Home > Olivet Discourse, Preterism, The Gospel > Preterism, futurism, and the fig tree

Preterism, futurism, and the fig tree

October 24, 2011

When a futurist prophecy expositor becomes obsessed with some date for which he predicts an event which fulfills prophecy, it is usually one in the near future, and in his own lifetime. This tends to make their claims appear more sensational. As a rule, such proposed dates pass without anything happening. Then they are disappointed, humbled, and embarrassed for a time, and they are forced to revise their interpretations.

On the other hand, Preterists claim that all prophecy was fulfilled in 70 AD, a date locked into past history, that cannot be affected by current events. They believe there is no need to worry about a postulated day arriving, and their being disappointed when nothing transpires, as for them, prophecy has already been fulfilled.

Jesus said, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away.” [Matthew 24:32-35]

Jesus used the idea of seasons, and the concept of fig trees putting forth leaves, in his parable of the fig tree. Because this is called a parable, there must be a spiritual interpretation that can be applied to his words. He advised watching and observing the conditions unfolding in the present. This implies that his prophecy applies not just in the first century, but for the whole time allotted to the church.

If in the church age, most of prophecy was already fulfilled, shouldn’t Jesus have pointed us to events in the past? Why would he instead point to the present? The summer season is a metaphor that represents the present age; the whole church age is the time for growing, and producing fruit for the eternal kingdom. Jesus warned, “But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter” [Matthew 24:20] as that would imply one had missed out on the harvest.

“The tree is known by his fruit,” Jesus said. [Matthew 12:33] This alludes to men, as in the following verse he says, using an even stronger metaphor, “O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh.”

Preterists are obsessed with Jerusalem’s destruction in the first century, but that was not the real focus of the Olivet discourse, as Jesus was alluding to the desolation of the heavenly city which he would build, and he especially warned us to be on guard against false prophets. He talked about summer, and fig trees, no doubt because the heavenly kingdom is all about producing good fruit, once we become enlightened by the gospel. He advised us to seek his kingdom and “lay up  treasure in heaven.” He talked about the present as an opportunity for us to qualify to enter the kingdom of God. That is the focus of his prophecies, not the fate of unbelieving Jews in the first century, or the last one.

How can preterists be freed from their infatuation with the earthly city, and the date of 70 AD? Looking to Jesus is their best hope for a cure.

Job said to God, when he came to his senses, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear: but now mine eye seeth thee. Wherefore I abhor myself, and repent in dust and ashes.” [Job 42:5-6] This is the kind of insight that is needed. Preterism blinds many to what Christ is doing during the age of the Church. In the Olivet discourse Jesus said:

Matthew 24:29-30
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.

These events are considered below.

…the sun shall be darkened

The sun is turned to darkness in the prophecy of Joel 2:31, and this was quoted by the apostle Peter, on the day of Pentecost, Acts 2:20. Similarly, the sun becomes “black as sackcloth of hair” in the opening of the sixth seal, Revelation 6:12, which follows the fifth seal, picturing persecution of the saints, and martyrdom, and the sequence is the same in the Olivet discourse. The darkening of the sun evidently followed the end of widespread religious persecution, which was prevalent for many centuries. The sun is also smitten in the 4th trumpet. [Revelation 8:12] The sun clothes the woman in heaven. [Revelation 12:1] The woman in this chapter represents the saints, and so the sun is symbolic of the gospel. The darkening of the sun means the gospel is obscured, by false doctrines.

…the moon shall not give her light

In Revelation 12:1, the moon is at the woman’s feet. The moon is considered to be an emblem of the Old Covenant with its types and shadows of the New. Applying the label Israel to ethnic Jews, and denying that it represents the Church, is an example of how the typological meaning of much of Old Testament prophecy and history is obscured.

…the stars shall fall from heaven

Revelation 12:3-4 says “And there appeared another wonder in heaven; and behold a great red dragon, having seven heads and ten horns, and seven crowns upon his heads. And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born.”

Many Christians have been deceived, and lured back into the world, and have abandoned their faith; the figure pictures apostasy.

…the powers of the heavens shall be shaken

The war in heaven, Revelation 12:7, where Michael and his angels are at war against the forces of the dragon, shows that spiritual warfare in the Church is indicated. Paul wrote: “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” [Ephesians 6:12]

then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven

The Spirit of God being revived in the Church would be a great sign, and it would fulfill several prophecies. In Revelation 12:9, Satan is overcome, and is cast down from heaven to the earth; in Revelation 11:11-12, the slain bodies of the two witnesses revive, and ascend to heaven. The witnesses may be symbolic of the Spirit and the Word of God, as they are things Jesus said would testify of him. [John 5:39; 15:26] The love of God becoming evident in the church would also be a sign.

The mourning Jesus foretold in Matthew 24:30 is about people of all nations mourning as Job did. It is a time of repentance. Jesus remains alive, as he rose from the grave, which means his generation still exists; he dwells in the hearts of those who believe by his Spirit, guiding them to the truth. Saying that his generation passed away already ignores the fact of his resurrection.

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