Every generation has cried "the end of the world is near." Yet "here we are still," noted one Southern California pastor.
"Haven't we heard this all before?" Greg Laurie acknowledged on Sunday. "Every generation ... that has thought it was the generation that would see the Lord's return has been wrong because he didn't come, did he?"
"This idea of the end of the world coming, Christ returning, is this the truth?"
Laurie, pastor of Harvest Christian Fellowship in Riverside, Calif., continued his messages on the end times in light of recent events, including the deadly earthquake in Japan.
This generation might be repeating what past generations have been saying, that these are the last days, but Laurie wonders whether the "cumulative effect" and the frequency of the events are cause to believe that indeed Jesus might return in his lifetime.
"Yes, we have heard this message before but over the years, certain things have happened that have immense prophetic significance," he said.
He listed the dramatic escalation of global wars and terrorism, the push for unity or globalism, the change in world economics toward a cashless society, the unprecedented increase of killer earthquakes, and false teaching permeating the church.
The world isn't quite yet at the seven-year Tribulation Period that the Bible prophesizes, Laurie said, but he believes it's close.
"That means the return of Jesus Christ is even closer yet," he said.
There may be some disagreements over the order of the prophetic events, he noted. But there is no division on "this one truth: that Jesus Christ is coming back again soon."
Of course, no one can say with certainty when that day will be.
"I'm not one of those date setters," the famed evangelist said. "Some looney tune will come along and say he's cracked the code. No man knows the day or the hour."
But what people can know are the "signs of the times," a phrase Jesus coined, according to Laurie.
What are these signs? "We see them on the headlines of newspapers," he said.
Earthquakes are just one of many signs. More than 10,000 people are estimated to have died from Friday's magnitude-8.9 quake and tsunami in Japan. One thousand bodies were found washed up across the coastline of Miyagi prefecture on Monday, according to The Associated Press.
Japan's quake was preceded by a smaller but still deadly quake in southwestern China a day earlier. It's been only weeks since a powerful quake also shook Christchurch, New Zealand, and just one year has passed since the catastrophic Haiti earthquake that killed an estimated 316,000 people.
While disasters are one obvious sign, Laurie believes one of the most significant signs indicating the Lord's return in this generation is the 1948 return of the Jewish people to their homeland.
With "plenty of signs of the times," Laurie asked the Harvest congregation, "Are you ready to meet God?"
"If we really understand anything about Bible prophecy ... it'll make us want to be a more godly person," he said.
"We don't know when the end of the world is, but listen, the end of your world could come sooner," he warned. "God gives us time. Spend it wisely. The Lord could come back today."
Laurie leads some 15,000 people every week at Harvest Christian Fellowship. Also an evangelist, he has preached the gospel to more than 4 million people since 1990.