Thursday, November 29, 2012

"Without the camp" and into the Body?

Someone I know and respect has the belief that any Little Flock members who were alive in 70 AD when Hebrews was written were told to go without the camp and become a part of the body of Christ.  I asked if that wouldn't preclude the twelve from sitting on 12 thrones in the Kingdom (assuming any were still alive in 70 AD) and he said it wouldn’t. What are your thoughts on that?

Hebrews 13:13
Let us go forth therefore unto him without the camp, bearing his reproach.

First of all, that is assuming that Hebrews was written in 70 AD.  I wouldn’t battle over that but I think it was written earlier than that.  My personal belief is that when Paul wrote 2 Timothy, which would be about 66 – 68 AD right before he died, it was the last book of scripture written.  But I won’t battle over that.  People think that Revelation was written as late as 95 AD.  Hebrews was definitely written during the Acts period and before the temple was destroyed.  The Hebrews were obviously worshipping in that which was about to be abolished.

Hebrews 10:11
And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins:

Hebrews 13:10-11
We have an altar, whereof they have no right to eat which serve the tabernacle.  For the bodies of those beasts, whose blood is brought into the sanctuary by the high priest for sin, are burned without the camp.

So the temple was still standing when Hebrews was written.

Secondly, going without the camp was not about ‘becoming a part of the body of Christ.’  It refers to continuing to believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and not becoming a part of the unbelievers in Israel.

‘Going without the camp’ refers to what happened to the Lord when they cast him out of Jerusalem to be stoned.  The Hebrews also cast Stephen outside of the city to be stoned. 

Acts 7:58
And cast him [Stephen] out of the city, and stoned him: and the witnesses laid down their clothes at a young man's feet, whose name was Saul.

Going without the camp meant rejection by the mainstream of Israel.  The Little Flock was going against the grain by believing on the Lord Jesus Christ; but it definitely does not mean that they became part of the body of Christ.  Someone can become part of the body of Christ only one way: through faith in the shed blood of the Lord Jesus Christ on Calvary’s cross for their sins. 

1 Corinthians 15:1-4
Moreover, brethren, I declare unto you the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye have received, and wherein ye stand;  By which also ye are saved, if ye keep in memory what I preached unto you, unless ye have believed in vain.  For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;  And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

That was not the message that God gave the Little Flock.  They were to believe that Jesus was the Christ the Son of the living God.  That is what made them part of the Little Flock.

John 6:69
And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God.

There were at least some of the apostles who were still alive in 70 AD such as James the brother of John – one of the original twelve apostles during the Lord’s earthly ministry.  We know John was alive.  They kept trying to kill Peter but God kept him alive.  He had a significant writing ministry late in his life, particularly 2 Peter.  But none of the Little Flock became members of the body of Christ and I will tell you why.

Let’s say that the twelve and all the remaining members of the Little Flock who were still alive when the book of Hebrews was written (which was probably a significant number) all went into the body of Christ – then who would fulfill their purpose in the Kingdom?  God’s purpose for the Little Flock (the believing remnant of Israel – those who were believing on Jesus Christ when Paul was saved and the dispensation of grace began) is to have them judge Israel in the Kingdom.

Romans 11:7
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election [the Little Flock of believers] hath obtained it [the kingdom], and the rest [unbelievers in Israel] were blinded.

They are all dead and with the Lord and will come back with him at his second coming (not for the body of Christ but for Israel and to set up his throne on this earth) and they will sit on 12 thrones judging the 12 tribes of Israel. 

Luke 22:30
That ye may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom, and sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

They could not be in the body of Christ because our sphere of influence is the heavenly places.

Ephesians 2:6
And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus:

The body of Christ goes up to the heavenly places and we stay there to rule God’s kingdom in the heavens for all eternity.

1 Corinthians 6:3
Know ye not that we shall judge angels? how much more things that pertain to this life

God would not promise the twelve and all the other members of the Little Flock that they would sit with him in his kingdom here on the earth if it was not going to happen.

