THE FIG TREE
Matthew 24:32 Now learn a parable of the fig tree; when his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh. (Also read Matt. 24:33-44, Mark 13:28-32, & Luke 21:29-33).
O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not (Matt. 23:37). This was Jesus' lament over the Jewish nation and particularly, the Holy City of Jerusalem, its center of both spiritual and civil government. Jesus mourned the fact that, for the most part, His people had rejected, not only Himself, but also the prophets that foretold His coming as the Messiah, the Savior of the world. This was Jesus' final visit to Jerusalem. Here He would be crucified, entombed, and would amaze the world by being resurrected from death. Here His church would be established under the New Covenant bringing God's plan of salvation to all people throughout the world. Jesus knew the future of Jerusalem - its impending destruction, and he mourned.
As Jesus passed through the city with his disciples, they viewed the temple and its surrounding buildings. Gazing at these buildings, Jesus told his disciples, see ye not all of these things? Verily I say unto you, there shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down (See Matt. 24:1-2). The disciples immediately questioned Jesus about this astounding statement by asking, (W)hen shall these things be, and what shall be the sign of Thy coming, and of the end of the world (Vs. 3b)? Although the disciples probably thought this would all take place at the same time, they really asked three distinctly different questions - when would Jerusalem be destroyed, when would Christ come bringing judgment at the end of the world, and what would be the sign warning that these events are about to take place?
In answering the first question, when would Jerusalem be destroyed, Jesus uses the parable of the fig tree. Although vineyards and olive gardens were more common in the area, fig trees were also planted and grew in these areas in great numbers. All of Jesus'disciples were familiar with the fig tree and knew that the summer season was near when its branch is tender, and putteth forth leaves. This was the sign of summer. Just as summer could be predicted, so signs would warn of the time the destruction of Jerusalem would take place. Here are the signs Jesus gave them as recorded in Matthew, chapter 24. There would be wars, and rumors of wars (Vs. 6), ...famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places (Vs. 7), hatred and affliction from other nations (Vs. 9), many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many (Vs. 11), finally when you see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place (Vs. 15), then is the end. Jerusalem will be destroyed, and its inhabitants were to flee into the mountains for safety (Vs. 16). After stating the parable of the fig tree, Jesus told His disciples, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled (Vss. 33-34). Not only did Jesus tell them the signs warning of the destruction of Jerusalem, but he also gave them an approximately time it would take place - within the present generation. Looking back we know all these things took place just as Jesus foretold. It took place just as sure as summer follows the leaves coming forth from the fig tree.
Jesus now answers the second and third questions of His disciples with this summation. What will be the signs of the end of the time, when Christ will come to judge the world? His answer to this question is, but of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but My Father only (Vs. 36). There will be no signs. Rather people of the world will be conducting life just as they were before the great flood in the days of Noah. Verse 42 tells us, watch therefore. Not watch for a sign, but be on your guard, and be prepared to meet God and any time, because ye know not what hour your Lord doth come.
Writing to the church of the Thessalonians, Paul said, for yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night (1 Thess. 5:2). We, today, also have perfect knowledge that there will be no sign of the coming of Jesus and the end of the world. There will be no spiritual fig tree to warn us - there will be no sign. We know not the year, month, week, day, or even the hour. What we are told is sufficient - be watchful, be on guard, be prepared at all times to meet your Lord!