Parable of the Budding Fig Tree

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The Parable of the Budding Fig Tree is a parable told by Jesus in the New Testament, found in Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31, and Luke 21:29-33. This parable, about the Kingdom of God, involves a fig tree, as does the equally brief parable of the barren fig tree.


According to the Gospel of Luke:

And he told them a parable: "Look at the fig tree, and all the trees; as soon as they come out in leaf, you see for yourselves and know that the summer is already near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that the kingdom of God is near. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all has taken place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away."

— Luke 21:29-33, RSV


Luke presents this parable as eschatological in nature:[1] like the leaves of the fig tree, the signs spoken of in the Olivet discourse of Luke 21:5-28 [2] indicate the coming of the Kingdom of God.

As the British scholar and theologian N. T. Wright has written, "Already present in Jesus' ministry, and climactically inaugurated in his death and resurrection, the divine kingdom will be manifest within a generation, when Jesus and his followers are vindicated in and through the destruction of Jerusalem."[3]

An alternative interpretation is that the fig tree represents the nation of Israel being politically reestablished in their land once again. Accordingly, when the modern state of Israel was formed on May 14, 1948, Hal Lindsey concluded that we are in the last generation.[4][5]

Such an interpretation is challenged by New Testament scholar Barbara R. Rossing. "Lindsey calls those of us living today 'the generation of the fig tree,' referring to his interpretation of the founding of Israel as the fig tree putting forth its buds... Such a move has no literal basis in the Bible itself, however, nor is it true to their 'plain sense' rule of interpretation. It is an example of their highly selective literalism – with no biblical evidence to support this redefinition of 'this generation.'"[6]

Lindsey's interpretation has also been discounted by the late R. Alan Cole, an Australian Anglican scholar in the evangelical tradition. Cole cautions, "It is unnecessary to read into the parable of the fig tree in this context a reference to the subsequent earthly history of the Jewish nation. It is true that vine and fig are traditional symbols of God's people in the Old Testament... Nevertheless that does not prove that every biblical mention of the fig tree conceals a reference to Israel, or that we can predict the date of Christ's second coming from political events in Israel's life today, like the 'return' to Palestine."[7]

The Reformation Study Bible notes, "There does not seem to be any specific symbolic sense to this 'fig tree' (such as the re-emergence of the nation of Israel), especially since the parallel passage (Luke 21:29) adds 'and all the trees.' Jesus is simply saying that just as there are signs of what is to come in the natural realm, so it is in the spiritual." With reference to "this generation", it is noted that, "For the event of the destruction of the temple, the phrase refers to Jesus' own generation."[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Bernard Brandon Scott, Hear Then the Parable: A commentary on the parables of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1989, ISBN 0-8006-2481-5, pp. 338-340.
  2. ^ Luke 21:5-28
  3. ^ Wright, N. T., Jesus and the Victory of God, London: SPCK; Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 1996. p. 365. ISBN 9780800626822
  4. ^ Lindsey, Hal. The Late Great Planet Earth. Grand Rapids, MI. Zondervan, 1970.
  5. ^ Lindsey, Hal. 1977. Eternity, January 1977
  6. ^ Rossing, Barbara R., The Rapture Exposed: The Message of Hope in the Book of Revelation, Westview Press, 2004; Basic Books, 2005. p. 183. ISBN 9780813343143
  7. ^ Cole, R. Alan, The Gospel According to Mark, 2nd ed., Leicester (UK): Inter-Varsity Press; Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989. p. 281. ISBN 9780802804815
  8. ^ The Reformation Study Bible, R. C. Sproul, General Editor, Ligonier Ministries, 2005. p. 1442. ISBN 9781596381360