The Parable of the Fig Tree
The Parable of the Fig Tree is found in our Lord's Olivet Discourse. Variations of this parable can also be found in Luke and Mark's gospel (Mark 13:28-31, Luke 21:29-33). It is in part our Lord's response to the questions His disciples asked, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3)
This parable has resulted in a variation of views. The “Preterist” view believes that “all these things” were fulfilled in the first century. We do not believe this to be the case. “All these things” are outlined in Matthew 24:4-31. The disciples were told, that when they “see all these things” they would know “that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand” (Luke 21:31). Luke says, “And when these things begin to come to pass, then look up, and lift up your heads; for your redemption draweth nigh.” (Luke 21:28) The generation that would see these things “begin to come to pass” would be the generation that would see “all these things be fulfilled”, namely the return of Jesus Christ and the promised Kingdom of God.
The Kingdom of God is a major theme in the Old Testament for Israel. The promise was to David that God would build him a house and establish the throne of his kingdom forever (2 Samuel 7:11-14, 15-16, 26; 1 Chronicles 17:11-14), and from his offspring one would sit upon his throne forever (Psalm 89:3-4, 34-37, 29; 132:11; 1 Kings 9:5, John 7:42, Micah 5:2, Jeremiah 23:5, Acts 13:22-23, Romans 1:2-4, Luke 1:32-33, Hebrews 1:8-9). Since his throne would be forever, the coming King would not see corruption (Acts 2:24-27, 28-31, 32-35, 36), for He would be the very Son of God (Isaiah 9:6-7, Psalm 2:6-8, Hebrews 1:8-9), David's Creator and Lord (Matthew 22:42-45, Revelation 22:16), God manifest in the flesh (Romans 1:3; 9:5, John 1:14, Galatians 4:4; 1 Timothy 3:16, Philippians 2:5-8, Hebrews 2:14-17, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Daniel 7:13-14), who would rule over the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob forever (Jeremiah 33:14-17, 20-22, 25-26, Luke 1:32-33).
The children of Israel enjoyed a foretaste of the Kingdom for a season under the reign of Solomon when God dwelt between the cherubim in the Temple that Solomon built. However, because of his sin, marrying women of the Gentiles who turned him to strange gods (1 Kings 11:1-4, 5-8, 9-11), the kingdom was torn and divided between ten tribes in the north and two tribes in the south. Both of these kingdoms were subsequently carried away into captivity by the Assyrian (2 Kings 17:6, 23; 1 Chronicles 5:25-26) and Babylonian (2 Kings 24:11, 14-16; 1 Chronicles 6:15; 2 Chronicles 36:19-20) Empires because of their refusal to obey the voice of the Lord.
Israel was commanded to keep the land fallow every seventh year (Leviticus 25:1-4). For 490 years they did not keep the Law of the Sabbath (Leviticus 26:2) so Israel was kicked out of the land for the 70 years (Jeremiah 25:11-12; 29:10-11), one year for every year that they did not let the land rest, so the land could enjoy her Sabbaths (Leviticus 26:33-34, 43; 2 Chronicles 36:16-19, 20-21).
After their 70 year Babylonian captivity, some of them returned to Jerusalem but they were just a remnant as most chose to stay and live in the land of their captivity. Even while they were in exile, it appears that they still did not repent (Zechariah 7:5). Moses had said, if the children of Israel would still not repent and obey the voice of the Lord, after their 70 year cycle of discipline, they would be punished “seven times more for your sins” (Leviticus 26:18, 24, 28), so upon their return, they never did realize the promised kingdom of David.
The prophet Daniel understood all this (Daniel 9:2, 11-13). Although the children of Israel would come out from their 70 year Babylonian Captivity, the kingdom would not be restored and they would be punished “seven times more” (Leviticus 26:18, 24, 28). While Daniel was confessing the sins of the Israel to God (Daniel 9:5-8, 9-12, 13-16, 17-19), He revealed to Daniel his vision of Seventy Weeks. “Seventy weeks [70 x “seven times more” = 490 years] are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.” (Daniel 9:24)
There would yet be 490 years determined upon the children of Israel and their great city Jerusalem to finish their transgression and make an end of sins. At the end of the 490 years their rebellion against God would be over. They had been a stiff necked people right from their murmurings against Moses coming out of Egypt, all the way down through their history. Which of the prophets did they not stone and kill whom God sent to them (Nehemiah 9:26, Jeremiah 2:30; 26:23, Acts 7:51-52). This course of rebellion lasted right up to the time of their rejection and crucifixion of the Lord Jesus Christ. Everlasting righteousness could not be brought in until reconciliation for their iniquity was made. Only then could the prophetic Kingdom of David be fulfilled (Amos 9:11, Hosea 3:4-5) and their Messiah anointed as “King over all the earth” (Zechariah 14:9), to sit upon the “throne of David” (Isaiah 9:6-7, Psalm 132:11, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Luke 1:31-33).
