“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” (Ecclesiastes 3:1).
The Song of Solomon talks about the bridegroom (my beloved) coming for His bride (my love, my fair one) after “winter is past” and when “the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell” (SOS 2:10-13). The book of Luke tells us that “the kingdom of God is near at hand” when “the fig tree, and all the trees…shoot forth” and “summer is near at hand” (Luke 21:29-32).
The statement “winter is past” lets us know that summer has probably not yet arrived, while “summer is near at hand” implies that winter has passed, and summer is close, but has not yet arrived. After winter but before summer is a period called “seedtime” in the Bible but is referred to as spring in modern usage. Spring is generally regarded as beginning in the month of March and ending in the month of June, depending upon the calendar system used.
“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease” (Genesis 8:22).
As summer draws near, the first three spring feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits) have passed, and the fourth feast, Pentecost, is quickly approaching. Christ’s ascension into Heaven (Ascension Day) was forty days after He rose from the grave on the feast of Firstfruits (resurrection day, traditionally called Easter). The feast of Pentecost, which is ten days after Ascension Day, occurs during the months of May or June each year, and is always fifty days after resurrection day. The anniversary of Christ’s ascension and the feast of Pentecost occur during springtime; after winter but before summer.
Spring is the season when Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of mankind, was buried in a borrowed tomb, and rose from the grave. His death, burial and resurrection were on the feast days, and He literally fulfilled the first three feasts of the Lord (Lev. 23:1-44). Spring is the season when Christ ascended into Heaven and “two men…in white apparel” [angels] standing near, asked the apostles: “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus…shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11). Spring is the season when “the day of Pentecost was fully come,” and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4).
Spring is the season when the bridegroom, in the Song of Solomon, says to his future bride: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (SOS 2:10-13). Spring is the season when “the fig tree putteth forth her green figs,” “her branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves,” “summer is near” and “the kingdom of God is near at hand” (SOS 2:10-13; Mark 13:28-29; Luke 21:29-31). We are told, “when ye shall see all these things,” you are to “know that it [the bridegroom and the kingdom of God] is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:32-33).
Modern-day Israel, sometimes symbolized by the fig tree in the scriptures, was absent from its land for nearly 2,000 years before beginning to come back from its dispersion throughout the world (the Diaspora) in the mid 1800s. Then, through several miraculous events, the Jewish people acquired national status (statehood) on May 14, 1948. Is it coincidental that the season (spring) of Israel’s birth date, over seventy years ago, corresponds with the season in which the fig tree buds, puts forth green leaves and begins to develop green figs? Is it pure happenstance that spring is also the season that the bridegroom comes for His bride, as pictured in the Song of Solomon?
Although no one knows the “day and hour” the Lord will return, will the bridegroom arrive at some future date in the spring to whisk away His ecstatic bride to the ultimate, consummate, wedding ceremony as hinted at in the Song of Solomon? Is spring the season, before summer arrives, when the Lord will return to earth, in some future year, to set up His kingdom on earth? The Lord has not given us concrete evidence for the time of His return; however, spring is the season for new life and new beginnings, and the Lord fulfilled much of His redemption plan for mankind during the spring season. Although we do not know what time of the year the Lord will return in the air for His saints, spring, after winter but before summer, is an important season to be watching!
Is the Day of His Return Approaching?
Although no clue is given in the Scriptures concerning the precise time of the Lord’s return, some believe Hebrews 10:25 implies that we will be able to see the day of His coming (the rapture) approaching:
“…Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”
Knowing “the times and seasons” of the Lord’s return is similar to knowing the Thanksgiving season is near when the merchants start putting up their Christmas decorations. The appearance of Christmas lights and ornaments in the marketplace several months prior to Christmas heralds the coming of the Christmas season; however, we also know the arrival of the Thanksgiving holidays is even closer than the advent of Christmas day.
