Matt 24:32-36 "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."
All three passages that record the Olivet Discourse (Matt. 24 & 25; Mark 13; Luke 21) include the question from the disciples regarding the sign of the coming of Jesus, and all three include the parable of the fig tree, therefore the leafing out of the fig tree is the great sign of the soon coming of Jesus.
In Matt. 24:32-36 Jesus taught that the generation that saw the fig tree shoot forth leaves would not pass until all these things, including the tribulation, the second advent, and the destruction of heaven and earth, be fulfilled. The passing away of heaven and earth needs to be included in the final generation because if it is not included, verse 35 is disconnected from the passage. Because the fig tree is the great sign of the second set of the most significant events in history (the crucifixion and resurrection are first), it should be a high priority, especially at this time, to understand the parable. I believe we are very close to the end of generation that will see the prophecies come to pass. This article will examine the length of a generation, including a few words regarding a time period called simply "a little season" and some interesting little-known information about the Jewish calendar.
Scripture uses the word ‘generation’ frequently but does not give a direct statement regarding its length. Numbers 32:13 says, "And the Lord’s anger was kindled against Israel, and he made them wander in the wilderness forty years, until all the generation, that had done evil in the sight of the Lord, was consumed." Psa. 95:10 says, "Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, it is a people that do err in their heart, and they have not known my ways." Heb. 3:9-10 says, "when your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. Wherefore I was grieved with that generation…"
These are the only verses in scripture that give a specific time period in connection with the word ‘generation’ and the time period given is forty years, not thirty, fifty, seventy, or one hundred. This is a primary reason for this article being based on the premise that a generation is made up of forty years. All three verses refer to the forty years that Israel wandered in the wilderness before entering the promised land. So we see one period of forty years and it involved the entry of the Jewish people into the land of Israel. Further, that forty years was divided into two periods of two plus thirty-eight years (Deu. 2:14). The statement regarding the forty years wait was made by God after the spies came back from Canaan. This was two years into the wandering in the wilderness, i.e. they had already been out there for two years but another thirty-eight years would pass before they entered the promised land, so we see a precedent for the forty years period being divided into two parts.
In the Olivet Discourse we see a prophecy regarding what we call the final generation, which raises the question as to the number of significant generations in God’s plan. In Gen. 6:3 we find this statement: "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." It is generally thought that in this verse God is giving Noah one hundred and twenty years to build the ark.
Let's do a little Bible arithmetic. Gen 5:32 says, "And Noah was five hundred years old: and Noah begat Shem, Ham, and Japheth." The next verse is Gen. 6:1 and begins the description of the wickedness of mankind and God’s response to it. Gen 7:11 "In the six hundredth year of Noah's life, in the second month, the seventeenth day of the month, the same day were all the fountains of the great deep broken up, and the windows of heaven were opened." Gen 11:10 "These are the generations of Shem: Shem was an hundred years old, and begat Arphaxad two years after the flood:"
So we see that the one hundred and twenty years stated in Gen. 6:3 is not necessarily the time span given to Noah to build the ark. I believe it is the time span given by God for his spirit to strive with man until the final judgment which occurs at the end of a "little season" which in turn occurs at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:3, 7-9) . If this is so, then we might try to identify which years make up the one hundred and twenty years. In order for the prophecy to make sense, they have to be identifiable. I have not been able to identify a single period of one hundred and twenty years in the Bible, but from our vantage point in history we can identify two completed periods and one ongoing period of forty years each which will make up the one hundred and twenty years given to man and will end with the final judgment. I believe that just as Daniel's prophecy had a gap between the sixty-ninth and seventieth years, this one hundred and twenty years also has gaps between its periods of fulfillment.
I believe the first generation was the forty years spent in the wilderness.
Moving on to the second forty-year period, in Matt. 23:23-39 Jesus made several references to a wicked generation. In verse 35 he pronounced the judgment of God upon Jerusalem for their rejection of God’s prophets, and ultimately, God’s son. In verse 36 Jesus said judgment would fall upon the generation he was addressing, and in verse 38 he said, "Behold, your house is left unto you desolate." This event was followed by the disciples comments regarding the temple and the prophecy of its destruction.
