Copyright 1994 - 2023 Bill's Bible Basics
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Published On :
November 5, 2007
Last Updated :
January 3, 2009
NOTE: This article or series has not been updated recently. As such, it may possibly contain some outdated information, and/or ideas and beliefs which I no longer embrace, or which have changed to some degree.
Danger Of Perverting Meaning Of The Scriptures, Exposing The "At Any Moment" Folks, Danger Power And Strong Influence Of Cultish Belief Systems, Signs Of Cult-Like Organizations And Churches, Danger Of Leading God's Children Astray, Stumbling Blocks, The Troublesome 52 Years, 2019 Their New Prediction, I Don't Know When Jesus Will Return, Persevere In Patience, To Live Is Christ - To Die Is Gain, Fruit Of False Prophets, Modern Fast Living vs Ancient Simple Living, Backgrounds Of Apostles, Gospel Parables, Truth Reserved For Sincere Folks, Build The Temple In Three Days?, Christ's Resurrection And Jewish Elders' Grave Robbery Deception, Parable Of Fig Tree, Certainty Of God's Word - Sure Word Of Prophecy, Why Matthew Chapter 24 Came About, Related Series, Foul Weather Parable, Caiaphas' Words And Plot To Kill Jesus, Free Through Christ, Blindness Of The Jews, Rejected By His Own Jewish Brethren
Continuing our discussion from part one, let me ask you something: When these American Christian leaders and preachers pervert the meaning of the Scriptures in order to convince their flocks that the Day of Christ is at hand, aren't they doing the same thing as these radicals? Maybe they are not blowing up anything, but the results of their misguided words can be just as disastrous. Not only are they trying to force God's Hand, and dictate His plan, but their failed prophecies can have very negative effects in the lives of their followers. I can only wonder how many young, impressionable Christians may have lost their faith in God, and in the Bible as His inspired Word, when Jesus didn't make an appearance in 2,000. Their hopes must have been extremely high, but were probably dashed to the ground when nothing happened. Did God fail them? No; those leaders did by propagating a false doctrine and a deception.
To reiterate a point I made earlier, it is a serious matter to purposely distort the meaning of God's Word, in order to try to support one of our own pet doctrines. Even if it is done in ignorance, it can still have negative consequences. The New Testament informs us that the First Century Apostles encountered this same problem when certain individuals tried to understand the Apostle Paul's more profound writings. In his second Epistle, the Apostle Peter writes the following. I have added a word in brackets to clarify Peter's words:
"As also in all his [Paul's] epistles, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction."
2 Peter 3:16, KJV
In the original Greek, that word "wrest" means to twist, or to turn awry. Metaphorically, it means to pervert or torture language in a false sense. In short, "wrest" means to assign a meaning which is not true to the intent of the author.
It may surprise you to learn that the Apostle Paul also had a problem with the "At any moment" folks, who likewise held the belief that Jesus was going to return at any moment. As I explain in other articles which deal with Endtime events, in his second Epistle to the brethren at Thessalonika, Paul wrote the following. Again, I have added a few words for the sake of clarification:
"Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, [the Rapture] that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day [Christ's Return] shall not come, except there come a falling away first, [the Apostasy] and that man of sin [the Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition;"
2 Thessalonians 2:1-3, KJV
As I have done in this series, the Apostle Paul then goes on to explain exactly why those people were wrong to assume that Jesus would return at any moment. Please refer to some of my other articles, such as "Who Hindered the Antichrist?", for further details regarding this issue.
Well, some two thousand years have passed, and it seems that the "At any moment" people are still with us today. I know exactly how some of these Christians must have felt in 2,000 when Jesus failed to appear, as their leaders had told them that He most assuredly would; because many years ago, when I was a young, idealistic, teenage Christian who was eager to serve the Lord, I also became mesmerized by one group which emphasized the importance of Bible prophecy. They likewise had specific beliefs regarding Endtime events and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. Sadly, they too were very wrong.
Thankfully, some years later, I realized how misguided their leadership had been in a number of areas, and how deceived I had become; and by God's Grace I was eventually able to pull myself out from under their influence. But it was not easy. Once one has been involved with a church or organization for any appreciable length of time, it can take literally years before one is able to completely rid himself of their ideas, and other influences. Cult-like organizations and churches use very powerful, persuasive, subtle techniques; and unless one is careful, he can become completely engulfed in their belief system before he realizes it.
