Are you paying attention to the signs of the times? Rosh Hashanah, the Feast of Trumpets, has arrived very early this year, so all the Fall Feasts will be neatly wrapped up by the end of September. We need to be aware of the Biblical signs and seasons, along with their prophetic significance. With the unthinkable events of Afghanistan unravelling at breakneck speed, alliances forming across the nations north of Israel and coalitions in the south coming together, not to mention a worldwide pandemic, eco-crisis, and global governance visible on the horizon, are we almost at the end? Or is that jumping the gun?
Out of sync?
The Feast of Trumpets kicks off on the first of Tishri (which falls on 6th September in 2021) but for most Israelis the day is more about celebrating the Jewish new year. However, it’s either very early or very late (depending on which way you look at it) because Tishri is miles away from the biblical new year. God stipulated that the year was to start in the Spring, at the beginning of the month in which Passover is celebrated (Ex 12:2). The phrase “Rosh Hashana” means the head of the year, or beginning of the year, and is found only once in the Bible:
“In the twenty-fifth year of our exile, in the beginning of the year [Rosh Hashana], in the tenth day of the month—in the fourteenth year after the city was struck down, on that very day—the hand of Adonai was on me.” (Ezekiel 40:1)
Israel changed the start of the year while they were in exile in Babylon before Ezekiel wrote this. Biblically, there’s nothing particularly significant about the change from one Jewish year to the next, despite all the prophetic declarations that inevitably appear. But that’s not the only timing blunder we’re susceptible to.
Numerous people have errantly declared the imminent return of Jesus in the past, leading many to become cold and disillusioned to what should be the most exciting prospect we could ever imagine!
How can we avoid making the same mistakes while staying eager to see our Messiah return in glory?
Fall feasts and the mystery of return
Some people are absolutely certain that Jesus will come, or that the rapture will be heralded, at the Feast of Trumpets. Certainly the Fall feasts have great meaning regarding the return of our King, Judgement Day and the joy of eternity with Him. But is there any point in trying to understand the times, since we have been plainly told we will not be able to guess the day or hour of His coming?
Now concerning the times and seasons, brothers and sisters, you have no need for anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know very well that the Day of the Lord comes like a thief in the night. When they are saying, “Shalom and safety,” sudden destruction comes upon them like a woman having birth pains in the womb—there is no way they will escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in the dark, so that the Day might overtake you like a thief. For you all are sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night or of darkness— so then, let us not sleep as the others do, but let us remain on the alert and sober-minded. (1 Thessalonians 5:1-6)
Interestingly, the charge to stay watchful is linked with sobriety a couple of times (see also Luke 21:34). We need to be sharp and alert. Jesus himself warns us to watch and pray. What are we watching for? We’re watching for the word of God to come to pass. And there are a number of things to keep your eye on.
Look at the fig tree…
Jesus encourages us in Luke 21:29 to “look at the fig tree” in order to discern the times, with the fig commonly held to represent Israel. Indeed, looking just at Israel alone, we see numerous prophecies fulfilled and only a few more still to come.
Observing what’s happening with Israel, both looking back and looking forwards, helps us navigate where we are in God’s prophetic map. We see the faithfulness of God in the past, along with the promises yet to come.
Genesis chapter 15, for example, contains prophecies that Israel would be enslaved in Egypt for 400 years, delivered with great wealth, and that they would inherit the land of Israel, all of which came to pass. At the end of Deuteronomy it is prophesied that the center of worship would be established in Jerusalem but that Israel would turn to idolatry when they got to the Promised Land. Both happened. Prophets such as Amos and others foretold that that northern kingdom would be exiled to Assyria while Jeremiah and others predicted that the southern kingdom of Judah would be exiled to Babylon. Isaiah and others speak of God’s promise to bring back a remnant from Babylon and the return to Israel. It happened after 70 years, just as the prophets said. Not only was the destruction of first temple accurately foreseen, but Jesus Himself warned about the destruction of the second temple in Matthew 24 and Luke 19. In Leviticus, Ezekiel, and other places we are told that the people of Israel would be scattered through all nations and that they would be persecuted and oppressed wherever they had been scattered. But we are also told that the Jewish people would be regathered from all nations (not just Babylon). God’s track record is spectacular! We can be supremely confident that the rest of biblical prophecy will also come to pass in due time. Moreover, the yearly cycle of biblical feasts is prophetic in itself, with the Spring Feasts fulfilled in the first coming of Jesus and the Fall Feasts pointing to His return.
