The Scriptures are written for us living at the end of the age. That is why they are still relevant to us today – not only as a guide for wisdom unto salvation, and for righteous living, but also as a guide for knowing the will of God: Jesus Christ is going to come back to take back the world that the devil and human beings have usurped for themselves, and He will establish the Kingdom of God (YHVH) forevermore.
All of the prophets of the LORD looked to that day; Yeshua Himself looked to that day; the Lord’s Supper looks to that day; the closest disciples of Messiah asked about that day, both before His crucifixion and after His resurrection before He ascended to Heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, where He still is.
This is also the vision statement of Yeshua’s Inheritance Congregation: that as many people as possible under our authority and influence would be ready for and have part in the First Resurrection. (Rev. 20:4-6) Our mission statement is this: to be Yeshua’s witnesses to bring more people into His kingdom; we are God’s sons and daughters to grow to full maturity in preparation for our Bridegroom’s return. (Matt. 28:18-20)
The four apostles’ question at the beginning of Mark 13 is phrased differently in both Matthew 24 and in Luke 21. But Yeshua’s answer to them was essentially the same and with the same sequence of events (chronology). The question had to do with wanting to know when the end of the age would be which restores and establishes the Kingdom of God to Israel, and to know what signs there would be leading up to its fulfillment. Ever since Israel asked for another king, like the Gentiles have, the Kingdom of YHVH has been rejected by the House of Jacob. God intends to restore it! HalleluYah!
Jesus begins His answer by speaking of the second Temple’s destruction, which was prophesied in Dan 9:26. Then He goes on to say, “Take heed that no one deceives (leads astray) you.” We also know from the Lord, and also prophesied in Daniel, that there will be another temple of some sort, which will lead to the revelation of the Antichrist in the middle of the last seven years (Daniel’s 70th week) culminating in the return of the same Lord Jesus Christ who was seen ascending into Heaven. (Acts 1:9-11)
Yeshua says that the enemies want to deceive/lead astray the elect, if possible. The devil, antichrist, and false prophet want believers to turn from the way of truth in Christ, and to have doubt if Jesus Himself will actually return and judge and defeat the forces of evil. But the Lord does not want us to fear, but to trust Him who loves us: He is telling us in advance that these things must and will happen before His return.
Jesus is speaking to His disciples (including to us) about what will be before He comes. In the days after the great tribulation of those days still in the future (vs. 14-20), there will be celestial signs (Mark 13:24-26; Joel 2:30-32) before the day of God’s vengeance (Isa. 61:2). The Son of Man will be seen coming in the clouds with great power and glory. The Lord will send His angels (the harvesters – Matt. 13:39,49) to gather together His elect wherever they are – dead or alive. Those who are dead in Christ will be resurrected; those who are alive in Christ at His coming will be caught up/raptured. This is the resurrection of the righteous (Dan. 12:2); this is the First Resurrection of those who will rule and reign with Yeshua (Rev. 20:4-6); this is what Paul wrote about in his two letters to the believers in Thessaloniki (1 Thes. 4:15-18; 2 Thes. 2:1-5); this is the resurrection that Paul did all to attain. (Phil. 3:7-16)
If the resurrection/rapture were before all the serious troubles to come – and if the believers would not be here to go through them because of a pre-trib rapture – surely the Lord would have said so in His answer to His disciples and to us about the signs leading up to His coming again.
Then Yeshua gives a “time-reference” to let His followers know when we should pay attention that His return is nearing. In Luke, He wept over Jerusalem for not knowing when He came the first time, because there were enough prophecies in the Tanach (Old Testament), and real proofs right in front of them. (Luke 19:41-42) How much more, then, we should be awakening/revived to anticipate with excitement in our hearts His return to remove Satan from power and to bring righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit to the whole of creation!
Jesus says: Learn this parable from the fig tree (v. 28). The fig tree which Jesus cursed (in ch. 11) is unbelieving Israel. The fig tree here is also unbelieving Israel, but growing again! (Ezek. 36:16-28) The reestablishment of the nation and people of Israel in this covenanted land of promise is a huge sign – like Noah’s ark – that summer (קיץ kahyeets) – the end (קץ ketz) – is near. The generation that sees this – we are that generation! – will see the fulfillment of all these things; we will see the return of the Lord! Nearly 70 years have passed since the fig tree/Israel is blossoming. Whatever may happen – Heaven and Earth can pass away – but His words will not.
Yeshua then goes on to say that no one except the Father knows the exact time, not even the angels. Believers have taken this statement in both directions: there are those who keep trying to predict the exact time – which leads people astray, since they have always been wrong; and there are those who say no one can know when the Lord is coming – which also leads even believers astray, since they do not understand the times in which they live. There are those who say the resurrection/rapture are imminent, that no signs are needed. This also misleads, since it blinds believers to the obvious signs which Christ gave us to be watchful for; and some of these particular signs are during the period of great tribulation, during the last half of Daniel’s 70th Week. Also there are those who say that these troubles of war, earthquakes, and famines have always been in history; we are just more aware of them now. If that were all that Yeshua was saying, then they are not ‘signs’ of His return. Also there are those who say that there have always been wars, earthquakes, and famines. None of these extremes give unbelievers confidence or trust in what believers say to them about prophecy and current events, with Israel a key element of that as a sign pointing to the Lord’s return.
Jesus says, “Take heed, watch, and pray”. The LORD of Armies is coming quickly (Rev. 22:20), and in such a manner and at such a moment that even the devil (who is an ‘angel’) will not know or be prepared. He does not want us sleeping, but alert and obeying Him with faith through to the end. Jesus tells us that we should be doing whatever it is that HE has given us — His servants — to do until He returns. He does not say that we will finish what we were given to do, but that we should be found doing it. And He tells all believers to “watch!”.
There are signs; there is hope; He wants our hearts and minds to be ‘calm in the midst of the storm’. (Matt. 7:24-27) He has told us everything in advance in His love for us. This is part of the gospel: Jesus is coming again to save His people and to bring the Father’s kingdom to Earth, as it is in Heaven. So we can pray: even so, Come, Lord Jesus!
This article originally appeared on Streams in the Negev, September 8, 2017, and reposted with permission.