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Last Day... His Soon Return by Merwin Severtson

Updated on November 18, 2012

Figs, Philadelphia, Laodicea

There are many (I among them) who say that believers will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air prior to the beginning of the Great Tribulation.

It seems to me, that there are three central verses that bring many commentators and me to that conclusion (Rev 3:8, 3:10, & 4:1).

In the beginning chapters of Revelation, Jesus addressed the seven churches; we will focus on the last two.

Jesus to the church at Philadelphia:
Rev 3:8 (Amplified Version)
I know your [record of] works and what you are doing. See! I have set before you a door wide open which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and guarded My message and have not renounced or denied My name.

Rev 3:10 (Amplified Version)
Because you have guarded and kept My word of patient endurance [have held fast the lesson of My patience with the expectant endurance that I give you], I also will keep you [safe] from the hour of trial (testing) which is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell upon the earth.

Jesus to John:
Rev 4:1 (Amplified Version)
After this I looked, and, behold, a door standing opened in heaven! And the first voice which I had heard addressing me like [the calling of] a war trumpet said, Come up here, and I will show you what must take place in the future.

These verses are important because they make the clear statement that there is an open door in heaven Rev 3:8 and an avoidance of a tribulation period, Rev 3:10. While the Rev 4:1 verse is generally esteemed by pre-tribbers as a reference that John (symbolic of the church), is being caught up.

So, if John is symbolic of the church of Philadelphia being spared from "…the hour of temptation" what would that mean if pre-tribbers are correct?

What “temptation” is the church kept from?

Is, "to be kept from the hour of temptation", simply to avoid persecution so severe as to drive nearly all to worship the beast? Or could it also mean, kept from the temptation of perhaps of falling into "lukewarm" line with the church of Laodicea, being rich and in need of nothing? These, and much more I believe.

That hour of temptation should not be all that hard to imagine really. Just for a moment, consider the weightier temptations that attack your walk now, and multiply the power of them by ten.

One might ask, why would normal temptations by themselves increase so radically?

2 Thessalonians 2:7, 8 (New KJV)
For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only He who now restrains [will do so] until He is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord will consume with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming.

So when the one who holds back the spirit of the anti-Christ is removed, that will also remove from the flesh, the greater ability to resist temptation. The ability to take a stand for that which is right and to show strength toward that end will be rare. Few will be able to overcome.

The heinous atrocities that mankind is perpetrating against his fellow man, up to the point of the "restrainer" being removed, is mild compared to the degradation and violence of the times that will follow. The temptation to “go along to get along” will be irresistible except to those who are able to choose the eternal over the very temporary.

For those who will never allow the message of salvation to be anything more than mere nonsense to them, the transition into deep depravity will be logical and relatively seamless. For those left behind who will not worship the beast, it will be very abrupt and shocking. A wake-up call, if you will; an irrefutable declaration, earmarked by the removal of nearly all believers worldwide and the sudden freefall into wickedness.

What of the church of Philadelphia? What are the conditions of the church that is removed from the hour of temptation? And what of "the hour of trial" that is coming?

We need to first determine if we are that "generation" (the 20 to 100 year span) who will see this come to pass. This would prove to be nothing more than "study" if the events were not immediate and lying at the door.

Currently, Israel has been a nation for 61 years and has possessed Jerusalem for 42 years. 40 years is the most typical example of a generation in the Bible.

Jeremiah 24:1-6 (Amplified Version)
After Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had taken into exile Jeconiah [also called Coniah and Jehoiachin] son of Jehoiakim king of Judah and the princes of Judah, with the craftsmen and smiths from Jerusalem, and to Babylon, the Lord showed me [in a vision] two baskets of figs set before the temple of the Lord.
One basket had very good figs, like the figs that are first ripe; but the other basket had very bad figs, so bad that they could not be eaten.
Again the word of the Lord came to me, What do you see Jeremiah? And I said Figs – the good figs very good, and the bad very bad, so bad that they cannot be eaten.
Again the word of the Lord came to me, saying, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel: Like these good figs, so will I regard the captives of Judah whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. And I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up.

I agree with all the experts who believe that the fig tree and its fruit are symbolic of Judah to this day. God, in speaking to Jeremiah, referred to Judah as being the basket of figs that he would pluck up, but one day replant in the land of Israel and they would never again be plucked up. They were plucked up and taken to Babylon in Jeremiah's day and were not replanted as their own rulers until 1948.

When they were "allowed" to return to their land it was by the decree of their ruler Cyrus in 538 BC, and in 445 BC their ruler Artaxerxes granted Nehemiah the power to govern and rebuild the walls of Jerusalem.

