by Michael Fortner
When Christ came the first time there were signs in the heavens which brought the wise men to worship Jesus as a future king. Likewise, there will be signs in the heavens before his return.
Prophecy teachers have been teaching for over a hundred and fifty years that the end is near, especially the passed fifty years, but there have always been wars, famines, and social turmoil. These things alone, are not signs of the end. Jesus said that before he returns to judge the world there will be signs of his return. Most people are looking at world events for signs of Christ’s return, but the most important signs of which he spoke are not here on Earth but are in the heavens above. Great and momentous events will take place among the planets of this solar system.
In Matthew 24:29 Jesus described the events of the Day of Judgment, “the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” Most of the world’s population will die from natural events that come upon the whole solar system, which is why the stars will fall and the planets will shake. But before those events of the Day of Judgment, other less catastrophic events will take place that will serve as warning signs of the coming global destruction. In the book of Luke chapter 21 Jesus said:
“There will be great earthquakes, famines and pestilences in various places, and fearful events and great signs from heaven.” (Luke 21:11)
Fearful events and signs of Christ’s return will be seen in this solar system. Later in the same chapter Jesus tells us about the events in the heavens. Whatever these events are, they will cause many people to be in great fear about what is coming upon the world:
“There will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. 26 Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken.” (Luke 21:25-26)
Many prophecy teachers point to upheavals in the world today as a fulfillment of these verses, but this is far from true. The reason the nations will be in anguish and perplexity are the “signs”; strange and unusual things, that take place in among the sun, moon, and planets. The sea does not refer to people or nations being in turmoil! It refers to the oceans of the world. The cosmic events that will affect the sun, moon, and stars also will affect our oceans, causing great swells and tides, because the moon affects the ocean tides.
Cosmic events are the only certain signs of the coming Day of Judgment, because Judgment Day will be caused by events in this solar system. People will die of heart attacks, frightened about the unusual things that will happen in this solar system, “for the heavenly bodies will be shaken”– which are the planets in our solar system, including Earth.
If people will die from fear, they will also likely engage in rioting and looting, because they will fear that the end of the world is coming. Why will they believe this? Because the planets in this solar system will be shaken. But what does “shaken” mean? It cannot mean that they will have quakes, like earthquakes. No, it means they will do strange and unusual things that can be seen from Earth; which means some may speed up or slow down as they orbit the sun, or some may move out of their orbits into a closer or farther orbit. We will be able to see them do things which will cause people on Earth to wonder what will happen to Earth also.
When the worst of these events take place, then Christ will return to judge the world.
27 “At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. 28 When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.” (Luke 21:27-28)
These verses tell us that we can expect to see these events start to happen several years before the return of Christ, and that they will continue right up to and including the day that Christ returns in the sky.
These verses are more evidence that proves there is no such thing as a surprise secret Rapture followed by the Great Tribulation. All Christians will see the signs in the heavens, they just need to be informed that those events point to Christ’s return. God is not going to bring great destruction upon the world without giving us lots of warning.
The pre-tribulation Rapturists will try to argue that the signs could start right after the Rapture, since they claim there will be seven years between the Rapture and the bodily return of Christ. But Jesus continues on this subject and tells us that it will be more than a few years, but will be decades between the beginning of the signs and when he returns:
He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. 30 When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. 31 Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 I tell you the truth, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” (Luke 21:29-32)
When you see leaves begin to appear on a tree, then another and another, you know that Spring is here and that Summer is getting closer and closer. In the same way, when we see more and more strange and unusual things happening in this solar system, we will know that Christ’s return is getting closer and closer. This passage also tells us that it will be 20—50 years from the first of the signs to his return, or he would not have said that the generation who sees the first signs will live to see his return.
Neither will it be hundreds of years between the first signs and his return. When it is time for summer to come, it will come; not a hundred years later. This passage in Luke 21 tells us that there is no need to look for Christ’s return today; Christ will not return for decades after we see fearful cosmic events in this solar system.
So this destroys the doctrine of Imminent Return of Christ which is the foundation of the pre-tribulation Rapture doctrine. This doctrine says the Rapture could have happened at any time since Christ returned to heaven. But Christ cannot return today because there are not strange and unusual events happening in our solar system. People are not dying from fear caused by strange cosmic events. People are going to be concerned in coming years about the turmoil in the world, but that has happened throughout recorded history. No riots or economic collapse points to the return of Christ, only frightening events in this solar system.
