INTRODUCTION. Our first paper was devoted almost entirely to the story of Joash. But now we must ask a few questions about chronology, because we want to know when God’s Kingdom will be set up. A number of Biblical pointers will help us in this enquiry.
THE EPISTLE OF BARNABAS. One of the N.T. Apocryphal Books is that of Barnabas. In quoting it, we shall not be treating it as having the same authority as Scripture. But it does show us how people in the 2nd century A.D. were thinking.
“Even in the beginning of creation He makes mention of the Sabbath. And God made in six days the works of His hands and He finished them on the seventh day, and He rested the seventh day and sanctified it. Consider, my children, what that signifies. He finished them in six days. The meaning of it is this; in 6000 years the Lord God will bring all things to an end. For with Him one day is 1000 years, as Himself testifies, saying ‘Behold this day shall be 1000 years.’ Therefore children, in six days, that is 6000 years shall all things be accomplished. And what is it that He says, ‘And He rested the seventh day’? He means this; that when His Son shall come, and abolish the season of the wicked one, and judge the ungodly, and shall change the sun and the moon and the stars, then shall He gloriously rest the seventh day.” (Ep.Barnabas chapter 12:1-10)
THE “CHILIAST”. A Chiliast is a person who sees the Biblical chronology in periods of 1000 years. And in particular, he is aMillennialist, which title always applies to the 1000 year reign of Christ. Barnabas was therefore a Chiliast in the full sense of the word. Many Biblical expositors have been Chiliasts. Many Christians are essentially the same in thought, waiting for the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. Just how near is it?
THE “SABBATISM”. In Hebrews chapter 4, the writer tells us that “there remains therefore a Sabbatism for the people of God – – let us labour therefore to enter that Rest, lest any fall short through unbelief.” It was therefore clearly understood in those early days that God’s Sabbath Rest was still future, and was to be entered ON CONDITION of active faith and obedience to God. Perhaps Barnabas learned about it from Hebrews. So once again, we must ask, how near is this Sabbatism?
THE PASSOVER LAMB. In Rev.13:8 John is told that Jesus is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.” In the purposes of God, His beloved Son accepted the role of Redeemer from the day that sin entered the world. But Jesus never entered the world as Sin-bearer until long after Adam. In Gal.4:4 Paul says that “in the fullness of time, God sent His Son.” Hence, the timing of Christ’s coming was very particular, when the tale of years had run its course. How long was this? In Exodus 12:3 we read that the Passover Lamb was SELECTED on the 10th day of Nisan, and SLAIN on the 14th day. Hence, FOUR days passed. Can these four days represent 4000 years? Surely they must, otherwise there would have been no point in the Lord making the legislation. None of His words are without significance.
THE STUDY OF CHRONOLOGY. Old Testament chronology demands very careful study, and scholars are by no means agreed as to the dating of important events. But taking an overall view, it would be correct to say that Abraham arrived on the historical stage at about 2000 years after Adam. Solomon’s Temple was erected at about 3000, and Jesus was born at about 4000 after Adam. This tends to authenticate the conclusion about the four days of Passover.
THE NEXT 2000 YEARS. Although the actual date of Jesus’ birth ( calculated looking FORWARD from Adam) is not known with any accuracy, we can be sure that nearly 2000 years has passed since then. We are now living in AD 1996, and nobody doubts the counting of those years. Does the Bible suggest this period of 2000 years? A cryptic word in the prophecy of Hosea 6:1-2 may do so, even though the meaning is variously interpreted. “Come, and let us return unto the Lord. He has torn, and He will heal us. He has smitten, and He will bind us up. AFTER TWO DAYS He will revive us. IN THE THIRD DAY He will raise us up, and we shall live in His sight.” If these words refer to God’s Hebrew people then they have indeed been torn and smitten during the last 2000 years. But in 1948 Israel became a nation again. Are we seeing the beginning of this prophecy’s fulfilment?
THE CASE OF THE FIG TREE. Because it’s getting clearer that we are living at the very end of the 6th millennium, it becomes urgent for us to pursue this enquiry even further. In the Gospels there is an interesting event recorded about the withering of a fig tree. See Mark 11:13. “And on the morrow, when they were come to Bethany, He was hungry, and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, He came, if haply He might find anything thereon. But when He came to it He found nothing but leaves, for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus said to it, ‘No man will eat fruit of you hereafter.'” In verse 20, we read, “The next morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots.”
Most Westerners find this story perplexing. Why, if it was ‘not the time for figs’ did the tree receive its ‘death sentence’? A knowledge of the way figs grow settles the matter and provides us with an important understanding of this parabolic event. Jesus saw the tree just before Passover, when He was crucified. At that time of the year fig trees would normally have ‘first ripe’ figs, known as Tagsh, small fruits which fall off. Unless these ‘first-ripe’ fruits are in evidence, there will be no harvest of the main crop later. After 3 years of ministry Jesus saw no ‘first-ripe fruit’ in His nation, and knew that there would be no ‘main crop’ later. Hence the judgment.
This judgment didn’t come straight away. On the cross the Lord asked His Father to forgive the nation. And a reprieve was granted, a space of 40 years in which Peter and Paul evangelised every outpost of Jewry. But as Paul told the Thessalonians, “The Jews both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us, and they please not God, and are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins always, for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.” (1 Th.2:14) That wrath was particularly in evidence in AD 70 when Jerusalem was destroyed by Titus. The Jewish nation then ceased to exist. The “Fig Tree” had withered and died, by Jesus’ word.
