- By Gene Lawley -http://www.raptureready.com/
As close as we will ever get to knowing the day and the hour before Jesus actually comes is tucked in an overlooked passage of scripture from the Apostle Paul. But first, some background. Just after my 78th birthday in April last year, I was talking with my doctor about my health conditions, and he reminded me that life expectancy for a male now is 77 years. That tells me that I am living on "borrowed time" and it brought me to think of my generation and how it fits into Bible prophecy. (Now, a year later, the immediate future-perhaps six months or so-appears much more ominous, even predictable, than it did then.)In Matthew 24:32-34, Jesus says this: "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."
The fig tree has long been considered a "type", a symbol, for the nation of Israel, and this budding of the fig tree example relates to the restoration of Israel as an independent nation on May 14, 1948. The "dry bones" of Ezekiel 37 take on life, once again. And the generation that sees this happen will see all of the prophetic events Jesus named in His projections just prior to this fig tree example.
How long is a generation? Psalm 90:10 tells us very clearly that it is seventy to eighty years. Here is an astounding "coincidence": Add 70 years to 1948 and the year 2018 comes up, for the beginning of that generation's demise. And we are still within the context of God's "no man knows the day or the hour" of Christ's coming limitation. How is that? It looks like those who live past 70 years are living on "borrowed time", and the uncertainty of our personal longevity is truly in the hands of the Lord. And so it is with "this generation". We can juggle years and months around in an attempt to pin down the time of the "coming of the Son of Man" more closely, but it is conclusive that He will come "as a thief in the night", as the Scriptures repeatedly tell us.
Let's look again at that Psalm 90:10 passage: "The days of our lives are seventy years, and if by reason of strength they are eighty years, yet their boast is only labor and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away" (NKJV). The psalmist apparently was lamenting our struggle, but the fact of God, only, knowing "the day or the hour" of our passing is made evident in that unanswered longevity question for this generation. Note also, at the end of the verse, his expectation at the end of his and our time-"and we fly away". Could this be a subtle reference to the Rapture?
If the Rapture were to occur tonight, the length of "this generation" would include the seven years that are identified as the final "week" of Daniel's prophecy of "seventy weeks of years" (Daniel -26). Add seventy years to 1948, then subtract seven years and the resulting year is 2011, yet no Rapture occurred then. Is this generation, which now includes believers and non- believers, then living on "borrowed time"? If the calendars match with God's calendar, we are now, in 2013, 65 years into this final generation (1948 +72 - 7=2013, a 65-year period), for the Rapture (in a pre-trib setting) will occur seven years prior to the end of the age and the second coming of Christ. God has given 70-to-80 years as a generation, thus, sometime between 2011 and 2021 the Rapture will likely occur. (Yes, there are people now living well into their 90's and a few into their 100's; it only heightens the uncertainty of the timing of His coming.) What are the converging events that would indicate that the time is near, the "times and seasons" aspect?
Are we, then, close upon the time of the "day of the Lord", the time of the Rapture of the Church and the beginning of the "time of Jacob's trouble" (Jeremiah 30:7)? (Note that Daniel identifies that time period having to do with Daniel's people and their Holy City.) The following consideration of current events and Bible prophecies will test the reality of this looming possibility.
The statement of Jesus in Matthew 24:36, "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only...", and similar statements and illustrations in all the Gospel accounts, have bothered Bible students for years. Yet, there is no way of getting around what the Scripture says.
In one place (Matthew 24:4), He says this: "But know this, that if the master of the house had known what hour the thief would come, he would have watched and not allowed his house to be broken into." Yet, one might quickly think, "If I just knew the hour He is to come, then I would be sure tobe ready", and perhaps many of us have thought just that. However, the strong implication in His statements that we are always to be ready to go to meet the Lord, whether it is to meet Him coming for us, or to meet Him when our temporal lives are over on earth.
A very pertinent scripture to this point is 1 John 3:2-3, "Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.
