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Archive for the tag “Understanding End Times”

The Fig Tree

As my small group discussed the cursing of the Fig Tree found in Mark 11, I sat there wondering why Jesus would curse a tree and then tell His disciples to have faith when He was asked about it. Jesus hardly ever answered people in a direct way. His conversations never seem to flow as expected.

The Samaritan woman at the well comes to mind (story found in John 4). She asked Jesus about physical needs, but Jesus responded about spiritual needs. That was Jesus’ way – we look for physical fulfillment when Jesus looks for spiritual fulfillment. But the fig tree didn’t seem to be about anything spiritual, or was it?

The story of the fig tree starts with Jesus going to the fig tree to feed his hunger. Because the fig tree had leaves, the fruit was expected to be hanging from underneath, but the tree bore no fruit. Jesus said to the tree, “May no one eat fruit from you again.” Seems a bit harsh since just before Jesus cursed the tree, Mark wrote it was not the season for figs. Shouldn’t Jesus have expected to find no figs since it was not the season? Yet, He looked for figs.

The next day, the disciples passed the fig tree once again. However, this time the tree was withered from the roots. Peter remarked about the tree being withered and Jesus responded “Have faith in God.” Doesn’t His response seem a bit odd? That’s the thing that had me a bit stumped as I listened to the small group discussion. As I sat there, thoughts began to flow concerning this tree and the time this all took place – the last week of Jesus’ life.

Jesus’ ministry was coming to an end. The disciples were getting ready to embark on a new path – they didn’t know it yet, but a new age was about to begin with them. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree may have been the beginning of the end of Israel as they knew it. Israel had been back in the land for a few centuries by that time. They had been looking for their Messiah to come to save them from the physical presence of Rome. Jesus didn’t come as their physical savior, but as their spiritual Savoir. The leadership didn’t get the distinction.

John the Baptist came on the scene to open the way for Jesus – repent for the Kingdom of God is near.  He prepared the path for Jesus to walk. Jesus continued the message of repentance, but the leadership rejected His message and they did not repent. God gave Israel three years to hear the truth. Some responded to the message and recognized Jesus as the Messiah. They were the ones selected for the next season – the harvest season.

Throughout Scripture I am told, fig trees represented Israel. Jesus’ curse of the fig tree was ultimately cursing Israel for their lack of repentance. When Jesus left this earth, Israel was doomed to fall. Forty years later, Rome conquered Israel and dispersed most of the inhabitants to the rest of the world. The unfruitful season for Israel was complete and a new season dawned. The church age began – a season of great harvest.

It would begin with the followers of Jesus who brought forth the Word of Jesus throughout the world over the next two thousand years. The early Christian Jews were not part of the curse because they had faith in God as Jesus told them in Mark 11:22. They believed Jesus was who He said He was. Jesus spoke about having faith in God as they prayed and to do so in His name. Jesus told His followers do not doubt in your heart but believe what you say will happen, it will be done for you (my paraphrase of Mark 11:23 about telling the mountain to move). It was the main instruction for the church age to flourish.

If you read through Mark 13, you will see the signs of the end of the age – the end of the church (harvest) age. Jesus said the lesson of the fig tree was to watch for twigs to become tender and the leaves to come out then we will know when summer is near (Mark 13:28). Jesus said when these times begin, we are to know the end is near, right at the door (Mark 13:29).

Again, the fig tree representing Israel, we can gather from this passage: when Israel is once again established in their land and prospering, which they are today; the church age is almost done. There are more Jews today who are tender toward Jesus than ever before. The leaves of prosperity are abundant and before long, Israel will be the one bearing the fruit – the church will be gone and it will be left to Israel to bring home the final harvest. Jesus will return to Israel to receive the bounty.

