Category Archives: Bible

It’s the Word!

So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it. (Isaiah 55:11)

This past Saturday morning, I met with my Gideon[1] brothers for our weekly breakfast gathering at IHOP.™ Frankly, I did not feel like getting up that early on a Saturday morning. It was damp and gloomy and not very inspiring for an early morning rising. I knew it would be that way from the previous day’s weather forecast, so I made up my mind that I would skip this meeting unless God woke me up to get me to go. At six A.M. God woke me up, but I rolled over in bed and told Him I really didn’t feel like going. Then at 6:15 A.M., the alarm clock, which neither my wife nor I had set, went off, so I said, “OK, Lord. I’ll get dressed and go.” I am learning not to argue with God when He wants me to do something.

The meeting was typical. We read Scripture, offered praises and prayer requests, and then enjoyed fellowship over breakfast. In the course of conversation, one of my Gideon brothers asked if any of us had heard about the sexual misconduct allegations recently made about Ravi Zacharias.[2] Zacharias, who died on May 19, 2020, was previously accused by a woman of inappropriate advances in an email scandal of which he was later cleared. Now, almost a year after his death, other questionable women, “massage therapists,” have come out accusing the evangelist of inappropriate touching, rape, and “spiritual abuse.” The ministry (RZIM) launched an investigation into the matter and issued an open letter[3] regarding the findings of the investigation.

Regardless of the findings of the investigations or RZIM’s renouncement of Ravi’s alleged misconduct, I am not prepared to assign guilt. As I told my Gideon brothers, we cannot know the facts. We take the accusers’ words at face value without knowing the motive behind the accusation or whether the misconduct really took place. The man is dead. He cannot defend himself. Why bring up these charges now?

This I know. “… [A]ll have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). “There is none righteous, no, not one” (Romans 3:10). No man is above sin. The allegations against Ravi Zacharias, may be true, and if true any heavenly rewards he earned here on earth will probably be cast aside as “wood, hay, and stubble,”[4] but “he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire.”[5] God will make that determination.

I also know this. Satan is a liar and the father of lies.[6] Ravi had a powerful apologetics ministry. He destroyed enemies of the Gospel with his tremendous intellect and logic, and nothing would give Satan greater satisfaction than to destroy Ravi’s ministry and legacy, especially in these Last Days when the return of our Lord draws near.

This, too, I know. Regardless of the man, God’s Word will remain true. God promised, “For as the rain cometh down, and the snow from heaven, and returneth not thither, but watereth the earth, and maketh it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: So shall my word be that goeth forth out of my mouth: it shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it” (Isaiah 55:10-11, emphasis mine). Jesus put it this way, “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

The human source from which God’s Word procedes matters not. It is God’s Word that will prevail. Consider the false prophet Balaam.[7] He was hired by Balak, the king of Moab, to curse the children of Israel, but every time Balaam opened his mouth, nothing but blessings came forth. Consider King David. He committed adultery with Bathsheba, had her husband Uriah killed, took a census of Israel that God did not authorize. Yet, he was called a man after God’s own heart, and he wrote, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, most of the psalms in the Hebrew Psalter that bless us today. Take, also, Jonah as another example. God told him to go preach to the people of Nineveh, but Jonah boarded a ship bound for Spain in direct opposition to God’s command. Jonah became fish bait and fish vomit, but eventually, he preached to the people of Nineveh and they repented. God’s Word prevailed.

I also recall a modern-day evangelist, by the name of Bob Harrington.[8] He was known as the “Chaplain of Bourbon Street” because he would go into New Orleans strip clubs and witness to the ladies that danced there. Harrington would draw large crowds in his evangelistic campaigns. I first heard him preach while I was stationed in San Diego in the Navy. His messages were powerful, and he preached the Gospel straight. Many came to the Lord through his preaching of God’s Word. Later in life,[9] Harrington renounced the faith and pursued worldly pleasures, but that does not negate the Word he preached, or cancel the salvation of those who received the message he preached and accepted Christ because of it.

