long to go on this, but we have not yet completed the Great Commission.
2. When you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. (Matthew 24:15-16)
God’s temple has been violated before in history, but we’re told that the Man of Lawlessness comes, as he’s described in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, he will take his seat in the temple. This means there will be a temple in Jerusalem.
3. There will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. (Matthew 24:21-22)
There have been many severe times of persecution, but none on the scale described here, that almost threatened to wipe out the entire human race.
4. As the lightning comes from the east and shines as far as the west, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. (Matthew 24:27)
We are waiting for Jesus to appear in glory! Every eye will see Him!
5. The sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. (Matthew 24:29)
There have been some fascinating celestial anomalies in recent years, and even times of darkness back in biblical times, but nothing quite like this has happened yet.
6. Then will appear in heaven the sign of the Son of Man, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he will send out his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other. (Matthew 24:30-31)
And what of the one who took God’s place in the temple? The Lord Jesus will kill with the breath of his mouth and bring to nothing by the appearance of his coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8). Jesus will destroy His enemies and set up His kingdom rule from Jerusalem. YES! This is what we are waiting for! The last shofar, the ultimate resurrection and gathering of the saints, the glorious appearance of King Jesus.
- Pew Research Center, About four-in-ten U.S. adults believe humanity is ‘living in the end times’, Jeff Diamant, December 8, 2022
All Israel News, SHOCK POLL: 55% of all Americans say they believe Jesus is literally coming back to Earth one day – the question is, “Why?”, Joel Rosenberg, 11 January, 2023
Reuters, China bank protest stopped by health codes turning red, depositors say, Engen Tham, June 16 2022
Business Insider, Canada says it will freeze the bank accounts of ‘Freedom Convoy’ truckers who continue their anti-vaccine mandate blockades, Matthew Loh, February 15, 2022
The Telegraph, PayPal shuts accounts Free Speech Union, PayPal shut down 4.5 million accounts
The Express, PayPal accused of ‘financial bullying’ in free speech row, Lucy Johnston, Sep 24, 2022
Photo by Daoudi Aissa on Unsplash