Discerning the Signs of the Times
By Tim Moore
In Congress, July 4, 1776
The unanimous declaration of the thirteen united states of America, when in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s god entitle them…
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
Those words once described a western respect for, and understanding of, the entire natural order. Nature exists—and we move about in a created order—but above all we see and observe is God.
He cannot be seen. No instrument can measure Him or comprehend His proportions. No mortal mind or artificial intelligence can comprehend His ways or fathom His thoughts.
By the power of His Word—spoken as revealed in Genesis 1—the cosmos began. The observable universe, more expansive than the mind of man can grasp, is thought to be only a small fraction of what actually exists beyond the confines of our own corner of space.
It is fitting and healthy for us to consider for a moment the immensity of God’s creation before we turn our gaze back upon His highest creature.
Give Us a Sign
When Jesus was ministering on the earth, the scribes, Pharisees, and Sadducees frequently demanded that He show them a sign (Matthew 12:38, 16:1; Mark 8:11; Luke 11:16; John 2:18). They went so far as to ask, “What then do You do for a sign, so that we may see, and believe You? What work do You perform?”
The narrative in John follows immediately on the heels of Jesus feeding thousands of people by multiplying five barley loaves and two fish. Matthew records this audacious demand after multiple miracles of healing and yet another miracle of feeding. Jesus was clearly exasperated that the supposed religious leaders could discern signs of weather and yet could not discern the signs of the times (Matthew 16:1-4).
Their refusal to acknowledge the multitude of signs Jesus performed reflected hardness of heart instead of inability to see. Rightly did Jesus assert in a parable that the hard of heart will not be “persuaded even if someone rises from the dead” (Luke 16:31). Jesus’ point was driven home dramatically in John 11 and 12. After He raised Lazarus from the dead, the Pharisees finally admitted that He was performing “many signs” (John 11:47). The Sadducees, who did not believe in resurrection in the first place, must have been truly perplexed (Acts 23:8).
What is the value of a sign that will not be seen or believed? Willful disbelief in the signs and wonders of God demonstrates a rejection of Him as God (Romans 1:18-20).
Here’s Your Sign
God has provided His Word as an infallible testimony to His Person, His power, and His plan. We need only believe Him, and like Abraham, we will be credited with righteousness. In other words, the full counsel of His Word points to Jesus (His Person), His resurrection (His power), and His Gospel (His plan).
He also extends grace and lovingkindness toward the creatures created in His own image. Because He is patient and gentle and does not “wish for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9), He also provides signs that point to His Person, His power, and His plan. Lamb & Lion Ministries has long categorized the signs of the End Times into signs of nature, society, spirituality, world politics, technology, and Israel.
God has frequently utilized signs of nature to confirm His calling and His will, to warn, and to judge individuals and nations. For example:
- The curse He placed on Creation was in response to Adam and Eve’s disobedience and sin (Genesis 3:17-19)
- The unprecedented—never-to-be-repeated—flood that covered the whole earth (Genesis 7)
- The fire that fell from heaven to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19)
- Isaac was conceived in fulfillment of a promise of God, even though his mother was well past childbearing age (Genesis 18:10-14)
- Ten plagues fell upon Egypt before Pharoah relented and let the children of Israel go (Exodus 7-12)
- Gideon’s affirmation from God, whereby dew fell alternatively on a fleece of wool and on the ground (Judges 6:36-40)
- The day unlike any other before or after, when the sun stopped in the middle of the sky while Israel routed its foe (Joshua 10:12-14)
- Tumors afflicting the Philistine men who had captured the Ark of the Covenant (1 Samuel 5-6)
- Elijah’s pronouncement of a three-year drought (1 Kings 17:1, 18:1)
- The shadow cast by the sun moved backward ten steps to affirm Isaiah’s prophetic word to Hezekiah (2 Kings 20:8-11)
As Ruler of Heaven and Earth, God can also raise up talking donkeys, great fish, and lowly worms to serve His purpose.
I love the detail included in the Word of God. When describing the last plague in Egypt that would lead to Pharaoh letting the sons of Israel go, the Lord said, “there shall be a great cry in all the land of Egypt, such as there has never been before and such as shall never be again. But against any of the sons of Israel a dog will not even bark, whether against man or beast, that you may understand how the LORD makes a distinction between Egypt and Israel” (Exodus 11:6-7). This passage demonstrates that sometimes God’s sovereignty over nature is manifest by His suppression of outcomes that would be entirely natural!
Taken as a whole, some of these signs might have naturalistic explanations. The world still experiences pestilence and locust infestations, hurricanes and tornados, earthquakes and tsunamis, and droughts and fires. These and other natural disasters are inherent to the post-Fall curse placed upon the world. But often, they result from a specific judgment of God.
When King David sinned against God by commanding a census to ascertain the strength of his army, the LORD sent Gad to call him out. Gad relayed a heartbreaking message: David could choose one of three punishments for his faithlessness—a seven-year famine, a three-month onslaught by a foreign enemy, or a three-day outbreak of pestilence (or disease). David was in “great distress” over such a choice and yielded to the mercy of God. But he never doubted that God had the power and the right to inflict any of those judgments upon him and upon Israel (2 Samuel 24:1-14).
David’s realization is at the heart of any understanding of the signs of nature. Nature is not an autonomous mechanism; in the words of Thomas Jefferson, it is subject to Nature’s God.
Again, sometimes God works through natural processes to fulfill His will. But often, even those natural processes demonstrate a miracle of timing—and convey the almighty power of God. For instance, fishermen made a living on the Sea of Galilee. But Peter realized the divine providence of God when Jesus told him to cast his net once more on the right side of the boat (John 21:3-11).
