You will likely hear a lot of speculation about the potential for the Rapture to occur in 2018. Much of the speculation about a 2018 Rapture will center on the seventieth anniversary of the creation of the state of Israel. You will likely hear some Bible prophecy “experts” teach at least the following three things:
- Israel represents the fig tree that Christ referenced in His teachings about the end of the age
- Christ taught that the generation that saw the creation of the state of Israel would see His coming.
- The generation that saw the creation of the state of Israel is ending in 2018 in a biblical sense.
In this article, I will provide my thoughts on this 2018 Rapture theory in anticipation of the speculation that will soon arise.
A 2018 Rapture vs Various Rapture Timelines
I expect those who anticipate a 2018 Rapture will predominantly be believers in the Pre-Tribulation Rapture (the position that posits that the Rapture can come at any time) because a 2018 Rapture does not mesh well with the respective timelines of the Mid-Trib, Pre-Wrath, and Post-Trib positions. The following table shows the start date of the seventieth week of Daniel (or the seven year end time period that people often refer to as “the tribulation”) if a 2018 Rapture took place on the first day or the final day of the year under the Mid-Trib Rapture and Post-Trib Rapture scenarios.1
|2018 Rapture? Start of the 70th Week of Daniel for Various Rapture Date Scenarios*|
|Rapture Position||Jan. 1, 2018||Dec. 31, 2018|
|July 21, 2014||July 20, 2015|
|Post-Trib||February 7, 2011||February 6, 2012|
|*The start dates under the Pre-Wrath Rapture scenario would fall between the Mid-Trib and Post-Trib dates|
As shown in the table above, a 2018 Rapture is impossible under the Post-Trib, Mid-Trib, and Pre-Wrath Rapture scenarios. Nevertheless, I expect a large portion of this article’s readers to believe that the Rapture can occur at any point in time or possibly in 2018, so I will continue my critique.
The Length of a Biblical Generation
The 2018 Rapture theory under consideration depends on a biblical generation being seventy years in length. However, debate exists about the length of a biblical generation. Some believe that a biblical generation is 40 years in length given that it took the Lord forty years to remove a generation of His people:
“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.” (Numbers 32:13)
“(10) 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: 11 Unto whom I sware in my wrath that they should not enter into my rest.” (Psalm 95:10-11)
“(8) Harden not your hearts, as in the provocation, in the day of temptation in the wilderness: (9) When your fathers tempted me, proved me, and saw my works forty years. (10) Wherefore I was grieved with that generation, and said, They do alway err in their heart; and they have not known my ways.” (Hebrews 3:8-10)
Meanwhile, others argue that a biblical generation is seventy years or even eighty years in length by citing Psalm 90:10.
“The days of our years are threescore years and ten; and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years, yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off, and we fly away.” (Psalm 90:10)
Although few people these days live to one hundred years of age, some argue that a generation lasts for as much as 120 years based on what is found in Genesis 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.” (Genesis 6:3)
Those who believe in the 2018 Rapture theory under consideration are likely inclined to believe that a biblical generation is at least seventy years in length. However, remember that the length of a biblical generation is debatable.
Israel as the Fig Tree
I have written previously on the subject of Israel representing a fig tree. Three key passages often cited by those who believe Israel symbolically represents the fig tree are: Jeremiah 24:1-9, Hosea 9:10, and Mark 11:13-23:
- Jeremiah 24:1-9 describes two groups of figs: those who were taken captive (the good figs) and those who remained in the land of Israel and lived in land of Egypt (the bad figs):
- Hosea 9:10 compares the Israelites to the firstripe of a fig tree: “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.”
- Mark 11:13-25 (also found in Matthew 21:18-22). Mark 11:13-14 mentions that Christ commanded a fig tree to never grow fruit again while Mark 11:20-21 describes the discovery of the same fig tree-now withered away. Some people view the cursing of the fig tree as a symbolic denunciation of Israel’s poor spiritual condition at the time. I know others have different ideas of what the symbolic signficance of the curse placed on the fig tree is, so the issue of why Christ cursed the fig tree is not something that I am dogmatic about.
I will not argue for or against the idea that Israel has some symbolic connection to the fig tree in this article because whether Israel is symbolically represented by the fig tree or not has no bearing on my view concerning the Parable of the Fig Tree. I’ll discuss the Parable of the Fig Tree next.
The Parable of the Fig Tree… and All the Trees
For sake of argument, let’s assume that a biblical generation is 70 years in length so that 2018 is the end of the generation that saw the creation of the state of Israel in 1948. The following passages are connected to the teaching people refer to as the Parable of the Fig Tree.
“(32) 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.” (Matthew 24:32-36)
“(28) Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: (29) So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors. (30) Verily I say unto you, that this generation shall not pass, till all these things be done. (31) Heaven and earth shall pass away: but my words shall not pass away. (32) But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” (Mark 13:28-32)
“(29) And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig tree, and all the trees; (30) When they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. (31) So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand. (32) Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:29-32)
Notice that Luke recorded Christ saying, “Behold the fig tree, and all the trees” in verse 29. I believe the inclusion of “all the trees” in the parable is quite significant. The inclusion of all trees means that the parable is not exclusive to the fig tree. Christ described a phenomenon that is found in a variety of trees with an emphasis on the fig tree. Therefore, I argue that the parable does not concern Israel even if Israel is represented by the fig tree since the parable concerns phenomena found in a variety of trees. I believe the central message of the parable is that people ought to know that Christ’s coming is near when they see the signs Christ described like people know that summer is near when fig trees and other trees put forth leaves.