Luke 12:32
Fear not, little flock; for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

That is their calling and their hope.  We have to rightly divide the word of truth and understand Paul’s ministry.  If we do, we will understand that every member of the body of Christ (beginning with Paul) will serve God in the heavenly places.  So all the Jews who were believing on Jesus Christ as their Messiah before Paul was saved got into the kingdom and they could cease from their own works; but until that time they had to continue on in faith and works.

John 8:31
Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;

Acts 2:42
And they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers.

Once Paul was saved, God dealt with everyone who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ based upon grace; but that didn’t mean that the Little Flock became members of the body of Christ because God has a purpose for them.  The twelve apostles and all the Little Flock will serve God in his kingdom on this earth.  That is their calling.  When you rightly divide the word of truth, you see that members of the church the body of Christ have a heavenly calling.  If any member of the Little Flock at any time became a member of the body of Christ, it would mean that they will rule and reign in the heavenly places (and not in the earthly kingdom).  Every member of the body of Christ will be in the heavens.   Again, that would take them away from what God originally called them to do in serving him in the kingdom on this earth.

If the twelve went into the body, how would they sit on twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel here on this earth?  That is their calling and their hope.  We must understand the Pauline revelation of the Mystery and the calling of the body of Christ.  Compare and contrast the book of Ephesians (the calling of the church the body of Christ) with Matthew, Mark, Luke and John and understand that the Little Flock has a place in the kingdom on this earth.  The body of Christ has a place in the kingdom in the heavenly places.

Colossians 1:16
For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him:

In Ephesians Paul says that the way God is going to fill the heavenly places that Christ may be all in all is through the church the body of Christ.

Ephesians 1:20-23
Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead, and set him at his own right hand in the heavenly places,  Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come:  And hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,Which is his body, the fulness of him that filleth all in all.

In summary we, as members of the body of Christ, are going to be in the heavens, and if the members of the Little Flock became members of the body, they would also have to go into the heavens because that is the purpose for the church the body of Christ which is created by God to rule and reign and serve him in the heavens.  But in order to fulfill their calling as judges, leaders, rulers and elders in Israel in the earthly kingdom they could not have become members of the body.

+ + + +
You cannot use your mind in a greater capacity than to think upon the word of God and to have him in all your thoughts, so thank you for your question.  I love questions.  They keep me sharp and thinking about God’s word.

Philippians 4:8
Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Hopefully this helps! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Transition Period Can be Hard to Understand

Did the recipients of the Jewish epistles, Hebrews through Revelation,  understand that even though the Jewish epistles were written to them (as Jews in dispersion, the Little Flock), they were not for them because they were prophecy and would not be in effect until the future?  

‘Jews of the dispersion’ (Jews scattered among the gentiles) is a misnomer.  Although those books are written to the Hebrew people, the main focus is the Little Flock that was scattered.  ‘Jews of the dispersion’ is just a general term for all Jews in the Roman Empire who are outside of the nation of Israel. 

The books of Hebrews through Revelation are written to the believing remnant of Israel.  I’ll give you an example.  Paul talks to us, the church, the body of Christ, in his books Romans through Philemon, and we are his specific audience; but there is a more general audience in this dispensation of grace which is all gentiles and all Jews.  Paul speaks generally to whosoever will listen.

It was the same with God’s word in time past.  A gentile who was exposed to the word of God could hear it and believe.  When the Jews were out among the gentiles, the word of God also went out.  There were synagogues throughout the Roman Empire in the first century.  We see in the book of Acts that Paul would go to the synagogues wherever he traveled.  The word of God was out there even before the dispensation of grace began.  Gentiles had access to the word of God.  They had to come to God through the Jew.

The Lord Jesus Christ spoke to all Jews during his earthly ministry; but the books of Hebrews through Revelation are written to the believing remnant in Israel.  The Lord Jesus also spoke privately to his disciples.

