by Pete Garcia
This is the third of five articles relating to the ‘Signs of the End’. We are looking at the points in human history where God has intervened in huge, earth shattering ways to alter the course of mankind. The next event in which God has directly intervened into the affairs of mankind was and still is, the most significant one.
It is where God, robed Himself in the flesh of a man, through a birth which defied the very laws of nature, came and lived a perfect and sinless life. At the culmination of His life, and at the appointed time, He then willingly died for men at the hands of the Romans (Gentiles) and the Jews, so that He could redeem mankind back to Himself. This Man, who left heaven became in effect our Kinsman Redeemer. Those before Him looked for His coming. Those after, look back at what was wrought there at the cross of Calvary. His 33 ½ years here on earth have become the epicenter of all human history.
Going forward from Adam’s day, we see a narrowing process in which out of the race of mankind, a particular people were set aside. (Gen. 12:1-7, Exodus 19) Out of these people, a particular family. (Gen. 22:15-18) Out of that family, a particular tribe. (Gen. 49:8-12) Out of that tribe, a particular bloodline. (2 Sam. 7:12-16) Out of that bloodline, the Messiah. (Matt. 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38)
In His life, Jesus Christ validated the prophetic Scriptures by fulfilling His manner of birth, place of birth, time of birth, youth, ministry, and His death…thus proving without a doubt, that the OT prophet’s words were in fact the very words of God. In His death He became the Passover Lamb which would take away the sins of all mankind and thus, conquered sin. In His resurrection, He defeated death. His death, provided the justification that in Himself, one can only find eternal life, forgiveness of sins, and the necessary redemption to one’s Creator. His resurrection then proving, that life really only begins, after one dies and enters into the eternal order.
Jesus’s coming then, as foretold from the beginning, (Gen. 3:15), was shrouded in secrecy, so as to prevent the usurper, Satan, from further agitating God’s plan of redemption. Now, God doesn’t fear what Satan knows, or can do because Satan is only allowed to do what God allows. But, to minimize the amount of divine interference necessary (think Noahic Flood), and to continue to allow men to have free will, God chose to hide His plan in plain sight. He did this by way of progressive revelation, in which His plan was revealed piece by piece, over a period of 1,600-2,000 years, to men from all walks of life, and geographically situated on three separate continents.
However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory, which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 1 Cor. 2:6-8
In His first advent (meaning arrival), Christ came as promised in the OT, and offered the Kingdom to the Jews of His day. His message…from that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17) was a legitimate offer specifically for all the Jewish people (Matt. 10:5, 15:24), with the prerequisites for its arrival laid out in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7). This message would later change towards the end of His ministry due to the continued rejection by the Jews and their leadership, in which from that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. (Matt. 16:21)
The Jew’s rejection of Him was already known by God before He ever sent His Son to them. (Isaiah 53:3, Dan. 9:26, John 15:25), yet, God still sent Him because He is faithful, even when we are faithless. (2 Tim. 2:13) This plan to redeem mankind, was thought of before Creation occurred (Eph. 1:4), and would find its first major fulfillment, in the coming of God to man in the form of Jesus Christ. It was at that specific time, that God knew the conditions would be perfect for the initiation and distribution of the Gospel of Salvation (Gal. 4:4-5);
The Koine Greek was the common language of the day, and happens to be one of the most precise and specific languages ever developed by man
Pax Romana (Roman peace) was in effect, which allowed for the quick transmittal of the Gospel throughout the known world then.
The Messiah would have had to come before the beginning of the Jewish Diaspora (AD70) (Dan. 9:24-27), but before the Jews’ lost their right to judicial punishment (Gen. 49:10). This in effect, left a small window of time for His life and death that the Jewish people should have recognized. (Luke 19:41-44)
Prior to His death, Jesus explained to His disciples in great detail about the things to come preceding the end of the age. On the Mt. of Olives Jesus began laying out for them general signs of the end, which although present in every generation, would be like birth pangs, and becoming increasingly intensified and ultimately culminating in one generation. (Matthew 24, Mark 13, Luke 21) He first began by sharing with all the disciples upon departing the temple, how the temple would be destroyed (vs.3) with not one stone left upon the other.
As they arrived on the Mt. of Olives itself, four disciples out of the group came up to Him privately and inquired about His previous comment concerning the destruction of the temple. It was Peter, James, John, and Andrew (Mark 13:3-4) and He would begin one of His longest discourses regarding the time and events surrounding His second advent. Remember, He had been previously telling them since Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16:13-28), that He was first going to have to go to Jerusalem, and be handed over to the officials to be executed.
