March 24, 2010

After the appearance of false Christs, the Lord says in verse 6: “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.” The most striking thing in this verse is that whereas there will be wars and rumors of wars until the time of the Lord’s return, the end is not set forth in an era of peace or wars. The Scripture speaks of three great conflicts that will take place before the end of all things; so we are not to be particularly upset or excited when we hear of wars and rumors of wars. But the Lord says there is coming a day when “nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places” (v. 7). Here He is saying that someday there is coming a world-wide war. Prior to this, conflicts will have existed on a lesser scale. For instance, back when the Philistines and the children of Israel were engaged in conflicts, often a champion was chosen from each side such as David and Goliath, and the winner won the battle for his entire side. On other occasions a few men would be chosen to engage in the conflict. Then there were those days when just fighting men of different groups fought; but it was not until 1914-’18 that the world was involved in a conflict in which not only the men of war engaged, but also the civilians, both men and women. The importance of determining whether or not the conflict of 1914-’18 was such is to be found in verse 8. The Lord states conclusively that a world-wide conflict involving men, women and children, followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places would be THE sign of His coming.

Notice verse 8 carefully. He says THESE things (the above designated) constitute the beginning of sorrows, or travail, as it is in the Greek text. Weymouth translates that verse: “All these are but like the earliest pains of childbirth.” What Jesus literally said was that a worldwide conflict followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes was the first birth pang announcing the birth of a new era, and this would be the harbinger of His return and attendant events. Because He did not specify whether it would be the first, second, third, fourth or fifth time this happened seems to mean it was to be the first time a world-wide conflict took place. Our own conviction is that THE sign of the Lord’s approaching advent was World War I, which was followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in unparalleled number and intensity. We are not left in doubt at all concerning this because in verse 9, the Lord says: “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.”

Now in order to understand this verse, one must also understand the expression “all nations.” The word translated nations is also translated heathen in some instances, and Gentiles in other instances. It is an expression used by the Holy Spirit to distinguish this group of people from the nation of Israel. What the Lord is saying in verse 9 is that they (the Gentiles) will deliver the Jews up to be afflicted and shall kill them, and they (the Jews) shall be hated by all the Gentiles for His name’s sake. The expression “for His name’s sake” is the reason for anti-Semitism. Israel is hated, reviled, bemeaned, persecuted, and killed simply and solely because God chose her for His own people as a nation. He has not so dealt with any other nation (See Rom. 9:4, 5).

Now let us tie our Scriptures together thus far. Jesus said that the sign of His coming would be a world-wide war, followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places, which would soon be followed by a worldwide persecution of the Jews in which they would be hated by all of the Gentiles and in which many would be killed. At the beginning of World War II there was a wave of anti-Semitism which swept over the world including even our own United States.

In those days we heard one of our greatest automobile manufacturers and another who was the idol of America because of his aviation feat speak over the radio from time to time, castigating the Jews and charging them with everything conceivable to a mind that was activated by Satan himself. Such a wave of Jewish hatred was built up in the hearts of the American people that had it not been for the Pearl Harbor debacle there is no doubt but that experiences would have been observed in the United States similar to the ones which took place in Germany under Hitler as he sought the decimation of the Jewish race. It was during this time that two boat loads of Jewish refugees came to our shores seeking a haven. And they were not only refused entrance here, but also in Mexico, South America, and Africa; and they had to return to Germany to be destroyed along with more than six million others who died in that wave of Jewish hatred. Just conceive for one moment if you can, of over one-third of the Jewish population being wiped off the face of the earth, and for no other reason thanthat the Lord God Almighty chose them for His own. That is what He means when He says, “For my name’s sake.”

In verses 32 and 33, we have the parable of the fig tree. A study of the Scripture reveals that the Lord uses several different trees to symbolize certain aspects of Israel’s witness. The olive tree symbolizes Israel and her covenant relationship to the Lord (Rom. 11); the grapevine symbolizes the spiritual blessings which are to flow from Israel (Isa. 5); the fig tree symbolizes Israel as a nation (Mark 13:28, 29; Luke 21:29-31). The Lord came and sought fruit from the nation of Israel for three years and found none, and He ordered the fig tree — the nation — cut down. The husbandman pled for another chance, so Israel’s life was extended; but when Israel persisted in bearing no fruit, the nation was set aside and the Gentiles were given the opportunity of being Jehovah’s witness (Rom. 11:15-25). We learn from this parable and many others that Israel is to be restored (See also Isa. 11; Ezek. 39: 25-29).

Now back to Matthew 24:32. When the Lord says to learn a parable of the fig tree, He is setting forth the truth that the fig tree symbolizes something else, and from other Scriptures we note that it symbolizes the nation of Israel. Trees are used to symbolize nations (See Judges 9:8; Dan. 4). So in this parable He tells us that when the branch is yet tender and has just put forth its leaves, you know that summer is nigh; that is, when Israel becomes a nation again, and very soon thereafter, you know that something is about to happen. It is in verse 32 that we learn what is about to happen. Jesus says, “When ye shall see all these things, know that He (literal translation) is near, even at the doors.” Keep in mind that on May 14, 1948, the fig tree put forth her branch. Israel became a nation. Here then is a summation of the answer the Lord gave to the question, “What shall be the sign of thy coming?”

1) False Christs shall appear, deceiving many. This has been true for years.

2) There shall be wars and rumors of wars. These are ever present.

3) There will be a world-wide war followed by famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in divers places. This took place in 1914-18.

4) This was to be followed by a world-wide persecution of the Jews, with many of them being killed. This took place in 1939-45, in which over six million were killed.

5) This was to be followed by the fig tree budding again. This took place when Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948.

Jesus said when you see all these things taking place, know that He is near, even at the doors. He also said that THIS GENERATION (the generation which sees the beginning of these things) shall not pass away until all these things have been fulfilled. A generation, according to the Scripture, is threescore and ten years, and if by reason of strength, fourscore. We are not setting any dates, neither attempting to. We are just trying to interpret the Word of God.


One Response to “THE SIGN OF HIS COMING (continued)”

  1. Brenda Says:

    Correct me if I am wrong but doesn’t Jesus say something about the fig tree bearing fruit?

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