The Fig Tree
Dr. Joe Temple

Introduction

Will you open your Bibles, please, to Paul's first Corinthian letter, chapter 10. You have been reading your papers as I have, and you have noticed repeatedly such phrases as “Recapping the Sixties,” “The Sorry Sixties,” etc. I saw in one newspaper article a review of the past ten years. In the secular newspapers I saw–quite naturally–no reference to how events of the past ten years have set the stage for the fulfillment of the prophetic Word. I thought it might be well for us, for the encouragement of our hearts, to notice how some of the prophecies of God's Word have been re-emphasized, fulfilled, brought nearer to ultimate fulfillment, during the last ten years.

The Danger of Offending

I was meditating as to just how we might approach this subject, for you recognize that it covers a wide range of material, and I was reminded of the advice which the Apostle Paul gave to the Corinthian believers concerning the problem of offense. That is the danger which we all face of causing other people to stumble because of things we do which are not consistent with our Christian testimony. You will recall that in I Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 32, the Apostle wrote:

I Corinthians 10

32Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God:

We are not going to talk about giving offense, but we asked you to turn to this portion of the Word of God because in it Paul describes all of mankind in the terms in which God recognizes them. When he said, “Give no offense to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the Church of God,” he named the only three classes of men which God takes into consideration in His dealings with men. Because prophecy is related to men, it is natural for us to conclude that God would fulfill prophecy in the same fashion as he deals otherwise with men.

The Illustration of Three Streams

I will illustrate this for you by suggesting that there is a reservoir of prophecy from which flows one stream related to the Jewish nation, and another stream related to the Gentiles. In the course of history and in the providence of God these two streams flowed through a historical event which we call Pentecost. Then those two streams broke up into three streams. There was still the stream relating to the Jews, and still the stream relating to the Gentiles; at Pentecost there began a third stream related to the Church of God. So, as we consider “A Decade of Prophetic Fulfillment,” we will be taking into consideration the three streams of prophetic fulfillment–the stream related to the Jews, the stream related to the Gentiles, and the stream related to the Church of God.

Though we will not be able to consider this entire subject in one discussion, we are going to begin by noticing with you the stream of prophecy that deals with the Jewish nation. With that thought in mind, we remind you that it began at the reservoir of prophecy, flowed down through the Ages to the day of Pentecost, and is continuously flowing since the day of Pentecost. A great deal of Scripture is related to the Jewish nation, and if we are to talk about prophecy in relation to the Jews, we will have to limit ourselves somewhat, else we will find ourselves entering into a discussion that would be impossible of completion.

The Symbolism of the Fig Tree

We meditated further on how we might present to you prophecy related to the Jewish nation as it has been fulfilled during the past decade, and there was brought to mind a book which we have been perusing recently, a book on the nation of Israel by Anton Darms. He reminded us that God considers the history of the nation of Israel from a prophetic standpoint under the symbolism of the fig tree. So we would ask you to turn to the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 13, verse 6, as we call to your attention one of three fig trees which are used parabolically of the nation of Israel:

Luke 13

6He [Jesus] spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none.
7Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?
8And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

The Barren Fig Tree

The fig tree described in the Gospel of Luke we have been pleased to refer to as “the barren fig tree.” It was healthy and looked good, but it was barren because it bore no fruit. There is no question that this barren fig tree referred to the nation of Israel in the days of the Lord Jesus Christ. The Lord Jesus Christ is the person speaking in the parable. He could find no fruit on the tee, and He said, “Cut it down; let it go; there is no point in keeping it anymore.” But a plea went up, “Don't cut it down yet. Let's deal with it some more. Let's dig around it, let's dung it, and let's see if perhaps in a year's time it will bear fruit.” So God extended His merciful dealing with the nation of Israel for a figurative year.

The Lord Jesus Christ was rejected by the nation. He was crucified. he rose again from the grave. The evidences of His resurrection were so complete that no intelligent person could think about doubting it. His Disciples went to the Jew first with the message of the Gospel of Christ, and for something like thirty years the Jews had the opportunity of listening to the appeal of the Gospel. This was God's way of digging about the tree. This was God's way of dunging the tree. This was God's way of encouraging it to bear fruit.