All of God’s messengers are flawed, and we, as Christians, need to take care not to allow them to become idols. They are fallen men, but it’s the Word of God they preach that matters. I do not know if Ravi Zacharias is guilty of the charges brought against him. However, I suspect that it is a ploy of the Devil to denigrate the Word of God. “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar; as it is written, That thou mightest be justified in thy sayings, and mightest overcome when thou art judged” (Romans 3:4, emphasis mine). Men will always let you down, but God’s Word will always be proven true. It’s the Word, not the man. It’s the message, not the messenger. 

Notes:


[1] The Gideons International – https://www.gideons.org/

[2]  Ravi Zacharias International Ministry – https://www.rzim.org/

[3]  Open Letter/Board Statement – https://www.rzim.org/read/rzim-updates/board-statement

[4]  1 Corinthians 3:12

[5]  1 Corinthians 3:15

[6]  John 8:44

[7]  Numbers 22-24

[8]  “ ‘Chaplain of Bourbon Street’ dies at 89” – https://www.baptistpress.com/resource-library/news/chaplain-of-bourbon-street-dies-at-89/

[9]  “My Renewed Life Story” – http://www.thechaplain.com/testimony.htm

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Current Events, Evangelism, Gospel, Religion, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology

Secret Believers

Image Credit: Sheri Johnson, “the Jesus Chick” Website: https://thejesuschick.com/

Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue: For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God. (John 12:42-43)

A cursory reading of the Gospels can give one the impression that the religious leaders of Jesus’ day unanimously rejected the teachings of Jesus, but like all generalizations, that is not altogether true. Actually, many accepted His claims as true.

Take Nicodemus, for example. “There was a man of the Pharisees, named Nicodemus, a ruler of the Jews” (John 3:1). By this introduction, we know that Nicodemus was a Pharisee. “The Pharisees were an ancient Jewish group who laid the foundation for what would become rabbinic Judaism. The name, ‘Pharisee,’ likely comes from the Hebrew word prushim, meaning ‘separated ones,’ but it’s unclear what exactly this label signified. Some of the Pharisees’ biggest contributions to Judaism were: (1) Emphasizing the “oral tradition” (which they argued was equal to the written tradition of the Torah), (2) Extending Jewish practices into life outside the temple, (3) Instilling greater piety in “the common people,” (4) Promoting belief in the afterlife. Despite their influence on rabbinic Judaism and their prominence in the New Testament, the Pharisees are a notoriously difficult group to define. No ancient Jewish group referred to themselves as Pharisees. The label originated with people who didn’t belong to this group … Modern Christians tend to see the Pharisees in a negative light—mostly because the New Testament authors portray the Pharisees as legalistic and hypocritical. While that might describe their confrontations with Jesus and early Christians, it hardly tells the whole story of this important Jewish group.”[1]

That John identifies Nicodemus as a “ruler of the Jews” suggests that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin was the supreme council and tribunal of the Jews during postexilic times headed by a High Priest and having religious, civil, and criminal jurisdiction. This is further confirmed when this group issued a warrant for Jesus’ arrest.[2] After listening to Jesus’ teachings, the officers could not bring themselves to arrest Him. When questioned why they had returned empty-handed, “The officers answered, Never man spake like this man” (John 7:46). Nicodemus was in that group of the Sanhedrin, and he questioned their motives. “Doth our law judge any man, before it hear him, and know what he doeth?” (John 7:51).

Jesus further identified Nicodemus as “a master of Israel.”[3] The Greek word translated as “master” is didaskalos meaning “an instructor (generally or specifically): – doctor, master, teacher.” Nicodemus knew the Scriptures, therefore he came to Jesus (by night)[4] to hear directly from the source.

Nicodemus along with another named Pharisee came to believe in Jesus. The other was Joseph of Arimathaea who requested Jesus’ body for burial.[5] John notes that Joseph was “a disciple of Jesus, but secretly for fear of the Jews.” [6] That he was a “disciple” indicates that he was a “student” of Jesus. He followed Jesus (secretly) for His teaching and Joseph, like Nicodemus, believed.

