Only the Father knows the day and the hour, but there are verses which tell us the “season” or “generation” of His return.
Matthew 24:31-33 31And he will send forth his angels with the sound of a mighty trumpet blast, and they will gather together his chosen ones from the farthest ends of the earth and heaven.32″Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its buds become tender and its leaves begin to sprout, you know without being told that summer is near. 33Just so, when you see the events I’ve described beginning to happen, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.”
Jesus had used the fig tree as a symbol for Israel a couple days before because the OT scriptures repeatedly speak of the fig tree as figurative for the nation.
a. In Jeremiah 24, the people of Israel are likened to figs.
b. in Joel 1 the land of Israel is summed up as a vine & fig tree.
c. in fact, over & over in the OT, from 1 Kings through the prophets, the land of Israel is likened to a vine & fig tree.
d. when the people are faithful the vine is full of grapes & the boughs of the fig tree are heavy with fruit,
e. but when the people turn from God, the vine & tree are barren.
Remember earlier in Matthew when Jesus had cursed the fig tree? Well when Jesus cursed the fig tree, the disciples knew He was announcing God’s judgment on Israel for their rejection of the Him. That judgment came in 68-70 AD when the armies of Rome descended on the land to crush yet another Jewish rebellion. The Jews were banned from entering the district of Jerusalem altogether! A pagan temple to Jupiter was built on the temple mount, and as a final insult, the land was renamed Palestine, after Israel’s longtime enemy & rival, the Philistines who lived nearby.
The point is this–just as the fig tree on the Mt. of Olives withered & died, so the nation of Israel for all intents & purposes withered & died as a nation in 70 AD. And that was it’s condition until May of 1948 when the world, in a moment of sympathy for the horror suffered by the Jews under Hitler’s Holocaust, moved in a brief spasm of reparation and allowed the Jews their own nation and homeland once again.
Israel declared itself a nation on May 14th, 1948; the USA immediately recognized her, and the UN quickly followed suit. [And that was probably the last time Israel, the US and the UN agreed on anything!]
The fig tree, once dead, was renewed to life. And the land, that had been badly neglected & abused by it’s Muslim landowners for centuries ” began to spring to life. The Jewish immigrants bought the land, cleaned the silt out of the rivers and bays,
1) drained the swamps, replanted forests,
2) plowed & planted fields, put in extensive irrigation
3) built powerplants and factories
4) and turned the once dead land into a thriving 1st world country that today is Europe’s 3rd largest importer of citrus and it’s largest importer of flowers!
5) Israel has become a center of the world’s gold, diamond and platinum industry
6) and Israeli research facilities are on the cutting edge of technological development in many fields.
In 1947, Palestine was a desert wasteland, barely able to support a half million people. In 2004, Israel is a lush & fertile garden that supports a population of nearly 7 million. After Israel was declared a nation, it went from an impoverished, desert-like 3rd world country to a lush, successful first world country in the period of 2 decades…if THAT’s not a “budding” or “flowering” then i don’t know what is!
In v. 32, the parable of the fig tree is a lesson that began a couple days before when Jesus had cursed it for its barrenness.
a. here He makes it clear the parable goes on ” the fig tree, at one time dead, will once again spring to life and send forth leaves.
b. life will flow into its dead branches & twigs once again.
c. and when it does, that’s a sign that the season of it’s fruitfulness has come.
Jesus then says that the generation that witnesses all these things, including the renewal of the dead fig tree, the rebirth of the nation of Israel, will also see His return.
Matthew 24:34-35 “34I assure you, this generation[a] will not pass from the scene before all these things take place. 35Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will remain forever.”
[a] generation=this age
So, what does Jesus mean by “this generation?
a. He could not have meant the generation to which He was speaking at that moment because many of the signs He gave in the previous verses they didn’t see.
b. the generation He was referring to was the generation that witnessed the budding of the fig tree, the rebirth of the nation of Israel.
c. the generation refers to a specific group of people who all live within the same time-context of one another ” they all share the same specific period of history
It’s now 2005; 57 years have passed since the rebirth of Israel. And God has regathered the Jews out of many nations into her land and has restored them to life as an official nation.
Thus we MUST BE the generation referred to here since it is in the time period of 1948 to now that the world has seen Israel as a nation rebirthed.
Matthew 24:36 “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
While the rebirth of Israel identifies the last generation before He comes, that’s as narrow as the time frame will get. No one but the Father knows the exact time of the Lord’s return.
Matthew 24: 37-39 “But as the days of Noah were, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be. 38 For as in the days before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark, 39 and did not know until the flood came and took them all away, so also will the coming of the Son of Man be.”
What Jesus says here is crucial because it helps us understand what coming He’s referring to. He must be referring to the Rapture of the Church and not the Second Coming. Here’s why ” when Jesus comes back visibly in the Second Coming at the end of the Tribulation, what will it be like on Earth?
1) is it going to be business as usual or total chaos?
2) prophecies regarding the Tribulation period present a scene of utter devastation on Earth.
3) the population of the Planet will be about half what it was 7 years before.
4) the air will be choking to breathe, the water bitter to the taste, and violence will be rampant.
How does Jesus describe things here in vs. 37-38? It’s business as usual!It’s normal everyday life ” as most of history has known. So Jesus can’t be referring here to the Second Coming ” He is speaking of the Rapture of the Church, which takes place before the Tribulation.Jesus uses the analogy and example of Noah here because it’s the perfect parallel to the Rapture. Noah spent 120 years building the ark ” and the entire project was one long warning sign to that generation that judgment was coming.
a. but besides Noah’s family, no one heeded the warning.
b. the signs of the Last Days and the coming judgment of God on this sinful and Christ rejecting world are abundant & clear.
c. and just like the people of Noah’s day, the people of this generation go about their lives as though it will all just go on forever.
Look at this verse, 2 Peter 3:3-4 “First of all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. 4They will say, “Where is this coming’ he promised? Ever since our fathers died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.Peter then goes on to say that these last days’ mockers will repeat the error of the people of Noah’s day.
Matthew 24:40-1 “Then two men will be in the field: one will be taken and the other left. 41 Two women will be grinding at the mill: one will be taken and the other left.”Again, it’s a picture of life as usual when all of a sudden, a distinction is made between one person and another. A dramatic separation is effected.What Jesus says here reminds us of the parable of the wheat & tares;
a. how they grew up together until the time of harvest,
b. then the wheat was gathered into the Lord’s storehouse while the tares were collected for burning.
Matthew 24:42-44 “Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. 43 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. 44 Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.”
Jesus is saying that we mustn’t camp on our pet ideas on how the signs of His coming will be fulfilled, and when we don’t see things falling in to the neat little last days scenario we’ve set for them, think that the Lord’s return must be way off in the future. No ” we don’t know when the Rapture will take place ” and because we don’t know, we need to be ready when? AT ALL TIMES!
He wants us to keep a close watch on our hearts, that we don’t slip into the place of spiritual neglect that would lead to spiritual apathy & moral sloppiness. It’s a self-watch He’s calling us to. The very best way to be ready for the Lord’s return is to be so close to Him already that when He comes, there’s not much distance to go.
sorry that ended up being so long..but i get a lot from people saying, “but no one knows the day or hour”…very true..i don’t dispute that…but as you can see, Jesus DID give us an idea of the approximate “season” of His return by use of the fig tree..and then He explains WHICH coming…the Rapture!