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Matt 24:32-36 says, "Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: 33 So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. 34 Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. 35 Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only."

This is the passage upon which most people base the belief that no man can know the day and hour of the rapture. But as we have already seen, the rapture is not discussed in Matt. 24. At all. Which means the rapture cannot be the subject of the unknown day and hour and we must look to the context of the passage to determine what day and hour it is that is unknown. We will look at this passage closely to determine what the Lord was addressing.

Vs. 32 says "Now learn a parable of the fig tree." In Bible symbolism, trees represent nations, the fig tree represents Israel and the individual figs represent individual people. (Hos. 9:10; Joel 1:8, 12; Luke 13:6-9; Jer. 24; Jer. 29:16-19) So the first observation is that this is a parable about Israel.

Matt. 21:18-22 and Mark 11:12-14 record the incident where Jesus became hungry and he spotted a fig tree along the way. He approached the tree but found no fruit on it because it was not yet the time for figs. He cursed the tree saying that it would not bear fruit, and no man would eat of it, forever. The word ‘forever’ is made up of two Greek words: eis, defined as a primary preposition, and aion, defined as an age; by extension, perpetuity; by implication, the world; specially (Jewish) a Messianic period. The word is used with the meaning of eternal, but it is also used with the meaning of something that would eventually run its course, or end. This is the case with the fig tree. Jesus definitely did curse Israel as was seen in Matt. 23, but according to the parable of the fig tree (and myriads of other prophecies), Israel would one day return to the Lord and receive the blessings promised to Abraham.

In Matt. 24:32 Jesus was telling us this: WATCH ISRAEL!!

"When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh." Here Jesus is talking about a tree. It could be a seedling or a more mature tree, but it is not a seed that is newly planted. Israel became a nation on May 14, 1948. The Jewish people were "planted" in the land on that day and they became a nation under the auspices of the United Nations. Jesus is talking about a tree, not a newly planted seed, therefore we look to a later time to establish the putting forth of the leaves.

Jesus also referenced the idea of seasons in the fulfillment of prophecy: the new leaves on the fig tree would occur in the spring, and as he said, when this was observed the observer would know that the season of summer was near. In the context of the rapture, I Thess. 5:1-2 says, "But of the times and the seasons, brethren, ye have no need that I write unto you. 2 For yourselves know perfectly that the day of the Lord so cometh as a thief in the night." In the passage Paul had been writing about the rapture (the day of Christ) then he switches subjects to the tribulation (the Day of the Lord). In the passage he does not tell the reader that he can know nothing of the timing, he reminds them that they have no need of further instruction, because as we read in II Thes. 2:5, "Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things?" Not only could they know certain things, Paul himself had taught the information to them. The Day of the Lord would be preceded by certain signs, and because we today have the written word of God, we know those signs were given by Jesus in the Olivet Discourse as well as many other prophecies.

The word ‘summer’ is used just three times in the New Testament: Matt. 24:32; Mark 13:28; and Luke 21:30 - which each happen to be the Olivet Discourse. Summer is a time of blessing: the weather is warm, crops are growing, the days are long. It is a favored time of year. It is not harvest when the crops are being gathered, nor winter when it is cold and the land is at rest, nor spring when new things are coming forth. To me, summer typifies the millennium, a time of fullness and blessing; the time when the final fruit of the earth grows and matures in preparation for the ushering in of the eternal kingdom. The shooting forth of the fig tree means that summer, the time of blessing, is near, and according to the prophecy, summer is preceded by the tribulation.

Matt 24:33 "So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors." ‘All these things’ are the events of the tribulation, and the thing that is near is the return of Jesus to the earth to establish his kingdom.

Matt 24:34 "Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." There are different interpretations of the meaning of the word ‘generation.’ I believe that it is a reference to two things: the Jewish people as a whole, that they would continue as a distinct people until the end of the millennium; and that it also references a specific period of time.

I believe that it is a miracle of God that the Jewish people continue to exist. They did not have a land of their own from the time of Daniel (606 B.C.) until 1948 A.D. They lived in the land at various times, but it was not under their own governmental control until 1948. They had been scattered throughout the world, and they were persecuted in nearly every country in which they have lived. When most people emigrate to a new land, within a generation or two they assimilate, they drop their cultural heritage and become more like the inhabitants of the new country. But not the Jews. Wherever they go, they maintain the Jewish culture and religion. They remain a recognizable people distinct and set apart because God has made great and precious promises to them, promises which will be largely fulfilled during the millennium. While the enemy of our souls has tried throughout the millennia to destroy the Jewish people, he has not been successful because God has a plan for them. As for me, I rejoice every time I see a Jew because the existence of each one is proof that God IS and that he will do what he has said he will do. As Jesus said, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled."

But I also believe that the word ‘generation’ is a reference to a specific time period. As is discussed here, I believe a Biblical generation is forty years, that the forty years would begin with the leafing out of the fig tree, and that this occurred at 9:50 a.m. on June 7, 1967 with the recapture of the city of Jerusalem during the Six Day War. According to Jesus, this generation, the one that saw the fig tree shoot forth leaves, would not pass, or end, until all these things, the prophecy of Matt. 24, be fulfilled.

But then Jesus said something more: Matt 24:35-36 "Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away. 36 But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only." It seems very clear to me that Jesus placed the passing away of heaven and earth within the final generation, and further, that the passing away of heaven and earth is the event that will occur on the unknown day and hour. To very briefly summarize what is discussed here, I believe the final forty years will be put on ‘hold’ at the rapture, the tribulation will commence, followed by the millennium, followed by a time period called simply ‘a little season’ that has been reserved as part of the final forty years, and that period will conclude with the final attack on Jerusalem and the destruction of heaven and earth at an unknown day and hour.

Because the rapture is not discussed in Matt. 24, and because the second advent of Jesus will occur at Armageddon when the entire earth is poised for total destruction, these two events do not qualify as being the unknown day and hour referenced by Jesus, but the passing away of heaven and earth, at this writing at least 1007 years in the future, certainly does qualify. Further, this keeps Jesus’ statement in the context in which it was given.

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