"Because affliction will occur at that time – a kind that doesn’t happen often – from the beginning of God’s creation until now and afterward. Had the LORD not shortened this time, no life could be saved; but on account of those who are chosen – whom He has chosen – He shortens the time. During that time if anyone says to you, ‘Look, here is the Anointed of God [Messiah, Christ]’ or ‘Look, he is there’ don’t believe them. Because false messiahs and false prophets will appear and show signs and miracles in order to lead others astray – even possibly the chosen. Yet be careful. Look, I have told you everything in advance. But at that time, after the affliction, the sun will darken and the moon will not shed any light. The stars will seem to fall from the sky and the powers in the heavens will appear shaken. Then they will see the Servant of Humanity appear in the spiritual realm with great power and glory. And then God will send forth His messengers and will gather His chosen from the four directions – from the farthest end of the earth to the farthest end of the universe. Now learn the analogy of the fig tree: When its limbs have become tender and put forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. In the same way, when you see these things occurring, recognize that He is close by – right at the doorway. Truly I tell you that this generation will not pass away until all of these things happen." (Mark 13:19-31)
What is Jesus talking about?
As discussed with the previous passages, Jesus is defining events that will play out in the future. Is Jesus talking about the 'end of times' or end of the world as professed by so many?
Hardly. Otherwise, how could that Within the period of time that those around him were still living - "this generation will not pass away." That means, quite clearly, that the events Jesus was speaking of would take place while his followers were still living.
This is precisely when the Jewish-Roman wars took place. They began in 66 AD and continued until about 117 AD. As discussed previously, an estimated one million Jewish and early Christian people were killed by the Romans. This is truly an age of devastation. And Jesus was warning his followers about it.
What does he mean about shortening the time?
Jesus is referring to the fact that the wars will shorten the lifespan of many of his followers. Why? Because they will be targeted by the Romans in the coming years. The Romans did certainly target the Jews, but they targeted the early followers of Jesus even more because it was thought for many years that Jesus was part of the rebel movement - which he wasn't.
So Jesus is telling his followers that because they will continue to take shelter in God throughout all these devastating events, that they will have an earlier opportunity to leave this world and return to God.
This played out historically, as the Romans persecuted many of Jesus' disciples and followers. They were taken from this world earlier than normal, due to being killed by the Romans.
Notice that while many sectarian teachers promote the idea of hanging on to our bodies in this world - even 'inheriting the earth' - Jesus was promoting the idea of a shortened stay in this world. Why?
Because the true teachings of Jesus taught that we are not these physical bodies. We are each spirit in composition, not material. We are inhabiting these physical bodies much as a driver drives a car.
In other words, this is not our home. Our home is in the spiritual world. And if we are lucky enough to be taken from this world early while serving God, we will be on our way back to the spiritual realm much faster.
This is what Jesus was teaching his followers. To be aware of the coming disaster and be prepared to leave their bodies sooner than normal.
What does the fig tree analogy mean?
Jesus is showing his followers how to see the signs that they will be slaughtered by the Romans. The Romans will sack and burn Jerusalem in the coming decades. And most of Jesus' followers will pass away. Their souls will leave their physical bodies behind. Where will they go?
Jesus is telling them that if they maintain their faith that Jesus is God's representative, and don't follow false teachers, they will return to their relationship with the Supreme Being in the spiritual realm.
This is the promise of Jesus and the Supreme Being. Each of us can take advantage of this teaching, by following Jesus' first and most important instruction:
“The most important of all the instructions is, ‘Hear O Israel – the LORD our God is our only Lord – and you shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength’ – this is the most important instruction." (Mark 12:29-30)