“The fig tree is blooming, Israel is back. This generation shall not pass away. And there is a great difference between the church’s rapture and the return of Jesus with the church at the end of the tribulation for the nation of Israel. And we need to remember that if Israel is the one to go through the tribulation and not the church, that means that the church must be raptured before the tribulation. This is the basis of the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. In this chapter, instead of debunking, it’s actually a proof to that wonderful hope that we’re not destined to the wrath of God that He’s coming to take us, that this is our blessed hope. And that some of us may not even see corruption. We will wear incorruption. We will change in the twinkling of an eye, and we will be with Him forever and ever.”
The Bible is filled with wonderful idioms, illustrations, figurative language and symbols. All of which share the same purpose – to make a comparison between a biblical truth or reality and something commonly used or known. One example would be:
Revelation 1:12-15 KJV – “And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle. His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire; And his feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and his voice as the sound of many waters.”
This description of Jesus is worded in a manner that allows us to “see” through John’s word picture what he saw when he turned to see who was speaking to him. The Son of Man in a full-length garment and golden belt is described in timeless terms that would be understandable throughout the ages.
Hair that’s white “like” wool, white as snow, eyes “like” fire and feet “like” polished brass, were all figurative efforts to describe what John literally saw. A voice “as the sound of many waters,” would also be a timeless illustration of the strength and power of the voice John heard.
John also employs an idiom in describing Jesus – which was the favored one Jesus used of Himself – when he refers to Jesus as the Son of Man. The Bible refers to Jesus 88 times as the Son of Man and this idiom was twofold in meaning. First, it was a Messianic title connecting Jesus to the prophecy of Daniel chapter 7;
Daniel 7:13-14 KJV – “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him. And there was given him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed.”
Secondly, the Son of Man speaks of Jesus’ humanity associating Him with Isaiah’s words;
Isaiah 7:14 KJV – “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”
All this tells us that when we read something that is clearly figurative or an idiom in Scripture, we need to recognize that something literal is being communicated.
Matthew 24:32-34 KJV – “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, 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.”
Not every use of the phrase “fig tree” is an idiom in Scripture. Sometimes it means nothing more than a literal fig tree. This is why context is so important in establishing interpretation. On the previous two days before the statement of Jesus in Matthew 24, a fig tree was encountered by Jesus and the twelve, including the four He was addressing at the time of the statement.
Peter, Andrew, James and John had asked about the last days and the signs of His coming. Jesus answered by telling them what it would be like both before and during the tribulation. Understanding that the tribulation is the 70th week of Daniel, of which Israel is the focal point, we can understand that the fig tree in this case has a meaning beyond just a literal tree.
Hosea 9:10 KJV – “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time: but they went to Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved.”
Joel 1:6-7 KJV – “For a nation is come up upon my land, strong, and without number, whose teeth are the teeth of a lion, and he hath the cheek teeth of a great lion. He hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white.”
The fig tree that Jesus and the disciples encountered on the two days prior to His statement in the Olivet Discourse was representative of fruitless Israel and their national rejection of their Messiah (though all of the first Christians were Jews). That tells us that when Jesus said, “Learn this lesson from the fig tree”, He was referring to the same fig tree they encountered in the previous two days, which represented Israel (as established by Hosea and Joel).
The literal meaning of His idiom and illustration is this; When Israel becomes a nation again and the land starts to flourish, know that the tribulation is near, even at the door. The generation that sees the rebirth of the nation of Israel will be the generation in which all of the events of the Olivet Discourse will be fulfilled.
While many have debated and sought to calculate the length of a generation, what Jesus was saying is this; when Israel is back in their homeland (when the fig tree has put forth leaves), know that it won’t be long before all these things take place.
We are living in that generation, which means Jesus is coming for us soon!
Revelation 1:3 KJV – “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.”
If John said the time was near regarding all that was written in Revelation (mid-90’s AD), then it is indeed “at the door” today.
The wrath of God recorded in Revelation is about to come upon the whole world. However, the church is not appointed to God’s wrath (1 Thessalonians 5:9). That means time is short. Our redemption is nigh. It’s time to look up, for we will soon and forever be with the Lord! Comfort one another with these words.
Even so, come quickly, Lord Jesus!