You will not need a Bible teacher to point out the signs for you; you will be able to see them for yourself, like when the whole world watched the comet fragments hit Jupiter in July 1994. Everyone will be aware of the events, if you watch the news on TV or read a newspaper you will know. People just need to be warned that the cosmic events are indeed signs that the end of the world as we know it is approaching, at the return of Christ.
When the signs begin to happen, churches can use it as a tool to make many converts, but as it stands today they will be unable to give an answer to those people who will be seeking answers. People will fill churches but most churches will not have an answer, but some churches will be able to say, “We have been telling you about the coming signs in the heavens and this proves that Jesus is coming soon.”
Why will the signs of Christ’s return be seen in the sky in the form of fearful events? Because when Christ returns the world will receive massive destruction from the sky; that is, from space, as he told us in Luke 17:
But the day Lot left Sodom, fire and sulfur rained down from heaven and destroyed them all. It will be just like this on the day the Son of Man is revealed. (Luke 17:29-30)
This passage, and many others, tells us that when Christ returns, fire will rain down from the sky and destroy most of the world’s population. Many Christians get upset when someone says Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed by a volcanic eruption or an asteroid impact; “No, they were not, God destroyed them!” Excuse me?! Does God make it rain? Did God send Noah’s Flood? Did God cause an earthquake to open the earth and swallow Korah and all those with him (Num 16:32)? Yes he did. God uses the natural world he created as much as possible, so the fire that will destroy the world will not be God breathing fire out of his mouth; it will be a natural event.
When an asteroid impacts earth, it impacts with such force that it literally explodes and sends pieces of flaming rock out in all directions. A large asteroid can cause a rain of fire upon the whole world. This is why most scientists believe a very large asteroid destroyed the dinosaurs. Luke 21 continues:
33 “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away. 34 Be careful, or your hearts will be weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the anxieties of life, and that day will close on you unexpectedly like a trap. 35 For it will come upon all those who live on the face of the whole earth. 36 Be always on the watch, and pray that you may be able to escape all that is about to happen, and that you may be able to stand before the Son of Man.” (Luke 21:33-36)
Other words for “dissipation” are self-indulgence or gluttony. We should not be so consumed with making money and having fun that we fail to see the signs and take warning. Many people live such busy lives that they do not watch the news or scientific documentaries about the universe and worsening natural disasters and know nothing about the threat of asteroid impacts. Some people will see the events and die from fear, others will pay no attention to them.
Because of the context of this passage, Jesus is not referring to the Rapture when he says, “pray that you may escape.” He means, pray that you will escape being killed in the natural disasters so you can physically “stand” before him at his return. This is why we are told to watch the signs in the sun, moon, and stars so we will not be caught unprepared and end up dead. Other translations give a better sense of what the Greek means:
“But stay awake at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place, and to stand before the Son of Man.” (ESV)
“praying that you may be strong enough to come safely through all that is going to happen . . . (JBP)
“So be alert at all times, praying that you may have strength to escape all these things that are going to take place. . .“ (GNB)
It will require strength to make it through to the end of the GT and wrath of God, and to be one of the few survivors to enter the Kingdom Age. The reason Jesus spent so much time warning us of the coming Great Tribulation and wrath of God is because 99% of Christians will go through those events. The Rapture will not take every Christian.
Barnabas, who traveled with Paul, said Christ will come to “judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then he shall gloriously rest in that seventh day” (Barnabas 13:6). If God is going to change the sun, moon, and planets, then this means truly unexpected and incredible things are going to take place in this solar system. The Old Testament also predicts that great and wondrous things will happen in this solar system before Judgment Day, which is the return of Christ:
I will show wonders in the heavens and on the earth, blood and fire and billows of smoke. The sun will be turned to darkness and the moon to blood before the coming of the great and dreadful day of the LORD. (Joel 2:30-31)
What might some of these wonders and fearful sights be? We know that the planets will be shaken, let’s suppose, for the sake of argument that the planet Saturn were to leave its present orbit and travel across the solar system. Because of the size of Saturn compared to Earth, it could be as far away as Mars and it would still be seen in the sky many times larger than the full moon. You might look up into the sky and see a gigantic orange or yellow ball getting larger as it comes closer to Earth, then smaller again as it moves away. It may look like it is about to collide with Earth at some point. Such an event would be truly frightening and cause great fear and anxiety throughout the world.
See my other related articles: The Doctrine of Imminent Return Exposed, and The Day and Hour Unknown?