Even then, they were not sovereigns of their own land. They were only allowed to occupy the land by granted permission; each successive foreign ruler allowed continued occupancy. The only exception was their 100-year respite during the Maccabean rebellion 164 to 63 BCE. These allowances continued until the Roman Empire scattered the Jewish people as slaves throughout the empire, being marked by the Roman's destruction of Herod's Temple in 70 AD.

The fig symbolism continues...

The fig symbolism continues as Matthew 21:8-16 describes the day of the triumphant, Hosanna entry of Jesus into Jerusalem. His righteous indignation, and subsequent overturn of the moneychanger's tables, declaring them to be thieves. His healing of the blind and lame in the courts and porches of the Temple, and the children were crying out Hosanna! As the chief priests looked on and rejected their praise of Him, Jesus responded, "Out of the mouth of babes praise is perfected."

He lodged in Bethpage that night but the next morning he went back to Jerusalem.

Matthew 21:19 (Amplified Version)
And as He saw on single leafy fig tree above the roadside, He went to it but he found nothing but leaves on it [seeing that in the fig tree the fruit appears at the same time as the leaves]. And He said to it, Never again shall fruit grown on you! And the fig tree withered up at once.

I believe this symbolizes for us that the Jewish spiritual leadership of that day had no "fruit".
In Matthew the 24th chapter you have a very vivid description of all that we see before us today. Wars rumors of wars, false Christ figures everywhere. In the last one hundred years, we have had two world wars, and two world-coalition conflicts conquering the land of Babylon, Iraq. Atheistic purges of the Socialist regimes, Stalin, Chairman Mao, murdering millions of their own people, for any imagined reason. Famines killing millions, devastating earthquakes, one earthquake in Indonesia created a tsunami which wiped out a quarter million people in just a few hours.

All the events are precursors of the tribulation.

Matthew 24:8-13 (Amplified Version)
All this is but the beginning [the early pains] of the birth pangs [of the intolerable anguish].
(Begin tribulation)
Then they will hand you over to suffer affliction and tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for My name's sake.
And then many will be offended and repelled and will begin to distrust and desert [Him who they ought to trust and obey] and will stumble and fall away and betray one another and pursue one another with hatred.
And many false prophets will rise up and deceive and lead many into error.
And the love of the great body of people will grow cold because of the multiplied lawlessness and iniquity.
But he who endures to the end will be saved.

(Middle tribulation)
Matthew 24:15-16 (Amplified Version)
So when you see the appalling sacrilege [the abomination that astonishes and makes desolate], standing in the Holy place – let the reader take notice and ponder and consider and heed [this] Then let those in Judea flee to the mountains;

(Jesus goes on to report of the terrible future events. He then renders an important disclosure culminating with verses 32 thru 38.)

Matthew 24:32-38 (Amplified Version)
From the fig tree learn this lesson: as soon as its young shoots become soft and tender and it puts out its leaves, you know of a surety that summer is near.
So also when you see these signs, all taken together, coming to pass, you may know of a surety that he is near, at the very doors.
Truly I tell you, this generation (the whole multitude of people living at the same time, in a definite given period) will not pass away till all these things taken together take place.
Sky and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
But of that [exact] day and hour no one know, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. As were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man.
For just as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, [men] marrying and [women] being given in marriage, until the [very] day when Noah went into the ark.
And they did not know or understand until the flood came and swept them all away – so will be the coming of the Son of Man.

I underline the reference to the fig tree, to emphasize it as an obviously significant symbol. Israel became its own internationally recognized sovereign nation May 14, 1948, and once again gaining as its "spiritual" capital, Jerusalem in 1967.

Jesus cursed the fig tree just on the outskirts of Jerusalem and then that same day warned, "learn from the fig tree this lesson". The symbolism Jesus employed was for a reason, a reason that should not be taken lightly.

In Jeremiah, God prophesied about his relationship to Judea in regard to the fig tree, "And I will bring them again to this land; and I will build them up and not pull them down, and I will plant them and not pluck them up."

The fig tree has put forth her tender leaves as a sovereign nation and we are the generation who has already seen most of the warnings signs come to pass.

The seven churches mentioned in the beginning of Revelation have multiple meanings that nearly all the experts agree on. They are descriptive of the contemporary first churches known around the time of the writing. They are also descriptive of the succession of churches over the centuries, with Philadelphia and Laodicea being the last in succession. And, that the combined characteristics can be found in any church at any given point in history.

I believe we are in the time of Philadelphia and Laodicea and John representing the collective church faithful who are caught up. I believe that the church of Laodicea will enter into the hour of temptation and only a tiny fraction of that church will be able to overcome.

In conclusion, let me focus on the major differences between the two examples given in churches of Laodicea and Philadelphia.

The most obvious, and easiest to describe, is Laodicea.

Rev 3:15-17 (Amplified Version)
I know your [record of] works and what you are doing; you are neither cold nor hot. Would that you were cold or hot!
So, because you are lukewarm and neither cold nor hot, I will spew you out of My mouth.
For you say, I am rich; I have prospered and grown wealthy, and I am in need of nothing; and you do not realize and understand that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked.

