Black Swan Song By Pete Garcia Although this won't be published until the first week…
By Pete Garcia
Part 1: The Conversation
You know the one I’m talking about.
It might have been inserted strategically, or just came out accidentally, but you let slip your growing enthusiasm over the soon return of Jesus Christ at the Rapture of the Church to a fellow believer. You didn’t think much about it at first, given present company and a shared faith in Christ Jesus, but then the unexpected response happens.
This friend or coworker immediately raises an eyebrow and gives you the “slow your roll” look. They go on to warn you that “no man knows the day or hour” verse (although they can’t quite remember where to find it in the Bible), and proceed to caution you that people have been saying Christ would return for ages and yet, we are still here.
Besides they say, we should never say “soon” in association with the return of Christ because “soon” is highly subjective and we were likely to promote other believers into either doing irrational things or losing hope when the Rapture doesn’t happen immediately.
You say….come again?
You go on to point out that from the world’s perspective, Christians have been doing irrational things for their faith for nearly two thousand years. Things like willingly embracing torture and martyrdom rather than denying Christ as their Lord. Things like facing frivolous lawsuits and losing their livelihoods rather than betraying their conscience. Things like losing friends and facing isolation over their incessant goings-on about the soon return of our Lord. You know… those kinds of irrational things.
They are like, no, no, no. They meant all these last days wackos selling everything they owned and moving to the mountains to wait for the Rapture or buying up billboard ads proclaiming the day.
You ask them…when did these happen?
Most likely they tell you they can’t remember exactly when, but they are sure it happened. If they really know their history, they might mention the ‘Great Disappointment’ of 1844-45 or the Harold Camping charades of the recent past as evidence.
You say, yeah, we should never do that because that is both foolish and unbiblical. Besides those two events are fringe outliers as compared to the many countless centuries of believers, who, both believed Christ would return soon, and also didn’t sell all their possessions, but rather, waited patiently on the Lord.
They say, yeah, but ‘no man knows the day or hour’ again, as if repeating it was some magic bullet seemingly capable of slaying the ‘rapture monster’ in one shot.
Part 2: The Sign of Jonah
“Then the Pharisees and Sadducees came, and testing Him asked that He would show them a sign from heaven. He answered and said to them, “When it is evening you say, ‘It will be fair weather, for the sky is red’; and in the morning, ‘It will be foul weather today, for the sky is red and threatening.’Hypocrites! You know how to discern the face of the sky, but you cannot discern the signs of the times.” – Matthew 16:1-4
This insistence on ignoring or dismissing the Rapture of the Church is not unique to your individual friends/family/peer, but to a growing majority of learned clergy who are working overtime (it seems) in an attempt to curb their flocks’ enthusiasm with regard to the Lord’s return. It reminds me of that worn-out old saying we’ve all heard from all the prophecy-naysayers and it goes like this;
“My great-grand____ (fill in the relative) has been saying that the Lord was going to return since the 19_ _ (fill in the decade) and we are still here! See! Jesus isn’t coming back anytime soon. He definitely will not come in our lifetime.”
What they mean by saying that is because it hasn’t happened yet, it will never happen, at least not in their lifetime. This is called normalcy bias. The premise behind normalcy bias is that because something hasn’t happened yet, it is likely to never happen. The Apostle Peter deals with this line of reasoning in his second epistle:
“Knowing this first: that scoffers will come in the last days, walking according to their own lusts, and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For since the fathers fell asleep, all things continue as they were from the beginning of creation.” For this they willfully forget: that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of water and in the water, by which the world that then existed perished, being flooded with water. But the heavens and the earth which are now preserved by the same word, are reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.” – 2 Peter 3:3-7 (my emphasis)
It also reminds me of the attitude the Pharisees and Sadduccees had in Jesus’ day. By dismissing Jesus, they were dismissing God Himself. From their perspective (and I’m not defending it), the closest thing they had to God’s man was Moses, and he had lived and died nearly fourteen hundred years earlier. After him, they had king David, who lived and died nearly a thousand years earlier. The last legit prophet they had (Malachi) had lived and died four centuries earlier. By the time John the Baptist came calling on people to repent because of the nearness of the kingdom, the Jewish leadership had long since abandoned their enthusiasm for God to do something miraculous. Be that as it may, they (the Jews) were not without excuse since Malachi (the last prophet) had given them their final message in the Tanakh (the Old Testament) concerning “the One” who would come.
