The temple is a place of worship for the Jewish people and is where God typically manifests Himself to His people. We know that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt during the tribulation period because Daniel 9:27 speaks of the sacrifices that will be offered in the temple during the first half of this period.
We also know there will be a temple because Jesus prophesied in His Olivet Discourse that this future temple would be desecrated: “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). The abomination of desolation involves desecration of the Jewish temple by the antichrist, who will set up an image of himself in the temple at the midpoint of the tribulation period (compare with Isaiah 14:13-14 and Ezekiel 28:2-9).
Although the temple has not yet been rebuilt, it is highly significant that preparations for its rebuilding are being made in our day. Jewish individuals and groups—for example, the Temple Institute—have been working behind the scenes to prepare various materials that will be needed for the future temple, including priestly garments, temple tapestries, and worship utensils. These items are being prefabricated so that when the temple is finally rebuilt, everything will be ready. Meanwhile, the Jewish Sanhedrin has been reconstituted and is raising money and drawing up architectural plans to rebuild the temple. The fulfillment of this temple prophecy seems to be in the not-too-distant future.
The rebuilding of the Jewish temple can be seen as a sign of the times. A sign of the times is an event of prophetic significance that points to the end times. These signs will be fulfilled during the tribulation period—but even now, as illustrated by the Jewish temple, we are witnessing the foreshadowing of these prophecies.
To make the signs of the times more accessible to students of prophecy, I have grouped them into six categories: the rebirth-of-Israel sign, moral signs, religious signs, national-alignment signs, earth and sky signs, and technological signs.
The Rebirth-of-Israel Sign
The Jews will be gathered from the “four corners of the earth” in the end times after the nation is restored (Isaiah 11:12; 66:7-8). God promised, “I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land” (Ezekiel 36:24). Israel became a nation again in 1948, and Jews have been streaming back to it ever since. This is a super-sign of the end times because it sets the stage for the fulfillment of a number of other key prophecies.
Moral Signs of the Times
In the end times, “people will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, heartless, unappeasable, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not loving good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). Jesus warned of the end times, “Because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold” (Matthew 24:12). He also warned that people would constantly party it up, unconcerned about God and spiritual matters, just as it was back in the days of Noah (verses 37-39).
Religious Signs of the Times
The end times will be characterized by the rise of false christs, false prophets, and false teachers (Matthew 24:24; Mark 13:22). There will also be a significant increase in apostasy. First Timothy 4:1-2 warns: “The Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons.” Likewise, 2 Timothy 4:3-4 warns: “The time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.”
National-Alignment Signs of the Times
A “United States of Europe” will emerge in the end times—a ten-nation confederation that will constitute a revived Roman Empire (Daniel 2:41-44; 7:7, 23-24; Revelation 17:12-13). There will also be an end-time military coalition against Israel that includes Russia, Iran, Sudan, Turkey, Libya, and other Muslim nations (Ezekiel 38–39). Russia already has military alliances with some of these nations.
Earth and Sky Signs of the Times
During the tribulation period, there will be a tremendous increase in the frequency and intensity of earthquakes and signs in the sky (Matthew 24:7). Luke 21:11 warns: “There will be great earthquakes… And there will be terrors and great signs from heaven.” These signs could include strange weather patterns, meteors striking the earth, and a darkening of the moon and other celestial bodies (Revelation 8:10-12).
Technological Signs of the Times
Matthew 24:14 tells us that the gospel must be preached to every nation before Christ returns. Today’s technology—satellites, the Internet, global media, translation technologies, publishing technologies, and rapid transportation—makes this possible. Revelation 13:16-17 tells us that the antichrist will have economic control over everyone on earth. Again, today’s technology—the Internet, supercomputers, biometric identification procedures, RFID chips, and smart card technology—make this possible. Revelation 8:7 tells us that much of the earth will be destroyed by fire. Today’s nuclear weapons make this possible.
Frequently Asked Questions on the Signs of the Times
Since we are witnessing foreshadows of the signs of the times, can we guestimate the dates of future prophetic events?
It is unwise to even attempt to guess dates! Scripture reveals that no one can know the day or the hour of specific end-time events. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus urges, “Concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only.” He likewise affirms in Acts 1:7, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
While date-setting is prohibited, the Lord Jesus indicated that we can infer that His coming is not far off: “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates” (Matthew 24:32-33). (For more on the folly of setting dates, see my separate article, “Imbalances in Prophecy.”)
What are we to make of the widespread mockery of Christians who believe in the prophetic signs of the times?
Christians are warned in 2 Peter 3:3-4 of the unbelief that will prevail on planet earth in the last days. We are told that “scoffers will come in the last days with scoffing, following their own sinful desires” (verse 3). They will scoff by saying, “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” (verse 4). Jude 18 likewise affirms, “In the last time there will be scoffers, following their own ungodly passions.”
Count on it and get used to it: Christians who believe in the prophetic signs of the times will increasingly be mocked and ridiculed for their faith! This is already happening among a new and more vitriolic breed of atheists and humanists.
Why is it important for all Christians to be aware of the signs of the times?
Jesus chastised the Jewish leaders of the first century for not recognizing the signs of the times. Jesus, as the Jewish Messiah, was the fulfillment of multiple Old Testament prophecies (signs), and yet the Jewish leaders were blind to it. For example, the Old Testament prophesied that when the Messiah came, the blind would see, the deaf would hear, and the lame would walk (see Isaiah 11; 35). Yet the Jewish leaders were blind to these signs of the times, and Jesus rightly rebuked them for it (Matthew 16:1-3).
Let us not make the same mistake. Let us learn the signs of the times and resolve to be careful observers! Meanwhile, let us seek to reach as many people as possible with the gospel of Christ, knowing that the opportune time to reach them is growing shorter (Matthew 28:16-20).