The Parable of the Fig Tree
Matthew 24:32, Mark 13:28 and Luke 21:29 each provides a version of the parable of the fig tree. For the purposes of this blog, Matthew 24:32–35 will be used as the main source for the prophecy’s text.
Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away [die, cease to exist] till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will by no means pass away. (Matthew 24:32–35 NKJV)
By approximately AD 73, the majority of the Israelite people had moved from the Promised Land without a clear picture of when they might return. Because of Rome’s scorched-earth policy,(1) the lands in and around Israel left little to sustain the population. There remained a small Jewish presence over the years, but until AD 1946, the Jews ceased to exist as a nation or political power, especially within the Fertile Crescent.(2) Eventually, the former lands of Israel and Judea came to be known as Palestine. For nearly 1,800 years, the Israelite nation did not exist in the Promised Land. Following the Holocaust of World War II, a vast population of Jewish refugees sought support from nations around the globe. Still, rather than invite millions of needy refugees within their borders, many of the nations (mostly members of the United Nations) simply voted to return the Jews to what was previously the land of their forefathers. This initiative gained significant momentum between 1947 and May of 1948 when the refugee problem surged beyond ten million. There did not exist at that time an independent state of Israel. In fact, until then, the Jews did not actually exist as an official or sovereign people of Israel. In fulfillment of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30, prophetically fulfilled through the Holocaust), Israel became a sovereign state on May 15, 1948. If Israel’s state of emergency had not existed at that time, the state of Israel would likely still not exist today. During the Israelite procession toward statehood, members of the Israeli community and Zionist movements solicited Jewish families and communities all over the world to return to Palestine by whatever means possible. The newly formed pseudo-Israeli government encouraged Jewish families and communities from around the globe to return to the Promised Land and reclaim their ancient heritage. These Jewish organizations began offering financial incentives, such as tax breaks and cash rewards, to any Jewish family interested in returning to the now growing Hebrew nation. The incentives applied to any Jewish families who would willingly relocate to Palestine for no less than three years. These inducements were not only successful but were the fulfillment of yet another prophecy, found in Jeremiah 16:14–16:
“Therefore behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that it shall no more be said, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from all the lands where He had driven them.’ For I will bring them back into their land which I gave to their fathers.”
“Behold, I will send for many fishermen,” says the Lord, “and they shall fish them; and afterward I will send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain and every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks.” (Jeremiah 16:14–16 NKJV)
In 2 Corinthians 13:1b, Paul made this statement: “In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established.” The text implies God repeats important information. When God wants to emphasize something of import, He repeats the information a second or third time to stress its significance. With this in mind, when God says something three or more times by the mouth of Jesus himself, you can consider the information significant. The parable of the fig tree is repeated in three of the four gospels, with each instance immediately following a discussion on the Great Consummation and the Second Coming of Christ. Much of the End Times information found in Matthew, Mark, and Luke is repeated at least three or more times in the gospels as well as other locations within God’s Word.
In the parable of the fig tree, Jesus said, “Now learn this parable from the fig tree.” The phrase directs Jesus’s followers to learn the parable. The fig tree itself is and has been a symbol for the nation of Israel. In chapter 2 of the Song of Solomon, God expresses His passion for Israel, the fig tree, in verse 13: “The fig tree forms its early fruit; the blossoming vines spread their fragrance. Arise, come, my darling; my beautiful one, come with me.” Scripture often presents Israel using either the fig tree or the olive tree. Typically, the fig tree represents the physical institution or government of Israel without reflecting any spiritual significance. On the other hand, the olive tree tends to represent Israel’s spiritual life, nature, and relationship with God. When scripture points out the spiritual side of Israel, it often does so by reflecting on Israel as God’s olive tree (Psalms 52:8). The oil of the olive tree is sometimes employed to represent God’s Holy Spirit (Zechariah 4:12). In prophecies, these terms are utilized to identify a specific type of relationship or connection Israel carries in the text or prophecy. For example, Joel 1:7 states, “He has laid waste my vine and ruined my fig tree …” This segment reflects Israel’s government during the time of the Great Consummation. Scripturally the nation of Israel is considered a wife or love of God.(3) Though God remains a loving husband to Israel, Israel has frequently been the adulterous bride of God (Jeremiah 3:1).
Israel is represented in many forms throughout God’s Word. With this in mind, it is important to note the correct relationship distinction when looking at a specific prophecy. It is also important to add Christians into the mix when appropriate. Remember Joel 1:7 states, “He has laid waste my vine and ruined my fig tree …” The vine represents Christ and the Body of Christ (John 15:5a, “I am the vine, you are the branches …”). Joel 1:7 also presents images of both the Body of Christ and the nation of Israel. It is important to consider every element within a prophecy. Let us look at Christ’s sacrifice on the cross and its relationship to these current issues. God the Great Husbandman or Gardner of Christendom began adopting(4) gentiles into His family once Jesus began His ministry. This process was accomplished supernaturally through the election of grace.(5) It is interesting to note how the newly transformed members of the Jewish nation, Christians, are viewed as wild branches grafted into the natural olive tree.(6) Israel is the natural olive or fig tree. Jesus depicted Himself as the vine with Christians becoming the wild olive branches.(7) Through these and other symbolic representations, Christians were grafted into the natural family of Abraham as wild counterparts rather than natural.(8) These symbols are important when attempting to interpret prophecy. The most important information to take away from this paragraph is how Israel is seen as the fig tree and Christianity is seen as either the wild olive branches or as branches of the vine of Christ. Christians are never viewed as part of the fig tree, nor is Israel viewed as part of the vine. Remember this when considering the parable of the fig tree.
We will breakdown the Parable of the Fig tree by its elements in Prophecy Fulfilled 4.
1) The Romans were renowned for their scorched-earth policy, which required the destruction of anything that might prove useful to an enemy while Rome either advanced through or withdrew from a military arena.
2) The Fertile Crescent is a term popularized by the archaeologist James Henry Breasted, University of Chicago, describing a productive crescent-shaped region, covering the lands between the Persian Gulf and the areas of Upper Egypt. The Nations of Israel, Iraq, Kuwait, Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, and Cyprus are included within this region.
3) Isaiah 62:5: “For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you; and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.”
4) Romans 8:15 and 23.
5) Romans 11:5.
6) Romans 2:28–29.
7) John 15:1–8.
8) Romans 11:5–18.