Rev. Hanko is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.

And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

Matthew 24:30

At the end of the ages, when God’s church is ready for glory and God’s counsel in regard to the wicked is fully carried out, Christ will appear in all His majesty and glory. Every eye will see Him as King of kings and Lord of lords forever and ever!

Jesus had spoken of the signs of the end of the world as birth pangs, the pain that a pregnant woman naturally experiences in giving birth to a child. Childbirth is severely painful, but so natural that it is expected; and when the mother sees her own healthy baby, all her pain is forgotten. The whole creation is now and has been since the fall of Adam in birth pangs, which increase as the end of the ages approaches, laboring to bring forth the new creation. “For we know that the whole creation groaneth and travaileth together until now” and “will be delivered from the bondage of corruption into the glorious liberty of the sons of God” (Rom. 8:21, 22).

The final sign that God’s goal is attained is the sign of the Son of man. This sign appears in the heavens, where every eye will see it. It is the announcement of the return of the Lord of glory upon the clouds of heaven as the righteous Judge of all the inhabitants of the earth who have ever lived.

Scripture speaks of the sign of the Son of man. This name emphasizes the true humanity of the Son of God. As the second person of the divine Trinity He was fully God, yet He took on the likeness and weakness of sinful flesh. He became like unto the brethren with a complete human nature, like us except for sin.

Jesus was born as a son of Adam, from the loins of Abraham, in the line of the tribe of Judah, of David’s royal seed, from the womb of the virgin Mary. All that was written of Him was His divine program which He willfully carried out throughout His entire ministry, even unto the accursed death of the cross. He lived, suffered, and died in anticipation of the glory that followed.

The cross of Jesus Christ stands in the center of history. It casts its long shadow down through the old dispensation all the way back to the Fall in Paradise. The believers who lived in the days of the shadows lived and died in the hope of the redemption through the atoning death of the Son of man. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth” (Heb. 11:13).

In the fullness of time the Son of man came as the Man of sorrows, the suffering Servant of God. He carried our grief and our sorrows and bore them away forever. He crushed the head of Satan and attained the victory for Himself and for His people by His death and resurrection. As Victor over sin and death He ascended to heaven before the eyes of His disciples. We read in Acts 1:12 that two angels appeared to inform the eleven: “Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come as ye have seen him go into heaven.”

It had already been said in prophecy: “The Lord (Jehovah) said unto my Lord (Adonai, the Mighty One), Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool.” The entire history of the new dispensation must be regarded in that light. By the exalted Son of man God is gathering His church and bringing into judgment all those who reject Him and His Christ.

Thus we read in the book of Revelation: “The Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seven seals thereof.” All the saints and all the angel host, yea, all of heaven responds: “Saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing” (Rev. 5:12).

At the culmination of history the sign of the Son of man will announce His second coming. Soon after, He Himself will appear in His full power and His glory, which He now possesses as Lord of lords, the full revelation of almighty God, who is the sovereign Ruler in heaven and on earth. Moses caught a glimpse of that glory when he was sheltered in the cleft of the rock as Jehovah passed by. His face still shone with that glory when he returned to the camp. The disciples had a glimpse of that glory when on the Mount of Transfiguration Jesus appeared with Moses and Elijah as transformed in the dazzling brightness of the glory that awaited Him upon His accomplished work of the cross.

In this present dispensation the exalted Christ is the good Shepherd who sends forth His gospel to the ends of the earth to gather His sheep that are given to Him of the Father and whom He redeemed with His own blood. They hear His voice and they come to Him. He leads them in green pastures and prepares them for the time when He will take them unto Himself as one fold and with one Shepherd. This present age is the history of the gathering, preserving, and defending of God’s church through Christ by His Word and Spirit. Only when the last elect is gathered in and prepared for glory will our Lord return.

The Lord of glory rules His church in love, but He rules the world with a rod of iron. His Word that is proclaimed to the ends of the earth is not only a savor of life unto life, but also a savor of death unto death. God’s holiness and justice demand that His Word brings condemnation to those who despise and reject it. For the Lord has compassion upon whom He will have compassion, and whom He wills He hardens (see Isaiah 6:9-13Luke 13:13-16). The chaff and the wheat must grow up together, for the chaff serves the wheat. The carnal element must serve as the scaffolding for building the house of God. The persecution of the world must serve to purify the church during this present time as by fire, that the gold may be refined by being separated from the dross.