They were not the only ones. John records, in our verse above, that “among the chief rulers also many believed on him.” “Many” suggests more than just Nicodemus and Joseph. However, they kept their discipleship to themselves for fear, “lest they should be put out of the synagogue.” Earlier in his Gospel, John records Jesus’ healing of a man that was born blind.[7] When the religious rulers questioned the man’s parents about their son’s healing, they responded, “we know not; or who hath opened his eyes, we know not: he is of age; ask him: he shall speak for himself. These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue” (John 9:21-22, emphasis mine). The fear of excommunication held powerful sway in keeping the religious in line, but perhaps it went deeper than that. John’s assessment makes it clear, “For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God” (John 12:43).

After Jesus’ resurrection and ascension, more of these secret disciples came out of the closet. After Pentecost, Luke records, “And the word of God increased; and the number of the disciples multiplied in Jerusalem greatly; and a great company of the priests were obedient to the faith” (Acts 6:7, emphasis mine). No matter how the elites tried to spin it, the fact of Jesus’ resurrection could not be denied except for the willfully ignorant.

Are you a secret believer, an undercover disciple, an incognito follower of Christ? Do you fear being cast out of the “synagogue” of your social or peer group? Do you love “the praise of men more than the praise of God”? If so, Jesus said, “Whosoever therefore shall be ashamed of me and of my words in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him also shall the Son of man be ashamed, when he cometh in the glory of his Father with the holy angels” (Mark 8:38). If Jesus lived in an “adulterous and sinful generation” think how much truer that is for our generation! Jesus’ return is very near. You do not want Him to be ashamed of you when He comes? Don’t be a secret believer. Instead, adopt Paul’s attitude. He said, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek” (Romans 1:16).

Notes:


[1] “Who Were the Pharisees? The Beginner’s Guide” — https://overviewbible.com/pharisees/

[2]  John 7:32

[3]  John 3:10

[4]  John 3:1

[5]  John 19:38

[6]  ibid

[7]  John 9

Leave a comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Gospel, Religion, Theology

Love

Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)

I have trouble finding uplifting topics about which to write these days. If you are a Christian, and a conservative, the outlook, except for the hope of the Rapture, seems less than cheery. But today is Valentine’s Day, so what better topic to cover than “Love.”

The English word “love” appears 311 times in the King James Bible, 131 times in the Old Testament and 180 times in the New Testament. In the Old Testament, “love” is used to translate eight different Hebrew words. The most common Hebrew word translated as “love” is ‘âhab, and its first appearance is in Genesis 27:4 when Isaac asks Esau to prepare some “savory meat such as I “love.” The Hebrew word ‘âhab means “to have affection for (sexually or otherwise),” so it allows for a lot of latitude in the way that it can be used, much like the way we use the word “love” in our day. I “love” Whataburger!

The second most used Hebrew word translated “love” is ra‛yâh used nine times and all in the Song of Solomon. The word means “a female associate” and it is used in the same way we would use it in speaking to a girlfriend or wife – “my love.”

The third most used Hebrew word translated “love” is dôd (translated “love” seven times), which means “to boil, that is (figuratively) to love; by implication a love token, lover, friend; specifically an uncle.” I can easily associate “boil” with “love,” i.e., “passion,” but I do not get “uncle,” which is the way it is often translated. The Song of Solomon finds the most uses of the word dôd, which makes sense considering the content of the poem. It is used in Proverbs 7:18 by the adulterous woman seducing the fool, and in Ezekiel 16:8 describing God’s passion for Israel. Also in Ezekiel 23:17 it is used to describe Israel’s and Judah’s passion for idolatry like an adulterous woman.

