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Why the Resurrection Matters

He is not here, but is risen: remember how he spake unto you when he was yet in Galilee, (Luke 24:6)

Christmas and Easter (I prefer “Resurrection Day”) are the two most important days on the Christian calendar with Resurrection Day being, arguably, the most important of the two. One might argue that we could not have the Resurrection without the Birth, but the Birth without the Resurrection would render both insignificant.

Jesus’ birth came like the birth of any other baby. The Gospel writer Luke records the event taking place in a humble animal shelter visited only by lowly shepherds. However, Luke points out an important fact that is summarily overlooked by most readers. Luke says that, “while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered” (Luke 2:6, emphasis mine). So, apparently, Joseph and Mary had been in Bethlehem a few days before the time of her delivery. Luke does not say, but it seems reasonable that in Bethlehem there were ladies who, seeing a young woman ready to give birth, would have offered their services as midwives. That is the way they did it in those days. Regardless, the birth was no different than any other. The conception nine months prior was the “miracle.” At that time, God planted His seed in Mary’s womb without human aid.

So Jesus came into the world and “dwelt among us”[1] and “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man” (Luke 2:52). He grew up like any other Jewish boy and probably learned carpentry from His earthly father, Joseph. At the age of 30,[2] the age at which priests enter service,[3] Jesus started His three-year earthly ministry. We know from the four Gospel accounts that His ministry ended with His death on the cross. He was buried in a borrowed tomb and rose on the third day.

But what if the resurrection never happened? Paul put it quite succinctly when he said, “if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins” (1 Corinthians 15:17). If Jesus did not rise from the grave, His death for our sins is of no avail. We have no hope of eternal life, and, worse, our destiny is in hell. That explains why unbelievers live for this life alone because, for them, this life is all there is. They reject the concept of hell and prefer the idea that death ends it all, or that it begins a new cycle through reincarnation.

Many arguments against the resurrection of Jesus exist that have a long history from the very beginning. Some say that Jesus did not die on the cross but only “swooned” and revived in the cool dampness of the tomb, rolled the two-ton stone away and walked out. That is a silly theory when one considers the beating, torture, and flogging Jesus received before being nailed to the cross. Also the Roman soldiers who crucified Him were expert executioners and were familiar with death. Had they suspected that He “swooned,” they would have broken His legs like they did with the other two victims.[4] These were professionals; they knew death. Then, to ensure His death, one of the soldiers ran his spear into his side and punctured the pericardium.[5]  

Let us say, for argument’s sake, that this one they failed to recognize and Jesus did indeed pass out. Even if He did revive in the cool tomb, the loss of blood from the beatings and flogging, not to mention the puncturing of his heart sac, would have left Him too weak roll away the heavy stone – one that took several men to move – by Himself.

Another argument suggests that Jesus’ disciples overpowered the Roman guard posted at the tomb.[6] This too is a silly argument. All four Gospels record how the disciples went into hiding at Jesus’ arrest. They feared for their lives. It seems unlikely that these frightened men, most of them fishermen and at least one un-calloused tax collector, would dare to take on battle-hardened professional Roman soldiers. However, this fabrication spread from the very beginning. Matthew records that an angel came to roll back the stone and the soldiers on watch were scared stiff.[7] The soldiers, knowing the consequence (death) for failing in their responsibility to keep the tomb secure, went to the chief priests, rather than their leaders, hoping to get a sympathetic hearing about the empty tomb. They made a good choice as the Jewish religious leaders paid them off and covered for them as long as they would spread the lie that the disciples had stolen the body.[8]

Still another argument insists that the women that went to the tomb on Sunday morning were so grief-stricken that they failed to recognize Jesus’ tomb and went to the wrong sepulcher which was empty. This argument simply rejects what Scripture clearly reports. Three of the four Gospels record that the women witnessed the tomb where Jesus was laid.[9] John, who was present at the crucifixion along with Jesus’ mother and the other women, does not say, but it stands to reason that he would have accompanied them to the tomb.

