The Signs Jesus Instructed Us to Watch
When it comes to biblical end-time prophecy, there are many conflicting opinions as to what are the signs to watch. Jesus simplified the picture when he was asked by the disciples about the signs of the close of the age and His returning. These passages are known as the Olivet Discourse because it was given on the Mount of Olives. It is found in the Bible in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21.
Many are familiar with the general signs which Christ described: increased war, famine, pestilence (plagues and disease), earthquakes, violence and apostasy in the doctrines of our faiths. Many also recognize that now is a time in which these general conditions are occurring. By the way, most prophecies from around the world echo these conditions, that they will occur at the close of this age.
In addition to the general signs, Jesus named two specific signs to watch. Most are familiar with the first but not the second. Both are very symbolic with a lot of meaning attached to them. Jesus said quite a lot with very few words. These symbols are established in the Old Testament.
1. Watch for the time the fig tree puts forth new branches and sprouts leaves.
2. Watch for the time the desolating abomination is standing in the holy place.
In brief, the fig tree is a symbol for the nation of Israel, a congregation whom God has been pruning and nurturing for centuries in the hope that one day it will bear fruit. It has been cut down to the root several times where it no longer was a formal nation, but it has survived and come back more than once. Jesus said to watch for a time when the fig tree will put forth new branches and leaves. The implication being that it is coming out of a period of dormancy, after being cut back for the winter. Jesus said this at the time Israel was a nation. Years later, in 70 AD, Israel was cut down again and had not been a nation for almost 2,000 years. Then in 1948 it put forth its branches yet again and became a nation. So this major sign has been fulfilled and according to Jesus, the generation alive at that time will see the fulfillment of his return.
There is another level of meaning in this symbol of the fig tree. Once it has put forth new branches there will come a time, after the "latter rain" begins, when the fig tree will blossom and bear fruit. The nation will bear witness to The Creator and all that It has done. This insight will come with the help of the "latter rain", the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the end times.
For more detail see: Israel and the Fig Tree.
The desolating abomination is a very loaded reference and difficult to summarize in a couple of sentences. This one reference brings up the following concepts:
Daily sacrifice & oblation
3½ year reign of the Antichrist
Babylon & the Beast
The mark of the Beast
All the Temples of the world
Luke gives a different view of the second sign than does Matthew and Mark. He does not mention the abomination but describes Jerusalem surrounded by armies and says to watch for the warning. These events occur at the start of the 3½ years, whereas Matthew and Mark focus more on the end.
The Desolating Abomination in Daniel
Sacrifice & Oblation in Prophecy
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©1997 Collins Hamblen