There is no word in the Old Testament (that I could find) that describes God’s love like there is in the New Testament. Love appears as a verb (agapaō) 140 times and as a noun (agapē) 117 times (sometimes translated “charity”). Strong’s Dictionary translates it as “affection or benevolence,” but biblical scholars have long assigned greater meaning to the word. Indeed, when reading the “Love Chapter” (1 Corinthians 13) in the KJV, agapē is translated as “charity” because “charity” better conveys the deeper significance of the word. As charity is selfless giving without expectation of reciprocation, so agapē expresses the love of God completely.

John expressed God’s love in the third chapter of his Gospel, “For God so loved (agapaō) the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus said (our starting verse), “Greater love (agapē) hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). He proved this by giving His own life on the cross to rescue us from eternal damnation.

In like manner, Paul exhorts, “Husbands, love (agapaō) your wives, even as Christ also loved (agapaō) the church, and gave himself for it” (Ephesians 5:25). Love unselfishly without expecting anything in return. Although, I believe you will be rewarded.

2 Comments

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Gospel, Holidays, Salvation, Theology

Fear

For I the LORD thy God will hold thy right hand, saying unto thee, Fear not; I will help thee. (Isaiah 41:13)

Dictionary.Com defines “fear”[1] as “a distressing emotion aroused by impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined; the feeling or condition of being afraid.” Note, first of all, that fear is an “emotion;” thus it is subject to irrationality. Note also that fear can be stirred up by a sense of “impending danger, evil, pain, etc., whether the threat is real or imagined.” Fear is rational when the danger is real as in the case of a physical attack. Fear is irrational when the danger is imagined as in the case of less than a 1% chance of catching COVID-19. In either case, the emotion of fear can cause us to react in an irrational manner.

We can prepare ourselves to confront fear rationally by training for a variety of scenarios. We can prepare for a physical attack by taking self-defense classes and practicing, at least mentally, for different situations in which we may come under attack. Our military and police do this on a regular basis so that when they come under threat, they can respond rationally to a fearful situation.

In the case of COVID-19, or any disease that may afflict us, we can prepare ourselves mentally with information, so that we can take proper and sensible precautions. The danger of COVID-19 is real, but it is not a threat to everyone. Ninety-nine percent of the population will not contract the virus. Yet the media bombard us daily with increased percentages of “cases” of COVID – not deaths, only “cases.” When they report a 50% increase in cases, that sounds like a lot, but they never report on what the percentages are based. Does 50% mean half of the entire population or only half of what was previously reported? Such careless reporting serves only to feed the fear in the audience who by and large do not exercise critical thinking when listening to news reports.

And how accurate are the tests anyway? Recently, Elon Musk tested positive and negative for COVID-19.[2] He tested four times. Two tests returned positive results and two tests returned negative results. With inconclusive results, he still has no idea if he really has had the virus.

By the way, has anyone, besides me, noticed that no flu deaths have been reported by the media this year? Yet, “During the 2019-2020 influenza season, CDC estimates that influenza was associated with 38 million illnesses, 18 million medical visits, 405,000 hospitalizations, and 22,000 deaths”[3] compared to 34,200 deaths in 2018-2019.[4]  Why do we not hear about flu deaths? Could it be that the flu is less sensational?

As for deaths from COVID-19, only 6% of the deaths associated with the novel coronavirus died solely from the virus, the rest were brought about by other underlying conditions. In an article by “LiveScience” attempting to debunk the social media claim “that ‘only 6%’ of the reported COVID-19 deaths in the U.S. are solely attributable to the new coronavirus,” the writer seems to validate the claim. He says,

This claim stems from an Aug. 26 update the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) posted on its website, which provides a detailed breakdown of the accompanying health conditions (known as comorbidities) and contributing causes of death reported in people who have died of the new coronavirus in the United States. The CDC noted that “For 6% of the deaths, COVID-19 was the only cause mentioned.”

