This could be called my first personal study and questions into “Preterism”. “The term “preterist” can be found in the Unabridged versions of Webster’s Dictionary. In the 1913 edition, the definition of “preterist” is: “2. (Theol.) One who believes the prophecies of the Apocalypse to have been already fulfilled.”
“And He began telling this parable: “A man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it and did not find any. 7“And he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘Behold, for three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground?’ 8“And he answered and said to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9and if it bears fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”
Jesus had been seeking fruits of righteousness from Jerusalem/Israel for 3 years and was about to prophecy “her” desolation if “she” did not repent. The people listening would have recognized the symbolism of the fig tree relating to the Jews because of the many O.T. prophets repetitive use.
But, Jesus would find her without fruit again and immediately after his “Triumphal Entry” into Jerusalem when the children worshipped him and the Religious leaders completely rejected him. Let’s follow him in Mark 11~
“On the next day, when they had left Bethany, He became hungry. 13Seeing at a distance a fig tree in leaf, He went to see if perhaps He would find anything on it; and when He came to it, He found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14He said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again!”
and after “cleaning the Temple” again, we see them approaching the very same fig tree in 11:19-20 ~ ”
“When evening came, they would go out of the city.20As they were passing by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered from the roots up. 21Being reminded, Peter said to Him, “Rabbi, look, the fig tree which You cursed has withered.”
This was a prophetic symbol of their coming destruction that was declared earlier and will be articulated more clearly in His upcoming warnings of her desolation. He actually refers to this “Parable of the Fig Tree” 3 times in Matt.24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. All 3 of these chapters are what have been called “Apocalyptic” concerning the “End Times” but, are they really about a future generation or could they have been for the generation existing at that time?
To summarize from ALL 3 versions (and not cherry-pick from only Matt.24); here is what Jesus said.
Matt.24:1,2 & Mark 13:1,2 & Luke 21:5,6 ~ The Temple and everything associated with it would be torn down.
Matt.24:4,5 & Mark 13:5,6 & Luke 21:8 ~ False Prophets and Teachers would come and attempt to mislead them.
Matt.24:6,7 & Mark 13:7,8 & Luke 21:10, 11 ~ Rumors of wars, disturbances and nation against nation; kingdom against kingdom, earthquakes and famines. (Also signs from the heavens according to Luke)
Matt.24:9-11 & Mark 13:9-13 & Luke 21:12-18 ~ Persecutions, betrayals, hated by all men.
(The Gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to all the “Land” and “Ethnicities”; which could be the literal translation of “world” and “nations” according to Matt.24:14 & Mark 13:10 but not included in Luke)
Here is where it gets interesting. “The Abomination of Desolation” is listed next in Matt.24:15 & Mark 13:14 & Luke 21:20 but, Luke does not say “The A.of D.” but does say ~ ““But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is near.”
Did the Jews listening to Jesus see Jerusalem surrounded by armies before she was desolated? According to Josephus’ Historic recording; Yes. (The War of the Jews)
Then Matt. and Mark continue to agree almost word for word but, Luke again adds slightly different detail.
Matt.24:16-20 & Mark 13:15-18 ~ Those in Judea flee to the mountains, those on the housetop do not go back into the house, those in the fields do not go back into the city. Woe to the pregnant and those nursing and pray that you flight may not be in the Sabbath. (Because the Sabbath did matter at that time.)
Did you notice how specific Jesus was too people in many parts of Israel to not go anywhere near the city of Jerusalem!?
and now perhaps the crucial verse in Luke 21:22 ~ “because these are days of vengeance, so that all things which are written will be fulfilled.”
Were these the days of vengeance written about in all the O.T. prophets that would all be fulfilled on Israel?
Matt.24:21 & Mark 13:19 echo each other almost word for word, again. ~ “For those days will be a time of tribulation such as has not occurred since the beginning of the creation which God created until now, and never will.”
Did Luke just clearly articulate that the tribulation; the worst of all times that would ever be was in 70 AD, when the Roman troops surrounded Jerusalem? The “days of vengeance” or “Jacob’s Troubles” so that all things written would be fulfilled? Consider what Jesus continued to say about these days; the fulfillment of all things written and the sign of the fig tree. (Yes; we will get there!)
