If Not Now, When?

Anyone who’s interested in eschatology and believes we’re nearing the end of the age, has probably heard something similar to the following statement many, many times. “Oh, I don’t pay any attention to that stuff, because every generation since Jesus was full of people who believed they were in the end times.” Another frequent comment is, “Even Jesus doesn’t know when He’s coming back, so we’re not supposed to worry about it.” Are they right? I think not, and I’ll summarize my position this way:  If not now, when? Now let’s go deeper. Here’s what Jesus said about the day and hour:

But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. Matthew 24:36

On its face, and out of context, it seems to support the old “there’s no way we can know anything about it” position. If we put it in context, however, things look very different. Here are the four verses that immediately precede that verse:

From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.  Matthew 24:32-35

Once viewed in context, it seems clear to me that Christ was saying that we cannot know the exact time when he will return for us, but that we are to be vigilant so that we can recognize the signs of the season. He even used an actual season (summer) in the analogy. With this passage freshly in mind, let’s go ahead and address the frequent comment that every generation since Jesus has had those who believed they were in the end times. This is no doubt true, but there’s one salient distinction between then and now:  They were wrong. Prophecies don’t work in piecemeal fashion. The Bible isn’t 75% accurate, or 90%, or 99%. The Bible is 100.0% accurate, period. But in past generations, those who believed they were the terminal generation were ignoring the very first sign Jesus gave us in the passage above!

The fig tree analogy is what kicks everything else into motion, yet it was conveniently ignored in the past because that sign was not fulfilled. What is that sign? I believe, as do most prophetic scholars whose opinions I’ve read, that the fig tree analogy refers to Israel’s rebirth as a nation. It’s the pivotal event that started the endtime clock ticking in earnest, and it was fulfilled in May, 1948, when the state of Israel was reborn. Only after that fulfillment could the other genuine signs of the endtime season occur. Wars and rumors of wars. Earthquakes. Famine. False prophets. Apostasy in the church. Preaching the gospel to the world. Godless living. All these signs and more are being fulfilled now, and they’re being fulfilled at the proper time, after the rebirth of Israel.

Another key sign that I believe has only been truly fulfilled recently is found in Daniel:

But you, Daniel, close up these words and seal the book until the time of the end. Many will dash about, and knowledge will increase.  Daniel 12:4

I won’t get into the issue here, but one could make an argument that the “sealing of the book” refers to the fact that only now, with modern computer technology, are we able to truly analyze the Bible for the existence of coded messages beneath the plain text. Even more unequivocally tied to today, however, is the reference to “dashing about” and increasing knowledge. From the time of Christ until a little over a century ago, there was no appreciable advance in transportation technology. When Jesus walked the Earth, the dominant means of transportation was the horse. In 1900, the dominant means of transportation was the horse. Just one century later, on any given day there are approximately 87,000 airplane flights in the United States alone. There are over 625,000,000 cars on Earth. Can we seriously doubt that the “many will dash about” sign is fulfilled? What about knowledge? Sure, knowledge increased in centuries past, but by comparison to centuries past, knowledge in the twentieth century didn’t just increase; it exploded with the force of a thousand nuclear bombs. Daniel 12:4 is fulfilled, and in a way that was simply not possible before now.

We saw the rebirth of Israel sixty-two years ago, and I believe Jesus was saying that the generation who witnessed that would not pass away before the end of the age. We’ve seen sign after sign fulfilled since then, and we continue to see prophetic puzzle pieces slide into place before our very eyes. I believe an exhaustive analysis of endtime signs would lead us inexorably to the question:  If not now, when?

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  1. April 19, 2010 at 10:59 am

    I agree that the rebirth of Israel is key to determining the “the time of the end.” Jesus said that when we see “all of these things” taking place we can know for sure we are the final generation living before the end of the age. (Mark 13: 29-30) There are also a couple of significant prophetic events being fulfilled now, preparations for the rebuilding of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem (Revelation 11:1-and Daniel 8:11)and the formation of the revived Holy Roman Empire (Revelation 17:12–13).

    • April 19, 2010 at 12:30 pm

      Thanks much for reading and commenting. It means a lot! And yes, there’s so much going on now with regard to prophesied events. I like to envision the world as a big puzzle, with pieces of that puzzle constantly sliding and clicking into place.

  2. Adam Neira
    June 12, 2010 at 6:11 am

    The study of prophecy is little understood by most people. The prophets glimpsed pieces of the divine jigsaw puzzle. In this faculty they were both blessed and cursed. The following passage relates to the above discussion.

    “The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem. Now it will come about that In the last days, The mountain of the house of the Lord Will be established as the chief of the mountains, And will be raised above the hills; And all the nations will stream to it. And many peoples will come and say, ‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, To the house of the God of Jacob; That He may teach us concerning His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.’ For the law will go forth from Zion, And the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. And He will judge between the nations, And will render decisions for many peoples; And they will hammer their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will not lift up sword against nation, And never again will they learn war. Come, house of Jacob, and let us walk in the light of the Lord.”

    (Isaiah 2:1-5)

    What the “mountain of the house of the lord” means is the following. Mountain implies peak, apex, highest point, i.e. the wisest opinion, perspective will present itself at some point. This higher authority will thus need to be heeded. The “chief of the mountains” bit means that this person will have to recognized, supported and heeded as the leader of the generation. The part about the word going forth from Zion alludes to the fact that at some point this person will be installed in Jerusalem proper.

    The following has been sent to many people all around the world over the last seven years.

    MULTIPLE CHOICE QUESTION

    Do you believe “Moshiach” is…

    (a) A tasty Polish stew best served in the depths of winter.
    (b) An irrelevant, archaic concept with no relevance to today’s world.
    (c) A metaphor for an age of world peace and does not imply an actual person.
    (d) Alive and breathing right now on Planet Earth and is doing his work.
    (e) Has already lived and will return one day.
    (f) Not born yet and is not physically present on earth yet.
    (g) Best represented by the collective Jewish people and/or the State of Israel.

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