Every so often,when things get really bad, or when a new theory comes along about Bible prophecies, an old cycle gets repeated. Someone rises up, all excited, saying that the time is near for Jesus to return. People listen, a movement begins, and the faithful wait expectantly for Jesus. But He doesn’t come.
When this happens, reactions differ. Some people scramble frantically to reinterpret the Bible. Others become bitter and reject religion altogether. But most are simply puzzled. After all, Jesus did so many good works and said so many wonderful things, He obviously wasn’t just another huckster. So why hasn’t He returned as He promised? Didn’t His disciples ask Him, point-blank, “What sign will announce your coming and the end of this age?”1 And didn’t He give them a point-blank answer? You’ve probably heard some of the things He talked about: false prophets, false messiahs, false miracles, wars, famines, earthquakes, persecution of His followers, many deserting His cause, people betraying even their own family members, and so on. Most of these things have happened repeatedly, but He never showed up, and the world didn’t end. How come?
Well, for one thing, He said very clearly that when those things happened it wouldn’t be the end yet. Those events would only be like a pregnant woman’s first mild contractions. The hard labor pains would still be a long way off. So if someone predicts the second coming based on an increase in earthquakes, wars, famines, or cult leaders, you can know he wasn’t paying attention when he read the Bible.
But if none of those things is the sign, what is? Is it increased lawlessness and lack of love? Hasn’t humanity always suffered from a lack of love? Did the Savior just sidestep the issue, refusing to give His followers the sign they asked for, leaving them with a general warning against worry?
No, He actually went on to tell them when the end would come. And yet, His answer is usually overlooked, even though it’s listed right there along with all the other prophecies. You’ve probably never even heard about it. The writers of Christian end-time books don’t mention it, maybe because they don’t understand it — or maybe because it’s not sensational enough to sell any books. Here’s what He said:
“This Good News of the Kingdom shall be proclaimed throughout the whole world to set the evidence before all the Gentiles; and then the end will come.”2
Well, there it is. You’ll have to admit, it doesn’t sound like much of a sign — unless you understand what it means. Then it is earth-shaking. It explains exactly why the eagerly anticipated Second Coming hasn’t happened for 2000 years. The sign is made up of 1) the particular message, 2) its proclamation, and 3) the evidence it produces. It has to be this Good News — a specific message — not just any old “gospel,” but the Gospel of the Kingdom. It has to be proclaimed in the whole world. And it can’t just be a bunch of words; it has to actually produce some evidence. Then, finally, the end will come.
That message obviously hasn’t been proclaimed everywhere yet, because the end hasn’t come. In fact, as historians have pointed out, the Kingdom has hardly even been mentioned in the last 2000 years (see box at right). And since the Son of God always meant exactly what He said, He’s not going to show up until His message gets preached and obeyed3 and all the people who don’t know God get to take a look at the evidence.
Many people know the story of “doubting Thomas.” He was the disciple who wouldn’t believe that Yahshua had risen from the dead until he saw Him with his own eyes. Not many realize, though, that Thomas wasn’t alone. None of the disciples believed He was alive when they merely heard the testimony of others.
It’s amazing — and significant — how He responded to their unbelief. Do you know what He did? He showed Himself to them and gave them many convincing proofs of His resurrection.4 Yes, that’s right, He didn’t curse them for not believing. Instead, He gave them visible evidence of His triumph over death. And He isn’t going to treat the rest of the world any different. He’s not going to require them to believe unless He shows them something.
So, how is this evidence supposed to be produced? It’s simple. Messiah Yahshua’s message is made up mainly of commands.5 That is why the Bible speaks of obeying the gospel.6 Those commands teach His disciples how to love each other the way He loved them. Only when His disciples love like He loved, will the world “get the connection.” Only then will the world know that He was sent from heaven to take their place in death. Only then will they be convinced that God loved them just as much as He loved His own Son.7
What is so convincing, then, about doing what Yahshua said? Well, obeying His commands results in a radical life, one that differs starkly from the self-centered existence of the world.8 You see, for all men, even the best of them, self-preservation is the bottom line. It’s almost inescapable. The evil spirit who rules the world holds all its people under his power by the fear of death, but obeying Messiah frees a person from that power. So, when all of Yahshua’s disciples are set free to love as He loved, the world will sense that death has been conquered. They will understand that Yahshua has been given all authority in heaven and on earth.
Seeing the disciples loving one another is what it will take for the world to believe that God loves them as much as He loves His Son Yahshua. It’s all connected to the fact that human beings were made in God’s image. Our concept of God depends a lot on our experience of humanity. A person can accept an idea or doctrine that “God is love” easily enough, but he won’t know that God loves him until he sees human beings loving that way. When there is evidence of real people forgiving one another and overlooking each other’s shortcomings in order to have one heart and one way — only then will the world truly understand that God has that same love in His heart for them as well. When His love is made real to them, they, too, will begin to obey Yahshua’s commands, for true obedience is based on love.
Such a life of obedience actually brings a person into another kingdom — placing him under the authority of heaven.9 When the world sees the disciples of Yahshua the Messiah dwelling together in unity, denying themselves for the good of their brothers, it proves something. It shows that there is a power at work on the earth greater than man’s natural ability. Man can naturally be tolerant of others, or even help those less fortunate than himself, especially in an emergency, but he can’t forsake his own interests enough to live entirely for others the way Yahshua did. The spirits that work in the unseen realm won’t let him.
The power to love as our Master Yahshua loved is the power of the age to come. It is the power of an unshakable kingdom that is going to bring this present age to an end.10 This kingdom will fill the earth in the next age, but that age can’t start yet. It can’t start until that power is demonstrated in this age11 so that people can choose what power they want to be under — the power of love12 or the power of death. That is what our Master is waiting for. He is the invincible King who rules the unshakable kingdom.
By the power of love, He took the sin of all mankind on Himself and suffered the agony of death we all deserved. By the power of love, He shook off the shackles of death and rose victorious. By that same power He is coming to take over the earth. When He finally comes, no one will be able to withstand His power,13 no matter how hard they try. They also won’t have any excuse for refusing to believe the evidence set before them.14