The Parable of the Fig Tree
Text: Matthew 24 : 32 - 51
At any time, full comprehension of eschatology is difficult. The disciples had asked pointed questions concerning three things, Jerusalem, His return and the end of the age. Though Jesus had taken time to answer His disciples, it is doubtful that they fully comprehended all that He had said. They had struggled over “easier” lessons. How much more they must have struggled with this particular topic!
How could Jesus help His disciples further, as they thought through all that He had taught them? He decided that He would give them a simple parable.
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree:
When its branch has already become tender
and put forth leaves, you know that summer is near.
So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near-
at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation
will by no means pass away till all these things take place.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means
The illustration that Jesus gave concerning the fig tree was simple enough to comprehend. The fig tree was a common tree in Israel. The disciples must have known how to read the fig tree as a sign that summer was coming. That was common knowledge. The difficulty arises when this parable is applied to what Jesus said. Let us take time to ponder what Jesus said.
“Know that it is near – at the doors!”
The point that Jesus wanted to emphasise to the disciples was that they must not think that “eschatology” was something that concerned the distant future! For many people, the prophetic element always seemed to concern something vague, something futuristic, almost something irrelevant and unreal!
Jesus wanted to impress on His disciples that this must not be the way they understood eschatology. They must see this subject as something most relevant and real, as real as the fig tree and summer. What Jesus said would occur! They must believe that!
There must be a sense of urgency in what they believe. The study of eschatology must heighten the sense of urgency in the heart for these events to be fulfilled. It would be wonderful if the disciples could live with this sense of expectancy of the word being fulfilled!
“This generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place”
The difficulty in explaining this phrase is obvious. Many have struggled with the word “generation”. Different views have been given to explain what Jesus must have meant when He used the phrase “this generation”.
It would be a little easier if we were to try and understand what Jesus said in the latter half of the sentence. That would probably shed more light on the phrase “this generation”.
It is important to remind ourselves that Jesus spoke on three topics. They were related, and yet they were quite different events!
1. “All these things” cannot refer to “The Second Coming,” nor “The End of the Age”
That seems obvious, and yet sometimes the obvious must be stated! The generation of Jesus has come and gone! But He has not yet returned!
2. “All these things” must refer to the destruction of the Temple
The temple of Jerusalem was destroyed in AD 70 by the Romans. General Titus led the Roman troops to raze the temple to the ground! Not one stone was left to stand upon another. Thousands died terribly when the Romans waged war against Jerusalem!
It would make perfect sense if we were to interpret the words of Jesus in this light. History would verify that what Jesus said was indeed accurate! There were many in His generation who would witness the destruction of the temple! (The destruction of the temple would take place within the next 40 years)!
“My words will by no means pass away”
Above everything else, Jesus wanted His disciples to fully believe every word that He had spoken, even if they did not comprehend everything that He had spoken to them. His words had tremendous power and authority! Heaven and earth would pass away before His words would pass away!
The words of Jesus, on all three topics were difficult to comprehend, let alone compel belief! Yet, the disciples must struggle against unbelief. They must seek to comprehend all that their Teacher had said. This was the bottom line!
NO FURTHER CLUES!
Jesus knew that the disciples would love to ask many more questions concerning the future. How easy it would be to end up speculating what the future would be like! But that was not the way eschatology was to be studied!
“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even
the angels of heaven, but My Father only.”
There were certain things that the Father had reserved to Himself. But had not the disciples been given enough knowledge? Had they not been given the solemn promise from Jesus that all that He had taught them would come to pass? Would that not be sufficient?
The important thing was not knowledge of “the day and the hour” of eschatological events! The critical thing is to believe and to live as if these events were “at the door”. If the disciples could effect this, they would have learned well.