After Winter, Before Summer - By Michael Hile - http://www.raptureready.com/soap2/hile1.html
The Song of Solomon talks about the Bridegroom coming for His Bride after “winter is past.” The book of Luke tells us that “the kingdom of God is near at hand” when “the fig tree, and all the trees…shoot forth” and “summer is near at hand.” The expression “winter is past” lets us know that summer has probably not yet arrived. The statement “summer is near at hand” implies that winter has passed and summer is close, but not yet here. After winter but before summer points to spring as the season when the Bridegroom says “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13, Luke 21:28-36).
According to the Scriptural references just cited, spring is the season when “the fig tree putteth forth her green figs,” “her branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves,”summer is near” and “the kingdom of God is near at hand” (Song of Solomon 2:10-13, Mark 13:28-29, Luke 21:29-31, Matthew 24:32-33). When “winter is past” and “summer is near,” the season in between is spring, and we are told “when ye shall see all these things” we are to emphatically “know that it (the Bridegroom and the kingdom of God) is near, even at the doors.” Will the Bridegroom arrive at some future date in the spring, perhaps on the Feast of Pentecost?
Although no sign is given in the Scriptures concerning “the day and hour” of the Rapture, some believe Hebrews 10:25 implies that we will be able to see the day of the Rapture approaching: “...Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.” Anticipation of the approaching rapture of God’s saints seems to be implied in Luke 21:28: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
The timing of the Rapture, also called the “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13, will be as a thief in the night to those not watching, but the “times and seasons” of the Rapture will not be a surprise to those who are looking for His return (1 Thessalonians 5:4, Matthew 25:1-13). Christ told His apostles, as recorded in Acts 1:6-7, that it was not for them “...to know the times or the seasons...” for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Understanding the mystery of “the times and seasons” of the kingdom’s restoration was not for the apostles to know but was to be reserved for a future generation.
However; Christ called the Pharisees and Scribes hypocrites for not being able to “discern the signs of the times” and for not recognizing “the time of their visitation.” Because Israel did not recognize the coming of their Messiah, they were temporarily blinded and this was disclosed when Jesus said “now the things which belong unto thy peace” are “now hid from thine eyes” (Matthew 16:1-3, Luke 19:41-44).
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:34-35).
When Jesus cursed Israel for not recognizing the time of their visitation and for killing the prophets and stoning the messengers sent to them, He was also condemning the Pharisees and Sadducees, representatives of religious Israel, for not producing good fruit in their lives. John the Baptist spoke of this earlier.
“But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance…And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10).
Israel’s lack of spiritual fruit was reflected in its religious leaders and symbolized by the cursing of the fig tree when it did not bring forth fruit. In the parable of the barren fig tree, the tree had not produced any fruit in three years, which paralleled the three years Christ had been ministering to the fruitless, Jewish, religious leaders. If the fig tree would not produce fruit during the next, spring, growth cycle, (which paralleled many of Christ’s miracles) it was to be cut down and burned.
“He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).
When Israel failed to produce any spiritual fruit after the third year of Christ’s ministry to the Jewish people, the kingdom of God was denied them, and they were sentenced to be “cut down” like a fruitless tree and cast into the fire. This happened when the Roman army destroyed Jerusalem in 70 A.D. and fulfilled Christ’s prediction that “there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (Mark 13:2).
The cursing of the fig tree symbolized Christ’s rejection of Israel for not recognizing the time of their visitation by the Messiah, Jesus Christ.
“And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry: And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet. And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter forever. And his disciples heard it…And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away” (Mark 11:12-21).
Did the Lord forsake Israel permanently? Absolutely not! Paul informs us that Israel will one day be restored.
“For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:25-27).
“And the Lord shall scatter you among the nations, and ye shall be left few in number among the heathen, whither the Lord shall lead you. And there ye shall serve gods, the work of men’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see, nor hear, nor eat, nor smell. But if from thence thou shalt seek the Lord thy God, thou shalt find him, if thou seek him with all thy heart and with all thy soul
When thou art in tribulation, and all these things are come upon thee, even in the latter days, if thou turn to the Lord thy God, and shalt be obedient unto his voice; (For the Lord thy God is a merciful God;) he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them” (Deuteronomy 4:27-31).
Job discloses the path a tree can follow to be restored after it has been cut down.
“For there is hope of a tree, if it be cut down, that it will sprout again, and that the tender branch thereof will not cease. Though the root thereof wax old in the earth, and the stock thereof die in the ground; Yet through the scent of water it will bud, and bring forth boughs like a plant” (Job 14:7-9).
