Jun 10, 2009

Signs of the Times – Part I

J.R. Hall
By J.R. Hall

"Search from the book of the LORD, and read: Not one of these [prophecies] shall fail; Not one shall lack her mate." - Isaiah 24:16

One of the things we do as part of Berean Watchmen Ministries is search the world news headlines for items that may be of some prophetic significance to events described in Bible prophecy. It is amazing how these prophecies that were written so many years ago, seem to make more and more sense as the current events unfold around us. The Bible tells us that this would be so.
"Go your way, Daniel, for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end ... and none of the wicked shall understand, but the wise shall understand." - Daniel 12:9-10
As we search for only those events which we believe fit into the end time prophecies of the Bible, it is amazing how more and more, every day, the headlines shout end-time events with every word. What once took only a few minutes a day 4 years ago, now takes over an hour to complete; and even at that, the search is by no means finished. One only needs to remember a few key ideas, and scriptures, to recognize for oneself - the Prophecy in the News.

So what are those prophecies? What do we look for in the news? Do we have a checklist of end time events? I believe we all do. Although Jesus said, that we could not know the day or the hour of His return, He did tell us that we would be able to recognize the season.

In an effort to compile our own checklist here at BWM, we have in essence created a commentary journey into the End times 'Signs' or 'Warnings' that exist in the Scripture.

It is our hope that with such a checklist in hand, anyone could use it as a guide to the signs indicating 'When the end is near'.

It is not my intent in this article to provide a concise list, at least not up front. If you wish to make such a list, you can do so by following our discussions as I try to relay some of the things wandering around in this brain of mine (and in the haphazard notes around my desk.)

So why watch the news?

I personally watch the news, because I’m hoping to get people thinking that Christ could perhaps come very soon. If we believe that Christ is coming back (which He is) and that He is returning very soon… perhaps even before I finish this article, then it should ignite us into passionate service for our Lord. If you know that there is a tsunami coming, we would be remiss as human beings if we fail to warn our neighbors of the impending destruction. Likewise, if we believe on Christ, and believe what the Bible says, then we should do all we can to reach the lost before our time is up and the trumpet sounds.

This might surprise some of you, but the Bible tells us that the darkest days of Earth's history are not behind us, but rather, they are in front of us. The Bible warns that these dark days will contain awesome and terrifying events and that they will come upon the world with no immediate warning. All will be taken by surprise by these events, except for those that watch and know. You see, although we have no immediate warnings of the exact day and hour, the Bible does have many ‘signs’ that we are to watch for that will indicate that the time is near. When we see someone buying a turkey and decorations for Thanksgiving, we can say, "Ah,
Christmas is coming soon". Not because Thanksgiving is directly related to Christmas, but because we know that Christmas follows on the coat tails of that celebration. Likewise with the return of Christ.

The Bible promises hope and escape from the terrifying days that are coming upon the whole world. For all who believe in the Christ, the Messiah the Savior and the resurrection; for all those who have received this free gift from God - we have a blessed hope (Tit 2:13). But to those who reject God and his Son - the times ahead are full of fear, pain, and devastation, for there is to be a fury unleashed on the world such has never been seen before in history.
“But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day should overtake you as a thief. 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, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ,” - 1 Thess 5:4-6,9
God gave us His prophetic Word, so that we could watch and know. Almost 30% of the Bible is dedicated to prophecy. God obviously wanted us to know his plan for the future... and he has told us to ‘Watch and be ready’.
“Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. But know this, that if the goodman of the house had known in what watch the thief would come, he would have watched, and would not have suffered his house to be broken up. Therefore be ye also ready: for in such an hour as ye think not the Son of man cometh.” - Matthew 24:42-44

“Remember therefore how thou hast received and heard, and hold fast, and repent. 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.” - Revelation 3:3

“Behold, I come as a thief. Blessed is he that watcheth, and keepeth his garments, lest he walk naked, and they see his shame.” – Revelation 16:15

So join me in the following paragraphs as we look into the signs of the end of the age. We will begin our journey with the most significant prophetic event in recent history.

I'll give you a hint.

I guarantee it's in your paper tomorrow.

The #1 Sign

On a long forgotten shelf, alone... stood a clock. The clock was not forgotten because of lack of greatness....for the clock was a marvelously crafted clock....but for many, many years the clock lay silent. In years before it ran and chimed, and ticked and tocked, but for many, many years it lay dormant...Frozen in time the clock sat quietly until it happened...On May 14, 1948 God's prophetic clock started ticking again....LOUDLY.

