Then Jesus went out and departed from the temple, and His disciples came up to show Him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Assuredly, I say to you, not one stone shall be left here upon another, that shall not be thrown down." Now as He sat on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" Matthew 24:1-3
One of the most common rebukes used to discourage people from studying prophecy or the Rapture of the Church is a passage taken from Jesus in the Olivet Discourse. In Matthew 24:36, Jesus states but of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. On the surface, it appears that Jesus was trying to dissuade His disciples from trying figure out when exactly all these fantastical things He had just shared with them would occur. Yet, if Jesus was really trying to dissuade them from knowing, why explain in such great detail all the things He does concerning the original three questions they asked?
At the time of the Olivet Discourse, Jesus had not been arrested, tried, crucified, or resurrected so even the events surrounding even that very week was not fully clear to the disciples. At His arrest, the disciples scattered, Peter would go on to deny Christ three times, and they would watch in agony as their Messiah gets publicly and humiliatingly nailed to a cross. Even after His resurrection and subsequent forty days amongst them, the disciples were still in confusion as to what was to happen next.
Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, "Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?" And He said to them, "It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth." Acts 1:6-8
We have the luxury today of reading all these events in our neatly chaptered and versed Bibles with a great deal of theological, historical, and archeological hindsight. We often read into the text this idea that the disciples should have known what was is clearly plain to us. They did not have a New Testament explaining all this to them. It would not be for some time after Christ ascended in which these future things would be revealed to them.
After Pentecost, the Apostles were now being shown by God the Holy Spirit all the things which would take place for them then and in the days to come. This knowledge was not all given to Peter or James, but to each according to their ministry and to what God wanted them to know at the appropriate time. It was to the Apostle Paul that Christ revealed the mystery of this new creation known as the Church. Pulling from an ever growing Gentile audience and consisting of both Jew and Gentile converts, the Church would become in Christ neither Jew nor Gentile. The Church would become a hybrid and unique entity conceived at Pentecost by the giving of the Holy Spirit and would continue to grow until some future point when the fullness of the Gentiles is complete.
God's mechanism for transferring His attention and purposes from the Church back to Israel, is known as the Rapture of the Church. This event accomplishes several things, the first of which is fulfilling a promise Christ made to them (and us) in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14:1-3). That if He went away (He did), that He would return and take us to be where He is (He will). Then God would return His focus solely back upon the nation of Israel to finish that final week of Daniel's Seventy Weeks of which He determined (chathak) to them that He would complete the six items listed below.
"Seventy weeks are determined
For your people and for your holy city,
(1) To finish the transgression,
(2) To make an end of sins,
(3) To make reconciliation for iniquity,
(4) To bring in everlasting righteousness,
(5) To seal up vision and prophecy,
(6) And to anoint the Most Holy. Dan. 9:24 (emphasis mine)
These things HAVE to happen. As mentioned in my article last week, God does not shrink away from revealing specific things to us and for us. On one hand, we have God revealing via the Angel Gabriel to Daniel the exact timing of Christ's First Advent to the earth as the God-Man. This ended exactly at the 69th week with the Messiah being cut off. On the other, what is not revealed to Daniel (or later to the disciples), is that there would be a 2,000-year gap in time we now refer to as the Church Age or the Age of Grace. This is a unique time for a body of believers from every tribe, tongue, and nation who are brought into the singularly-corporate body of Christ. This global drawing is what Paul referred to as the fullness of the Gentiles in Romans 11:25. It is a summation of what Jesus stated in two passages within Matthew's gospel.
And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. Matthew 24:14
And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, "All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age." Amen. Matt. 28:17-19
Having now two thousand years of church history behind us, we can see with crystal-clear clarity that the Gospel has indeed gone out into all the nations. This is not to say that the Gospel has been embraced by every nation and taken root, but you can bet there are believers in every nation on earth and believers of every major tribe and tongue. Satan has worked very diligently to blanket the earth with antichristian governments and religions (e.g....Communism, Islam, atheism, etc.). So this brings me back to the original issue regarding Matthew 24:36; can we know when Christ will return at His Second Advent?
- The answer absolutely yes. It will be seven years from the start of that final 70th Week.
- What we can't know is when that final week will start. That final week will not commence until after the Church is removed at the Rapture, triggering or allowing a covenant to be made by Israel with the many (Dan. 9:27).