Jewish people turning to Jesus in record numbers
The twentieth century saw prophecies fulfilled in our days! Israel was reestablished and Jews flocked to the new state soon making it the country with the highest Jewish population in the world. Jeremiah 31:9 assures us just as the scattering of Israel done by God’s hand, the regathering is his sovereign act also. The people of Israel have been exiled out in the nations for some 2000 years, surviving great pressure to give up their identity, even when it cost them all they had. Now back in the land, God promises that Israel will remain a people for as long as the sun and moon are in the sky (vv.34-36). But more than that, we are now seeing great numbers of Jewish people turning to Jesus. This is also a telling sign. It should cause us to sit up and take notice.
In the last few decades we have seen an explosion in Jewish people coming to faith in numbers not seen since the first century!
In several places in Scripture we are told that all Israel will be saved. Ezekiel 20:40-44 describes a national regathering but also national repentance, emphasizing that it includes ALL the house of Israel. Similarly Zechariah 12:10 onwards and Romans 11:25 make it clear that Israel will repent and recognise Jesus as Messiah en masse, and Matthew 23:39 says that Jesus will return to Jerusalem when He is welcomed by His own people from His holy city. As exciting as these days are, a unanimous repentance has yet to occur. We are just witnessing the “former rains” of revival, so to speak. Additionally, we expect to see the gathering of all nations against Jerusalem as described in places such as Zechariah 12. This precedes the supernatural revelation of Jesus as Savior to all of Israel, and the coming of the Messiah in glory to Jerusalem.
Watching world events through the lens of the Bible
There have been multiple times of global upheaval and disaster in the past, causing many to declare the end was nigh, only for life to continue on much as before. However, we now can check off several items on God’s prophetic “things to do” list with Israel back in place and Jerusalem in Jewish hands. The gospel has almost reached every nation, tribe and tongue, and the global scene is set in a way that it simply hasn’t been before. It doesn’t mean that time is up just yet, but we should be soberly taking stock of these developments. Current events certainly seem to be accelerating towards the end in unprecedented ways. The pandemic and eco-crisis have affected the whole world and so present an opportunity for a global response – bodies like the UN, the World Health Organisation, and World Economic Forum seem to be limbering up to extend governance throughout the world; a one-world government being a prerequisite for the mandatory mark of Revelation 13.
When watching the devastating news about Afghanistan along with the Abraham accords of the Middle East, students of biblical prophecy are reminded of Psalm 83 and Ezekiel 38 where alliances of kings of the north and the south are formed. If such matters are new to you, it might be worth making a key for yourself as to which biblical names refer to which nations (for example Elam is Iran, Put is Lybia, Moab is Jordan, and so on). We need to be alert, watching and praying as God’s word comes to pass stroke by stroke. We are inevitably getting closer to seeing the face of our Lord as each day passes.
Maranatha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Let’s be like the wise virgins in Matthew 25 who have oil in our lamps, symbolic of the Holy Spirit aiding us in our study of the Word, as we watch and wait for the Bridegroom to come. The foolish virgins still had lamps (representing the Word of God) but no oil (spiritual understanding) to go with it. Many Jewish people will get into position to hear the sound of the shofar for the Feast of Trumpets. Let us all be found in position, ready and waiting, for the last trumpet to sound.
Behold, I tell you a mystery: We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed— in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last shofar. For the shofar will sound, and the dead will be raised incorruptible, and we will be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:52)