After Winter, Before Summer – By Michael Hile –
“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven…” Ecclesiastes 3:1
The Song of Solomon talks about the bridegroom (my beloved) coming for His bride (my love, my fair one) after “winter is past” and when “the fig tree putteth forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grape give a good smell” (SOS 2:10-13). The book of Luke tells us that “the kingdom of God is near at hand” when “the fig tree, and all the trees…shoot forth” and “summer is near at hand” (Luke 21:29-32).
The Season of His Coming
The statement “winter is past” lets us know that summer has probably not yet arrived, while “summer is near at hand” implies that winter has passed, and summer is close, but has not yet arrived. After winter but before summer is a period called “seedtime” in the Bible but is referred to as spring in modern usage. Spring is generally regarded as beginning in the month of March and ending in the month of June, depending upon the calendar system used.
“While the earth remaineth, seedtime and harvest, and cold and heat, and summer and winter, and day and night shall not cease.” Genesis 8:22
As summer draws near, the first three spring feasts (Passover, Unleavened Bread, and Firstfruits) have passed, and the fourth feast, Pentecost, is quickly approaching. Christ’s ascension into Heaven was forty days after He rose from the grave on the feast of Firstfruits (resurrection day, traditionally called Easter). The feast of Pentecost, which is ten days after Ascension Day, occurs during the months of May and June each year, and is always fifty days after resurrection day. The anniversary of Christ’s ascension and the feast of Pentecost occur during spring time; after winter but before summer.
Spring is the season when Jesus Christ was crucified for the sins of mankind, buried in a borrowed tomb and rose from the grave. His death, burial and resurrection were on the feast days, and He literally fulfilled the first three feasts of the Lord (Lev. 23:1-44). Spring is the season when Christ ascended into Heaven and “two men…in white apparel” (angels) standing near, asked the apostles: “Why stand ye gazing up into heaven? This same Jesus…shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven” (Acts 1:9-11). Spring is the season when “the day of Pentecost was fully come,” and “they were all filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:1-4).
Spring is the season when the bridegroom, in the Song of Solomon, says to his future bride: “Arise, my love, my fair one, and come away” (SOS 2:10-13). Spring is the season when “the fig tree putteth forth her green figs,” “her branch is yet tender and putteth forth leaves,” “summer is near” and “the kingdom of God is near at hand” (SOS 2:10-13, Mark 13:28-29, Luke 21:29-31). We are told, “when ye shall see all these things,” you are to “know that it (the bridegroom and the kingdom of God) is near, even at the doors” (Matthew 24:32-33).
Modern-day Israel, sometimes symbolized by the fig tree in the scriptures, was absent from its land for nearly 2000 years before beginning to come back from its dispersion throughout the world (the Diaspora) in the mid 1800s. Then, through several miraculous events, the Jewish people acquired national status (statehood) on May 14, 1948. Is it coincidental that the season (spring) of Israel’s birth date, over seventy years ago, corresponds with the season in which the fig tree buds, puts forth green leaves and begins to develop green figs? Is it pure happenstance that spring is also the season that the bridegroom comes for His bride, as pictured in the Song of Solomon?
Although no one knows the “day and hour” the Lord will return, will the bridegroom arrive at some future date in the spring to whisk away His ecstatic bride to the ultimate, consummate, wedding ceremony, as hinted at in the Song of Solomon? Is spring the season, before summer arrives, when the Lord will return to earth, in some future year, to set up His kingdom on earth?
The Lord has not given us concrete evidence of the time of His return; however, spring is the season for new life and new beginnings, and the Lord fulfilled much of His redemption plan for mankind during the spring season.
Spring, after winter but before summer, is an important season to be watching!
Is the Day of His Return Approaching?
Although no sign is given in the Scriptures concerning the time of the Lord’s return, some believe Hebrews 10:25 implies that we will be able to see the day of His coming (the rapture) approaching:
“…Not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is: but exhorting one another: and so much the more, as you see the day approaching.”
