[Note: Our guest contributing author, Amir Tsarfati, is the founder and president of Behold Israel. A Messianic Jew living in Israel, he is a dynamic speaker and proclaimer of Yeshua’s soon return.]
Hebrews 1 says, “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds…” (NKJV). So, here we are seeing that Jesus never contradicted a single verse from the prophets. In fact, He continued in the same mantle.
Toward the end of His ministry, Jesus was on the Mount of Olives surrounded by His disciples. None of His disciples were “Christian” at that point. They were Jewish.
So, Jesus taught his Jewish disciples while He was in Jerusalem. And to make it very clear, in the history of planet Earth, Jerusalem was never a capital of any other nation but Israel. So, here you have the Jewish Messiah speaking to His Jewish disciples in the Jewish capital of the Jewish people.
We have to understand that the questions He was asked by his disciples—to which He gave a great, lengthy, and detailed answer—were authentic Jewish issues related to the Jewish Temple, the Messiah, and the last days.
No Gentile at the time was thinking about the last days, the Messiah, or the Temple in Jerusalem. Jesus was talking to Jews about Jewish matters that only interested the Jews. He spoke on the Mount of Olives. That is why Matthew 24 is called the Olivet Discourse.
By the way, He was not angry with their questions. He understood exactly where they were coming from and took His time to give them a detailed answer. First, in verses 4 to 31, He spoke to His Jewish disciples about the future of the Jews. But then, starting in verse 32, He also gave them a different perspective of things to come. And He was talking about something else, someone else, another group of people which, by the way, they are also part of.
Learn from the Fig Tree
In Matthew 24:32-35, Jesus said, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree…” In the middle of His teaching on Israel and all the things Israel will go through, He stops to tell His disciples: “Now listen, I want you to learn a parable from the fig tree.” In other words, He makes it clear that what He says about the fig tree is not literally about a fig tree; it’s a parable of the fig tree—a symbol of something different. He is basically saying: Look, “when its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know…” It’s not “you think” and it’s not “you guess.” It’s “you know that summer is near. So you also, when you see…”
Again, it’s not when you talk about it, it’s not when you hope for it, and it’s not when you dream of it. It’s “When you see” (with your very eyes) “all these things, know that it is near.” Not 200 yards away, not 200 miles away. Where? “Right at the door.” Right there!
So, Jesus reminds the disciples, “Look, the fig tree, remember the fig tree (of Matthew 21:18-20)? That fig tree that died, it’s going to come back to life.” Then He said, “the generation that will see the ‘rebirth’ of that tree, that generation shall not pass away till all these things take place” (Matthew 24:32-35). What things? His coming back.
God’s Word Stands Forever
Heaven and earth will pass away, but Jesus’ words will not pass away. Just like God said through Isaiah: “The flower fades, the grass withers, but the Word of God stands forever” (40:8). Wow!
So, Jesus stopped His entire description of the end times of Israel to tell His disciples, “Now listen. I want to talk to you now, not as Israel, but as My followers. If you follow Me, you can escape destruction. And, if you’re following Me and alive to see the fig tree blooming… that’s it! That’s the last generation.” Wow!
Before we talk about the fig tree, let’s talk about the word “generation.” Scholars, theologians, teachers, and pastors have pondered and debated about the timeframe of a generation. Some say it’s 20 years, some 30 years, some 40 years, others say longer.
But none of those answers are correct. We need to understand that biblically, a generation has always referred to the longevity of mankind. That means the time between conception and natural death. So, the average lifespan of a group of people living at about the same time constitutes the length of a generation. Before the Flood, the Bible tells us the average lifespan of a man was over 900 years. Today, if a man makes it to 100, he’s a celebrity.
In 1850, life expectancy in the United States was less than 40 years. It increased to 47 by 1900, and to 77 years by the end of the 20th century. Life expectancy in Israel today is 79 years and projected to be 82 by 2025.
So, which generation was Jesus talking about when he said, “this generation shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:34)? He was speaking of the generation that will see the fig tree come back to life. Wow!
I believe He is referring to believers who witness the most significant end-time prophecy: the “rebirth” of the fig tree—the rebirth of Israel.
Israel in the Scriptures was described by three different types of trees: the vine, the fig tree, and the olive tree. Each of them was a symbol of something else. The vine symbolizes Israel’s spiritual privileges (Psalm 80, Isaiah 5, and Jeremiah 2). The fig tree symbolizes Israel’s national privileges (Hosea 9, Jeremiah 24, and, of course, Matthew 24). The olive tree represented Israel’s religious privileges (Hosea 14, Isaiah 17, Isaiah 24, Psalm 52, Psalm 128, and Romans 11). Romans 11 speaks specifically of Israel as the “good olive tree” and the Gentiles as the “wild olive tree.” Some of the branches of the original olive tree were chopped off, and the Gentiles, the wild olive tree, were grafted in.