Jesus rose from the dead. If that were not true, the Jews, because of their hatred for Him, only needed to exhume the body and present it to the world, but they had no body. Men have tried and failed to show Jesus’ remains, but they cannot.

Jesus rose from the dead. He conquered death, and because He conquered death, we have the assurance that our sins are covered and we have eternal life with him. “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept [died]. For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive” (1 Corinthians 15:19-22, emphasis mine). “For if by one man’s [Adam] offence death reigned by one; much more they which receive abundance of grace and of the gift of righteousness shall reign in life by one, Jesus Christ.) Therefore as by the offence of one [Adam] judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one [Jesus] the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. For as by one man’s [Adam] disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one [Jesus] shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:17-19, emphasis mine).

Because Jesus conquered death, we can have the assurance of eternal life with Him. That is why the resurrection matters. If you are not sure where you stand before Jesus, please read my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  John 1:14

[2]  Luke 3:23

[3]  Numbers 4:3

[4]  John 19:32-33

[5]  John 19:34

[6]  Matthew 27:65-66

[7]  Matthew 28:2-4

[8]  Matthew 28:11-15

[9]  Matthew 27:61; Mark 15:47; Luke 23:55

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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

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The Trumpet Shall Sound

Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

If you came to 2021 hoping for an improvement over 2020, you may be sorely disappointed. If you study Scripture, you know that the closer we get to Christ’s return, the worse things will become. However, for those who place their trust in Christ, this is cause for celebration rather than consternation. Before things get really bad, we have the expectation that Jesus will come and rescue His Church before the events described in the Book of the Apocalypse begin.

“When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” James M. Black, 1893 [1]

The Bible is clear that the Church, the body of true believers in Jesus Christ as Lord, and born again of the Spirit of God will be absent during the 7-year Tribulation period that the Bible calls the “Time of Jacob’s Trouble.”[2] Several of the Old Testament prophets spoke of the coming of the Messiah to set up an earthly kingdom. From their perspective, as if looking across time over a series of mountain peaks where the Messianic Kingdom is at the final peak, they did not see the “Church Age” in the valley between His first coming (the first peak) and His second coming (the last peak). They rightly prophesied about His first coming and even of His death and resurrection, but the next thing, from their perspective, was the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom.

The Apostle Paul explained that the Church, to the OT prophets, was a “mystery.”[3] All OT prophecy deals with Israel. God gave the Prophet Daniel a concise prophecy of the end times that precisely predicted the arrival of the Messiah at His first coming. The angel that delivered the message said, “Seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish the transgression, and to make an end of sins, and to make reconciliation for iniquity, and to bring in everlasting righteousness, and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy” (Daniel 9:24, emphasis mine). Notice that the time is determined for Daniel’s people. Who are Daniel’s people, if not Israel? The 70 weeks are 70 sevens of years (70 x 7) which come to 490 years. Four hundred eighty-three (483) years were accomplished with the crucifixion of the Messiah.[4] At that time, God stopped Israel’s time clock and seven years remain to complete the “seventy weeks determined for Daniel’s people.” In the meantime, the “mystery” of the Church is in effect.

In order for the final “week” of the seventy weeks to resume, the church must be taken out of the way. The reason for is that the Holy Spirit resides with every true believer. The Apostle Paul informs us that the Holy Spirit restrains Satan’s full control of the earth, so He must be removed before “prince,” aka, Antichrist, can be revealed. Paul said, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin [aka Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition … For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth [restrains] will let [restrain], until he be taken out of the way” (2 Thessalonians 2:3, 7, emphasis mine). He that restrains (letteth) is the Holy Spirit. He must be “taken out of the way” before the Antichrist can be revealed, and where the Holy Spirit goes, the Church goes. This event is known as the Rapture.