But there came a time when something had to be done, because the efforts had not succeeded. The Lord Jesus Christ portrayed another parable to show what would be done with the fig tree that would not bear fruit. We ask you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark, chapter 11, and notice the paragraph which begins with verse 12:

Mark 11

12And on the morrow, when they were come from Bethany, he was hungry:
13And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find any thing thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.
14And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee hereafter for ever. And his disciples heard it.

Skip down to verse 20, where they came back out of the city:

The Cursed Fig Tree

I am going to stop our reading right there, for that is the completion of the portrayed parable. Notice what I am saying–a portrayed parable, not a spoken parable. We have been pleased to call it “the cursed fig tree.” When this fig tree was cursed, ti dried up from the roots. All the leaves were gone; nothing was left but the bare branches. Soon it was nothing more than a stump in the ground, and it was to be cut down.

Yes, we are still talking about the nation of Israel. When Israel rejected the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, as Messiah, they came under the curse of God. When they rejected the plea that was presented to them by the Apostles, and specifically in the Epistle known as the Epistle to the Hebrews, God found it necessary to curse them as he cursed the fig tree. As we have pointed out to you at other times, the Roman armies moved into the city of Jerusalem and destroyed the city, and the Jews were dispersed to the four corners of the world. There they remained for nearly two thousand years. The cursed fig tree, bare branches, a dried stump–a sad picture of what happens when God finds it necessary to pronounce a curse.

The Restored Fig Tree

Will you turn with me now to the Gospel according to Matthew, chapter 24, the paragraph which begins with verse 32. I told you that there are three parables of the fig tree related to the nation of Israel–the barren fig tree, the cursed fig tree, and now we are going to notice “the restored fig tree.”

Matthew 24

32Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
33So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors.
34Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.

If you were to read this account in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 21, verse 29, you would discover that the fig tree may represent not only the Jewish nation, but also any other nation, for it represents growth and progress. But we are talking about the Jewish nation, and we are interested in its reference to that nation.

We have referred to it as the restored fig tree because the Lord Jesus Christ said that there will come a time when the nation of Israel will begin to put forth her leaves. “When you see the nation of Israel begin to put forth her leaves,” He said, “then remember that the prophesies which I have been giving are about to reach their culmination.”

We said we were going to think about a decade of prophetic fulfillment. As this last decade began, two leaves had already appeared on the tree. For one thing, the nation of Israel was regathered to her land. No, I do not mean to imply that the regathering began in the year 1960; it began long before that–actually in the 1800's. IN 1960 the nation of Israel was regathered to the land of Palestine from which she had been absent for some two thousand years.

The Regathering

Will you turn, please, to the book of Ezekiel, chapter 22, because I am constantly reminded by individuals that this regathering to the land of Palestine has no significance in relation to prophecy. I am reminded that when the Jews are gathered back to the land of Palestine ultimately, they will be gathered back by God; they will be gathered back not by human effort but by divine effort. They will be gathered back not in unbelief, but by faith. I am well aware of that. The Bible very plainly emphasizes it. But sometimes people are prone to pass over other truths related to the same subject. The Bible teaches not only that ultimately they will be gathered to the land in belief, but it teaches as well that they will be gathered into the land before that time in unbelief. We will read the paragraph which begins with verse 19:

Ezekiel 22

19Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because ye are all become dross, behold, therefore I will gather you into the midst of Jerusalem.
20As they gather silver, and brass, and iron, and lead, and tin, into the midst of the furnace, to blow the fire upon it, to melt it; so will I gather you in mine anger and in my fury, and I will leave you there, and melt you.
21Yea, I will gather you, and blow upon you in the fire of my wrath, and ye shall be melted in the midst therof.
22As silver is melted in the midst of the furnace, so shall ye be melted in the midst thereof; and ye shall know that I the LORD have poured out my fury upon you.

What is this passage of Scripture suggesting? Simply that God is going to see to it that a large number of Jews will be gathered back to the city of Jerusalem for the beginning of the Tribulation, which will be the furnace of fire in which all the dross is melted out. The regathering in faith ultimately will be toward the end of that Tribulation, long after the fire has started. So I say to you that as this decade of prophetic fulfillment began, the fig tree had a least one leaf on it. The nation of Israel was regathered to the land of Palestine.