Concerning “this generation shall not pass (away)”, I believe Christ taught that the generation that sees the heavenly signs and signs on the earth He referenced would be the generation that would see His Coming. These signs won’t occur until at least after the opening of the sixth seal as shown in the following table:
|Signs Connected to Christ’s Coming|
|The Sun Darkens||The Moon Changes||Signs in the Heavens||Massive Seismic Activity|
|Revelation 6:12-14: (12) And I beheld when he had opened the sixth seal, and, lo, there was a great earthquake; and the sun became black as sackcloth of hair, and the moon became as blood; (13) And the stars of heaven fell unto the earth, even as a fig tree casteth her untimely figs, when she is shaken of a mighty wind. (14) And the heaven departed as a scroll when it is rolled together; and every mountain and island were moved out of their places.|
|Matthew 24:29: Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:|
|Mark 13:24-27: (24) But in those days, after that tribulation, the sun shall be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, (25) And the stars of heaven shall fall, and the powers that are in heaven shall be shaken. (26) And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory. (27) And then shall he send his angels, and shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from the uttermost part of the earth to the uttermost part of heaven.|
|Luke 21:25-27: (25) And there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars; and upon the earth distress of nations, with perplexity; the sea and the waves roaring; (26) Men’s hearts failing them for fear, and for looking after those things which are coming on the earth: for the powers of heaven shall be shaken. (27) And then shall they see the Son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.|
Therefore, I do not believe Christ taught that the generation that witnessed the creation of the state of Israel would be the last generation before His Coming. Instead, I believe Christ taught that His Coming will be imminent when the heavenly signs and signs on the earth He described occur. The Parable of the Fig Tree is simply an analogy to help people understand how certain developments can alert someone about the proximity of an upcoming event. Thus, I do not believe the Parable of the Fig Tree is a teaching that supports a 2018 Rapture date.
- I subtracted the dates in the Mid-Trib scenario by 1,260 days and 2,520 days in the Post-Trib scenario. 1,260 days and 2,520 days relate to the length of the seventieth week of Daniel. See the section below:
The Length of the 70th Week of Daniel
Gabriel told Daniel that 70 weeks have been given to the people of Israel and the city of Jerusalem to bring about several developments:
“(24) Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy. (25) Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times. (26) And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.” (Daniel 9:24-26)
Most Christians who study Bible prophecy agree that the first 69 weeks of this prophecy was fulfilled over a several-hundred year period with a call to rebuild Jerusalem in the 20th year of Artaxerxes Longimanus’s reign (Nehemiah 2:1-5) and the death and ascension of Christ. Therefore, Gabriel did not mean 70 literal weeks where each week is 7 days in length. The Hebrew translation of the word “week” in Daniel is shâbûa‛, which actually means “seven”. Therefore we can also refer to Daniel’s prophecy as “the 70 sevens”.
The length of a “prophetic week” can be determined by analyzing the structure of the 70th week of Daniel. Daniel’s 70th week is divided into two halves. In the first half Antichrist will confirm a covenant with many, but will halt temple sacrifice halfway through the seven.
“And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)
The second half of the week is a period of severe persecution. This period of time will last for “time, times, and a half”. The Hebrew word for “time” is mô‛êd, which also can mean “a year”. Nearly every commentator who analyzes Daniel’s 70 week prophecy agrees that “time, times, and a half” means 3 ½ years. Therefore, a “prophetic week” is a seven (prophetic) year period.
“And he shall speak great words against the most High, and shall wear out the saints of the most High, and think to change times and laws: and they shall be given into his hand until a time and times and the dividing of time.” (Daniel 7:25)
In Revelation 12:14 we learn that 3 ½ “prophetic years” is the equivalent of 1260 days. If we divide 1260 days by 3 ½ years we will find that a prophetic year is 360 days long.
“And to the woman were given two wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, into her place, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.” (Revelation 12:14)
“And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days.” (Revelation 12:6)
Similarly, 3 ½ years is also defined as 42 months since seven years is the equivalent to 84 months. Therefore a “prophetic month” is 30 days long since 1,260 days divided by 42 months equals 30 days/month.
“(2) But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months. (3) And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth.” (Revelation 11:2-3)
Given this information, we can confirm that the 70th Week of Daniel will be 2,520 days long three different ways.
- 30 Days (in a Prophetic Month) x 42 Prophetic Months (in Half a Prophetic Week) x 2 Halves = 2520 Days
- 7 Prophetic Years (in a Prophetic Week) x 360 Days (in a Prophetic Year) = 2520 Days
- 1260 Days in “Time, Times, and Half” x 2 Halves = 2520 Days. ↩