The Jews of the dispersion had access to the word of God.  They had the old testament.  They had some understanding of what God was doing through the earthly ministry of Christ and believed on him, but that doesn’t mean that they each had perfect understanding of all things.  It is the same in the body of Christ.  Most members don’t believe or understand Paul’s revelation of the mystery (Rom. 16:25) beyond the cross for salvation.  There are different levels of understanding even among dispensational grace believers.

What did the recipients of the books of Hebrews through Revelation believe?  They understood that there was a transition period.  They understood that God began to do something different with the Apostle Paul.  The Lord Jesus Christ ascended around A.D. 30.  God gave Israel one more year to repent (Acts 1 – 7).

Luke 13:6-8
He 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.  Then 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?  And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:

Then Paul was saved and God started doing a new thing.  It is difficult to nail down all the details.  The fall of Israel is in Acts 7 (stoning of Stephen).  The diminishing of Israel is Acts 8 through 28.  Actually the diminishing of Israel continued all the way to A.D. 70 with the destruction of the temple.  (Israel stumbled when they crucified Christ.)

Romans 11:11-12
I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.  Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?

Paul’s epistles were being written the same time that Hebrews through Revelation were.  During that time the leaders of the Little Flock (James, Cephas (Peter), and John)…

Galatians 2:9a
And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars,

…were also beginning to understand what God was now doing.  This is a time of transition and no one completely understands every detail; but we can use the scriptures to see that Hebrews through Revelation were written in the first century so that God could canonize the scripture.  You have to understand prophecy; God wrote things at a certain point in time, but they were for the future.  God did that all the time.

Habakkuk 2:1-3
I will stand upon my watch, and set me upon the tower, and will watch to see what he will say unto me, and what I shall answer when I am reproved.  And the Lord answered me, and said, Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables,
[God is telling Habakkuk in his day to write this vision down...]
that he may run that readeth it.
[Someone is going to read it and do what God says.]
For the vision is yet for an appointed time, but at the end it shall speak, and not lie: though it tarry, wait for it; because it will surely come, it will not tarry.

This vision is for...the future!

Daniel 9:24b
and to seal up the vision and prophecy, and to anoint the most Holy.

In other words, God is saying:  “I’m telling you now Daniel, but it’s for the end times.”  That is not uncommon with God.  He prophesies a lot, particularly in the prophetic program.

You have to take into account that there is a transition period happening in the first century.  Because it is a transition, things are not always concrete.  Although Israel fell in Acts 7 and continued to diminish throughout the rest of Acts, God wasn’t operating two programsb per se, but two programs existed simultaneously.  God was diminishing Israel’s prophesy program while he was increasing the mystery program for the body of Christ. 

During that time, God chose to have all of his word written and completed in the first century (that is, Paul’s epistles and the Jewish epistles Hebrews through Revelation).  He used the prophets in the body of Christ to canonize the scripture. 

Although God wrote Hebrews through Revelation back in the first century while Paul’s books were in effect, those Jewish epistles were not in effect during the dispensation of grace.  When Paul was saved, the information called the mystery of Christ, the dispensation of grace, was in effect – from the moment Paul was saved until now.

God knew.  Paul didn’t know everything.  The Little Flock certainly didn’t know everything.  It took time; it was a transition period.  When Paul got saved, the administration that God was starting up was the dispensation of grace.

1 Corinthians 12:5
And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

But God had Peter, James, John, Jude and the author of Hebrews write down the information so that it could be placed into the scriptures.

I have no doubt that right from the beginning Paul shared what he knew with Peter.  Paul didn’t know and understand it all and neither did Peter.

Galatians 1:15-19
But when it pleased God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me by his grace [free gift],

He is talking about his salvation on the road to Damascus (Acts 9).  To do what?

To reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the heathen; immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood [any apostles or councils]:  Neither went I up to Jerusalem to them which were apostles before me; but I went into Arabia, and returned again unto Damascus.

