Israel is 70 Years Young

On May 14, 1948, the nation of Israel was “re-born” in a day with the termination of the 1922 British Mandate (preceded by the Balfour Declaration) and the proclamation of statehood by Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion.   The Jews had been dispersed from their homeland since 70 AD when the Roman Emperor Titus Vespasian invaded and destroyed the city and the Second Temple but on that day, 70 years ago, God’s prophecy that He would regather His people was fulfilled.

Isa 11:11-12  And it shall come to pass in that day, that the Lord shall set his hand again the second time to recover the remnant of his people, which shall be left, from Assyria, and from Egypt, and from Pathros, and from Cush, and from Elam, and from Shinar, and from Hamath, and from the islands of the sea. And he shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

The 70th “birthday” celebration will be held on 5 Iyar 5778, according to the Hebrew calendar with the day beginning at sundown (April 18-19, 2018 on the Gregorian calendar). (Read Israel Celebrates 70 Years As A Nation & the Significance for Christians).  

Interpreting Biblical Prophecy

Throughout the Bible, God has graciously given prophecies in patterns, types, and symbols as ways of revealing and pointing to future events.  Looking back at prophecies that have already been fulfilled, it’s easy to see how clearly God has revealed His purpose and plan to His people. But looking forward is not so easy.  

Interpreting biblical prophecy must be done with an understanding that only God knows the future, and that the patterns, types, and symbols are simply “whispers” of what is to come.  These “whispers” are given so we can discern the time and the seasons, and so we can know that our God is working all things together for His glory and our good.  

Always remember, interpretations of prophecies that are yet to be fulfilled may or may not be correct.  With that said, let’s look at the typology that Jesus gave to His disciples in the parable found in Matthew chapter 24.  The lesson it tells suggests that Jesus’ return may occur in the not too distant future.

The Parable of the Fig Tree

In Matthew 24, Jesus told the Parable of the Fig Tree to His disciples (Matt 24:32ff). This passage is prophesying of the time we know as the seventieth week of Daniel (Daniel 9), the time of Jacob’s trouble (Jer 30:7), and the Great Tribulation (Mat 24:21)

Jesus began His discourse with a mandate to learn this parable. Since Jesus commanded that we learn it, we should take it very seriously and do our best to understand His teaching.  

Mat 24:32  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.

Israel is the Fig Tree

Israel has been represented typologically, in the Old Testament, as a fig tree with both good and bad figs.

Jer 24:2  One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad. 

Jer 24:5  Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.

This clearly indicates that the “fig tree” is a symbol for Israel.  It is a “tree” that produces both good and bad figs.  The good figs representing those devoted to serving God (David, Daniel, etc) and the bad figs representing self-righteousness (many, especially the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus’ day).  The leave of the fig tree are what Adam and Eve tried to use to cover their sin (Gen 3:7) and the fig tree is the only tree that God ever cursed (Matt 21:19,20). Jeremiah clearly tells that fig tree represents religious Israel without fruit (Jer 24:2,5,8). 

Young and Tender?

Matthew 24:32 raises the question: since the fig tree is Israel when was Israel “young and tender?”  Certainly, it was not when Jesus was teaching.  The nation of Israel, God’s people, was ancient, dating as far back as God’s covenant with Abraham.  But in 70 AD the nation ceased to exist.  The Temple was destroyed by the Romans and the people were dispersed throughout the nations.  The language died, and there was no Israel.  But God, in His faithfulness, regathered His people and on May 14th, 1948 Israel was” born again” (statehood declared) and became a “young and tender fig tree.”

Israel was “young and tender” but not for long.  The day after statehood was declared a war with Arab nations began and then seven years later, in 1956, the Jews fought the Suez Canal War. With overwhelming odds, God gave them victories. Again in 1967, Israel was at war.  This time with their neighboring nation, Egypt and the combined forces of the Arab nations.  Known as the “Six Day War, Israel fought for six days. Once again, God gave them victory, and on the seventh day they rested (what a beautiful pattern from  “the beginning” Gen 1).  In the Six Day War, Israel gained control of God’s holy city, Jerusalem, the Sinai peninsula, and the west bank–the lands known to the Jews as Judea and Samaria. 

