Parable Of The Fig Tree
“Now learn the parable of the fig tree. When its branch is yet tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So likewise, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.”
When the Jewish nationalists began to prepare for their resistance against Rome, then Christians could see that tragedy was coming. They could interpret the rise of Jewish nationalism as a sign of the end.
The meaning of the parable from the fig tree is the nearness of the destruction as indicated by Jesus’ statements of verses 5-29. The fig tree puts forth her tender branches and leaves in the spring. Such indicates that summer is coming. The occurrence of the events of verses 5-29 would indicate the nearness of the destruction of Jerusalem because the “maturity” of nationalism was strong throughout the Empire.
The disciples would understand that the “coming [presence] of the Lord in judgment in time was at hand” (Js 5:8). For this reason, Jesus says, “I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me” (Rv 3:20). Through His messengers who went into all the Roman Empire, there was continual pleas through gospel to come out of the resistance of Jewish nationalism that would eventually end in war with Rome.
Generational Witness Of Doom
“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things are fulfilled.”
Some of those of this generation, the generation to whom Jesus was speaking, would not die before all that He had just said had occurred. This verse is certainly parallel with what Jesus had said in Matthew 16:27,28. On that occasion Jesus said in the context of the Son of Man coming in the glory of His Father, “There are some standing here who will not taste death until they see the Son of Man coming in His kingdom.” They would witness the coronation of Jesus at His ascension. They would also witness His kingdom authority that was demonstrated in His judgment on national Israel.
When they went forth after the ascension of Jesus, the disciples went from city to city in Israel, preaching the gospel of the kingdom reign of King Jesus. This was their message of hope to be delivered from the intimidation of the Jewish nationalist who were campaigning throughout the Empire in order to recruit followers. While first preaching the gospel of Jesus’ atoning death, and His kingdom reign, the messengers continually had a message of doom for national Israel that was relayed on to all Jewish disciples.
In their preaching, the unbelieving Jews would persecute the early messengers from city to city because he message of the messengers meant the end of Israel. If Jesus was the only Lord and Messiah, then there was no messiah in the future to deliver national Israel from Rome. Jesus said to the disciples,
“But when they persecute you in this city, flee to another. For assuredly, I say to you, you will not have gone through the cities of Israel before the Son of Man comes” (Mt 10:23).
Because of the Jews’ persecution of the messengers of Jesus, God would bring judgment upon national Israel. Before Jesus arrived at this context of His message to the disciples in Matthew 24, He had stated, “Assuredly, I say to you, all these things will come upon this generation” (Mt 23:36). “These things” referred to all things that led up to final consummation of Israel. These things would come upon the generation to whom He addressed this message of warning.
God would bring the punishment of judgment upon the generation to whom Jesus personally ministered because they had personally rejected Jesus. Jesus had said to the rejecting Jews,
“The men of Nineveh will rise in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, because they repented at the preaching of Jonah; and indeed a greater than Jonah is here. The queen of the South will rise up in the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for she came from the ends of the earth to hear the wisdom of Solomon; and indeed a greater than Solomon is here” (Mt 12:41,42).
Jesus’ generation of Jews would receive a more harsh judgment because they had personally experienced the presence of the incarnate Son of God. The destruction of Jerusalem, therefore, was not only God’s intended time to openly demonstrate His work through Israel, it was also His judgment upon a generation that personally rejected His Son.
The Enduring Word
“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
Jesus seems to comfort the disciples at this point in this most terrifying picture of the end. No matter what the national calamity might be, they must trust in the word of God that endures forever. Peter possibly reflected on the thought of this statement of Jesus when he wrote he following just a few years before Jerusalem’s destruction: “All flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers, and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever” (1 Pt 1:24,25).
It is doubtful that Peter fully understood this when Jesus first made the pronouncements of Matthew 24 in his presence. Nevertheless, he, as well as the other disciples at hand, would soon realize that they could not put their faith in any nation, even though it had been ordained by God some 1,400 years before.
The only thing that would permeate the destruction of all things would be the word of God. Eventually, the present heaven and earth would pass away (2 Pt 3:10,11). But the word of the Lord endures forever. Therefore, Jesus assumed that they would wholeheartedly trust in His promises regardless of all the calamity that was coming upon those who sought to establish an independent Jewish nation within Palestine.
[Next in series: Aug. 12]