The only other time Paul mentions Arabia is Galatians 4:25.  Chances are very good that Paul went to Mt. Sinai in Arabia, the same place Moses went and for the same length of time (40 days), to receive the first installment of the gospel of the grace of God (Acts 20:24).  Christ didn’t give him a lot of information at that time, but he gave Paul the message that saves.  I know some think that Paul was on Mt. Sinai for three years, but it was 40 days.  God would not take Paul away for three years at the start of the dispensation of grace.

Moses was on Mt. Sinai 40 days when he received the law (Ex. 24:18).  Right after Christ was anointed for ministry when John the Baptist baptized him and the Spirit of God came down and anointed Jesus as the prophet of God, he went out into the wilderness for 40 days (Mark 1:13).

So Paul goes into Arabia and returns to Damascus and is ready to preach.  By Acts 9:31, he is out preaching the Lord Jesus in the synagogues of Damascus (to mostly Jews but also gentiles).

Acts 9:31
Then had the churches rest [because Saul was no longer persecuting them] throughout all Judaea and Galilee and Samaria, and were edified; and walking in the fear of the Lord, and in the comfort of the Holy Ghost, were multiplied.
[Paul has some information about who Jesus Christ is and what he came to accomplish at Calvary.]
Then after three years [three is the number of completion] I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.  But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

So within three years of his salvation, Paul goes to communicate the first installment of the gospel that he learned from the Lord Jesus Christ at Mt. Sinai in Arabia.  He goes to see Peter.

Galatians 1:18
Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.

By A.D. 34 Paul has communicated to Peter and to James, the Lord’s brother, (two of the writers of Hebrews through Revelation) that gospel.  Paul didn’t have all the information.  He continued to have visions and revelations from the Lord for another 30+ years. 

2 Corinthians 12:1
It is not expedient for me doubtless to glory. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord.

Galatians was the first book that Paul wrote (by A.D. 34).  He completed his last epistles, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, around A.D. 66.

So he communicated to them the information that he had at the time.  He had the clear preaching of the gospel of grace and maybe a tad bit more of the mystery, but not much.  That is what he shared with Peter and James.  Did they keep this revelation to themselves?  No.  They in turn shared it with the kingdom saints.

So when Peter and James later wrote their epistles, they understood that there had been a change in the program.  They had discussed it with Paul and then they told the people they ministered to, by letter and word of mouth.  The apostles/elders in Jerusalem held great sway over the Little Flock, including those in the dispersion.  The word of God that Paul shared with Peter and James would naturally spread.  They were wondering when the kingdom would come; they wanted to know what God was doing and why there was a delay.

Peter had the Jerusalem church under his watch-care.  They had sold all they owned and had run out of money.  Peter and James needed to explain the situation to them.

Another thing to take into account is that Paul wrote other letters to churches that are not scripture.

1 Corinthians 5:9
I wrote unto you in an epistle not to company with fornicators:

There were other letters that the apostles wrote which were not scripture; but they were valuable to the readers.  Who is to say that Peter and James did not write other letters to the Little Flock that explained there was a change in the program and that God was having them write scripture even though he was doing something different through Paul.

That’s the thing—we don’t know.  It was a time of transition and we weren’t there.  But what we do know is that when Paul was saved, God began building the church the body of Christ.  People then were being saved into the body of Christ and saints were being edified in the mystery, as God gave them spiritual gifts; and finally the written word of God through Paul.

Colossians 1:25
Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfil the word of God;

I also know that God was compiling the Holy Bible that we have, so he needed to have Peter, James, John, Jude and the author of Hebrews write those books so they could be included in scripture; but those books could not have been in effect in A.D. 31 because Paul was saved and the program changed.  They no doubt understood that God was completing the scriptures and that their epistles would not go into effect at that time.  And if they were not in effect when Paul got saved at the start of the dispensation of grace, which will continue until the body of Christ is raptured, then the place and purpose for those books is in the future – after the dispensation of grace ends.

