Is it the End of the World?

Is it the End of the World?

The Fig Tree Parable

posted by jfletcher

A key prophecy of the last days is found in Matthew 24—the famous parable of the budding fig tree (the same reference is found in Luke 21 and Mark 13).

The identity of the obviously symbolic passage has been hotly debated for years, and now my friend Michael Neutzling has brought fresh research and insight into the fig tree parable.

Let’s first look at the passages themselves:

“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. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:32-35)

He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31)

“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 these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:28-31)

The accounts in Matthew and Mark are virtually the same, giving a bit more detail. Preterists (those who believe most of the “last days” prophecies were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70), point to the “this generation” phrase as relating to the generation Jesus was literally addressing that day in the so-called “Olivet Discourse.”

Scholars such as Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center, see the implications of this view:

“If this notion is granted, then almost all of Bible prophecy is not to be anticipated in the future, but is past history.”

Ice also specifically discusses the interpretation of “this generation”:

“You must make your determination from the passage under discussion and how it is used in that particular context. Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning or referent under discussion.

“Now why does ‘this generation’ in Matthew 24:34 (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32), not refer to Christ’s contemporaries? Because the governing referent to ‘this generation’ is ‘all these things.’ Since Jesus is giving an extended prophetic discourse of future events, one must first determine the nature of ‘all these things’ prophesied in verses 4 through 31 to know what generation Christ is referencing. Since ‘all these things’ did not take place in the first century then the generation that Christ speaks of must be future. Christ is saying that the generation that sees ‘all these things’ occur will not cease to exist until all the events of the future tribulation are literally fulfilled. Frankly, this is both a literal interpretation and one that was not fulfilled in the first century. Christ is not ultimately speaking to His contemporaries, but to the generation to whom the signs of Matthew 24 will become evident.”

I cite Ice because I think he’s one of the best Bible prophecy scholars alive today. I am excited that Michael Neutzling is continuing in this tradition by bringing the fig tree parable to light again in his new book, The Fig Tree Parable: Israel Wins in…2018?

Some will accuse Neutzling of date setting, something I stay away from. It’s a hot-button issue, if for no other reason than the missed dates set by some like Harold Camping have done great harm to the teaching of Bible prophecy.

Overlooking Jerusalem's Old City, 2011

I don’t think Michael is doing this, and further, his spotlight of Israel as the “fig tree” is correct, in my view. He’s done an outstanding job putting the idea forth that not only is Israel the reference in these gospel passages, but that the intensifying international pressure on Israel is bringing us to the very door of the fulfillment of all the great end-times prophecies.

It’s a book I think is more than worth checking out.

Long Live Israel!

posted by jfletcher
Israel's Scroll of Independence

Israel’s Scroll of Independence

As we sit now between Israel’s Independence Day celebrations (according to the Jewish calendar, the Israeli celebration was yesterday—in America, we look forward to May 14), I thought it would be interesting to visit with a man I greatly admire, Kenneth Bialkin. The chairman of the America-Israel Friendship League (AIFL), Bialkin has a front-row seat when it comes to the American-Israel relationship.

Bialkin is a thoughtful observer, and his reflections on Independence Day are especially insightful.

“This year Independence Day is right after Memorial Day (“Yom Hashoah Ve-Hagevurah” in Hebrew). The entire country stops, the sirens ring, people get out of their cars and stand in the streets for a moment of silence in memory of the people who died in the Holocaust. It is a solemn day, remembering those who perished.

“A week later is Independence Day. A day of celebration, like our Fourth of July, which gives thanks and celebrates the freedom that is preserved from the time in 1948 when a relatively small group announced the independence of Israel.”

Bialkin recognizes Israel’s remarkable accomplishments and also acknowledges the challenges the country faces.

“Here we are in 2014 and this is a special celebration. Israel is still the only free country in the whole region, in all of the Middle East. It’s the only one that hasn’t seen rebellion, revolution, or civil war. On every border, its neighbors are fighting: civil war in Syria; conflicts in Lebanon amongst the various sects; the struggle in almost every country between those who are fighting terrorism and those who are practicing terrorism (sometimes you can’t tell the difference between them). And here is Israel, in the midst of that region, able to keep its independence, freedom, and dignity and democracy. It stands there as America’s main ally in the fight against terror.”

As with every year of Israel’s modern existence, there are dangers lurking.

“The pressure of Iran hangs over the region and later this year we will learn whether the interim agreement with Iran will be such that Iran gives up the prospect of a nuclear weapon. Israel and the U.S. will have to agree on Iran if they [Iranians] balk on the prospect of giving up a nuclear device.”

Israel has enjoyed the support of an overwhelming majority of the American public. Bialkin appreciates this, but also wonders where American political leadership stands.

“If you look at analysis of public opinion in America, it’s astounding how strong the support for Israel is, notwithstanding the fact that—just to put it delicately—no one really knows where America [politically] stands on these issues in the peace process.

“America has now called a timeout in the negotiations because the parties were unable to come to an agreement in all these months of brokered negotiations. So we all have to be careful and watchful.”

Recently, Secretary of State John Kerry raised eyebrows when he told a private gathering that if negotiations with the Palestinians fail, Israel risks being seen as an “apartheid state.”

Kerry’s unfortunate remarks created a firestorm.

“The expressions of the secretary of state create a certain ambiguity of where the administration lies in how long and how strongly it will stand by and support Israel fully. But I think the American public and Congress haven’t wavered a bit. And I think we can all take a great deal of comfort in the fact
that most people in America love freedom and love Israel.”