So, Gentile believers are now partakers of the blessing with Israel—not instead of Israel. In fact, the Church can trust the promises of God because He keeps His covenant with Israel. And the fig tree is coming back to life! It was cursed, but it is not dead forever.
When the Jewish people started coming back to the land of Israel toward the end of the 1800s, they found exactly what Mark Twain wrote in his diary as a traveler: “I’ve never seen such a barren wasteland in my life where we hardly saw a living creature.” So God first inspired the Jewish people to return to their homeland. That is the meaning of “Zionism”—the Jewish belief that your place is in Zion. So, the desire to go to Israel was the beginning of that fig tree returning to life! In Ezekiel 36:8, God said: “But you, O mountains of Israel, you will put forth your branches and bear your fruit for My people Israel, for they will soon come.”
The Lord knew that there was no way that hundreds of thousands and later millions of Jews could thrive in a barren wasteland. It would never work. So what did the Lord do? He spoke fertility, and boom! Look what happened—today Israel exports food. While farm workers are only 3.8% of the workforce in Israel, they produce almost 100% of our food. Israeli cows are the most productive cows in the world. Israel leads the world in technology to extract water even from the air. Israel invented the drip irrigation system and exports desalination installations around the world. It uses solar energy like no other country does. And 90% of its wastewater is being purified and recycle for agriculture.
One of the smallest nations on earth, Israel is thriving. That’s God’s way of saying, “The fig tree is coming back to life.”
Ezekiel 36 talked about how God would heal the land in preparation for the Jews to return to their land. Then in Ezekiel 37, Ezekiel was brought to a valley full of dry bones. He was so terrified that he asked, “What is this?” The Lord replied, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel; behold they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off!'” That means they’re alive, but barely. Like a person with bones and skin—but hopeless and thinking that God has forgotten all about him. That was the picture we saw when Jews were liberated from Nazi death camps. Men, women, and children barely alive. Skin and bones, but no hope. And collectively believing, “God has forgotten all about us.” But God had promised, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel” (Ezekiel 37:12).
Not Palestine! Not Arab Land! The Land of Israel!
God Has Done It
Then He said, “Then you will know that I am Yahweh, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, Yahweh, have spoken and done it” (Ezekiel 37:13-14). Wow! And He has literally done that.
So, in 1948, the nation was born! Even then, Israel was born as a nation on the verge of annihilation every day—every single day of that year, the following year, and the following year after that. Every single day since 1948 has been a gift from God, because Israel was supposed to be destroyed!
The nations that came against Israel in 1948 have tried to destroy the land repeatedly and failed at every turn. What was it that they wanted in 1948? Oil? Gas? We had none of those. They wanted us to be cut off from being a nation so that the name of Israel would be remembered no more.
However, 1948 is also when we start counting a generation. Just consider what has changed since Israel’s modern founding. Israel was small, vulnerable, insecure, dangerous, and very poor. Compared to then, Israel today is safe, secure, and prosperous. But 75 years have passed since 1948.
I believe the Feasts of Trumpets, Yom Kippur, and Tabernacles will be fulfilled to the people of Israel when the Lord comes back. The Jewish people pray in Hebrew every morning: “May our eyes behold Your return to Zion with mercy.” They want Him to come, but they do not believe the Messiah is returning for a second time. They think He is coming for the first time.
Jewish people also understand that before the Messiah comes there will be a terrible time of tribulation. They believe that there has to be a great time of repentance. The repentance and God tabernacling physically on Earth with His people will happen as God fulfills those feasts to Israel just as He did with the first four feasts.
The importance of the Church and Israel is conveyed in God’s command in Numbers 10:1-2 for Moses to make two trumpets—two Silver trumpets. Why two? Why silver? Why trumpets? Trumpets are a means to announce the coming of someone. Silver is a precious metal, but not perfect. And two, because there are only two groups of people on earth that God called out, “You are My witnesses.” Israel in Isaiah 46 and the Church in Acts chapter 1.
Throughout the Old Testament history of Israel, the Church did not exist. But from the moment the Church was born, the nation of Israel was thrown out of the Land. Only since 1948 have the two co-existed to bear witness to the coming Messiah. The trumpets are sounding!
Are You Ready?
Some Christians are ready to go; others are simply tired. Either way, their attitude seems to be, “How long can we still stay here?” My response is Philippians 4:4: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Paul went on to affirm, “The Lord is near.” That is why we need to rejoice, and why we need to “hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful” (Hebrews 10:23).
What hope? Our Blessed Hope! (Titus 2:13).
What promises has He kept? All of them! Everything He said has happened. Israel is back in the Land just as He said. The fig tree is alive!
We can rejoice that we are in the generation to see the sign of Israel. And, we can bless the Holy One of Israel—Who is the Lamb of God, and the Lion of the tribe of Judah. Emmanuel—Prince of Peace, King of kings, and Lord of lords.
Yeshua is the “light of revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of [His] people Israel” (Luke 2:32). And, He’s coming again soon!