In Matthew 24, Jesus shared special words with His disciples. These words occurred in the “Olivet Discourse,” a discussion that began when leaving both the upper room and the last supper, and proceeded to the Mount of Olives. At the base of the Mount of Olives was the Garden of Gethsemane, and on that very night, Jesus would be arrested, and would be crucified the following day. As these were the parting instructions that Jesus gave to His followers, it would be simple to surmise that these words carried great importance. Included in that discussion was a parable of the fig tree:
32“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near;
33so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
34“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
35“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.
36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.
37“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.
38“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,
39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.
Matthew 24:32-39 (NKJV)
Many times in the Bible, we can see Israel represented as a fig tree and the children of Israel represented as figs. One of those places is Jeremiah 24, where there is a vision of two baskets of figs, one good and one bad. In that interpretation, given in Jeremiah 24:4-10, we see that King Nebuchadnezzar took some of the children of Israel into Babylonian captivity, and some, the good figs, would return to the Lord. Yet others would remain hard-hearted, including King Zedekiah and his princes. Those figs were so bad they could not be eaten, and would be cursed. Earlier in Matthew 21, we see Jesus curse a fig tree because it had only leaves and did not have any edible fruit. In 70 AD, when the Jews were scattered to the four corners of the earth, they certainly received the brunt of that curse from Jesus.
Yet it all changed in 1948 when Israel once again became a nation! That event seems to be the beginning of the last days, as the fig tree once again began to grow. Interestingly, after discussing the fig tree in Matthew 24, Jesus’ conversation continued, concerning His return. Additionally, Jesus also compared His future return to the days of Noah.
In the days of Noah, God destroyed the entire world, apart from sparing 8 people and a representation of each animal to repopulate the post-flood earth. What should that tell us about the days of Noah? In each of God’s judgments in the Bible, we see people He judges, people He carries safely through that judgment and people He removes before the judgment. Is it like God to destroy His followers? Notice the bartering that occurred between God and Abraham before the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah. Abraham asked God to spare Sodom and Gomorrah if only 50 righteous men could be found. That number dwindled to 45, 40, 30 and finally, to 10. But there were not 10 righteous men, and God destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah. Similarly, when God brought a flood upon the earth, He spared the righteous! As believers, we are clothed in His righteousness! When we look around the world today, certainly those following Jesus are in the vast minority. Evil is prevalent and it only seems to be getting worse. If we are indeed in the last days, how should that affect us?
If God announced that Jesus was coming back tomorrow, what would we do differently? That focus would likely be threefold. First, we would ensure that our relationships with Jesus were on solid footing. That involves our repentance and His forgiveness. Yet if we are truly walking with Him, this already should be at least a daily occurrence. Next, most of our hearts would go to our families, especially those who are unsaved. If we knew Jesus was returning tomorrow, each of us would have a new boldness to share the Gospel, as our hearts would be breaking for those we love who do not know Him. And thirdly, our hearts would similarly grieve for all who do not know Him!
God has given us new hearts, and those hearts reflect His own heart. Remember, God so loved THE WORLD that He gave His only begotten Son! He loves all of us, and similarly, we should have that same love. What are we afraid of when we share the Gospel, rejection? How many times did we reject God before asking Jesus into our hearts? Are we afraid of ridicule? Jesus endured ridicule for us, so shouldn’t we be willing to endure ridicule even to save one life? Are we afraid of imprisonment? Anything we fear, Jesus already endured, for us!
God has given us a timetable of the return of Jesus already. In Matthew 24:4-8, we see a listing of other events that will occur in the last days, when the leaves are on the fig tree and summer is approaching: wars and rumors of wars, nation rising against nation, kingdom rising against kingdom, famines, pestilences, and earthquakes. It sure sounds like God already has announced that His Son is returning soon. Shouldn’t that give us a new boldness to share the Good News with those He places in our paths? Be strong and courageous, knowing that God will carry us through any difficulty for His purpose!