The start date for the 490 years (1 year = 360 day Jewish years: Genesis 7:11, 24; 8:3, 4, Revelation 11:2-3) was “from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem” (Daniel 9:24), by the decree of Artaxerxes (Nehemiah 2:4-7, 8) in around 445 BC.
“Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks [49 years], and threescore and two weeks [434 years] [483 years in total]: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times [during the 49 year period]. And after threescore and two weeks [434 year period] shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined. And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week [7 years]: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:24-27)
We can see clearly that after 483 years “Messiah shall be cut off, but not for himself”. Although this seemed obscure to most of the Jews, this predicted the exact date of the crucifixion of Israel's Messiah. Nevertheless, it appears that seven years later, after the final seven years, everlasting righteousness would be brought in and the “most Holy” would be anointed. Although some believe the “most Holy” here is the inner sanctuary of the tabernacle (Exodus 26:33), we do not. Nevertheless, we do see that kings and priests were anointed and that both of these offices will be united in One, namely the Lord Jesus Christ (Zechariah 6:12-13), who is the Holy One of Israel (Mark 1:24, Luke 1:35, Acts 3:14, Hebrews 7:26, Revelation 3:7).
So with that being said, many of the Jews knew from the prophet Daniel, the exact timing of the coming Kingdom of David and their Messiah. At that time, there were those who were “waiting for the consolation of Israel” (Luke 2:25), who “looked for redemption in Jerusalem” (Luke 2:38), who “waited for the kingdom of God” (Mark 15:43), who “thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear” (Luke 19:11).
From the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem, there was 49 years (seven weeks) building the “street… and the wall”. This brought us to the end of the Old Testament and the prophet Malachi. Then there were 400 silent years. During that time other of Daniel's prophecies were fulfilled, the fall of Persia (Daniel 5:28; 7:5; 8:3-4, 20; 6:28; 11:1-2), the rise of Greece (Daniel 2:39; 7:6; 8:5-8, 21-23; 10:20; 11:2-4), then of the great Roman Empire (Daniel 2:41-43; 7:7, 17, 19, 23-24) and, in Israel, the conflicts with Egypt and Syria and the wars of the Maccabees (Daniel 10-11).
But then, the silence was broken by one, whom Jesus said there was no greater prophet than he, that was John the Baptist. He was that voice crying in the wilderness (Isaiah 40:3) of Judaea saying, “Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand… Prepare ye the way of the Lord” (Matthew 3:1-3). Jesus was baptized of him and “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17) “And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, and preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people.” (Matthew 4:23; 9:35)
Of all His disciples He chose twelve whom He called apostles, “These twelve Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as ye go, preach, saying, The kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 10:5-7) “After these things the Lord appointed other seventy also, and sent them two and two before his face into every city and place, whither he himself would come… and say unto them, The kingdom of God is come nigh unto you.” (Luke 10:1, 9)
The 490 years of Daniel's vision and prophecy looked like it was coming to an end and the Kingdom was right on their doorstep. But there was one little detail that they could not comprehend, that is, at the end of 483 years “shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself”. How often Jesus told his disciples that He must be crucified and rise from the dead (Mark 8:31; 9:31-32; 10:32-34, Matthew 16:21, Luke 18:31-34), “But they understood not that saying, and were afraid to ask him” (Mark 9:32), and questioned, “one with another what the rising from the dead should mean” (Mark 9:9-10). “And they understood none of these things: and this saying was hid from them, neither knew they the things which were spoken.” (Luke 18:34, John 20:9)
Nevertheless, at His tomb, certain of them were met by two men who said, “He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, Saying, The Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, and be crucified, and the third day rise again. And they remembered his words” (Luke 24:6-8).
After He was risen from the dead, “he shewed himself alive after his passion by many infallible proofs, being seen of them forty days, and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Acts 1:3). And what was their one burning question? “they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Acts 1:6) In a few short years, Daniel's 490 years would be finished. What about the Kingdom? Would it now be restored to Israel? The Kingdom would be restored to Israel, but Jesus replied, “It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” (Acts 1:7)
Let us pause here for a moment and turn back to the “Parable of the Fig Tree”. Jesus told this parable from this same location on the Mount of Olives just a few days earlier (Matthew 24:32-35). The Olivet Discourse was a result of His disciples asking, “Tell us, when shall these things be? and what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3) Why did they ask these questions? Jesus had just pronounced judgment upon Jerusalem and the Temple (Matthew 23:36-39). He told His disciples, “verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.” (Matthew 24:1-2) Wow, that is why they asked Him, “when shall these things be?” But they also asked Him, “what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” because they believed that He was the “son of David”, the Christ who would bring in the Kingdom of God.
