Final thoughts on Mark 13:28-30
“Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see these things happening, know that it is near—at the doors! Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. NKJV
A common error in the interpretation of this passage is that the fig tree represents the nation of Israel. This error was prominent in Edgar Whisenant’s book, 88 Reasons Why the Rapture Will Be in 1988, which for obvious reasons, is no longer on the Best Seller List. Like Whisenant, many have assumed that the fig tree represents Israel. Since a Jewish generation is 40 years (Num. 32:13), and since Israel was reestablished as a nation in 1948, then the rapture must occur by 1988. After 1988 had come and gone, and still the rapture had not occurred, some scholars revised their time tables arguing that Israel was not securely established as a nation until after the Six-Day War and so the 40 years must be added to 1967, instead of 1947, bringing the date of the rapture up to 2007. But now 2007 has come and gone—and still no rapture.
Scripture is clear; no one can predict the timing of the rapture. There are no signs given to precede the 1st phase of Jesus’ 2nd coming in which He returns in the air and takes His church up into heaven for the judgment seat of Christ and the marriage of the Lamb (I Thess. 4:16-17, John 14:2-3, Rom. 14:10, II Cor. 5:10, Rev. 19:7-8), and where Christians will cast the crowns they received at the rapture at the feet of the Lord Jesus Christ (Rev. 4:10). The rapture is imminent. It could have taken place at any time since the first century, and may happen at any moment (Matt. 24:44, Luke 12:40, Jas. 5:8, I Thess. 1:10, Phil. 3:20, Rev. 22:7, 12, 20). “Quickly” in the Revelation verses does not mean “soon.” It has been almost 2000 years since the book of Revelation was written. Rather, “quickly” means “unexpectedly” or “imminently.”
The signs given in the Olivet discourse (the abomination of desolation, the great tribulation, the global blackout) all precede the 2nd phase of Jesus’ 2nd coming in which He returns visibly to the earth (Rev. 1:7) with His church (I Thess. 4:14, Jude 14-15) in great power and glory (Mark 13:26) to destroy the armies of the antichrist (II Thess. 2:8, Rev. 19:11-21) and establish his throne in Israel (Luke 1:32-33) where He will rule the nations of the earth with a rod of iron (Psa. 2:8-9; Rev. 2:27, 12:5).
Furthermore, in Luke’s account of the Olivet discourse, Luke adds “…the fig tree, and all the trees.” (Luke 21:29). If the fig tree represents Israel, then what do “all the trees” represent? The fig tree is simply used in our text as an illustration that the abomination of desolation and the great tribulation that follows are signs that will precede Christ’s revelation (the 2nd phase of His 2nd coming, not the rapture). As for us, we had better make sure that we have repented of our sins and trusted the Lord Jesus Christ as our personal Savior. The rapture could happen at any time. Are you ready?