There are no signs given in Scripture to prepare us for the Rapture. We can know the time is near when we see signs for the last days and the end of times falling into place. Jesus gave His disciples a detailed explanation of the last days prior to His second coming.[5] Jesus told them about wars, rumors of wars, earthquakes, pestilences, etc. in the latter days, but He cautioned that “All these are the beginning of sorrows” (Matthew 24:8). This ramp-up of signs that point to the Second Coming, which is the seven years after the Rapture of the Church, are things we can see taking place now. That lets us know that the Rapture of the Church is very near.

Can we believe in the Rapture? Before going to the cross, Jesus assured His disciples (and us), “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). This is the promise that Jesus will come for us and take us to be with him. However, it does not tell us when this will take place.

Some of Paul’s first letters were written to the church in Thessaloniki. Much of what he wrote to this church dealt with the end of time. To them, he wrote, “For this we say unto you by the word of the Lord, that we which are alive and remain unto the coming of the Lord shall not prevent [precede] them which are asleep [dead]. For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: Then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis mine). Notice that we meet Him “in the air;” He does not return to the earth at that time.

To the church in Corinth, Paul wrote, “Behold, I shew you a mystery; We shall not all sleep [die], but we shall all be changed, In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we [who are alive] shall be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52, emphasis mine). However, this still does not explain when that will take place.

The Thessalonians had the same question. To them, he explained that the Holy Spirit that restrains the evil one must be removed before Antichrist can come on the scene. We looked at that verse earlier. “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away [from the faith, i.e., “apostasy”] first, and [Antichrist] be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4, edited and emphasized for clarity). “And now ye know [the Holy Spirit withholds] that [Antichrist] might be revealed in his time. For the mystery of iniquity [does] already work: only [the Holy Spirit] who now [restrains] will [restrain], until [the Holy Spirit] be taken out of the way. And then shall that [Antichrist] be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his [Second] coming: Even him [Antichrist], whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders” (2 Thessalonians 2:6-9, edited and emphasized for clarity).

When the trumpet sounds, Jesus will come for His church. Christians who have died will rise from their graves, then Christians who are living will be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, and will meet with the risen dead together to meet Jesus in the air. Then we will all go together to be with Jesus for seven years. In the meantime, here on Earth, Antichrist will exercise dominion, and God will unleash the worst judgments the world has ever known. At the end of the seven years, Jesus will return with His Church to reign on Earth. “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war … And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean” (Revelation 19:11, 14). “And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years” (Revelation 20:4, emphasis mine).

The trumpet shall sound. Are you ready? If you are not sure, please visit my page on “Securing Eternal Life.”

Notes:


[1]  “When the Roll Is Called Up Yonder,” James M. Black, 1893

[2]  Jeremiah 30:7

[3]  Romans 16:25

[4]  Daniel 9:26

[5]  Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21

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When the Lord Returns

Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning; (Luke 12:35)

I am currently reading the Gospel of Luke in my personal Bible study, and, as often happens when I read my Bible, something caught my attention that I had not seen before. In Luke Chapter 12, Jesus had finished telling the parable of the rich fool[1] who had a bumper crop and started planning about what he would do with his newly acquired wealth. That night, God called him to account. “But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?” (Luke 12:20). Jesus’ point was that earthly riches do not amount to much in light of eternity. He said, “So is he [a fool] that layeth up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God” (Luke 12:21). He went on to teach regarding the futility of worrying about the things of this world because God knows our needs, and He will provide for all our needs (not necessarily our “wants”). The ravens do not sow, reap, or store up food, yet God feeds them.[2] The lilies of the fields neither toil nor spin, yet God clothes the earth more beautifully than Solomon’s apparel.[3] So, Jesus taught, we should not overly concern ourselves with food or clothing because God will provide for our needs. Instead, He said, “But rather seek ye the kingdom of God; and all these things shall be added unto you … For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Luke 12:31, 34)

With that in mind, since this life and this world does not last, He went on to encourage His listeners to be ready for His Second Coming. (I am not sure if His audience caught the significance of His message, but looking back, it should be clear to us.) “Let your loins be girded about, and your lights burning” (Luke 12:35). Having your “loins girded” is an expression that meant to prepare oneself for work, and one only lights a lamp when it gets dark. So the idea is that we should be on the alert and watching. We are to watch and work as we “seek the kingdom of God.”

