Eschatology in the Bible 8: Parable Of The Fig Tree in Matt. 24

ImageNow learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only. (Mat. 24:32-36). 

The fig tree has been a strong image of Israel that many people believe that this parable in Mat. 24:32-36 is a prophecy of the restoration of Israel as a nation in 1948. In my opinion this is a total distortion of what Jesus is trying to tell the disciples, who had already asked Jesus couple of questions, which He now answer. I could have written much about Israel as a nation today, but it will maybe come partly in other posts. 

This parable of the fig tree, which Jesus tells his disciples, are really no more extraordinary than he draws a picture for them, that shows that when they see the signs He now had told them, knowing that the destruction of Jerusalem is near, just as they will know that summer is near by the signs of the fig tree. Like you and me can see signs in nature that a seasonal change is coming, as where in the world we live.

As I said, the fig tree is an image of Israel and we can see it in many places. Let’s go back a little, to Mat 21:19.

“And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.” 

ImageJesus had speak prophetically throughout his service on earth, but in Matthew 21, Jesus starts to behave very prophetic too. Very briefly here, as he rides into the King and “cleanse” the temple of old Levitical service. The next day he comes back and he was hungry. “When he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing theron, but leafe only” (Mat.21:19). This was actually not so terribly strange, “for the time of figs was not yet.” (Mark.11: 13), yet he cursed it and said “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever.” (Matthew 21:19 ).

This is a powerful prophecy that it will not grow more fruit on the old Jewish system and the Israel, for it has not borne fruit. Jesus had been waiting for over three years for them to accept Him and bear fruit, but they rejected Him, and they bore no fruit. They were ready to cut down. We find this again in another parable in Luke:

“He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.” (Luk. 13:6-9).  

ImageA very strong indication and confirmation of what Jesus explains his disciples in Mat. 24 and in line with the prophetic behavior he plays out. Should the fig tree in Mat. 24:32-36 illustrate something, It had to be the new covenant (1 Cor. 11:25), the new Jerusalem, the renewed Israel and His kingdom that will come with new leaf, and bear fruit, bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain (Psm.1:3, Mat. 13:23, John. 15:16, etc.)

Then he end this part of his answer to the disciples, who concerning the disciples first part of their question, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming …”, by saying, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matt. 24:34). This tells the disciples that He now has said will happen in their generation. How can you otherwise explain Mat. 16:28? “Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.” 

He confirms and reinforces what he has now told his disciples by saying, Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. (Mat. 24:35) He confirmed his earlier words, he declares to them for certain that his prophecy is more secure than even the stability of heaven and earth (Mat. 5:18).

It is in verse 36 Jesus shifts His attention from the destruction of the temple to His second coming to this world’s history’s end (if I may explain it that way).

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” (Mat. 24:36) 

So let us consider some explanations on this, because this is very important for those who have held on the belief that this verses concerning a tribulation and millennial in the future.

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man,…” You can hear it when you read it out loud, that he here starts on a new subject: “But of that day and hour…” , You read the same thing in other places as Mat. 22:31: “But concerning the resurrection of the dead,…” Acts. 21:25 “But concerning the Gentiles which believe…” etc. Al this passages is translated from the greek word peri de, (“but of, concerning, regarding”).

“But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.” Who knows then, when this will happen? His Father and He alone. This means that Jesus did not know this Himself, so how can He explain it to his disciples, then? When you read the whole chapter 24, you can see immediately that this is about the future, because he tells his disciples all the signs that will be given, but “the end” (the temple) is not yet (Mat.24). This indicates that He knows when that event will occur.

When Jesus speaks in Mat. 24:36, we hear nothing about “when” or “after”. The statment “then” is found in verses. 24:9, 14, 16, 21, 23, 30 and the statement “after”, in verse 29. These statements describe something that is in process, and we do not find this in verse 36.

From verse 4 in Mat. 24, Jesus warns his disciples by saying, “Take heed that no man deceive you…”, “…ye shall hear of wars…” “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted…” etc. But he drops all such things after verse 35 and instead, he emphasize  surprises and total unpredictability, such as: “And knew not until” (v.39) – “for ye know not what hour” (v. 42) – “if the goodman of the house had known” (v. 43) – “for in such an hour as ye think not” (v. 44) – “come in a day when he looketh not for him” (v. 50) – “ye know neither the day nor the hour wherein the Son of man cometh.” (25:13).

In the verses above 36, we read that the timeframe is short and that they will face a real danger which will come into that generation. After verse 36 and into Chapter 25, it’s all about much longer time frame. We hear notting about “this generation” or “signs” leading up to the day (His second coming).

This is how he shifted focus from demolition of the temple to His second coming of this world’s history’s end. You can enjoy reading the rest of Mat. 24 and Mat. 25, which deals with what the kingdom of  heaven is compared with. This is when the verdict will stand, “the day” no one knows.

I will remind you that the judgment of the righteous is of course not condemnation, but for future rewards (Rom. 25-10, 1. Cor. 1:4-8, 3:8, 15:32, 58, 2. Cor. 4:16, 5:10, 9:6-8, Gal. 6:5-10; Phili. 1:10, 26; 2:16; Col. 1:5, 3:24; 1 Thes. 3:13 ; 5:23; 2.Thess.1: 7; 1.Tim.2: 15; 5:25, 6:18-19, 2 Timothy. 2:11).

Comments:
Bible Verses are from KJV

Grace, And Grace Alone! 

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