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Eschatology Issues I:

The Fig Tree, Ezekiel 38, Joel 3, and the Trumpets of Revelation

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Question #1: 

Can you explain these verses in Matthew 24? In verse 32, who or what is the fig tree? In verse 34, what does it mean "This generation shall not pass."? I have heard many interpretations. Does the fig tree in any way represent the nation of Israel, and does this generation pertain to the year of 1948 when Israel became a nation or is it 1967 after the six day war, making verse 34 apply to those who where born at that time, this generation shall not pass? Or in closing, does the generation part in any way pertain to Matt 24 1- 34 as a whole, where in describing many things, that generation that witnesses these things shall not pass?  I very much appreciate your insight into the above.

Response #1: 

My view of the Matthew 24:34 "generation" is that Jesus is speaking of the unbelief that characterized His contemporaries (cf. Lk.17:25 where the same exact phraseology is employed), a hardness predicted to continue until He, the Messiah, returns in glory (compare Rom.11:25 with Zech.12:10-14). We tend to think of our English word "generation" exclusively in a sequential sense rather than in a typological sense, but the Greek genea (γενεά) can have both meanings, and the common typology of unbelieving Israel is what our Lord is referring to here. That is to say, He is speaking of heart-hardened legalistic Jews as a class which spans many physical generation. 

The best example of this is Jesus' remark at Matthew 23:33-36 (Lk.11:47-51) to the effect that the present generation of unbelief is responsible for all the blood of the righteous already shed: "all this will come upon this generation". While in speaking of Zechariah in that context Jesus says, "[Zechariah] whom you murdered". As the murder of Zechariah took place ca. 800 B.C., hundreds of years before Jesus' contemporaries or their fathers or grandfathers were born, "you" and "this generation" must refer to a type or particular "brood" rather than to a single age class restricted to our Lord's day, for only in that sense could His audience be said to have "murdered" Zechariah (i.e., as being of the same [a-]spiritual type and giving consent by their words and deeds to this horrible act). Matthew 24:32 thus tells us that this "type" of hardened unbeliever is still with us today and will be until He returns, even though in terms of strict biological generations Jesus' contemporaries are long since departed.

As to the fig tree, I don't find any particular typological significance to the illustration beyond what our Lord gives it. Jesus pretty clearly states with this illustration that we are look at contemporary events as indications of the approach and arrival of the end-times in the same way that we would recognize the coming of spring by the budding and leafing out of the fig tree. Since this illustration comes in the context of very detailed information about end-times events, I don't think we have to look any farther than the specifics Jesus gives us in Matthew chapter 24. There are more than enough "signs" there that are not really debatable. Once they begin to occur, anyone with even a passing familiarity with Matthew 24 will find ample evidence to support the fact that the Tribulation has already begun (once it has indeed begun). It's "sprouting leaves" will be obvious for anyone who cares to look.

Conversely, if the events described therein cannot be easily said to be in process at any given time, then one can rest assured that the Tribulation has not begun. As pointed out in part 2B section VII of CT, "Signs of the Coming Tribulation", there really are no discernible signs per se that can be unequivocally and irrefutably recognized before the actual commencement of those days to come. So while I suppose one could make the "1948/1968" argument, if it were true it could really only be known to be true in retrospect, and therefore could hardly be called a "sign". Additionally, of course, most of those in either generation in our English sense of that word have already passed from the scene (or soon will), at least in terms of their political influence, so that soon we would have to start talking about the "1973 war generation".

See also the links:

This Generation

What is "this generation" in Matthew 24:34?

In our Lord Jesus - Marana Tha!

Bob L.

Question #2: 

To summarize your teachings in "Coming Tribulation" about the first half of the Tribulation, the antichrist after 2 campaigns against the south, places himself in the temple, that city is 42 moths under the beast and gentile control i.e his people. A sanctuary is prepared in the wilderness. There is a revolt of some kind, which causes the antichrist to leave and then return, with all nations which is what Ezekiel 38/ 39 speak of. Where and how does Ezekiel 38 - 8 /11 & 14 fit into this? Could you also comment on dwelling in safety, and do the mountains of Israel refer to the sanctuary in the wilderness?

Response #2: 

Very good questions! Indeed, these and other difficulties of interpretation in Ezekiel 38-39 have led many to believe that these two chapters are talking about the "Gog-Magog Rebellion" prophesied in Revelation 20:8-9 (although that would make Ezek.39:7-20 impossible to explain). I take the "dwelling in safety" to refer to the relative ease of the nation state of Israel as compared to its stormy past history. This would include everything from the secular regathering that began in the late 19th century up until the invasion of Gog, that is, the Armageddon campaign, and most particularly in the context to that very last period of history before Christ's return. I take the "mountains of Israel" to be literally just that, so that what we have here would be secular, non-believing Israel rather than the believers (a minority, and possibly a small minority of the population) who had previously fled for safety into the wilderness at God's command outside of the current boundaries of the state of Israel (as discussed in CT 4 first part, see the link: "The Dragon's Persecution of Believing Israel: Revelation 12:13-17").

