“32 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So also, when you see all these things, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 34 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:32-35
Jesus asks us to study the lesson of the fig tree, so, let’s spend a bit of time today digging in deeper to figure out His lesson so that we might understand the secret to this lesson.
From the verses in Matthew, on the surface looking at the fig tree as an object, Jesus tells us that we will know that summer is near because the branches of the tree get tender and the leaves appear. We will then know that the harvest of the fig tree fruit will be very soon after in the fall, or the next season.
Interestingly, fig trees bloom twice per year, in the spring and in the late summer/early fall. The two blooms bear two different crops of fruit though, and it is only the late summer/early fall bloom that produces the tree’s ripe and edible fig crop. In the spring, green flowers grow on branch tips inside the receptacles where fruit later grows for the fall harvest. It is important to maintain these trees properly at the harvest time by picking ripe fruit as they become ripe to keep the figs from falling and making a mess of the surrounding landscape. So, timing is everything related to the fig harvest.
Let’s look at the God’s analogy of what the fig tree identifies, as God paints us understandable pictures so that we might have a better grasp on His actual concept.
Israel is identified in the Bible as the fig tree and its fruit. Sometimes, the fruit is described as good and at other times, God curses the tree to bear no fruit. We can see that through the history of this nation. In various seasons, Israel is the unproductive, bad fruit (or the spring fruit which is not edible) when they rebel and turn their backs on God, and then in other seasons, Israel repents, returns and obeys God and produces good, ripe fruit (the fall fruit.)
“Like grapes in the wilderness, I found Israel. Like the first fruit on the fig tree in its first season,…” Hosea 9:10
Here in Deuteronomy, we can see that the actual land that the Jews occupies (the country of Israel), is where the fig trees grow and produce their fruit.
“7 For the Lord your God is bringing you into a good land, a land of brooks of water, of fountains and springs, flowing out in the valleys and hills, 8 a land of wheat and barley, of vines and fig trees and pomegranates, a land of olive trees and honey, 9 a land in which you will eat bread without scarcity, in which you will lack nothing, a land whose stones are iron, and out of whose hills you can dig copper.” Deuteronomy 8:7-9
This is also a prophecy which was fulfilled on two occasions, when the Jews entered their promised land for the first time under the leadership of Joshua. They would later be taken over and thrown out of the land in 70 AD, to be dispersed throughout the globe. And then, in 1947, the UN voted to re-establish the land as the country of Israel, 1877 years later. So, once again the fig trees are back in the land of Israel as was God’s promise. This seemed impossible from 70-1947. If you would have asked anyone during this time if they thought God’s people would be brought back together and retake over the land of Israel, they probably would have laughed at the thought of such a possibility. No one would have been able to believe that it would be true, but God’s Word was fulfilled in 1947. An impossibility became possible with God.
“But Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.”” Matthew 19:26
So, now that we understand that the fig tree represents Israel, and especially Israel coming back into its land, let’s see what Jesus was talking about relating to all of this.
29 And he told them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. 30 As soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. 31 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all has taken place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Luke 21: 29-33
Summer is near and a harvest is just around the corner as Israel, the fig tree, is back in its land, growing and maturing and about ready to produce fruit. When these things as described have happened, Jesus is very near to His return. In fact, He states that He is so near that this last fig tree generation will be living when all of these things have started and have finished as well. What things are those? Let’s go back a few verses earlier and then in Luke to see what things will appear when this generation is the land of Israel:
Read Matthew 24 & Luke 21 in full for all of the details, as I’ll just list out the things that Jesus said about what Israel will witness in their final generation:
- Many will be lead away from the Truth and follow lies
- Many will say they know the name of Jesus, but will portray Him incorrectly, and will even call themselves saviors.