Now He was talking about events that would necessitate long periods of time such as the destruction of the temple, false messiahs pretending to be Him, earthquakes, famines, wars, and then, an ultimate desecration of the Holy of Holies…which would by implication mean, another temple would have to be rebuilt. He concludes the signs of the end, by the description of the end with…then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in heaven, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. (Matt. 24:30) But He did not leave them in the dark necessarily. Capping off this discussion, He gave them the Parable of the Fig Tree.
The Fig Enigma
“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—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. Matt. 24:32-35
The disciples, being Jews and having a working knowledge of their Scriptures, would have understood the parable to be a reference to Israel, since several OT prophets and writers had used figs and fig trees as being symbolic references to national Israel. Not only that, but having seen Jesus earlier in the week, curse a barren fig tree on the way into Jerusalem, and seeing the immediacy of that curse being carried out as early as the next morning, should have sparked some curiosity and understanding in their minds about the true nature of the parable Jesus was saying. So follow the logic here…
Figs and fig trees had come to be symbolic of national, political, Israel. This would have been understood by His disciples. [Judges 9, Jeremiah 24, Zech. 3:10] Jesus had already explained in the Olivet Discourse prior to the Fig Tree Parable, that the temple would be destroyed and all those signs would have had to occur.
Earlier that week, Jesus curses a barren fig tree, and note the mention that the ‘disciples heard it’.
“Now the next day, when they had come out from Bethany, He was hungry. And seeing from afar a fig tree having leaves, He went to see if perhaps He would find something on it. When He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. In response Jesus said to it, “Let no one eat fruit from you ever again.” And His disciples heard it.” Mark 11:12-14
The next morning, the tree was shriveled up. So when Jesus says, learn this parable from the fig tree…He was referencing the fig tree they saw Him curse.
Now in the morning, as they passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter, remembering, said to Him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree which You cursed has withered away.” [Mark 11:12-14, 20-21]
Jesus, the Creator, would have known already that it wasn’t the season for figs. This was intentional so that He could use it later as an illustration for the ‘Parable of the Fig Tree’. Now learn this parable from the fig tree…that national Israel’s unwillingness to accept Him was a sign that Israel had not yet reached its season for bearing fruit. They (that generation—Matt. 23:36, would not see the Messiah again, nor would Israel until the season was right (vs. 37-39).
Jesus, pointing back to the barren fig tree, references the understanding of the season as being similar to seeing all the signs He listed out for them in the Olivet Discourse. Only that generation (who saw all the signs) would be the ones who would not pass away, until all these things find fulfillment.
For those people (primarily the preterist and amillennialist) who promote the idea that the disciple’s generation were the ones who saw all the signs and we need not look any longer, should remember, that the destruction of the temple as mentioned by Christ, was not included in the Olivet Discourse proper, per say and is separate from the signs of the end of the age. Jesus mentioned the destruction of the temple to all those with Him as they were departing the temple, not as they were sitting on the Mount of Olives. It was only the four disciples who privately came up to Him later on the Mt. of Olives to further inquire about the signs of the end of the age. So the generation mentioned in the Parable of the Fig Tree, would be that generation which saw the signs Jesus alluded too as being marker’s for the end of the age.
Those signs include; wars, rumors of war, false prophets and false Christ’s, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes in many places, would be like birth pangs. In other words, they would escalate in both frequency and intensity, until reaching a culmination point that the 20th and 21st centuries could easily qualify for. More people have died in the 20th century due to war, famine, and pestilence, than the previous 20 centuries combined. Likewise, there has been many coming who have either claimed to be Christ, or claimed to represent Him, and have led tens of millions astray. Furthermore, the increase in frequency and intensity of earthquakes within the last twenty years, reached a fever pitch.
But Jesus pointed to a specific event in Matthew 24:15, in which the Abomination of Desolation would be the key sign for those in Judea, to flee as fast as they could. (vs. 16-22) This is interesting primarily, because Christ had begun this entire block of Scripture with the comment that not one temple stone would be left on top of the other…which most certainly would include the Holy of Holies. For a Holy of Holies to be there to be desecrated, there first needs be a Jewish Temple in Jerusalem again. For a Jewish temple exist, there would need to be a Jewish government in place to allow it. For a Jewish government to exist, the world would have had to come through two world wars in order for the land and the people to be prepared. But first…they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Luke 21:24