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 9:24-26). 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 9:24 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 17:26-30: “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 19:22). 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 17:26-37 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).
(Continued in Part II, where we will see how current events and Bible prophecy are coming together in a dramatic showdown, possibly sooner than later.)