In my 31 years as a Christian, I've heard so many predictions about the end of the world, and all of them have one thing in common - they've all flopped. So what I am looking for is a Biblical reason why we should be so sure that the predictions which are being bandied around today about our generation are more reliable. Otherwise, I don't want to pass them on! Good idea, don't you think.
A verse popularly used to assert that Jesus must return in our generation is the verse about the fig tree. Do you mind if I express my feelings about that popular assertion, in hopes that by your response I might further enhance my understanding? I wonder how conclusive it really is that Jesus' parable of the fig-tree was a prediction about the rebirth of the State of Israel in 1948.
I know figs were once used as an illustration by the prophet Jeremiah. But far from talking about the rebirth of the nation, it was talking about God's decision that Israel should go into captivity (Jeremiah 24).
I know the vineyard was once used as an illustration by the prophet Isaiah. But on that occasion it was a vineyard of grapes and not figs that was mentioned - and neither did it talk about the rebirth of the nation, but rather the destruction of the nation (Isaiah 5).
I know fig trees were mentioned by the prophet Nahum, but that time it was not about Israel, but about the Gentile city of Nineveh. And once again, it was about the destruction of the city (Nahum 3:12).
I know Jesus told a parable about a fig tree that was fruitless for three years. Once again, it wasn't talking about the rebirth of Israel, rather it was a warning to Israel's leaders of the very opposite!
I know Jesus cursed a fig tree. But it doesn't say the event was symbolic about Israel; and even if it was, it didn't prophesy the rebirth of Israel, because Jesus said to the fig tree, "Let no man eat fruit from you henceforth and forever".
So I've observed two things in the Bible about the fig tree: Firstly, a fig tree didn't always symbolize Israel: it also represented a Gentile nation - but a statement was always included which explained the meaning that the fig tree was intended to have in the context; and Secondly, I've noticed that everytime the fig tree was used symbolically in the Bible, it was talking about the captivity or destruction of a nation, rather than its rebirth.
With that background in mind, allow me to now express my current feelings about the parable of the fig tree in the Olivet discourse, which you quoted. Knowing that a fig tree does not automatically symbolize Israel, the first thing I do is look for a statement to indicate that it was intended in this context to be about Israel - but I find an absence of a explanatory statement in the passage which conclusively identifies the fig-tree as Israel.
But even if it IS talking about Israel, I then look for support for your assertion that the blossoming of its branches is about the REBIRTH of Israel (even though in every other symbolic use of the fig-tree in the Bible, the context is always about the captivity or destruction and not the rebirth of a nation). Again, I don't find anything in the Olivet discourse which conclusively explains that the blossoming of the branches is about the rebirth of Israel.
To the contrary, it seems to be about the siege of Jerusalem and the destruction of the Temple, rather than about its rebirth as a nation (because Jesus explained, "So likewise ye, when ye see THESE THINGS come to pass, know ye that the kingdom of God is nigh at hand". What were "these things"? It refers back to the things Jesus had just finished describing - which was all about the destruction of Jerusalem, not its rebirth. I'm keeping in mind that Jesus was answering the disciples' questions not only about His coming but also about the signs of the destruction of the Temple and city.
But even if the blossoming of the fig tree IS talking about the rebirth of Israel rather than about its destruction, I then look for evidence in the text that events of 1948 could have fulfilled this. But I notice in Luke's account, that He said, "Behold the fig tree, and ALL THE TREES; when THEY now shoot forth, ye see and know..." So Jesus never talked about the fig-tree being the only tree to shoot forth its branches - rather, He mentioned ALL THE TREES. So apparently Jesus wasn't intending to be deliberate in His use of the fig-tree over other trees, in His parable.
But even if He WAS being deliberate in His mention not only of all ALL THE TREES shooting forth their branches but also in His menion specifically of the FIG TREE shooting forth its branches, and even if it does indeed refer to the rebirth of Israel, then it must mean that not only Israel but ALL the nations of the earth would also be rebirth. This did not happen in 1948.
So, is the parable of the fig tree and all the trees a prophecy about the rebirth of Israel in 1948? Dake's Annotated Reference Bible comments: "...this could not possibly be the meaning".
I think there is a perception that the view which you have alluded to has long been the established and accepted view - but actually it's only a relatively recent deviation from what for many centuries was the standard view held by many of the church's great reformers, revivalists, missionaries and evangelists.
For example, John Wesley's Explanatory Notes Upon the Whole Bible; Matthew Henry's Commentary; and Jamieson Faucett and Brown's Commentary do not take the view which you have asserted in regard to the Olivet discourse.
I'm not necessarily agreeing with Dake, Wesley, Matthew Henry, Jamieson, Faucett and Brown, nor am I saying the modern assertion isn't possible. I'm merely expressing my feeling that I don't see the popular modern take on the fig-tree verse in the Olivet discourse as being in itself substantial enough to be used as a basis for the assertion that Jesus must return within the 1948 generation. He said it's not for us to know the years, seasons, day, nor hour.
Am I still doing okay?