Barry Newman's Blog

February 13, 2013

The Parable of the Fig Tree (part VI)

Filed under: Parables of Jesus,The Parable of the Fig Tree — barrynewman @ 10:14 pm

Solutions to the problems?

It is not my intention to review various solutions proposed to the problems outlined above.  Carson’s understanding of the textual material is one example of how evangelicals have addressed the issues.  See Carson, D.A., Matthew, in Matthew, Mark, Luke, the Expositor’s Bible Commentary Series, vol 8, Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI, 1984, 496-507. In his concluding remarks and with respect to the claim by Jesus that “This generation will certainly not pass away until all these things have happened” (Matthew 24: 34), he writes, “If our interpretation of this chapter is right, all that v. 34 demands is that the distress of vv. 4-28, including Jerusalem’s fall, happen within the lifetime of the generation then living.  This does not mean that the distress must end within that time but only that “all these things” must happen within it” (p. 507).

Taking a broad look at the textual material, one is struck by its many components and the ways in which they are juxtaposed.  Using much of the general descriptions given earlier to these components and forming a type of collage from the accounts given in the three Gospels, we find that reference is made to:

the prediction of the destruction of the temple, the coming of the Christ, world- wide catastrophes before the end, persecution for the disciples, the need to endure to the end, desolation, “invasion” and the warning to flee, the gospel of the kingdom being preached throughout the world, the warning about false Christs and false prophets, the coming of the Son of man being obvious, the picture of cosmic catastrophes and the coming of the Son of man, angels gathering God’s elect, Jesus stating that when “these things begin to take place … lift up your heads because your redemption is drawing near”, the parable of the fig tree, the statement, “This generation will not pass away until all has taken place.  Heaven and earth will pass away but my words will not pass away”, the warning that the exact time is known only to the Father, the parable of a man preparing for going on a journey, the warning about being weighed down with dissipation, drunkenness and the cares of life, the warning to watch and pray, because the exact time when the Lord is coming is unknown and because the disciples need strength to escape all these things and to stand before the Son of man, the parallel with the days of Noah and the sudden appearance of the flood for those who perished, the warning of the suddenness of the end and eternal distinctions being made between people – some taken, some left.

One cannot fail to be impressed by the extreme gravity of the various situations being foretold, the dire warnings given to the disciples, the catastrophes that will occur in the near future, the startling end of all these matters involving the coming back of the Son of man, the master of the house returning from his journey.

Perhaps one of our problems has been to look at the accounts with a modern, western and strict view of chronology and time duration.  Is Jesus not primarily concerned to warn his disciples of their need to escape the destruction of Jerusalem soon to take place, their dire future because of their relationship with him and the possibility of their being led astray by false claims, false people and unrighteous living?  Does he not so warn them by painting the situation to be as extreme as it will be and is he not giving them an assured awareness of the reality behind his warnings by indicating that the beginning of the catastrophes – the great distress, will occur in their life time? And while so warning them, does he not give them the assurance that it will all one day come to an end, with the return of their master in final vindication, along with indicating their need to recognise that when that will occur is completely unknown?

He collapses together the many and various elements of the complete scenario.  The predominant use of the word “near” and the reference to “all these things” is simply a consequence of this compactness.

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