Galatians 1:21-24
Afterwards I came into the regions of Syria and Cilicia; And was unknown by face unto the churches of Judaea which were in Christ:   But they had heard only, That he which persecuted us in times past now preacheth the faith which once he destroyed.  And they glorified God in me.

The Little Flock knew about Paul and his gospel by word of mouth.  They knew that God was doing something different through Paul.

Ananias had heard about Saul way up in Damascus.

Acts 9:10, 13
And there was a certain disciple at Damascus, named Ananias; and to him said the Lord in a vision, Ananias. And he said, Behold, I am here, Lord.  Then Ananias answered, Lord, I have heard by many of this man, how much evil he hath done to thy saints at Jerusalem:  And here he hath authority from the chief priests to bind all that call on thy name.

He even knew that Saul had letters from the chief priests to go after them.  Word got around, but it took time.  Paul had to go to Jerusalem and meet with the council to give further revelation 14 years after first meeting with Peter and James (Gal. 1).  That was 17 years after his salvation and he had more understanding himself.

2 Peter 3:15-17
And account that the longsuffering of our Lord [God hasn’t finished the prophetic kingdom program] is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given unto him hath written unto you;
[Paul had written to these people to further explain the change in program.  Remember this is the transition period.  The Little Flock had to rightly divide the word of truth as we do.  Paul’s letters and the Jewish epistles were all circulating.  They had to see that they were not saying the same thing and that only Paul’s epistles were in effect at that time.  We need to know all of scripture and so did they.]
As also in all his epistles,
[Paul wrote epistles that are scripture but he also wrote letters to them which were not.]
 speaking in them of these things;
[What things?  The change in the program; the postponement of the kingdom; the new doctrine of grace for gentiles; the new agency – the church the body of Christ.]
in which are some things hard to be understood,
[I bet they were!  Peter makes it clear that for Jews, these things were hard to be understood.  When something is hard to be understood, will all people ‘buy it’?  Some will; some won’t. God knows.]
which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, unto their own destruction.
[The ones who wouldn’t have understood were the unlearned and the unstable.  That is the problem.  They would do it to all the scriptures; they wouldn’t rightly divide (then or now).]
Ye therefore, beloved, seeing ye know these things before,
[Peter is talking to people who already know about it and he is reminding them.]
beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own stedfastness.

There were many Jews in the first century who were sharing what they heard from Peter, James and Paul – saved Jews in the kingdom program (the Little flock), and Jews who were saved after Paul (members of the body of Christ).  The third group of Jews in the Roman Empire was lost Jews (part of the ‘heathen’).

The believing Jews were reading all the epistles written by Paul and the Hebrew writers and they realized they needed some understanding; they needed to rightly divide the word of truth and understand that the only doctrine that was in effect was from Paul.

The book of Acts is a book of transition—and should never be used to get doctrine from.  That is why it is so misused and misunderstood.  You really have to be a Pauline, dispensational, grace-believing, workman that rightly divides the word of truth to be able to deal with the book of Acts, and all of scripture.  There are transitional things happening in Galatians, I and 2 Corinthians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Romans.  Then things begin to change in Paul’s prison epistles, so you have to rightly divide all of scripture.

Hopefully this helps!

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Symbolism of the Fig Tree

What does the fig tree symbolize in scripture?

The first time we see the fig tree in scripture is in the Garden in Genesis 3.  One of the trees that God created was the fig tree which became an issue when Adam and Eve sinned and they covered themselves with fig leaves.

Genesis 3:7
And the eyes of them both were opened, and they knew that they were naked; and they sewed fig leaves together, and made themselves aprons.

Leaves have medicinal properties in scripture. Leaves will provide healing for the nations in the Kingdom.

Revelation 22:2
In the midst of the street of it, and on either side of the river, was there the tree of life, which bare twelve manner of fruits, and yielded her fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations.

Ultimately, that is what Adam and Eve were looking for when they went to the fig tree.