With the southern alliance broken, for a small space of time it will seem to the unbelieving inhabitants of the land as if indeed they have finally achieved the peace and security they have long since hoped for. But apart from God, of course, that could never happen, and this interlude will be an illusion, followed by the massive invasion with which much of Ezekiel 38-39 is concerned (a reaction to Israel's rebellion after antichrist leaves the land temporarily as a result of the 5th bowel judgment shortly before the end of the Great Tribulation; these events are all discussed in detail in part 5 of the Coming Tribulation series). As Paul says at 1st Thessalonians 5:3, while people are reveling in this new peace, "destruction will come upon them suddenly". That verse applies to the second advent most particularly, but does also have general application as well to all of the worldwide false anticipation of events at the very end of the Tribulation which precede it.

See also the following link:

Who are Gog and Magog in Ezekiel 38-39?

In our Lord Jesus.

Bob L.

Question #3: 


In verse 1 of Joel chapter three, why is there no mention of the gentile church? And I also would like your opinion on verse 2 the last verse especially, in regards to the parting of the land, curious to know if this pertains to general history i.e. those who have done this in the past, present, or future, and if so this would of necessity also apply to the current so called road map to peace. So this prophecy is dual (would that be correct)

Response #3: 

As to Joel 3:1-2, I take that passage, from it's introductory phrase "in those days and at that time", to refer to the events of Joel chapter two, namely, to the Great Day of the Lord, including the Tribulation, Second Advent, and the judgments which follow (as is often the case with "the day of the Lord"). Thus the judgment referred to here would be primarily Armageddon, where the armies of the nations assembled by antichrist and the devil will be utterly destroyed at the return of our Lord. It is also most likely the case that one of the other Second Advent judgments, "fire on Magog and the Coastlands", is also in view, for it is clear that judgment will also fall upon the nations themselves who persecuted Israel during the Tribulation (to a proportional degree no doubt: Ezek.39:6).

As far as "the gentile church" is concerned, well, we are all part of the Church of Jesus Christ, from Adam and Eve until the day of Christ's return (cf. Heb.11:39-40, and see the link: in SR 5, "The Church"), that is, all who believe (Jews and gentiles alike).  And that Church has, doctrinally speaking (and historically speaking as well, both past and future) grown from a Jewish stock (Rom.11:11-24). The true Church will be resurrected at Christ's return, and so He will return to a world where the only "holy people to be" not resurrected are those who do not realize until they see Him that He is indeed the true Messiah (this is the mass conversion of a large share of the Jewish people who "look upon Him who they have pierced" and believe at that time: Zech.12:10-14, etc.).

Since this conversion does not occur until after the resurrection of the pre-return Church, these new believers are not resurrected until the next phase of resurrection at the end of history (1Cor.15:24; i.e., they are "the friends of the Bride" as distinguished from the "Bride of Christ"). At this point, the incipient millennial reign of our Lord, Israel is regathered, purged, and ushered into the land wherein they receive all of the millennial blessings with which scripture is replete. Gentiles, of course, also have the opportunity to be saved at this time as well, but the resurgent role of Israel will mean that temporal blessing will be most pronounced in the land of Israel proper (cf. Zech.8:23).  All this is covered in great detail in part 5 of the Coming Tribulation series: the 2nd Advent and Armageddon. 

This is, I suppose, I long way of saying that I don't see Joel 3:1-3 as applicable to current circumstances. It is true that there are a great many Jews who have returned to (or been born in) "the land", but it is also true that 1) they are the minority of the Jewish world population, and 2) this has come about through human effort rather than through divine blessing (not to say that everything isn't accounted for by the plan of God, but there is a difference between what He effects for blessing and what He allows us to effect by our own desires), and 3) if what we see today is a blessing and a "restoration of fortunes", as Joel puts it, it is at the very least a mixed bag, especially given what the Tribulation has in store. I would say that the Zionist repopulation of the modern state of Israel is certainly something that sets the stage for this and other prophecies, but I don't find even a partial fulfillment of Joel 3 in the events as they have played out so far, and, as I say, I don't believe that there is any specific prophecy that remains to be fulfilled between the early days of the Church and the beginning of the Tribulation (please see the link in CT 2B: "Signs of the Coming Tribulation").

In the One in whom all the promises and prophecies of the Word have their ultimate meaning and fulfillment, our dear Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #4: 

I would like you to address that answer further. The closing part of Joel 3:2 reads : "Israel whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land" KJV. It is the parting of the land which my earlier question refers to. As far as the last part of your answer, would you be more specific than "I don't believe that there is any specific prophecy that remains to be fulfilled between the early days of the Church and the beginning of the Tribulation."

