Are we in the end times?
I reckon the answer may depend more on someone’s definition of “end times” than on what is happening in the world. But this column will look at Bible prophecies and current events.
In Acts 2, Peter announces the fulfillment of a prophecy from the book of Joel. The prophecy starts with the words, “And it shall come to pass in the last days…” (Acts 2:17). So I reckon technically, we have been in the last days since seven weeks after the crucifixion. However, the church age is not what most people are talking about when they speak of the end times. When the subject of the end times arises, the standard train of thought is the rapture, the tribulation, and the second coming of Christ.
As far as the rapture goes, no one knows the day or the hour (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). If you are unfamiliar with the rapture, the most vivid description in the Bible is 1 Thessalonians 4:16-18. Long story short, Jesus Christ appears in the air and removes all true believers from the earth. Those left behind will face a seven-year tribulation period (most will not survive). During the tribulation, there are judgments from God, the rise of the Antichrist, and the one world electronic money system, to only name a few of the disasters of the day. The tribulation period ends with the second coming of Christ.
When it comes to the rapture, I will mention that most Christians believe the rapture comes before the tribulation period (this is my belief). However, a growing number of Christians believe the rapture will occur sometime during the tribulation.
According to Daniel 9:27, a treaty signed by the Antichrist and other world leaders concerning the city of Jerusalem starts the clock on the seven-year tribulation. The treaty has not yet happened, so the tribulation has not yet begun.
But are we close? Will these events happen in our lifetimes, or are they hundreds of years away? Like clouds and lightning off in the distance signals a storm is coming; are there signs in the Bible telling us the final days before the second coming are approaching? There are many signs, but Israel is the key.
The fig tree represents Israel throughout Scripture. When it comes to the end times, Jesus gives us the parable of the fig tree. Matthew 24:32-34, “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. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things are fulfilled.”
If we want to know how close we are to the tribulation and other events of Matthew 24, we need to understand the meaning of the fig tree parable. Three things are critical – when is the branch yet tender, when does it put forth leaves and the length of a generation.
The branches are tender when a tree first sprouts. I believe this statement was a reference to the recreation of Israel on May 14, 1948.
I believe the putting forth leaves is when the tree comes of age, which refers to when Israel acquired Jerusalem on June 7, 1967.
The generation that sees these things “shall not pass.”
I believe the phrase “shall not pass” is key in determining an approximate length of a generation. In Numbers 14, Israel sends twelve spies into the promised land. Two spies, Joshua and Caleb, plead with the people to trust God and enter the land. However, ten spies convince the nation they cannot win the battles they will face once they cross the Jordan River. Because of their lack of faith, God issues a judgment that the entire adult generation, everyone twenty or older, will die in the wilderness except for Joshua and Caleb.
Therefore, anyone who has reached their twentieth birthday by the time God starts the clock is part of that generation. Because of the word “and” between the branch being tender (the recreation of Israel) and the putting forth of leaves (the capture of Jerusalem), I believe both events needed to occur for God to start the clock. That means the youngest of the generation “that shall not pass” was born on June 7, 1947. The youngest of them is 75 years old. Considering some must live to the end of the seven-year tribulation, the youngest of this generation when Christ returns will be at least 82 years old, and that is if the tribulation starts before next June.
We are getting close.
If that is not enough to get you thinking, here are a few of the other signs God tells us to watch for:
An increase in knowledge and travel (Daniel 12:4). Look at life in 1899 compared to today. Good grief, look at the rise in technology since the year 1999. Only a few short years ago, finding a fact may take several hours and books to discover. Now only a few clicks on your phone or computer.
Pestilence (Matthew 24:7, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11). Covid-19 continues, and Monkey Pox has arrived. No need to say any more about pestilence.
Rampant immorality, increased selfishness, and resistance to absolute truth (2 Timothy 3:1-8). These things sound like everyday life for most people.
Are we in the end times? Well, let us say this – there are people 75 years old today that will live through the seven-year tribulation period. Even if some live to be 100-110, we are looking at 30-35 years tops. It might be a good idea for people to concentrate on a spiritual change instead of climate change.
Preacher Tim Johnson is Pastor of Countryside Baptist Church in Parke County, Indiana. His weekly column “Preacher’s Point” may be found at: www.preacherspoint.wordpress.com