A Day that Changed the Modern World

"What I am trying to do is make the whole world safe for Jews," Harry Truman wrote as he wrestled over the decision to recognize a Jewish state in Palestine. Deeply affected by the Holocaust, Truman sympathized with Jewish aspirations for a homeland. In November 1947 he lobbied for the U.N. resolution that divided Palestine into Jewish and Arab states. Britain announced it would hand authority over Palestine to the U.N. by May 14, 1948. Secretary of State George Marshall advised against recognition, warning Truman that Arab countries would cut off oil and unite to destroy the Jews. On the eve of British withdrawal — to be followed by an immediate Jewish declaration of independence — he told Truman "the great office of the President" was at stake.

But Truman's mind was made up. At 4 p.m., David Ben-Gurion read a 979-word declaration of independence in front of a small audience at the Tel Aviv Art Museum. He finished, "The state of Israel is established! The meeting is ended." At midnight, British rule over Palestine lapsed; 11 minutes later White House spokesman Charlie Ross announced U.S. recognition. "God put you in your mother's womb," the Chief Rabbi of Israel later told Truman, "so you would be the instrument to bring the rebirth of Israel." With Truman's decision, the hopes of the Jewish people were realized, but so too were Marshall's fears. Arab opponents of the new nation immediately declared war, prompting a bloody struggle over Israel's existence that would rage into the next century.” (Time Magazines - 80 days that changed the world.)

So why is the fact that Israel was reborn as a nation in 1948 an important event to the study of biblical prophecy?

Simply because they are mentioned so many times in future events. For example:
  • Antichrist will make (or reaffirm) a 7 year covenant with Israel (Daniel 9:27)
  • Antichrist will invade Israel and desecrate the temple (Daniel 11:40-41; Matthew 24:15-20)
  • Gog and his allies will invade Jerusalem (Zechariah 12:1-9; 14:1-2)
  • The People of Israel will flee into the wilderness to escape the wrath of Satan (Revelation 12:13-17)
"And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." - Gen 12:3
For almost 2500 years, starting with Jewish captivity under Babylon, then Persia, then Greece, then Rome and, almost 2000 years since the birth and rejection of the Messiah, the Jews were dispersed as a people without a nation. (That in itself was a prophetic event due to Israel's 'falling away' so-to-speak.)

Why is that important?

Because God said that he would one day re-gather the children of Israel into the Land promised them through his covenant with Abraham. This prophetic re-gathering, which we have seen take place within this century, is to serve as a sign to the world that the 'Day of the Lord' draws near.

Ezekiel 37
1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and carried me out in the spirit of the LORD, and set me down in the midst of the valley which was full of bones,

2 And caused me to pass by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry.

3 And he said unto me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I answered, O Lord GOD, thou knowest.

4 Again he said unto me, Prophesy upon these bones, and say unto them, O ye dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.

5 Thus saith the Lord GOD unto these bones; Behold, I will cause breath to enter into you, and ye shall live:

6 And I will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and ye shall live; and ye shall know that I am the LORD.

7 So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone.

8 And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them.
In the passage above we see God giving the prophet Ezekiel a vision of what was to come of Israel. As we read on in Ezekiel 37, more is revealed including the description of the millennial reign of Christ amongst them. But we’ll get more into that later.

In 70 AD the Jews were driven out of the land and dispersed. It is important to note that even though they stayed dispersed, they retained their nationality. Whether Canadian, Spanish, American or French, the Jews have kept their identity among all of the new nations they’ve called home. No other cultural group of people have ever retained a sense of nationality and culture after having their homeland taken away… but the Jews did.

Let’s have a look now at an example of how amazing this re-gathering of Israel to the Promised Land is.

Tel Aviv was (is) the first all-Jewish city in modern times. Originally named Ahuzat Bayit, it was founded by 60 families in 1909 as a Jewish neighborhood near Jaffa. In 1910, the name was changed to Tel Aviv, meaning "hill of spring".

“And I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it: and the cities shall be inhabited, and the wastes shall be builded: And I will multiply upon you man and beast; and they shall increase and bring fruit: and I will settle you after your old estates, and will do better unto you than at your beginnings: and ye shall know that I am the LORD.” - Ezekiel 36:10-11

Now look at Tel Aviv today.

It would seem the pictures speak for themselves.

Since Israel came into being in 1948, it has become a vibrant, modern, and well populated country. It now boasts over 6 million Jews in a portion of land smaller than Vancouver Island.

I would like to pause for a moment and talk about an idea commonly called Replacement Theology. I do this because it deals with Israel, and I believe it is a very destructive idea that is permeating the evangelical world.

You see, there are some who say that God’s promises to Israel were cancelled; That God revoked them when they denied the messiah and therefore denied God for the last time. They say now that the church has replaced Israel in God’s eyes.

Although the church is very important, if we continue to study the Scripture, especially those areas involved with the end times, it becomes very clear that God is not finished with Israel yet. There are countless passages of proof text to this fact and the idea that the Church has replaced Israel is unscriptural.

