Approximately two millennia have passed since God-incarnate ascended from this earth to be seated at the right hand of the Father. The messengers in white apparel proclaimed the wonderful tidings: “Jesus … shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:10–11). “The promise of His coming” stands unshaken and true, in spite of all scoffers. Jesus Christ will most certainly appear the second time to take vengeance in flaming fire on all sinners (2 Thess. 1:7–8) and to dissolve the universe. The occasion of the second and final advent of Christ will irrevocably seal the eternal fate of every living person. The import of the Last Great Day cannot be over-estimated.
The scriptures plainly state that no man knows the day nor the hour of His coming. All who predict such, do so in direct opposition to the Word of God. However, the scriptures speak of “knowing the time,” and knowing that His coming is nigh. God is not willing that any should perish. In tender mercy, He has not “left himself without witness.” With deep concern for the eternal well-being of His creation, God gives a sign of His coming. The object of this sign, like that of many physical signs, is to proclaim that which succeeds it and to alert of its imminent appearance.
A true exegesis of Matthew 24 necessitates the understanding that in verse 3 of this chapter, the disciples of Christ asked three distinct questions. One of these is, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?” Jesus then proceeds to answer all three of these questions throughout the course of the chapter. In verse 30, He begins to address the sign of His coming and predicts the actual coming and appearing of Himself on the Last Great Day. Then in verse 31, He tells in explicit detail the substance of the sign itself.
“Then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven.” This does not denote the aerial heavens, nor yet the celestial abode of God, but rather the spiritual realm where spiritual events transpire. This “heaven” is synonymous with the “high places” of Ephesians 6:12 and the “heavenly places” of Ephesians 2:6 and 3:10. Being that this sign will appear in heaven, it is implied that its nature is spiritual and not discernible by men of fleshly minds.
“He [Christ] shall send his angels [Greek: messengers] with a great sound of a trumpet”—the gospel message of awakening, warning, and alarm (Isa. 58:1). These God-sent messengers (His ministers) will then proceed to gather together in one (John 11:52) the elect of God, namely all His redeemed children. In that Matt. 24:31 says, “from one end of [the spiritual] heaven to the other,” it indicates the universality of this gathering (Eph. 1:10).
God could have allowed this wicked world “wrapped in slumber” to continue in sinful sleep, to be only awakened in horror by the sound of the last trump. At that point, however, all hope of repentance will be absolutely precluded. God intended that by the means of the piercing blast of true preaching and the resulting unification of all saints, the listless masses should perceive that His awful coming is “near, even at the doors.” With this realization impressed upon them, through the convicting power of the Holy Ghost, they are to fall on their knees and plead for forgiveness of sins, ere that day overtake them in their iniquity and pronounce their doom.
The grave fact is that we are presently living in and witnessing the direct fulfillment of Matt. 24:31. God has provided Himself a heavenly ministry that is divinely commissioned to go forth and proclaim God’s judgments on all unrighteousness, including the sin of religious sectism. It seems nothing has done more to dishonor the name of God than so-called churches—divided and splintered, and not even remotely similar to the one “glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing” (Eph. 5:27). With burdened heart, Christ prayed the Father in fervent accents, “that they all may be one…that the world may believe” (John 17:21). Oh, what a moving plea! Jesus knew that the world needed to see the gathering/unity of God’s people in order to repent of their sins.
We stand in awe as we see God, through the instrumentality of His messengers, “take … one of a city, and two of a family, and … bring [them] to Zion” (Jer. 3:14)! Our hearts thrill with joy at the sound of the great trumpet which has shattered the ghastly stillness of apostasy and compromise. With solemn conviction, we realize that God is coming, yea, quickly coming. With mounting urgency, we observe the sign of His coming, as the sign is clear evidence that we live in the very end of the end. The message of the hour is, “Behold, the Bridegroom cometh!” Whatever we are aspiring to do for our own souls or the souls of others must be done quickly because the sign proclaims Him near.
This sign must precede God’s coming, as there will be no opportunity for its fulfillment on the Last Day. On that day, the messengers will not have to locate and assemble the saints, as they will be “caught up” from wherever they are “to meet the Lord in the air” (1 Thess. 4:17). At Christ’s return, the aerial heavens and planet Earth will burst into flames, thus obliterating time and place for a gathering on that day (2 Peter 3:12). The gathering is NOW!
We witness a massive array of misconceptions and errant expectations concerning signs. Even when Jesus walked this earth, carnally-minded men—though very religious—required signs of Him who Himself was the “Sign which should be spoken against.” It is astounding that in the chapter directly succeeding the account of the feeding of four thousand, the Pharisees and Sadducees asked for a sign (Matt. 16:1)! What evidence of tremendous spiritual dullness—willful dullness. Before Jesus walked away, leaving them “signless,” He promised one sign—that of Jonas. The only sign God gave the Ninevites was that of a man walking their streets, preaching the judgment of God. For the Jews who required a sign, Paul had one response—preaching (1 Cor. 1:22–23). Similarly, the preaching of the everlasting gospel and its effects, are the sign by which God now chooses to convict men of His soon coming. Those who discontentedly look for “other” signs would not believe “though one rose from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Jesus called those that rejected the obvious sign and demanded another, wicked and adulterous hypocrites.
Dear reader, can you not discern the signs of the times? Could anything possibly be more spectacular than the present working of God, namely the gathering of His people and restoring of His church? Even if for no other reason, we beseech you, “believe for the very works’ sake.”