Rabbi’s Reflections – Sunday, September 27, 2020
Shavuah Tov and Erev Yom Kippur,
“Yes! I am coming tachy!”
Hints concerning the time of Yeshua’s return
by Dr. and Senator Raymond Finney
INTRODUCTION: A friend occasionally calls me to discuss end-time prophecy. He recently asked, “When do you think Yeshua will return?” I answered, “No one knows, of course, but prophecy students emphasize certain words to support their BEST GUESS when Yeshua MIGHT return.” I briefly discuss some of these words in today’s RR.
WORD (PHRASE) STUDY 1– NO ONE KNOWS: Yeshua’s disciples asked three end-time questions, which He answered in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew, chapters 24 and 25; Mark, chapter 13; and Luke, chapter 21). Concerning their interest in the date of Yeshua’s return, He answered (Matthew 24:36): “But of that day and hour [of My return] no one knows, not even the angels of heaven nor the Son, except the Father alone.” (Similar statements: Matthew 24:42, 44; Mark 13:32-33; Luke 12:40; 1 Thessalonians 5:2, 4; Revelation 3:3; etc.) While on earth as the Son of Man, Yeshua apparently suspended certain divine powers, including aspects of knowledge of the future (such as, the date of His return). But, Yeshua and other prophets have given abundant clues for us to have a general– not a specific– understanding of the date of Yeshua’s return.
WORD STUDY 2– TACHY: The title of this RR uses a word from a direct quote of Yeshua (Revelation 22:20b): … “Yes! I am coming soon!….” Most translations have followed in the King James Version’s footsteps, translating the timing of Yeshua’s promised return (Greek tachy) as “soon” or “quickly.” Such verse translation makes no sense. Yeshua has not returned in nearly two millennia, which is not ”soon” or “quickly” by anyone’s reckoning. Since these translations make no sense, could Yeshua have meant something other than “soon” or “quickly?”
Let’s examine the Greek text for a possible answer. The Greek word in question is tachy, used in today’s RR title. Strong gives the following translations for this adverb: “shortly, i.e., without delay; soon, or (by surprise) suddenly; or (by implication, of ease) readily: lightly, quickly.” After two-thousand years, a soon return or quick return for Yeshua does not fit. But, another translation– sudden-by-surprise return– fits perfectly with other Scriptures and historical reality. Yeshua may return suddenly, surprising all who long for His appearance.
WORD STUDY 3– IMMINENCY: A feature of Yeshua’s return is His imminent return. “Imminent” implies a condition that will happen at any time and without warning. A synonym could be “at any moment.” “Imminent” is an assured future event, occurring at a time when that event is uncertain and unknowable.
Following are examples of Scriptures about Yeshua’s imminent return, which I summarize to conserve space:
** (Matthew 24:44): Yeshua said we must be ready because He will return at an hour no one expects.
** (Mark 13:32): Yeshua said no one except God the Father knows the day and hour of His return.
** (Luke 12:35-40): Yeshua told us that we must be ready for His return, just as slaves might await their master’s return, and we must remain as vigilant as the master of a house might watch for the unexpected intrusion of a thief.
** (John 14:3): Yeshua promised He went to prepare a place for us and He will return, so that we may be with Him eternally.
** (Acts 1:7, 9, 11): Yeshua told us it is not our place to know the times or seasons that are under God’s control. Then, as His followers watched, Yeshua ascended into the heavens under cover of a cloud. “Two men in white” (angels, surely) assured the followers that Yeshua would return in the same manner as He departed.
** (1 Corinthians 15:51-52): Paul told us that “flesh and blood” and “whatever decays” cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. Therefore, we will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the sound of the trumpet,* when we are raised incorruptible.
** (1 Thessalonians 4:16-17): The Lord shall come from heaven with a shout of the archangel and the blast of God’s trumpet.* The dead in Messiah shall rise first; the living in Messiah shall follow. Together, they shall meet the Messiah in the clouds, and they shall always, then, be with the Lord. [* COMMENT: In the preceding two passages, there is used the Greek word salpinx. Most versions translate this word as “trumpet.” In the TLV, the word is translated shofar. While imprecise, trumpet and shofar are now used interchangeably by many persons.]