Israel as an Established Nation

But if you look closely, you will find yet another leaf. Not only was the nation of Israel regathered in the land, but the nation of Israel was re-established in the land as a nation. Back in 1948, you will recall, the nation of Israel was recognized among the nations of the world, and this for the first time in approximately two thousand years. What was it the Lord Jesus Christ said? “When you see the fig tree begin to put forth her leaves, then you will know that the time of My coming is very close.”

I would like to suggest to you that in the last ten years the fig tree has put forth even more leaves. During the last ten years the nation of Israel has not only been in the land, gathered back, established as a nation, but she has been busily–and there is the third leaf–restoring the land of Israel to the productivity which it had before it was laid waste and ruined by the curse of God.

Oh, yes, I am aware that during the millennial reign of Christ the land of Israel will experience blessings such as no other land has ever experienced; but in order to prepare the land for the coming of the King when the nation of Israel asks Him to come back God has in an unusual way restored the vitality of the land of Israel. During this past decade, over 80 million trees have been planted in the land of Israel. This little land that was the laughing stock of the world for so long has a tremendous exportation of grapaes and cotton, sugar cane and peanuts. They export a million eggs a day from this little piece of land that the Roman generals and consuls would give bribes to avoid going there. It was so barren and so terrible. There were swamps that were so unproductive that people avoided going anywhere near them. So possessed by mosquitoes were they, that it was as much as a person's health was worth to be close by. But the Jews under what I believe to be divine incentive have drained the swamps and have made them some of the most fertile pieces of land in the world. I could offer you other statistics, but this is enough to indicate that a third leaf has appeared on the tree.

Are you thinking with me? Will you remember that the Lord Jesus Christ said, not when you see three leaves or five leaves, but when you see one leaf, then know that the time of My coming is near. It is logical to assume that the more leaves which appear on the tree, the nearer is the time of the coming of the Lord.

The Repossession of Israel

Still another leaf has appeared on the tree. We have labeled it the “leaf of repossession,” and we are using that word to describe the unusual ability, the uncanny ability, of this beleaguered nation to repossess the land that God originally gave them; and not only repossess the land that they once held but, if you please, acquire the land that God promised them in Genesis, chapter 15, verse 18, which you may read when you have the time.

God promised them wider boundaries than the land of Palestine has ever had–from the Euphrates River to the River of Egypt. It is amazing how this little nation of Jews are taking, out of the hands of Arabs who have possessed the land for centuries, the land God gave to them. They have such a desire to possess the land God gave them that they are willing to die in order that every square inch of the land which they believe to be theirs will be possessed.

The Fall of Jerusalem

Will you turn, please, to the Gospel according to Luke, chapter 21, and notice with me the description of another leaf on the tree. This leaf in its appearance was so startling that the tremor caused by its appearance is still being felt by individuals who are familiar with the Word of God. The Lord Jesus Christ in describing the sad things which are going to happen to the nation of Israel, said:

Luke 21

22For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled.
23But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days! for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people.
24And they shall fall by the edge of the sword……….

We are reading a short, pointed description of the fall of Jerusalem at the hands of the Roman army in 70 A.D. The next statement is:

When a city is spoken of as being “trodden down” it is spoken of as being under the control of the people who tread it down. This verse of Scripture simply says that for a certain definite period of time the city of Jerusalem will be in the hands of the Gentiles, and will remain in their hands:

Israel's Control of Jerusalem

I said another leaf has appeared on the tree. The nation of Israel regained control of the city of Jerusalem in 1967. Yes, in this past decade another leaf of startling importance appeared on the fig tree, for the children of Israel are now in possession of the old city of Jerusalem. They have withstood with word and with threat of arms every attempt by the United Nations to internationalize this city. They have even said, “We will talk about giving back some of the land that we have taken from the Arabs, but there is one thing that we will not consider giving back and that is the city of Jerusalem. It is ours and we will keep it, no matter what the cost may be.”

I would not attempt to be a prophet and say that they will be able to keep it. I am realistic. We are living in a world of arms. We are living in a world where men do as they wish to do, and I do not know whether God intends for them to keep it at the present time. But if God intends for them to keep it, they will. This leaf's appearance on the tree at this particular time should remind every one of us how near the end of the Age we are. It has all happened within the last decade.

