Jesus REALLY is coming soon. BE READY!!!
The State of Israel is a frequent topic of discussion in relation to Second Coming Prophecy. In fact, the wave of expectation of the soon Second Coming of Christ that has occurred in the author's lifetime (that is, since 1943) was provoked largely by the restoration of Israel as a nation. (See "Where is the Promise") There is little else said about the State of Israel in this site. The author was recently (8/2009) asked about the meaning of certain prophecies in relation to Israel by a visitor to this site. This page is based on the author's answer.
(Before getting into this issue, we must understand that the Bible, and especially the Prophecies, are no where near so clear and concise about many issues as Christians often want to think they are. Believing erroneously that it is all clear and concise leads to false conclusions and pointless disputes. We need to keep an open mind on these issues.)
One of the Scriptures that has been used as a basis for this expectation is the Parable of the Fig Tree in Matthew 24:32-33 (and also Mark 13:28-29 & Luke 21:29-31).
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
Please understand that, contrary to the opinion of many Christians, this Parable does not refer specifically to the nation of Israel. Thinking that it does, as many Christians unfortunately do, is an example of the error mentioned in II Peter 3:16 and that Jesus warned us about in Revelation 22:18-19. Basically, it amounts to ignoring what a passage of Scripture plainly says, and reading a meaning into it that is not there. The effect is misinterpreting Scripture to make it fit what one believes. This practice has been the source of many false teachings, and especially false teaching about Second Coming Prophecy. What we should do is change what we believe to make our beliefs fit the Scriptures.
In the Parable of the Fig Tree, the fig tree means the fig tree, period. Jesus used the fact that the people of His time could tell when summer was near by seeing a fig tree come into leaf as a parallel to the fact that we can know when the Second Coming is near by watching the “signs of the times”.
Jesus used the same kind of example in Matthew 16:2-3;
He answered and said unto them, “When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowering. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times?”
In this passage, in the same sense in which He used the fig tree, Jesus used a natural weather phenomenon that is well known to this day: If the sky is very red at sunset, the weather will be good the next day. If the sky is very red at sunrise, the weather that day will be bad. This author had heard this idea long before he knew it was in the Bible, and he has personally observed that it is true. The point in both passages is, again, that we will know when the Second Coming is near if we watch the “signs of the times”.
Therefore the Parable of the Fig Tree is not about Israel in particular. The only way in which it does apply is that Israel has been restored as a nation and that it will survive until the Battle of Armageddon. In Luke 21:35, Jesus explicitly told us that the Great Tribulation will affect the entire world:
"For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth."
Most of the Prophecies of the Second Coming therefore apply to the world as a whole. When the Beasts come to power, Jews will be persecuted, but Christians will be persecuted just as much if not more.
Some people see a prophetic relationship between Israel and the fig tree that Jesus cursed in Matthew 21:19-21. However, Jesus used the withered fig tree as an illustration of the power of faith and prayer. It can also be related to the issue of bearing fruit as in John 15:1-6. Therefore, seeing the tree as a symbol of Israel is reading something into the passage that isn’t there.
Placing undue emphasis on Israel in relation to Second Coming Prophecy resulted in a major, widely held but erroneous belief that was associated with the wave of interest in Prophecy that occurred circa 1950-1990. Many Christians, notably Hal Lindsey of "The Late, Great Planet Earth" fame, thought that since Israel was restored as a nation in 1948, the Second Coming would occur in 1988. They came to this conclusion by linking the error discussed above regarding the fig tree with Matthew 24:34 which says...
Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.
They thought that the fig tree coming into leaf prophesied the restoration of Israel as a nation. Thinking that the word "generation" meant a forty year period (an idea derived from several Scripture references) they concluded that the Second Coming would happen forty years later. The fact that it did not happen was probably a major contributor to the decline in real belief in the Second Coming discussed in the "Where is the Promise" page linked above. Again, there is no question that many Christians were disappointed when the Second Coming, or Rapture, didn't occur circa 1988.
There is little in the Scriptures that we should be watching for in Israel beyond what is presently happening. It is in accordance with Prophecy that Israel is having ongoing conflicts with the surrounding nations, and opposition of various kinds from around the world. However, the only possible additional things that would be significant in relation to Prophecy are if Israel makes more concessions to the Arabs, and if the government of Israel becomes more hostile to Christians. These things seem likely to happen; they are in fact current trends. The more Israel does these two things; it would seem that the closer the Tribulation is.
Some Christians have gone to great lengths relating Jerusalem to the 'Babylon' of Revelation 17. Relating the issue of Israel in Prophecy to the author's views on the Great Tribulation, the Beasts (not the 'Antichrist') will come from Islam. The Beast as described in Revelation 17:11-14 will most likely be a restored Caliphate, that is, an alliance of Arab-Muslim states under the "Imam Mahdi". (See "The Two Beasts and Mystery' Babylon") . The capital of the Caliphate will probably be Baghdad, which as a city replaced ancient Babylon. In other words, in the Book of Revelation, Babylon actually means Babylon. The fact that the problems that Israel is now experiencing come mainly from the Arab-Muslim states should tell Christians where the Beasts will really come from.
There is a line of interpretation of Revelation 12 that says that the woman clothed with the sun is Israel, and that her man child that Satan wanted to devour is the Lord. The "remnant of her seed" in Revelation 12:17 are the Christians. If that is true, the fact that she is protected for "a time, times, and a time and a half", as in verse 14, suggests that Israel will be protected from the Beasts during their reign. By the Book of Revelation, this appears to be true.
It appears likely that during the First Woe, the earlier part of the Tribulation, the Arab-Muslim states won’t be able to do anything to Israel, because they will be too busy surviving. After that, in the Second Woe, the Two Witnesses will give them so much grief that they won’t do much to Israel because their efforts will be focused on fighting the Two Witnesses. In the Third Woe the “Scorching Sun” will put the Arab-Muslims states back into survival mode. Then they will be kept busy for a while by the falling out between the Beasts and their followers and the followers of traditional Islam that Revelation 17:16-17 appears to prophesy. Overall, the Beasts won’t finally get around to attacking Israel until the Battle of Armageddon, and that will be the end of them.
It has been suggested that that all the Jews will turn to Christ before the Tribulation. As Paul does say, in Romans 11:25-26, all Israel will be saved, but not until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. That may not be until after the Two Witnesses arise from the dead and ascend to heaven (Revelation 11:11-12). That event will be a powerful confirmation of the truth of the Gospel to anyone who sees it happen. Zechariah 12:10 suggests that the Jews may not be saved until the actual Second Coming. Jesus made a statement in Matthew 23:39 that suggests that it may happen just before He comes:"For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, 'Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.'"
However, we don’t have enough information about this in the Bible to be sure. One thing that appears certain, though, is that it will not happen before the Great Tribulation, so it is not something to watch for.
One thing that should be mentioned is the fact that within the past several decades there has been a movement of Jews turning to Christ. The author totally approves of this, but does not consider it to be a major sign of the soon Second Coming, except that it may in fact be evidence of a final outpouring of the Holy Spirit that many Christians see prophesied in Hosea 6:3. Again, we do not have enough information to draw definitive conclusions from any of this.
However, as is said at the top of the Home Page, there has never been a time when there have been more reasons to expect the Second Coming of Jesus Christ to occur soon, on the basis of fulfilled Prophecy, as well as current events and other less known facts. Therefore, it has never been more important to be ready.
Jesus REALLY is coming soon. BE READY!!!
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