The whole of Matthew chapters 24 and 25 are concerned with times of the end and the signs preceding the second coming of Jesus Christ. This small section of scripture here though is the key to these prophecies. It is the point at which the lessons in these chapters pivot. The preceding sections speak of the signs of Jesus’ return and the following sections teach us about being prepared and ready for his return. We need to learn the lesson of the fig tree. If we do this we will not be surprised and will be ready at his return.
The fig tree like many plants goes through stages and cycles as the seasons change. The fig tree is a deciduous fruit tree. It loses its leaves during winter and becomes dormant during those colder months. By watching the fig tree Jesus shows that you can know when the seasons are about to change. At the end of the winter months as the fig tree comes out of its dormancy, its branch becomes tender and it puts forth leaves. This occurs as the seasons move from winter to spring and you can know that summer is approaching.
Likewise Jesus tells us that when we see all of the signs he showed in the earlier sections of this chapter we can know that his return will be soon.
He does not keep his people in the dark. He wants us to know what is going on so that we are not surprised like the rest of the world. He does not want us to suffer fear or anguish through lack of knowledge. Elsewhere he has shown these things saying, “You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.” (John 15:14-15) We are called to follow Jesus and to obey his commands. If we do this we are his friends, and if we are his friends he will show us all that we need to know. This includes understanding the times of the end.
Needless to say there are a few things we do not know and have not been given to understand. But all of the things that are required for us to have salvation and to be prepared for the kingdom of God are given to us. In relation to the second coming, we may not know the day or the hour of his return, but that does not mean we will not know the week, month and year.
We saw in the previous sections that a time period was established. The countdown to his return will commence when the continual burnt offering is taken away and the abomination that makes desolate is set up in the holy place. When we see these things take place we will be able to calculate the timing of his return and be ready. They will be days of distress and require endurance. But they will also be like those darkest hours before the dawn. Initially it will be a great spiritual darkness, but those days will be followed by unspeakable joy upon the return of Jesus Christ. At least, it will be a time of joy for those who are his and who are patiently awaiting his return.
So let us take the lesson of the fig tree to heart. Watch carefully the unfolding of the signs of the times. Continue to learn and grow in the truth of the gospel. And be prepared and ready for him at his coming. The time is growing short and every day brings his return and our salvation closer to reality.