A word to the wise . . .
Any time that a church or an organization elevates a man or a woman, or its group leadership, above God, beware! You are probably dealing with a cult. In addition, any time that a church or an organization gives precedence and preference to their own teachings, and esteems those doctrines above what is actually contained in the Bible, beware! You are probably dealing with a cult. Even if the church or organization does hold the Bible in high regard, if their doctrines in any way conflict with what is taught in the Bible, beware! You may be dealing with a cult! Whatever you do, please don't fall under the popular misconception that cults are only comprised of secretive leaders and members who hide away in communes or in basements. There are in fact some high-profile churches, and popular preachers and evangelists, who do seem to qualify as cults, and cult leaders, even if they have been shrouded in an aura or respectability.
If you still haven't understood what I just said, please take the time to read the last paragraph again, until you are sure that you do understand it.
Returning to the year 2,000 "Jesus is coming" fiasco, and how it may have had a negative effect on some Christians, I have mentioned before that in the Scriptures, Jesus offers a very serious warning regarding those people who cause His children to fall from the faith. Please realize that in the following verse, the word "offend" is somewhat of a mistranslation. It is derived from the Greek word "skandalizo". According to my Greek lexicon, the primary meaning of this word is "to put a stumbling block or impediment in the way, upon which another may trip and fall, metaph. to offend". Jesus specifically said:
"But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea."
Matthew 18:6, KJV
So it is indeed serious business to cause one to fall away from the faith. Tragically, in spite of the fact that these American Christian leaders and preachers were so very wrong regarding their predictions that Jesus would return in the year 2,000, apparently, as is evidenced by the message that I received from this person, some of them are still at it, and are still trying to force their interpretation upon the Scriptures. Obviously, these false prophets cannot deny that adding fifty-two years to 1948 was a major blooper on their part. Not only did they lead many Christian people astray, but they gave free ammunition to the enemies of our faith; that is, to the atheists, and made us Christians look like half-witted idiots. These leaders have been a reproach to the name of Christ.
But apparently, some of them still can't seem to let go of the idea that there must have been some secret meaning in Jesus' words regarding the Parable of the Fig Tree, and the word "generation". They are still trying to squeeze a deeper meaning out of it, and still attempting to figure out how the number fifty-two fits into the equation. Having realized their error in adding 52 to 1948, some of these leaders are now suggesting to their followers that the triggering event for counting to the year of the Lord's Return, was not the birth of the nation of Israel in May of 1948, but rather the 1967 "Six Day War", in which, against all odds, Israel was victorious over her Arab enemies, and reclaimed the eastern half of Jerusalem, as well as the Golan Heights, (which were recaptured a second time during the 1973 Yom Kippur War).
In other words, if this person's email message to me is any indication of what is now happening in American prophetic circles, then these Christian leaders have now scrapped the 52 + 1948 equation, (and rightly so), and are now using the 52 + 1967 equation. In other words, as this person points out in his message, it seems that some of these preachers are now suggesting that Jesus will make His Appearance in the year 2019; that is, 52 + 1967.
So what are my thoughts on the above speculation? Well, quite frankly, at this point in time, I honestly don't know in what year Jesus will return, and I am not ashamed to say so. As I have already pointed out, I am waiting for certain Endtime events to occur, so that I can get my prophetic bearing, and hopefully, by God's Grace, properly gauge where we are at in the Endtime timeline. Until I am absolutely certain of this, and have a good idea of when Jesus will be returning, please don't expect me to publicly state any given year, as some of these American preachers have so foolishly done, to their own shame.
Since the time that I first began this online ministry not quite fourteen years ago, I have never offered a date, and I have absolutely no intentions of offering one now; so please don't hold your breath. For the record, I have been reading the news, watching world developments, and patiently waiting for some of the Endtime prophetic events to be fulfilled for almost forty years; and I will keep on waiting. If, by God's Will, I should die anytime soon before the Lord appears, I suppose that my waiting will be over, as I'll go to see Him face-to-face anyway. As the Apostle Paul so famously wrote:
"For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you."