“Behold, I send My messenger,
And he will prepare the way before Me.
And the Lord, whom you seek,
Will suddenly come to His temple,
Even the Messenger of the covenant,
In whom you delight.
Behold, He is coming,”
Says the Lord of hosts. – Malachi 3:1 (my emphasis)
The first-century Pharisees had become so apathetic to the coming of the Messiah, that even when the gentile wise men from the east showed up en masse to worship the One “born king of the Jews,” they didn’t even bother to walk the five miles with them to see for themselves if what the prophet Micah had written was true (Micah 5:2, Matthew 2). Talk about slighting God! So it was that part of John the Baptist’s ministry in preparing the way for Christ to come into His own was condemning the religious leaders of their day.
In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, and saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying:
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’”
Now John himself was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist; and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem, all Judea, and all the region around the Jordan went out to him and were baptized by him in the Jordan, confessing their sins.
But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not think to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees.
Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.” – Matt. 3:1-12
What gets lost in translation in our reading of the ministry of Jesus in the gospels, is the harshness in which He treats the religious leaders of His day. We read it and it seems that Jesus is being overly harsh with people who didn’t understand why He came. But they had the Old Testament giving them every clue as to who He was, when He would come (I mean, the Wise Men got it right and they weren’t even Jewish), what He came to do, and even a forerunner (JTB) to prepare the way…and they still missed it.
That doesn’t sound like innocent ignorance on behalf of the Pharisees (supposed experts of The Tanakh). It sounds intentional. Even demonic.
Therefore, it shouldn’t surprise us now when reading over Jesus’ miraculous works of healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, strength to the lame, speech to the dumb, and even raising the dead, that the only sign He would give them (the unbelieving Jews) was the sign of Jonah. In finishing His condemnation of them in Matthew 16, Jesus tells the Pharisees;
“A wicked and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign shall be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah.” And He left them and departed.”
Now, the traditional view of the sign was that just as Jonah was in the belly of the whale for three days and three nights, so too would the Son of Man be in the earth before resurrecting Himself from the dead (Matt. 12:40). But what if it wasn’t JUST that He would share in a similar situation with Jonah, but also the message Jonah came bearing on behalf of the Lord to the Ninevites?
And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!” – Jonah 3:4
This bears a striking resemblance to what Jesus would later prophesy and would come to pass forty years later in 70AD when the Romans sieged and sacked Jerusalem.
Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” – Luke 19:41-44 (my emphasis)
Further tying this connection together, Christ had previously used the Ninevites as evidence of this, in that they at least understood the time of their visitation.
“The men of Nineveh will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here.” – Matt. 12:41
Part 3: Common Doubts
After nearly two thousand years, it should be common for us mere mortals to question and wonder where God is and what He’s doing. As we read in the Gospels, when Jesus’ ministry began to manifest itself, John the Baptist’s ministry began to decrease. To add insult to injury, John was arrested by Herod and scheduled for execution (Matt. 14). Somewhere in that process, even he (the greatest born among men) had his doubts.
And when John had heard in prison about the works of Christ, he sent two of his disciples and said to Him, “Are You the Coming One, or do we look for another?”
Jesus answered and said to them, “Go and tell John the things which you hear and see: The blind see and the lame walk; the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear; the dead are raised up and the poor have the gospel preached to them. And blessed is he who is not offended because of Me.”
