http://thechristiansight.org/articles/pictures/thumbs/big/ticket.png                                      The Rapture of the Church                  SCROLL 2.pngSCROLL 2.pngSCROLL 2.pngSCROLL 2.pngSCROLL 2.png                        

That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? (John 12:38 see also 2 Peter 3:1-4)

Introduction   As commonly understood, the word rapture is that of describing an emotion; as Webster’s dictionary defines it: “a state of being carried away by overwhelming emotion”. To some born-again believers, however, the rapture of the Church is not an emotion, but is that of a physical act, that of being “caught up into the air” by the Lord Jesus Christ immediately preceding the seven-year tribulation period. As the following scriptures tell us, the resurrection of the dead in Christ will also take place at the same instant, except that the dead in Christ will precede those believers who are still alive at His coming:

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? 1Corinthians 15:51-55

But I would not have you to be ignorant, brethren, concerning them which are asleep, that ye sorrow not, even as others which have no hope. For if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so them also which sleep in Jesus will God bring with him. For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent them which are asleep. For 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. 1Thessalonians 4:13-17   

The last trump is not the seventh trumpet of the book of Revelation – it is the last call for believers still alive at the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ in the air. For these believers who are still alive, there is neither the sting of physical death (although they do undergo an instantaneous physical death – yet not long enough to be felt) nor consignment to the grave upon death. Some Christians do not believe that they will escape the tribulation period if they are living at that time. For these dear fellow Christians, I offer the following words.

Preaching    There is no question that the most important task for Christians is that of witnessing for Jesus so that souls may be saved. And this task is most importantly laid on the shoulders of preachers, although all of us should proclaim the gospel to whomever will hear us. So, one of the most interesting features of the tribulation period is that of discovering who, if any, will be doing any preaching during that time of God’s wrath upon the earth. Here are some scriptures that identify who will be preaching during the tribulation period:

  1. World-wide evangelization by 144,000 Jewish males ( Revelation 7:1-9 )
  2. World-wide evangelization by two witnesses ( Revelation 11:3-12 )
  3. World-wide evangelization by an angel ( Revelation 14:6,7 )
  4. Final appeal by God ( Revelation 18:4 )

The Church is nowhere to be found evangelizing the world in the book of Revelation.

Whose Wrath?    In the book of Hebrews, we read about Christians who willingly subjected themselves to the wrath of man:

And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; Hebrews 11:36 ,37

These believers did not suffer the wrath of God, but rather the wrath of man. Consider these scriptures:

But let us, who are of the day, be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation. For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.   1Thessalonians 5:8-10

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. Mortify therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: In the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. Colossians 3:2-7

In these scripture passages, we see that believers are not going to be subject to the wrath of God. Moreover, we also see that believers will appear with him in glory, which tells us that they had to have been in Heaven with Christ (must have been raptured) before they could come back to earth with Him. These scriptures clearly tell us that the wrath of God will be directed towards unbelievers, and not towards Christians.

Parables and Allegories     During His earthly ministry, Jesus often spoke to the people in parables. These parables were (and are) meant to be studied for their allegorical meaning. Webster’s dictionary meaning of allegorical is “having hidden spiritual meaning transcending the literal sense of a sacred text”. Thus, when Jesus commands us to learn the parable of a fig tree, He is commanding us to discern the spiritual meaning of it. Since Jesus’ entire ministry was focused on the nation of Israel, we understand that the fig tree the Lord is referring to is the nation of Israel itself. Moreover, scriptural accounts which contain reference to a certain person are not parables, but are literal accounts. One such account is that of Lazarus and the certain rich man (Luke 16:19-31). Also, we must realize that God’s Word does not always warn us about an account being literal or allegorical, and that the time frame could be past, present, or future. This is where discernment requires us to follow the Lord’s instruction:

For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little: Isaiah 28:10

With these thoughts in mind, the following is meant to provide the spiritual understanding of the parable of the fig tree found in different accounts in the scriptures.

A Fig Tree     When Jesus came the first time, He came to seek and to save that which was lost, a reference meant primarily for the nation of Israel. In the following parable, Jesus is the certain man, and the nation of Israel is the fig tree planted in His vineyard:

He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. Luke 13:6-9

Speaking prophetically, the Lord Jesus was speaking of His three-year ministry to the nation of Israel, in which He had not seen the spiritual fruit which He had expected. While we are not told what the fate of this fig tree was in this parable, we do see the eventual demise of it in the Judgment of Israel account below. As a fig tree, the Jewish religious system was not producing good fruit, but instead was producing evil fruit:

Then certain of the scribes and of the Pharisees answered, saying, Master, we would see a sign from thee. But he answered and said unto them, An evil and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given to it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas: Matthew 12:38-39

That generation of Jews was an adulterous generation, for it had gone after all manner of gods, and after the worshiping of Ashtoreth, or Easter, referred to in Acts:

And because he saw it pleased the Jews, he proceeded further to take Peter also. (Then were the days of unleavened bread.) And when he had apprehended him, he put him in prison, and delivered him to four quaternions of soldiers to keep him; intending after Easter to bring him forth to the people. Acts 12:3,4

And that nation’s religious system (chiefly the Sanhedrin) was an evil generation, for they sought to kill their Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ. Nonetheless, Jesus still agreed to show them a sign of His deity by His resurrection from the dead.