Jesus Gave a Warning and a Prophecy

Mat 24:33  “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it [the Tribulation] is near; at the doors!

All what things?  Earlier in His discourse, Jesus had said spoken of things they would see that would precede the Great Tribulation (Matt 24:4-21).  Let’s look at some of those verses.  Since Israel was reborn:

  • many have come in His name (vs 5). 
  • there have been many wars (vs 6),
  • nations have risen against other nations (vs 7). 
  • there has been famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in diverse places (vs7).  

Israel, in its “young and tender” years, has seen all these things.  All these are the “beginning of sorrows,” told Jesus (vs 8).  He then continued by telling of the things that will take place in the first 3 ½ years of the seventieth week of Daniel (Matt 24 9-20), things that are yet to come.  And finally, He told of the coming Great Tribulation (the last 3 ½ years) that would come, “such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.” (Mat 24:21)

When?

Remembering that we cannot know the day or the hour (Matt 24:36), but understanding that we are able and expected to discern the times and seasons (Luke 12:56), let’s continue

Mat 24:34-35  “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.”

What generation?  And what did Jesus mean when He said that this generation shall assuredly not pass away until all these things take place?

End Times Prophecy

Biblical scholars have long understood this chapter to offer information about the timing of the Great Tribulation.  It is centered on the “fig tree,” the young and tender Israel that was “birthed” in 1948.  It’s believed that is the generation that “will by no means pass away till all these things take place.” 

This now raises an important question. How many years is a generation?  The Bible defines a generation by various numbers of years.  

  • According to the standard set down in Genesis 15:12-16, a generation is 100 years. 
  • According to Moses, in Psalm 90:10, it is 70 (or 80) years. 
  • According to the passage in Matthew 1:17, it is about 42 years. 

Forty-two years? Seventy years? One hundred years?  We can rule out forty-two years since that would have been 1990 and the Tribulation did not take place then.  The next possibility would be 70 years.  Does that fit?

Seventy does seem to fit.  The nation was exiled from the land for 70 years (in Babylon) before they returned to rebuild the Temple.  So is it plausible that the nation could be “rebirthed” for 70 years before the Tribulation comes?  Could this be God “restoring the years the locust have eaten” (Joel 2:25) and “redeeming the time” (Eph 5:16, Col 4:5). The answer is, we don’t know.  Those are simply thoughts for consideration.  We certainly know that we are in the season of the last days.  Sin is rampant, apostasy is greatly increased.  We certainly live in a time that is likened unto “the days of Noah,” which Jesus said is another sign of the coming Tribulation (Mat 24:38).

Could the generation be 100 years?  Yes, it could be. Remember, Jesus said the generation would not pass away. It’s certainly possible that people born in 1948 could live for 100 years. Is a generation of 100 years more probable?  We simply do not know.

Conclusion

With the 70th “birthday” of Israel, we, as Christians, should be well aware of how quickly we are approaching the time of God’s fulfilling all things.  We do live in the last days.  There will be a time when Jesus comes for His Bride (Read: What is the Rapture?)   There will be a time of Jacob’s Trouble, a seventieth week of Daniel, a Great Tribulation (Jer 30:7, Dan 9, Matt 24:21). And whether the generation of the fig tree is 70 or 100 years, our commission remains the same as it has been since Jesus gave it:

Mat 28:19  Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost.
Mark 16:15  And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.

We are to be Jesus’ hands, His feet, and His mouth to show His love and to speak His good news of saving grace.  We don’t want anyone to go through the Tribulation.  The Book of Revelation tells how terribly bad it will be and Jesus desires that none should perish but rather obtain salvation in Him (2 Pet 3:9, 1 Th 5:9).  He has paid for all the sins of the world, but not all the people of the world have repented and trusted in Him.  Share the gospel with someone today:

Rom 10:9-10  That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.  For with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.

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Read also: Israel Celebrates 70 Years As A Nation & the Significance for Christians

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