But, how did they connect the destruction of the Temple with the coming Kingdom of God? You see, most Jews back then were much more aware of what the Hebrew Bible said compared to most church goers today. They knew what the prophet Daniel said in his prophecy of the Seventy Weeks, “the people of the prince [Hebrew: nagiyd] that shall come shall DESTROY THE CITY AND THE SANCTUARY” (Daniel 9:26). Did the disciples understand the “the prince [Hebrew: nagiyd] that shall come” and “Messiah the prince [Hebrew: nagiyd]” (Daniel 9:25) to be one and the same?
It appears so, by the two questions they asked, “Tell us, when shall these things be? [the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple] AND what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3), for Daniel's Seventy Week Prophecy was about to come to an end. It appears they connected the “coming” with the destruction of “the city and the sanctuary”.
In Daniel's day, “the Messiah the prince” had not yet come, in fact, it was very clear, that there would be 483 years “unto the Messiah the Prince”, but He would be “cut off”. As we saw, when Jesus plainly told His disciples that He was going to Jerusalem to be crucified and rise from the dead, they did not comprehend it, so they obviously did not know what it meant in Daniel for Messiah to be “cut off”. I think it very plausible, therefore, that the disciples believed “the Messiah the prince [Hebrew: nagiyd]” and “the prince [Hebrew: nagiyd] that shall come” were one and the same. Hence the connection between their two questions about the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem and the sign of His Coming.
Furthermore, when the Jews came to Jesus seeking a sign, “Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Although Jesus was speaking of the Temple of His body, the Jews said, “Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days?” (John 2:18-22) Why did they think Jesus was talking about the destruction of Herod's Temple? Could it be they were thinking of Daniel 9:26?
Now, we know that the two “princes” mentioned by Daniel are NOT one and the same. The “prince who shall come” is not “Messiah the prince”. He is the Antichrist who will “confirm the covenant” with the people of Israel for “seven years” but in the midst of the covenant he shall cause the sacrifice and offerings to cease (Daniel 9:27).
Now there is one thing we have not pointed out. Although the Jews did not recognize this, we understand that there is a gap or parenthesis between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel's prophecy: Between the cutting off of “Messiah the Prince” (Daniel 9:25-26) at the end of 483 years (69th week), AND the last 7 years (70th week), when the “prince who shall come… shall confirm the covenant with many for one week [seven years]” (Daniel 9:27).
That same gap would then be in-between the first and second questions the disciples of Jesus asked Him, regarding the destruction of Jerusalem and its Temple, AND, the sign of His Coming. In between these two climactic events is where we would insert 2000 years of Church history, from Acts chapter 2 (Pentecost) to Revelation chapter 3 (the Rapture of the Church). However, in the immediate text of the Olivet Discourse and Daniel's Seventy Weeks, you do not see a gap or parenthesis.
So, when we examine the Olivet Discourse and the Parable of the Fig Tree, when Jesus says, “when ye shall see all these things, know that it [the Kingdom] is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” (Matthew 24:33-34) In the immediate context, Matthew is speaking of the things that will be taking place during the Seventieth Week of Daniel or the 7-year Tribulation. He sums up the whole of the 70th week (seven years) in Matthew 24:4-14. Jesus even points to Daniel's Seventieth Week saying,
“When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judaea flee into the mountains: Let him which is on the housetop not come down to take any thing out of his house: Neither let him which is in the field return back to take his clothes. And woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck in those days! But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened.” (Matthew 24:15-18, 19-22)
Daniel says that the abomination of desolation takes place in the middle of the “week” or 7-year Tribulation. “And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.” (Daniel 9:27)
Daniel also said, “and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.” (Daniel 12:1) The abomination of desolation would make the Temple “desolate, even until the consummation”, that is, the consummation of the 70th Week which would bring to an end the 490 years determined upon Jerusalem and Israel. Only then would the transgression be finished, to make an end of sins, and reconciliation for iniquity and everlasting righteousness brought in and "Messiah the Prince" anointed as King over the whole earth (Daniel 9:24).
Jesus mentioned the abomination of desolation in the midst of the week, but before this He said there would be wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes (Matthew 24:6-7), and that is what you see in the beginning of the Tribulation, when the first six seals are opened (Revelation 6:3-6, 7-8, 12-14). On a side note, I think there is a good possibility that the war mentioned by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 38) will begin in the first half of the Tribulation.