The Judgment of Israel    The nation of Israel rejected the Lord Jesus by crucifying Him instead of embracing Him as their king (He came unto his own, and his own received him not. John 1:11). We see this exemplified in the parable of the fig tree:

Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Matthew 21:18-20

This event has clear, spiritual meaning. It is not meant to convey that the Lord Jesus was physically hungry for figs, but rather that He was expecting good, spiritual fruit from Israel’s religious system, yet found none. Christ’s pronouncement “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever” signaled the end of God’s Old Testament covenant with Israel, which Christ would replace with a New Covenant, with Himself as the High Priest – the intercessor between God and man (I Timothy 2:5 and Hebrews 9:11,12). God’s temporary acceptance of animal sacrifice for the atonement of the people’s sins was over, for it is Christ’s blood that cleanses us from all unrighteousness, and that atonement was finished on the cross of Calvary when Jesus said “It is finished”.

While the Roman catholic church in its cannibalistic ritual of the Mass continues to crucify Christ again and again without end, it is only making empty, abominable gestures, because Jesus will never be crucified again (Hebrews 6:4-6). God’s redemptive plan of salvation was completed once and for all on the cross of Calvary. It is a mockery to portray Christ on the cross, whether it be in the Roman catholic mass, in a passion play, in statues, in pictures, in crucifixes, or in any other form or manner.

The Second Coming of Christ    In addition to serving as allegories of the Jewish religious system in place when Jesus walked the earth, the parable of the fig tree provides us with information regarding Christ’s return to judge the earth during the tribulation period which culminates with the battle of Armageddon. Therefore, it should not be surprising that we encounter the familiar fig tree parable even during this time of world-wide judgment. The worldly environment that will characterize the tribulation period will be:

This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.   2Timothy 3:1-5

When the Lord Jesus was asked by His disciples when the end of the world would come (the battle of Armageddon), He replied by invoking the parable of the fig tree:

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 21:29-32

What is a Generation?    We turn now to the role of the fig tree regarding end-time events. The parable of the fig tree is mentioned in the books of Matthew, Mark, and Luke, and in all three instances, the parable is tied to the Israeli generation which will see the completion of all end-time events, including the battle of Armageddon and the Second Coming of Christ. We have already seen how Christ admonished the unfruitful fig tree of Israel when He was here on earth, but now we can see how the tree applies to the nation of Israel in a certain, given, time frame:

The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.   Psalms 90:10

So we can see that this is the generation time frame for us today. According to this scripture, the foregoing generational time frame may be either seventy or eighty years in duration, whose beginning is based on the rebirth of the nation of Israel.

 Rebirth of the Nation of Israel    The nation of Israel was prophesied to be reborn:

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. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. Matthew 24:32-36 (see also Mark 13:28-33 and Luke 21:29-32)

In these scriptures, we see that reference is made to all these things being fulfilled within a certain generation. We have already seen in The Judgment of Israel section above that the fig tree is symbolic of the nation of Israel, and that the putting forth leaves is symbolic of its rebirth. It is a historical fact that the nation of Israel was reborn either on its declaration of independence on May 14, 1948 (when President Truman recognized it as such), or on January 25,1949 (when Israel held its official national elections for their government). 

The Rapture    The parable of the fig tree that includes “This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled” is embedded within the Tribulation period dialogue that Jesus spoke, and does not seem to fulfill any other purpose than to provide the time frame within which all the tribulation period events will culminate in the battle of Armageddon. As pre-Tribulation Christians, we believe that the Rapture of the Church will take place exactly seven years prior to the Battle of Armageddon, the end-time. This calculation defines the upper limit to the Church’s time left on earth as May 14, 2011, January 25, 2012, or ten years after either of these  dates if God the Father considers His generational time span to be eighty years instead of seventy years, as it is written in Psalms 90:10 above.

However, the Rapture can take place at any time before these dates. Is it possible for a Christian to know all this and yet not understand? It certainly is possible. Many verses in the Bible “come to life” for us at various times, as God allows such revelation. For, how often does it occur to us that we read a passage and all of a sudden we understand it to say something that we never knew it did before, yet it had been there all along. And so it is with the fulfillment of the end-times prophecy – some Christians will get it and some will not. Yet, its fulfillment will occur, whether we believe it or not. 

Just to remind us about Christ’s supernatural act of grace and mercy on our behalf, God allegorizes this act as a mighty wind (symbolic of the power of the Resurrection) in replacing the untimely figs (animal sacrifices) of that time:

And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. Revelation 6:12,13

So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation. Hebrews 9:28 

 

 

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