Today's verses are Mark 13:28,29: "From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts out its leaves, you know that summer is near. So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates." Jesus clearly taught that we should never try to predict the day or hour of his return (Matthew 24:36). Too many charlatans through the ages have tried to do so, attempting to exalt their own glory and self-aggrandizement. Jesus strictly forbade anyone doing it!
However, on the other hand, he did tell his followers to read the signs of the times. He wanted his disciples to have right, proper attitudes each and every day as they prepared for his imminent return.
Specifically, Jesus used the illustration of the fig tree to make his point. It was a familiar event in nature to use. Just as the fig tree's branches put forth leaves as a signal that summer will soon come, similarly, when disciples start seeing all that Jesus prophesied to take place right before his return then his disciples will know that soon the end will take place.
"These things" must refer to the events described by Jesus in verses 5-23: false christs arising, wars and rumors of wars, famines and earthquakes increasing in intensity like a woman's childbirth pangs, persecution for believing in Jesus, etc. As Jesus' followers witness these events occurring, especially in intensity and frequency, we are to know the end is "near."
What is "near?" Could "near" be ten, one hundred or three hundred years? As we look at how long we've existed on earth, "near" could still be relatively far in the future from our perspective.
Nevertheless, Jesus' disciples are to be ready for his return when we see these signs. We are not to predict the day or the hour but we are to read the sign of the times. If Jesus returns this moment, we will be ready to receive him. Anyone who isn't has not been reading the signs of the time. They've probably been living for self.
How about you? Are you reading the signs of the time? Don't world events today cause you pause as you read the teachings of Jesus? Don't they at least make you think the birth pangs of the new creation are presently occurring? Are you ready to receive him should he return today? If not, why not? He has given all his people ample warning!
Regarding his Second Coming, Jesus gives two simple commands: 1) Don't dare predict the day or hour; 2) Read the signs of the time so you'll be ready.
Is this you?