Believers would not be excited to see “the day of the Lord” (judgment) approaching, unless they were confident “the day of redemption” (rapture) would occur before “the day of the Lord” began, and they would not be present here on the earth when “the day of the Lord” was taking place.
That is exactly the scenario set forth by the Apostle Paul (1 Thess. 4:13-5:11), with the “resurrection” and “catching up” of the saints preceding “the day of the Lord,” and both events surprising the unbelievers as “a thief in the night” (Matthew 24:43-44, Rev. 3:3, 16:15; 1 Thess. 5:2-4; 2 Peter 3:10). The description given by the Apostle Paul is also the order of events that we may see emerging today.
Prophecies that will take place during “the day of the Lord” are beginning to assemble themselves on the world stage and cast their shadows backward into today’s news headlines. Anticipation of the approaching rapture of God’s saints seems to be implied in Luke 21:28 as the day of redemption nears: “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.”
The Times and Seasons of His Return
Christ told His apostles, as recorded in Acts 1:6-7, that it was not for them “…to know the times or the seasons…” for the restoration of the kingdom to Israel. Understanding the mystery of “the times and seasons” of the kingdom’s restoration was not for the apostles to know, but it was to be reserved for and revealed to a future generation. However; Christ called the Pharisees and Scribes hypocrites for not being able to “discern the signs of the times” and for not recognizing “the time of their visitation” (Matthew 16:1-4, Luke 19:41-44).
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, which killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate: and verily I say unto you, Ye shall not see me, until the time come when ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Luke 13:34,35).
Knowing “the times and seasons” of the Lord’s return is similar to knowing Thanksgiving is near when the merchants start putting up their Christmas decorations. The appearance of Christmas lights and ornaments in the marketplace prior to Christmas, heralds the time and coming of the Christmas season and signals the approach of Christmas day; however, we know that the arrival of the Thanksgiving holidays is even closer than the advent of Christmas day.
In like manner, when we see the prophecies that will take place during “the day of the Lord” beginning to assemble themselves on the world scene, we can know confidently that “the day of redemption” is even closer, and the season for the “catching away” of the ‘bride of Christ” has finally arrived. Christ told us “when these things begin to come to pass,” we are to “look up and lift up your heads,” for the day of our redemption is almost here (Ephesians 4:30, Luke 21:1-28).
Are You Awake or Asleep?
When the Lord returns for His saints, many will be distracted by the daily routines and pleasures of this world and will not be watching the signs that point to His soon return. Jesus told His disciples to be watchful and pray that they be accounted worthy to escape the judgment coming on the earth, for it will happen suddenly, like a trap that closes quickly on its prey.
“And take heed to yourselves, lest at any time your hearts be overcharged with surfeiting, and drunkenness, and cares of this life, and so that day come upon you unawares. For as a snare shall it come on all them that dwell on the face of the whole earth. Watch ye therefore, and pray always, that ye may be accounted worthy to escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Luke 21:34-36).
The Apostle Paul admonished the saints in Rome to “wake up” because the time of their salvation (glorification at the rapture) was closer than when they first believed (justification salvation). The sanctification salvation process, which begins immediately after we confess our sins and trust in Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of our sins (justification), includes our daily walk with the Lord and is a work in progress until our death or the Lord returns in the air for his saints (glorification).
“…now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed. The night is far spent, the day is at hand: let us therefore cast off the works of darkness, and…put on the armour of light. Let us walk honestly, as in the day… and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof” (Romans 13:11-14).
The guidance given by the Apostle Paul “to awake out of sleep” was an admonition “to set your house in order” and start watching “the signs of the times.” Do not fall asleep spiritually, but stay awake, be alert and pay attention to the signs. Paul’s reason for wanting the saints to wake up was because their salvation (glorification) was getting closer, and they would soon be standing in the presence of the Lord to give an account of their life.
A Thief in the Night
The timing of the rapture, also called the “blessed hope” in Titus 2:13, will be as “a thief in the night” to those not watching, but “the times and seasons” of the rapture will not be a surprise to those who are looking for His return (1 Thessalonians 5:4-6, Matthew 25:1-13, Luke 21:34-36, Rev. 3:3). Those who are “caught up,” or raptured, will receive their glorified body and complete the glorification salvation process (Phil. 3:20-21, 1 Cor. 15:51-58).