Like a Thief in the Night
The "like a thief in the night" parallel is commonly related to His coming on the "day of the Lord", and implies "suddenly and without pre-announcement". To highlight the apparent fact that most people will not be prepared for His sudden appearance, Jesus recounts two historical situations which evidence that stark reality in Luke -30: "And as it was in the days of Noah, so it will be also in the days of the Son of Man:
"They ate, they drank, they married wives, they were given in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, and the flood came and destroyed them all. Likewise as it was also in the days of Lot: They ate, they drank, they bought, they sold, they planted, they built; but on the day that Lot went out of Sodom it rained fire and brimstone from heaven and destroyed them all. Even so will it be in the day when the Son of Man is revealed." These scriptures tell us several important and time-wise things:
1) Most people will not be aware of the signs of the times and what is on their doorsteps. Their lives will be in a "forever rut";
2) These incidents illustrate the Rapture of the Church, the true believers, and it is clear that it will occur before the judgment of God upon the disbelieving world, for no such normal life activities will be possible at any time, "pre-wrath", middle or post tribulation. For when the rider on the white horse enters the scene (Revelation 6), the major struggle for all people will be summed up in one word: "survival";
3) All born-again believers will be raptured, even the most back-slidden one among us. Lot was not the best example you could find of a righteous man in his day-the Angel practically had to drag him out of the city, saying "the Lord cannot judge this people until you are out of the city" (Genesis). Peter says of Lot, "If (God)...delivered righteous Lot, who was oppressed by the filthy conduct of the wicked (for that righteous man, dwelling among them, tormented his righteous soul from day to day by seeing and hearing their lawless deeds)- then the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations..." (2 Peter 2:7-9). There will be no "partial" rapture-and any conclusion to the contrary is heresy.
4) The context of Luke -37 tells us that the Rapture will be sudden and world-wide-daylight for some, darkness of the night for others (thus the confusion of days and hours for each time zone).
Of the Times and Seasons
Paul writes of the transforming miracle in the Rapture: "Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed-in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality " ( 1 Corinthians -53). He calls it a mystery and it is, as many of those left behind will be declaring, in wonder-and fear.
He writes of the Rapture event in 1 Thessalonians through 5:4 in a contextual account that describes its manner of occurrence and gets as close to revealing "the day and the hour" as anyone will ever get-until the actual event takes place. Most often, it seems, we read and quote 1 Thessalonians -17, perhaps adding verse 18 to finish the chapter, then read no more of the context.
But there are no chapter breaks in the original language that Paul used, and when one reads the passage straight through into chapter 5, there is a continuity of thought that reveals much about the timing of the Rapture that seems to have been missed-at least in my own past observations.
Here is the passage, to verse 4 of chapter 5: "For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of an archangel, and with the trumpet of God. And the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And thus we shall always be with the Lord. Therefore comfort one another with these words.
"But concerning the times and the seasons, brethren, you have no need that I should write to you. For you yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so comes as a thief in the night. For when they say, "Peace and safety!" then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief."
As Close as We Can Ever Get
Note the continuity of the subject, now dealing with when this event will occur. First, he indicates that these believers, and now those of this day, are fully aware of the "times and seasons" of the Rapture. World events are clearly indicative of that period just before the Lord's return. Then, he says the believers know "perfectly" that the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night-the uncertainty of the exact moment during the "times and seasons".
The next verse is crucial, for it pinpoints an event that will unleash the judgment of God upon the earth. In the continuity of the text, he writes, "For when they say "Peace and safety", then sudden destruction comes upon them..."
Like a swirling vortex, sucking its victims down one final plunge into oblivion, events of the world seem to be drawn into a central topic of "peace in the Middle East", specifically between the Palestinians and Israel. My Bible search did not find any other use of the term "Peace and safety" that Paul used. The only one that seems to deal directly with the current situation is that of Daniel , where Daniel writes, "Then he [the one who is of the people who destroys the Holy City] shall confirm a covenant with many for one week [seven years]..." [Emphasis mine]
The two "peace agreement" events have to do with Israel and its neighbors, thus a strong likelihood that they speak of the same thing. The "confirming of a covenant with many" likely will be fulfilled in the context of the multi-nation votes of the United Nations Security Council, thus it is confirmed "with many". It will include, no doubt, a provision that allows Israel to rebuild its temple on the Temple Mount, for after three and one-half years that named "confirmer" will set himself up in that temple and claim to be God.