In other words, 6% of people who died when they had COVID-19 didn’t have underlying conditions, such as diabetes, asthma or heart disease, and didn’t experience any medical complications, such as kidney failure or sepsis. But the other 94% of deaths were still caused by COVID-19, infectious disease experts said. That’s because many chronic, underlying conditions can make diseases that a person might otherwise recover from, such as COVID-19, suddenly deadly.[5] (Emphasis mine)

The fact remains that of those that have died with COVID-19, only 6% died solely of COVID-19. The claim (in bold above) that the other deaths were “caused by COVID-19” is misleading. The deaths were caused by multiple complications including COVID-19.

A Google search on “Current COVID Deaths” reported 245,000 deaths with COVID-19 to death – at 6%, only 1470 from COVID only compared to 22,000 deaths from the flu. The current population of the United States is 328,200,000. Using simple math to calculate the percentage of the population that has died with COVID-19, results in an unimpressive 0.0074649% of the population.

Each one of us has a 0.007% chance of dying with COVID-19, and only 6% of those have a chance of dying from COVID-19 alone.

Why are we living in fear over COVID-19? Why have our churches been restricted from exercising our First Amendment right to assemble and worship as we please? Why have our churches capitulated to unconstitutional mandates rather than adhere to God’s command that we not forsake our assembling together (Hebrews 10:25)? Why do we continue to succumb to the irrational edicts of those who only desire to exercise control over our lives?

I, for one, am tired of wearing masks. I am tired of social distancing. I am tired of going to church in limited numbers. I am tired of singing praises with my face covered and muted. I am tired of restricting the fellowship with my brothers and sisters to the church parking lot – at a social distance, of course. I am tired of all the senseless restrictions imposed by self-appointed demagogues pretending to have our best interest at heart. Stop with the fear-mongering!

I have heard it said that the Bible has 365 admonitions to “fear not”[6] – one for every day of the year. I have not counted them for myself, but they do seem to come up frequently in my reading. The first “fear not” appears in the Book of Genesis. There God tells Abram, “Fear not, Abram: I am thy shield, and thy exceeding great reward” (Genesis 15:1). A shield protects us from incoming blows, and a reward is something we get for doing something right. What did Abram do that was right? “And he believed in the LORD; and [the LORD] counted it to him for righteousness” (Genesis 15:6). In the last book of the Bible, Jesus says to John, “Fear not; I am the first and the last” (Revelation 1:17). The Apostle Paul reminds Timothy, “For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). So, my brothers and sisters in Christ, why do we allow ourselves to get sucked into the fear over that which we cannot control?

C. S. Lewis once said, “If we are going to be destroyed by an atomic bomb [or the coronavirus], let that bomb when it comes find us doing sensible and human things—praying, working, teaching, reading, listening to music, bathing the children, playing tennis, chatting to our friends over a pint [he wasn’t Baptist!] and a game of darts—not huddled together like frightened sheep and thinking about bombs [or COVID-19]. They may break our bodies (any microbe can do that) but they need not dominate our minds.”[7] That sounds like excellent advice to me!

Notes:


[1]  Fear – https://www.dictionary.com/browse/fear?s=t

[2]  https://www.nytimes.com/2020/11/13/world/does-elon-musk-have-the-coronavirus-after-four-tests-he-still-doesnt-know.html

[3]  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2019-2020.html#:~:text=During%20the%202019%2D2020%20influenza,405%2C000%20hospitalizations%2C%20and%2022%2C000%20deaths.

[4]  https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/burden/2018-2019.html#:~:text=CDC%20estimates%20that%20the%20burden,from%20influenza%20(Table%201).

[5]  https://www.livescience.com/covid-19-comorbidities.html

[6]  “Fear Not” – https://erniecarrasco.com/2020/08/16/fear-not/

[7]  Martindale, Wayne & Jerry Root, The Quotable Lewis, (Tydale House Publishers, Carol Stream, Illinois, 1990), p. 606, quoting Present Concerns: Essays by C. S. Lewis, “On Living in an Atomic Age” (1948), para. 3, pp. 73-74.