With friends like Kenneth Bialkin, Israel is in good hands. May the connection between our two countries remain unbreakable!

Untold News

posted by jfletcher

In Mitchell Bard’s op-ed in the Huffington Post, posted April 24 (“Defining ‘Pro Israel’ Is Not Rocket-Science”), the scholar set down his 13 “attributes” one must possess in order to be called pro-Israel. I was particularly intrigued with no. 3, given the fact that we too often hear only negative things about Israel and her neighbors. Bard states:

“Emphasizes the good in Israel while acknowledging the faults, rather than emphasizing the faults and ignoring Israel’s virtues.”

More and more, I am drawn to this theme. I find that people who have been indifferent to the Jewish state, or in some cases hostile, listen thoughtfully when hearing (usually for the first time) that Israel does a heck of a lot of good in the world.

Untold News (www.untoldnews.org) is such a source of information. Founder Marcella Rosen has assembled a team that reports on Israeli innovation in a host of fields: medicine, agriculture, and technology. Almost all these efforts are truly astonishing in scope.

Take the plans to develop desalination plants. The Middle East, of course, has oil…but not so much water. Israeli engineers are able to obtain fresh water from seawater!

(The Israelis are also leading innovators in drip-irrigation techniques, used around the world. Imagine my shock while driving near the Dead Sea for the first time and seeing vast palm groves dotting what was once a moonscape. Israel has no peer when it comes to reclaiming the land from centuries of ruin and neglect.)

Yoram Oren is one of the researchers making desalination a reality. The Ben-Gurion University professor is up to the daunting (and daring) task:

“Nature seeks equilibrium,” he says. “Desalination, separating the salt from sea water to make fresh water, is an act of overcoming what nature is seeking. It’s not easy.”

With precious water sources like the Jordan River hotly contested among Israel and her neighbors, desalination is almost miraculous.

Israeli scientist Sidney Loeb developed—in the ‘60s—a semi-permeable membrane that made possible the process of reverse osmosis. From there, modern Israeli innovators have made the process work.

Or consider the case of a Palestinian baby, born with a heart defect. She was treated at an Israeli hospital, made possible through an Israeli charity. Untold News archives many such amazing stories, and Rosen is thrilled with the tremendous feedback her team’s efforts have garnered:

“From the hospital to the farm, from outer space to your kitchen, Israel’s life-saving, life-giving, life-enhancing creations make a positive difference every day in your life, in the lives of people you care about and in the lives of people you’ll never meet.

“It’s my firm belief that the world needs to hear this story — about a tiny nation where an unprecedented degree of life-altering work is being done every day. Further, the world shouldn’t wait to hear it.”

Rosen’s book, Tiny Dynamo, is a quick read chock-full of amazing stories of Israeli innovation.

Desalination is just one Israeli innovation that is helping make the world a better place.

Desalination is just one Israeli innovation that is helping make the world a better place.

“This book tells 21 stories about Israelis who are emblematic of their nation’s determination to make a positive difference,” Rosen writes, “And the work through which they’re expressing that determination. I chose these stories because they represent a cross-section of what’s going on within Israel’s borders . . . but for every story I chose, there are dozens more that could have been included.”

Untold News is telling a story that everyone needs to hear: a story of hope and positive change in a volatile region of the world.

It is a thrilling story that gives us hope.

Into the Cauldron

posted by jfletcher
Terry James' book table at the Mid-America Prophecy Conference.

Terry James’ book table at the Mid-America Prophecy Conference.

We live in an era in which much of Bible prophecy teaching is mocked and marginalized.

And I’m just talking about from within the Christian community! To be more specific, it is becoming popular within some evangelical circles to bash prophecy teaching and prophecy teachers.

To be fair, some Bible prophecy teachers over the years have engaged in date setting or other irresponsible speculations. However, those few who have done so have provided ammo to the scoffers, who hold them up for (proper) ridicule, while also tarring the rest of the prophecy community with the same brush.

It is a Straw Man argument and one that tragically convinces many young people not to listen to prophecy teaching. I do lament those within the prophecy community who have harmed the cause with wild speculations.

Terry James, though, isn’t one of them.

My dear friend of two decades is perhaps the current patriarch of the movement. He is one of the most credible, responsible, and biblical prophecy teachers, ever. I started my editing and writing career by editing Terry’s books. His ability to teach sometimes-difficult concepts, and his keen eye for prophetic signals in our world compelled me to follow in his footsteps.

I have the privilege of visiting with him regularly, and enjoy writing for RaptureReady (the world’s largest Bible prophecy website), his co-endeavor with our good friend, Todd Strandberg.

So it is that I have eagerly anticipated the arrival of Terry’s new prophecy book, Cauldron, which is one of the best primers for the prophecy student…that I’ve ever seen. Terry told me recently:

“I wrote it in much more down-to-earth terms…I want it to be a basic understanding of where the Middle East is going.”

That includes his explanations of the nations involved, the importance of Jerusalem, Israel’s role in the last days, etc.

He not only outlines prophecy for the novice, he skillfully analyzes a whole range of reasons Bible prophecy is relevant for the individual.

I read a lot of Bible prophecy books, and enjoy many of them. Few though hit on all cylinders like Cauldron.

So wherever you purchase books, remember—Cauldron: Supernatural Implications of the Current Middle East and Why What Happens Next Will Be Important to You.

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