For those gentle readers who are students of Biblical prophecy, probably no aspect has been misinterpreted more than the parable of the fig tree, found in Matt. 24:32-34; Mark 13:28-30; and Luke 21:29-32.  Most prophecy mavens start with a preconceived notion based on a predetermined timeline, and with one eye on the imminent rapture of the church and the other firmly on current events.  They are looking for a sign, and they miss the point of the fig tree.

In our Sunday School class, we have been studying prophecy from the bottom up–without any preconceived ideas, patterns, or timelines, we have tried to see what the Scriptures actually say about future events.  (Yes, we are reinventing the wheel; but we’re gonna know the wheel by the time we’re done!)  We started several weeks ago in Matthew 24, Mark 13, and Luke 21.

The disciples asked Jesus how people could know when He was returning and the end of the age would arrive.  He clearly identifies a seven-year time of tribulation in the future, ruled by a false prince, who attacks Jerusalem and destroys the temple half-way through the seven years.  He speaks of the various judgments and occurrences on the earth during the period–He is answering their question about what signs to look for!  And then He gives the parable of the fig tree, the point of which is that when you see the buds, blossoms and new growth, you know that summer is coming; just as when you see the signs of the tribulation, you know that the Lord’s return (and the glorious time to follow) is approaching.  He goes on to say that the generation that sees the signs will see the culmination.

Unfortunately, too many Bible scholars have started with the preconceived notion that the fig tree is a symbol of Israel; that its new growth is the founding of the nation of Israel by the UN in 1947/48; and that Christ must return within one generation from that time–whether 25, 35, 50, or even 75 years of that date; or maybe while any of the people alive in the late ’40’s are still alive.  It hasn’t happened yet, and the interpretations get more stretched, twisted, and desperate by the year.

Read the parable in context:  the point of the parable is that when you see the signs, the fulfillment is coming.  The signs are those of the tribulation period (compare Matthew 24:5-8 with Revelation 6); and the culmination is the return of Christ to earth to establish His kingdom and fulfill all things.  The generation measures the people who live through the judgments of the wrath of God, and who will be alive to see the establishment of the Kingdom.  Matthew 24-25 and its parallel passages have nothing to say about the Rapture of the Church or any countdown during the Church Age.

Let me encourage you, Gentle Reader, to consider two things:

  • Listen to the Word itself, and read it with your reference Bible in hand so that you can compare Scripture with Scripture; and don’t read the notes or commentaries until you have figured out what the Word is saying.  Be more noble like the Bereans, and read it and understand it for yourself; and
  • Having realized that there are not going to be any signs leading up to the terrible 7 years of judgment; and knowing that 1/2 the world’s population will die and go to Hell during the first half of that time period; DON”T TAKE ANY CHANCES!  Make sure of your standing with God today!  Are you a child of God, adopted into His family through the “born-again” experience of regeneration?  Have you cast yourself on the mercies of Jesus Christ, Who loves you and gave Himself for you?  When you see the Lord coming, will you rejoice to join in His presence, or will you try to flee from His wrath?

Don’t worry about the fig tree or what it stands for.  Know the One who made the tree, and live.