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Current Events, Random Musings, Science, Theology, Worship

Jesus And The Fig Tree

Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: (Matthew 24:32)

During Jesus’ last week of His earthly ministry before His crucifixion and shortly after His Triumphal Entry into Jerusalem, Matthew and Mark record a strange incident when Jesus cursed a fig tree because it had no fruit and immediately, the tree withered.

Jesus entered Jerusalem on what we know as Palm Sunday. He went directly to the Temple cast out the money changers and those who sold animals for the upcoming Passover sacrifice.[1] To us Gentiles, it seems strange that it offended Jesus that these men were turning the Holy Temple into a marketplace. However, as Jesus drove out the merchants, He exclaimed, “Is it not written, My house shall be called of all nations the house of prayer? but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Mark 11:17).

A long-held Jewish tradition during Passover is to get all the leaven out of the house before the Passover celebration. Leaven represents sin, and it must be removed from the house. The Temple was Jesus’ house, and He was cleansing it from the sin within in preparation for the coming Passover.

At this point, I need to mention an apparent contradiction between Mark’s account of the Temple cleansing and that of both Matthew and Luke. Both Matthew and Luke record that the cleansing took place on the same day as the Triumphal Entry – Palm Sunday.[2] However, Mark indicates that the cleansing took place on the following day (Monday). Mark records that on Palm Sunday, “Jesus entered into Jerusalem, and into the temple: and when he had looked round about upon all things, and now the eventide was come, he went out unto Bethany with the twelve. And on the morrow [Monday], when they were come from BethanyAnd they come to Jerusalem: and Jesus went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold and bought in the temple” (Mark 11:11-12, 15, emphasis mine). So, did Jesus cleanse the Temple on Palm Sunday or on the following day? Great biblical minds have no clue! I am not one who finds contradictions in the Bible because “God is not the author of confusion.”[3] Two Gospel writers say the cleansing took place on Sunday, and one (Mark, who was not an eyewitness) says it was on Monday. I believe all three accounts are correct. It is possible that there were two cleansings, one on Sunday and one on Monday. I will leave it at that for now.

Only Matthew and Mark record the incident with Jesus cursing the fig tree, and both agree that it happened on Monday morning as Jesus returned to Jerusalem from Bethany where He was probably staying in the home of Lazarus, Martha, and Mary.[4] What happened next seems rather strange. Jesus spotted a fig tree along the way and being hungry, He went to see if it had any figs.[5] Mark remarks that “the time of figs was not yet” (Mark 11:13). Finding no figs on the tree, Jesus cursed the tree, and it soon “dried up from the roots” (Mark 11:20).

It seems strange that Jesus, the Creator,[6] would not know that it was not the time for figs, So, why would He expect to find figs on the tree? Some commentators suggest that the tree should have had some unripe fruit on it that could be eaten.

“Toward the end of March the leaves begin to appear, and in about a week the foliage coating is complete. Coincident with [this], and sometimes even before, there appears quite a crop of small knobs, not the real figs, but a kind of early forerunner. They grow to the size of green almonds, in which condition they are eaten by peasants and others when hungry.”[7]

That makes some sense. Both Matthew and Mark remark that Jesus found nothing but leaves on the tree. There were not even “knobs” to eat on the tree. But was that sufficient cause for Jesus to curse the tree? The same commentators quoted above, suggested that Jesus used this incident as an object lesson to emphasize Luke’s parable about the fig tree that bore no fruit.[8] However, neither Matthew nor Mark includes that parable in their Gospels, and Luke omits the cursing of the fig tree, so their argument does not seem to be very strong.

Jesus, the Creator, knew it was too early for figs, and He knew He would not find figs on the tree. So the cursing of the tree had another purpose. Jesus never did anything without a purpose.

Later in the week as Jesus sat with His disciples on the Mount of Olives, they asked Him for signs of the last days and the end of the world. The detailed description of the last days, known as the “Olivet Discourse,” is found in all three Synoptic Gospels.[9] “But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only” (Matthew 24:36). However, Jesus said the times would be discernible, and He used the fig tree to illustrate. “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, emphasis mine).

