Welcome to the Chapter-by-Chapter Study of the Book of the Revelation! The purpose of this study is to identify the events that will take place in the Last Days and the order in which they will occur. To do this, we must, first, define the Last Days themselves.
The Last Days
According to the Scriptures, the Last Days began with the First Coming of Jesus Christ.
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. Heb. 1:1-2
In these passages, the first-century writer tells us that he was living in the Last Days, and that the Last Days began with the ministry of Jesus Christ. This would make the start of the Last Days the First Coming of Jesus Christ. Likewise, the Apostle Peter tells us that end of the Last Days will take place at the Second Coming of Christ when the earth will be destroyed by fire.
Above all, you must understand that in the last days scoffers will come, scoffing and following their own evil desires. They will say, “Where is this ‘coming’ he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.” But they deliberately forget that long ago by God’s word the heavens came into being and the earth was formed out of water and by water. By these waters also the world of that time was deluged and destroyed. By the same word the present heavens and earth are reserved for fire, being kept for the day of judgment and destruction of the ungodly. 2 Pet. 3:3-7
From these verses, we learn that the Last Days will come to an end when the Lord returns and the earth is destroyed by fire, just as it was once destroyed by water. Based on the above, we can say that when the Scriptures speak of the Last Days, they are referring to the entire period from the First Coming of Jesus Christ to His Second Coming. The Last Days are not a future period that will occur at the end of the age but, rather, the days that we are now in and that will continue until the Lord Returns.
Having defined the Last Days, we can now examine the method for determining when the events of this period will take place as described in the Lesson from the Fig Tree.
The Lesson From the Fig Tree
The Lesson From the Fig Tree was first explained in a conversation between the Lord and the disciples concerning the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem. In that conversation, the disciples pointed out the beautiful stones that adorned the Temple buildings, to which the Lord responded by saying that the day would come when not one stone of the Temple would be left standing upon another (Matt. 24:2). Alarmed by this statement, the disciples came to Him, later, and asked, “When will this happen?” and, “What will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” In the following answer, the Lord did not give a time or date of when the Temple would be destroyed. Instead, He explained to the disciples how they could know for themselves when the above events were about to take place through the Lesson from the Fig Tree.
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door.” Matt. 24:32-33
The Lesson from the Fig Tree states that when we see the leaves of the fig tree begin to bud, we know that summer is soon to follow. With this simple lesson, the Lord explained how we can know the timing of an event (i.e. the start of summer) by watching for the events that must come before it (i.e. the budding of the fig tree). In the case of the Destruction of the Temple, the Lord went on to say that the Holy Place would be torn down after the disciples saw the Abomination that Causes Desolation standing in the Temple and the city of Jerusalem surrounded by armies. (These events are discussed in Chapter 8.) By watching for these two events, the disciples could know, beforehand, when the Temple was going to be destroyed. Accordingly, under the Lesson from the Fig Tree, we are never given the day or the hour of when something will take place. Instead, the Lesson of the Fig Tree requires that we keep watch for the events that must follow one another in the order of events of the Last Days.
“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.” Matt. 25:13
The method found in the Lesson from the Fig Tree for determining when an event is about to begin is how we are to determine the timing of all the things that must take place in the Last Days. This is made clear by how the disciples were repeatedly told that they would not be given the times or dates of future events.
He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority.” Acts 1:7
When the disciples were told that they would not be given times or dates, they were not being restricted from knowing when the events of the Last Days would take place, but how they would know when they would take place. They would not be given the day or the hour, but they would be given the order of events to keep watch for that would warn them beforehand. This same lesson was restated by the Apostle Paul who wrote that we do not need to know about times and dates in order to not be surprised by the day of the Lord.
Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 1Thess. 5:1-4
According to Paul, the day of the Lord should not surprise those who are not in darkness and who will escape the coming devastation, even though they have not been given the time or date of when these things will begin. The fact that Paul was able to give this message to the church in Thessalonica tells us that the Apostles regularly taught about the order of events of the Last Days, and, therefore, the church did not need to know about times and dates in order not be caught by surprise.
The Lesson from the Fig Tree and the Book of the Revelation
Although the Apostles are no longer with us, we can still learn about the order of the events of the Last Days by reading the Book of Revelation, which was given to the Apostle John to show God’s servants what must soon take place.
The revelation from Jesus Christ, which God gave him to show his servants what must soon take place. He made it known by sending his angel to his servant John, who testifies to everything he saw—that is, the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ. Rev. 1:1-2
It is through the study of the Book of the Revelation that we can learn what the First Church new concerning the order of events of the Last Days so that we might apply the Lesson from the Fig Tree to our current times. Accordingly, the purpose of this Chapter-by-Chapter Study of the Book of the Revelation is to help you in your own study of the timing of the events of the Last Days, so that you may keep watch.
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