WHAT DOES THIS PROMISE REALLY PROMISE?
28 “Take this illustration from the fig tree: Whenever its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also you, when you see these things happening, you know that he is near, right at the door. 30 I guarantee you, this same generation will not pass away until all these things happen. 31 The sky and the land will pass away, but my words will never pass away.
fig tree generation
This passage requires that we really stay tuned to the context or we can go astray from its intended meaning. We have to keep in mind that the disciples had asked some open ended questions, and that Jesus chose to answer all of them. For interpretation of this passage, we have to look for clues as to which question he is answering. The clues are:
- · the fig tree illustration
- · “when you see”
- · “this same generation”
The fig tree symbolizes first century Israel, full of promising leaves, but no fruit. It was ripe for the judgment that would destroy its temple.
Jesus predicted that the disciples themselves would see this happen. None of the disciples have lived for 2000 years. He must be talking about an event that would take place in their lifetime.
“This same generation” refers to the generation they were living in. Every other use of the word in Mark (8:12, 38) bears this interpretation out. Thus, Jesus was predicting that within the generation in which they were now living, the events he was referring to will happen.
But Jesus had talked about a long age in which wars and disasters would come and go. Was that part of the discourse included in the promise? Apparently not. Jesus had made it clear that the labour pain signs were not signs of an impending event (9-13; 21-23), but the fig tree signs were. In this section, he is only referring to the fig tree signs, and is predicting the siege and destruction of Herod’s temple.
Most of the fig tree generation was not ready when the Roman soldiers surrounded Jerusalem. They died in the battles, or starved in the siege. That great and terrible event stands as a testimony of God’s judgment upon a people who would not listen to his Son. His words will not pass away. Are we listening?
LORD, thank you for giving us guidance about the future. We choose to trust your words, and be ready for your return.