Israel is mentioned 2566 times in the Bible. This is second to God himself. With that much attention in the Scripture, it would seem apparent that God takes great concern with Israel.

They are the apple of his eye. He has engraved them in the palm of his hand and his prophetic plans involve them still. (See: Isaiah 11:12, Isaiah 66:8, Ezekiel 37:21, Jer 31:10-11, Eze 34:28)
“But ye, O mountains of Israel, ye shall shoot forth your branches, and yield your fruit to my people of Israel; for they are at hand to come… For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.” - Ezekiel 36:8,24
Before 1948 there was no Israel. Not one of Israel’s prophecies could ever come to pass without a nation. It was during this time that the idea of replacement theology came about. The thought process was simply that because there was no Israel, God must have meant them symbolically in all the future prophecies about them. Or worse yet, perhaps all of the prophecies that we would call future, have already been fulfilled in some allegorical fashion in ages past. With no Israel on the map it was a complete act of faith in God’s Word to place a nation of Israel in the last days. You can imagine therefore why the study of prophecy was all a buzz in 1948...all of a sudden...ISRAEL!

You mean we can take the Bible literally? You bet we can.

So what of this nation of Israel in the future?

Well, God also said he would make Jerusalem a trouble spot - a prophetic warning sign to the world if you will.
“The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him. Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem. And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all people: all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the people of the earth be gathered together against it.” - Zech 12:1-3
Now that you’ve read that passage, read it again and think of the news headlines. I think you’ll agree that there are some definite similarities.

Ask yourself these questions:
  • How many Cities in the world are larger than Jerusalem?
  • How Frequently do these other cities make world news?
  • Do these other cities 'tremble' and incite as much anger as Jerusalem?
  • How can one city, invoke such controversy in our large world?
It does because God willed it, and is making it happen.

Another interesting side note is the ominous warning Christ gave to the generation that witnesses the regathering of Israel in the Land.
“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 be fulfilled.” - Matthew 24:32-33 (see also Luke 21:29-33 and Mark 13:28-30)
There are two different interpretations about this parable. The first is that in several places in the Bible the 'fig tree' is a symbol of the Jewish Nation. As such this passage indicates that with the sprouting of leaves (rebirth), we know that summer is nigh.

The same thought could be used for the verse in Matthew 21 when Jesus curses a fig tree when he is nearing his crucifixion.
“Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, "May you never bear fruit again!" Immediately the tree withered.” - Matthew 21:19
Could this be symbolism of Israel denouncing the Messiah and the result of such denial? I can't say, but if it isn't meant to be such, it's still an interesting thought.

This ‘fig-tree parallelism’ can be carried over to recent history: “Its branches become tender and put forth leaves.” Miraculously, this tiny nation of Israel is quite prosperous today. And despite their enemies’ best efforts they don't appear to be 'wilting' any time soon.

I want to pause here for a moment. Like a lot of things with the study of prophecy, we should make sure to look at all possibilities within a passage. As such, allow me to present the following:

The other idea about Matthew 24:32-33 is simply that this passage states that when 'all these things' - meaning all of these signs (that we haven't gotten to yet in this study, including the rebirth of Israel) - signify the beginning of the end.

The main reason for this belief is that the Luke passage mentions the fig tree and ‘all’ trees.

Another reason is that Christ describes many things in the surrounding passages, some of which (we know from the book of Revelation) occur during the tribulation week. With this in mind, it may indeed be that Christ was talking about the generation within the Tribulation. I’ll let you make up you own mind on this issue, but regardless, with all we have been studying, it is an exciting prospect in either case.

Now assuming our first premise is correct about Israel’s rebirth, let us take a moment to look at the word “generation” within those passages.

In the words from Matthew:
"Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."
Which generation?

The one that sees these signs.

Isn't that generation alive today?

Yes, I believe it is.

How long is a generation?


Is it 50 years? 100 years? Can we define it?
“And the LORD said, "My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, for he is indeed flesh; yet his days shall be one hundred and twenty years." - Gen 6:3
This passage would definitely seem to suggest that it cannot be more than 120 years.

The question now to ask is when did this prophetic countdown begin?

With the birth of the nation in 1948? Or the regaining of Jerusalem in 1967? Or is it measured by some other sign that Christ mentions prior to his announcement of the final generation?

That question I cannot answer, and perhaps we are not supposed to know. All we do know is that we are warned to 'Watch'.
Watch therefore: for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come. – Matthew 24:42
If it were just these passages to consider in deciding if these are the end times, we would be left with much speculation. However, lucky for us, God gives us other signs and warnings to serve as signs to the final generation. God wants us to know and recognize the generation of the end. As just quoted and several times throughout the New Testament, God wants us to ‘Watch and be ready’. Lucky for us, he told us in several other passages what to watch for.

But that discussion is for the next time.

Until then… Serve Your King.