The dictionary defines an era as a long period of time. Concerning Christianity we discuss ages. An age is at times interchangeable with era. In Christianity an age divides certain periods of time in how God deals with the human race and certainly could be called an era. It would be hard to argue that we are ending the era or age of grace.
Are we now approaching the end of the grace period? Jesus told us of the sign of the fig tree. In the Book of Matthew 24:32-34 Jesus himself says, “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see all these things, you that he is near, at the very gates. Truly, I say to you, this generation will not pass away till all these things take place.”
What is this sign of the fig tree? In Joel 1:6-7 we read, “For a nation has come against my land, powerful and without number; its teeth are lion’s teeth, and it has the fangs of a lioness. It has laid waste my vines and splintered my fig trees; it has tripped out the bark and thrown it down; their branches are made white.” You can start getting a hint that the fig tree referenced is the House of Israel.” There are other verses in the Old Testament showing that the fig tree is the House of Israel. To confirm that the fig tree was the House of Israel can be found in the Dead Sea Scrolls. It was found in a writing called the Apocalypse of Peter. In this writing the House of Israel is definitely described as the fig tree. While this is not scripture it represents a commentary from early Christianity. I don’t think you would find any student of Bible prophecy today who would disagree the fig tree is the House of Israel. I would add even though this is not scripture it is considered an extra-biblical source as it doesn’t conflict with Scripture yet there is still a reference in the Bible to the subject being addressed.
For many years Jerusalem was simply a barren land. In a visit in 1867 to Jerusalem Mark Twain described Jerusalem as, “A desolate country whose soil is rich enough, but given over wholly to weeds---a silent mournful expanse---a desolation---we never saw a human being on the whole route---hardly a tree or shrub anywhere. Even the olive tree and the cactus, whose fast friends of a worthless soil had almost deserted the country.” It would be hard for many years to believe that Israel would ever become fruitful.
Our next question is when did the fig tree ripen? There are two avenues of thought as to when the fig tree ripened first opinion is 1948 when Israel was officially recognized as a state. The second opinion is 1948 is when the fig tree was planted and 1967 when the Jews got Jerusalem back is the fig tree ripening. There are two different possibilities for when the fig tree ripened. I would mention that many prophecy experts will tell you definitely which one it is. This is how they get themselves in trouble. Both of these dates seem viable.
This leaves the question how long is a generation? Some say it is 40 years and some say it is 43 years. The generation described has a totally different context. In this use of generation in this context it describes a period of time in which that generation was born until their numbers of years granted to them. The Book of Psalms says the fullness of a generation is 70 -80 years. For those individuals born in 1948 their average lifespan would end in 2018. That does not mean that there would not be people living in 2018 or 2028 who were born in 1948. Those 70-80 years represents the fullness of that generation. Several different generations certainly would be living during the same period.
Of course there are other prophecies that are being fulfilled. There is no other prophecy that paints a clearer picture that we are in the last days of this age than the sign of the fig tree. The signs of the birth pangs are getting shorter as we approach The Day of the Lord. May the Holy Spirit give us his strength to endure?