Similarly, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns at the midnight hour during their incarceration in Philippi, an earthquake shook the jail. All the prison doors were thrown open, and the chains were unfastened. A scoffer could dismiss that miraculous event as merely coincidental. But there are no coincidences with God—only miracles of timing.
Signs Of the Messiah
Clearly, the God of nature has authority over His creation. Through His prophets, He pronounced signs that would demonstrate His power and provision for His people. He also offered signs that would point to the ultimate demonstration of His mercy and grace: the Advent of His only begotten Son, Jesus Christ.
Among the signs of nature that God foretold would surround the Messiah’s birth:
- He would come through “the seed of woman,” not through the natural process involving the seed of a man (Genesis 3:15)
- A star would signal His birth (Numbers 24:17; Isaiah 9:2)
- He would be born of a virgin who would name Him Immanuel— God with us (Isaiah 7:14)
- His lineage would flow through a particular branch of humanity— including many who would not be considered particularly righteous aside from their faith in God (Genesis 12:3, 17:21, 28:14, 49:8; Jeremiah 23:5)
During His ministry on earth, Jesus also demonstrated His authority over nature. In Peter’s first sermon, he affirmed that the divine nature of Jesus the Nazarene was “attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him” (Acts 2:22). Those signs include:
- His first miracle—changing water into wine—manifested power over space, time, and material (John 2:1-11)
- He frequently healed people of physical maladies, even raising people from the dead (John 4:46- 54; 5:1-8; 9:1-7; and 11:1-44)
- He walked on water and commanded a storm to cease (John 6:16-21 and Mark 4:35-41)
- He multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed thousands (Matthew 14:15-21)
- Through His own authority, He conquered death (Acts 2:22-28; 1 Corinthians 6:14)
- After His resurrection, He passed through doors and ascended into heaven (John 20:19; Luke 24:51)
Clearly, Jesus was the fulfillment of the prophecies concerning the Messiah as foretold in the Old Testament. He was the Word made flesh. Even at His crucifixion, God was offering signs of His divinity and role as Messiah: the earth shook and rocks were split, the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom, darkness fell over the earth for three hours as the sun hid its face, and many dead saints were raised and appeared to many (Matthew 27:51-53 and Luke 23:44-45).
Signs Of Things to Come
David Reagan, the founder of Lamb & Lion Ministries, has documented over 300 prophecies in the Old Testament that point to Jesus’ first Advent and earthly ministry—with 109 of them being unique. Many of those can be categorized as signs of nature.
More than 500 references in the Old Testament point to Jesus’ glorious Second Coming. Jesus and the New Testament authors provide additional signs for us to discern in order to recognize the season of His return. Those that relate to signs of nature include:
- Famines and earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)
- Great earthquakes, plagues, famines, and terrors and great signs from heaven (Luke 21:11)
- Signs in the sun, moon, and stars (Luke 21:25)
- Roaring of the sea and the waves (Luke 21:25)
- Men will faint from fear when the powers of the heavens are shaken—thought by some to point to fear inspired by the threat of nuclear war (Luke 21:26)
Even after the Church is taken out of the world (raptured), natural signs will continue and multiply. Those left behind will experience:
- Darkness as the sun and moon do not give light and stars fall from the sky (Matthew 24:29; Revelation 6:12-13)
- War-induced famine will lead to the death of ¼ of the world’s population (Revelation 6:1-8)
- A great earthquake will move every mountain and island (Revelation 6:12-14)
- Hail and fire will fall upon the earth and burn up 1/3 of the trees and green grass (Revelation 8:7)
- Something “like a great mountain” will fall into the sea, corrupting 1/3 of the water and killing 1/3 of the sea creatures (Revelation 8:8-9)
- Another “great star” will fall from the sky and poison 1/3 of the fresh water on the earth (Revelation 8:10-11)
- People who accept the mark of the beast will be inflicted with loathsome and malignant sores (Revelation 16:2)
- The sun will then flare and scorch mankind (Revelation 16:8)
This is by no means a complete list but merely representative of the signs of nature that await a rebellious world. Amazingly, those who are condemned to endure such punishment will recognize the Source of their suffering. The kings of the earth and the great men and the commanders and the rich and the strong and every slave and free man will seek refuge among the rocks of the mountains and say, “fall on us and hide us from the presence of Him who sits on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb” (Revelation 6:15-16).
As John foresees the outpouring of six bowls of wrath, he records that men will “blaspheme the name of God who has the power over these plaques” (Revelation 16:9). Tragically, he foretells that “they [will] not repent so as to give Him glory”—and be saved.
Show Discernment and Take Warning
In the end, that is the lesson of the signs of nature. God is the God of nature and has power over all of His creation. He rightfully uses natural and supernatural mechanisms to accomplish His will.
Nature yields to God because it must. Just as He spoke a word and the entirety of the cosmos was flung into ordered existence, His Word will never return void.
By His Word, Signs of Nature are multiplying before our eyes. Just as the wise men were able to recognize and follow the Star of Bethlehem that heralded His birth, those who have studied His Word and are anticipating Him will discern the season of His return. Others will merely scoff and go about their lives. Like the people who mocked Noah’s preaching, they will be swept away when pronouncements of warning transition to an outpouring of wrath.
Do not delay! Take refuge in the Savior Who will rescue those who belong to Him before the coming storm—Jesus Christ, God’s only Way, Truth, and Life.
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