Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could know when Jesus will return to this world to take His faithful believers to Heaven just before the Tribulation begins and when He will return at the end of the Tribulation to conquer evil and rule the world as its King? Let's examine several verses of scripture and determine if we can know the general time when He could return.
In Matthew 24:1-31 Jesus describes the events of the Tribulation. This is a seven year period of time where unfaithful Christians will be tested, a time where the nation of Israel will be tested and a time where sinful and unrepentant mankind will experience the wrath of Almighty God. I suggest that you read these verses that detail the testing that will take place.
The fig tree is spoken of often in the Old Testament and I believe that it represents the nation of Israel. The summer mentioned in the following verses is the testing that will take place for unfaithful Christians in the first half of the Tribulation and the testing of the gentile nations of the world and of the nation of Israel during the Tribulation.
Matthew 24:32-36 Now from the fig tree learn her parable: when her branch is now become tender, and putteth forth its leaves, ye know that the summer is nigh; even so ye also, when ye see all these things, know ye that He is nigh, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass away, till all these things be accomplished. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only (ASV 1901).
The last line in this set of verses says that only God the Father knows when summer is nigh: this summer is the heat of the testing of people of the earth during the seven year Tribulation. Does it mean that we should not attempt to understand when Jesus might return? Are there verses given in the Holy Bible that could perhaps point us in the general time period of His return but not the exact date?
Let's analyze a date regarding the nation of Israel: May 14, 1948. On this date the state of Israel is proclaimed as a nation by David Ben-Gurion. If the fig tree mentioned by Jesus in the above verse is the new nation of Israel then He said that the generation that was in existence when Israel was formed will not pass away until all be fulfilled: to the end of the seven year Tribulation. A generation is 70 years, so 1948 + 70 = 2018. As of today (2016), this could not be the date when all is fulfilled since there are only two years left until 2018. However, if a generation is 80 years, then 1948 + 80 = 2028. With this date, there is sufficient time from now for the seven year Tribulation to begin and complete:
Psalms 90:10 The days of our years are threescore years and ten, Or even by reason of strength fourscore years; Yet is their pride but labor and sorrow; For it is soon gone, and we fly away.
If my analysis is correct, the Tribulation would begin no later than 2021, five years from now. The First Fruits rapture would then take place no later than the day of Pentecost: May 18, 2021. Easter takes place 50 days earlier on March 27, 2021. Now, if Jesus uses the longer lives of today as the length of days of the generation that saw Israel formed as a nation, the generation could be 85 or even 90 years. This would set the end of the Tribulation on or before 2033 or 2038. Again, this analysis only suggests a possibility of the date when Jesus returns.
What do we know for sure of Jesus' return?
The destruction of Damascus will signal the final countdown to Jesus' return for the First Fruits Rapture.
Isaiah 17:1-3 The Burden of Damascus. Behold, Damascus is taken away from being a city, and it shall be a ruinous heap. The cities of Aroer are forsaken; they shall be for flocks, which shall lie down, and none shall make them afraid. And the fortress shall cease from Ephraim, and the kingdom from Damascus, and the remnant of Syria; they shall be as the glory of the children of Israel, saith Jehovah of hosts.
These verses state that the city of Damascus, Syria will be destroyed sometime in the future. This will most likely happen after a major terrorist attack is launched on Israel, the U.S. or a European nation. The nation attacked will then completely destroy Damascus, Syria.
After this destruction, the fortress will cease supporting Ephraim. Let's attempt to explain this verse. Now Ephraim was a son of Joseph and in the Old Testament God sometimes uses the name of Ephraim to represent the nation of Israel. The Hebrew word for fortress means defender. The Hebrew word for cease means to be removed, taken away, or to rest (i.e., to be made to cease from labor). Thus, the first clause in this compound sentence states, “The defender shall also be removed or taken away from Israel and shall enter into rest.” It is no secret that the faithful Christians in the Church are the defenders of Israel. It is the faithful in the Church who stand up for Israel, pray for Israel, and do everything they can to watch over and protect Israel. They will be removed and taken to Heaven just before the beginning of the Tribulation.
At the same time that the defender is taken away from Israel, the kingdom is taken away from Syria. Thus, the order of events appears to be (1) a Major terrorist attacks takes place, (2) Damascus will be destroyed and the inhabitants of the area will flee from the destruction, (3) the First Fruits Rapture will take place which will take place on the following Day of Pentecost. The Church Age began on Pentecost and we believe that it will complete on a Pentecost. Shortly after Pentecost, the Tribulation will begin.
Keep watching for events in the world that signify that we are in the last days of the Church Age. In spite of many temptations, let's remain faithful to Jesus and live our lives in obedience to Him.