However, Jesus described the events leading up to the abomination of desolation saying, “All these are the beginning of sorrows [Gr. odin].” (Matthew 24:8, Mark 13:8) This same terminology is used to describe birth pains (Jeremiah 30:3-6, 7; 1 Thessalonians 5:1-3), meaning, wars, famines, pestilence and earthquakes will increase in frequency and intensity, just like a woman who is ready to deliver her child. Referring to Israel, we are told in the Revelation, “And she being with child cried, travailing in birth [Gr. odin], and pained to be delivered.” (Revelation 12:1-2)
Although “all these things” in their immediate context describe the last week of Daniel's prophecy, or, the seven-year Tribulation, it does not surprise us to see in the last days of the Church, some of these things already being prepared, like a stage being set before the curtain rises, like, Israel back in the land from her 2000 year exile, preparations to build the Temple, preparation for one world government, move towards a cashless society, explosion in population, knowledge and travel, promotion of evolution, evil, corruption and violence on the increase, an attack on eating meat and against Biblical marriage, homosexuality coming “out of the closet” and being promoted as healthy lifestyle, wealth of some growing astronomically and fraudulently, yet so many not lifted out of poverty, etc, etc. All these things are predicted for a generation to witness in the last days.
Jesus then answers the disciples last question, “what shall be the sign of thy coming, and of the end of the world?” (Matthew 24:3). He says, “Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or there; believe it not. For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect. Behold, I have told you before. Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be. For wheresoever the carcase is, there will the eagles be gathered together. Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken: And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:23-31)
During the “time of Jacob's Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:4-7), also called “the great tribulation” (Matthew 24:21), some will come in the name of Jesus and say they are Christ and shall deceive many (Matthew 24:5), but they shall be “false Christs”. They shall say, here is Christ, he is in the desert, he is in the secret place, BELIEVE IT NOT! After the abomination of desolation, Israel shall have fled to the mountains to hide from Antichrist's death squads (Matthew 24:15-18, 19-21, Revelation 12:6, 13-16, 17), and no doubt, they will be trying to lure the children of Israel out of their hiding places with their false messiahs.
When Jesus ascended into heaven, His disciples were told, “this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11) And “while they beheld, He was taken up; and a cloud received Him out of their sight.” (Acts 1:9) So when He returns to earth, it will be like a flash of lightening, “and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory”.
Now what shall He do? He is returning to save Israel and destroy all nations that are gathered against Jerusalem to battle (Zechariah 14:2-4). And the eagles shall be gathered there to eat the carcasses of His enemies at Armageddon (Matthew 24:28, Revelation 19:17-20, 21). Jesus said, “the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken” (Matthew 24:29-30). The Day of the Lord is, “A day of darkness and of gloominess, a day of clouds and of thick darkness” (Joel 2:2, Zephaniah 1:15, Revelation 6:12; 8:12; 9:2).
However, when Jesus returns, John tells us in the Revelation, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.” (Revelation 19:11) The Tribulation is described as a day of “thick clouds and darkness”, darkening the sun and moon, but then, the clouds of heaven are opened and “with the brightness of His coming” (2 Thessalonians 2:8), Christ returns to save Israel and destroy the Antichrist and his armies (Isaiah 13:9-11). He comes to “smite the nations” who have been blinded by hatred and deceived by Satan to make war against God and His people Israel (Revelation 19:15-16, 19-21).
Then we are told, “And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together [Gr. episunago] his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.” (Matthew 24:31) (God calls Israel “mine elect”: Isaiah 45:4, 17). Now, do you remember what our Lord said that led up to His disciples questions in the Olivet Discourse? His rejection as the Messiah and King by the nation Israel was final and He left the Temple for the last time. He lamented, “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered [Gr. episunago] thy children together [Gr. episunago], even as a hen gathereth [Gr. episunago] her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.” (Matthew 23:37-39)
The Lord's desire was to “gather together” Israel under His wings. The word “gather” is the Greek word “episunago”, where we get our English word “synagogue”. Jesus desired to have synagogue with them, but they would not, therefore they would not see Him again “until” they call upon His Name. So when the armies of Antichrist gather around Jerusalem to destroy the last remnant of the children of Israel (Zechariah 14:1-3), who have been refined and prepared for their Lord, they call upon Him to save them (Zechariah 13:8-9; 12:9-10). Then, with the sound of a trumpet He gathers them together, under the shadow of His wings (Malachi 4:1-3, Deuteronomy 33:26-29, Psalm 57:1; 91:4, Jeremiah 29:11-14), from the four corners of the world (Isaiah 27:1-3, 6, 13, Deuteronomy 30:3-6), to save them from their enemies (Luke 1:71).
