Did you know that one of the most important teachings of Jesus about the end times is found in the Olivet Discourse (Matthew 24 & Luke 21)? Why is it so important to understand this passage correctly? What generation will watch the fig tree blossom and not pass away? What is the fig tree all about?
Matthew 24:32-35: “Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”
We also find a similar passage in Luke 21: ‘“So, when all these things begin to happen, stand and look up, for your salvation is near!” Then He (Jesus) gave them this illustration: “Notice the fig tree, or any other tree. When the leaves come out, you know without being told that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things taking place, you can know that the Kingdom of God is near. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things have taken place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”’ (Luke 21:28-33)
There are three types of “trees” which symbolize Israel in the Bible:
- The Vine
- The Olive Tree
- The Fig Tree
The Vine is a symbol of the SPIRITUAL privileges of Israel (Psalm 80, Isaiah 5, Jeremiah 2)
The Olive Tree is a symbol of the RELIGIOUS privileges of Israel with its roots deep in the patriarchs – Abraham, Isaac & Jacob (Hosea 14 & 17, Isaiah 24, Psalm 52, Psalm 128, Romans 11)
The Fig Tree is a symbol of the NATIONAL privileges of Israel (Hosea 9, Jeremiah 24, Matt 24)
Jesus teaches His disciples about “end times” … He uses the illustration of the FIG tree. The fig tree refers to NATIONAL Israel. He highlights the fact that the generation that SEES the rebirth of Israel (1948) will witness everything falling into place as per all the prophecies in the Old Testament (Isaiah, Daniel, Ezekiel and others). Jesus says clearly that “THIS generation”, the generation that sees all these things starting to fall into place, can KNOW that HIS RETURN is VERY near!!
We must remember that the Olivet discourse refers to the things that are going to happen to Israel as a nation. But Jesus stops the discourse to address His disciples specifically here to highlight the fact that the generation that sees the fig tree’s branches budding and its leaves beginning to sprout, (the rebirth of Israel) will be the last generation before He returns. What a thought!!! What amazing times we are living in!!
I can hear some folk say, “how long is a generation?”. No, it is not 40 years as some tend to think. The best way to explain it is, “An average lifespan of a group of people living at the same time constitutes the length of a generation”. As someone explained, “you can have a 12-year old on the one hand, and a 92-year old on the other hand – an eighty-year difference between the two. But everything you see together makes you the generation that is watching those things”. So, it is the lifespan of a GROUP of people. And it is THIS generation that WATCHES these things coming together, that the LORD is talking about!
As the Bible tells us equally clearly, “But concerning that day and hour no one knows…” (Matthew 24:36), BUT …. “Now about the times and seasons, brothers, we do not need to write to you. For you are fully aware that the Day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and security,” destruction will come upon them suddenly, like labour pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. But you, brothers, are not in the darkness so that this day should overtake you like a thief …” (1 Thessalonians 5:1-4)
What we need to remember also is that as Believers in Jesus, we have been grafted into the Vine and can enjoy all the Spiritual privileges bestowed on Israel, God’s chosen people. In the same way, as Believers in Jesus, we have been grafted into the Olive tree and enjoy the religious privileges of Israel – we are no longer the “wild olive” referred to in Romans 11. BUT … we cannot be grafted into the fig tree as the fig tree stands for NATIONAL Israel and references to the fig tree always refer to Israel as a nation.
Also, remember that the Church has NOT replaced Israel. Do not let anyone try to convince you of that. The very reason the Church has confidence in God, is that He is a covenant-keeping God. His promises never fail. He has promised that He will restore Israel, bring her back to life (see Ezekiel 37), and He is doing that in fulfillment of His Word.
So, what do you SEE happening now? Do you SEE Israel back in the land? Do you SEE the land of Israel prospering? She has one of the strongest economies in the world; she is the forerunner in so many technological and scientific breakthroughs. Do you SEE that Israel is blooming – the deserts shall blossom! Isaiah 35:1 says: “Even the wilderness and desert will be glad in those days. The wasteland will rejoice and blossom with spring crocuses.”
All that is left for us now is to BELIEVE God’s Word, SEE that His Word is true and everything is falling into place.
“Now learn a lesson from the fig tree. When its branches bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door. I tell you the truth, this generation will not pass from the scene until all these things take place. Heaven and earth will disappear, but my words will never disappear.”
In the next blog, I will be highlighting more about Israel and the convergence of signs around us which are shouting out the message, “Get ready! – The King is coming soon”!