Now in the morning as he returned into the city, he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away! Jesus answered and said unto them, Verily I say unto you, If ye have faith, and doubt not, ye shall not only do this which is done to the fig tree, but also if ye shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed, and be thou cast into the sea; it shall be done. And all things, whatsoever ye shall ask in prayer, believing, ye shall receive.(Matthew 21:18-22)
We have been looking into the context of Matthew 24, Jesus’ definitive teaching on the end times. This critical apocalyptic teaching can only be fully understood in the flow of the context around it. So far we have established;
- That we must consider the actual timing in history that Jesus and John the Baptist were sent to the house of Israel. They came forty years before the most devastating Judgment Israel had ever endured till that time. This means they were ‘last days’ preacher in every sense/ What was their primary message? The urgency of Repentance, “The Axe is already laid at the root of the tree…”.
- We must also remember that Matthew 24 occurred during the last week of Jesus’ earthly ministry. It was one of the last things Jesus taught on earth.
- Furthermore Matthew 24 occurred during the feast of Passover, and we have shown the prominent place the Passover Psalms, especially Psalm 118 have to play in this teaching.
Now we come to another aspect of the context of Matthew 24; the curious incident of the fig tree and the Mountain cast into the sea.
I once belonged to a heretical movement called the Word of Faith, which was based very much on an erroneous teaching on this incident. Kenneth Hagin taught, as did his disciples, that when Jesus cursed the fig tree, He was teaching us to exercise “the god kind of Faith”, that is, we should believe in the power of our own Words, and speak into existence our own reality, as God spoke in Genesis 1.
It took a long time for me to disentangle these scriptures in Matthew 21 and Mark 11. I hope this can help those with similar backgrounds, for the false teaching has robbed us of what was really happening here in the prelude to the teaching of Matthew 24.
When Jesus came upon a fig tree, on the way to Jerusalem and the temple, in the last Passover and last week of his earthly sojourn, the text tells us He hungered. He saw a fig tree in the distance which had leaves on it, so he assumed it would have mature fruit as well (fig trees evidently bear fruit first then leaves).
When he turned over the leaves and found no fruit, he cursed the fig tree, “Let no fruit grow on thee, henceforth, forever…” . The next time he and his disciples passed the tree, they were astonished that it had withered, overnight!
What was going on here? Would Jesus destroy a fruit tree to teach the exercise of faith to his disciples?
Remember that Jesus was and is the WORD of GOD, and was acting in his capacity as aProphet, the ultimate and final Prophet of God (Hebrews 1:1-3).
This cursing of the fig tree was a prophetic act. The fig tree, prophetically is an emblem of the blessing and favor of God upon Israel, or of Israel as a fruitful blessing. The prophetic picture of the good life, is “Every man under his vine and under his fig tree”.
But they shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid: for the mouth of the LORD of hosts hath spoken it. (Micah 4:4)
Jesus is denouncing this status of Israel, because though they had leaves, (Outward profession, as in Psalm 1 “His leaf also shall not wither…”) there was no fruit when He came looking for it.
What is the fruit that the LORD seeks? Repentance. Righteousness based upon love. True Love for God. Truth and Mercy.
Therefore The Fig tree will die, and the nations will not eat the fruit of it in its present form a=ever again. The fig tree is withered.
Anyone with the least bit of faith, would be able to see that this was to be the outcome of it. It wouldn’t take any more than the tiniest grain of faith in God, to be able to say, “This fig tree is withered”.
In the same vein, He mentioned a similar fate would befall the mountain.
The Temple Mountain and all of its apparatus of worship, Priests, sacrifices, Prayers, offerings, the ministry of mercy (Forgiveness of sins), washings, courts, porticoes and Holy furniture. It would soon be plucked up and cast into the sea!
The sea in Prophetic thought is the Gentile World. “The wicked are like the sea…the floods have lifted up their voice….The Creator drew a line and said to the sea, ‘you can come this far and no further…”. The Sea? The turbulent, dark, violent, dangerous, powerful and restless sea?
Did he really say that the Holy House of God would be ‘cast into the sea”?
Unthinkable! But Jesus again said, anyone with the least bit of faith at all would be able to see it, and to say it, that “this mountain is to be plucked up ad cast into the sea…”.
He is not teaching Positive confession. he is saying pretty much the same thing I always tell my congregation, “the least Christian on earth, in the tiniest church, which pays any heed at all to Bible Prophecy, knows what is coming, why it is coming and has an idea when it is coming, even though the experts and pundits have no idea”. Anyone with any faith at all knows the nations themselves are slated for judgment.
Jesus predicted the end of the fig tree, its withering up and barrenness, and the destruction of the Temple, both of which were unthinkable to his contemporaries.
This connects to a remark in Matthew 24,
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.(Matthew 24:32-34)
Jesus had already pronounced that no man would eat fruit of Israel as she was currently constituted, from that point on and forever. However he here predicts that one of the major signs of the end, would be the return back to life of the withered fig tree, as a sign of the dawn of the final generation.
In May 1948, a nation came back into existence after two thousand years, when Israel was reborn. The timing is set, the countdown has begun, the fig tree is blossoming! Maranatha!