In my previous post I concluded that the fig tree starting to bud on May 14, 1948, the date that Israel was reestablished as a nation. We also looked at many other factors indicating that the scene is being set for the Tribulation.
In light of these indications, what does the parable of the fig tree tell us regarding the timing of the Rapture. To begin with let me make two assertions. First, we cannot know the day or hour. Scripture asserts that the Lord knows the precise time, and what we can derive from Scripture are generalities. However, my second assertion is that these generalities are not irrelevant. I say that first of all because Jesus gave them to us, and therefore they must have meaning. In addition, the indications we do have are significant because they establish some parameters within which the Rapture will occur.
What are those parameters? We observed the first one in the previous post regarding the fig tree. We have significant reason to believe that the series of events initiated with the reforming of the nation Israel in 1948 marks the budding of the fig tree, which in itself gives indication that the time of the Rapture is near.
However, the parable of the fig tree also gives us a somewhat more concrete indicator. In Matthew 24:34 Jesus asserts, “Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” The language Jesus uses in this assertion is quite strong. He begins with the word “assuredly,” emphasizing the truth of what He was about to say. In asserting that this generation will not pass away Jesus again uses the emphatic expression “by no means,” again underscoring the certainty of this message. I find the strength of the language Jesus uses to be encouraging in that we tend to shy away from scriptural teaching regarding the time of the Rapture because of the statement of Scripture that we cannot know the day or the hour. That pronouncement tends to make Bible scholars gun shy regarding any indicators regarding the time of the Rapture. Added to that is the fact that people making pronouncements in time past have proved wrong and have made their followers appear foolish. Not wanting to be grouped with those people it appears safest not to say anything at all on the topic. Consequently, Jesus being so emphatic regarding the scope of time in which He will return gives encouragement despite these reservations to use this verse in addressing the subject.
Based on the previous post, I feel that good reason exists to identify May 14, 1948, as the beginning date for the generation that will see all those events recorded in Matthew 24:4-31 occur, which includes the Tribulation, the Second Coming of Christ.
This leads us to query as to the end point, what Jesus meant when He spoke of that generation passing away. Was he referring to a particular number of years comprising a generation such as 70 years? Do we find scriptural indicators as to the length of the generation?
Much speculation could go into the pursuit of an answer on that basis. Let me suggest an approach, that is, calculating that the generation in question has passed away when the very last person belonging to that generation has died. One advantage to that approach is that it establishes the longest possible duration for that generation. No reasonable calculation would go any longer than that, and therefore we can be certain that at least by the time that the last person of that generation dies all will be fulfilled. Another support for taking this position is that God is gracious and not willing that any should perish. Therefore, we might expect that God would provide the maximum opportunity, which this position does. (He waited until Methuselah died to bring the flood.)
When might we expect the last person from the generation to die? The person in recent years with the longest verifiable life span was a French lady named Jeanne Calment of France, who lived from 1875 until 1997, dying at age 122 years, 164 days. However, of the top oldest people currently living, all women, two are 116, three are 115, and five are 114. Assuming that medical science does not make any substantial breakthroughs significantly increasing lifespan, and assuming that God does not bring along another Methuselah, we have good reason to believe that the last person to die in the generation born in 1948 will probably pass away at around age 117, which would be in the year 2065.
Since according to the parable of the fig tree, the Tribulation will have occurred and the Second Coming will have taken place by that date, the Rapture would be seven years earlier, or 2058. Therefore, it appears that at the outside of the Rapture will have occurred on or before that time.
It must be emphasized that the parable of the fig tree is not teaching that the Rapture will occur at that time, but rather that the Rapture could occur any time up until that approximate date, including today. Since that end point is only 44 years away, those of you 40 and under can be relatively certain that the Rapture will occur in your lifetime.
Let me add one other speculation that moves the goalposts a little closer. When we read about the horrors of the Tribulation, and think about the statement of Jesus that unless the time was shortened few would survive, it is difficult to imagine aged people entering the Tribulation making it through. Imagine that by the end of the tribulation the oldest person from the 1948 generation still living would be 100 years old. That would place the last possible date for the Lord’s Second Coming at 2048, and the outside date for the Rapture at 2041, which is only 27 years from now.
All these possibilities are fun to think about, but they do make a couple of points. First, it is impossible to be precise regarding the latest date for the Rapture. But also, all these calculations fall into a relatively short span of time. Therefore, we can pinpoint within a couple of decades the farthest time at which the rapture will occur—and that is not far away. And predicated on that scripturally based conclusion we should follow the guidance provided by Jesus in Luke 21:28, “But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”