This purifying process becomes increasingly evident as the end of the ages approaches. The line of demarcation between the apostatizing church and the world on the one hand, and the true church of Jesus Christ on the other, becomes ever more distinct. Zion is redeemed by judgment.

The worst thing that can happen to the wicked is that God gives them over to their sin. This is taking place before our very eyes. The basic truth of Scripture in regard to the sovereignty of God is denied by most of Christianity. A God is taught and worshiped who loves all men, yet is impotent to save all men or to avert the evil that is present in the world. Their ambition is to make this a better world by their own efforts. All religious groups are tolerated except those who persistently maintain the infallibility of the Scriptures and the sovereignty of God.

God has also given the world over to her vain philosophy. Today the theory of evolution is almost universally accepted. Yet it is an outright denial of the Word of God, the infallibility of the first chapters of Genesis, and therefore of the entire Scriptures. If we cannot believe the first chapters as the inerrant Word of God, how can we be sure of the rest? Still worse, it is a denial of God and His Christ by placing them outside of creation. History becomes a matter of development and advancement, a striving toward perfection in a world that man hopes will carry on for millenniums still to come.

Modern technology has opened the door to a whole new world of blatant corruption, as is evident from the TV and the computer. Those in the know tell us that the computer is still in its infancy. So greater evils are still to come. Animals have been cloned, and who knows how soon the attempt will be made to clone human beings? Hitler at one time tried to create a super-race, and again that ambition is undoubtedly in the minds of those who deliberately experiment with genes and other mysteries of the human anatomy. One shudders to think of what may be ventured in the future, especially because man assumes that anything he imagines he can also do. He would be as God, now more than ever as the sin of paradise reaches its full development.

We are living in a time of affluence such as the world has never known. There are more millionaires and billionaires in the world today than ever before. Huge corporations are being formed. Those who have the means build costly homes, have cars, boats, snowmobiles, and other luxuries. Because of our many conveniences every one is busier than ever. People are so preoccupied that they have no time for quiet family life in the home, no time for searching the Scriptures, no time for spiritual matters as the world rushes toward its eternal destination.

More could be mentioned, such as the striving for unification in the church and in the world, government control reaching ever deeper into our lives, disregard for justice in the courts of law, ever increasing blatant lawlessness, shameful immorality, despising of the institution of holy marriage, and much more. But let this suffice. It all leads to the coming of the man of sin, the Antichrist. The cup of iniquity will soon be full.

It is our comfort that God is gathering and preserving His church. He is even purifying her as by fire to prepare her for the eternal kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ. The time is drawing near that we as believers will be robbed of our possessions and led as lambs to the slaughter. But Christ speaks His assuring word: “Behold, I come quickly.” And the church responds: “Yea, come, Lord Jesus, for death is gain.”

Throughout the entire period of the second coming of Christ, the church is entering into glory with tear-stained eyes. The persecution of the church intensifies as we approach the end. But the Holy Spirit also uses this persecution as a purifying and strengthening process to preserve the saints. God’s kingdom is approaching. God’s will is being done. God’s name is being glorified upon the earth. “His judgments are a mighty deep and as the mountains high.” We hear ever more loudly the footsteps of our Lord, who is hastening to return.

With uplifted heads we await ever more eagerly His coming and the final sign of His coming. When that sign appears, the whole world will see our Christ in the dazzling glory of His heavenly majesty as the mighty Conqueror, the Lord of lords and King of kings. They will see Him as the One whom they rejected and crucified.

The sign of the Son of man will be accompanied with signs of terrible judgment. The sun will be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken (Matt. 24:29Rev. 16).

This appearance will create great terror in the hearts of the ungodly. “And the kings of the earth, and the great men, and the rich men, and the chief captains, and the mighty men, and every bondman, and every free man, hid themselves in the dens and in the rocks of the mountains; and said to the mountains and rocks, Fall on us, and hide us from the face of him that sitteth upon the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb: for the great day of his wrath is come; and who shall be able to stand?” (Rev. 6:15-17). Who can stand when He appeareth!

Yet we will rejoice with inexpressible joy! We will be at home with our Lord, enjoying the perfect life God has prepared for us. Our salvation will be fully realized, far overshadowing our light affliction of this present time. With our whole being we will join the myriads of angels and the multitude that no man can number with the blessed refrain: “Blessing, and honor, and glory, and power, be unto Him that sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb forever and ever!” Amen!