Q. Recently I heard a pastor argue that the fig tree in Matt. 24:32 does not represent Israel. He says Israel was described as an olive tree when the Church was grafted in. Is that true?
A. Both fig trees and olive trees have been used to represent Israel. However, I don’t believe the fig tree was meant to symbolize Israel in Matt. 24:32. Fig trees are typically the last trees to sprout leaves in the spring, so when you see their leaves appearing you know that summer is really near. In Matt. 24:33 Jesus said when we see the signs He was describing, we’ll know that the end of the age is really near. I think He was using the example of the fig tree in verse 32 to illustrate His point in verse 33.
The first time the Church was described as a branch grafted into the olive tree was in Romans 11:17-21 which was written by Paul 20 years after the cross. Therefore I don’t think Jesus was using that comparison in Matt. 24:32 either.