Q. I have always believed that Jesus was using the fig tree to symbolize Israel being reborn in Matt.24:32-34. But then Jesus said, “and when you see these things come to pass, know that my coming is near, even at the doors.” Things is plural and not singular. So Jesus could be describing many things (as in “birth pangs”) & not just the rebirth of Israel. But when do the birth pangs begin? Also, if you look at Luke’s version of the fig tree parable, he says “fig tree and all the trees.” This is very confusing because no one can accurately say when the birth pangs started and therefore cannot determine, within any reasonable space of time, when “this generation” begins or ends. Can you clarify this?
A. The only specific sign the Lord gave from which we can determine the timing of the 2nd Coming is the Abomination of Desolation (Matt. 24:15-21). When the people living in Israel at the end of the age see that, they’ll know the Great Tribulation has begun and from other references will know that it will last 3.5 years (Daniel 9:27, 12:2 and Rev. 11:2, 12:6, 12:14). From that they can calculate the approximate time of the 2nd Coming, since Jesus said no one will know the exact day or hour in advance (Matt. 24:36,42,44, 50, Matt. 25:13).
But the Church will be long gone when the Abomination occurs, and by calling the other signs birth pangs, the Lord relegated them to the status of general indications, not a specific schedule. Birth pangs announce the arrival of labor but don’t really predict it in advance, and give no indication as to its length.
However it turns out that the Abomination of Desolation is all we need because there are preconditions to it’s fulfillment that provide the longer term clues as well. Here’s what I mean. You can’t have an abomination until there’s a Temple. You can’t have a Temple until the nation is back in covenant, and the nation can’t be back in covenant until it exists again. Therefore the event that begins the count has to be the re-birth of the nation, and you don’t need to depend on the fig tree parable to prove it. Aside from the abomination, which comes too late for us, there’s no other event that can be used as a specific start date.
Matt. 24: 34 tells us many of the generation of people being born at the time of the re-birth of Israel (this generation) will still be alive at the 2nd Coming. Psalm 90:10 and Isaiah 23:15 indicate that an average lifespan is 70 years. That makes it likely that the 2nd Coming will occur about 70 years after the re-birth of Israel.