God's Main, Sign To This Generation
by: Gary Fisher
The Bible is full of information about "signs" that we can observe that herald the closeness of Jesus' return. Some of the general "signs" named in the Bible for the last days are in Matthew 24:5-12. They are:
1.) "Many will come saying, 'I am Christ,' and will mislead many"
2.) Wars and rumors of wars
3.) Nation will rise against nation, kingdom against kingdom
6.) Pestilences (incurable diseases)
7.) Persecution of the nation of Israel
8.) Many will fall away and hate one another
7.) Many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many
8.) Lawlessness is increased
9.) Most people's love will grow cold
Many argue that these "signs" have been going on throughout history and, to a point, they are right. However there is one sign that is presented in the Bible that would be the most important of all. Jesus talking about this sign in Matthew 24:32, said it would be the most important of all the signs, one not seen by any other generations. In fact, He said that the generation that witnessed this unique sign, would be the generation that would witness His return and all of the prophecies in Matthew 24 fulfilled. Now that's a pretty heavy prophecy!
Now, we understand signs very well in the 21st century, especially while driving down the Interstate highway. They tell us that we are approaching the particular road where we had planned to exit. Signs tell us where we are and how many more miles until our destination. So it is with Bible signs. They give us indication of where we are on God's timeline, or highway, if you will and what to expect as we progress further on the way.
Speaking then of that greatest sign Jesus said "Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. "Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place" (Matt 24:32-34).
So, what is this unique "sign" that Jesus spoke of? Jesus called it the sign of the "fig tree". The Bible identifies this "fig tree" for us. In Joel 1:7, God speaks of His fig tree, Israel. Hosea is even more graphic. Speaking for the Lord, he says, "...I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season" (Hosea 9:10). The "fig tree" that Hosea is talking about is Israel. The "fig tree" that Jesus is talking about in Matthew 24 is Israel. Jesus also related it to "summer", a season. Just as seasons change from the growing season to the dormant season and back again, so it has been with the nation of Israel. This "fig tree" not only is a unique sign, but it has had some very unique history!
Israel was conquered by the Babylonians in 605 B.C. , next by the Persians, and next by the Greeks. Israel was finally overrun by the Romans in 70 A.D. and scattered into every nation on the earth. God's "fig tree" entered the dormant season. Since then, the nation of Israel remained scattered into the nations and dormant as a nation for almost two thousand years. No other nation in history has survived being conquered and taken from their homeland and been able to maintain their identity as a nation. But God promised them that their national identity would be preserved. In fact He said, as long as there is a sun and moon, "there will not cease to be a nation of Israel before me"...(Jeremiah 31:35-36 ).
Not only did God promise to preserve the scattered Jewish nation, but He would regather them back to the land of Israel. In fact, the most prolific prophecy in all the Bible is the one that says that the Jewish people would be gathered back to their land in the end times. Jeremiah 16 is one of these. It says, "Therefore behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when it will no longer be said, 'As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of Egypt, 'but, 'As the LORD lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of the north and from all the countries where He had banished them.' For I will restore them to their own land which I gave to their fathers" (Jer. 16:14-15). It is only in recent history that prophecies like this one are beginning to be fulfilled.
Motivated by observing the persecution against Jewish people in Europe, Theodore Herzl, with the dream of establishing a homeland for the Jewish people, held the first Zionist Congress in Switzerland in 1897. That meeting inspired many Jewish people to start moving back to the land of their forefathers, just as the many prophecies said that they would. As a result, at the turn of the 1900's, Israel's dormant period started coming to a close. The descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob starting moving back to the land of what was then called Palestine. On May 14, 1948, with a population of around 550,000, the new state of Israel was established. God's "fig tree" was coming back into its growing season. Since 1948, the Jewish population of Israel has risen to over 5.5 million and Jewish immigrants are moving to Israel from all over the world monthly. The fig tree is putting "forth its leaves". "Summer" as Jesus put it, is near!
Jesus said that the "generation" that sees all this regathering would be the generation that "will not pass away until all these things take place"."All these things" include the regathering of the children of Israel, the Great Tribulation, and the climax of His return. This leads us to a logical question. How long is a "generation"?
Prophecy teachers have struggled to answer this question for a long time! Many theories and opinions have been advanced. Some say that Jesus lived a "perfect generation - 32 years. Some say that Moses and the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness a "perfect generation" - 40 years. Some use Psalms 90:10 to maintain that a generation is 70-80 years. Regardless of those opinions, it occurred to me recently that a generation can be no longer than 120 years. Why? Because God said "My Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years." (Genesis 6:3). The maximum length then of a generation is 120 years.
This raises another logical question. If a generation is a maximum of 120 years, what do we use as a start date for the countdown? If we use the date of the declaration of independence of the modern state of Israel, that would be 1948. One hundred and twenty years from 1948 would be 2068 A.D. If we use the turn of the 1900's, when the Jewish people started returning to the land, that would be around 2020 A.D. Am I setting dates? No! I am recognizing a limit that Jesus Himself set. Recognizing that limit, whichever way one looks at it, we are living in the season of the Lord's return.
We are told that no man knows the day or hour of Jesus' return, but we can know the we are in the season. That season is indicated to us by watching God's fig tree, Israel, come out of its dormant state and put "forth its leaves". Israel has become a nation and Jewish people are returning to it for the first time in almost 2000 years. Jesus has promised to return for His bride, the Church, sometime between the limits of a generation that witnesses this fantastic fact of Bible prophecy. There is nothing that demands that the generation will go to full term. He promised that His return would be at any moment (Matthew 24:44), maybe today.
In conclusion, we are a generation living on borrowed time! This is a good time to be right with the Lord! Are you ready to see the Lord face-to-face? There are many Christians today who recognize that we are close to the Lord's return and are looking forward to it. You can be among them. If you haven't already made your peace with Him, ask Him to be your Lord today (see Romans 10:9-10). Commit to learn His Word and live for Him with all your heart in the time that we have left.