Judges 9:11
But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees?

Figs have to do with sweetness.  They are tasty.  No doubt Adam and Eve (who were very intelligent—particularly after the fall) knew that; but they also knew that there was some healing property in the leaves.  They thought that the leaves would heal them spiritually, but they couldn’t.  When leaves are off the tree, their source of life, they begin to wither.

Adam and Eve tried to cover themselves with fig leaves—a type of religion.  The fig tree was significant before Israel.  It was connected with man’s attempt at religion (“to bind again”); they were trying to bind themselves back to God in their own strength.  They were trying to heal themselves and their sinfulness without God. 

The first thing that the fig tree symbolizes in scripture is man’s attempt to heal himself, to bind himself back to God through religion.  That is why when we come to Judges we see that the fig is one of the trees that represent Israel, as well as the olive, vine, and bramble trees.  Those trees represent the four types of the nation of Israel (Judges 9):

The olive tree represents Israel’s spiritual life. 
The fig tree represents Israel’s religious life.
The bramble tree represents Israel’s rebellion.
The vine tree represents Israel as a nation.

People say that Matthew 24 is only talking about Israel’s religious life because the Lord curses the fig tree three chapters earlier.

Matthew 21:19-21
And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only,
(The leaves were supposed to show that there would be fruit, but there was none, like Adam and Eve who were covered in leaves but had no spiritual fruit.)
and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever. 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.

So from this passage people figure that the fig tree represents Israel’s religious system and the Lord is cursing it.  In essence, he is.  The religious system of Israel is the Law; but the law wasn’t producing in Israel what it was designed to produce which was life (aka, “fruit”).  Israel was to be a fruit-bearing nation, but because of unbelief it was not; so the Lord cursed the fig tree, which in this case represents the Old Covenant.  Christ came to fulfill the New Covenant through his blood and to do for Israel what they could not do for themselves.  Through his Spirit he will cause them to keep his commandments which he will write on their hearts and minds.

Jeremiah 31:31-34
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah:  Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord:  But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.  And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.

Ezekiel 36:26-27
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh.  And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them.

Hebrews 9:12
Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us.

Hebrews 12:24
And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel.

But that isn’t the only thing it means.  We know from Matthew 24 that the fig tree was used to represent all the things that would happen during the Tribulation period.  So when you hear some say that the fig tree represents Israel’s religious life, that is true up to a point.  However, Matthew 24 does include temple worship that will be corrupted by the Antichrist.

Mark 11:13-14
And seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came, if haply he might find anything thereon [he is looking for that sweet fruit]: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.  And Jesus answered and said unto it, No man eat fruit of thee [the Old Covenant] hereafter forever. And his disciples heard it.

It is interesting that he says he came looking for fruit but found nothing but leaves because the time of figs was not yet.  God gave Israel the Law to bring forth fruit, but it wasn’t working.  The one who will bring forth fruit will be the Messiah, the Lord Jesus.  He will bring forth fruit in them through his shed blood of the New Testament.  That fruit is what he is looking for.  Verse 14 says that he will put away the Old Covenant (that fig tree that bore no fruit) and deal with Israel under the New Covenant.

Mark 13:28-29
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When her branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is near:  So ye in like manner, when ye shall see these things come to pass, know that it is nigh, even at the doors.

Mark 13 and Matthew 24 are in the same context of all the signs in Israel of the end and the coming of the Lord, including the revival of the religious life in Israel with their push to rebuild and re-institute temple worship.  Those things will happen in the future; the body of Christ will already be gone (raptured), I believe years earlier.  The curtain is not drawn back, but the stage is being set for those things, just like a play.  God is not fulfilling the things that are happening behind the scenes in preparation today.  God is fulfilling the church the body of Christ.  His single-minded focus is seeing lost men saved by his gospel of grace preached by Paul, and to have saints edified in the mystery of Christ in the rightly divided word.