Philippians 1:21-24, KJV
But no matter what I do, one thing is absolutely certain: I most certainly won't place my faith in anything that these American false prophets are saying, no matter how convincing it may sound. I have told my readers many times before that Jesus very specifically stated in the Gospel of Matthew that we can know a tree by its fruits; and the prophetic fruit of some of these American spiritual leaders is obviously rotten and definitely not good for one's health. Jesus stated the following regarding the false prophets of His own time:
"Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them."
Matthew 7:15-20, KJV
Those of you who are Christians, and who are reading this, may have already been familiar with that final verse, but did you know that when read in its proper context, Jesus was actually warning us about false prophets? Well, there it is before your very eyes. The evil fruit of a false prophet is obviously a false prophecy . . . like the year 2,000 "Jesus is coming" prophecy.
In part one of this series, I mentioned that I would offer an explanation regarding why I don't believe that Jesus was using the Parable of the Fig Tree as a veiled message which, as we have already seen, some American preachers have chosen to interpret as being a cryptic reference to the creation of the State of Israel in 1948. While I have already presented some of my arguments to explain why I've adopted my current position, there are other reasons as well, which I will now share with you.
In addressing this issue, I think that it is important that we first understand the huge difference which exists between many people of our current time, and those who lived almost two thousand years ago. Unlike ourselves, who live in a very loud, fast-paced, modern, gadget-oriented world filled with all kinds of electronic and technological distractions, the people of two thousand years ago lived in a more leisurely, natural world. By leisurely, I do not mean that they all led easy lives; after all, the Jews of that period were in fact subservient to Roman domination and cruelty; but what I do mean, is that they led slower lives, compared with today.
Because the Jews led slower lives, without all of our modern trappings and distractions, obviously, they had more time to observe the natural world around them, and they were in fact in tune with it. From the calendar that they used, to when they chose to plant their crops, or to breed their animals, or to make long journeys, as well as the very holy days that they celebrated, everything that they did was in large part determined by their observation of the natural world.
It is to this environment that Jesus arrived preaching the Gospel of Salvation. While the proud people of the twenty- first century like to boast of their intelligence, I posit that the people of that era were equally as smart. This does not mean that they understood all of the advanced scientific concepts that have been discovered in our current time, but they weren't stupid either. In fact, as I have noted before, unlike some Bible-bashing evolutionists, I believe that God created the first man and woman with intelligence. I do not believe that the first couple communicated by grunting and groaning, as is so often depicted in a number of modern pro- evolutionary movies. Yet at the same time, I also believe that the people of 2,000 years ago were simpler as well.
In the case of the Twelve Apostles, to whom the message of Matthew chapter twenty-four was directed, we also need to remember that they weren't exactly what we would call the cream of Jewish society. They weren't highly educated men. The majority were fishermen from Galilee, along with a few revolutionaries, (the Zealots), a tax collector, etc. Jesus undoubtedly kept this fact in mind when He spoke with them. Yet, at the same time, I also suspect that it was probably because of their lower social status, that Jesus chose them in the first place. For more on this topic, I encourage you to read my article "The Only Credentials You Need", as well as "The Wisdom Of God vs The Philosophy Of Men".
My point in all of this, is that Jesus fully understood into what kind of world He was coming, and He adapted His message so that it would reach, and be understood, by as many people as possible. What better way was there to reach out to those people then, if not by speaking to them of things with which they were already familiar in their daily lives?
Thus, as the Gospels will clearly attest, Jesus often shared simple moral-containing stories, into which He would inject familiar elements from their surroundings. Today, we refer to these stories as Parables. Exactly what kind of Parable Jesus shared, depended a lot upon whom He was speaking with. In the case of His followers, He would often share stories where the meaning was rather clear. After all, what would be the purpose of sharing a story with them, if they were left scratching their heads, and wondering what He had said? They would learn nothing from such an experience. But in spite of the Lord's best efforts to be clear, sometimes His Disciples weren't able to immediately grasp the meaning of His words. In such cases, the Lord would often later more fully explain to them what it was that He meant.
