by Paul George
Matthew 24:32- 35
Upon completion of His discourse about the tribulation and second coming, Jesus now provides five parables that illustrate and drive home the point of what He had just taught. Since these parables are connected to Christ’s preceding discourse, then they provide important parabolic focus upon the eschatology lesson just given. All five of these parables form a group. In other words, all the parables must refer to the same event, in this case, verses 4 through 31. This means that it would not make sense to have the first parable refer to the destruction of Jerusalem in a.d. 70 and then have the final four relate to a still future return of Christ.
These five parables relate to the second coming of Christ and not the rapture of the church. This is true because the entire Olivet Discourse was given to Israel and relates to her tribulation and Christ’s return at the end of that period. Truths relating to the rapture of the church are revealed exclusively in the New Testament Epistles, which were written specifically for explaining the intent and nature of the Church age. The only exception to this is Christ’s initial unveiling of the church’s hope in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14:1- 3) shortly before His death.
The first of these parables, the lesson of the fig tree illustration, is that when there are leaves on a fig tree then one knows that summer is near. A parable is a lesson of comparisons, moving from the known in order to explain the unknown. In this instance, the leaves before summer would refer to the events of the tribulation as outlined by Christ in Matthew 24: 4- 31. Thus, when one sees these events then they are to know that Christ’s return is near, “right at the door” (Matthew 24:33). How is it that they know that Christ’s advent is near, because “this generation will not pass away until all these things take place” (Matthew 24:34). In other words, the events culminating in Christ’s return will not exceed seven years.
What Jesus is saying is that the generation that sees the beginning of these events will also see their end. When the signs come, they will proceed quickly; they will not drag on for many generations. It will happen within a generation. In verse 35, He tells us about one thing that will pass away and another thing that will not pass away. The passing away in verse 34 would not happen until, “all these things take place.”
What God created is here called “the heavens and the earth,” a poetic expression signifying the whole universe. Once the unveiling of this “great tribulation” (Matthew 24: 21) begins, that generation will not pass away until everything is brought to completion. To add weight to what He had just said, the Lord added the proclamation that His words were more lasting than even the universe itself. The heaven and the earth will be taken away, but what He has proclaimed will last eternally.
The Bible teaches that God’s Word is sufficient for everything needed to live a life pleasing unto Christ (2 Timothy 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:3-4). This means that if something is not revealed for us in the Bible then it is not needed to accomplish God’s plan for our lives. The date of Christ’ s return is not stated in the Bible, therefore, in spite of what some may say, knowing it is not important for living a godly life. The Lord told Israel ” The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29). The date of Christ’s coming has not been revealed, thus it is a secret belonging only to God.