Exegesis (sort of)
I think you are spot-on with your analysis of what you call "axiom A". There is objective truth, the Bible is a message from God with specific meaning, and it is possible to learn about objective truth through studying scripture. Consider the following examples:
Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ. -Galatians 3:16
Jesus said to them, "Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?" -Mark 12:24
It is helpful to recognize that in both of these passages concerning specific, objective truth, the vast majority of the people studying the relevant scriptures missed the true meaning - and it wasn't for a lack of study! Let's be honest - it was for a lack of relationship with God. (See John 3:3, 1 Cor 2:14, Matt 13:11, etc.) We should be cautious of hermeneutical approaches that are so impersonal that they can be followed by anyone of any spiritual condition.
This is tricky to articulate, but I once heard a Pastor say, "Words don't have meaning - people have meaning." Honestly, I don't know if I have ever heard a statement more helpful in hermeneutics! In the case of scripture, it is essential to recognize that it is God who has meaning, and not merely the text, or the author. (See, for instance 1 Peter 1:10-11 or Hebrews 9:6-9.)
Let me start by justifying the first part of the claim - "Words don't have meaning..." (Bear with me in a little foolishness.) Who (or what) does a "lion" symbolize in scripture? Jesus, obviously!
and one of the elders said to me, "Stop weeping; behold, the Lion that is from the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has overcome . . ." And I saw . . . a Lamb standing, as if slain -Revelation 5:5-6
Sadly, David killed Jesus, as we can see from this next passage, but it was the Lord's doing.
Your servant [David] has killed both the lion and the bear . . . The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine -1 Samuel 17:36-37
OK, we're on to something - David obviously represents Israel, who slew Jesus, and Jesus brought about His own death... right? But there are two lions, so there is another Jesus:
There were six steps to the throne and a round top to the throne at its rear, and arms on each side of the seat, and two lions standing beside the arms. -1 Kings 10:19
...this must represent His resurrection! But wait... resurrection to what? This next passage was written after the resurrection and talks about the "other lion".
Be of sober spirit, be on the alert. Your adversary, the devil, prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour. -1 Peter 5:8
OK, I'll stop. Hopefully it is clear, the "symbolic lion hermeneutic" led us down the wrong path. You can do this with just about any "symbol" in scripture. My point is, it is extremely dangerous to assume that if a word is used symbolically in one context, that it must be a symbol everywhere else in Scripture as well. This is called "illegitimate totality transfer" in hermeneutics. This is essentially what people are doing when they interpret the fig tree of Matthew 24 as "Israel."
I am sure someone will object on the grounds that we have clear evidence from other passages of symbols being used in scripture, for instance in the Parable of the Sower in Matthew 13:3-9, the seed represents the word of God. I will quickly address this objection:
- Jesus was trying to explain something. He was using symbols which had specific meaning relative to His message. There is no indication anywhere in scripture that His use of these symbols carry across all of scripture. (v.18-23)
- Jesus explained His meaning to those closest to Him (v.18-23), which I think is a pretty good illustration of how sound exegesis happens.
- Jesus was not trying to be understood by the rest of the folks! (v.10-17)
- In the next parable (v.24-30), the seed represents people - some righteous and some wicked! (v.36-43)
- In the third parable, the seed represents the Kingdom of Heaven! (v.31-32)
Clearly "seed" doesn't equal "word" everywhere in Scripture, even when "seed" is being used symbolically.
What Jesus meant
Words don't have meaning; people have meaning. When Jesus referenced "the fig tree" He meant something by it. To discover what He meant, let's start by looking at why Jesus was talking. Matthew 24 is all about the "end times" and starts with a request from His disciples (which He has no reservation in answering.)
His disciples came up to point out the temple buildings to Him. And He said to them, "Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down." . . . the disciples came to Him privately, saying, "Tell us, when will these things happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?" (from v.1-3)
Jesus proceeds to explain that a lot of troubling stuff is going to happen, but that this is not yet the end. (v.4-8) He then says that tribulation will come on His people and many will fall away, but the gospel will go out to all of the nations before the end comes. (v.9-14) Jesus then explains that the abomination of desolation will mark the beginning of the Great Tribulation. (v.15-28) And then immediately after the Tribulation, He will return (v.29-31) And in this context, Jesus says the following:
Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place. -Matthew 24:32-34
This isn't a mystical story about a fig tree nation... what Jesus is doing is answering His disciples' question about what the signs of His coming and of the end of the age will be, and then urging them to recognize it when it happens, just as they would recognize that summer is near by the leafy tree.
Also, for what it's worth, a "generation" can mean a number of things scripturally, and the claim that it means a particular length of time may be correct for some passages, but is clearly not for others. (I'll save the full explanation for another question.)