Paul, Signs and Seasons

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Did the Apostle Paul instruct believers to know the “times and seasons” so that they could calculate the timing of the “end” and the return of Jesus? Are there “signs” to watch for that will indicate the imminence of his arrival on the “clouds of heaven”? In fact, rather than a detailed list of "signs and seasons," Paul exhorted believers to live righteously here and now. - [Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash].

Certainly, Paul often wrote about the future “coming” of Jesus. His return is foundational to Christian hope. Our salvation will remain incomplete until Jesus returns, resurrects the dead, and ushers in the New Creation. And the Apostle did describe key events that will coincide with the return of Jesus, including the resurrection of dead believers, the consummation of the kingdom, the cessation of death, and the judgment of the wicked - (1 Corinthians 15:20-282 Thessalonians 1:5-10).

But his list of “signs” that must precede the coming of Jesus is brief. The description of sin and deceivers “waxing worse and worse” and similar warnings about future deception are too general to pin to specific events. Every era of Church history has been plagued with false teachers, false teachings, and apostasy - (1 Timothy 4:1-2).

The closest Paul came to providing a list of recognizable “signs” that will precede “Day of the Lord” was recorded in his second letter to the Thessalonians:
  • (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4) – “But we request you, brethren, in behalf of the arrival of our Lord Jesus Christ and our gathering together unto him, that you be not quickly tossed from your mind, nor be put in alarm, either by spirit or by discourse or by letter as by us, that the day of the Lord has set in. That no one may cheat you in any respect. Because that day will not set in except the apostasy comes first, and there be revealed the man of lawlessness, the son of destruction, the one who opposes and exalts himself on high against every one called God, or an object of worship; so that he will take his seat in the sanctuary of God, showing himself that he is God.”
Thus, he described two things that must occur before “the Day of the Lord” - The “man of lawlessness” must be “revealed,” and the “apostasy” must take place. How long after these two events the “Day of the Lord” will arrive, Paul did not say.

In only one passage did Paul discuss the “times and seasons,” in his first letter to the Thessalonians:
  • (1 Thessalonians 5:1-3) - “But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that anything be written to you; For you yourselves perfectly well know that the day of the Lord is coming as a thief in the night. As soon as they begin to say, ‘Peace! and safety,’ then suddenly, upon them comes destruction, just as the birth pains unto her that is with child, and in no way will they escape.”
This statement followed a paragraph where the Apostle provided needed explanations about the “coming” of Jesus necessitated by the Thessalonian’s incomplete knowledge of final events. But there was no need to provide details about the “times and seasons” because they already knew “accurately” that the “Day of the Lord” would come like a “thief in the night.” The point of the analogy was to ready at all times because no one could know where and when a thief would strike - (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, Luke 12:37-40).

Paul expressed his assurance that the Thessalonians would not be taken by surprise by the “Day of the Lord,” not because they knew all the “signs and seasons,” but because they were “children of the light” and lived accordingly. Therefore, they were prepared for that his sudden arrival and would not overtake them “like a thief in the night.”

As for the wicked, they would continue to live as if nothing out of the ordinary would ever occur until it was too late, thus, “sudden destruction will overtake them.” The analogy used by Jesus that compared the years prior to his return to the “days of Noah and of Lot” is echoed in Paul’s statement.

The point made by Jesus was not that life before his return would replicate the conditions before the Flood, but that men and women would be going about their daily routines until the “day of the Son of Man” arrived suddenly, resulting in their destruction. What will matter on that day is not intimate knowledge about “signs and seasons,” but a right relationship with Jesus in the here and now.


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