In 1 Thessalonians 5:1–3 the Apostle Paul says, “But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night. For when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”
As pertinent as Paul’s message is, it’s just as significant to note what he doesn’t say in this passage. He doesn’t say that he doesn’t know the times and seasons for the return of Christ. He states that he’s not going to tell the Thessalonians because they don’t have the need to know. This is a far cry different than not knowing. But what it is it that Paul knows that he’s not talking about.
I believe the Bible is full of clues about the end times. Bear with me now. I’m not saying I know when the end will come. I don’t. What I am saying is that I believe the Bible teaches that we are very close to the end times. To illustrate what I mean, Paul likens the destruction of the end times “as travail upon a woman with child.” Women know when they are pregnant. They look forward to the birth of their child, yet despite our greatest medical advances, the due date is never precise when dealing with a natural birth. It’s not until the water breaks that the new mom rushes off to the hospital to have their child.
In Matthew 24:32-34, Jesus tells us the parable of the fig tree. He says, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.”
A parable is a type of analogy. They are stories that use commonplace illustrations to express spiritual concepts. According to Matthew 13:34-35, Christ used parables in abundance in fulfillment of the prophecy found in Psalm, 98:2.
All these things spake Jesus unto the multitude in parables; and without a parable spake he not unto them: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, I will open my mouth in parables; I will utter things which have been kept secret from the foundation of the world. —Matthew 13:34–35, (AV)
So what does the parable of the fig tree really mean? Figs were used in the Old testament to represent Israelites. To understand this, let’s look at Jeremiah 24:1-2:
“The LORD shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the LORD, after that Nebuchadrezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah, and the princes of Judah, with the carpenters and smiths, from Jerusalem, and had brought them to Babylon. One basket had very good figs, even like the figs that are first ripe: and the other basket had very naughty figs, which could not be eaten, they were so bad.”
In this portion of Scripture, Jeremiah is having a vision of two baskets of figs. One basket is full of very nice ripe figs, the other very bad figs, rotten to the core. The meaning of the good basket of figs is found in Jeremiah 24:5, “Thus saith the LORD, the God of Israel; Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah, whom I have sent out of this place into the land of the Chaldeans for their good.”
The meaning of the bad figs is found in Jeremiah 24:8, “And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; surely thus saith the LORD, So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land, and them that dwell in the land of Egypt:”
In both of these verses the Lord is using figs to illustrate different types of people found within the children of Israel. Do you agree? I hope so, because in Hosea 9:10 we see clearly the Bible calls the children of Israel the “firstripe in the fig tree.”
“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 Baalpeor, and separated themselves unto that shame; and their abominations were according as they loved. ”—Hosea 9:10, (AV)
So now we have two places in Scripture where the children of Israel are referred to as figs. But what about the fig tree? I believe the fig tree is national Israel, the home of the figs. Historically, Israel as a national presence faded from existence after the Emperor Titus destroyed Jerusalem in 70 AD. The area once occupied by the nation of Israel became known as Palestine. On May 14, 1948, Israel once again became an independent nation and recognized as such by the world’s political powers. I believe that when Jesus says, “When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh” means that the end time clock started ticking when Israel became a nation in 1948.
Of course, we have the benefit of hindsight to understand this significant event in the prophetic clock. But interestingly enough, I found documented evidence where Bible believing pastors of days gone by believed that this portion of Scripture meant that Israel would one day again become a nation. I found this documented in The Pulpit Commentary. This is reference material I sometimes use when studying the Bible. As far as I can tell, it was first produce in the 1890’s. Back then the pastors asked the question, “Could this mean that Israel will day become a nation again?” Of course, the answer is yes. It happened in 1948. Tick-tock, tick-tock.
We’ll continue our exegesis of this portion of Scripture in Realm of Possibility—Part 3.