Signs Before the Second Coming

Matthew 24 lists several signs that would precede Jesus’ Second Coming. Have they occurred?

Gary DeMar, in his book Last Days Madness, does an excellent job covering in detail every aspect of Jesus’ prophecies in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24). In each case it can be verified that the prophecies were fulfilled in the first century. Below is a summary.

  • wars and rumors of wars (Matthew 24:6)—We know of wars and rumors of wars in the first century from general history, including from period historians Tacitus and Josephus. Tacitus said of the period, “It was full of calamities, horrible with battles, rent with seditions, savage in peace itself.”
  • famines (Matthew 24:7)Four famines occurred during the reign of the emperor Claudius (AD 41-54). One of them was recorded in Acts 11:28.
  • earthquakes (Matthew 24:7)—Notable earthquakes occurred during the reigns of Caligula and Claudius (AD 37-54). See also Matthew 27:54; Matthew 28:2, and Acts 16:26.
  • persecution of Christ’s disciples (Matthew 24:9)—This is a well- documented fact in the Bible (Acts 4:3; Acts 4:17; Acts 5:40; Acts 7:54-60; Acts 8:1; Acts 9:1; Acts 11:19; Acts 12:1-3; Acts 14:19; 2 Corinthians 11:24-26; Revelation 1:9) as well as general history (Josephus, Tacitus, etc.).
  • a great apostasy (Matthew 24:10)—Paul, John, and Peter’s letters all refer to this fact during their lifetimes. As put by Don Preston, “The unbroken testimony of the epistles is one of the inspired writers attempting to stem the tide of apostasy and encouraging faithfulness! The Great Apostasy happened in the first-century generation as Jesus said it would! How much clearer could the Bible tell us it had already happened? Since the apostasy occurred as Jesus predicted and it was to be a sign of the coming of the Lord, then the coming of the Lord was to happen in that generation as well. If not, why not?”
  • The gospel would be preached to the “whole world” (Matthew 24:14)―Paul said this prophecy had been fulfilled by the time he was writing (Acts 19:10; Romans 1:8; 10:18; 16:25-27; Colossians 1;6, 23; 1 Timothy 3:16).
  • The Abomination of Desolation (Matthew 24:15)―Jesus insisted that his first century followers would witness the Abomination of Desolation: “When YOU see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel. . . .” This refers to the desecration of the temple. The timeline is confirmed by Daniel 12 which says that the Abomination of Desolation would happen when the “regular burnt offering is taken away” and “when the power of the holy people comes to an end.” This clearly happened in AD 70 with the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple.
  • false prophets (Matthew 24:24)—Josephus mentions many false prophets and false messiahs. (See also Acts 5:36-37; Acts 13:6; Acts 20:29-30; 2 Corinthians 11:13; 1 Timothy 4:1 (note reference to the “latter times”; 2 Timothy 2:16-18; 2 Timothy 3:13; 2 Peter 2:1-3; 1 John 2:18-19; 1 John 4:1; 2 John 1:7.)
  • astronomical signs (Matthew 24:29)—In this verse we see the sun and moon being darkened, the stars falling, and the heavens being shaken. It is difficult for many people to get over the idea that this language is not about the end of the physical universe. Such language in the Old Testament is often poetic language about actual events. At least some of such passages are widely acknowledged as having already been fulfilled (Isaiah 13:9-13; Isaiah 34:4-6; Isaiah 51:5-6; Jeremiah 4:1-28; Jeremiah 15:9; Ezekiel 32:7-8; Joel 2:1-10; Joel 3:15-16; Amos 8:9; etc.). But indeed, literal astronomical signs were reported by various historians in AD 66-70, including Josephus and Tacitus who reported chariots in the skies above Jerusalem in AD 66. And some have been confirmed by modern astronomy. Nevertheless, this was familiar language to those to whom Jesus was speaking, and they would have understood Him to be speaking about national judgment rather than the end of the universe. Confirmation can be found other places, for example note Acts 2:15-21 where Peter quotes, astronomical language of the prophet Joel. Peter placed the fulfillment of that prophecy in his own day.

Jesus said, “Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” (Matthew 24:34). All the signs did take place in the first century as our Lord foretold, paving the way for Jesus to come in judgment against apostate Old Covenant Israel in AD 70.

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