Mr. Donald L. Norbie of Greeley, Colorado, serves the Lord in a number of ways, including work among students.
Although quite brief, Mr. Norbie’s article lends special emphasis to an extremely important point sometimes overlooked by God’s people today.
“Tell us, when shall these things be? And what shall be the sign of thy coming and of the world?” (Matt. 24:3) .
Today many prophetic teachers are excited about the “signs” that Christ’s return for His Church is near. They speak of Israel’s being in the land (the fig tree budding) , and of the number of wars and famines (Matt. 24:6, 7). They tell of rumors that Israel is planning to rebuild the Temple. They see in Egypt’s politics a prophetic fulfillment. And they proclaim that all these are signs that Christ’s return is near.
Yet in the same breath they will solemnly proclaim that Christ could have returned for His Church at any time since He ascended to heaven. He could have returned in the first century or second or fifth or nineteenth. Nothing had to be fulfilled before His return to claim His bride.
Perhaps those who teach the Word need to be consistent. If the signs are relevant for the Church, then obviously Christ would not return before their fulfillment. If Israel had to be restored to the land before Christ could return, then He could not return before the 20th century. For nearly 20 centuries Israel had no national identity.
Some earlier Bible teachers were more consistent with their understanding of the imminent return of Christ. They taught that Christ could return at any moment and believed the signs were for Israel, not the Church.
William Kelly writes of Matthew 24, “but the portion we are looking at does not refer to Christians, but to the Jewish disciples as they then were, and as they will be” (Lectures on Matthew, p. 437). William Kelly and many others taught that signs were for Israel, not the Church.
Those who preach that the signs are meaningful are really preaching a post-tribulation rapture. But to preach the possibility of the immediate return of Christ and in the next breath to proclaim the spine-tingling prophetic fulfillment of signs is not being consistent. And the one who proclaims God’s Word incurs a solemn responsibility.
Perhaps we need to be more occupied with the practical state of God’s people as they await His return than with prophetic minutiae. We may all be a little surprised to see how the events unfold in the future.