MORE ABOUT THE FIG TREE. However, this is not the end of the matter. The Fig Tree has always been the national symbol of Israel as a nation, and the Lord had more to say about it prophetically. Speaking of the “end days” just prior to His return, He said, “Now learn a parable of the Fig Tree, when his branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near, so likewise when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. THIS generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matt.24:32-34) So the drying up of the Fig was NOT the end! The Lord gave a future hope for His wayward people.
It was May 15th 1848 when it happened. The constitution of the new nation had been drawn up the previous November, and in May there was a new nation of Israel. The Fig Tree was tender once more, and since then has been “putting forth leaves” whereby we know that “summer is nigh”, and the return of the Lord is within THIS GENERATION. Almost half a century has now passed. The time must be at hand.
A JEWISH PRAYER. Let us not be as some, who see naught but bad in Israel. That tendency has been far too rife in history. It is time to rejoice, that God should have mercy on the Jewish people, and restore them to their land, even in the midst of turmoil. Let us hear a modern Jewish prayer. “Oh Most Merciful, make us to inherit the day when all shall be Sabbath, and all shall rest in life for ever; Oh Most Merciful, cause us to be inheritors of the day when all shall be good; Oh Most Merciful, make us worthy to see the days of the Messiah, and to live in the world to come; may He who exalts the salvation of His king, and shows mercy to His anointed, to David and his seed for evermore, who causes peace to exist in the heavens, cause His peace to be upon us, and upon all Israel. Amen.” And shall not we, as Gentile Christians, say a loud Amen! to that, even knowing that the Jews are still largely unaware of who their Messiah is?
Yes, the days are at hand. The time of “summer” is near. We need to heed the parable, and the clear message of the chronology that has just been set forth.
THE TYPE OF NOAH. In Genesis we are told that Noah was 600 years old when the flood of waters was upon the earth. Equally as clearly we are told that when he emerged from the Ark, he was 601. In other words, he had spent six centuries in the old world, and now he was spending his seventh century in the new world. Here is another type of the 6000 years, followed by the Millennial Sabbath Rest. Jesus used Noah as an illustration from a different angle. He cautioned us to be always watchful and waiting, “for you know not the day or the hour.” Carelessness (of any type) may cause some to “miss the last bus home.”
THE MARRIAGE FEAST IN CANA. Jesus’ first recorded miracle was at Cana in Galilee, where He turned water into wine. By reading verses 19,29,35,and 43 in John chapter one, and then the first verse of ch.2, it can easily be shown that the wedding took place on the “seventh day”. The 7th day from what, is indeterminate. But it doesn’t matter. John is using a parable, as did his Master with the Fig Tree. The Wedding was on the “seventh day”. It is a symbol of the “Marriage Supper of the Lamb” which will occur in the Millennium, when men will everywhere “drink the new wine of the Kingdom,” the BEST wine, kept to the last!
THE SIGNS OF THE TIMES. Finally, let us review the signs of the times, which Jesus listed in His Olivet discourse. Many will tell us that these signs have more or less been evident over the whole of the last 2000 years, and therefore have no clout for today. But this misses the point altogether. It is ONLY when the Fig Tree shows its budding that the signs have any relevance. It is ONLY in “that generation” that the signs take on a special meaning. Whereas watchfulness was enjoined by the Lord for ALL His followers, at ALL times, these special signs are given to assist in the last days.
We read of false christs, and false prophets, of lawlessness abounding, of the love of many of God’s people growing cold, of distress of nations and men’s hearts failing them for fear of what’s going to happen next in the world, of fearful sights and great signs in the skies, and of an unexpected and prodigious growth in earthquake violence, famines, and pestilences.
What do we have? Blatant hypocrisy being shown by some who set themselves up as Christ-figures, and obtain huge followings, all manner of false prophecy abounding in certain parts of the churches, an ugly growth of accusation, animosity and intolerance amongst Christians, lawlessness being legalised, thereby creating an unsafe environment for most urban-living people, a technological age in which almost anything could happen to destroy the planet on which we live, numerous reports of UFOs (since 1947), a rise in the number of Richter-6+ quakes which defies all predictions, huge areas of famine in some parts of the world, and diseases which are out of all control, and of a type never before known, like AIDS and Ebola virus. Need we say any more?
We could write reams about any one of these factors, but it would only cause a depression to read, and therefore we desist. Our purpose in writing is to generate faith, and create a watchfulness, based upon the mounting evidence of the END being so near.
A few years ago the Lord said to us, “You are privileged to be living at the cross-roads of history.” Such words cause a tingle of excitement, and make us realise just how important it is to wake up to the urgency of the days, and to be much before the Lord in prayer, not just for our own sakes, but to herald the Lord’s Kingdom. Our excitement in fact should never be self-centred. It is the Lord’s Day that is coming. It is the Lord’s Sabbath Rest that is near. It is the Lord’s Reign that we are called upon to share. Let us forget ourselves, and become immersed in all that God is about to do for a weary world.
A LAST WORD ABOUT THE FIG TREE. Yes, something has been left out. In Luke’s gospel, and because Luke was especially the Gentile evangelist, he recorded a few extra words which Matthew left out. They are in Luke 21:29. “Behold the Fig Tree AND ALL THE TREES.” If the Fig Tree is the Jewish national tree, then what are all the other trees? They must represent other nations of the world and in the meaning of the parable, they should also be seen to be in bud. What does this mean? It means that they also reach nation-hood. Has it happened? The answer is YES. Since the beginning of the century no less than 85 nations have gained independence, 70 being since 1948, when Israel re-appeared on the map.(For an in-depth study on national independence, see P.T. 44) Here then is another clear pointer. “Be watchful and strengthen the things which remain, that are about to die, for I have not found your works perfect before God. If you will not watch, I will come on you as a thief, and you shall not know at what hour I will arrive.” Rev.3:2-3 5