SIDELIGHT: The absence of Yeshua from the earth and His future return without warning creates the state of “imminent return.”
Preparing and watching for Yeshua’s return is a test of faith for Believers. The Crown of Righteousness may be awarded to Believers who lovingly watch for His return (2 Timothy 4:8). Yeshua spelled out this test of faithful patience very well in the Parable of the Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13). Yeshua told us the Kingdom of Heaven is to be likened to this parable. In brief, ten betrothed virgins kept company with each other. Five wise virgins kept their lamps trimmed and filled with oil. Five foolish virgins allowed their lamps to have untrimmed wicks and to be emptied of oil. When the bridegroom returned, the wise virgins were ready to go to the bridegroom’s village, where they celebrated the marriage. The five foolish virgins could not see the darkened path at night. The bridegroom told them to stay home (Matthew 25:12-13): “But [the bridegroom] replied, ‘Amen, I tell you, I do not know you.’ Therefore stay alert, for you know neither the day nor the hour [of the bridegroom’s return].”
In this parable:
** Virgins in the parable represent a long line of Believers. In the first century, a betrothed virgin stayed with a group of other virgins, while she awaited the return of her betrothed husband from his father’s village, where he had gone to prepare a home for the couple after marriage.
** The bridegroom represents Yeshua. In the B’rit Chadashah, Yeshua is referred to as “the Bridegroom” and Believers are His “bride” because of the Marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7-10).
** The bridegroom went to the father’s village (representing our Heaven– John 14:3) to build a house for his bride (compare Yeshua’s promise to prepare a place for us in His Father’s home, but He promised He would return for us).
** After approximately one year’s absence, the bridegroom returned for his betrothed wife, usually at night, but at a time no one knew. He would shout her name and invite her to come from her house to join him for the trip to their marriage. Yeshua will return in the clouds, when no one suspects, and shout for us to come to Him. Then, we go to our marriage in Paradise. I suspect He may call each Believer by name, inviting him/ her to join Him. If the Rapture is pre-Tribulation, as many believe, how will those left behind (the unredeemed) not know it? Yeshua may have given us a clue (John 10:27): [Yeshua said] “My sheep hear My voice. I know them, and they follow Me.” Could it be that Yeshua returns in the clouds; calls each redeemed Believer by name; a called-out one hears his/her name; but the unredeemed hear only a clap of thunder, as the names are not intended for them and seem only as garbled noise?
** You do not want to hear the Bridegroom Yeshua say to you at the Rapture to stay back, adding: “I tell you, I do not know you.”
** The symbolism of the virgins’ oil lamps is important. A lamp will not give light, unless its wick is properly maintained (trimmed). Yeshua is the Light of the World (John 8:12). In His absence, He transferred His light to us, and we are the lights of the world (Matthew 5:14-16). Is any Believer who has no interest in spreading the Light of the world to others in danger of being left behind, when the Bridegroom returns? A number of Scriptures in the Tanakh and the B’rit Chadashah use oil as a metaphor for the Ruach HaKodesh. Is any Believer who has no interest in keeping the power and guidance of the Ruach HaKodesh in his/ her life in danger of being left behind when the Bridegroom returns?
Some might say, “Finney, your interpretation of this parable must be wrong. All of the virgins in the parable represent saved persons (Believers) faithfully meeting in churches/ synagogues, but only some of them went to Heaven when Yeshua returns. Since all of them are saved (Doctrine of Eternal Security of Salvation– ‘Once saved, always saved’), all of them surely went to Heaven. Right?” Maybe, maybe not. In a future RR, I hope to discuss this doctrine more fully. Most of my younger years were spent as a Southern Baptist, and this doctrine is a bedrock belief of Baptists. I hope this doctrine is true, but I wonder.
