Every now and then it makes sense to take a step back and review the "big picture". The big picture in terms of where we are in history - where we are as a generation - and where we are in this unique position of observing biblical prophetic fulfillment - uniquely placed here at this particular time and place with front row seats watching events unfold precisely as foretold.
First of all, it is important to always remember how important knowledge of Jesus' coming is to Jesus Himself. It is enormously important to Jesus. In fact, His primary focus during his last days on earth (Matthew 24, Luke 21, Mark 13, Luke 24) involved His Church understanding and acting upon prophecies of His coming.
Several long segments in Luke 12 (12:25-41, 54-57) involved the importance of watching the prophetic signs for Christ's coming - to the point where Jesus clearly stated that He considered any so-called followers of His as "Hypocrits!" for not understanding the signs of His coming.
Following the resurrection, Jesus also expressed frustration at - not only the two men walking to Emmaus (Luke 24:13-28) - but to the apostles (Luke 24:44-49) as well. He took, what was obviosuly considerable time and effort, to explain all of the pertinent prophecies to both groups of men on these occasions and inform them that their misunderstanding of events was based on their inadequate knowledge/understanding of prophecy.
Jesus even told us what events to look for, so that we would know when this last generation would begin:
"You will hear of wars and rumors of wars, but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come. Nation will rise against nation and kingdom will rise against kingdom.
There will be famines and earthquakes in various places.
All these are the beginnings of birth pains."
What is a generation? **(See footnote at bottom)
For some odd reason this gets debated, but it seems clear. Coming from the root word "genea", there are, admittedly several possibilities in terms of correct interpretation. One of the more popular and one that I adopt because it seems obvious is that a generation is simply a life-span. I believe context makes it clear.
First of all - when did the world see a noteworthy spike in these initial signs? Signs that would indicate that that "last generation" would know the beginnings?
As pointed out by Arnold Fruchtenbaum in "Footsteps of the Messiah":
"The first sign or the first birth pain signifying that the last days of the age have begun was to be a world-wide conflict coupled with famines and earthquakes. This was fulfilled in 1914-1918. This also marks the first of the events leading up to the Tribulation."
As Dr. Fruchtenbaum points out in this book, the idiom "Nation against nation, kingdom against kingdom" represents "world war", and of course, WWI was indeed the first legitimate "world war". At that same time, the world witnessed an enormous increase in both earthquakes, famine and pestilence. I don't have the space or time to detail each fact supporting these ideas, but such information is found in the audio links above.
The fact that the first "birth pains" were observed during the WWI era effectively rules out several theories on what "genea" means, and already pretty much reduces it to a life-span, since we are presently closing in on 100 years since that era began.
Back to context in a second. What is a life-span today?
Oldest people: 120 years. Yes, there are actually a few people who have made the 120 year mark.
What does the bible say?
Interestingly, during His Olivet (end times) discourse, Jesus referred us to the story of Noah (Matthew 24:37) when He stated that these last days would be "like the days of Noah".
What do we know about "the days of Noah"?
Genesis 6:3 provides the clue:
"Then the Lord said, 'my Spirit will not contend with man forever, for he is mortal; his days will be a hundred and twenty years."
Isn't that interesting?
So we have the scriptures pointing out that God's determined length of a generation is 120 years, and indeed, in this era we have people living to 120 years.
Therefore, we are rapidly closing in on the very last days of this "generation". The math is pretty simple. And if you are looking for Jesus' coming for His Church, at least 7 years (Tribulation era) has to be subtracted from the 120 (recognizing a pre-tribulation Rapture), so the Church is now looking at < 113 years from the "beginnings of birth pains" (recognizing that the Rapture could have happened at any point during the Church Age, but we know it will happen prior to the beginning of the Tribulation). Now do that math.
Also we must recall that Jesus didn't state that the Church would be here on the last day prior to the beginning of the Tribuation - in fact, it could happen at any point prior to the beginning of the Tribulation. So subtract some additional time there.
Also we must recall that Jesus said that "this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have passed". In other words, one generation would see all of the signs He had just described, signs which included the Tribulation followed by His 2nd Coming. He didn't state that the events would unfold right up to the final day of the generation - just at some time frame within the generation. So subtract a few more years there.
Suffice to say this: We are very very close to the last days of this generation.
What else tells us that we are at the very end?
The initial birth pains have steadily increased throughout this generation:
Earthquakes, famine, pestilence and warfare have all increased in this generation to world-wide levels in an unprecedented way. There are more major earthquakes in a few years now as compared to entire centuries of the past. Warfare is now waged in ways that could never have been even dreamed of in the past. Same with world-wide famine and pestilences as both have become major stories at the end of this generation.
Daniel 12 informed us that the last generation would be a time of noteworthy travel and knowledge. That case doesn't even have to be made does it? Man's form of travel throughout history was horse/mule and buggy, and in one single generation, we now travel through space at supersonic speeds. Knowledge? This generation is most often referred to as the " the generation of knowledge explosion".
Daniel 12 also informed us that the prophetic scrolls would be opened in the last days. Try to find a book describing a literal view of prophecy prior to this generation. Now go to google and type in "Bible prophecy" and see how many links appear. Go to Amazon and do the same. The number of articles, books, commentary etc on biblical prophecy is astonishing. One generation.
We were told that we would witness a regathering or a coming together of the ancient Roman Empire just prior the coming of Christ. The EU, especially when considering their growth/extension via the Med Union, is virtually identical to the ancient Roman Empire geographically. Politically it is rapidly morphing into the same type of centralized governmental control as seen with the original Roman Empire.
We were told that Israel would, miraculously, be reunified as a nation, in their own land, "in a day". This is precisely what happened in 1948.