“For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men, Teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.” Titus 2:11-14
When the Lord returns in the air for His saints, there will be two categories of people on the earth: the saved and unsaved; also called believers and nonbelievers. All of the nonbelievers will be caught off guard when the Lord returns for His saints “as a thief in the night.” Some of the nonbelievers are also “scoffers” who mock and make fun of those who are watching the gathering signs of the Lord’s return. Even among the believers, there will be those “watching,” “those not watching,” and a few “not watching but scoffing” (2 Peter 3:3-18, Jude 14-19).
“If therefore thou shalt not watch, I will come on thee as a thief, and thou shalt not know what hour I will come upon thee” (Rev. 3:3). “Because thou hast kept the word of my patience, I also will keep thee from the hour of temptation, which shall come upon all the world, to try them that dwell upon the earth. Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown” (Rev. 3:10-11).
Those who are watching will be “caught up” and will know when the Lord returns. Those who are not watching will be “left behind,’ as when a thief comes unexpectedly and takes the valuable treasure, but leaves behind that which is worthless in value to him.
Those “left behind” will not know when “the great theft” takes place, unless they are near believers who are taken, while those “caught up” will immediately “stand before the son of man” and know they have been removed from the earth and have “escaped” the coming judgments (Matt. 24:21, Luke 21:34-36, Rev. 3:10-11, Rev. 22:12-14).
That is why Jesus and His disciples exhorted the saints over a dozen times to “watch” for the signs of his return and commanded them to “watch” and be “ready” when the “son of man cometh.” Those who are watching will be rewarded for their faithfulness and will receive a “crown of righteousness” given to “all…that love his appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8). Whatever your priorities may be, make sure you are ready and not one of those left behind, like the five foolish virgins whose lamps went out, and they lacked oil (Holy Spirit) in their vessels (Matt. 25:1-13).
In the Twinkling of an Eye
When the time of His coming arrives, “the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. Wherefore comfort one another with these words” (1 Thess. 4:13-18).
After laying out the events of the resurrection and rapture, the Apostle Paul states boldly that his brothers in Christ were not in darkness, and the day of the Lord would not include them (children of light and the day) as it would the nonbelievers (children of the night and darkness), who would be overtaken as a thief in the night. Rather, Paul’s brothers in Christ were told to be spiritually awake and to watch and be sober, while continuing to grow in faith and love, knowing they had the hope of salvation.
“But of the times and the seasons (of the resurrection and rapture), brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you…But ye, brethren, are not in darkness, that that day (the day of the Lord) should overtake you as a thief (they would not be part of the day of the Lord). Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness. Therefore let us not sleep, as do others; but let us watch and be sober…For God hath not appointed us to wrath (during the day of the Lord), but to obtain salvation (be caught up) by our Lord Jesus Christ…Wherefore comfort yourselves together, and edify one another, even as also ye do” (1 Thess. 5:1-11).
Paul told his brethren to be comforted and to comfort one another concerning both “the day of redemption” and “the day of the Lord.” Being comforted and comforting others, knowing “the day of the Lord” was coming, would only make sense if they (Paul’s listeners) knew they were going to be “caught up” (raptured) before “the day of the Lord,” and they were confident and assured they would escape God’s wrath that would be poured out during “the day of the Lord” (Luke 21:34-36, Rev. 3:10).
The evidence is overwhelming that we are living in “the times and seasons” of the Lord’s return, when they (U.S. and other Gentile nations) are saying “peace and security,” in reference to the Israel/Palestinian peace process (1 Thess. 5:1-3). As the day of our redemption draws near, each of us should be asking ourselves: Are we “watching” for the Lord’s return, and will we “be ready” when He returns “in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump” (Luke 21:34-36, 1 Cor. 15:52, Rev. 3:3)? Don’t be like one of the “foolish virgins” and be left behind. Make your reservation today!