But first, we need to continue the parallel of these 3 versions…
Matt.24:22-27 & Mark 13:20-22 ~ (with slight variations between the 2) ~“Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short. 23“Then if anyone says to you, ‘Behold, here is the Christ,’ or ‘There He is,’ do not believe him. 24“For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect. 25“Behold, I have told you in advance.26“So if they say to you, ‘Behold, He is in the wilderness,’ do not go out, or, ‘Behold, He is in the inner rooms,’ do not believe them. 27“For just as the lightning comes from the east and flashes even to the west, so will the coming of the Son of Man be. 28“Wherever the corpse is, there the vultures will gather.”
However; Luke 21:23,24 goes in a very different direction ~ “Woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land and wrath to this people; 24and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
Did you hear the reference to wrath on THIS people and how THEY (the Jews) would be killed, lead captive and Jerusalem would be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the time of the Gentiles are fulfilled? Isn’t that what happened in 70A.D. and has been happening in Jerusalem for almost 2,000 years?
The great distress was upon the land of Israel; the great tribulation which is worse than anything before it or after is the wrath of God on the religious Jews who rejected their own Messiah and even swore an oath of JESUS’ BLOOD on themselves and their children! That’s a powerful curse to invoke on yourself and apparently they got it!
Jerusalem was completely surrounded by Rome and left to starve, fester in disease and their own blood so bad that people were literally eating part of their own children and saving the rest for later! (Josephus ~ “The War of the Jews” Book 6, Chapter 3; section 4)
Matt.24:29-31 & Mark 13:24-27 ~ (Again, almost identical) ~“But immediately after the tribulation of those days THE SUN WILL BE DARKENED, AND THE MOON WILL NOT GIVE ITS LIGHT, AND THE STARS WILL FALL from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 30“And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the land will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory. 31“And He will send forth His angels with A GREAT TRUMPET and THEY WILL GATHER TOGETHER His elect from the four winds, from one end of the sky to the other.”
Luke 21:25-28 is slightly different ~ “There will be signs in sun and moon and stars, and on the earth dismay among nations, in perplexity at the roaring of the sea and the waves, 26men fainting from fear and the expectation of the things which are coming upon the world; for the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 27“Then they will see THE SON OF MAN COMING IN A CLOUD with power and great glory. 28“But when these things begin to take place, straighten up and lift up your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”
Finally; back to the “Parable of the Fig Tree” again!
Matt.24:32-35 & Mark 13:28-32 & Luke 21:29-33 ~“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. 34“Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. 35“Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will not pass away.”
One difference in Luke 21:31“So you also, when you see these things happening, recognize that the kingdom of God is near.”
Notice that the “Fig Tree” or Israel is referenced again in all 3 versions! When the “Fig Tree” puts forth leaves (no mention of fruit!) the season is near. Near means; at hand, very close. THIS GENERATION will not pass away until ALL THESE THINGS take place!
THIS GENERATION. The generation that Jesus was speaking too! THAT was the generation upon whom exactly 40 years later; the abomination of desolation fell and not a single stone was left standing upon another. All of the O.T. prophecies that Jesus alluded too in these passages took place upon that generation!
If Jesus was speaking to a future generation; about horrific destruction that would take place IN ISRAEL; surrounding their Temple and warning them to pray that it would not take place on the Sabbath…then almost 2000 years of Christianity free from the yoke of the Law have seriously misunderstood the freedom of the Gospel.
OR, He was speaking to the Jewish generation which was standing their listening to him that was only 40 years away from experiencing the worst carnage they had ever faced and ever would face (apparently per capita worse than the Nazi Holocaust)!
This has gotten really long but, I intend to follow this with a study on the remaining verses of these prophecies which I will call ~ “Have Heaven and Earth Already Passed Away?”
Could it be that Jesus was not speaking about literal Heaven and earth passing away but; yet another parable/simile? I’m not sure but, this idea has really challenged my literal thinking…