Article of the Month

December 2012

 

—  WINTER  —

The season of winter begins this month in the Northern Hemisphere. While some people enjoy winter’s sports and some of its scenic beauties, winter is generally thought of as being inhospitable, dangerous, destructive, and difficult. The Bible uses the season in this threatening sense in its prophetic writings. The symbol is not used extensively, but it is a potent symbol in its rare prophetic use.

As the matter of fact, the Bible generally ignores spring and fall. It concentrates on summer and winter as clear opposites, symbolically representing the desirable and undesirable periods of prophecy relative to the Church’s experiences. We will note in this article most particularly FOUR seasonal periods representing difficult (winter) and fruitful (summer) seasons. 

We will see:

1.  the Christian or Gospel Age as a kind of winter during which the true Christian Church has suffered abuse;  (Song of Solomon 2:11)

2.  the relatively fruitful “harvest” period (as Jesus calls it in Matthew 13:30, 39) during which truths ABOUND even though some old-order destruction progresses. In other words, while it is “summer” for the Church, it is a troublous period for her detractors.

3.  the “Time of Trouble” in its fullest sense as the “harvest” closes, when truth and its adherents will not be tolerated.  This will be a true winter of discontent for everyone.  (Daniel 12:1; Matthew 24:20-22; Jeremiah 8:20)

4.  the Kingdom of Christ making its appearance on earth — earth’s SUMMERTIME of countless blessings!  (Matthew 24:32)  And there will never be another prophetic winter.

 

PERIOD # 1:

—  THE WINTER OF THE GOSPEL AGE  —

 

Between the two advents of Christ is a period of about two millennia set aside for the developing of his “Church” — those called out of this world to reign with him in his kingdom. This period is mostly a period of difficulties. The Early Church was initially persecuted by the Jews, then by the Romans. Then, when the apostasy arose, the Church experienced the various persecutions of the Dark Ages. Even during the more enlightened period of the Reformation into the 19th Century, Catholic-Protestant animosities continued and, unfortunately, even animosities among various Protestant groups and with the Church of England were not uncommon. It is little wonder, then, that the Scriptures call this entire period a “winter.” In the Song of Solomon (2:10, 11), there is a highly symbolic portrayal of the return of Jesus when, during the secret period of his second advent, he resurrects the saints who had been asleep in death. (Revelation 14:13) His invitation recalls the seasonal distresses of the age then on its way out:  “My beloved spake and said unto me, ‘Rise up, my love, my fair one, and come away; for lo, the WINTER IS PAST.’”

 

PERIOD # 2:

  THE HARVEST 

 

Unfortunately, the Gospel Age is not the last “winter” of prophecy. Thus, while we will now see a relative SUMMERTIME of  “the harvest,” one more winter will intervene before the eternal summer of the kingdom arrives.

The “harvest,” according to intricate Biblical chronological prophecies, is a period which began in the late 19th Century. Thus, as we saw in the Song of Solomon, the “harvest” (at the beginning of which Jesus secretly returns) ends the “winter” of the age and is called a “summer.” This is the case because Jesus returns with a bounty of truths (spiritual food) which he shares with his true Church. (Revelation 3:20) What could be a greater “summertime” or period of bounteous blessings for disciples yet in the flesh than to recognize their Lord returned, and to feed on truths which answer all of the questions which have been asked during the Age?!

Jesus, in his great prophecy of Matthew 24, however, teaches us a little more about winter.  Speaking to his end-of-the-age disciples who would be alive in the harvest, Jesus says:


“Pray that your flight be not  in the winter,

neither  on the Sabbath day; for then shall

be  great  tribulation such as was not since

the beginning of the world to this time, no,

nor ever shall be (after).” 

                                Matthew 24:20, 21

 

This needs explanation.

It is clear that Jesus, even during the age, would be pleased if his disciples escaped the control of the apostate church (or, so-called Babylon). Yet, that he did not expect his disciples to force such a separating work is clear in the parable of the Wheat and Tares (the True and False practitioners of Christianity). He cautions, “Let both grow together until the HARVEST” (Matthew 13:30).  In the “harvest,” something changes.  Jesus DOES expect a separating work.  He states it in the parable, but he enunciates it with bold clarity in Revelation 18:4:  “Come out of her, my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”

So, in Jesus’ suggestion to his disciples that they “pray that (their) flight be not in the winter, neither on [corrected translation:] a sabbath,” Jesus is suggesting that this summer of “harvest,” during which his disciples WERE SUPPOSED TO SEPARATE THEMSELVES, would conclude with a “winter” of trouble when such separation would become extremely difficult and trying.  The word “sabbath” intensifies the concept.  In Jesus’ day, the gates to the city were locked on sabbaths.  This suggests that this “winter” of trouble would also be a “crackdown” upon dissidents (the TRUE Christians) when liberties of work and travel would be denied.  It is much like Jesus’ prophecy in John 9:4:  “The night cometh wherein no man can work.”

