12 January 2022 |
Are the “signs of the times” signs of all times?
The biblical perspective on “the time of the end” is that we are in the time of the end since Jesus left this earth at his ascension. During these last 20 centuries “signs” have told believers that history is moving in a clear direction: Christ will return and God’s kingdom will become full reality.
Question: Should we place greater emphasis on the meaning of the signs, rather than on the aspect of time?
To read for this class:
Excerpt from Dr. Bruinsma’s soon-to-be published book, He Comes: Why, When and How Jesus Will Return, pp. 127, 128
The apocalyptic signs of the times fall, as already mentioned, into a special category of signs. But they share with all “miracles, signs and wonders” that they point to God’s presence and power. They show that He is in charge. As the Creator, who initiated the laws of nature, He can use natural phenomena to confirm His promises and alert people to His presence and His purposes, but He can also temporarily suspend these laws when He wants to make an important point.
This raises, however, the question at what point events—whether natural or supernatural—become “signs.” G.C. Berkouwer (1903-1996), a prominent Dutch systematic theologian in the Reformed tradition, made this important observation: “Only when signs are seen through the eyes of faith can they display their meaning and significance.” Adventist theologian Richard Rice agrees: “The signs are not just signs to anyone. One has to see them from the proper perspective in order to grasp their true meaning. We need faith to see that the end is near. . . the signs . . . corroborate and strengthen faith as well as bolster confidence that the end will come soon.”
The “signs of the times” are not given to us as a tool for calculating the date of the Second Coming. We are on the wrong track if we try to systematize them and put them in a particular order, so that we may measure the time that is left before Christ comes back. Berkouwer warns us against that kind of “reportorial eschatology.” Ordinary and extraordinary—and sometimes spectacular—events may break into the normal course of history and impress us in a special way. They make us aware of what is going on in the world and that history moves forward to its climax. The signs serve as a basis for urgent appeals to remain steadfast and watchful. A crucial element is that they contain a call for a personal decision as to what side of history—from God’s perspective—we want to be on.
Reinder Bruinsma lives in the Netherlands with his wife, Aafje. He has served the Adventist Church in various assignments in publishing, education and church administration on three continents, his last post before retiring as president of the Netherlands Union. He still maintains a busy schedule of preaching, teaching and writing. His latest book is I Have a Future: Christ’s Resurrection and Mine.
Gina Jett is an attorney from the Sacramento area in California.
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We look forward to getting acquainted with you!
- January 15: Reinder Bruinsma
- January 22: Reinder Bruinsma
- January 29: Reinder Bruinsma