Consider two other Scriptures about difficulties in “eternal security of salvation:”
** (Matthew 7:13-14): [Yeshua said] “Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the way is broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow is the gate and difficult the way that leads to life, and those who find it are few.” Have we made salvation seem too simple? Is repeating a “sinner’s prayer” at age twelve and, then, living a life absent God enough for salvation? Can a person spend a lifetime feeling he/ she is saved, only to find at judgment that he/ she is not saved? There are difficult questions with excellent pro and con answers concerning this doctrine.
** (Revelation 3:5): [Yeshua said] “The one who overcomes thus will be dressed in white clothes; I will never blot his name out of the Book of Life, and will confess his name before My Father and His angels.” It seems that the “ticket” to Heaven is having one’s name written in the Lamb’s Book of Life. In this promise of not blotting out names from this Book, is the converse true? That is, can a name once written in the Book of Life be blotted out? Is a saved person’s name written in the Book of Life in indelible ink or in pencil?
In the interest of fair representation of thoughts: I know there are also multiple Scriptures supporting the Doctrine of Eternal Security of Salvation. When I get ready to confuse RR readers and myself, I will write a RR addressing only this topic. Do not hope to squeeze into Heaven on a technicality, though. Keep your wicks trimmed (spread the Light of the world to the world) and your lamps filled with oil (the Ruach HaKodesh) to be safe. END sidelight.
WORD STUDY 4– CONVERGENCE (OF END-TIME PROPHECIES): Students of prophecy emphasize the convergence of end-time signs (end-time prophecies). [Convergence = merging something from multiple points toward a single point.] Bible prophecy is scattered throughout the Bible from early Genesis to the end of Revelation. Someone with plenty of time counted the number of prophetic verses in the entire Bible, finding that twenty-eight (28) per cent of the verses are prophetic in nature. Many of these verses foretell the end of the age (including the time in which we now live). God surely has always wanted us to know the future, if He devoted so much of His Word to prophecy!
Throughout the many centuries of Judaism and Christianity, God’s people have been baffled by and have wondered what many Biblical prophecies might mean. Even today, far too many pastors will not preach or teach anything from, say, the Revelation or from Daniel (except the ever-popular story of the Hebrew children in the lion’s den). They claim prophecy “frightens congregants,” is “too complicated,” or is “just symbolic.” In truth, these pastors are too lazy to study.
Today, prophecy after prophecy is converging– coming to a point– and that point is shouting to all who will listen– the King of kings and Lord of lords is coming! God has given us truly remarkable scholar giants in the past few decades. These Bible prophecy scholars have clarified what were mysteries for many centuries. If a Believer says, “Bible prophecy is so complicated I cannot understand any of it,” he/ she has not applied him-/ her-self. Many complicated subjects– subjects which were even “mysteries” to the Apostle Paul– have been unraveled and patiently explained for Believers to read. Several Christian television networks are available to the cable or satellite television subscriber, and these channels carry prophetic teachers almost on an hourly basis. (Some of these teachers are admittedly a little nuts, but most are remarkably consistent in their views.) A Believer’s diligent study will be rewarded with a great body of knowledge about our future and the working of God’s mind (2 Timothy 2:15 NKJV): Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
WORD STUDY 5– ACCELERATION (OF END-TIME PROPHECIES): Although not telling us the day and hour of His reappearance in the clouds, Yeshua told us the season of His return (Matthew 24:32-35): [Yeshua said] “Now learn the parable from the fig tree. When its branch becomes tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, at the door. Amen, I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things happen. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will never pass away.” (See also Mark 13:28-31 and Luke 21:29-33.)
Yeshua was talking to His disciples, all of whom were farm boys or were familiar with the agricultural seasons of the year in Israel. Fig trees leafed out in the spring, which foretold summer was only weeks away. If Yeshua had been ministering in eastern Tennessee, He probably would have said, “When you see the dogwoods bloom,….” Fig tree is better in this parable, though, because the fig tree, not the dogwood, symbolizes Israel. SIDELIGHT: Three plants symbolize Israel. The (grape) vine symbolizes Israel’s spiritual privileges. The fig tree symbolizes Israel’s national privileges. The olive tree symbolizes Israel’s religious privileges. END sidelight.