- You will hear about rumors of wars and of wars
- Nation will rise against nation
- Jerusalem will be surrounded by enemies and finally will be trampled
- Famines and pestilences will be in various parts
- People will be confused by the weather and many will be in fear of it
- There will be roaring seas and waves (tsunamis)
- Great earthquakes will be in various places
- Great signs from heaven
- Distress upon the earth
- Christians will be persecuted and hated by those not following the Truth
- Close relatives will turn in their Christians relatives to authorities because of Jesus
- Some Christians will come before Churches and/or judges and thrown in prison on account of standing up for Jesus
- Some Christians will be put to death
- Many had previously attended church will fall away from the Church and will betray one another
- Many false teachers will rise up (with part truth and part lies) to lead people astray and many of them will perform miracles and signs and wonders which will convince them
- Lawlessness will be increased (breaking God’s rules and coming up with their own laws)
- Many people’s love will grow cold and there will be much hatred
- Someone will stand in the temple of God in Jerusalem and will call himself god.
- Great tribulation will fill the earth such as no one will have ever witnessed
- The gospel will be proclaimed throughout the world (by the two end-time witnesses and by angels – see Revelation for more detail)
- Then, the end will come after the tribulation. The sun will be darkened and the moon will not give its light and the stars will fall and the earth will be shaken.
- And finally, Jesus will come to the earth from the air on the clouds of heaven to gather the elect.
According to Jesus, all of these things will be witnessed by this one, final generation of Israel. So, the question then becomes, “How long is a generation?” and “Is this the generation?”
The Bible uses the term generation in some different ways. There are three words for generation: ‘dor,’ ‘toledot,’ and ‘genea’ in the New Testament. Depending on their context, they can be used to represent a lifespan of 30, or 70-100 years, used to describe a group of people spanning for a longer people of time, or a new source or type of representative generation.
King David, a man after God’s own heart, served his generation and was seventy years old when he died (1 Chr 23:1; 2 Sam 5:4; 1 Kgs 2:10; Act 13:36). Perhaps the most significant declaration in the Bible for the life span of man is given in Psalm 90. The Psalmist states that the life span of man is seventy years, with eighty years being the upper range of normal life expectancy. According to the 2002 World Almanac and Book of Facts, the average life expectancy in the United States is 77 years (74 years for males and 80 years for females). For Israel it is 79 years (77 years for males and 81 years for females). The average life expectancy at birth for Israel is projected to be 82 in the year 2025.
“For all our days are passed away in thy wrath: We spend our years as a tale that is told. The days of our years are threescore years and ten (70 years); and if by reason of strength they be fourscore years (80 years), yet is their strength labour and sorrow; for it is soon cut off and we fly away. “-Psalm 90:9,10
If the length of David’s generation, Christ’s generation, and the average life span of those living today in Israel is between 70 and 80 years (a 3000-year span), it would be reasonable to conclude that the generation Christ was talking about in the parable of the fig tree will also be 70 to 80 years in length. If the fig tree in this parable represents the nation of Israel, as many prophetic scholars believe, and the generation that is described has a life span of 70 to 80 years, then recent events such as the rebirth of Israel as a nation (1947) (Isa 66:8), the Jerusalem controversy in the “end times” (Zech 12:1-3), preparations for rebuilding the Jewish Temple (Rev 11:1,2), and the ongoing negotiations for a peace treaty between Israel and the Palestinians (Dan 9:27) are strong indicators that the generation Christ was talking about has already been born, and the return of Jesus Christ to establish His reign for a thousand years is close at hand.
One day there will be a generation of Christians that will escape the grip of death and be ushered into Heaven, the “final frontier” for believers (1 Thess 4:13-5:11). The generation that is “left behind” will face the ruthless tyranny of a global dictatorship (Rev 13:11-18). The world stage is now being set for the closing act of this dispensation, and the climax of world history (Christ’s return) is drawing near. As God’s children, we may very well be the generation that is chosen to “escape all these things that shall come to pass, and to stand before the Son of man” (Lk 21:34-36). That possibility is certainly worth pondering!
Father God, Thank you for each lesson and parable that you teach us in your word. Though there seems to be a picture that you are trying to paint of this fig tree generation, it isn’t entirely clear what it means. It would seem that your return is close at hand, but we are still not entirely sure. Please help us all to properly discern seasons and times and not miss anything that you may be trying to teach. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.