He went on to amplify His meaning. “And ye yourselves like unto men that wait for their lord, when he will return from the wedding; that when he cometh and knocketh, they may open unto him immediately” (Luke 12:36, emphasis mine). I highlighted in bold italics what I missed before. Jesus spoke in the form of a parable which His audience, His disciples, and His apostles would not have clearly understood at that time. He often used the example of a landowner – a lord or master – leaving on a long journey and leaving the care of his properties in the hands of stewards, i.e., “servants.”[4] All of these parables convey the idea that the Lord will leave – which Jesus did in His ascension – and will return at some undetermined time. In the meantime, His servants continue to conduct His business – in our case that of proclaiming the Gospel – until He returns.

What popped out at me in this passage is the phrase “when he will return from the wedding.” What relevance does a wedding have with the main point of the story? Note also the definite article. It is not just “a” wedding; it is the wedding. The significance is subtle and easy to miss, but indeed it carries great relevance to Christians living in this day.

Before Jesus went to the cross, He told His apostles, “Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also” (John 14:1-3, emphasis mine). When His apostles heard this, they caught the imagery of a Galilean wedding. When a man proposed marriage to a young woman, if she accepted the proposal, he would leave to build a house for her. Once the father of the groom inspected and approved the house, he would give his son permission to go get his bride. The wedding would take place and the wedding feast that followed would last for seven days.

Likewise, Jesus, the Bridegroom, is betrothed to His Bride, the Church. His Bride is made up of those who have accepted His proposal.[5] Now He is gone preparing a place for His Bride, and when the Father approves of the house,[6] He will come to get His Bride and take her to the home He has prepared for her. The wedding feast[7] will last one week (seven years).[8] At the end of the seven years, Jesus will return with His Bride to reclaim His kingdom on earth.

The audience that heard the parable was Jewish, and they probably missed the significance of the lord returning from the wedding. Weddings were frequent and common events in those days as they are today. Jews then and now, for the most part, missed the Messiah. Yet Jesus admonishes these who fail to recognize Him to have their “loins girded” and their “lamps burning” in preparation for their Lord’s return from the “wedding.”

After Jesus snatches away His Bride and the seven-year wedding feast begins, those who remain on the earth will experience the seven-year Tribulation. During that time, many Jews will recognize the Messiah they missed and 144,000 of them will preach the Gospel message around the world.[9] Many Jews as well as Gentiles will be saved by their message. It is these whom Jesus admonishes to work, watch, and be ready for His coming. “Blessed are those servants, whom the lord when he cometh shall find watching: verily I say unto you, that he shall gird himself, and make them to sit down to meat, and will come forth and serve them. And if he shall come in the second watch, or come in the third watch, and find them so, blessed are those servants” (Luke 12:37-38).

“The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9, emphasis mine). Even after the Rapture of the Church, even in the midst of the Great Tribulation, God is “not willing that any should perish.” Sadly, for many, that time will be the final opportunity for salvation but at such a high cost. Reader, if you do not know the Savior, please do not wait until the last moment. Accept the Bridegroom’s proposal today. Find my page on “Securing Eternal Life” and prepare to enjoy the wedding feast rather than work in the time of Great Tribulation.

Notes:


[1]  Luke 12:16-20

[2]  Luke 12:22-24

[3]  Luke 12:27-28

[4]  Matthew 21:33-41; 25:14-30; Mark 13:32-37Luke 19:11-27

[5]  John 3:16; Acts 16:31; Romans 10:9-10; et al.

[6]  Matthew 24:36

[7]  Revelation 19:6-9

[8]  Daniel 9:27

[9]  Revelation 7:1-8; 14:1-5

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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

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