Many Christians today have a great deal of anxiety over the end times. Throughout history, as we have entered fearful times, the Christians have turned to the expectation of Christ’s return as the ultimate hope. In Matthew 24, Jesus tells us that we will hear of “wars and rumors of wars” but that the “end is not yet.” He goes on to list a number of other things that do not in themselves signify the end — famines, false prophets, martyrdom, and lawlessness. These things are endemic to history, and they are not a guide to Jesus return.
The end, Jesus goes on to explain, will come when the “gospel is proclaimed to all peoples.” This process of the gospel going to every people group has been 2000 years in the making, and only really picked up full speed in the last 100-200 year. Since that time, an urgent mission movement has gone around the world touching even the remotest parts of the Earth with the message of Christ. There is no better sign than our progress in advancing this mission. Watching the Joshua Project website, then, might be a better way of tracking the end times than the headline news.
Underlying this question though is the very complex issue of eschatology – or study of the end times. This study is important not for calculating dates (as many do) but for understanding what we are supposed to be doing. This is a very complex topic which often takes months for a person to fully understand and take a position on. Few will do this, yet everyone wants to understand their own personal mission, and more generally the world they live in. Just as significantly, our eschatology has a surprising impact on our reading of Scripture — where you see the church ultimately going is what you will see it doing in the Scripture too. And the method you use to support your view in the Scripture, is the method you will use with the rest of the Bible.
My own extensive study has led me to the position known as “amillennialism.” In most simple terms this means that I believe we are now ruling and reigning with Christ. There is no future 1000 years after he returns, and there is no “take over” by the church before he returns. This was essentially the position held by St. Augustine in his master work City of God. We are despoiling the enemy’s kingdom by winning lost souls, freeing them from demonic oppression, and healing the sick wherever we go. The victory of the church is spiritual, not natural. This does not mean that we ignore cultural transformation, it is just that we do not do it for the purpose of “take over.” We do it to help reach lost people, which is ultimately how the devil’s Kingdom is destroyed. A good book that I recommend to help you get started understanding the scriptural basis for this view is by Kim Riddlebarger: “A Case for Amillennialism: Understanding The End Times “ You might also want to try Book XX of Augustine’s “City of God.” Take a look at Book 7 in particular.