The Leaf of Controversy

I want to call to your attention another leaf which has appeared upon the tree. I call it “the leaf of controversy,” and I call your attention to the leaf before we look at any Scripture because there are several passages at which I wish you to look. I say to you that this leaf of controversy appearing upon the fig tree is the fulfillment of prophetic Word, because God said there would come a time after the little nation of Israel had faded into oblivion when she would come back upon the stage of the world and be a hot potato for all the nations of the world. Will you turn with me, please, to the book of Zechariah, chapter 12, and notice the prophecy of controversy:

Zechariah 12

1The burden of the word of the LORD for Israel, saith the LORD, which stretcheth forth the heavens, and layeth the foundation of the earth, and formeth the spirit of man within him.
2Behold, [listen carefully] I will make Jerusalem a cup of trembling unto all the people round about, when they shall be in the siege both against Judah and against Jerusalem.

I pause to ask you a question to provoke your thinking. What are the Arab nations which surround Jerusalem doing at the present time? Are they not trembling? As a man holds a cup in his hand and his hand trembles as he holds it, so are the Arab nations of the world trembling because of Jerusalem. In verse 3:

Israel as a Burdensome Stone

If you have been reading about the agenda of the United Nations during this past decade, you will know what a burdensome stone the nation of Israel has been to the nations of the world. Everybody is afraid to take a stand one way or the other. One of the reasons why she is such a burdensome stone is that the interest of other nations is involved. Nobody knows what Russia might do if the United States takes a certain stand. Russia does no know what the United States might do if she takes a certain stand. So Israel has become a burdensome stone.

As we speak of controversy, it would be wise to call to mind the prophecy of Ezeliel in chapters 38 and 39 that Russia will invade the land of Palestine along with her allies. No, she has not done it yet, but it is significant that she is backing up her Arab allies with ammunition and money to the fullest extent. It is significant that her fleet is in the Mediterranean Sea where she can at a moment's notice do as she wishes in relation to Israel. The leaf of controversy is too much in evidence to be denied.

The Arab's Attitude

Will you turn with me please, to Psalm 83 as I say to you that the Arab conflict to which I have referred is specifically mentioned in the Word of God. In the last decade Israel has become increasingly controversial. As a matter of fact, when you read these words you will recognize them as almost exactly the words which Nassar of Egypt proposed to the last council of Arab states:

Psalms 83

1Keep not thou silence, O God: hold not thy peace, and be not still, O God.
2For, lo, thine enemies make a tumult: and they that hate thee have lifted up the head.
3They have taken crafty counsel against thy people, and consulted against thy hidden ones.
4They have said, Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation; that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance.
5For they have consulted together with one consent: they are confederate against thee:

In the next three verses the Arab nations are named. But we are interested particularly in the words of verse 4, for they are almost exactly what Nassar of Egypt said when he spoke to the Arab nations. He said, “Come, let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be no more in remembrance. Let us take their nationality away from them. Let them not be a nations anymore.” If Israel were not such a burdensome stone to the nations of the world the confederation of Arab states might well accomplish the very thing that Nassar has suggested. But in a fashion that no one has been able to understand from the standpoint of statesmanship, the nations of the world have been strangely restrained from doing what ordinarily they would have done.

The Building of the Temple

There is another leaf that has appeard upon the fig three in the last ten years. I have the word “temple” on that leaf, because in the last ten years steps have been taken to fulfill the prophecy that when the nation of Israel is gathered back to the land of Palestine they will build a temple. When you have time, read the 9th chapter of the book of Daniel, and recognize that when Israel is gathered back to the land during the Tribulation, they will have a temple in which they will be worshiping and there will be a continual sacrifice, a burnt offering unto God. At the middle of the Tribulation, the Anti christ will reveal himself in his true colors and he will offer a pig upon the altar that has been consecrated to God. If this is to be done, a temple must be built. If we are as close to the end as the other leaves of the tree would indicate, then we are not at all surprised to see the appearance of this leaf to indicate that Israel has her plans for the building of the temple. It has even been reported that limestone has been ordered from Indiana to be shipped to Palestine for the express purpose of building this temple.