Yeshua told us to watch for the coming to life of the dormant fig tree– representing dormant Israel coming to life– because we would know summer– representing Yeshua’s return– was imminent (“at the door”).
We can take still other things from Yeshua’s parable:
** “All things” must converge at one time. “All things” referred to the signs He taught earlier in the Olivet Discourse (preceding verses in Matthew, chapter 24).
** In following paragraphs, note that these things have prophetic implications only when the Jews are at home in Israel (which came to pass in May, 1948).
** One condition is ambiguous: “… this generation will not pass away until all these things happen.” Students of prophecy assume the countdown to the end of the age began in May, 1948 (return of Jews from the Diaspora to their homeland of Israel) or in June, 1967 (capture of Jerusalem and the Temple Mount during the Six-Day War). So, Yeshua may return some time before the end of “a generation” past one of these starting point dates. But, what is a generation? “Generation” is used in several different contexts in Scripture. It may be as short as thirty years to as long as the death of the last person living at a given time. Thirty years is too short for Yeshua’s example, as Yeshua should have returned in 1978 (1948 + 30) or 1997 (1967 + 30). Of course, we do not know when the last person living in 1948 or 1967 will die, but it is decades away. We should just let God be God. He will call us home, when He is ready, and He is fully capable of this decision without our advice.
I hope to write another RR some day on the exceedingly interesting prophecies in Ezekiel, chapters 36 and 37. God told His prophet in the sixth century BC:
** That He would bring back His people Israel from their forced dispersal throughout the world. He promised to end the Diaspora, even before it was known there would be a Diaspora. These momentous events would occur many centuries in Ezekiel’s future– the removal of Jews from Israel to be dispersed into many nations, the Diaspora, occurred in AD 70, and the return of Jews to Israel, the end of the Diaspora, occurred in AD 1948;
** That He would find the Jews as disjointed skeletons in dry valleys (the Jews would have lost their identity, language, and other national markers), but they would be reunited as one nation never again to be defeated or divided;
** Using the example of two sticks being joined into one stick, He would join the long separated Jewish tribes– Judah and Joseph (Ephraim) – into one nation under one government– Israel; and
** That He would establish an everlasting covenant of peace in their land.
Can anyone read these chapters and have doubts that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is real? For more than two and one-half millennia, a written document (the Tanakh) has prophesied what has come to pass exactly as written. Still unfulfilled prophecies surely must be as valid as already fulfilled prophecies. Praise Adonai, for He is good, for His lovingkindness endures forever. (Psalm 136:1)
For many centuries, end-time prophecy fulfillment was sluggish– virtually non-existent. Since Israel was re-established in 1948, end-time prophecy fulfillment has accelerated at breakneck speed. When I listen to news reports, I repeatedly say to myself, “That’s another prophecy being fulfilled… that’s another prophecy being fulfilled… that’s another prophecy being fulfilled….” Study prophecy and world and national news will mean much more to you, as you say to yourself, “Oh, now I understand what is happening!” You will have daily “Paul Harvey moments.” (The late Paul Harvey: “And now you know– the rest of the story.”)
** (Amos 3:7): For the Lord Adonai, will do nothing, unless He has revealed His counsel to His servants the prophets.
** (Isaiah 42:9): [Adonai said] “Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things. Before they spring forth I announce them to you.”
** (Isaiah 46:9-10): [Adonai said] “Remember the former things of old: For I am God– there is no other. I am God, and there is none like Me– declaring the end from the beginning, from ancient time, what is yet to come, saying, “My purpose will stand, and I will accomplish all that I please.”
CONCLUSION: There are a number of other words frequently used by prophecy students to wonder about the season of Yeshua’s return, but I have already overstayed my welcome and I will stop writing at this point. Just be confident that God is in control. Yeshua will return at a date and time no one knows. His return will be sudden. All prophecies are rapidly converging to this truth and are accelerating in their fulfillment. Be ready (Matthew 24:44): [Yeshua said] “So you also must be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” Shalom and Maranatha.