But wait, let us stop right here and understand something. It is absolutely important to emphasize that whether we read through Daniel's 70 Weeks (Daniel 9:24-27) or through the Olivet Discourse, we see no gap, no pause, no parenthesis in the text between the 69th and 70th weeks of Daniel. We see no gap between the First and Second Coming of Christ. We are missing one key piece to the puzzle and that is the Church, which was foreign to the Hebrew Scriptures. It was a “mystery” (Romans 16:25, Ephesians 3:1-4, 5-6, Colossians 1:24-27), and so is not mentioned in Daniel or the Olivet Discourse. There is something critical we need to understand, and that is, the Kingdom would be postponed because of Israel's indifference to the gospel (Acts 7:51-52). God would now turn to be a Light to the Gentile nations that His salvation might be unto the ends of the earth to fulfill the prophetic Word of the Scriptures (Acts 13:45-48).
In the interim, Israel would be scattered to the nations of the world until the last days (Luke 21:24), when they would be partially gathered back into the land in unbelief in order to set the stage for Daniel's Seventieth Week which Jesus described in the Olivet Discourse.
After Jesus told His disciples the sign of His Coming and of the end of the age (Matthew 24:27-30), He said, “Now 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.” (Matthew 24:32-35)
Now we might conclude, if we stick strictly to the immediate context, that the “generation” that sees “all these things” (signs of His Coming and Kingdom) is the generation that is alive during Daniel's 70th Week (the seven year Tribulation). However, we need to understand, that the Seventieth Week did not take place in the first century, immediately after the 69th Week. Therefore, we must understand that there is also a broader context to the Olivet Discourse. Jesus said, “learn” the Parable of the Fig Tree. This was something that the disciples needed to “learn”. Like when He mentioned, “that which was spoken by the prophet Daniel”, He said, “whoso readeth, let him understand” (Matthew 24:15). To understand properly, you needed to go to the book of Daniel and look at the broader context to be sure what He was talking about.
Jesus says, “Now Learn the Parable of the Fig Tree”. We are not told, “Another parable put he forth unto them”. He is NOT telling them a new parable, He said “Learn the Parable of the Fig Tree”. Jesus had told them, “Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables” (Mark 4:11), and again, “without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.” (Mark 4:34)
Now this is not the first time Jesus referred to the “Fig Tree”. Like all the other Parables Jesus spake, all the objects signified something. For example, in the Parable of the Sower, “The seed is the word of God.” (Luke 8:11) So what exactly did the Fig Tree signify? It is distinctly clear that the Fig Tree was a symbol of Israel. In the week leading up to His crucifixion He told another Parable about the Fig Tree. Jesus was speaking on national repentance, and the Jews were wondering, if those men whom the tower of Siloam fell “were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem?” Jesus replied, “I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish.” (Luke 13:4-5) He then preceded to tell them the parable of the “fig tree” (Luke 13:6-9).
The following parable is the one I believe Jesus was referencing in the Olivet Discourse. He spoke that parable publicly, but now on the Mount of Olives, when “the disciples came unto him privately” (Matthew 24:3), now that “they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples”, and said, “Now Learn the Parable of the Fig Tree”.
But before that, “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.” (Luke 13:6-9)
Jesus ministered in the land of Israel, crisscrossing the landscape preaching the gospel of the Kingdom for 3 years, and found no fruit. Now after His death and resurrection, He gave it yet some time to bear fruit, but when it did not bear fruit, in AD 70, the Romans came and cut it down. Israel had far greater opportunity than any Gentile nation. They had the Law and the Covenants, the prophets, priests and kings, and finally God's Beloved Son, who came performing mighty miracles healing the sick, causing the blind to see, and the lame to walk, even raising the dead, and preaching the Kingdom of God, and yet they bear no fruit. "Why cumbereth it the ground?"