The fig tree represents the nation of Israel. Several passages in the Old Testament make this association. God says, “I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your fathers as the firstripe in the fig tree at her first time …” (Hosea 9:10, emphasis mine). “He [the king of Babylon] hath laid my vine waste, and barked my fig tree: he hath made it clean bare, and cast it away; the branches thereof are made white” (Joel 1:7, emphasis mine). God also refers to Israel as His (grape) “vine.” Concerning Israel’s restoration, Scripture says, “Then will the LORD be jealous for his land, and pity his people … Be not afraid, ye beasts of the field: for the pastures of the wilderness do spring, for the tree beareth her fruit, the fig tree and the vine do yield their strength” (Joel 2:18, 22, emphasis mine).

Jesus’ parable of the fig tree gives the signal for the beginning of the end-time events. Israel, the fig tree, budded on May 14, 1948, signaling that “summer” is near. Jesus said that “this generation,” the one that sees the fig tree bud, will not pass until all these signs are accomplished. “Heaven and earth shall pass away, but my words shall not pass away” (Matthew 24:35).

So, why did Jesus curse the fig tree? God chose Israel to be a “priest nation” to all the nations of the world, beginning with Abraham; “in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3, emphasis mine). To Israel, God says, “And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation …” (Exodus 19:6). It was Israel’s task to reveal God to the nations of the world. Instead, Israel followed in the idolatrous steps of the surrounding nations. Israel, the fig tree, did not produce the fruit God expected. Jesus’ object lesson in cursing the fig tree demonstrated that God would no longer use Israel to bless the nations and to be the priest nation to the world. Instead, He assigned that task to other “husbandmen.”[10] To these new husbandmen, i.e., the Church, Jesus said, “But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:8, emphasis mine).

So, the fig tree withered and can no longer produce fruit. Instead, Jesus assigned the task of bringing God to the world to the Church. As for the fig tree, “they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled” (Luke 21:24, emphasis mine).

That time is near. It started when the fig tree budded in 1948. The fig tree has yet to produce any fruit, but that is because the Church is still yielding fruit, albeit at a waning rate. Soon, the Church will be plucked up, and God’s fig tree will have another opportunity to yield its fruit. “And I heard the number of them which were sealed: and there were sealed an hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel” (Revelation 7:4, emphasis mine). During the Tribulation, the 144,000 Israeli evangelists will carry the Gospel to all the world and produce much “fruit” for the Lord. “After this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands” (Revelation 7:9, emphasis mine).

In the end, the fig tree will produce the fruit for which it was created. However, it must be understood that not every individual Israeli will be saved. Their salvation does not come from their nationality (Israel) or their religion (Judaism). Just as with every other person, salvation comes only through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6). The 144,000 remnant of Israel that carry the Gospel to all the world will be saved by the same message that “whosoever believeth in him [Jesus] should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Those that hear and believe the message of the 144,000 will be saved the same way.

Reader, if you do not know Jesus, now is a great time to get acquainted. Read my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and get that settled today.

Notes:


[1]  Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19:45-46

[2]  Matthew 21:8-13; Luke 19:35-46

[3]  1 Corinthians 14:33

[4]  John 11:2

[5]  Matthew 21:18-19; Mark 11:12-13

[6]  John 1:1-3; Colossians 1:16; Revelation 4:11

[7] Walter C. Kaiser Jr., Peter H. Davids, F.F. Bruce, Manfred T. Brauch, Hard Saying of the Bible, (InterVarity Press Academic, Downers Grove, Illinois, 1996), p. 442, quoting W.M. Christie, “The Barren Fig Tree.”

[8]  Luke 13:6-9

[9]  Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21

[10]  Matthew 21:33-41

1 Comment

Filed under Apologetics, Bible, Christianity, Easter, End Times, Evangelism, Gospel, Salvation, Second Coming of Christ, Theology