Matthew 24:32-33 “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. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!”
Many Christians have been taught that in Matthew 24:32 that the fig tree represents Israel.
It has become accepted because teachers and prophets have read something into the text that is not there. It has been passed down the decades as being the truth without Christians doing their own studying as we are expected to do. This has not been done deliberately but in trying to make everything fit together.
The following explains the two basic ways of understanding scripture which is very important: –
There are two basic approaches to Bible study which are best explained by the two Greek words exegesis and eisegesis.
Exegesis is where great care is taken to consider the circumstances (the context) extant when words are initially spoken and how those who hear the words spoken would have understood them (audience relevance).
Eisegesis is the process of interpreting spoken words in such a way where one’s own presuppositions, agendas, or biases are introduced into the deciphering of what the speaker is saying. This is commonly referred to as “reading into the text.” It is eisegesis that is being used by those who believe Jesus is using the fig tree to represent Israel.
Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum does an extended commentary on Matthew 24 in his book Footsteps of the Messiah. It was his doctoral thesis.
He states that “the real point of this passage is that the fig tree is being used literally as an illustration, not as a symbol for Israel.”
Therefore the fig tree parable is not an allegory but an analogy and I agree with this based upon my reading of the passage and then looking at the same passage in Luke 21:29-32 where it actually mentions and all trees. What could be clearer.
Fruchtenbaum explains: “The point of the illustration is this: When the fig tree and all the other trees begin to blossom, it is a sure sign that summer is on its way, because the blossoming occurs in the spring. Evidently the fig tree is one of the first trees to blossom in spring. Then, in application of the illustration, Jesus said: “So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors!” Just as a blossoming fig tree means that summer is on its way, in the same way, when these events that Jesus spoke about occur, then Christians can know that His return is near.”
Some of the above events are:-
1. They will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you.
2. You will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake.
3. Many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another.
4. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many.
5. Lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
In Luke’s version of the same subject of the fig tree parable, Luke has Jesus referring not only to the fig tree but all the trees sprouting their leaves as a sign that summer is near. Therefore, it should be apparent Jesus used the sprouting of leaves in general as an analogy to drive home the point that just as sprouted leaves show summer is near, so will the fulfilment of the events He had just described show His return is imminent. He used analogies like this all the time to convey important truths.
Luke 21:29-32: He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near. “I tell you the truth; this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.
Those who believe Jesus used the fig tree to indicate that after Israel is restored as a nation they believe the granting of statehood to Israel in 1948 is the fulfilment of such prophecy. They then believe we are living in the generation to which Jesus is referring. This is obviously dangerous as Christians then use 70 years as an example to represent a generation and come up with 2018. It all creates a mindset that Jesus is coming very soon. If this does not take place then confusion and a loss of faith can occur. The enemy is good at causing confusion and likes to sow seeds of doubt.
This has been added to the pretribulation rapture teaching and Christian disappearing in a secret return of Jesus. Christians have looked at what is happening in the world today and are equating that to what Jesus said in Matthew 24 and then expecting him imminently. Although there are famines and earthquakes etc taking place now, these are just foreshadowing of what it will be like in the Great Tribulation. Just like there have been people that seemed like the antichrist.
Furthermore, if the fig tree was about Israel it would have to have been stated before Matthew 24:29 as this is when Jesus returns for the second time. It is in the wrong place.
So, we can now all see that the fig tree is not about Israel based upon standard reading of the text. It has been giving to us as a way of knowing when Jesus will be coming back after the events that out outlined above. It explains that when we see the events listed come to pass which Jesus alludes to as spring then summer (Jesus) is on His way and it will be quickly.
There are many things that need to take place before Jesus returns as detailed in the Book of Revelation. Therefore Jesus is not going to come tomorrow suddenly like a thief in the night for Christians as we should be aware of the signs and events that indicate that He is coming back. Paul expresses this in:-
1 Thessalonians 5:4 But you, brethren, are not in darkness, so that this Day should overtake you as a thief.
The impact of this mistake cannot be underestimated. It has caused much debate and argument unnecessarily. It has put too much focus on what is happening in Israel. We should be focusing on the events in the Book of Revelation which clearly outlines what the signs will be of Jesus second coming. Yes we must use all the prophetic chapters that have been written concerning the last days. There are around 150 chapters about the Last Days in the bible.
Finally it must be stated that in Matthew 24 Jesus lists just a summary of the events which are expanded in the Book of Revelation by the Apostle John.