Many are very good at seeing scripture through a Greek mindset. However, they often forget that most, if not all, terms in the Newer Covenant have been fully defined by the Older Covenant and that scripture, even the Newer Covenant, is all written from a Hebrew mindset, no matter what language it is written down in. One must first determine how a word or expression is used in the Older Covenant before defining its use in the Newer Covenant. Because they rely on a Greek mindset, they often miss the most accurate or fullest interpretation. The Greek mindset, relying on Greek definitions, can only go so far.
Matthew 24:32-33 and Mark 13:28-29 – “When the fig tree branches begin to bud and its leaves begin to sprout, you know that summer is near. Likewise, when you see all these things, you can know his return is very near, right at the door.”
The meaning of the term “all these things” is relatively easy to determine, as Yeshua has just told us: there will be signs in the sun, moon, and stars. There will be great deceptions and many false christs, wars and rumors of wars, famines, pestilences, days like those of Noah and Lot, and earthquakes in diverse places. Now, what about the trees?
The Fig Tree Is Israel
Matthew 21:19 – “Seeing a fig tree beside the road, Jesus went to it, but there were no figs on the tree, only leaves. So Jesus said to the tree, ‘You will never again have fruit.’ The tree immediately dried up.”
But just who or what is this fig tree that Yeshua refers to? In order to understand the time of His imminent return, one must first determine who that fig tree represents. Hosea 9:10 states that the patriarchs are the firstfruits of the fig tree. Joel 1:6-7 tells us that Israel is the ruined fig tree whose bark has been stripped ethnically, nationally, and geographically. Jeremiah 24:2-8 states that the good figs are those Jews who went into captivity, and the bad figs are those Jews who rebelled against the Babylonians or who went down to Egypt.
Luke 13:6-9 expounds upon the vineyard spoken of in Isaiah 5:1-7. Luke tells us that the fruit is from the fig tree in the vineyard (see especially verse 7). In Matthew 21:19, Yeshua curses the fig tree. In this passage, the fig tree specifically is a representation of the Jewish leadership from whom He had expected to find some fruit after three years of teaching in the Temple, but also has the wider representation of the nation of Israel and the land of Israel as well, which forty years later began to wither and die. Both the nation and the land remained dead until the Jews began to return in the early 1900s.
The Many Trees
Isaiah 55:12 – “You will go out with joy and be led out in peace. The mountains and hills will burst into song before you, and all the trees in the fields will clap their hands.”
Throughout scripture, both nations and individuals are symbolized as trees. Judges 9:8-16 uses trees to describe Abimelech and the houses of Jerubbaal and Millo, Jotham, and the people of Shechem. Daniel 4:10-28 uses the image of a tree to represent Nebuchadnezzar. Daniel 10:33 talks of Assyria as the top boughs of a tree. Isaiah 55:12-13 uses tree imagery to depict the many peoples who will clap their hands with joy when the thorns and biers become fir and myrtle trees at His coming. Ezekiel 31:3-15 depicts Assyria as a cedar tree, and the other nations as fir, chestnut, and other trees. Zechariah 11:1-4 repeats this theme, also depicting Assyria (Lebanon) as cedar trees, and the peoples of Bashan as oaks. Ezekiel 17:1-24 calls Babylon a cedar tree that spreads itself out like a willow tree.
Luke 21:29-31 – “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees. When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near.”
Luke speaks of both the fig tree and all the trees. These trees may only represent both Israel and the Arab and Persian nations that sprouted up at about the same time, after the fall of the Ottoman Empire in 1917: Afghanistan 1919, Egypt 1922, Saudi Arabia & Iraq 1932, Iran 1935, Lebanon 1943, Syria & Jordan 1946, and Israel 1948. The United States established diplomatic relations with Egypt in 1922 following its independence from protectorate status under the United Kingdom, but it wasn’t until 1952 that the Egyptian revolution made Egypt a republic and the British advisers were expelled. Still, in 1922 Egypt had begun to put forth its buds, along with all the other Arab, Jewish, and Persian states. These are the very same nations listed in Psalm 83 as those nations that come against Israel to wipe her off the map.
However, this verse could also be referencing the “nations” of the United Nations springing up after Israel’s restoration. The membership in the U.N. in 1945 was 50; it grew to 58 in 1948 (Israel’s rebirth year); by 1960 it had grown to 98; to 127 in 1970; 154 by 1980; 159 by1990. Today the U.N. has 193 member nations, thus fulfilling the Luke 21:29-31 verse! Clearly, the generation that has seen both the fig tree and all the trees put forth their branches is our generation.
Scripture is not the only source that refers to Israel as the fig tree. Even secular writings do so. One such source is “The Apocalypse of Peter,” written in Egypt about 135CE. Therefore, we can rightly conclude that Israel is absolutely the fig tree Yeshua is referencing.
And what does Yeshua say about the time when one sees the fig tree bud?
Yeshua lists all these things: deceptions, false christs; signs in the sun, moon, and stars; and days like those of Noah, just to mention a few. In Acts 1:6-8, by telling His disciples that they are not needing to “know the times or epochs,” Yeshua reminds them that He has already answered those questions previously, reminding them that there is no use looking for all these things about to come upon the earth until Israel is once again a nation after having been dispersed to the four corners of the globe; there is no use looking for all these things as long as Israel is a dried-up tree. But until that time, they (and we) shall receive power to be His witnesses unto the ends of the earth. Until that time, we are to occupy and continue occupying until he returns and fully establishes the kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.
Prophecy continues to unfold as foretold by the Hebrew prophets. The stage is being set. That being said, one can only ask: “How imminent is the return of Yeshua Ha’Mashiach?”