Sunday, March 25, 2012

A Fig Story

"Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer [is] near. "So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near--at the doors! "Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
Matthew 24:32-33 NKJV

Over the years as I have had the opportunity to teach on the subject of biblical prophecy, one question more than others seems to be asked quite often of me. Now if you were to guess you would probably think it to be a question about what I teach, but in reality it is quite another. You see, the question I get asked most of all is why do I choose to teach on prophecy? The answer to that question can be summed up in just one little word, and that word is “fig”.

One point that I always make when teaching about the end of the world is that we must be clear about the difference between the rapture of the church and the second coming of Christ. When Jesus returns for His church, He comes in the clouds and we are “raptured” to meet Him there. At the end of the tribulation period Jesus returns to the earth, which is the event referred to as the second coming and considered by most to be the end of this age, or the end of the world as we know it.

It has often been said, and quite accurately I believe, that if you want to know where we are on God's time clock, you simply look at the nation of Israel. The reason for that lies in a prophecy about Israel that is found in the Old Testament which is commonly called the seventy weeks of Daniel.

"Seventy weeks are determined For your people and for your holy city, To finish the transgression, To make an end of sins, To make reconciliation for iniquity, To bring in everlasting righteousness, To seal up vision and prophecy, And to anoint the Most Holy.
Daniel 9:24 NKJV

Here we are told that the scope of Israels' future from the point the prophecy was given would be seventy weeks, or shabuwa in the Hebrew. This is actually a word that means literally “weeks of years” or seventy periods of time lasting seven years each. Just like our word for twelve is a dozen, the Hebrew word for seven is shabuwa. Scholars agree that a period of sixty nine shabuwa passed between the time of this prophecy and Palm Sunday when Jesus rode a colt into Jerusalem and presented Himself to Israel as their Messiah.

Because they rejected Jesus as their messiah, the clock stopped and a period of time we know as the church age began. The church age ends when the rapture occurs, and God will then turn His attention back to Israel in order to complete the prophecy and the last shabuwa, or seven years, will take place. This is the period of time known as the tribulation, and as you can see from the passage above, God has a plan to deal with Israel.

Now what does all this have to do with my desire to teach prophecy? Well if you have followed this blog for any period of time you may have heard me share that I majored in history in college. About that time I naturally became interested in the history of the nation of Israel, and began to read what I could find on the subject. Imagine my surprise as a twenty something student to find out that the nation of Israel was destroyed by the Romans in the first century and in essence did not exist until 1948 when they returned to their land and reestablished themselves as a country.

Now as a student, I was always taught to look beyond the facts and to try and read between the lines to try and understand the “why” of events which have occurred throughout history. So as I looked at the history of Israel, and especially the prophecy of Daniel, it was hard not to come to what I consider a logical, if not very obvious conclusion. If God promised that Israel was going to get it's seventy weeks, then they obviously had to exist as a nation in order for that to happen. Add to that the fact that after almost two thousand years Israel is suddenly back in their land, well, are you thinking what I'm thinking?

Now if we look at the passage from Matthew about the fig tree blooming, does it not lend more than a little support to the idea that the time where God is going to restart Israel's clock is almost upon us? Note as well that Jesus said that the generation that witnessed “all these things” would also live to see it come to pass. Now there are those who choose to argue that Jesus was not talking about Israel in the passage from Matthew, but to those who hold that position I will simply say we agree to disagree. I also thought I would share just a couple of verses from the Old Testament where God is speaking of Israel and uses the metaphor of a fig tree.

"I found Israel Like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers As the firstfruits on the fig tree in its first season. [But] they went to Baal Peor, And separated themselves [to that] shame; They became an abomination like the thing they loved.
Hosea 9:10 NKJV

"Thus says the LORD, the God of Israel: 'Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge those who are carried away captive from Judah, whom I have sent out of this place for [their own] good, into the land of the Chaldeans.
Jeremiah 24:5 NKJV

There is no question in my mind that the fig tree Jesus refers to in the Matthew passage is the nation of Israel. God told Israel they would get seventy weeks, and they have until this point in time only had sixty-nine. Jesus said that when the fig tree blossomed again, that generation would see the last week. Israel is now back in their land awaiting the final week, and it's been sixty-four years since they became a nation again. How long is a generation? There are plenty of opinions on that question as well, but the fact remains, the fig tree has indeed put forth it's leaves.

There are so many signs around us today concerning fulfilled prophecy and indicators of the approaching end of the world as we know it that it sometimes seems hard to keep up. I like the fact that many respected teachers are now calling the period we are living in right now as the “times of the signs” rather than “signs of the times”. Why do I choose to teach on prophecy? Actually I think of it more as teaching on current events, and if I were to pick one “super sign” to tell us where we are on God's calendar it would be the fact that Israel is back in it's land prepared for the last seven years of God's prophecy for them.

Of course, this fact is not lost on many people who believe that the period of time we are talking about is rapidly approaching. If you choose to investigate the subject of prophecy you will find that there are many people teaching on the subject and some holding some rather novel views on specific times and dates concerning this period of time. The only advice I can give you in regards to some of the things you will find is the same advice given to all of us in God's Word.

Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
1 John 4:1 NKJV

These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily [to find out] whether these things were so.
Acts 17:11 NKJV

God is preparing to fulfill the prophecies concerning the end of the world as we know it which He foretold to us so many years ago. The most important question to ask is not about what is going to happen, but rather are you personally prepared for what God says will happen? Have you put your trust in God? Have you asked Jesus to come into your heart and forgive you of your sins? Have you made the commitment to live your life according to His laws and for His glory? If not, I pray that you will right now. Here is a simple prayer that you can pray right now to do just that.

Dear Lord Jesus, I know I am a sinner. I believe You died for my sins. Right now, I turn from my sins and open the door of my heart and life. I confess You as my personal Lord and Savior. Thank You for saving me. Amen.

Keep watching.