I am a Family Physician. Two or three years ago I had a delightful almost-100 year old WW2 veteran as my patient. Physically he was skin and bones but his mental status was untouched by time. His eyes would shine with joy!
During one visit, in the context of our current world situation, he stated with great enthusiasm: “The rapture is so close! It is so close! And just imagine, after it happens, there will be nothing left but Democrats!” I laughed so loudly that my nurse next door almost hit the big red emergency button!
I believe this brave patriot and brother in Christ was spot on. Please entertain a few conjectures with me!
Our Lord stated: “…this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Mt. 24: 34-35 and Lk. 21:32-33 NASB).
Both Matthew and Luke clarify which generation this is. It is the generation that sees the fig tree (Israel–and Luke adds: “and all the trees”—i.e. we Gentiles) put forth their leaves. It is the generation that finds itself at the end of the Braxton Hicks contractions, just as these prodromal (false labor) contractions transition into true labor cramps.
Let’s face it, wars, rumors of wars, famines, earthquakes, persecutions, false prophets, plagues and solar phenomena have occurred throughout the Church Age. These are what Jesus calls “the beginning of birth pangs” (Mt. 24:8). But Jesus stated there will be a “this generation”–a terminal generation, if you will. But how do we determine what identifies the terminal generation?
As Norman Geisler once said: “A text taken out of its context is a pretext.”[i][i] The context is that Jesus was speaking to Jews living in their homeland. If I might take the freedom to add my thoughts between His words: “This generation [of Jews in the land of Israel] will not pass away until all these things take place.” It could not have been the AD 33 generation because “all these things” didn’t take place then. So it must be the generation of Jews living in Israel that sees the signs of the end times (i.e “Summer”–Luke 21:30) occurring.
Of all the end-times signs Jesus enumerates, the least obvious may be the most profound: The re-founding of the nation of Israel on May 14, 1948. If you were a Jew in Israel at the time of Messiah, being scattered to the four corners of the world would probably not have been foremost on your mind. But it happened, just as Jesus predicted it would, in AD 70 (Luke 19:43-44; 21:44).
It seems to me that this singular event started the prophetic clock ticking toward midnight. In it, multiple “last days” prophecies began their fulfillment. “Who has heard such a thing? Who has seen such things? Can a land be born in one day? Can a nation be brought forth all at once?” (Isaiah 66:8). Yes, Israel May 14, 1948.
“For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land” (Ezekial 36:24). “The establishment of the modern state of Israel indicates this has initially begun”[ii][ii]
So, if May 14, 1948 marks the beginning of the final generation, what exactly is the length of a generation? If we look to the Bible it gives us an interesting possibility. “As for the days of our life, they contain seventy years, or if due to strength, eighty years” (Psalm 90:10). The World Health Organization states that the average lifespan of an Israeli is 82.5 years[iii][iii], (80.6 years for a male and 84.3 years for a female). It appears that God has blessed the Jews with much strength!
Now for some interesting math: Scripture teaches that Jesus will take his Church home before the seven year period of tribulation. Let’s say the terminal Israeli generation has an 80 year shelf life. AD 1948 + 80 years = AD 2028. AD 2028 minus seven years (the tribulation). Is AD 2021.
There is a danger in date-setting. Jesus was quite clear that no human knows the day or hour of His return for the church (Mark 13:32). He did, however, say that when we see the signs of His soon coming we can be sure that “summer is near” (Mt. 24:32). It would appear that we are on the verge of summer.
This leads to another question: How much of a generation must be living before one can say that that generation had all passed away? Does it mean >50% must be living when He returns or can it mean that He could wait until there was just one person left living from the 1948 generation? It seems to me more likely to be the former than the latter. Which would mean that truly any day now the church could be called home!
It does appear that we are “so close to the rapture!” to quote my WW2 friend above. How certain is it? Jesus said: “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away” (Luke 21:33). In other words, the very ground you are standing on now and the air you are breathing is less dependable than Jesus’ words. He will come just as He said He would. And it appears His coming is soon (Revelation 22:6)! Maranatha! Come Lord Jesus!
Matthew L. Rice
[i][i] Personal notes taken at Dallas Theological Seminary between 1979-1983.
[ii][ii] MacArthur Study Bible, Large Print Edition, NASB, page 1177, footnote on Ezekial 36:24.