Luke 21 is a prophecy with a dual fulfillment: the first during the early days of the church age and the second during the tribulation. In verse 6 Jesus prophesied the destruction of the temple. The disciples immediately asked him, "Master, but when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?"
In verse 20 Jesus stated that the sign of the desolation of Jerusalem would be Jerusalem compassed with armies. As confirmed by Matt. 23:36, this would happen in the generation Jesus was addressing. In 68 A.D. the Roman general Titus laid siege to Jerusalem and in 70 A.D. the city fell and the temple was destroyed.
The first fulfillment occurred forty years after the crucifixion of Jesus. This is evidence that a generation equals forty years, and we see another further division: this time thirty-eight years until the siege and two years until the destruction under the Roman general, Titus. In this event eighty years of the one hundred twenty years of Gen. 6 were completed. The Bible fact that those first two periods of forty years were each referred to as generations is further evidence that this last generation will also involve a period of forty years.
In 30 A.D. the fig tree, Israel, was cursed and at the end of that generation its capital city and the temple were destroyed, and the Jewish people began to be scattered throughout the world. In Luke 21:24 Jesus prophesied the diaspora and that it would end when Jerusalem was once again under Jewish control. When this happened the fig tree would shoot forth. He referred to a tree, not a sapling. While Israel was planted in 1948, the tree sprouted nineteen years later, on June 7, 1967. It was the time of the Six Day War. Israel had warned Jordan not to get involved in the conflict, but Jordan did not heed the warning. When they joined the fight, the Jewish army marched on and took the old city of Jerusalem, thus fulfilling the prophecy.
However, as prophesied, Israel is still (and will continue) in unbelief until some point during, or at the end of, the tribulation. On June 6, 2005 we passed the thirty-eight year mark of the third generation of Israel’s unbelief. (June 7, 1967 fell on Iyar 28 in the Jewish calendar, so we convert Iyar 28 to the Gregorian calendar to identify the actual anniversary date. The anniversary dates are: June 6, 2005, May 26, 2006 and May 16, 2007.)
It’s very interesting to consider that the first generation began with Israel’s refusal to enter the promised land (Num. 14). The spies came back with their report and the people were afraid of the ‘giants’ in the land: they failed to appreciate that God would be involved in their conquest. They could have entered the land right then if only they had believed. Instead, God pronounced his judgment and said it would continue for forty years, one year for each day the spies were in Canaan. He said that all of those from the age of twenty and older would die in the wilderness during the next forty years. Except for Joshua and Caleb, all those who would later enter the promised land were born during the final nineteen years of the captivity in Egypt or during the forty years in the wilderness.
The second generation began with Israel’s rejection of her Messiah in 30 A.D. Again, the kingdom could have begun right then if only Israel had believed. Instead, thirty-eight years later Rome laid siege to the city and finally took it on September 26, 70 A.D. Observe, like the first period of forty years, this period also was divided into thirty-eight and two.
The judgment of the first generation involved postponement of their receipt of the land. They wandered in the wilderness for forty years. The judgment of the second generation involved the destruction of their city after another forty year wait followed by their return to the wilderness. Both judgments had to do with the land of Israel, the Promised Land.
In 1948 the United Nations partitioned Palestine and gave Israel to the Jews. At that point they were officially back in the land. Nineteen years later the Jews recaptured Jerusalem. Luke 21:24 is fulfilled: the Jewish people were scattered throughout the world starting in 70 A.D. and have now, after almost nineteen hundred years, regained first the land, then the city. They went out and they came back in. The two recent events were separated by nineteen years, the maximum age at the exodus of those who would be allowed to enter Canaan. Perhaps God was illustrating that the final generation would begin after another period of nineteen years. There is no doubt that all three generations involve the actual land of Israel. Further, the last two generations involve the city of Jerusalem, specifically the temple mount. Even though the Jewish people have legal ownership of the temple mount, to this day they allow the Muslims to control the site.