At the same time, there were other occasions where the Lord was purposely ambiguous, such as when He was challenged or provoked by His unbelieving Jewish enemies. Jesus even told His close followers that He purposely did this, so that, in His words, "seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand". Consider the full context of what the Lord said to His Disciples in Luke chapter eight, after sharing the Parable of the Sower with them:
"And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand. Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God . . ."
Luke 8:9-11, KJV
In Matthew chapter eight, we find another account concerning the very same event. Consider again what happened, as well as how Jesus responded:
"And the disciples came, and said unto him, Why speakest thou unto them in parables? He answered and said unto them, Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it is not given. For whosoever hath, to him shall be given, and he shall have more abundance: but whosoever hath not, from him shall be taken away even that he hath. Therefore speak I to them in parables: because they seeing see not; and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand. And in them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive: For this people’s heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. But blessed are your eyes, for they see: and your ears, for they hear."
Matthew 13:10-16, KJV
As you can see, Jesus was eager to share the spiritual riches of His Father's Kingdom with His sincere followers; yet, as I noted before, when it came to His obvious enemies such as the Jewish spiritual hierarchy, or other people who rejected Him, it was an entirely different matter. Consider the following Scriptural example:
"Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body. When therefore he was risen from the dead, his disciples remembered that he had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said."
John 2:18-22, KJV
You see, Jesus obviously realized that the Jewish Elders did not understand Him, but it didn't matter to Him, because He knew that they would never believe Him, or accept Him, even if He did reveal to them the truth behind His words. In fact, as you may recall, in the final chapter of Matthew's Gospel, the Jewish religious leaders were so desperate to discredit Jesus' Resurrection from the dead, that they even bribed the soldiers into spreading the lie that Jesus' body had merely been stolen by His followers, as we see here:
"Now when they were going, behold, some of the watch came into the city, and shewed unto the chief priests all the things that were done. And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day."
Matthew 28:11-15, KJV
Having now shared these different points and examples with you, let's take a closer look at what Jesus said in Matthew chapter twenty-four. In verses thirty-two and thirty-three the Lord says:
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors."
Matthew 24:32-33, KJV
As far as I can tell, there is no mystery or secret meaning encrypted in those verses. Jesus is doing exactly as He was accustomed to doing. He is taking something with which He knew His Disciples would be quite familiar, and using it to emphasize a point. Year after year, when the weather would begin to warm, and the fig trees would begin to sprout their leaves, the Jews would know that summer was approaching. It was something which they knew by heart; it was an absolute certainty that they'd learned by watching the natural world around them. Summer was something which they could expect, and anticipate, occurring every single year, without fail; and they knew that it was drawing close when the fig trees began to sprout their leaves.
So the Lord is using this normal occurrence in their lives to help them to better understand the astounding things that He has just told them; and not only to understand them, but to emphasize the fact that they will most certainly occur as He has prophesied. Jesus is telling them that just as they know beyond a shadow of a doubt that Summer is just around the corner when they see the fig tree begin to sprout its leaves, the generation that observes the events that He has just described to them, should "know that it is near, even at the doors". It is evident to me, that the primary reason why Jesus uses the Parable of the Fig Tree in this chapter, is to emphasize the certainty and surety of God's Word. You may recall that in part one, I shared the following verse with you:
"Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure:"
Isaiah 46:9-10, KJV
The Apostle Peter shares a very similar thought in his second Epistle when he writes the following concerning Divine Prophecy:
"We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:"
2 Peter 1:19, KJV
The word "sure" is translated from the Greek word "bebaios". The Greek lexicon states that it means stedfast, sure, firm, stable, fast, firm and trusty. In other words, God's Word is steadfast, firm and trustworthy. We can place our full faith in it, and we won't be disappointed. Jesus is conveying the very same thought by using the Parable of the Fig Tree as He describes Endtime events to His followers.
The next question that we need to ask ourselves is this: Exactly what is this "it" that Jesus is referring to? Again, He stated "know that it is near, even at the doors". All we have to do is go back to the beginning of this same chapter in order to find the answer. In the opening verses we read:
"And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple. And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?"