Both the Church and subsequently the Church Age were a mystery both to Daniel and the other Old Testament Prophets as well as to the disciples. The disciples, as mentioned previously, asked Christ when He would restore the Kingdom to Israel. They were still thinking in terms of the Old Testament prophecies and promises which had been made to Israel. It would not be until the Apostle Paul later reveals that the Church has a different timeline and destiny than that of national Israel. Speaking to the believers at the church at Ephesus Paul writes...
...having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth-in Him. Eph.1:9-10
Paul had shared with the church in Rome...
For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Romans 11:25
We cannot know the day or hour of the Rapture simply because the Church as an extension of Christ Himself (we are His body), adopted heirs, and an object of His affection will continue to grow and mature until this fullness of the Gentiles comes to a culmination point. Will that culmination point be in 2017? It might be...but I do not know for certain. However, I do believe 2017 will be significant to Israel if the historical pattern holds true (1897, 1917, 1947, 1967, 1977, 1987-see previous article).
This fullness of the Gentiles serves as a bookend of sorts, capping the age of the church from Pentecost until Rapture. At Pentecost, the Holy Spirit came to earth in spectacular fashion (Acts. 2:1-4). At the Rapture, those Spirit-sealed believers are also removed from the earth in spectacular fashion (Ephesians 1:11-14; 1 Cor. 15:51-55).
The Church is the singular, corporate, multi-membered body of Christ. I am not saying that no other person (Jew or Gentile) will be saved after the Rapture. We know that they do according to Rev. 6:9-11 amongst other Revelation passages. In truth, the Gospel will continue on into the Tribulation by the 144,000 Jewish male virgins and with the angelic proclamations in the Heavens (Rev. 14:6-7), but those who come to faith after the Rapture are not Church-Age saints.
Some might argue this point, but considering all the variations we plainly see within humanity, within the angelic ranks, and within creation itself, speaks volumes to the idea that within the redeemed, there is also variation and distinctions. The Church-Age saints are as distinct from the Old Testament saints (or pre-Christ saints), as they will be from the post-Rapture saints. The main distinction itself coming from the knowledge of Christ. The OT Saints knew a Messiah would come, but they didn't know exactly who, when, or how. They had faith that One would come and this time of waiting was completed with John the Baptist.
You yourselves bear me witness that I said, 'I am not the Christ,' but, 'I have been sent before Him.' He who has the bride is the bridegroom; but the friend of the bridegroom, who stands and hears him, rejoices greatly because of the bridegroom's voice. Therefore this joy of mine is fulfilled. He must increase, but I must decrease. John 3:28-30
The Church had knowledge of Christ and His coming but were not eyewitnesses (except for those in Jerusalem/Judea in Christ's day). We had to take things by faith and by God's word.
Jesus said to him, "Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." John 20:29
Those who come to faith after the Rapture will be plunged into the darkest period of human history replete with supernatural signs, wonders, and judgments, as well as having witnessed the Rapture event itself. This fullness of the Gentiles is not to be confused with the times of the Gentiles which does not find its completion until the end of the seven-year Tribulation (Luke 21:24).
Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near-at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. "But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, but My Father only. Matt. 24:32-36 (emphasis mine)
We often get hung up with the identity of the fig tree. But whether we attribute it to the nation of Israel (Judges 9:10-11; Jeremiah 24:1-10; Hosea 9:10; Mark 11:12-14; etc.), or not, we understand the intent of the parable. Christ said when its branch has become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. He didn't say you may know, or you might know, but He said, you know.
Christ spent His precious time and energy conveying to His disciples (and to us) these signs of the times so that we will know that the season is near, even at the doors! If 2017 holds true to historical patterns, then something significant should happen as it regards to Israel (i.e...the fig tree). That means God is getting ready to conclude this current Church Age, and return His focus back to the nation of Israel. He did not bring her back out of national extinction and diaspora, to continue on indefinitely with her and the Church Age overlapping. That overlap will come to an end just as it did before and He will finish what He started with her regarding Daniel's 70 Weeks.
Like a countdown, we have seen 120, 100, 70, 50, 40, and 30 year-markers as well as three Jubilee cycles (two of which overlap) happening in the same period of time. Perhaps 2017 does come and go without a peep and we are still here. At this point, then I would really be looking up. Either 2017 comes and goes, or we do, but therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect (Matt. 24:44).