In like manner, when we see the prophecies that will take place during “the day of the Lord” approaching and beginning to assemble themselves on the world scene, we can be confident that “the day of redemption” (rapture) (Ephesians 1:13-14, 4:30; Luke 21:28; Romans 8:22-23) is even closer, and the season for the “catching away” of the ‘bride of Christ” has finally arrived. Believers would not be excited to see “the day of the Lord” (judgment) approaching unless they were confident “the day of redemption” would occur before “the day of the Lord.”
Anticipation of the approaching rapture of God’s saints also seems to be implied in the book of Luke as “the day of redemption” draws near, and the generation that will usher in the kingdom of God is revealed:
“And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled” (Luke 21:28-32).
A Thief in the Night
The Lord told His apostles, as recorded in Acts 1:6-7, that it was not for them “…to know the times or the seasons…” for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. The mystery of “the times and seasons” of the kingdom’s restoration was not for the apostles to know, but it was to be reserved for and revealed to a future generation. The timing of the rapture, also called the “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13, will be as “a thief in the night” to those not watching, but “the times and seasons” of the rapture will not be a surprise to those who are looking for His return (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6; Matthew 25:1-13; Luke 21:34-36; Rev. 3:3).
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works” (Titus 2:11-14).
Jesus told His disciples that the judgments coming on the earth would happen suddenly, like a trap that closes quickly on its prey. He predicted that many would be caught off-guard, and cautioned them not to be distracted by overindulgence, desires of the flesh and the daily cares of this life. Jesus’ advice to the terminal generation living at the close of this age was to watch for “the signs of the times” pointing to His return and pray continuously that they would be “kept from the hour of Temptation” that would “come upon all the world” (Rev. 3:10).
“… take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:34-36).
Those Taken and Those Left Behind
When the Lord returns in the air for His saints, there will be two categories of people on the earth: the saved and unsaved; also called believers and nonbelievers. All of the nonbelievers will be caught off guard when the Lord returns for His saints “as a thief in the night.” Those “left behind” will not immediately know when “the great theft” takes place, unless they see believers disappear on a TV screen or happen to be near those who are taken. Those “caught up” (raptured) will immediately know they have been removed from the earth to “stand before the Son of man” and will “escape” the coming judgments (Matt. 24:21; Luke 21:34-36; Rev. 3:10-11; Rev. 22:12-14).
Those “caught up” will also receive their glorified body and complete the glorification salvation process (Phil. 3:20-21; 1 Cor. 15:51-58). The raptured saints will be rewarded for their faithfulness and will receive a “crown of righteousness” given to “all…that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). On the other hand, there are many nonbelievers who are “scoffers” that mock and make fun of those who are watching the gathering signs of the Lord’s return. Even among believers, there are some “not watching” but “scoffing” (2 Peter 3:3-18; Jude 14-19).
Professing believers, who are “not watching,” may be going to church, but they are “spiritually asleep” and not following the whole counsel of God (Acts 20:26-28). They are in love with this world and the things of this world and don’t realize they have deceived themselves. We are to be “doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving our own selves” (James 1:21-22). If your focus is on the “world” and “the things in the world,” the scriptures boldly and bluntly state that the love of God is not in you.
“Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever” (1 John 2:15-17).
What are Your Priorities in Life?
People many times set priorities early in their life that include education, sports, recreation and leisure time. As we get older and more mature, our goals may become more focused on higher education, career goals and technical skills that help us become productive members of society. At some point, hopefully earlier rather than later, we should establish spiritual priorities and cultivate a relationship with God, the creator and sustainer of all things.
“God that made the world and all things therein, seeing that he is Lord of heaven and earth, dwelleth not in temples made with hands; Neither is worshipped with men’s hands, as though he needed anything, seeing he giveth to all life, and breath, and all things…for in him we live, and move, and have our being…” (Acts 17:24-28).
If you have developed a relationship with the God of the Bible, your focus should not only be on the current world we live in but also on the world to come. In fact, as we serve the Lord on the earth in our career and through some ministry He has given us, our main focus should be on making preparations for our Heavenly home.
“If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory” (Colossians 3:1-3).