Inserted in this third and final generation, Israel and the whole world will face the most severe crisis of history. Jesus said it would be a time like no other, before or after, and it would be so terrible that if the days weren’t shortened no flesh would survive. At the end of the tribulation Jesus will return and establish his kingdom. During the millennium, Israel, and the whole world, will finally dwell in total safety and God himself, in the person of Jesus Christ, will be present and dwelling with man on earth.
The third generation began on June 7, 1967 during a war that was started by Israel’s ancient enemy, Egypt. As in old time, God fought for Israel, but she still did not recognize her Messiah. Considering the current Jewish calendar discrepancy of 7.62 days (more to come later), it is most interesting that the recapture of Jerusalem occurred just eight days before Pentecost (currently observed - incorrectly - on Sivan 6), the anniversary of the two times when God called out a holy covenant people: the Jews in Exodus 19 and the Church in Acts 2. In the very timing of this major prophetic event God again asked his people Israel to see the connection and receive the Messiah Jesus. While unprecedented numbers of Jews have been saved since that time, as a nation, Israel is still in unbelief and is now nearing the beginning of her final crisis: the time of Jacob’s trouble.
Again, In Gen. 6:3 God said this: "My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years." He then told Noah to build the ark, and he then destroyed the world by flood. He later told Noah that he would never again destroy all life by flood, and he won’t: the next and final destruction will be by fire (II Pet. 3:10).
These one hundred twenty years do not refer to a shortened life span for man. While the life span did begin to be shortened at that time, Gen. 11:32 directly states that Tereh, the eighth generation after Shem, lived two hundred and five years.
God’s spirit is still striving with man. In fact, in Luke 17:26-27 Jesus said the time of his coming would be like the days of Noah. I think it’s reasonable that the one hundred twenty years stated in Genesis are the same as the three wicked generations of forty years each, and further, that at the end of those one hundred twenty years, God himself will destroy the earth by fire.
In looking at these generations we have seen God start and stop the one hundred twenty year countdown two times: the forty years in the wilderness and the forty years from the rejection of Jesus until the destruction of Jerusalem, with each of those forty years periods being divided into two parts of thirty-eight and two years. It is currently (September 10, 2006) less than eight months until the end of the third forty years period that began with the recapture of Jerusalem in 1967. If the rapture were to occur today, we are still short of the full one hundred twenty years which will end in total destruction, and the tribulation, to be followed by the millennium, has not begun. This does not destroy the imminence of the rapture (which occurs first) because there is a period of time that is held in reserve.
As we have already seen, in Matt. 24:32-33 Jesus gave the parable of the fig tree. In verses 34-35 he said, "Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." While I absolutely believe that the main message in this statement was that the last generation would begin when the fig tree shot forth, the passage also places the passing away of heaven and earth within the final generation. I believe that the unknown day and hour is not the rapture (which I do not see presented in the Olivet Discourse), but the passing away of heaven and earth. (While many believe the "one shall be taken and the other left behind" of Matt. 24:40-41 is the rapture, I believe it describes the removal of the wicked as Jesus taught in Matt. 13:24-30; 37-43.)
Jesus said the final generation would not pass until ALL these things be fulfilled. To me, that includes the millennium. Here’s an interesting verse regarding that time: "Never again will there be in it an infant who lives but a few days, or an old man who does not live out his years; he who dies at a hundred will be thought a mere youth; he who fails to reach a hundred will be considered accursed." (Isa 65:20 NIV). It appears that God is going to restore those long lifespans as found in Genesis and that those who survive the tribulation and the second advent judgments will enjoy a very long life on earth.
Rev. 20:3 says that at the end of the millennium Satan will be released from the abyss for "a little season". The phrase is found twice in the Bible but the length of a little season is not specified in either scripture. However, we can know that it will have a duration of less than 3˝ years because the other occurrence of the phrase is found in Rev. 6:11, the fifth seal, concerning the souls under the altar, and they are seen when the persecution reaches its peak during the last half of the tribulation. The souls under the altar cry out for vengeance on those who killed them, and in Rev. 16:7 - the third vial or bowl - a voice from the altar approves the judgments being poured out. It appears that ‘a little season’ is a relatively short period of time.
