The Parable of the Fig Tree
January 13, 2022
Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away (Matthew 24:32-35).
This is another controversial text regarding the end-time. Many interpret the budding fig tree as the time when Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. If that is the case, how do we interpret, Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place?
First, Scripture identifies Israel with the olive tree, not the fig tree. Had Jesus meant for Israel to be the focus of the parable, He would have used the olive tree. Furthermore, a biblical generation is generally 40 years. Had Jesus referred to Israel, then this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place would have meant the 2nd coming of Jesus should have happened around 1988. It did not. We are almost 2 generations removed from Israel becoming a nation. So, this parable does not refer to Israel becoming a political nation in 1948.
Second, the Jews had an abundance of fig trees. They understood that in the Spring the branches of the fig tree become tender and green. They then start to put on leaves. This indicates that Summer is drawing near when the figs will form, ripen, and be harvested. Jesus used the fig tree to illustrate the shortness of time between the greening of the tree to the harvest of its fruit.
So, to what does this passage refer? This is not just and ‘end-time’ prophecy of Jesus. As stated before, prophecy often has a two-fold application - current and future. It was 40 years after Jesus spoke these words that Rome destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. Many of the things Jesus stated in the Olivet Discourse came true for that generation. However, many of the things Jesus stated in the discourse remains true for a future generation, but on a world-wide scale.
We are in the times of the ‘birth-pangs’, when the calamities Jesus spoke about are happening on a world-wide scale with unprecedented rapidity and intensity. So, we know the end is near - very near. This is the time of the fig tree greening and putting on leaves. (2 Thessalonians 2:7-10) 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. The coming of the lawless one is according to the working of Satan, with all power, signs, and lying wonders, and with all unrighteous deception among those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth, that they might be saved. That’s the rapture of the church (removal of the restrainer, the Holy Spirit) and the rise of the Antichrist (the lawless one). When these events happen, that generation will see Jesus Christ coming in power and judgment.
“Even so, come quickly Lord Jesus. Amen.”