I am tempted to offer no commentary, as it should need none, but it perfectly describes the condition of our nation's churches today. Except for our blindness, it should be obvious. With few exceptions, this is our label; this is our description. We are in desperate need of His counsel, instead we placate ourselves convinced that we are the church of Philadelphia or imagine that "the end" is farther off than it is.

For the church at Philadelphia:

Rev 3:10 (Amplified Version)
Because you have guarded and kept My word of patient endurance [have held fast the lesson of My patience with the expectant endurance that I give you], I also will keep you [safe] from the hour of trial (testing) which is coming on the whole world to try those who dwell upon the earth.

In verse 3:12 Jesus refers to "He who overcomes (is victorious), I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God"… Overcomes what?

Certainly we have routine temptations, "sins common to man": adultery and fornication of every sort, drunkenness, lying, and murder. If we have done these in our hearts we are guilty. But, the more subtle sins (self-righteousness, haughtiness, arrogance) are prevalent in our lives and are seldom dealt with. And if we happen to avoid self-righteous behavior, we generally congratulate our own humble natures.

We are un-teachable and unreachable, more certain of our ability to "follow the rules" than we are of our real relationship with our Bridegroom. This is not the case concerning the church of Philadelphia.

And the pitfalls are extremely hard to avoid, so much so that we cannot avoid them now without miraculous help from the Holy Spirit, or He who restrains.

Temptations will be more impossible for a remnant believer to resist after the church of Philadelphia has been instructed to "come up here" and "he who restrains" is taken out of the way. The empowerment that the martyrs will receive from God during that time will prove even more miraculous.

There is still a little time for us to join the church of Philadelphia no matter what "body" we happen to attend!

Are we so poor in spirit that we cannot discern the times? Are our spiritual senses so dull? Are we so blind?

Maybe, but there is still time to heal. There is still time to repent and cast aside our arrogant declarations, "I am rich and in need of nothing."

Rev 3:18,19 (Amplified Version)
Therefore I counsel you to purchase from Me gold refined and tested by fire, that you may be [truly] wealthy, and white clothes to clothe you and to keep the shame of your nudity from being seen, and salve to put on your eyes, that you may see.
Those whom I [dearly and tenderly] love, I tell their faults and convict and convince and reprove and chasten [I discipline and instruct them]. So be enthusiastic and in earnest and burning with zeal and repent [changing your mind and attitude].

We have been given a very great gift, that of faith, that of trusting only in Him. We hang our lives on Him, and to not trust our own way. We need to be as little children, not in perfection, but in need.

Here is His simplest description of faith and also the most powerful in its application. The one found to be the hardest to employ, especially in this nation:

Matthew 6:31-33 (Amplified Version)
Therefore do not worry and be anxious, saying, What are we going to eat? Or, What are going to have to drink? Or What are we going to have to wear?
For the Gentiles (heathen) wish for and crave and diligently seek all these things, and your heavenly Father knows well that you need them all.
But seek (aim at and strive after) first of all His kingdom and His righteousness (His way of doing and being right), and then all these things taken together will be given you besides.

I believe in my heart that our commandments from Jesus, to do the works of God, are as simple as he put them:

John 6:28,29 (Amplified Version)
They then said, What are we to do, that we may [habitually] be working the works of God? [What are we to do to carry out what God requires?]
Jesus replied, This is the work (service) that God asks of you: that you believe in the One Whom He has sent [that you cleave to, trust, rely on, and have faith in His Messenger].

Rev 3:8 (Amplified Version)
I know your [record of] works and what you are doing. See! I have set before you a door wide open which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept My Word and guarded My message and have not renounced or denied My name.

Eph 2:8,9 (KJV)
For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: [it is] the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.

Even so, come quickly Lord!

Please read a wonderful book about Grace…
“The Pressure’s Off” by Larry Crabb


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    • CoauthorU profile image

      CoauthorU 7 years ago from Inland Northwest, USA

      amen and amen

    • Judah's Daughter profile image

      Judah's Daughter 7 years ago from Roseville, CA

      I enjoyed this hub. I was just wishing today that we could somehow KNOW His return is very near (for it is comforting). The saints are growing weary...the world is growing more rebellious; hearts are hardened; minds are at war; few are softened to receive the gospel (at least in my experience over the past year)...time has to be running short.

      "Lord Jesus, we pray for the hearts of people that don't yet know You. Please reveal Yourself to them; prepare their hearts to receive Your Word ~ to believe that You created them and saved them by your precious shed blood on the cross. Comfort them that all it takes is to repent from the dead ways of the world and to put their faith and trust in You. You will save them and raise them. In Jesus' holy Name ~ Amen."