Are the "times and seasons" of this event upon us now? Constantly for months we have seen attempts to enter a bid for statehood for the Palestinians to the United Nations, and apparently it was recognized at a lower level in the UN, not the Security Council, last September, 2012.
Statehood for Palestine is inseparably linked to the peace agreement issue with Israel and Israel is not willing to give up the areas of the West Bank and the Golan Heights, which are demanded by the Palestinians. In the strong urge for peace, however, Israel may be wavering on the issue. Two events that could impact the situation, and may well do so, are Iran's threat of nuclear prominence and Israel's response, and Israel's increasingly enraged neighbors who cannot contain their anger any longer and it overflows into open warfare of the Psalm 83 description. In 1 Thessa- lonians 5:3 the questions are, "who are the 'they' who cry out, "Peace and safety", and who are the 'them' upon whom sudden destruction comes?
As the events of this summer, 2013, unfold, and the ever- lasting hatred of the Muslim world for Israel reaches its boiling point-or perhaps more likely, its boiling over point-when and what will the scenario look like? If the "they" who cry "Peace and safety" are Israel, then it is likely that there will have been a major confrontation between Israel and its surrounding neighbors that results in major destruction of the enemies of Israel, thus that cry is associated with victory for Israel.
Certainly God has promised His hand in the conflict will be on the side of Israel. Isaiah 17:1-2 predicts the total devastation of Syria's age-old city of Damascus, for it will be reduced to rubble, never to be inhabited again, and Ezekiel 29:12 tells of Egypt's devastation in which no man will dwell for forty years. Psalm 83 seems to speak of a conflict with Israel's immediate neighbors, who are hovering on its borders, intending Israel's elimination from the Middle East.
Another scenario could be that when the Palestinian state-hood bid is accepted and voted favorably, "they", the Palestinians, may say, "Peace and safety", and as they proceed to take over their claimed Israeli territories, then sudden destruction comes upon "them", the Palestinians, as Israel responds with its defensive reactions to the intrusions of its enemies.
The Amplified New Testament merely uses this phrase to describe it: "When people are saying, 'All is well and secure...'", which may indicate either of the suggestions.
It is almost a certainty that soon there will be a dramatic transformation of the Middle East landscape, politically. Also, it could turn out as it was a year ago, as well as the three years before then, when the "peace process" was given one more year to work out the details of an agree-ment and have it ready by the next September. Given the urgent desire of the "one world government" faction to make the most of this opportunity to move ahead with their goal, and the Muslim intent to wipe Israel off the face of the earth, it seems the "times and seasons" of all events are coming together soon. Coupled also with the social and moral cup of evil that is filled almost to its brim (known as the United States of America) God's final wrap-up and world-wide judgment may truly be on the near horizon.
The "peace process" seems to have settled on the month of September each year as its date-line; the Feast of Trumpets comes up each September with its likeness to the Rapture; the rage in the Muslim world at Israel and America con- tinues to boil; and natural disasters and pestilences abound. One day soon all these issues and events will come together in perfect timing by God's hand, and like a thief in the night, He will make Himself known in great glory!
How close are we to seeing the final wrap-up begin to unfold? A couple of news headlines from May 1-2 are very much of "prime time" content:
"Pope accepts invite to Israel, urges peace talks"
"Netanyahu: Conflict Is Over Israel's Existence, Not Land"
In regard to the latter headline, it is vividly apparent that it is the truth. In spite of Israel having relinquished territories previously captured in open conflict-Gaza, the Sinai-the result has been only more rocket fire and open hostility. It's another proof that the Bible's age-old prophecies are coming to pass, as Psalm 83:3-4 clearly tells us: "For lo, Your enemies roar; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They take shrewd counsel against Your people, and plot against Your hidden ones. They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, so that the name Israel may be remembered no more."
The Prime Minister is right-the issue is their hate for Israel, not a desire for their land. And their rage is a burning fuse, ever shortening. This may well suggest, too, a relaxing grip by Israel on its firm resistance to any more "land for peace" arrangements.
For the believer, the Apostle Paul had encouraging words to those facing their final days as mortals on earth: "Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing" (2 Timothy 4:8).
Revelation is an appropriate summation of these things: "He who testifies to these things says, "Surely I am coming quickly. Amen. Even so, come, Lord Jesus! "
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