That is not the only time we read about the “fig tree”. A few days later, “in the morning as he returned into the city, He hungered. 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. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!” (Matthew 21:18-20, Mark 11:12-14)
Israel was to be a light to the nations (Matthew 5:14-16) and salt to the earth (Matthew 5:13), they were to bear fruit. Right from the beginning of John the Baptists ministry he said, “every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). Jesus told the Jews saying, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves. And the scribes and chief priests heard it, and sought how they might destroy him: for they feared him, because all the people was astonished at his doctrine. And when even was come, he went out of the city. And in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.” (Mark 11:17-20, 21)
The lamp in Israel had gone out and the salt had lost its savor, and the Fig Tree would not bear fruit, so now it was time to cut it down, “Why cumbereth it the ground?”. Like the Parable of the Sower, Christ came broadcasting the Word of God across the Land of Israel seeking fruit. “Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth: And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.” (Matthew 13:5-6)
They would not hearken to the gracious words that proceeded out of His mouth. Their stony hearts would not receive the engrafted Word that was able to save their souls. With joy they may have received His word for a season, crying Hosanna in the Highest (Mark 11:10), but just days later that same crowd killed the Prince of Life, whom God raised from the dead.
Peter said, “behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away.” Israel no longer had their abode in Jehovah and could not bear fruit for they were not rooted and grounded in Him (John 15:4-6). Moses had warned long before, “But it shall come to pass, if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the LORD thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes which I command thee this day; that all these curses shall come upon thee, and overtake thee” (Deuteronomy 28:15). Jesus is the Word of God who had now cursed barren Israel. “The LORD shall send upon thee cursing, vexation, and rebuke, in all that thou settest thine hand unto for to do, until thou be destroyed, and until thou perish quickly; because of the wickedness of thy doings, whereby thou hast forsaken me.” (Deuteronomy 28:20) “The LORD shall cause thee to be smitten before thine enemies: thou shalt go out one way against them, and flee seven ways before them: and shalt be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.” (Deuteronomy 28:25) “And thou shalt become an astonishment, a proverb, and a byword, among all nations whither the LORD shall lead thee.” (Deuteronomy 28:37) “Thou shalt beget sons and daughters, but thou shalt not enjoy them; for they shall go into captivity.” (v. 41) “And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other” (v. 64).
Jesus had just cursed the fig tree because it had no fruit thereon and it withered away (Matthew 21:18-20, Mark 11:10-21, Luke 13:6-9). He then told the parable of the Vineyard (Matthew 21:33-46), how Israel had rejected the Son of God, and the result, “He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their seasons.” (Matthew 21:41). Therefore, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21:43)
In the next parable, we find that Israel rejected their calling, “they would not come”, “And the remnant took his servants, and entreated them spitefully, and slew them. But when the king heard thereof, he was wroth: and he sent forth his armies, and destroyed those murderers, and burned up their city.” (Matthew 22:3, 6-7)
Jesus said, not one stone of their Temple would be left standing upon another (Matthew 24:1-2). We find the greater details of this in the Book of Luke. Jesus said, in reply to their question, “when shall these things be?” “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judaea flee to the mountains; and let them which are in the midst of it depart out; and let not them that are in the countries enter thereinto. For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, UNTIL the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled.” (Luke 21:20-23, 24; Note Daniel 9:24) They were now going to “be led away captive into all nations”. Why? “because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation” (Luke 19:41-44).
Jerusalem would be destroyed and Israel would be scattered to the nations. But God is able to raise them up, even as from the dead according to the good promise of Moses (Deuteronomy 30:1-4, 5-6). Ezekiel also said, God would raise them up from their graves. They were buried in the nations, but God was able to bring them back to life in their homeland (Ezekiel 37:1-14). “Now learn the parable of the fig tree”. The fig tree was withered away and cut down, BUT, “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 [the Kingdom] 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.” (Matthew 24:32-35)
The fig tree was cursed, cut down and withered, but the fig tree would once again bud, and when she does, we know that this generation shall see the Kingdom of God fulfilled and restored to Israel. God promised, and He can not lie (Titus 1:2). Jesus shall return and reign in power and great glory. “He shall cause them that come of Jacob to take root: Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit.” “In that day sing ye unto her, A vineyard of red wine. I the LORD do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day. (Isaiah 27:2-3, 6)
In the illustration of the Olive Tree, the branch of Israel would be broken off and their blessings forfeited, and the Gentiles grafted in to enjoy the blessings that could have been theirs, but in the end of the age, they would be grafted back in (Romans 11). It should be noted that Jesus said earlier, “Verily I say unto you, All these things shall come upon this generation” (Matthew 23:36), speaking to the generation that was alive at that time, and was fulfilled in AD 70 when their Temple was destroyed. Finally, in AD 135, in the Bar Kokhba revolt, their total extermination from the land of Israel was finalized.
