Published May 24, 2011

Paul's Epistle...
"He's Coming – The Signs"
(Part 4 of a series)

As long as I can remember, I've heard comments like this: "The Lord's return must be near; I can see the signs all around us."

"Signs!"  Everyone wants a sign that the Lord will return soon. Even the disciples were interested in a sign: "...and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?" (Matthew 24:3.)

What signs did Christ mention? He spoke of wars and rumors of wars. (24:6.) These have, of course, been a part of the church age for the past 2,000 years. But wars today are on a scale unprecedented in history. The decisive use of atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, to end World War II demonstrated the awesome power of destruction now at man's disposal. And today at least nine nations – including some "rogue" nations – are thought to have atomic weapons.

Christ also spoke of famines and earthquakes in various places. (24:7.) I find it interesting that earthquakes are often cited as a sign – especially because the number of earthquakes in the world is steading increasing, as is their severity. The earthquake that caused the Christmas, 2004, tsunami in the Indian Ocean that killed so many thousands was so strong that scientists say it actually affected the rotation of the earth and changed (although ever so slightly) the length of a day. The same thing happened with the deadly 9.0 quake March 11, 2011, near the east coast of Honshu, Japan. That quake was the fourth largest in the world since 1900, killing more than 18,000 (at last count) — directly and through the resultant tsunami.

In just the past few months, deadly and incredibly destructive tornadoes swept the Midwest and the South of the USA. Flooding along the Mississippi River is currently approaching record levels with property losses skyrocketing. Food supplies are threatened as the nation's "breadbasket" is decimated. Gulf coast oil refineries are endangered, which could lead to fuel shortages and skyrocketing prices. Is God trying to get our attention here?

These are the kinds of things most commonly thought of as "signs" of the end. But there is one "sign" that is almost universally accepted among Bible-believing Christians regarding the nearness of the Lord's return – and that is the formation of the modern state of Israel in 1948.

Can you think of a more striking or more obvious fulfillment of prophecy than the creation – actually the rebirth – of the modern state of Israel?

Israel – a nation that hadn't even existed independently for almost two millennia. Except, of course, in the mind of God. As recorded prophetically in Amos 9:15, God said, "And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God." As the world watches this year's "Arab spring," with the sudden emergence of more anti-Israel nations surrounding Israel, threats by Iran's president to "wipe Israel from the map," recent calls by Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh to "pray for an end to Israel" and Palestinian parliamentarian Yunis al Astal's assertion last week that Allah has brought the Jews back to Israel so they'd be easier to annihilate all at once, God's promise through Amos clearly says, "nope, it ain't gonna happen." When the time comes, the Lord Himself will fight for Israel – finally and decisively. (See Zech 12:8, 9; 14:13.)

But for now, against all odds, the "dry bones" Ezekiel saw are living again! Today, more than 5.7 million Jews are living in their ancestral homeland (out of a population of 7.7 million). And they're even speaking – of all things – Hebrew, which over the centuries had become, for all intents and purposes, a "dead" language. Now it's very much alive.

In Romans 15:8, Paul tells us that Christ came "to confirm the promises made to the fathers." Those promises included the physical nation of Israel. If God couldn't pull off the miraculous reconstruction of Israel, we couldn't trust Him to make good on His other promises. But He did!

The prophet Isaiah was shown what would happen in these times, and, incredulous, wondered aloud, "Shall a nation be born at once? For as soon as Zion travailed, she brought forth her children." (Isaiah 66:8.) And that's exactly how it happened back in May of 1948. Suddenly Israel was once again a nation populated in large part by "her children" – the Jews.

Think of it!  Isaiah, Ezekiel and Amos were given prophetic glimpses of things that many of us have actually seen happen in our own lifetimes!  How can we not get excited by this???  Is this the generation that will soon see the fulfillment of even greater prophecies?  Psalm 90:10 puts a normal life span at 70 years.  If "generation" is the same as life span, and Israel just celebrated its 63rd birthday, that means there are only seven years until it hits 70.  Seven years?  Where have we heard that number before?

What else is happening in Israel of prophetic significance?

For the first time in more than 1,600 years, Israel has a high religious court, the Sanhedrin, formed in 2005. Significantly, I read somewhere that, according to Jewish law, the Sanhedrin would be the ones officially to recognize the Messiah when He comes. What's more, the Sanhedrin has adopted as its highest priority the building of the Third Temple. They're busy bringing together architects and engineers to acquire materials and create plans to rebuild the temple. In fact, they plan to use prefabricated, disassembled portions to be stored until the right time – ready to be assembled quickly. This is important prophetically because it appears that by at least the middle of the tribulation period the temple is built and functioning in Jerusalem on the Temple Mount. A pre-fabricated building could go up in less than three-and- a-half years.

And God is at work on the hearts of His people, the Jews – not only in Israel but also around the world. I found an article reporting that in New York City alone, more than a thousand Jews per day – per day! – are coming to know Christ as savior. That's amazing! And we're told that in Israel, thousands of both Arabs and Jews are turning to Christ. Praise God!  There are 13 million Jews in the world (2010), and the largest percentage of them – 42.5 percent – live in Israel. The USA accounts for 39.3 percent. Christian missions among the Jews, here and in Israel, have never been more active – nor, apparently, more productive.

By the way, Christ prophesied that "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24.) Many believe this prophecy was fulfilled in 1967 when Israel recaptured the city of Jerusalem. Current well-intentioned but fatally misguided efforts by the USA and other governments to divide Jerusalem permanently are surely about to incur God's wrath on such nations — including ours. Some say recent destructive weather phenomena provide evidence of this. God promised Abraham and his seed, "I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse..." (Gen 12:3). Certainly we've never had a government administration less supportive of Israel nor more supportive of her enemies than we do today, reaffirmed clearly by the headlines of just the past few days. We as a nation are trodding the most dangerous of all ground when opposing God's plans.

But the good news is that God is about to take believers home and turn His full attention once again to Israel – the "apple of His eye" (Zech 2:8).

So, should we pay close attention to such "signs?" Christ Himself told us to "watch" for His return. (Matt. 25:13.) Why would He tell us to watch – and why would He have given us the parable of the fig tree in Matthew 24 – if we weren't to be aware of signs that His return might be near? In John 15, Christ calls His disciples "friends," saying that, unlike servants who don't know their master's plans, He has told his "friends" His plans.

Although what He told us isn't as specific as we might like, I don't think He minds if we do a little speculating now and then, based on what He did tell us. (See last week's Epistle.) In any case, seeing "signs" develop should simply enhance our excitement and expectation of His return. And, as you've been hearing, there's plenty of "fig tree" activity going on.  (FYI - figs ripen in June.)

When my brother and I were quite young, we were in church (or perhaps at a restaurant) and there was a woman there who was quite obviously pregnant. My little brother leaned over and whispered (loudly) to Mom, "Look, that lady is suspecting!" Mom smiled and whispered back to him, "Honey, she's more than suspecting – she's expecting!"

When it comes to the Lord's return, we need to be more than "suspecting." We need to be expecting – even if we don't know the exact "due date."

- Paul

Note: An interesting article detailing ten specific prophecies that were fulfilled "on a single day" in 1948 with the rebirth of Israel can be found at http://www.fivedoves.com/letters/may2011/littledavid513.htm.

Comments on this? paul@thegospelgreats.com

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