I believe that if the final generation began on June 7, 1967 (Iyar 28 on the Jewish calendar) it must end by June 2, 2008, and it must include a time period of not more than 3˝ years which are reserved for Satan’s little season at the end of the millennium.
If the final generation had to include the tribulation and the maximum length of the little season, we would have to deduct ten and one-half years from June 2, 2008, meaning the tribulation would have begun by December 1997 and we would currently be in the millennium. We obviously are not in the millennium. Similarly, if the forty years had to include the tribulation only, we would currently be living in the sixth year of the tribulation, and since the antichrist has not been revealed and we have not had to stand against the mark of the beast, we know the tribulation has not yet begun.
However, I don’t believe the forty years has to include the seven years of tribulation. The tribulation is a part of Daniel’s seventy weeks, not necessarily Noah’s one hundred twenty years. I believe God will stop the forty-year countdown at the beginning of the tribulation (i.e. the rapture) and start it up again when Satan is loosed at the end of the millennium. If this is true, we are right now in a window of less than eight months window until the rapture.
To restate my position, a ‘little season’ has been reserved for Satan’s use at the end of the millennium (Rev. 20:3). The expression is also used regarding the souls under the altar in the fifth seal in Rev. 6:11, and they are seen after the mid-point of the tribulation. Because the martyrs are told to wait yet a ‘little season’, and because we see them acknowledging the judgment of God in Rev. 16:7 (at which time four judgments remain), we see that the length of a little season is a period of less than three and one-half years. To accurately determine the starting and ending dates of the seven years of tribulation, this little season should be deducted from the total forty years of the last generation because it is a portion of that final generation but is reserved for use at the end of the millennium. At this point in time the length of the little season remains unknown because the rapture has not occurred. Having said that, many Christians were looking intently at Rosh Hashannah 2006 as possibly being the day of the rapture, but the day passed and we are still on earth.
I fully expect the final seven years to begin at some point during the next few months and at that time expect the forty years countdown to be stopped for the seven years of the tribulation and the one thousand years of the millennium. After the millennium, the countdown will begin again for the final unknown time period called the "little season" which will end with the destruction of the present heavens and earth in fulfillment of the prophecy at the time of Noah: Gen. 6:3 "And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years". At the end of the one hundred and twenty years the striving will be ended.
Deut. 16:1 says, "Observe the month Abib, and keep the passover unto the LORD thy God: for in the month of Abib the LORD thy God brought thee forth out of Egypt by night." In Hebrew, the word observe means preserve, or keep, and that is the Jewish understanding of the word. Abib is another name for Nisan, the month of Passover and the first month on the Hebrew sacred calendar. From this verse we see that God particularly wanted the Jewish people to observe Passover at the correct time, and we know further that since Passover is the first annual moed, if it is observed at the proper time, those that follow will also be observed in the correct seasons. This is important because those moeds are appointments that God has with man and they are dated. This commandment is the basis for the lunisolar calendar that the Jews have been using (at least) since the law was given. In their calendar, the months are determined by the phases of the moon, but the years are determined by making adjustments parallel to the seasons of the solar year.
In our Gregorian calendar, we are familiar with the concept of leap years: every fourth year February has an extra day, and years ending in hundreds are leap years only if divisible by 400. Even so, from time to time fractional adjustments must be made to keep time ticking along accurately.
The Jewish calendar is very complex and very different from ours, but it is not a three hundred sixty day calendar made up of twelve months of thirty days each. Their calendar consists of a nineteen year cycle. Of those nineteen years, twelve are regular years having 353-355 days and seven are leap years having 383-385 days. In leap years an entire month, Adar II, is added between Adar and Nisan. This is done when the vernal (spring) equinox falls later in the year than Nisan 16. Their civil new year begins on Tishri 1 which falls during September or October. When converting Jewish dates to the Gregorian calendar there is a one-month fluctuation due to the fact that a Jewish leap year contains an entire month as opposed to a single day.
