A key prophecy of the last days is found in Matthew 24—the famous parable of the budding fig tree (the same reference is found in Luke 21 and Mark 13).
The identity of the obviously symbolic passage has been hotly debated for years, and now my friend Michael Neutzling has brought fresh research and insight into the fig tree parable.
Let’s first look at the passages themselves:
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see all these things, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Matthew 24:32-35)
He told them this parable: “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.” (Luke 21:29-31)
“Now learn this lesson from the fig tree: As soon as its twigs get tender and its leaves come out, you know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that it is near, right at the door. Truly I tell you, this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away.” (Mark 13:28-31)
The accounts in Matthew and Mark are virtually the same, giving a bit more detail. Preterists (those who believe most of the “last days” prophecies were fulfilled with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in A.D. 70), point to the “this generation” phrase as relating to the generation Jesus was literally addressing that day in the so-called “Olivet Discourse.”
Scholars such as Thomas Ice of the Pre-Trib Research Center, see the implications of this view:
“If this notion is granted, then almost all of Bible prophecy is not to be anticipated in the future, but is past history.”
Ice also specifically discusses the interpretation of “this generation”:
“You must make your determination from the passage under discussion and how it is used in that particular context. Context is the most important factor in determining the exact meaning or referent under discussion.
“Now why does ‘this generation’ in Matthew 24:34 (see also Mark 13:30; Luke 21:32), not refer to Christ’s contemporaries? Because the governing referent to ‘this generation’ is ‘all these things.’ Since Jesus is giving an extended prophetic discourse of future events, one must first determine the nature of ‘all these things’ prophesied in verses 4 through 31 to know what generation Christ is referencing. Since ‘all these things’ did not take place in the first century then the generation that Christ speaks of must be future. Christ is saying that the generation that sees ‘all these things’ occur will not cease to exist until all the events of the future tribulation are literally fulfilled. Frankly, this is both a literal interpretation and one that was not fulfilled in the first century. Christ is not ultimately speaking to His contemporaries, but to the generation to whom the signs of Matthew 24 will become evident.”
I cite Ice because I think he’s one of the best Bible prophecy scholars alive today. I am excited that Michael Neutzling is continuing in this tradition by bringing the fig tree parable to light again in his new book, The Fig Tree Parable: Israel Wins in…2018?
Some will accuse Neutzling of date setting, something I stay away from. It’s a hot-button issue, if for no other reason than the missed dates set by some like Harold Camping have done great harm to the teaching of Bible prophecy.
I don’t think Michael is doing this, and further, his spotlight of Israel as the “fig tree” is correct, in my view. He’s done an outstanding job putting the idea forth that not only is Israel the reference in these gospel passages, but that the intensifying international pressure on Israel is bringing us to the very door of the fulfillment of all the great end-times prophecies.
It’s a book I think is more than worth checking out.