Let the fig tree teach you a lesson. When its branches become green and tender and it starts putting out leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see all these things, you will know that the time is near, ready to begin.
Remember that all these things will happen before the people now living have all died.
[This is the last of 15 scriptures in which Jesus provides his disciples with some details about the Second Coming of Christ. For more on the Second Coming see Day 150. For more on the Messiah see Day 145. For more on the End of the Age see Day 128.]
Back to the fig tree! Remember on Day 181 when Jesus cursed the fig tree and it died? In that story the fig tree almost certainly represented the Temple and the Jewish religious institution. Today Jesus uses the fig tree as an example once again. When springtime comes, he says that the first thing that happens is new leaves. Then, eventually, if all goes well for an extended period of time, there is new fruit. I remember the lyrics to the old hymn Come Ye Thankful People Come – “First the blade and then the ear, then the full corn shall appear….”
So all of the things that Jesus has described so far, all of the clues, don’t indicate that his return is imminent. They only indicate that the process is starting. He says these things are new leaves, and so the implication is that the fruit will take some time. Once again he says that you need to understand the times in which you live.
Here’s a review of all of the clues that he has given his disciples about his second coming?
- Clue #1: Jesus will not come again until people are willing to accept him and what he has to say.
- Clue #2: There will be a lot of false Messiahs running around. This means nothing.
- Clue #3: There will be wars, famines, and earthquakes. This means nothing.
- Clue #4: There will be martyrdom.
- Clue #5: There will be discouragement, betrayal and hatred.
- Clue #6: There will be false prophets.
- Clue #7: Those who persevere will be saved and this news will spread.
- Clue #8: The Awful Horror will reappear.
- Clue #9: Trouble will come suddenly and go just as fast.
- Clue #10: The Son of Man will come suddenly.
- Clue #11: There will be vultures. Or is it eagles?
- Clue #12: There will be signs in the sky.
- Clue #13: The Son of Man will descend from the skies.
- Clue #14: There will be trumpets and angels and people will be gathered.
Now the final clue, critically important if you really want to listen to what Jesus is saying, is given in the last part of today’s scripture: “Remember that all these things will happen before the people now living have all died.”
So the final clue is: Clue #15: All of these things happened 2000 years ago.
So, if you have ever hear anyone point to these scriptures and say that these are signs of the “end of the world,” you might want to rethink that. If you pay attention to the words of the person who came up with these prophecies, all of these things happened in the lifetime of his contemporaries. All of these things happened 2000 years ago. It’s not about Jesus coming in the future. This is all ancient history.
And when you look at it, the Jewish world that he was speaking to was shaken to its core in the next few decades. The symbolic fig tree that Jesus cursed did indeed die – the Temple was destroyed, and Jewish religious practice underwent a revolution. A new fig tree, with green and tender shoots, was showing signs of new life as the Jews disbursed and transitioned away from ancient pagan sacrificial practices to a more enlightened way of honoring God in the synagogues.
So if these things all mark the beginning and they have already happened, then the process has already started. But how long will it take for the fruit to come? How long do we have to wait for things to improve? When will the peaceable kingdom come? When will we finally get to enjoy Heaven on earth? That’s the subject of the next few scriptures and parables.
What does this scripture say to you?