The Figure Of The Fig Tree
s far back as I can remember, I’ve heard sermons associating the imagery of the Fig Tree in the Gospels, to the nation of Israel. Literally, tens of millions of people have been told that when Jesus told His parable of the fig tree, He was referring to the return of the Jewish people to their ancient homeland:
“Behold the fig tree, and all the trees…when her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near: So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors” (Luke 21:29, Mark 13:28,29).
In blockbuster prophecy books such as The Late Great Planet Earth (which sold in the tens of millions), and thousands and thousands of articles, sermons, and broadcasts, we’ve been told this references the miraculous return of the Jews to the Middle East, and the founding of the modern state of Israel. This point of view, which projects the idea that the generation that sees the formation of Israel is the last generation, is so widespread that people often refer to Israel as “God’s Timepiece.”
Oddly enough, virtually all of the people who have this perspective, when they encounter other verses addressing the issue of this allegorical Fig Tree, completely ignore what those adjacent verses say – or, at the very least, refuse to allow their obvious meaning to impact their doctrinal position.
Perhaps the most glaring example of this inconsistency is another parable, drawn from the very same book of Luke, spoken by the very same Jesus, and using the very same allusion to the Fig Tree as Israel. Thus, we would do well to examine it very closely:
“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came and sought fruit on it, and found none. Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on the fig tree, and find none. Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
“And he, answering, said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it; And if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shall cut it down” (Luke 13:6-9).
Since the fig tree is believed to be Israel in one parable, it is grossly inconsistent to say it does not represent Israel in another parable in the same book. The reason huge numbers of teachers avoid this truth is this parable includes key statements that plainly indicate the Gospel of Jesus Christ was Israel’s last chance, for if it doesn’t bear fruit after the “dresser” works with it one last time, the story plainly avers that it will be “cut down.”
The first thing to establish would be related to the identities involved. Obviously, the fig tree is Israel, but many fail to see the “certain man” who planted the tree would have to be God the Father, the one who established Israel in the first place.
The “dresser” is the Son – who seeks to appease the wrath of the Father who has decided to destroy the “tree.” This is a sublime characteristic of the role of the Saviour, Jesus Christ, who makes intercession on behalf of the unrighteous:
“Christ….is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us” (Romans 8:34).
Anyone who has ever grown a tree, planted a garden, or performed basic horticultural work, can tell you about pruning a tree with the cutting off of dead branches, weeding around its roots, and providing nutrients and fertilizer (dung in the KJV) to strengthen it. The most basic of these is the cutting back of branches which are unhealthy, so the life flows more effectively into the healthier stock.
Even though Jesus clearly announced He was sent from heaven exclusively for the lost sheep of the house of Israel, when he “prunes” the tree by eliminating those who were in disbelief, somehow we tend to forget the tree He regenerated was still the metaphoric Fig Tree, and that this is, indeed, a picture of Israel.
A good example of this is also found in the Gospels, where Jesus tells us the same thing concerning this purging process, in which he came to bring life to the allegorical tree:
“I am the true vine…every branch in me that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit” (John 15:1,2).
Few believers connect this purging, or pruning process to Israel, because they’ve been taught Israel rejected the Gospel, and the so-called “church” came into existence, and was saved. This Antichrist fraud is the exact opposite of the truth.
Early on in His ministry, Jesus was drawing large crowds, because He had given them food, such as the example where 5,000 were fed. When many in Judaea were following Him, He said
“Ye seek me, not because ye saw the miracles, but because ye did eat of the loaves, and were filled” (John 6:26).
At this point, the LORD determined to prune the Spiritual tree that was growing through His ministry, by making statements that caused many to turn away from Him. Incidentally, it’s abundantly clear He was speaking to Israel, for He said:
“Your fathers [the ancient Israelites] did eat manna in the wilderness, and are dead. I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the World” (John 6:49,51).
The Scripture tells us that a large number turned away from Him at that time, so Jesus had successfully pruned the fig tree of its dead branches:
“Many, therefore, of his disciples, when they had heard this, said, This is an hard saying, Who can hear it? From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him” (John 6:60, 66).
Most everyone knows that Jesus then asked the twelve who followed Him if they would leave Him as well, and we all know that Simon Peter, speaking for them all, said
“To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life” (John 6:68).
I submit that at that point in time, the “dresser” had just saved the fig tree, through a radical pruning, and Israel, although a much smaller tree, was born again.
As the numbers who were truly regenerated in Christ increased, the much larger number of “branches” – which Paul would later tell us were “broken off” in yet another similitude -- were bundled and burned in the horrifying siege at Jerusalem in 70 AD.
“If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned” (John 15:6).
With the coming of Jesus, we see a fulfillment of hundreds of prophecies, not the least of which is Isaiah’s 59th chapter:
“And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto those who turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD. As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD: My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and forever” (Isaiah 59:20,21).
This Redeemer is clearly Jesus, and His “seed” can only be reckoned as the Spiritual seed which was promised to sprout in Israel. The Apostle Paul quotes this very verse in the book of Romans, and applies that seed – the seed of Christ – to those who receive the promise God made to redeem Israel:
“For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins” (Romans 11:26).
This is the verse which addresses the fulfillment of the prophecy in Isaiah, from which I just quoted, and it was in that context that Paul said
“And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (Romans 11:26).
When Jesus pared back the fig tree, and imparted His righteousness to it by making a “new covenant with the house of Israel” (Jeremiah 31:31), He cut off the dead branches as He promised, and the “fig tree” was saved. This is what the Apostle Paul was saying in that very same passage in Romans, when he wrote “and so all Israel shall be saved.“
It is only through a Spiritual sleight of hand the so-called “church” even exists as a body (which is supposedly separate from Israel), for there is only “one fold” (John 10:16) of saved believers, and it is a Spiritual body, comprised of former Jews, and former Gentiles, who are now “all Israel.”
This is the fulfillment of the eternal blessing upon the “seed” of Abraham, which the New Testament tells us is Jesus Christ:
“They which are the children of the flesh [natural Israel], these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise [born again Israel] are counted for the seed” (Romans 9:8).
In one of the greatest ironies of all time, the re-appearance of natural, unregenerate Israel is indeed a sign of the end times, but it’s not because they are all scheduled to be saved, it is because the nation of Israel is a signature of the rise of the Antichrist power in the end times.
By redefining themselves as a separate entity they call the “church,” and ceding their birthright to physical Israel as the “children of God,” the body of Christ (Spiritual Israel) has recapitulated the ancient sin of Esau – despising their birthright -- and, in the process, manifested the apostasia [read falling away from the truth] which was prophesied to occur.
Thus, the return of the fig tree to the ancient land is a powerful indicator that the end is indeed near, because the restraint placed upon the ancient Antichrist evil which was already in the world in the first century, has been “taken out of the way” (II Thessalonians 2:7), and in 1948, the fig tree, the Antichrist power that is the political, unregenerate state of Israel, returned to start the countdown to the last day.
-- James Lloyd