Thanks in advance.

Response #4: 

As to the "parting of the land", I seem to have missed your point the first time around. Indeed, the land of Israel has been "reapportioned" by the gentiles ever since the times of the Judges as the people of Israel failed to walk in the way the Lord our God would have had them walk. The most prominent such (but not the only) historical "divisions" of the land were those carried out by the Assyrians in the northern kingdom and the Babylonians in regard to Judah, then later the Seleucids and the Romans (after which we may as well move on the "modern" era). Joel most likely wrote before any of these major divisions had taken place, but he had seen and heard of the discipline that the Lord had meted out upon His rebellious children in the past by sending hostile peoples against them (e.g., the Midianites). This prophecy looks forward to the end times "division" (cf. Dan.11:39; cf. Joel 3:6), using the horrendous events of the Tribulation as a point of comparison for the Assyrian invasion which was shortly to come. That is to say, this is a case of Joel employing the "Day of the Lord paradigm" as is so common in all of the prophets (see the link: in CT 1, "The Day of the Lord Paradigm").

As far as contemporary events are concerned, I would say that you are certainly correct to see this continuing "division" of the land as a continuation of this prophecy, for all such parceling out of the land of Israel forms the basis for the final judgment on such activities about which Joel 3:2 speaks (at least in principle). What we see today, however, is of small import in comparison to what antichrist will do.

Hope I got closer that time!

In our dear Lord Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #5: 

In CT - 4 it is stated that Nero is the 6th dominant emperor. My list of Roman emperors shows Nero as the 5th dominant emperor, starting from 27 B.C. Help, what am I missing?

Response #5: 

Most people do count that way. But the best way to look at it (and the biblical way in any case) is to see Julius Caesar as the first of the Caesars. That was certainly how his adopted son Octavian and essentially all other contemporaries saw things. Without Julius Caesar, there would have been nothing like a Roman Empire, and he was the first to exercise supreme power with complete control of all the Roman legions and the political apparatus. The mistake which led to his short reign was his poor sense of personal security.

But to exclude Julius Caesar from the list – even though that is standard practice for us – would have seemed quite bizarre to any 1st century Roman (and to any of John's original audience for the book of Revelation). The fact that we do so now and for some strange reason don't understand that this is a modern conceit has contributed much to the misinterpretation of the "he is the eighth and one of the seven" passage in Revelation chapter 17.

Please see the link in Coming Tribulation 3B:  "Nero"

You have a good eye for detail!

In Jesus,

Bob L.

Question #6: 

Can you give some insight into the above on the trumpets and Rev.9:18 i.e. (the third part of men). Is this referring to the tribulation as a whole. Or the first part, because once the great tribulation begins who is left to resist?

Response #6: 

I take the six trumpets as warning judgments (the trumpet is often used in the sense of warning in scripture), with the seventh trumpet warning of the beginning of the Great Tribulation. As such, I see all of the prior six trumpets as occurring in the first half of the Tribulation, and progressively so, with this "second woe" or final trumpet before the Great Tribulation lasting for the final six months of that first half of the seven year period (cf. Rev.9:5 for the five months of the fifth trumpet). All of this is described in some detail in part 3A of Coming Tribulation, but for quick reference, please see the following chart:

A Comparison of the Events of the Tribulation's First Half with the Seven Trumpet Judgments (hyperlinked to the point where it occurs in CT 3A):

Events of the Tribulation's First Half

The death of a full one third of the earth's population is a mind-boggling thing to consider. Yet it should be kept in mind that even in today's terms the death of billions would yet leave even more billions still alive. Even so, by the time the entire Tribulation is over (including the Great Persecution, the battle of Armageddon, and the various judgments that follow), the world population will be vastly reduced from its prior size. As it says in Isaiah,

I will make men more rare than gold, and mankind than the choice bullion of Ophir. Therefore I will shake the heavens, and the earth will quake from its place on account of the anger of the Lord and on the day of His fierce wrath.
Isaiah 13:12-13

Clearly, it is a very difficult thing to prepare oneself for all the horrors to come. It may be "sweet to the taste" to study, but the events of those days will make the stomach of all who partake full to surfeit (Rev.10:8-10). We can only hope to carry out God's will for our individual lives and must resign ourselves ahead of time to the difficulties, the persecution, and the martyrdom that may very well come our way:

(9) "If anyone has an ear, let him hear. (10) If anyone is [destined] for captivity [to captivity he will go]. If it is necessary for anyone to be put to death by the sword, by the sword he must be put to death. Herein lies the perseverance and the faithfulness of the holy ones."
Revelation 13:9-10

You can find out more at the following links:

The Jewish Ceremonial Calendar (in SR 5)

The Feast of Trumpets (in SR 5)

The Seventh Trumpet (in CT 4)

In the confident expectation of our Lord's great mercy and ultimate deliverance, by whatever means He may decide,

Bob L.

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