It’s at this point that Jesus presents the parable of the fig tree. He noted that when you see the fig tree putting forth leaves, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these signs coming to pass, you can know that His coming is near. It is interesting to note that Luke specifically includes all trees.
I know that many prophecy scholars equate the fig tree with Israel based on Old Testament scripture.
Joel 1:6–7 “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.”
Establishing Israel as the fig tree, they proceed to compare the rebirth of the nation of Israel to the budding of the fig tree. Though the comparison of Israel to the fig tree and the prophesied rebirth of the nation (Ezekiel 36-37) are scriptural, I personally don’t see that as the primary point being made here, even though I do believe that Israel’s rebirth as a nation is the most significant sign regarding the nearness of the second coming of Jesus.
The Lord is drawing a word picture here. According to Eerdman’s Dictionary, the first fruit of the fig tree appears in February before the leaves appear in April/June; when the leaves appear, the fruit is usually ripe. When you see the leaves shooting forth on the fig tree, you know that summer is right around the corner. Luke even adds the phrase “and all the trees” since the sprouting of the leaves on the trees in spring are the harbinger of summer soon to come. Just as the sprouting of leaves is a sign that summer is coming, the emergence of the signs previously discussed are announcing that the kingdom of God is at hand—the return of Jesus to rule as King on planet earth.
Jesus follows this statement by declaring that “this generation” will not pass until all these things are fulfilled. There is much debate about what is meant by “this generation.” It would seem to me that in context, it is referencing those that see the signs. These signs include all the predicted events presented prior to this statement—some of which are a part of the 70th week of Daniel, the tribulation period. The generation that sees the hard labor pains will see the fulfillment of the prophecy.
Note: False labor sometimes precedes onset of actual labor. It is similar to actual birth pains, but is premature. Events could happen similar to the birth pains before actual labor begins—but even false labor is a signal of labor soon to commence. Labor pains that result in birth continue to increase in intensity and frequency until birth occurs.
The LORD then assures His disciples that even though heaven and earth will eventually pass away, His word will not; all will come to pass as He has foretold.
Isaiah 51:6 “Lift up your eyes to the heavens, and look upon the earth beneath: for the heavens shall vanish away like smoke, and the earth shall wax old like a garment, and they that dwell therein shall die in like manner: but my salvation shall be for ever, and my righteousness shall not be abolished.”
Isaiah 65:17 “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth: and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind.”
2Peter 3:13 “Nevertheless we, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwelleth righteousness.”
Isaiah 40:8 “The grass withereth, the flower fadeth: but the word of our God shall stand for ever.”
The LORD also tells His disciples that no man on earth or angel in heaven or even the Son (Jesus Himself) knows the day or hour appointed for His return; that is a time known only to God the Father.
This is a little bit confusing in that once the 70th week of Daniel starts, a specific timeline is given regarding its duration. It will last for seven years or 84 months or 2,520 days; it is even specified that the Antichrist will only be allowed to rule for half that time—3.5 years or 42 months or 1260 days. It seems one could mark off the days on a calendar. I think the key is that no one before those who experience the tribulation will have a clue regarding the day or hour. Even those who live through the tribulation will not be able to be specific as to the hour.
The other hard thing to understand is that the Father has information that the Son does not have. Again, I think the answer is found in the fact that the Son at the time of this prophecy is functioning in the human realm through the anointing and revelation of the Spirit. Until He was resurrected to His glorified state, He was by choice just as dependent on revelation through the Spirit as we are now. He lived His life as God had intended for man to live when he was created. It is also thought-provoking to know that neither do the angels in heaven know the appointed time. They know the plan and they helped reveal it to John; they just don’t know the exact timing.
(to be continued...)