But now, in the Parable of the Fig Tree, He is speaking of a future generation, when the nation of Israel will bud and put forth leaves, and He says, “This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” Israel is the fig tree (Judges 9:10-11, Joel 1:6-7, Jeremiah 24:1-10), and though she was scattered and carried away into the nations of the world, in the latter days they would be brought back into the land and bear fruit. God promised, “Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good. I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart.” (Jeremiah 24:5-7)
Moses said, "The land also shall be left of them, and shall enjoy her sabbaths, while she lieth desolate without them: and they shall accept of the punishment of their iniquity: because, even because they despised my judgments, and because their soul abhorred my statutes. And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God. But I will for their sakes remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought forth out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the heathen, that I might be their God: I am the LORD." (Leviticus 26:43-45) The prophet Ezekiel said, "After many days thou shalt be visited: in the latter years thou shalt come into the land that is brought back from the sword, and is gathered out of many people, against the mountains of Israel, which have been always waste: but it is brought forth out of the nations, and they shall dwell safely all of them." (Ezekiel 38:8)
Towards the end of Paul's ministry, when he was a prisoner in Rome, “when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening. And some believed the things which were spoken, and some believed not. And when they agreed not among themselves, they departed, after that Paul had spoken one word, Well spake the Holy Ghost by Esaias the prophet unto our fathers, Saying, Go unto this people, and say, Hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and not perceive: For the heart of this people is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes have they closed; lest they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them. Be it known therefore unto you, that the salvation of God is sent unto the Gentiles, and that they will hear it.” (Acts 28:23-28)
Paul said in his epistle to the Romans, “Let their eyes [Israel's] be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?” (Romans 11:10-12) “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, UNTIL the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Romans 11:25-27 Note Daniel 9:24)
It would not be till the end of Daniel's 70th week, that is, it would take 490 years, “to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness” (Daniel 9:24), only then would the sins of Israel “be purged” (Isaiah 27:9) once and for all. Between the 483 years and the last 7 years of Daniel's prophecy, Israel would be blinded and God would turn to the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name.
The prophet Isaiah said that God would be a light for the Gentiles that His salvation might be to the end of the earth. Isaiah prophesied of Jesus Christ saying, “Listen, O isles, unto me; and hearken, ye people, from far; The LORD hath called me from the womb; from the bowels of my mother hath he made mention of my name. And he hath made my mouth like a sharp sword; in the shadow of his hand hath he hid me, and made me a polished shaft; in his quiver hath he hid me; And said unto me, Thou art my servant, O Israel, in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have laboured in vain, I have spent my strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely my judgment is with the LORD, and my work with my God. And now, saith the LORD that formed me from the womb to be his servant, to bring Jacob again to him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and my God shall be my strength. And he said, It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth.” (Isaiah 49:1-6)
God so loved the world, not just the nation of Israel, but all the nations of the world, and Israel who was to be that salt and light to the Gentile nations, had instead become indifferent to them. Even to the apostle Peter, it was a shocking thing that God would have him enter into the house of a Gentile or eat with one of another nation (Acts 10:28; 11:2-3, John 4:9, 27). They were thought to be unclean (John 18:28), and so there was this partition or wall between Jew and Gentile (Ephesians 2:14). While they were forbidden to marry one of another nation or make a covenant with them under the Law (Deuteronomy 7:2-3), the Jews had made this wall much larger and taller so that they could not even converse or eat with one of another nation, and had taken on a Pharisaical view (Luke 18:11). Paul had to rebuke Peter for getting carried away with this hypocrisy (Galatians 2:11-14).
As more Gentiles were responding to the gospel, some of the Jews were commanding that the Gentiles should be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses in order to be saved (Acts 15:1, 5). In other words they had to become Jewish proselytes to be saved. This controversy did not let up until a council was convened in Jerusalem with the Apostles to discuss the matter (Acts 15:2-5, 6).
By this time, Peter had finally come around and spoke first. “And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said unto them, Men and brethren, ye know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. And God, which knoweth the hearts, bare them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did unto us; And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. Now therefore why tempt ye God, to put a yoke upon the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? But we believe that through the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they.” (Acts 15:7-11)
James then gave his conclusion saying, “Simeon hath declared how God at the first [literally, for the first time] did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things.” (Acts 15:14-17) Jesus is coming again, and when He does, He will build again the tabernacle of David that is fallen down. But listen, only AFTER He takes out of the Gentiles a people for His name, will He will restore the Kingdom to Israel as promised.
God was now moving on to call out of the Gentiles a people for His name according to the words of the prophets, that they too might seek after the Lord. James then quotes the Lord, speaking through the prophet Amos (Amos 9:11-12), saying, “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up”.
However, Israel would be scattered to the nations, but in the last days, they would be gathered back into their homeland to prepare the stage for the Lord's Second Coming. But between Israel's dispersion to the nations and gathering back to the Land, Jesus said, “I will build my Church”.
