Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 21:29 - 21:31

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Charles Simeon Commentary - Luke 21:29 - 21:31


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DISCOURSE: 1572

THE BUDDING FIG-TREE

Luk_21:29-31. And he spake to them a parable; Behold the fig-tree, and all the trees; when they now shoot forth, ye see and know of your own selves that summer is now nigh at hand. So likewise ye, when ye see these things come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand.

IT was no small advantage to our Lord’s stated followers, that they could ask him more particularly respecting any thing which they did not perfectly understand. Of this privilege they often availed themselves, and obtained satisfactory information on many important points. Our Lord told them that the time was coming when that temple, which they so much admired, should be utterly destroyed. This was so contrary to their expectations, that they begged to know both the period to which he referred, and the particular signs whereby its approach might be ascertained. To this our Lord gave a very full reply; and illustrated his discourse by a parable taken from the season of the year, and, most probably, from the prospect then before their eyes. This parable, with the application of it, shews us,

I.       That we ought to notice the signs which God has given us—

There is scarcely any thing needful for us to know, which is not discoverable by certain signs even before it actually exists, or is fully accomplished. We may notice this,

1.       In the works of nature—

[Our Lord justly observes that the seasons which succeed each other do not come upon us unawares, but manifest their approach by certain signs. The prophet describes the very birds of the air as instinctively observing their appointed times [Note: Jer_8:7.]—. And it is of the greatest importance to us in all our agricultural and commercial concerns to do the same. Indeed, if we should neglect such precautions, we should deprive ourselves in many instances of the comforts, if not the necessaries, of life.]

2.       In the works of Providence—

[Those great dispensations referred to in the text were, the destruction of Jerusalem, and the consequent enlargement of the Redeemer’s kingdom. The time when they were to take place was to be known, by impostors arrogating to themselves the Messiah’s office; by bitter persecutions raised against the Church, and lamentable apostasies occasioned by them; by destructive wars on earth, and tremendous signs in heaven; and particularly by the Roman standard being planted upon holy ground, when their armies should enclose and besiege Jerusalem. It was of infinite moment to the Church to notice these signs; for, on their observation of them, under God, depended all their safety: and their attention to them enabled them to embrace the interval, when the siege was raised, to effect their escape; whereby they were preserved, while the whole nation besides were left to suffer the greatest extremities.

The signs of other times are not so clearly marked; and therefore cannot be so confidently interpreted: but it is wise to notice them with care; and our Lord warns us that our observations on the weather will turn to our condemnation, if we do not endeavour to improve with equal diligence our observations on the works of Providence [Note: Mat_16:2-3.].]

3.       In the works of grace—

[The conversion of the soul is preceded by many symptoms from which we may form a reasonable judgment. When we behold an humiliation for sin, a teachableness of mind, a love to ordinances, a diligence in duties, a renunciation of the world, and other similar marks, we may augur well respecting the event: and it is desirable to attend to these symptoms, because we may often derive from them a comfortable hope, when other circumstances might be ready to overwhelm us with despair. Our Lord himself formed his judgment upon these grounds; and we shall turn our observations to good account, if we follow his example [Note: Mar_12:34.].]

Though we are liable to mistake when we have not God for our guide, yet we are sure,

II.      That whatever God has signified to us in his word shall in due time be accomplished—

The destruction of the unbelieving Jews, and the redemption of the Church from the midst of them, were emblematical of the judgments that would be executed, and the salvation that would be vouchsafed, in the last day. Indeed, the two periods are so interwoven in our Lord’s discourse, that it is not easy to separate them. We may well therefore fix our attention on those events wherein we are all concerned;

1.       The final destruction of God’s enemies—

[This is foretold in unnumbered passages of Scripture; and the judgments, which are now executed in the world, are so many presages of a future retribution. Whatever people may imagine, this awful event shall come to pass. The Jews supposed that, because they professed the true religion, they should never experience the threatened calamities: but, when they had filled up the measure of their iniquities, “wrath came upon them to the uttermost.” Thus it shall be with all the ungodly. In vain are all their hopes founded on their external relation to Christ: the word of God will be fulfilled in its season; and sooner shall heaven and earth pass away, than one jot or tittle of it fail [Note: ver. 32, 33.].]

2.       The eternal salvation of God’s elect—

[This is asserted with the same frequency and clearness as the opposite truth: and too often is it questioned by persons through the prevalence of unbelief. There may be indeed great, and, humanly speaking, insurmountable obstacles in the way. As the Christians were enclosed by the besieging army, yet escaped at last through the most unaccountable and impolitic conduct of the Roman general in intermitting the siege, so shall some way be found for the salvation of God’s people: they may be hemmed in on every side; yet shall not God’s purposes of love be defeated, or the “smallest grain of pure wheat ever fall to the ground [Note: Amo_9:9.].”]

This subject may be further improved,

1.       In a way of conviction—

[It becomes us all to inquire what is to be expected from the signs that manifest themselves in us? Is the fig-tree budding, and are the trees putting forth their leaves? or, are they stripped of their foliage, and assuming daily a more dead and barren appearance? Are our graces, though small, growing in beauty and fruitfulness; or are we mere cumberers of the ground, that bring forth no fruit to God? From these things we may know the present, and augur the future, state of our souls. O let our minds be open to conviction; and let conscience do its office.]

2.       In a way of consolation—

[We are “not to despise the day of small things.” Let us be thankful if there be “some good thing found in our hearts.” Summer comes not all at once; but, if the symptoms of it appear, we may wait with joyful expectation: and if the good work be begun in our hearts, we may be confident that God will carry it on, and perfect it to the day of Christ [Note: Php_1:6.].]