Welcome back, Bible lovers! We’re studying America, Israel and the Church, and we’re in the midst of looking at Jesus’s prophetic words to His disciples upon the Mount of Olives when they asked, “What will be the sign of Your coming?” Today, we’ll continue in Matthew 24:36-51, Mark 13:28-37 and Luke 21:29-38.
Grab your scuba gear and let’s go for a dive! Read at least the Matthew passage indicated above. (Read all three for full context.)
The passages talk about a fig tree, but do you know what the fig tree represents? It represents Israel as a nation. In the Bible, olive trees represent Israel’s religious privileges (such as the olive tree into which Gentiles may be grafted), while fig trees represent Israel’s national privileges. (Jeremiah 24:1-8, Luke 13:6-9)
The parable of the fig tree is one of the most significant prophecies in the Bible. Why? Let’s dig in to find out.
- According to Matthew 24:32, what is the sign that summer is near?
- What then, is being compared in verse 33?
- Who is He?
- What does it mean, “…He is near, right at the door?”
- Lots of theological theories have been cast regarding “a generation” referenced in verse 34. But whether it is 40 years, 70 years or 100 years (or more), what does that indicate about the immanency of His coming?
Friends, since Israel is the fig tree, and “…He is near, right at the door…” means the return of Jesus, is it a stretch to believe Jesus’s return is within a generation of Israel “putting forth leaves?” I believe not!
Remember yesterday when you were asked to put aside the thought about the destruction of the Temple in 70 AD? (Matthew 24:2) Well, pull that thought back into your mind! It was then that the Romans obliterated Jerusalem and the Temple, and scattered the Jewish people to the four corners of the earth. Israel literally ceased to exist. There was no kingdom or nation of Israel after 70 AD.
That is, until May 14, 1948 when the nation of Israel was miraculously re-born overnight, fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah 66:8! Remember…the fig tree represents Israel as a nation!
But put that into context of Jesus’s parable of the fig tree. Israel was barren between 70 AD and 1948. The once-fertile land had become swamp land and sand dunes. Nothing bloomed. God’s hand of blessing was not on it. No one wanted it. Yet, upon rebirth, Israel…the fig tree…became tender and sprouted leaves. The barren fig tree blossomed!
Now, consider a few of the prophecies which require Israel to be back in the land:
- Psalm 83:4 – How could the name of Israel be wiped out if Israel did not exist?
- Zechariah 12:2-3 – How will Jerusalem cause others to stagger and injure themselves if Israel does not exist?
- Ezekiel 38:8 – How will God gather the enemies of Israel on the mountains of Israel if Israel does not exist?
- Joel 3:2 – How will God judge Israel’s enemies in the Valley of Jehoshaphat (Kidron Valley) if Israel does not exist?
Do you get the idea? End time prophecy could not be fulfilled unless and until Israel was alive and back in her land! When Jesus prophesied the destruction of the Temple in Matthew 24:2, and immediately prophesied the budding of the fig tree in the same conversation, He was making perhaps the most profound prophetic statement of all: that Israel would be destroyed, but would rise again! The countdown was dependent upon it!
So the countdown began! Tomorrow we will study the actual prophecy of Israel’s return and I’ll share a special blessing with you. But let’s end today’s deep dive by examining the final verses of Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
- According to Matthew 24:36 and 42, who knows the day and hour of the Lord’s return?
- Given that, what is the message of Mark 13:32-37?
- Based on Luke 21:34-36, how are we to conduct ourselves?
A final word: Though the Bible teaches very clearly that no one but the Father knows the day and hour of Jesus’s return, we are to know and understand the time and season in which we live, according to Matthew 16:1-3 and Luke 12:54-56.
In each case, Jesus rebuked religious leaders (in Matthew) and followers (in Luke) because they could look at the sky and discern the weather, yet they could not discern the time and season in which they lived. Jesus Himself was standing right in front of them, yet they failed to acknowledge Him as the Messiah, missing His first coming.
Today, we are also responsible to discern the time and season in which we live. Jesus stands right in front of us through His written Word…the Living Word, yet how many are not prepared for His Second Coming? We have technology, we have intelligence and all the tools the world can offer us…yet we do not discern the time and season?
Be a discerner. We will NEVER know the day and the hour of His coming, but we must discern the time and season in which we live. Be faithful in God’s Word and be faithful to understand what we see in light of what Bible prophecy tells us!
Way to hang in there, Bible lovers! Come up for air and we’ll take another dive tomorrow!