Personal Significance

As we recap the prophetic fulfillments of this decade, we say to you, Beloved, that the things we have considered should have very definite significance for you. Will you turn, please, to the book of Romans and notice in chapter 13 the paragraph which begins with verse 11:

Romans 13

11And that, knowing the time, that now it is high time to awake out of sleep: for now is our salvation nearer than when we believed.

Look at the word “salvation.” Recognize that our salvation includes the salvation of our bodies at the coming of the Lord, and it is that phase of salvation which is referred to here.

The Shortness of Time

The significance of these leaves on Israel's fig tree should indicated the importance of our stopping the foolishness in which most of us are engaged. We need to stop playing around. We need to get busy. We need to recognize that the night is far spent and the day is at hand. If someone says to me, “But Christians ever since Christ went away have been looking for the coming of the Lord,” I say, “That is right, because there has never been any prophecy which needed to be fulfilled before the Rapture of the Church.” The fig tree of which I have been speaking refers to the Second Coming of Christ in glory. Keep in mind that if the leaves on the tree indicate that the Second Coming of Christ in glory is near, then the Rapture of the Church is even nearer by seven years. So you see, you may have even less time than you thought you had.

Praying for Israel

Will you turn with me, please, to Psalm 122 as I point out another significance of the information which you have received. In the light of the fact that Israel would be going through such a time as this just before the coming of the Lord, the advice is given in Psalm 122, verse 6:

Psalms 122

6Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: they shall prosper that love thee.
7Peace be within thy walls, and prosperity within thy palaces.
8For my brethren and companions' sakes, I will now say, Peace be within thee.

Every enlightened Christian, regardless of his political persuasion, should be praying for the peace of Jerusalem. Every enlightened Christian, regardless of the history books he reads or the propaganda he explores, should be on the right side; and in the light of the Word of God and God's prophetic dealing with the nation of Israel, the right side is expressed in the last part of verse 6:

Psalms 122

6………they shall prosper that love thee.

You may not have any particular voice in the stand that this nation takes in relation to the nation of Israel. It may be done by Presidential proclamation or by Congressional action which will ignore anything that you suggest. But I say to you, in the interest of this nation that I love, that every enlightened Christian ought to be very much in prayer that God will give the leadership of this nation the wisdom to be on the right side. The right side is favoring the nation of Israel in their struggle for existance.

I am not interested in what you may think about a Jew that has gypped you. I am not interested in what you think about reports that Jews control all the money in the world. The thing in which I am interested is what God's Word says: “They shall proper that love thee.”

Favoring Israel

Will you notice one last passage of Scripture with me–Psalm 102, verse 13. The Psalmist is crying out to God, “God, you need to come and intervene in the affairs of Israel. You need to come and take her part.” God is saying, “Why should I? What indication is there that I should?” In verses 13 and 14 we have the answer:

Psalms 102

13Thou shalt arise, and have mercy upon Zion: for the time to favour her, yea, the set time, is come.

What is this? God had said that after He cursed the fig tree there would come a time when He would favor the nation once again; there would come a time when He would favor the city once again–a set time, a time in His own plan and in His own program.

What time is that? Here is an answer in verse 14:

I daresay that if you read the newspapers and periodicals, or watched your television during the Mini-war in the spring of 1967, you appreciate how realistic this verse is. We saw grown men, bearded men, in the old city of Jerusalem weep like women as they kissed the stones in the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem. They picked up the dust and let it filter through their fingers, and they blew the ram's horn of jubilee because at last God had given them back their city. They rejoiced. They took pleasure in the stones of Jerusalem.

The Psalmist said, “God, it is time for you to intervene. The set time has come.” I say to you, Beloved, the fig tree has produced her leaves, and the time of the coming of the Lord cannot be very far away.

Shall we pray together:

We thank thee, our Father, for the truth of Thy Word and for the encouragement of our hearts as we are reminded that the time of the coming of the Lord is not far away. We ask, our God, that every person who has received the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour will rejoice in the fact that Jesus is coming. Should there be someone in our midst who does not know Him, we pray, our Father, that he will not despise the forbearance of God but will receive the Lord Jesus Christ while it is yet day. For we pray in Jesus' name. Amen.


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