1 Timothy 2:4
Who will have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.

Ephesians 3:4
Whereby, when ye read, ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ)

2 Timothy 2:15
Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

That is all God is doing today.  But the world is going along on a course that is setting the stage for future end time events.

Daniel 12:9
And he said, Go thy way, Daniel: for the words are closed up and sealed till the time of the end.

Mark 13:32
But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.

Even the Lord Jesus didn’t know the day and the hour.  He just knew the season.  That is why he points out that they know from the leaves that summer is nigh.  What is summer? It is not one day; it is a season.  He is saying to Israel that they will know when that season is upon them because they will see all those signs that will commence with the beginning of sorrows.

Luke 13:6-7
He 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 [the law did not bear fruit].
(Remember the vine tree from Judges 9? That represents the national life of Israel?  Here, the fig tree represents the religious system of Israel.)
Then said he [the Lord] 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?

“Cut it down; let’s destroy the nation.”  That is what John the Baptist means when he says this:

Matthew 3:10
And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

Luke 13:8-9
And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:  And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down

So there you go.  The religious system will go and God will bring in a new one.  By the way, those three years in Luke 13:7 represent the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ on earth.  The extra year is the book of Acts, Chapters 1-7, before God changed the program to grace.

Ephesians 3:2
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

Hopefully this helps! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

The Parable of the Fig Tree

In Matthew 24:32-34, the Lord Jesus Christ is speaking to his disciples about the timing of events related to the tribulation and he speaks about the budding of the fig tree in a parable.  Do you believe that the fig tree represents Israel’s religious life? 
Could it shed any light on how close our catching away to be with the Lord might be, because we can see religious life in Israel starting to bud?  For example:  all the articles needed for temple worship are being prepared; there is much talk about rebuilding the temple; there is a search for men of the Levitical blood line to serve as temple priests; and the Sanhedrin has been instituted. 
In context the parable doesn’t seem to represent Israel’s religious life as I have read, but that the Lord is showing that the generation that sees all those things take place that he mentioned will be the one that sees the end and the second coming.  Can you comment on this?

You are right; the Lord is dealing with the timing of things that will happen during what we call the 70th week of Daniel…

Daniel 9:24-27
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.  Know therefore and understand, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince shall be seven weeks, and threescore and two weeks: the street shall be built again, and the wall, even in troublous times.  And after threescore and two weeks shall Messiah be cut off, but not for himself: and the people of the prince that shall come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary; and the end thereof shall be with a flood, and unto the end of the war desolations are determined.  And he shall confirm the covenant with many for one week: and in the midst of the week he shall cause the sacrifice and the oblation to cease, and for the overspreading of abominations he shall make it desolate, even until the consummation, and that determined shall be poured upon the desolate.

…or the time of Jacob’s trouble (which is commonly referred to as the Tribulation):

Jeremiah 30:7
Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob's trouble, but he shall be saved out of it.

The Lord talks about great tribulation – particularly the second half of the 70th week.

Matthew 24:21
For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be.

The fig tree does represent the religious life of Israel, particularly regarding the issue of temple worship; but for the most part Israel’s religious life is not manifest in the context of this passage, as you correctly observed.

Matthew 24:32-34
Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh:
He uses an actual fig tree as an example.  Parable = go along side.  This is an example of what will happen.
So likewise ye [Jews],….
‘Ye’ refers to the Jews in his day; but now we know that the prophetic program has been put on hold, so these verses will actually be applied to the future after the end of this dispensation.
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.

Remember that the dispensation of grace is not in view.  When the Lord says this, just as he says in this verse:

Matthew 16:28
Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom.

These are not only things relating to the tribulation, but also to the actual setting up of his earthly kingdom which would have happened in some of these men’s lifetimes had the dispensation of grace not come in.

Ephesians 3:2
If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:

Had it not been for the last 2,000 years of the dispensation of grace which only God the Father knew about at that time, these passages would have been fulfilled; they would have seen the coming of the Lord.