As followers of Jesus, it is our responsibility to share what we know and tell others of the Good News. We have a Savior the world needs – they may think they have physical needs, but in reality we all have spiritual needs. If God can bring Israel back from the far corners of the world, then He can and will fulfill the rest of His plan. He will finish what He started – in each one of us and throughout the world. Believe and do not doubt – have faith in God – this is the lesson of the fig tree. He is who He says He is and He will do what He says He will do.

“Be careful that you never allow your hearts to grow cold. Remain passionate and free from anxiety and the worries of this life. Then you will not be caught off guard by what happens. Don’t let me come and find you drunk or careless in living like everyone else. For that day will come as a shocking surprise to all, like a downpour that drenches everyone, catching many unaware and un-prepared. Keep a constant watch over your soul, and pray for the courage and grace to prevail over these things that are destined to occur and that you will stand before the presence of the Son of Man with a clear conscience.” Luke 21:34-36 (TPT)

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What is Today?

Have you ever lost track of what day it is? I work three days a week. If the boss calls off one of those days, it gets me off track. When I wake up, my first thought is “am I supposed to get ready for work today?” I have had one of those weeks. I didn’t work on Monday so Wednesday felt like Monday. Then Friday didn’t feel like Friday. This is Saturday, right? If you are retired, you may not be able to answer that question either.

I get a little overwhelmed with all the chaos in the world today. I am weary with all the fighting and hatred that seems to flow through every channel – whether it’s political or not. I get discouraged to think we could never pull through this strife. Maybe we will, but sometimes I don’t ever think we’ll get back on track. I think “Pandora ’s Box” has been opened and it can never be shut again. But then I remember what day it is. Scripture told us this would happen. We are close to the end if not at the very end of the times as we know them. These are the last days and it would be well to remember it.

This week’s reading was the book 1984 by George Orwell. It is a very negative book of a world gone off kilter. I don’t think I have ever read it before. There was a quote read recently which made me pick up the book at the library. It was an interesting vision of the future. Written in the 1940’s during the German campaign to rule the world, the time was dark anyway and the author projected that darkness into word. What’s worse is some of the concepts in his book may be seen in this world we live in today. Sometimes, I would forget this was just pure fiction in 1940’s Europe.

The famous line in the book is “Big Brother is watching you.” Big Brother was the governmental entity of his fictional country Oceania. In his fictional account, there were only three countries – established by the major superpowers – US, Russia and China. All the other countries had been conquered or surrendered to these three powers. And these three were always at war with one another. There was no peace. I am glad it was fiction – but it was a little too real for me and left me feeling this great divide of where we are and where we should be with no hope of crossing the gap.

I know this post seems to be a little down. However, when I picked up my Bible this morning I read a passage which reminded me this is not all there is. Yes, the world has gone crazy. I believe demons have been released for a frontal assault. But this is not the last word, God has it. Things may seem crazy, but God is just putting things into place.

I see this by the way of Israel. Israel is our time clock. All eyes should be on Israel. And God protects His people. He always has and He always will. Look to Israel. They still exist today because of God’s grace and mercy. However, the enemy never gives up either.

Russia, Iran and Turkey are aligning against Israel, just as the Prophets foretold it. The world hates Israel. Why? It’s a tiny country. What have they done to deserve this hatred? They exist. That’s the only reason. Satan has been trying to destroy Israel since God promised Abraham that his nation would bless all others by the way of Jesus.

Jesus was hated by the world system. The world system has continued to hate Israel. This will never change. Jesus said because He was hated, His people would be hated as well. We have seen this in the past, but today it is so more pronounced. Hatred seems to be flowing more freely than ever before. Or maybe we have greater access through many channels.

In George Orwell’s account, they had two minutes of hate speech every week broadcasted throughout the land by the telescreens located everywhere. Two minutes – wouldn’t that be a great relief than the 24 hours we get every day. I know – it’s not that bad – yet. One day, it’s all going to come to a moment of decision which will change the world for good. I don’t know who’s going to make the critical decision, but all I know it’s within God’s timetable and His plans.

