Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When its branch is yet tender, and puts forth leaves, you know that summer is near:
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Hilary of Poitiers
The parable of the fig tree is offered as a lesson in recognizing the signs of the times. When its branches become tender and green we know that summer is near. Both this fig tree and this summer are very different from those found in nature, however. In nature there is a considerable interval between the onset of summer and the greening of a tree’s branches, which begin to grow tender early in the spring. Consequently this parable cannot be about the tree. Indeed, we have already dealt above with the particular meaning of the tree. We saw that Adam had covered himself with its leaves to hide his shameful conscience, which is to say that he was bound under the law as though clothed in sin. The fig tree’s branch therefore represents the antichrist, who is a son of the devil, a partaker of sin and protector of the law. When it begins to grow tender and green, then the summer, which here represents the day of judgment, is near. The greening of the tree then refers to the rise of sinners, a time that will be marked by the flowering of slanderers and the popularity of criminals and favor for blasphemers. This signals that summer, the heat of eternal fire, is near.