The Parable of the Fig Tree
The Parable of the Fig Tree (Mt 24:32–35), as taught by Jesus in His Olivet Discourse, sends one singular message: “Watch! The return of Jesus Christ is near.” Followers of Jesus know what they are waiting for (Mt 24:29–31), but they do not know when His return will be (Mt 24:36).
The parable draws a comparison between the fig leaves and the precursory signs of His second advent. The fig leaves indicate summer is near (24:32). The precursory signs indicate Christ is at the door, ready to open it and come in (Mt 24:1–28). There is no mystery, nor is there a complex interpretation required. The message from Jesus is simple, and His hearers should learn it (24:32).
Despite the simplicity of the message, “His coming is near,” there has been added confusion by overdone interpretations. Premillennialists invent symbolic imagery for the fig tree. They suggest the fig tree is a symbol for ethnic Israel. They say the leaves represent the re-blossoming of Israel as a nation. They miss the irony of their interpretation in Mathew 24 (events will take place far into the future), where Christ Jesus prophesies of the pending destruction of the Jewish nation. This took place only a few decades after Jesus’ prophecy (A.D. 70).
The premillennial dispensational error centers on the mislabeling of ethnic Israel, as the elect people of God. Their focus on the Jews, instead of the church, puts the kingdom of God in terms of the Jews, instead of people from every nation, tribe, and tongue (Rev 5:9). This is the reason for frequent obsessions with events in the Middle East. Speculation on the time of events and intrigue of certain characters invites endless conspiracy theories. It also forces a system of eschatology onto the Bible.
Only two considerations must be made in the interpretation of the parable of the fig tree. No one knows the time of Christ’s glorious appearing at the end of the age; and Jesus said, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place (24:34).” There is no merit in stretching the meaning of “generation” because some 37 years later, it was fulfilled.
What was fulfilled is important to understand. The postmillennialist adds confusion to the simplicity by teaching that all of the Olivet Discourse was fulfilled in A.D. 70; therefore, the Olivet Discourse has no value for us, today, nor has it warranted anyone’s attention since A.D. 70. The truth is that the destruction of the temple and the city of Jerusalem was fulfilled (When will these things be?), and this served as an historical type of the coming global destruction on the last day (What will be the sign of Your coming and the end of the age?).
That generation fully experienced the judgment and wrath of God on Jerusalem, and we continue to look at the signs of His coming and the end of the age. In this, every generation of believers shares in the sufferings of the body of Christ in the world (Rom 8:18; 2 Cor 1:5–7; Phil 3:10; Col 1:24; 1 Pet 4:13).
There was a remarkable comfort for that generation, remembering the words of Jesus, as destruction loomed. Christians, today, rest in the promise of Jesus that the final judgment is coming, just as He said (Mt 12:36; 25:31). All present suffering, through the diverse signs, helps believers to persevere in future days of tribulation.
The next event is the Day of the Lord, the day of His coming to judge the living and the dead (Acts 10:42; 1 Thess 4:13–5:11; 2 Tim 4:1; 1 Pet 4:5), and to bring justice to the earth (Jer 33:15; Rev 19:11–21). It will be a day like no other day, and it will be the last day (Joel 2:2).
Finally, the parable of the fig tree comes with a word of assurance, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass away (Mt 24:35; Mk 13:31; Lk 21:33; 2 Pet 3:10).” Even more sure than leaves predicting summer is near, the Word of God is eternal (Mt 5:18; Lk 16:17).
Here, on the Mount of Olives, the Son of God made a promise of events to occur in that generation. History has documented and proved that everything Jesus said would happen in that generation, actually occurred in A.D. 70. If the prophesied events were fulfilled, then, what confidence should Christians have in anticipation of the future events prophesied in the very same discourse?
Christian, all the signs, anticipating Christ’s return are with us in every generation. While the preaching of the Gospel of the Kingdom continues into the whole world (Mt 24:14; Mk 16:15), and God gathers His elect people from every nation, the church and the world experience all that Jesus said would happen before He comes at the end of the age (Mt 24:1–28). Let us keep our eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2), the true Israel of God (Is 49:3), and dismiss, the ongoing distractions of ethnic Israel in the world.
Spokane Valley, Washington
January 14, 2022