We were told that the nation of Israel would go from being a dried up desert, to a restored land - a land of water and plentiful crops - a perfect description of Israel today.
We were told that we would see warfare between Israel and her immediate enemies, such as Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, Egypt, etc., and today we have those alliances intact - and at the same time we see their governments becoming even more opposed to Israel and even more open calls for the destruction of Israel.
We were told (Ezekiel 38-39) that we would see an alliance between Russia, Iran and Turkey, along with northern Africa in an anti-Israel alliance - which is exactly what we see consolidating every single day. This alliance will attack Israel only to be thwarted by God Himself.
We were told that the world would see movements in the world's economic structure which would lead towards a single currency allowing for the "Mark of the Beast" and centralized control of such. Again - something that we watch daily.
We were told that the "Kings of the East" would rise in power and indeed we see this daily as well.
We were told that apostasy would reign throughout the world, and we see this occurring, tragically.
We were told that there would be a raging conflict over the status of Jerusalem and that the entire world would line up against Israel. What day passes where we don't see this?
We were told that Israel would be surrounded by her enemies. Is there any debating that?
So where are we?
We are at the very end of this generation. The generation that would see signs throughout it's history, cumulating in the 7-year Tribulation and the Second Coming of Christ Jesus as He comes to earth to set up his 1,000 year reign.
There is absolutely no doubting that fact. For those people who say "we can't know the time" or "we can't be sure" or "It may be another 100 years" - No, that isn't consistent with the facts. Period. The time is here and now. Period.
Not only are we at the end of this generation - we are at the very end of this generation.
So what are we to do?
One idea is clear. We are not to have a spirit of fear. Recall Jesus' first words on the topic?
"...but see to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen..." (Matthew 24:6)
Why not? How could we not have fear in the midst of these signs around us?
Jesus answered that question as well (and these scriptures are worth repeating over and over):
"When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift your heads, because your redemption is drawing near"
"Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near."
And below is one of my favorite instructions from Jesus Himself as far as what we are to do in these last days:
"...and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead - Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath."
(I Thessalonians 1:10)
"Thererfore encourage one another and build each other up."
(1 Thessalonians 5:11)
So what is the bottom line?
The take-home message?
1. We are at the very end of this generation.
2. Jesus is coming for His Bride.
3. With the knowledge of the above, we are to watch for His coming and while watching we are instructed to:
- Continue watching
- Look up and lift our heads
- Have no fear
- Realize that we are very close to receiving His kingdom
- Encourage one another with this news - build each other up.
After all, we have an epic reunion and celebration to attend very soon.
Not to mention the single most important aspect of prophecy watching - one that can never ever be forgotten:
We are on the verge of being in the very presence of our Lord and Savior: Jesus Christ. Just ponder that thought for a few minutes. I mean really think about that one. A one-to-one encounter with Jesus Himself. What will you say? What will you do?
After all, He is:
The same One who went to the cross on our behalf.
The same One who suffered unthinkable suffering and pain - all because of His enormous love for us.
The same One who looked directly into your eyes as he died on the cross and offered you the gift of salvation which only He could offer.
We will be with Him.
We will finally look into His face.
We will thank Him in person. Finally.
We will fall at His feet.
We will give Him our crowns.
We will love Him forever and He will love us forever.
We will love each other forever.
And that is just the beginning.
We will also reside in our eternal home:
With our Christian family.
What does that really mean?
When is the last time that you took a quick glance at your eternal home?
"The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold, as pure as glass.
The foundations of the city walls were decorated with every kind of precious stone.
The city does not need the sun or the moon to shine on it for the glory of God gives it light and the lamb its lamp.
Nothing impure will ever enter it.
And the angel showed me the river of the water of life, as clear as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the lamb down the middle of the street of the city.
On each side of the river stood the tree of life, bearing twelve crops of fruit, yielding its fruit every month.
And the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations.
No longer will there be any curse.
The throne of the and of the lamb will be in the city and his servants will serve him.
They will see his face...
They will not need the light of a lamp or the light of the sun, for the Lord God will give them light.
And they will reign for ever and ever.
The angel said to me,
"These things are trustworthy and true. The Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent his angel to show his servants the things that soon must take place"
"Come, Lord Jesus"
** Footnote: As stated in the "comments" section, there is one important point to be made:
For whatever divine reasons, God doesn't give prophecies which pertain to the Church - in terms of specific time frames, as He often does with prophecies pertaining to the Nation of Israel. There are many fascinating prophecies for the Nation of Israel that have timelines down to the exact day. Author Grant Jeffrey has done some great work on this topic.
However, unlike the Nation of Israel, the Church does not receive specific timelines as pertaining to prophecy. The Rapture is just one example of this - as we have no knowledge of this timeline. It is a mystery. The generational signs are the same. We know that all of the events which Jesus described in Matthew 24 will be fulfilled before a single generation ends.
My look at dates was only to reveal how close we are to the end of the generation - so at some point between now and the next few years (5 years? 10 years? 5 months? Who knows?) - the earth will experience all remaining prophecies that Jesus described, including the Second Coming. That means although we realize we are very close, that is as much as we'll ever know as far as "timelines".
So all we know from that, is the idea that fulfillment will occur before the generation ends. How long before that generation ends is anyone's guess. We really can't even specify the exact date that the generation began (we only have a general timeframe, which is somewhere inside of a 4-8 year period).
Additionally, the Rapture of the Church will come at an unknown time prior to the beginning of the Tribulation - adding yet another variable.
The fact that we are getting closer and closer to the end of the generation (as opposed to calculating exact dates, etc.) is all we need to know - and based on these general signs, we should be "looking up" for our redemption.