The prophet Isaiah predicted that Israel would one day “blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit” (Isaiah 27:6).
“And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God” (Amos 9:14-15).
“Behold, I will gather them out of all countries, whither I have driven them in mine anger, and in my fury, and in great wrath; and I will bring them again unto this place, and I will cause them to dwell safely: And they shall be my people, and I will be their God: And I will give them one heart, and one way, that they may fear me forever, for the good of them, and of their children after them:
And I will make an everlasting covenant with them, that I will not turn away from them, to do them good; but I will put my fear in their hearts, that they shall not depart from me. Yea, I will rejoice over them to do them good, and I will plant them in this land assuredly with my whole heart and with my whole soul. For thus saith the Lord; Like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people, so will I bring upon them all the good that I have promised them” (Jeremiah 32:37-42).
“And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled” (Luke 21:29-32—also Matthew 24:32-34, Mark 13:29-32).
Israel is sometimes represented by the olive tree, fig tree or vine in the Scriptures, and other kingdoms/nations are also represented by trees (Judges 9:8-15, Daniel 4:10-28, Romans 11:13-24, Luke 21:29-31). An example of Israel being represented by the fig tree is revealed by the Lord to Jeremiah where He shows him good figs and bad figs with the good figs representing the Jews carried to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel, Ezekiel and the others who were deported were considered to be “very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe…” (Jeremiah 24:2). Looking into the future, Israel will not be considered “good figs” until after the Lord returns with His saints to redeem the Jewish remnant and set up His millennial kingdom.
When Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948, the fig tree was symbolically planted back in its land. The parable of the fig tree does not mention any figs being present when it is restored or planted back in its land. The only signs of life present in the fig tree are the branch being tender and the leaves beginning to grow. However, when the Bridegroom returns in the air for His Bride, there will be green figs present on the fig tree (Song of Solomon 2:13). The figs will still be green (untimely figs) when God’s judgment falls on the Jewish people when they are in tribulation (Deut. 4:27-31, Rev. 6:13).
The presence of green figs is a sign that the figs (unbelieving Jewish remnant—Zech. 13:8-9) should be ripening soon, and harvest time (for both the godly and ungodly) is near (Dan. 12:1-3; Matt. 13:36-43, 25:31-46; Rev. 19:15). The Jewish remnant will be unripened “green figs” up until their conversion when the Lord returns at His second coming. The appearance of the fig tree (Israel) back in its land is a sign that the generation living at that time “will not pass away before the kingdom of God is established (Dan. 2:44; 7:18, 26-27; Rev. 19:11-21).
When the Lord returns in the air for His saints, there will be two categories of people on the earth. The saved and unsaved, also called believers and unbelievers. All of the unbelievers will be caught off guard when the Lord returns for His saints “as a thief in the night.” Some of the unbelievers are also “scoffers” who mock and make fun of the Lord’s return for His saints. Among the believers, there will be those “watching,” “those not watching,” and some “not watching but scoffing.”
“If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Rev. 3:3). Those who ignore the prophetic Scriptures and make light of those who follow “the signs of the times” are in effect mocking the return of Christ and not taking the Word of God seriously.
“Knowing this first, that there shall come in the last days scoffers, walking after their own lusts, and saying, Where is the promise of his coming?” (2 Peter 3:3-14; Luke 12:31-48). “For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off” (Romans 11:21-22).
Those scoffing at the Lord’s return will not see “the day approaching.” That is why Daniel said that at “the time of the end” the wicked would not understand but the wise would understand (Daniel 12:10). Those who are seriously following the Lord will be following the example given in Malachi 3:16-18 and Hebrews 10:25 and will be encouraging, exhorting and comforting one another as 1 Thess. 5:11 instructs us.
“Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not” (Malachi 3:16-18).
Which category do you fall into?
Are you a believer or an unbeliever? Are you serving God or not serving God? Are you a “ hearer only” and not a “doer” of the word (James 1:22-25)? Are you “watching,” “not watching” or “scoffing” at those who are “watching?” Is your name recorded in the book of remembrance mentioned in Malachi?
Although we don’t know “the day or hour” when the Lord will return in the air for His Saints, we can “see the day approaching.” Are you “watching,” and will you be prepared to give an account of your life when the trumpet sounds (1 Thess. 4:13-18—5:1-11, Matt. 12:36, Hebrews 9:28) ?
“And now, little children, abide in him; that, when he shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before him at his coming” (1 John 2:28).