The Parable of the Fig Tree
Does it represent the Nation of Israel?
1. The Parable and the Truth, Always Together
When Jesus want to teach some idea with the parable, he told the idea and the the parable together. Therefore, when you want to know the real meaning of the parable, you have to find its meaning in the context of the front and back of the Bible in which the parable appears.
Parables were, in the end, a way to convey the truth more effectively. So when Jesus told a parable, it was natural to say its meaning as well.
Of course, there are also cases where parables are deliberately used to conceal the truth from the wicked. But even in such a case, he did not keep the meaning of the parable a secret to his disciples.
Let’s take an example?
<Matt 13:10-11> The disciples came to him and asked, “Why do you speak to the people in parables?” He replied, “The knowledge of the secrets of the kingdom of heaven has been given to you, but not to them.
When Jesus told the parable of the sowing farmer by the sea, he did not disclose the meaning which he was trying to convey. But if you read verses 13 to 30, you can find that he explained the meaning in detail to the disciples.
In this way, when Jesus talks about a parable, the meaning or truth to be conveyed through the parable is also shown in parallel in the Bible.
2. The Parable and the Truth, Who First?
When Jesus uses a parable, you can think of it in two cases.
There are cases in which the truth that Jesus wants to convey is first spoken, and then the meaning is further supplemented through parables.
On the contrary, there are also cases in which Jesus tells the parable first and then tells the truth later in the process of unraveling the meaning of the parable.
The parable of the seeding farmer introduced above was the case of the latter. And the parable of the fig tree that I will introduce from now on is the first case.
In any case, it is irrelevant. Because you can look at the preceding and following sentences in the Bible in order to know the meaning of the parable. In any cases, if you want to know the meaning of the parable Jesus used, you can find it at the place.
3. The Parable of the Fig Tree, Not Exceptional Case
Let’s look at the context before and after the parable of the fig tree. You will find the principles explained earlier.
<Matt 24:29-31> “Immediately after the distress of those days ” the sun will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light; the stars will fall from the sky, and the heavenly bodies will be shaken.’ “At that time the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and all the nations of the earth will mourn. They will see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of the sky, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other.
<Matt 24:32-33> “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 itis near, right at the door.
Anyone can easily accept that the above scriptures is about the end of the world and God’s judgment. Because it is the answer to the question of the disciples of Matthew 24:3; “What signs will the Lord come and the end of the world?”
Jesus told the truth first in the fomer part of the above scriptures, verses 29 to 31. And he gave the parable to help the understanding of the disciples in the latter part of the above scriptures, verses 32 to 33.
The truth and the parable appear together in parallel.
4. Parable Analysis
Jesus first spoke about the signs of the last judgment (verses 29-31), and then used a parable (verses 29-31) to emphasize the continuity of signs and events. So, if you connect the events that will happen and the content of the parable, the analysis becomes clear.
First, shall we diagram the truth and the parable we are trying to understand?
<Sign> Cosmic Cataclysm
⇒ <Event to happen> The Last Judgment
<Sign> When the branches of the fig tree soften and produce leaves,
⇒ <Event to happen> Summer
5. The Purpose of Using the Parable
Jesus intended to emphasize that the interrelationship between <Sign> and <Event to Happen> is inevitable, immediate, and absolute.
The purpose of using the parable of the fig tree is to emphasize that there is an absolute connection between “Cosmic Cataclysm” and “The Last Judgment”.
Jesus taught the disciples through the parable not to doubt that His coming for the last judgement would arrive without delay after the sign of the cosmic cataclysm.
The relationship between the tree growth and summer season was the point of the parable.
6. Fig Tree Was Just One of Many Trees
Not only does the fig tree not symbolize anything else, nor does the fig tree need to symbolize anything else. In the parable of the fig tree, the focus was only on the changes in the tree over the seasons.
This fact is more evident in the gospel of Luke.
<Luke 21:25-28> “There will be signs in the sun, moon and stars. On the earth, nations will be in anguish and perplexity at the roaring and tossing of the sea. Men will faint from terror, apprehensive of what is coming on the world, for the heavenly bodies will be shaken. At that time they will see the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory. When these things begin to take place, stand up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
<Luke 21:29-31> 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.
It has the same context as the gospel of Matthew, so there is no need for a long explanation. However, in Luke there are some expression that needs special attention.
“Look at the fig tree and all the trees”
Did you notice why this passage is so important? It confirms that it is not an analogy that only applies to one kind of fig tree. It means that when any tree buds, summer comes seasonally.
Can you now understand that the purpose of the metaphor was the relationship between the growth of trees and the summer season? The saying that the fig tree symbolizes the nation of Israel has little ground.
In particular, think of the expression “you can see for yourselves”. The purpose of this analogy is clearly evident.
The absolute relationship between <The Growth of a Tree> and <Summer> was the point of the teaching to convey through the parable.
Through that point, Jesus taught the continuity of <Cosmic Cataclysm as Signs> and <The Last Judgment>.
7. Why Fig Tree Among Many Trees
One of the common trees that grow in the land of Israel is the fig tree or the olive tree. It must have been a tree that can be seen up close and everywhere.
When Jesus taught the people in the wild field, he used lilies and flying birds as parables, and when he taught Galilean fishermen, he used fishing as a parable. Jesus used metaphors about things that people would experience easily around their lives. Such as a wedding feast or farming.
When Jesus wanted to use a tree as a parable, it was natural that the fig tree, which was most commonly encountered around people’s life, appeared in the parable.
8. Conclusion by Analyzing Luke 21:31
<Luke 21:31> Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.
If you look closely at the post-war context, you can see that “these things happening” means the sign of Cosmic Cataclysm. If you read Luke 21:31 again, it will mean something like the following.
“Even so ➀, when you see these things ➁ happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near➂.”
➀You can see for yourselves and know that summer is near, when they sprout leaves,
➁Signs in the sun, moon and stars, and the thing that the heavenly bodies be shaken.
➂the Son of Man coming in a cloud with power and great glory.
In conclusion, the claim that the fig tree symbolizes Israel or that the Second Coming Jesus comes in the flesh with Israel’s independence is wrong. Those teachings are very far from the Bible and the real intention of Jesus Christ.