Jesus challenged the Jewish leaders in Matthew 16:1-4, answering their request for a sign from heaven with these words:
“When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’ Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times. A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.”
Of course, Jesus did not elaborate for them what this meant. Would they search it out with a desire for the truth? John writes, in John 5:39-40, of another time when Jesus was more direct:
“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life.”
In these two examples, we have the key to the title of this article—“signs of the times” are told by what is happening in current events regarding the earth and people of the world and compared with the proclamations of Scripture.
Types or examples by people and events in the Old Testament of New Testament “look-a-likes” are numerous. One event and person that is duplicated, in type, of the outworking of God for Israel is that of Israel’s experience in Egypt and of the part Moses had in their exodus.
Joseph was a type of Christ, as he was the pivotal person in Israel’s salvation from the peril of starvation in the time of famine. It was 430 years that Israel was in the bondage of slavery in Egypt when God raised up Moses and led them out of that bondage. Moses told the people that “another Prophet like me” will come forth in the future.
The end of God’s prophetic dealing with Israel in the Old Testament was with the writings of Malachi. It was 400 years later that Matthew’s gospel opened the New Testament era with the coming of the Messiah as a babe in Bethlehem, just as the prophet Isaiah had predicted. Thirty years later, Jesus appeared as a grown man, beginning His effort to lead Israel out of the bondage of the law of works and slavery to sin.
Note the likeness of the slaughter of young boys under two years of age in both instances. Note also how they rejected Moses and God in their trek across the wilderness in those days, and then, the rejection of Jesus the Christ when He came, just as John 5:39-40, above, spells it out.
Therefore, God set them aside—temporarily—to take to Himself a people from the Gentiles.
Romans 11:25 tells us:
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
At the conference in Jerusalem, as reported in Acts 15:14, what that meant, regarding the Gentiles:
“Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.”
Notice, too, that Israel was set aside in part; that is, not every Israelite would be blinded to the truth of Jesus being the Messiah, so that some would receive Christ.
John 1:11-12 tells of that rejection plainly:
“He came to His own, and His own did not receive Him. But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name.”
Remember that Paul wrote, in Romans 1:16:
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes, for the Jew first and also for the Greek.”
The trail of the Jews does not end there; for God, when He judged Israel and “scattered them into all nations” just as the prophets Ezekiel, Jeremiah, Isaiah and others constantly predicted, He also promised to restore them to the land given to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob many years before. Just one of Jeremiah’s reports of God’s promise is this:
“Then it shall be, after I have plucked them out, that I will return and have compassion on them and bring them back, everyone to his heritage and everyone to his land” (Jeremiah 12:15).
It is not a casual statement that God “forgot” His promises when the Jews rejected His offer of salvation with Jesus the Christ. (Replacement Theology is an obvious deception from the devil so that man will not be looking for the returning of Christ.)
After their rejection of Christ at His trial and ever since that dispersion of Israel among all of the nations, the restoration of their nation was the next notable event on their calendar. When Jesus told us, in Luke 21:28, “Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near,” He was addressing His followers, then and now, and had just listed many of the turbulent physical, political and social tragedies that will occur in the last days. It compares favorably with the increased worldwide physical turbulences in the past ten to twenty years—earthquakes, their aftereffects, violent hurricanes, thunderstorms, snowstorms and their flooding results in an exponential manner.
Then, after those words, Jesus marked the time when the countdown to the end was to begin, with His parable of the blooming of the fig tree, a symbol of the nation of Israel. Since Israel became a nation among nations again, time has been closing in on the Day of the Lord when His judgment will begin.
What I have discussed above is a subject of history. It has already occurred. That is, the things are “beginning to happen.” It has long been the recognition of prophecy students that God’s “timepiece” is the nation of Israel—what is happening and going to happen to Israel.
Over the centuries of Israel’s existence as a nation, the prophets repeatedly reported that God’s plan, in response to Israel’s continual rejection of the Lord in favor of the idols of their godless neighbors, was to scatter them throughout the world of nations. However, He also promised over and over that He would restore them to the land that He had promised Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
More than a few, today, claim that God went back on His promise and has given those promises to the church, and Israel has no right to be in that land at all; it belongs to the church, they say. But why do they then say the land is owned by the Palestinians?
The very fact that the Jews are back in the land, even by the hand of secular entities, says volumes about the sovereignty of God. The clear answer is that God does not lie, ever, nor change his mind. Those are fixed attributes of His character; and if not, then mankind is doomed, for what do they say about His other promises of salvation through Christ’s death on the cross of Calvary?
Numbers 23:19 properly refutes those believers in “Replacement Theology” by the power of His Word:
“God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?”
The promises of God to “scatter them among all nations” is a repeated declaration throughout the Old Testament. Deuteronomy 28:64 looks forward to that possibility:
“Then the Lord will scatter you among all peoples, from one end of the earth to the other, and there you shall serve other gods, which neither you nor your fathers have known—wood and stone.”
In His promises of restoration, God makes it clear that He does not do it because of anything those people have done, honorable or dishonorable, but “for His own names sake,” that His own character remains unblemished and true.
After the fact seems to be the timing of this quote from Ezekiel 36:19, saying, “So I scattered them among the nations, and they were dispersed throughout the countries; I judged them according to their ways and their deeds.”
This past-tense accounting has a contextual relationship with the following Ezekiel 37 account of the restoration of the nation of “dry bones” or emptiness, to a new nation, where the promise of the return of the Jews to their land is stated like this:
“Then say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God: Surely I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, wherever they have gone, and will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king over them all; they shall no longer be two nations, nor shall they ever be divided into two kingdoms again” (Ezekiel 37:21-22).
In His promises of restoration of the Jews to their land of promise, it is always from “all” or “every” nation to which they have been scattered. Thus, the promise was not fulfilled when Israel became a new nation on May 14, 1948. There are still thousands remaining in nations around the world. It is estimated that 600 thousand remain in America and about 350 thousand in Canada, for example. When will the “all” be fulfilled, then?
The coming seven years of tribulation is referenced as “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), thus continuing the restoring to the land all Jews from around the world until the second return of Jesus Christ. When Paul wrote of the setting aside of the Jewish people for these many centuries, he explained it this way:
“For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Romans 11:25).
The reference to the Gentiles comes from God’s declaration that He would “take from among the Gentiles a people for His name” (Acts 15:14). When Jesus returns to redeem His own at the Rapture, as recorded by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 and 5:1-4, the “fullness of the Gentiles” will have come in. The one thing in the account of the Rapture that involves Israel is her response at the confirmation of the covenant when the Jews cry out in relief, “Peace and safety,” as Paul related in 1 Thessalonians 5:2-3, which appears to be a triggering action for the Rapture’s beginning.
(To be continued in Part 2)
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