Before that point in time, we have an opportunity to remind those around us, “God loves you.” At no other time in history is that message more needed. Today is the first day of the rest of our lives. Let us make the most of this day and be the light in this dark world. Someone needs us today.

Dear Lord, help us to make the most of this time before it’s too late. Give us the blessings of grace and mercy to love those around us for the sake of the Kingdom. Let us be the people who You have chosen for this hour. Grant us the wisdom to discern the time and the opportunities that are before us. Help us to choose to live for You and die to ourselves today. In the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ I pray. Amen.

Lord, how many are my foes!
How many rise up against me!
Many are saying of me,
“God will not deliver him.”

But you, Lord, are a shield around me,
my glory, the One who lifts my head high.
I call out to the Lord,
and he answers me from his holy mountain.

Psalm 3:1-3

What time is it?

I have a clock on my mantel that is about fifteen or so years old. As long as the battery lasts, it keeps good time. The ticking clock does annoy me when I am trying to concentrate or rest! Ticking sounds are supposed to be relaxing but not to me. For the last few weeks, the ticking continues but the hands never move. I have replaced the battery, but there is still no movement. It’s the only clock in the room. When I need to know the time, I have to get out of my chair and go to another source to find the time. The lack of movement of those minute and second hands reminds me that time is always moving whether we recognize it or not. Time never stands still. We are here on this earth just a short time. It may seem long in earthly years; but eternal years, it’s just a blip on the eternal clock.

I was listening to Anne Graham Lotz teaching from the book of Joel in her conference from earlier this year at The Cove. She believes we are in the last moments of time before Jesus comes back. I tend to agree with her. The “natural” and man-made disasters are occurring too frequently to think it’s just a coincidence. God is slow to pronounce judgment just yet, but I believe He is giving us the warning signs that judgment is coming. He is slow because He wants no one to perish. He is giving us time to reach our friends and neighbors to tell them about Jesus. He is giving His church time to clean house and get things in order. I am reminded every now and then that we are to pay attention to the time. God sends us the signals for our benefit so that we are not caught unaware.

At my small group last night, we discussed the first coming of Jesus. No one recognized the time. Jesus came in the form of a baby. No one expected Him. After a long time of waiting, the people of God were complacent. They lost track of their purpose. People drift along with the current times and forget that God sets in motion the exact time and place for His promises to be fulfilled. God had been silent for four hundred years. There wasn’t a prophet to announce another word – it had already been foretold previously. The people of God were supposed to know the signs and significance of the coming, but they missed it. Even Jesus’ family missed the significance. His half-brothers didn’t understand until after Jesus’ resurrection. Then the light dawned for them.

I wonder what it’s going to take to wake us up to see what God wants us to see. How will we recognize our own time? God foretold the news of Jesus’ return in the Bible. More prophecies are written about His second coming than His first. Yet, are we really paying attention? I can imagine the time of Jesus’ first coming when life was happening. The time was brutal. People were in desperate times. I used to think that the time we are in now is worse than anything we’ve ever witnessed before. But reality is: the times really haven’t changed much throughout the centuries. Evil is still evil. And evil has been around from the beginning. We just have the means with technology to see it in real-time. Evil just takes a different form now – but it’s still evil. People are still in desperate times. For those of us in North America, we are insulated from real desperation. We don’t experience the trouble like our brothers and sisters in other parts of the world experience on a daily basis.

Anne and Joel Rosenberg were teaching the book of Joel so that those who were hearing these things could help others to know and understand too. We are told to be “watchmen on the wall.” We need to be watching the signs and telling others of the importance of what we are seeing and hearing. We were encouraged to study and teach this small book as well. I am anticipating the glorious appearing. There is still time to reach my people with the word before it’s too late. Time may be running out. The clock is ticking. The hands may not be moving where I can actually see them, but God is always at work – even when it all seems quiet on the western front. It is never as it seems.

“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Matthew 24:32-33

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