CHAPTER 14: THE
FIG TREE PARABLE
fact that this parable is tacked on to the end of the Olivet prophecy
in the way it is, suggests that it refers to a very special indication
of the Lord's coming. Surely every thinking Christian should be working
overtime to crack this one- if we can sort out what the budding of the
fig tree is, then once we see it, we will have proof positive that we
are at 11:59 in the prophetic timetable.
fig tree was to " shoot forth" (Lk. 21:30) or 'germinate' (Young),
witnessed by its putting forth of leaves (Mk. 13:28) and tender
branches (Mt. 24:32). When the fig tree puts forth leaves there are
often immature, unripe figs amongst them. Thus Jesus inspected the fig
tree outside Jerusalem to see if it had any fruit, and cursed it
because it did not. "The time of figs was not yet", i.e. it was
not reasonable to find fully developed fruit on it. The fig tree
referred to the nation of Israel; Jesus expected to find at least the
beginnings of some spiritual fruit, but due to the chronic dearth of
response to his message, Jesus cursed the nation and dried it up (Mk.
11:13,14,20). This would lead us to interpret the putting forth of
leaves on the fig tree as the signs of an initial repentance and
indication that real spiritual fruit is developing. It may well be that
the whole of the Olivet prophecy has reference to a final three and a
half year tribulation of the believers just prior to the second coming,
and that during this time there will be a period of zealous witnessing
to both Jews and Gentiles. This fits into place with the fig tree
parable; this preaching starts to produce some degree of response from
Israel, and then " all (is) fulfilled" in the full manifestation of
Christ's Kingdom. The parable says that as surely as Summer follows
Spring, so those who see the blossoming of the fig tree in the parable,
will see the Kingdom. Maybe this is to be taken literally; there may be
a literal gap of a few weeks/months (as between Spring and Summer)
between the first signs of Jewish repentance, and all being fulfilled.
It may well be that the " all" which will be fulfilled in Lk. 21:32 is
to be equated with " the times of the Gentiles" being fulfilled (Lk.
21:24). " Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles" for three
and a half years, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.
'Jebus', the old name for Jerusalem, means 'downtrodden'. This
hints that the liberation of Jebus at the beginning of David's reign
was seen by Christ as typical of the time when He would liberate
Jerusalem from downtreading, at his return. This suggests that the
times of Gentile domination of Jerusalem are to be ended by the
establishment of the Kingdom at Christ's second coming; we are yet to
see, therefore, a Gentile domination of Jerusalem before Christ's
The times of the Gentiles" are often taken to have finished in 1967.
But at least three major problems arise with this:
The temple site, Biblical 'Zion', is still not totally under Jewish
control due to the presence of the Mosque there.
" Trodden down" has clear links with Dan. 8:13 and Rev. 11:2, which
describe the temple being blasphemously desecrated for certain periods
of time. How can they have ended in 1967, seeing the 'Dome of the Rock'
still stands there? And 1967 minus 2300 day/years (Dan. 8:13) or 1260
day/years (Rev. 11:2) do not appear to yield any significant starting
The times of Gentile opportunity, as some read it, are still with us
now as much as they were in 1967. If anything, numbers of baptisms have
mushroomed since 1967, notably in distant Gentile lands.
The Blossoming Of
The Fig Tree
attention now needs to be paid to the other references to the
blossoming of the fig tree. Between them they build up a strong case
for the suggestion made earlier- that the fig tree parable refers to
the beginnings of Jewish repentance in the last days, which will herald
the establishment of the Kingdom at Christ's return.
Lk. 13:6-9 records another parable of the fig tree, upon which that in
Lk. 21 is based. Jesus, the dresser of God's vineyard of Israel,
came seeking spiritual fruit on the fig tree, for the three years of
his ministry. Because of the lack of it, the tree was cut down. Christ
said " Now (i.e. towards the end of the tribulation period?) learn a
parable of the fig tree" (Mt. 24:32). It is tempting to read this as
'Now learn the parable of the fig tree', seeing that the
parable of the Olivet prophecy is so similar to the previous fig tree
Ye shall know them (primarily referring to the Jewish false prophets
who dressed up as lambs/Christians) by their fruits. Do men
gather...figs of thistles?" (Mt. 7:15,16). Thus the fruit of the fig
tree is associated with signs of true spiritual development among the
Jews. For confirmation of this, see comment on Mic.7:1 later.
The prophecy of Habakkuk is concerning the coming judgment upon Israel
unless they repented. In the last few verses the prophet reflects that
even though Israel would not
repent as a result of his preaching, he personally would rejoice in the
Lord and maintain his own spirituality. He describes this in the
language of the fig tree: "Although the fig tree shall not blossom
(i.e. put forth leaves), neither shall fruit be in the vines (notice
the equation of fruit and just blossoming)... yet will I rejoice in the
Lord" (Hab. 3:17,18).
Jer. 24:2-5 describes the Jews who repented during their 70 year
captivity in Babylon as " good figs... that are first ripe" . In the
same way, good figs will start to be developed on the Jewish fig tree
as a result of their passing through the tribulation of the last days,
which will lead to their repentance. The arrogant Jews who were taken
into captivity by Babylon learnt humility and repentance, thanks to the
words of the prophets who underwent the same tribulation as they did.