In ancient times the calendar was adjusted by direct observation as confirmed by the Sanhedrin. But in 70 A.D. Jerusalem fell to Rome and the Jews began to be scattered throughout the world. This meant that the Sanhedrin was no longer able to proclaim the new moon every month and the principles of the calendar and intercalation were in danger of being forgotten. This led Rabbi Hillel II to introduce a method of calendar calculation that was adopted in 358/359 A.D. and is still in use today.
The lunar part of Hillel’s calculation is accurate to one day in 14,000 years, and the solar adjustment is accurate to 6 & 2/3 (6.66) minutes per year. Today (2006) it has been 1648 years since the Jewish calendar calculation began to be used. If those 1648 years are multiplied by 6.66 minutes, divided by 60 minutes then by 24 hours, we find that the Jewish calendar inaccuracy is currently at 7.62 days. The Jewish dates are currently falling 7.62 days later in the year than they should. To illustrate a simple adjustment to Jewish dates, particularly of the moeds, all one needs to do is place his finger on the calendar on the date in question, then move it up one square to the same day in the previous week.
This calendar discrepancy is not a major issue to the Jewish people. Those who study such things are well aware that it exists, but they believe that Messiah is coming soon, before they end up keeping Passover in the wrong season, and when he comes he will restore the Sanhedrin and they will correct the calendar. They actually view this discrepancy as proof of the soon coming of Messiah.
There is a very interesting fact concerning this calendar discrepancy. Given the sign of the fig tree and a forty-years generation, it is very interesting to observe the date of the recapture of Jerusalem. June 7, 1967 occurred on Iyar 28, eight days before Pentecost as it is currently observed on the Jewish calendar. But when the calendar discrepancy is taken into account, we see a correlation between Sivan 6, Pentecost, and the date of the recapture of Jerusalem. To perform your own illustration, look at a calendar for June 1967. Put your finger on June 14, (Pentecost, Sivan 6), then back up 7.62 days, and you will see that Pentecost should have been observed on June 7, 1967. Using this method to make an adjustment to the date of a specific moed will disregard the date of the new moon, but the timing of the recapture of Jerusalem may be a confirmation from God that the actual dates are significant in the beginning of the final generation and that the 7.62 days is the actual amount of the calendar discrepancy. (As an added note, the terrorist attack on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001 adjusts to Rosh Hashanah.)
As recorded in Acts 2, the church age began on Pentecost in 30 A.D. during the third hour of the day (between 9:00 and 10:00 a.m.). 1937 years later the Jews marched on the old city of Jerusalem, reached the western wall at 9:50 a.m., brought to a close the times of the Gentiles, and caused the fig tree to burst forth in leaves, not only on the anniversary of the beginning of the church age, but during the exact same hour of the day. Brigadier General Rabbi Goren blew the shofar at the Western Wall at 9:50 a.m. that morning.
It appears that actual calendar dates do have significance in the fulfillment of prophecy. Times means years and the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled on June 7, 1967. This means that the Jewish calendar would at that time take on a renewed significance because the last three moeds of Lev. 23 are about to be fulfilled. It is my opinion that the actual correction of the calendar will be literally astronomical and will be done as part of the events that occur at the second advent of Jesus.
Lev. 23 uses the Hebrew word moed (appointment, set time or season) in the law regarding these festivals. I believe the moeds are prophetic of the personal works of Jesus in our redemption (and the proof is that the New Testament makes such statements about the four that have already been fulfilled), and the fulfillment was accomplished on the exact day of each of the moeds in 30 A.D. Deut. 16:1 commanded the Jews to "observe the month Abib." It seems to me that God takes these dates seriously, and if He does, so do I. Further, the first two periods of forty years were divided into thirty-eight and two years each. If my thesis is correct, thirty-nine years and four months of this third forty years period have now passed and we are now in extended overtime.
While these dating theories are interesting, they are compounded by the events of prophetic significance that are being reported in the daily news. I don't believe there has ever been a time like these days, a time when the coming of the Lord is so near it seems we can hear his footsteps. If the reader of this article is born again, it is time to look up for our redemption draweth nigh. If the reader is not born again, today is the day of salvation. The time is very short and there is simply no time left to take such a risk with your eternal life. Today is the day to be reconciled to God. Click here to find out why and how to be saved.