A Question I Was Asked

'What does Matthew 24:32-35 mean in its greater context?'

Here is the question:

'What does Matthew 24:32-35 mean in its greater context? Specifically, who is the fig tree in this passage? Is it the nation of Israel prophesied to be restored at the second coming? I hold to an amillennial understanding of eschatology (which I think you do too) but this understanding would not, of itself, preclude the fig tree being Israel restored in this passage. Do you agree? What is your position here? Also, what is meant by this generation in verse 34?

Does Matthew 24 refer only to the destruction of Jerusalem or does it refer to the future? Please give me your full thoughts here.'

My Reply:

Matthew 24 refers to the coming of Christ, and to the coming of Judgment. It refers primarily to how judgment came to the Jews in AD70 with the destruction of Jerusalem, but certain verses look beyond that, undoubtedly only to be completely fulfilled at the visible and final Second Coming, bringing judgment to the entire world (rather than to a specific people or nation).

'This generation shall not pass' (Matthew 24:34) was, of course, precisely fulfilled in AD70 (AD 33-AD70=37 years), and verses 32-35 do seem to be especially specific to the events of AD68-70.

I would not worry too much about that fig tree if I were you; it can be a real mistake to try to find ulterior and ultimate meaning in every single shade and nuance of such verses, this has tended to be the major interpretative error of the cults, sects and extremist fundamentalists. Jesus was simply making the point that when we see plants spring into growth, we know that spring has arrived and that summer is closing in. In similar manner, when we see trouble and strife in human society, when we see tribulation and unwarranted human suffering being caused by arrogant, evil and self-willed men, we can know that eventually God will bring such leaders, societies and peoples into judgment. Regarding prophecy in general I recommend that you look up this.

I hope that this answer helps,

Robin A. Brace, 2007.