Summary: In the Parable of the Fig Tree Jesus taught that one can tell what is coming by watching the signs. As surely as one can discern the approach of summer by the leafing of a tree, so these signs announce the nearness of the kingdom.
LUKE 21: 24-29-33 [PARABLES IN LUKE]
THE RETURN OF CHRIST / THE FIG TREE
The portion of Jesus’ discourse we are looking at this morning entails what is to be after the time of the Gentiles has been fulfilled in respect to Jerusalem. The heavens will be observably disturbed or different. The nations will be perplexed as the whole earth experiences turmoil (vv. 25-27). The faithful though are not to be distressed but rather look up, for redemption is near. And as surely as one can discern the approach of summer by the leafing of a tree, so these signs announce the nearness of the kingdom (Luke 21:29-31). When, then, will this be? Within this generation (vv. 32-33) Jesus declares.
In the Parable of the Fig Tree Jesus taught that one can tell what is coming by watching the signs (CIT). The events recorded in our passage mark the culmination of God’s promises to His people. These signs indicate the time of Christ’s return is near even if they do not give us the exact time for it.
I. THE SIGNS, 25-26.
II. THE REDEEMER, 27-28.
III. THE FIG TREE, 29-31.
IV THE CERTAIN WORD, 32-33.
[Background context: Wars, tumults, and international conflicts; and natural disasters with cosmic terror. However, it is repeatedly said that one is not to be deceived by all this; the end will not be at once. Why? Because there must first be a time of witnessing (vv. 12-19). The church must give witness to the gospel and its power. Faithful witnesses will be brought before synagogues (fulfilled in Acts 4-5) and before governors and kings (fulfilled in Acts 24-26). In those crises they will be given both word and wisdom (Luke 21:15) that cannot be withstood (fulfilled in Acts 4:8-13; 6:10). Hatred, betrayal by friends and relatives, and death await them (Luke 21:16-17). Faithfulness is the path to life.]
What starts in motion God’s count down for human history and His return? Verse 24 concludes with a promise that initiates the time of Christ’s Return. “Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
“The times of the Gentiles” indicates that “Jerusalem” will be in the hands of the Gentiles. “Until” suggests a time fixed by God when Jerusalem will be restored or no longer be dominated or controlled by Gentiles. From the time of the fall of Jerusalem until this time of the Gentiles is ended by God, non-jews will rule over Jerusalem. It was in 1967 that the Jews reclaimed Jerusalem. Therefore, since then or for the last 47 years we have been living in prophetic end times.
[The times of the Gentiles’ domination over Jerusalem actually began when the Babylonians took the city and the nation into Captivity in 586-7 BC. Jerusalem will again fall under Gentile domination in the Tribulation (Zech. 14:1-2) just before the Messiah returns to restore Jerusalem.]
[In vv. 20-24 Luke describes the destruction of Jerusalem. Unlike Mark 13:14-20, in which the fall of the city is given an eschatological setting, Luke’s account is more historical and distinct from the end of the age. What Luke describes is what happened in A.D. 66-72 when Roman armies destroyed Jerusalem. Not only was the temple burned in A.D. 70, but also, by the end of the 143-day siege, over one million Jews were killed. Of those who survived, many were taken prisoner, leaving the rest to scatter throughout the world. They wandered as a people without a homeland until May 14, 1948, when Israel became a nation once again. That event would lead to the Jews for the 1st time in 2 ½ century to regain control over Jerusalem in 1967.]
The remainder of the discourse sketches what is yet to be after the time of the Gentiles control over Jerusalem has been fulfilled. Jesus therefore transitions from His prophecy indicated by Jerusalem being dominated by Jews to foretell what is coming upon the whole earth beginning in verse 25. “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves,
Various cosmic signs (Isa. 34:4) will be preceded the coming of the Son of Man. [Signs, enneuō [ἐννεύω, en, in, neuō, to nod], to nod to, denotes to make a sign to; Luke 1:62, Prov. 6:13; 10:10.] The sun, moon, and stars” will signal the time. These signs probably reference eclipses, comets, and shooting stars. [Some point to the “blood moon” that occurred this year, 2014, here.]
The heavens releasing its power will cause “distress of nations, with perplexity.” The Greek meaning of this phrase refers to the quagmires and quicksand that must be navigated to assist nations in political turmoil. There are no easy answers or solution. [The world will need “someone” to take charge.]