32 “Now learn this parable from the fig tree: When its branch has already become tender and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near. 33 So you also, when you see all these things, know that it is near—at the doors! 34 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. 35 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Matthew 24:32-35 NKJ)
Numerous Bible teachers, including Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel Church network, and Hal Lindsey, author of The Late Great Planet Earth, have interpreted Jesus’ words of Matthew 24:32-34 as a prophecy about Israel.
Their collective prophetic teachings state that the budding of the fig tree in verse 32 refers to Israel becoming a nation in 1948. The people born in 1948 and the years afterward would then be the generation that would see the return of the Lord. Each teacher figured a generation was forty years.
Thus, 1988 was the projected year of Jesus’ return, but alas, Jesus did not return as prophesied.
Rather than admitting their error, Smith, Lindsey and most of the other Bible teachers stated that their mistake was not in their premise about Israel, but rather in their assuming a generation was forty years long. They decided a Biblical generation was really seventy years. 2018 was supposed to be the new predicted year for the return of Jesus.
And when Jesus did not return in 2018, these teachers doubled down again and stated a Biblical generation was eighty years. Therefore, these teachers are betting 2028 is the year when Jesus will return.
Will a hundred years be the next guess for these teachers?
Okay! Let’s do some checking for ourselves.
29 Then He spoke to them a parable: “Look at the fig tree, and all the trees.30 When they are already budding, you see and know for yourselves that summer is now near. 31 So you also, when you see these things happening, know that the kingdom of God is near. 32 Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all things take place. 33 Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. (Luke 21:29-33 NKJ)
The fig tree parable is presented in Matthew 24:32-35, Mark 13:28-31 and Luke 21:29-33. All three are similar except Luke states, “Look at the fig tree, and all of the trees.”
By adding the words – and all of the trees – Luke removed the emphasis on fig trees and placed it on the rest of the words Jesus spoke in the four verses. And what was Jesus referring to in the four verses? All of the prophetic words He spoke in Matthew 24:4-31.
The Apostle Paul had a similar problem with the Church in Thessalonica in that they were confused about when the Lord would return. He answered their fears by writing:
Let no one deceive you by any means; for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition (2 Thessalonians 2:3 NKJ)
Paul listed two things had to happen before Jesus returned:
1. Christians falling away from their faith (the great apostasy).
2. The antichrist is revealed to everyone.
Did Jesus mention the falling away of believers and the revealing of the antichrist in His Matthew 24 discourse?
And at that time many [believers] will fall away, and they will betray one another and hate one another. (Matthew 24:10 NASB)
Therefore when you see the abomination of desolation [antichrist] which was spoken of through Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place—let the reader understand (Matthew 24:15)
The Apostle Paul’s words agree with the prophetic words spoken by Jesus in Matthew 24.
So, it looks to me like we need to lay our easy-peasy formulas down and follow what Jesus said:
Watch therefore, for you do not know what hour your Lord is coming. (Matthew 24:42 NKJ)