As they departed, Jesus began to say to the multitudes concerning John: “What did you go out into the wilderness to see? A reed shaken by the wind? But what did you go out to see? A man clothed in soft garments? Indeed, those who wear soft clothing are in kings’ houses. But what did you go out to see? A prophet? Yes, I say to you, and more than a prophet. For this is he of whom it is written:
‘Behold, I send My messenger before Your face,
Who will prepare Your way before You.’
“Assuredly, I say to you, among those born of women there has not risen one greater than John the Baptist; but he who is least in the kingdom of heaven is greater than he. And from the days of John the Baptist until now the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force. For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John. And if you are willing to receive it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear! – Matthew 11:1-15
Thus, after nearly two millennia of prophetic silence, the world has been wondering if and when Christ would ever return. From then until 1948, born-again believers have labored and struggled under both the countless empires that have come and gone, as well as the auspices of general ignorance (not willful) regarding Christ’s “soon” return. Because without Israel (God’s timepiece) back in her land, it would be impossible to know where we (mankind) were on God’s prophetic calendar. All men had were the Scriptures, and what it promised would happen.
But now the Jews are back in their land for seventy-four years, and the prophetic signs are converging to the point that they are becoming so overwhelmingly obvious, no Bible-believing Christian has any excuse as to deny their existence (prophetic fulfillment), nor the timing of our upcoming visitation by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself at the Rapture of the Church (the season). So let us take a look at some of the most irrefutable signs that we are the final generation.
Part 4: The Signs of the Fig Tree Generation
It’s been said that World War I prepared the land for the people (by ending the Ottoman empire’s four-hundred-year control), while World War II prepared the people for the land (vis the Holocaust). While that might be an overly simplified way to look at the first half of the twentieth century, there is no denying that Israel’s return to the table of nations is nothing short of miraculous. Before moving forward, here is an abbreviated timeline of the events that led to her geopolitical resurrection.
1897: Theodore Herzl convenes the First Zionist Congress in Basel, Switzerland
1917: The British government (seeing the tide of war turning) approves of a Jewish homeland in the former Ottoman province of Palestine. Lord Arthur Balfour conveys this decision to Lord Rothschild in what has commonly been referred to as the Balfour Declaration
1920: The San Remo Conference set the boundaries for what would become British-mandated Palestine
1947: The newly formed United Nations votes and approves (barely) Resolution 181, which authorizes a Jewish and Arab partition in what was then the British mandate of Palestine
1948: The Jewish partition declares its statehood as the nation of Israel on May 14th, 1948
1967: As a result of the Six-Day War, Israel recaptures all of Jerusalem and the Golan Heights
Here is something worthy of consideration. During most of the same time that Israel spent in diaspora (from 70AD – 1948), mankind’s technological progress remained unnaturally sluggish. It was as if something or Someone was slowing mankind’s progress intentionally. There is an old saying that says crisis is the mother of invention. Therefore, I would consider the real explosion of technological advancements to begin at the world’s first great military crisis, the onset of World War I. However, even by 1914, the prophetic stirrings of putting Israel back into her ancestral homeland were already in play.
However, that begs the question…why 1914?
Why was mankind limited to the speed of horse for nearly six thousand years, but the moment the Jews earnestly desired to return to their desolate homeland, mankind went from inaugurating manned flight (1903) to landing on the moon a mere sixty-six years (1969)? Were humans just smarter at the outset of World War I than they were in Roman times (i.e., the same Romans who built the aqueducts and some of the greatest architecture of any age, and established legal and philosophical systems we still use today), or was there something (or Someone) at work to keep mankind’s progress in check until just the right time? Again, I am reminded of something that God told Abraham in Genesis 12:3,
“I will bless those who bless you,
And I will curse him who curses you;
And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”
So it seems that the fate of the world is tied up in a tiny nation at the center of the world. When she wasn’t in her land, the world languished. When she was in her land, the world raced forward. Save the above verse (and other verses confirming it), the fact is when Israel wasn’t in her land, mankind was limited to impossibly slow technological growth. But when she is back in her land, the speed and pace are such that we cannot even keep up. Furthermore, there is even a marked difference in the speed of technological advancements between 1897-1947 and from 1948 til today.
Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away.” – Luke 21:29-33
As watching believers, we already know the answer to that question. It was the Restraining influence of the Holy Spirit. He is not just restraining wickedness in the world at present, but restraining the potential for greater wickedness through man’s insatiable desire to become like gods themselves. Had the Restrainer not put boundaries in place for humans writ large, and the nations, in particular, mankind could have achieved twentieth-century level technology presumably back in the Dark Ages.
“And He has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth and has determined their preappointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings” – Acts 17:26
On June 28th of 1914, Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his wife would be brutally assassinated in the streets of Sarajevo in Bosnia-Herzegovina by the deranged Serbian nationalist Gavrilo Princip. Little did he, nor anyone else know that the untimely deaths of an obscure and relatively unassuming royal couple, would set in motion a chain of events that would go on to change the course of history forever.
But God knew (Isaiah 46:9-10)
From Sarajevo, World War I began, which ultimately saw the deaths of roughly forty million people, the restructuring of Europe, the collapse of two major empires (Austro-Hungarian and Ottoman), and became the casus belli for World War II. By the end of World War II, Israel had become a nation again after 1,878 years in diaspora at the same time the world formed the United Nations, and we collectively entered into the atomic age where weapons of mass destruction (WMD) became not just the single greatest threat to humanity, but also the greatest status quo mechanism ensuring its survival (Mutually Assured Destruction).
Author’s Note: As my colleague, Britt Gillette has pointed out, technology is advancing so rapidly, that MAD is no longer the guarantor of the status quo.
It was also during this momentous age of change that at the exact same time when mankind shifted from looking at the signs of the times to actually living through the time of signs, the mainline churches were sleeping soundly at the helm of western Christendom. Like the Pharisees of Jesus’ day, they used the silence of the previous centuries as proof positive that since God hadn’t done anything in their recent past (their opinion), God would continue doing nothing in their immediate future. This is a dangerous and foolish attitude to take with God, and worthy (as we’ve read previously) of His stern condemnation.
It is natural and normal for us to have moments of doubt about where God is in our lives and what He’s doing. But God, who so carefully watches over the sparrow and the lily, and knows every star in the universe by name and every hair on your head, as well as past-present-future simultaneously, knows our fears and our limitations. He has given us Bible prophecy as a light to shine in the increasingly dark times (1 Peter 1:19). We need not fear what lies ahead, because we have God’s word to us that is not only more sure than the air we breathe, but cannot fail nor ever diminish. He said heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away (Matt. 24:35).
And just as John the Baptist, who came preaching repentance for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand, had to decrease, so too must the Church decrease (by way of Rapture) so that Jesus can fulfill the promises made throughout Scripture to the covenant nation of Israel. God has to fulfill His promises to the Jewish nation because His word cannot fail. And as a popular pastor is fond of saying, if God can break His eternal covenant with the Jew, how much easier would for Him to break it with me and you?
We should be ever thankful that God has not only proven Himself faithful until the uttermost but that He also longs to be with us and have us be where He is (John 14:1-3). And as our age winds down and our civilization falls apart, now is not the time to either shrink back or chase after every wild prediction that makes us weary and tired. Let us not be caught sleeping like the dead church of Sardis (Rev 3:3). Instead, let us be resolved in our common faith and shine brighter together as we see that day approaching (Hebrews 10:25).
Even as John the Baptist had his moment of doubt, assuredly, the report back from his disciples would have immediately put him at peace and confidence that Jesus was the Christ. Just as we take comfort with the Holy Spirit indwelling and sealing us, confirms what we have known all along, because, If You Know, You Know.
Even so, Maranatha!
Image Credit: Pete Garcia