And he began to speak to them in parables. "A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the wine press and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, 'They will respect my son.' But those tenants said to one another, This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.' And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. Have you not read this Scripture:"'The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord's doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes'?" And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
-- Mark 12:1-12, ESV
The signs of the times are everywhere. Trees are on display, songs are playing in the public square, manger scenes are put out to point unmistakably to the first advent of our Lord Jesus Christ. It's almost Christmas!
Just as there are many signs pointing to the first coming of Jesus Christ, the Bible indicates that there will be signs that indicate His second coming is near.
Many suggest these signs will first be planted in the nation of Israel. There is a lot happening in the Middle East these days! Are these events signs of the times of the second coming of the Lord?
The key characters in this parable are easy to identify. The "man" is God, the "vineyard" occupied by "tenants" is the nation of Israel, each "servant" represents a prophet or preacher of God's word, and the "beloved son" is no doubt a reference to the Son of God, the Savior of the word, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Sign number one is a man speaking while other people turn their backs to him. The man could be any number of people who for years have preached the Gospel and the word of God to the world. The world will not listen to God's word. The day will come a day when God says enough is enough. A wholesale failure to listen to God is a sure sign of the second coming of Christ.
Sign number two is an empty fruit basket. The parable proclaims that God demands fruit, but the tenants would give none. The preaching of John the Baptist demanded "fruit in keeping with repentance." Jesus expects His followers to "bear much fruit." The world today lacks the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Few profess to be Christian, and fewer of those are true fruit-bearing disciples. They made a decision once, but there is no discipleship, no fruit. God has been patient until now, but a fruitless world is ripe for the second coming of Christ.
Sign number three is a closed Bible and a vacant church. In Jesus' day, they would not heed the prophets and they would not give God fruit, but instead persecuted and put to death the Son of God. In our day, the same signs are flashing. People will not listen to God. People will not lead godly lives. Bibles collect dust. Church pews are emptying at an alarming rate. The great apostasy is a definite sign of the second coming of Christ.
I see the signs, all three of them, getting bigger and bolder every day. I see people in my country turning their backs on God. I see Christianity plagued by nominal belief and hypocrisy. I see the churches becoming either empty or mere entertainment centers. It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas, all right, but it's also beginning to look a lot like the second coming of Christ!
Chuck DeVane is the pastor of Lake Hamilton Baptist Church. Call him at 501-525-8339 or email [email protected].