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The Parable of the Fig Tree

The Passage:
Matt. 24:32-34

Mark 13:28-32; Luke 21:29-33)

The Parameters:

Matt 24:29-31 says that the events occur “after the tribulation” or “at the end of the tribulation” so we are in a post-tribulation time frame.

Jesus says “learn a lesson from the fig tree.” This does not mean interpret what the fig tree is.

Luke 21:31 says when you see all these things happening (in the tribulation), know that the kingdom of God is near. The tribulation ushers in the kingdom. (We don’t know it is a millenium until Revelation.)

The Problem

The question: What do these signs mean? What should the response of those who will see the signs of the Second Advent be?

The Presentation

This follows a logical progression: what is the expectation from the appearance of leaves?

Matt 24:32 When you see the leaves sprouting, you know that summer is coming soon. In the same way, when you see the signs which Jesus has been talking about, you know the next events that you are expecting are near. What events were they expecting? The second coming (Matt 24:3)

vs. 33 Some people use the “you” to refer only to the disciples. They deny the possibility of an editorial or indefinite second person plural. They say “you” can’t refer to anybody other than the disciples. We do this all the time. We say something like, “When you ride your bike, you should wear a helmet.” We really mean, when anybody rides a bike, they should wear a helmet.” Paul said, “but we who are alive and remain ...” That does not mean the rapture had to have occurred because Paul had to be included... Therefore, the “you” is whoever might see these events.

“recognize that He is near..” NIV changes this to “it is near” (referring to the kingdom) but “He” is A better translation. But that is not a problem because when Messiah is near, so is the kingdom.

vs. 34 This generation is not the disciples. It is the generation that sees the signs. What signs? The events of the Tribulation. So, the generation that sees the events of the Tribulation will see the second coming of Christ.

Verses 34 and 35 give us the idea of imminency (it will take place soon - for that generation) and inerrancy (it is sure to happen.)

Heaven and earth will pass away after the Millenium. Then a new heaven and earth will be created.

The Point

The events of the tribulation will announce the imminency of the second coming and the fulfillment of the promises of the earthly kingdom on earth.

The Particulars

The fig tree does not have a direct correlation to anything -- like the nation of Israel. Jesus is just using the imagery that when the leaves sprout, you know that something else is right around the corner -- the fruit is about to appear.... (Although the fig tree represents Israel elsewhere, that doesn’t mean it has to represent Israel here. Notice that Jesus does not say, “When you see the fig tree planted, know....” He says, “When you see the leaves...know...” ) Jesus could have used another type of tree for the analogy. It is not important that it is a fig tree.

The generation in its context. “This generation” does not refer to a 40 year period of time. Some have taken it that way (like Hal Lindsey who wrote a book called, The Terminal Generation. They start the countdown from some event like the founding of the nation of Israel in 1948 and countdown 40 years, thinking that the rapture and tribulation would happen by 1988. Now Hal Lindsey says he is sorry he wrote that.) Some guy wrote a book called 88 reasons for the rapture in 1988. Then he revised it and changed the title to 89 reasons for the rapture in 1989. Why is it that if the Son of Man doesn’t know the day or hour (Mk 13:32), some think they do know? The “Generation” is a group of people alive to see the events.

The Principles

The certainty of prophetic judgment should cause one to examine one’s faith. Are you ready for Christ’s return? This doesn’t mean you have to doubt your salvation. It is just nice to know that you know. It is a confidence factor.

The prophetic Word of God is as sure and secure as the rest of His message. (vs. 35)

Matt 3:2, 4:17, 10:1-23 are all talking about the nearness of the kingdom, but after the rejection in 13:, there are no more uses of engeken until the olivet discourse in Mat 24. When you see the tribulation, then the kingdom of God is near.

That is why I see an offer, rejection, and postponement of the kingdom. This is in reference to the earthly kingdom. Not to deny that there are spiritual aspects of the kingdom in effect now.

After Jesus tells the parable of the fig tree, He gives several brief parables to show what the response one should have when he sees the signs.

Related Topics: Eschatology (Things to Come)