This points forward to the Jews of today undergoing a similar captivity
and conversion as a result of the preaching campaign during the
tribulation. Thus Lk. 21:25,26 describes the Jewish sun, moon and stars
being shaken, (Jewish) men's hearts failing them for fear because of
the tribulation that is breaking over the land (A.V. " earth" ) of
Israel. Then there is the fig tree parable; the repentance of Israel
comes about as a result of the traumas in the land described in the
Micah laments the lack of spiritual fruit amongst the Jews: " My soul
desired the firstripe fruit (fig)...(but) there is none upright among
men: they all lie in wait for blood...the most upright is sharper than
a thorn hedge" (Mic. 7:1,2,4). This is probably the basis for Christ's
parable about the Jews being thorns instead of figs (Mt. 7:15,16).
God recalls how originally the Jews had borne spiritual fruit,
especially amongst the generation that entered the land (the most
spiritually fruitful of all the generations of Israel?):
" I found Israel like grapes
in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree
at her first time: but they went to Baal-peor" (Hos. 9:10).
The fig tree was to shoot forth tender branches. Is. 30:17 implies that
the fig tree being without branches symbolizes Israel
under domination by the Gentiles: " One thousand (Jews) shall flee at
the rebuke of one (invader)... till ye be left as a tree bereft of
branches" (A.V.mg.). The repentance of Israel-
the tender growth of the branches- will therefore come at a time when
they have no branches, i.e. at a time of Gentile domination of Israel.
vine and fig trees are used as symbols of Israel.
It seems likely that the Lord had in mind the figure of Is. 18:5 in
mind when constructing this parable. Here we are told that the vine
must be pruned and some branches “cut down” (RV)- exactly
the language of trial and tribulation which Jesus uses in Jn. 15. The
result of this will be that “the flower becometh a ripening
grape”(RV)- i.e. spiritual fruit is brought forth by tribulation
(the same figure is found in Is. 17:6-8). And out of all this, “a
present shall be brought unto the Lord of Hosts of a people scattered
and peeled... whose land the rivers [Babylon, Assyria, in
Isaiah’s symbology] have spoiled, to the place of the Name of the
Lord of hosts, the mount Zion” (Is. 18:7). The fruit on the vine
corresponds with the repentant latter day remnant of Israel; and the
pruning of that vine to their sufferings during the final tribulation.
Is. 65:8-11 speaks of how the vine of Israel is not finally cut down
because someone [Jesus, Lk. 13:8] says "Destroy it not, for a blessing
is in it"- i.e. there is at least some promise of fruit on the
otherwise unfruitful tree. This then leads into the "seed" being
brought forth to inherit the promised land, God's people inheriting
that land, and the establishment of God's Kingdom on earth. This
chronology would fit in with the other Biblical evidences adduced
earlier in this chapter.
2:18-20 describes how the northern invader of Israel in the last days
will be driven away, and the rest of the prophecy describes the
conflicts associated with this and the setting up of the Kingdom.
Verses 18 reads " Then will the Lord be jealous for His land,
and pity His people" , etc. This implies that the previous words of
Joel also have a latter day reference; and they describe a massive
invasion and domination of Israel because of the Jews' wickedness,
which will only be lifted by their repentance. This all describes the
latter day holocaust of the Jews, and our calling upon them to repent.
There are several links in this part of Joel with the last days- " the
day of the Lord cometh" (Joel
2:1); " there
hath not been ever the like, neither shall be any more after it" (Joel 2:2). This is the final, unsurpassed " time of trouble such
as never was" for Israel. The invasion will be upon the mountains (Joel 2:2,5), which is where Gog will invade. " The earth shall
quake before them; the hearers shall tremble: the sun and the moon
shall be dark, and the stars shall withdraw their shining" (Joel 2:10) is quite clearly Luke 21 language of the last days.
During this time of tribulation, " the vine is dried up, the fig tree
languisheth" (Joel 1:12)- i.e. Israel were spiritually
unfruitful (Mk. 11:20). But on their repentance, " the tree beareth her
fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength" (Joel 2:22). The generation who see the beginnings of this
spiritual revival among the Jews will see the establishment of the
Kingdom. As the tribulation gets progressively worse, we will strain
our eyes for every sign of Jewish repentance. Those who understand
these things will therefore have a verve and fire in their preaching to
the Jews because they know that the sooner they are successful, the
sooner their Lord will appear in His glory. For the elects' sake the
days- i.e. the 42 months, the 1260 days, the three and a half years- of
our tribulation, may be shortened. Our present apathy in witnessing to
the Jews may need a tribulation to shake off.
the watchman of Is. 21:11 calls out “What hour of the night [will
it come]?” (RVmg.) the answer is “Turn ye” (RV). This
is when it will come- when Israel turn again in repentance. This is
alluded to in Acts 1:7,8; Mk. 13:28-33, where the answer to the
question ‘When will Jesus return?’ is basically:
‘Preach to Israel; lead them to repentance. That’s when the
Lord Jesus will return’. When Israel are finally broken in
pieces, both literally and spiritually, then “all these things
shall be finished” and her invaders will likewise be broken in
pieces by the Lord’s return (Dan. 12:7 = Dan. 2:44).