Wed., Apr. 6/22
In Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 Jesus is speaking to His disciples about the destruction of the temple and the signs of the end of the age when He will most surely return. In each of the accounts* Jesus tells “the lesson from the fig tree.” He says,
“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.” (Matt. 24:32-35)
Many have puzzled over Jesus’ comment “this generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened.” But all those to whom Jesus was speaking have been dead and gone for many generations and Jesus still has not returned. How are we to understand this?
I think the answer is really quite simple. Jesus said that when the generation that sees the signs of which He had been speaking coming to pass these things will unfold quickly… so quickly that there will be people of that generation who will see them all unfold to their completion and the return of Christ will be imminent. Here He was not speaking of the generation present before Him, but of the future generation which would, so to speak, witness “the leaves come out,” i.e. the final signs of the end.
But there is also another sense one can put to this, for in another place Jesus says, “Truly I tell you, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom.” (Matt. 16:28). Now He clearly is speaking of those present before Him. But to what event is Jesus referring? Does He mean the culmination of the ages, or something more immediate. It is a valid question because only six days later do “some who were standing there” (Peter, James and John) witness the glorification of Christ in His transfiguration (Matt. 16:28-17:3).
There may be yet another way in which we can understand Jesus words about “this generation,” for in yet another place we are told the signs of the end will appear repeatedly through history in ever intensifying degree, like “birth pains” (Matt. 24:8; Mark 13:8); “as labor pains on a pregnant woman” (1 Thess. 5:3) and affecting even the earth itself: “For we know that the whole creation groans and suffers the pains of childbirth together until now.” (Rom. 8:22). Thus, in a sense, virtually every generation witnesses the signs of His coming and none knowing whether this is that one viewing the fullness of the fig leaves.
I concern myself very little over these things. For to me the more important matter is to so live that I be found ready and about my Master’s work for whenever He should return.
* Matt. 24:32-35; Mark 13:28-31; and Luke 21:29-33.