Next year is the seventieth anniversary of Israel being reestablished as a nation. Unsurprisingly, this has led to growing speculation that the rapture will take place in 2018. Is there a connection between Israel’s 70th anniversary and the rapture?
The argument goes a little something like this. Jesus told us to “learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:32-33). Israel, it’s argued, represents the fig tree. The fig tree putting forth its leaves is symbolic of Israel becoming a nation. Jesus will return during the generation that witnesses this event. Indeed, Jesus added that “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34). Based on these verses, it’s widely believed Jesus taught that the generation which sees Israel become a nation again will not pass away.
While this is commonly taught, it doesn’t add up. For starters, Jesus mentioned that when we see “all these things” we’ll know He is at the door and the generation which witnesses “all these things take place” won’t pass away (Matthew 24:33-34). It’s clear that Jesus isn’t talking about witnessing one event, like the rebirth of the nation of Israel. He used the phrase ‘all these things’ twice for a reason. So, what things would those be?
Simply put, Jesus is referencing the signs He mentioned earlier in the passage. These include celestial signs, such as the darkening of the sun and moon, stars falling from the sky and the shaking of the heavens (Matthew 24:29). These celestial signs will immediately be followed by the sign of the Son of Man, the appearance of Jesus in the sky (Matthew 24:30). After His appearance in the sky, Jesus will send His angels to gather His followers (Matthew 24:31). In other words, the rapture won’t occur until these specific signs take place. Incidentally, these signs won’t happen until the sixth seal of Revelation is opened (Revelation 6:12-17).
Now, is the rebirth of Israel as a nation one of those signs? Well, the event isn’t directly mentioned as a sign. Does the fig tree represent the reestablishment of Israel? It’s unlikely. Luke also recorded Jesus teaching the same lesson in the context of His return. Christ said “Behold the fig tree and all the trees; as soon as they put forth leaves, you see it and know for yourselves that summer is now near” (Luke 21:29-30). Jesus included ‘all the trees’ along with the fig tree, which means that the fig tree doesn’t represent anything in particular. The lesson of the fig tree is that people will know the return of Christ is near when they see the signs He described, just like people know summer is near when fig trees and other trees put forth leaves.
Obviously, prophetically significant events could happen in 2018. That said, one of those events won’t be the rapture.