That is why Jesus and His disciples exhorted the saints over a dozen times to “watch” for the signs of his return and commanded them to be “ready” when the “son of man cometh.” If you are not watching for the return of the Lord, you are ignoring Christ’s commandments and will miss out on many rewards and crowns. Apparently, some of the members of the church in Sardis were professors of salvation rather than possessors of salvation, so Jesus told them to “be watchful…and repent.” Jesus then warned the church in Sardis: “If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Rev. 3:2-3).
Conversely, Jesus commended the church in Philadelphia because they had “kept my word” and had not “denied my name.” Jesus informed the church in Philadelphia: “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:8, 10-11).
Charles H. Spurgeon, famous pastor (1834-1892) of the Metropolitan Tabernacle in London, described the spiritual mindset that should be present in those who are seriously watching for the Lord’s return:
“While I am at work, my Master may come. Before I get weary, my Master may return. While others are mocking at me, my Master may appear; and whether they mock or applaud, is nothing to me, I live before the great Task-master’s eye, and do my service knowing that He sees me, and expecting that by-and-by He will reveal Himself to me, and then He will reveal me and my right intention to misrepresenting men. May the Lord keep you waiting, working, watching…” 1
In the Twinkling of an Eye
When the time of His coming arrives, “…the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:16-18).
After laying out the events of the resurrection and rapture, the Apostle Paul states boldly that his brothers in Christ were not in darkness, and the day of the Lord would not include them (children of light and the day) as it would the nonbelievers (children of the night and darkness), who would be overtaken as a thief in the night. Rather, Paul’s brothers in Christ were told to be spiritually awake and to watch and be sober, while continuing to grow in faith and love, knowing they had the hope of salvation.
“But of the times and the seasons [of the resurrection and rapture], brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you…But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day [the day of the Lord] should overtake you as a thief ([they would not be part of the day of the Lord]. Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober…For God hath not appointed us to wrath [during the day of the Lord], but to obtain salvation [be caught up] by our Lord Jesus Christ…Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thess. 5:1-11).
Paul told his brethren to be comforted and to comfort one another concerning both “the day of redemption” (rapture) and “the day of the Lord” (judgment). Being comforted and comforting others, knowing “the day of the Lord” was coming, would only make sense if they (Paul’s listeners) knew they were going to be “caught up” (raptured) before “the day of the Lord,” and they were confident and assured they would escape God’s wrath that would be poured out during “the day of the Lord” (Luke 21:34-36; Rev. 3:10).
That is exactly the scenario set forth by the Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 4:13-5:11), with the “resurrection” and “catching up” of the saints preceding “the day of the Lord,” and both events surprising those left behind as “a thief in the night” (Matthew 24:43-44; Rev. 3:3, 16:15; 1 Thess. 5:2, 4; 2 Peter 3:10). The description given by the Apostle Paul is also the order of events that seem to be emerging today, with the leaders of the future Gog and Magog war (Russia, Iran and Turkey) meeting regularly, and the leaders of the Israel/Palestinian peace process (U.S. and other nations) using the prophesied code words “peace and security” in their speeches and formal documents (Ezekiel 38:1-39:29; 1 Thess. 5:1-3).
Prophecies that will take place during “the day of the Lord” are beginning to assemble themselves on the world stage and cast their shadows backward into today’s news headlines. As the day of our redemption draws near, each of us should be asking ourselves: Am I “watching” for the Lord’s return, and will I “be ready” when He returns “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump?” (Luke 21:34-36; 1 Cor. 15:52; Rev. 3:3).
Those who are wise in the prophetic scriptures (Dan. 12:9-10) know the evidence is overwhelming that we are living in “the times and seasons” of the Lord’s return. Whatever your priorities may be, make sure you are ready to go (Luke 21:34-36; Rev. 3:3) and not one of those who will be left behind (John 3:16-18; Romans 10:9-13; James 4:7-10). Don’t wait until tomorrow to take care of your eternal destiny (Prov. 27:1; James 4:13-15). Eternity is way too long to be wrong. Make your reservation for Heaven today!
1) The Second Coming of Christ, Charles H. Spurgeon, Chicago, Illinois: Fleming H. Revell Company, Moody Press, 1896, 117, 118