TRUST GOD’S TIMING
Jesus’ teaching about the end times is like describing purple to someone born blind. Jesus must use images and analogies humans can understand, but those descriptions can only approximate the actual event. There is much about His return we cannot understand precisely. The best response is to focus on what we can understand.
We don’t know when Christ will return, but we can see the signs. (32–33)
The image of the fig tree is one every first-century Jew would understand. As a deciduous tree, it loses its leaves in the fall and resprouts them in the spring.
Was Jesus referring to His return or to the destruction of Jerusalem? Because of the similarities, it is difficult to tell.
Some translations read “He is near” at the end of verse 33. Others say “it” or “summer.” Even translators disagree on the meaning. In either case, Jesus is telling His disciples there will be evidence of what will happen.
Trust God’s word about Christ’s return, because His Word is eternal and unchanging. (34–35)
These verses seem to indicate the focus is the destruction of the temple. “This generation” has certainly passed away, and Jesus has not returned. Some people have tried to force this passage to refer to the Second Coming by taking “this generation” to mean this kind of generation or the Jewish people.
This is unnecessary if Jesus was referring to the destruction that would happen in A.D. 70.
One must not allow verse 34 to trump the impactful words of verse 35. Jesus assures His followers everything He is saying will happen. After the temple is destroyed, His Word stands firm. Even after this generation is gone, His Word remains.
Even the earth and the heavens (as we now know them) will end, but His Word will never fail. This assurance contains a warning that without any doubt the destruction of the temple and the return of Jesus are coming.
Don’t speculate about the timing of Jesus’ return. (36–41)
Jesus now turns the discourse to His return. The destruction of the temple was a serious event for the Jews. The return of Jesus will be immensely more serious for all humanity. So, it is not surprising that people have tried to “break the code.” That is, until one reads verse 36.
How could it be that Jesus, the Son of God, would not know the timing of His return?
As God, Jesus would be omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. Christians accept that during His earthly ministry, Jesus limited His presence to one location at a time like other humans and limited His knowledge to that of other humans, albeit a human who was acutely attuned to and in perfect union with God the Father.
The reference to Noah illustrates the return of Jesus will be a surprise.
The allusions to working in the field and grinding grain also show that everyday life will continue until the time of His return. However, it is unlikely that it is a reference to a secret return of Jesus. Earlier in the chapter, Jesus states it will be evident to all (v. 27).
By Daryl Watts
Watts is a church consultant in Fresno, California.