Acts 1:11
Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.

Notice that earlier in the passage the Lord Jesus speaks of his coming.

Matthew 24:29
Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened, and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven, and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken:

This is very similar to what Peter talks about in Acts 2 when he quotes Joel 2.

Acts 2:16, 19-20
But this is that which was spoken by the prophet JoelAnd I will shew wonders in heaven above, and signs in the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and vapour of smoke:  The sun shall be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and notable day of the Lord come:

Matthew 24:30-31
And then shall appear the sign of the Son of man in heaven: and then shall all the tribes of the earth mourn, and they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory.
He is talking about the end of the tribulation period future from us.
And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other.

This will happen when he comes back; it is the Feast of Trumpets, the gathering of the nation of Israel.
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Returning to the parable of the fig tree…

Matthew 24:32-33
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.

In this passage the fig tree, unlike the passage in which Christ curses the fig tree (Mark 11:21), he is just telling them to look at the fig tree.  He uses it as a picture of how they would know the return of the Son of Man in power and great glory was near, even at the doors.  The focus is not so much on the fig tree itself, but on seeing the signs.  Here he is not really dealing with temple worship even though in other passages we do see that.  Here are the signs:

Matthew 24:1-12, 15
And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to shew him the buildings of the temple.  And Jesus said unto them, See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down.  And as he sat upon the mount of Olives, the disciples came unto him privately, saying, Tell us, when shall these things be [the destruction of the temple]? and what shall be the sign of thy coming [when are you going to come in your power and great glory?], and of the end of the [present] world?  And Jesus answered and said unto them, Take heed that no man deceive you.
The things beginning with verse 5 are the signs that these events are at the doors:
For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many.
The fig tree in the parable in this chapter is all about the signs listed in the earlier passage.  One of the leaves of the fig tree is that many shall come in my name saying ‘I am Christ’ and shall deceive many.  Another leaf is:
And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
Here are some more leaves continuing with verse 7:
For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.  All these are the beginning of sorrowsThen shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.  And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.  And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.  And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.  When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place [religious worship in the temple], (whoso readeth, let him understand:) [this is in the middle of Daniel’s 70th week]

So he talks about all these things that point to his return.  In context they are things that are happening in prophecy, particularly future from us.  He uses the fig tree as a picture (in this context not so much of the religious life of Israel even though it is in other passages) but here it represents all the signs of his coming listed in Matthew 24:5-15.

The fig tree was something that the nation could understand.  It goes all the way back to the garden.  In certain cases (Judges 9) it represents Israel’s religious life.  We will go into the use of the fig tree in scripture in more depth in another installment.

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You are also correct in saying that the generation that sees all these things take place will be the one that sees the end and the second coming.  Through right division we know that the last nearly 2,000 years since the prophetic program has been put on hold, God the Father has been doing something different in this Pauline dispensation of grace.  But had God himself not brought in the dispensation of grace, the things that his Son the Lord Jesus Christ said to the people of Israel in that day would have happened in a short period of time.  In my thinking it might have been 10 or 11 years after his resurrection.  Luke tells us that Christ began his ministry at the age of 30.

Luke 3:23
And Jesus himself began to be about thirty years of age, being (as was supposed) the son of Joseph, which was the son of Heli,

His ministry includes Christ’s function as Israel’s priest.

Hebrews 4:14
Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.

In Israel a priest could begin his ministry at age 30 and serve for 20 years.  There is one extra year that Christ gave Israel in a parable.

Luke 13:6-9
He 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.  Then 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?  And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:  And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.

So his priesthood would have lasted 21 years.  If the dispensation of grace hadn’t happened, there would have been 21 years from the time of his appearance to Israel to the second coming, at least in my understanding.  It will be a future generation that will witness the signs of his coming (the leaves put forth by the fig tree) and his return to earth to set up his kingdom.

Ephesians 2:13
But now [in this dispensation of grace] in Christ Jesus ye [gentiles] who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.