Matthew 24:1-3, KJV
So the bulk of this chapter is about answering three main questions posed to Jesus by His Disciples:
1. When will the temple be destroyed?
2. How will we know when you are returning?
3. How will we know when the end of the world is coming?
Jesus then very directly proceeds to answer their questions, thus resulting in the twenty-fourth chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. If you have an interest in learning more about the specifics regarding the above questions, I encourage you to read such articles and series as "The Triumphant Touchdown of Jesus Christ", "The Great Tribulation and the Rapture", "Who Hindered the Antichrist?", "From Armageddon to the New Earth", and related articles; all of which can be found on our Bill's Bible Basics website.
Matthew 24:32-33 is by no means the only place in the Gospels where Jesus uses this approach (using something familiar from nature) to emphasize a point. Just as He uses the example of the sprouting fig tree to impress upon us how important it is to watch for the signs which will precede His Second Coming, and to know without a doubt that He is coming, eight chapters earlier, Jesus also uses the weather to expose the spiritual blindness of His Jewish enemies. In the following verses, the style is exactly the same as what He uses in Matthew 24:
"The Pharisees also with the Sadducees came, and tempting desired him that he would shew them a sign from heaven. He answered and said unto them, When it is evening, ye say, It will be fair weather: for the sky is red. And in the morning, It will be foul weather to day: for the sky is red and lowring. O ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky; but can ye not discern the signs of the times? A wicked and adulterous generation seeketh after a sign; and there shall no sign be given unto it, but the sign of the prophet Jonas. And he left them, and departed."
Matthew 16:1-4, KJV
Once again, we see Jesus using something that was obviously very familiar to everyone who lived in Israel: the weather. Jesus is basically saying to them, "Look; everyday you can look at the sky and decide by its appearance if the weather will be fair or rainy; yet are you so spiritually blind that you cannot even interpret the dangerous signs that are all around, which are signaling your own demise?". Exactly what signs was Jesus referring to? Well, as we saw in part one, Israel was a nation subjugated by the powerful Roman Empire, and the Romans were slowly growing weary of the Zealots and their rebellion. While most were blind to the danger, a few were not, such as the Jewish High Priest, Caiaphas. This is why we find the following scene in the Gospel of John:
"And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death."
John 11:49-53, KJV
While the Roman occupation was a clear omen of things yet to come, Jesus' own presence in Israel at that time was an even greater sign that the harsh, unforgiving, self-righteous rule of the Scribes and Pharisees would soon be brought to an end. Why? Because Jesus would free the Jews, and in fact, all men everywhere, through His own Blood which He would freely shed upon the Cross. As I explain elsewhere, in order for the New Covenant, (or New Testament), to become effective, Jesus had to die; and the Old Covenant, which revolved around the Jews' temple worship and vain traditions, had to be destroyed. As Jesus stated in the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Luke:
"The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; he hath sent me to heal the brokenhearted, to preach deliverance to the captives, and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty them that are bruised, To preach the acceptable year of the Lord. And he closed the book, and he gave it again to the minister, and sat down. And the eyes of all them that were in the synagogue were fastened on him. And he began to say unto them, This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears."
Luke 4:18-21, KJV
Even though the Scripture was fulfilled that very day before their very eyes; even though they had the truth standing in front of them, many of the old-school Jewish Elders were not able to see it. The above event occurred in Nazareth, Jesus' own boyhood town, where He grew up, and where everyone knew Him; and yet, they rejected Him, and in fact, tried to throw Him over a cliff, as we see here:
"And all they in the synagogue, when they heard these things, were filled with wrath, And rose up, and thrust him out of the city, and led him unto the brow of the hill whereon their city was built, that they might cast him down headlong."
Luke 4:28-29, KJV
It is for this very reason that Jesus also stated in the Gospel of Matthew:
". . . A prophet is not without honour, save in his own country, and in his own house."
Matthew 13:57b, KJV
The Apostle John was likewise inspired to write in the first chapter of his Gospel:
"He came unto his own, and his own received him not."
John 1:11, KJV
And in the Old Testament, the Prophet Isaiah, foreseeing the rejection and sufferings of Christ, wrote the following:
"He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief: and we hid as it were our faces from him; he was despised, and we esteemed him not."
Isaiah 53:3, KJV
Please go to part three for the continuation of this series.
⇒ Go To The Next Part . . .