Thus far, in summary, we see a winter of the Gospel Age, a summer of harvest, and an ending to that summer in a violent winter which will mark the end of the Church’s earthly experience.

Jeremiah 8:20 confirms this dual nature of the “harvest.”  It says, “The harvest is past, the summer is ended, and we are not saved.”  This refers to the very end of the harvest which here is clearly confirmed to have been a “summer.” Those “not saved” are the “foolish virgins” of Jesus’ parable (Matthew 25:8-12).  These are disciples who either miscalculated on how to use harvest blessings, or who foolishly delayed to “come out of her” as Jesus directed.  The winter set in, the doors or gates were locked, and they found themselves unready.  They do not experience the same salvation as Jesus’ “bride.”  Other texts assure us that they are not “lost”!

In Daniel 2:31-35 is a prophecy which has its fulfillment in the “harvest.”  It is about the dissolution of Gentile (non-Jewish) governments to make way for the full establishment of Christ’s Kingdom.  It is clear from this prophecy that the “summer” of the harvest is a summer for the church, not the world!  It is the opposite of the Gospel Age.  Thus, while the true disciples are glorying in the fact that Jesus is feeding them a banquet of long-lost spiritual information, the poor world is feeling its foundations being ripped out from under it.  But again, prophecy is CAREFUL to detail for us that our interpretation is correct.  Daniel 2:35 points out beyond doubt that the crumbling of these nations is in a “summertime.”  It reads, They were broken to pieces “like the chaff of the SUMMER threshingfloors.”  It joyfully adds that when the old order is gone, Christ’s Kingdom (the “great mountain”) “filled the whole earth.”  

 

PERIOD # 3

  THE LAST WINTER 

We have already in large measure covered this final wintertime of Scripture.  It is at the last part of the harvest.  It is that great “Time of Trouble” mentioned by Daniel 12 and Matthew 24.  That it will be intense — that mankind will come close to destroying himself — is manifest in Jesus’ words, “Except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved; but…THOSE DAYS SHALL BE SHORTENED.”  (Matthew 24:22)

It would be easy to conclude that the last hundred years of history nearly meet this description!  They have, indeed, been full of horrendous troubles.  But that they do not constitute that GREAT TIME OF TROUBLE (the final “winter”) of which Jesus speaks is assured by Daniel’s words.  The last century of crumbling earthly governments and institutions has been a “summer” according to Daniel.  Clearly it is viewed so only by the true Church, and not by a distressed world!  But the “winter” yet to come will be a distress for all.

 

PERIOD # 4

—  EVERLASTING SUMMER AT LAST!  —

 

In that great prophecy of Jesus in Matthew 24, there is a little parable concerning the nation of Israel.  Israel is symbolized by a fig tree — a symbol for Israel as old as Jeremiah 24.

In Matthew 24:32-36,  Jesus gives this little parable specifically to point to the time when all winters will be over,  and the summer of his kingdom will have come.  Jesus seems to symbolize Jewish statehood (1948) by the fig tree’s putting forth leaves.  Jesus clearly states for us that this event will herald that “summer is nigh.”  (Matthew 24:32)  It is not that it was “winter” when Israel became a nation, but that a final winter was yet to intervene before the everlasting summer of his kingdom.  He says that the generation which witnessed Jewish statehood would still be in existence when “summer” arrives.  (Matthew 24:34)  It will mean that the old heaven (religious authority) and the old earth (society as we know it) will have passed away.  THAT will, indeed, require quite a winter of miseries!  (Matthew 24:35)  But, while Jesus does not tell us the date for the passing of the old order, he does, by his parable, give us a reasonable VICINITY OF TIME to expect the Kingdom — the perpetual end of prophetic winters.

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Thus, a small word, an infrequently used symbolism, helps us to understand the intent of end-time prophecies.  We are blessed to understand the precision of God’s Word.  He uses symbolisms which are meaningful to us in our everyday experiences.  Yet, He buries meanings deeply so that none understands except those to whom He reveals them.  The most blessed part, of course, is that God’s plan will ultimately be revealed to ALL for their eternal blessing.  It is no surprise that Jesus opens his model prayer with that greatest of all desires:  “Thy Kingdom Come!”

                         

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