The significance of the words of Simeon, upon the birth of Jesus, are even clearer now. “For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; A light to lighten the Gentiles, AND the glory of thy people Israel.” (Luke 2:30-32). Jesus would be a light to the Gentiles and the glory of Israel. But then Simeon said, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel” (Luke 2:34).
Concerning Israel, Paul said, “I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?... For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?... And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Romans 11:11-12, 15, 26-27)
The promised Kingdom of David was fallen down, but it shall rise again, when Jesus Christ, the promised heir of the Kingdom (Psalm 2:7-8) returns, then shall He build again the tabernacle of David. “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4-5)
The “fig tree” had died, dried up from the roots and withered away, but Paul says, the day is coming when there shall be a national resurrection from the dead. So as we look at the parable of the fig tree when its branches are tender and puts forth leaves, we know that summer is nigh. Likewise when you see all these things know that the Kingdom of Heaven is near, even at the doors. This generation shall not pass till all these things be fulfilled.
All these things are primarily those things mentioned that will take place during Daniel's 70 weeks, the Great Tribulation, the time of Jacob's Trouble. But know and understand that none of these things can take place until Israel is back in the land in unbelief. The fig tree would come to life again and put forth her leaves. Although it will be without fruit, she will bear fruit when God builds again the Tabernacle of David. Many have desired to see these amazing days and they are marvelous in our eyes.
Let me sound a warning here, there are some today who teach that the kingdom is now, or “Kingdom Now Theology”. There are others who teach that God is forever done with Israel and preach what is known as “Replacement Theology”. Both of these groups are teaching heresy for they denying the clear teaching of the Scriptures.
Today we do not preach, “Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand”. Jesus told His disciples at that time, “Go not into the way of the Gentiles… But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” (Matthew 10:5-7) But today, we are preaching the “gospel of the Grace of God” (Acts 20:24), “the Glorious Gospel of Jesus Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:3-4), “how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:1-4).
Today our message is, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:30-31). “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.” (John 3:16-17) Anyone can believe the gospel and by “believing ye might have life through his name” (John 20:31). Over and over again we are told the same thing, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life.” (John 5:24)
“And by [Jesus] all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses.” (Acts 13:39) Even before Moses, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.” (Romans 4:3). And today, all that “believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his faith is counted for righteousness.” (Romans 4:5) “Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.” (Romans 4:23-25) We pray that you too have the “hope of eternal life, which God, that cannot lie, promised before the world began” (Titus 1:2) Amen.
Let me conclude by saying, in the first century, there was a transitionary period, where the Israel and the Church existed side by side. All true believers in Israel were transferred to the body of Christ on Pentecost via the Baptism of the Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; 1 Corinthians 12:12-13). For about 40 years, that little band of believers went out with the Gospel of Jesus Christ, crucified for sinners and risen from the dead. They brought the gospel “to the Jew first” (Romans 1:16), in Jerusalem and all of Judea (Acts 1:8). But when Israel became hardened in their unbelief, they were ready to “vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13), and that “generation” began their time of exile, and were dispersed to the nations of the world (Luke 21:20-23, 24) by the hands of Imperial Rome (John 11:47-50, 51), and the Fig Tree withered away.
However, the Fig Tree is once again “putting forth leaves” (Matthew 24:32-34). We are once again entering that transitionary period where the Church and Israel are once again co-existing side by side. Israel has once again became a nation and Jews are being gathered back into the land of Israel according to the good promise of God (Deuteronomy 30:1-4, 5-6, Isaiah 11:11-12, Jeremiah 29:13-14; 31:10, Ezekiel 11:17; 28:25; 34:13; 36:24; 37:21-23; 38:8, 12; 39:23-26, 27-29, Zephaniah 3:19-20).
We are clearly told, that Israel's blindness will last only UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles come in (Romans 11:25-26). Just as Israel was taken out of the way to make way for the Church period where God is taking out of the nations, “a people for His name” (Acts 15:14-16), so too, that period is about to come to an end with that climactic event called the Rapture of the Church (1 Thessalonians 4:14-17, 18), before God visits the nation Israel again during the “Time of Jacob's Trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7, 22-24). That is the final Week of Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 9:24-27), the seven year “Great Tribulation” (Joel 2:1-2, Daniel 12:1, Matthew 24:21-22) where God shall refine Israel (Zechariah 13:8-9, Ezekiel 20:30-34, 35-38) for the coming Kingdom of God and return of Jesus Christ, “with ALL His saints” (1 Thessalonians 3:13), to destroy those enemies who seek to annihilate His chosen people (Zephaniah 3:11, Isaiah 26:21-21).
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