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Parable of the Fig Tree

Matthew 24:32-35
32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.
KJV

Matthew 24:32-35 presents a parable that has created many interpretations among scholars. What does the fig tree symbolize?


Many include verse 35 with verses 36-38. Clearly, verses 35 and 36 are warnings to the entire world, but particularly to believers, about attempts to set an exact date for Christís return. This would generally speak against any view of "generation" that creates a finite set of dates, such as the physical rebirth of the nation of Israel in 1948. These verses provide a comparison to past biblical events that show the condition of the world at the time of the Second Coming. The condition of the world will resemble a world filled with the "signs" of the Second Coming given in this entire chapter of Matthew, as well as the condition of mankind. In general, this condition will be one of unbelief, similar to that of first-century Israel, the generation of Jews who rejected Jesus. This "generation" of verse 34 will be like the generation of Noahís day, a generation bent on personal pleasure rather than the worship and reverence of God.

The individual importance of verse 35 comes as an assurance of the Truth and Faithfulness of Christís Words. In the immediate context, this verse applies not only to the paragraph under discussion, but also to the entire discourse (Matthew 24-25) of which it is a part. At the same time, the implication becomes apparent that verse 35 applies to all of the Words of Jesus. His Words are faithful and true, all of His Words. Jesus is God, so His Words are the Words of God. The Words of God are faithful and true. Therefore, all of the Words of Jesus are faithful and true.

 

This verse tells us that "heaven and earth shall pass away" but the Words of God will not. At the level of personal faith, this verse is one providing great assurance for the truth and veracity of the Bible. Heaven and earth will, indeed, pass away (2 Peter 3:10Ė13; Revelation 20:11) but Godís Words will remain forever. Godís Words are more certain than the very existence of the universe (the foundation of belief for modern man!).

In summary then, the parable of the fig tree is a story that provides us with a natural understanding of the signs of the end times. While the events described in Matthew 24 and its Gospel parallels are events always occurring in history, when they commence to be fulfilled completely, the end of the world is here. The events are fulfilled during the Tribulation period, the seven years preceding the return of Jesus. As such, one "sign" not mentioned by Jesus as an indicator of the commencement of the Tribulation is the Rapture of the Church. Since this event has not happened, we are not yet living in the period of fulfillment.

Nevertheless, we may certainly be living in the "generation" who will see the completion of "all these things." The generation referred to by Jesus in these verses is the generation alive at the actual commencement of the end time signs. To, perhaps, oversimplify the description "this generation" will be those unbelievers alive at the time of the Rapture. Since this is true, there is a sense in which those who see "this generation" as representing national Israel (at least, unbelieving national Israel) are correct, for this group will be part of this generation. However, since the parable of the sheep and the goats of Matthew 25:31-46 teaches that Gentiles will be saved during the Tribulation, "this generation" must be a broader group than just national Israel.

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