The Christ in Prophecy Journal

The Withered Fig Tree Is Blooming

Fig Tree Reblossoms

I found Israel like grapes in the wilderness; I saw your forefathers as the earliest fruit on the fig tree in its first season. (Hosea 9:10)

The regathering of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is prophesied repeatedly in the Old Testament. In the New Testament, Jesus offered another clue to the timing of the end of the age when He mysteriously cursed a hapless tree. What was the Lord communicating — to His surprised disciples and to us — by His seemingly uncharacteristic action?

A Nation Cursed and Cast Aside

When Jesus walked throughout the Promised Land 2,000 years ago, Israel was already past its prime. The golden era under David and Solomon had come and gone. Divided into Israel and Judah, the Jews had been conquered by the Assyrians and Babylonians and carted off into exile. Fulfilling the prophecy of Isaiah, Cyrus had encouraged Jews to return to Jerusalem and rebuild the temple. Waves of exiles returned from the east, repopulating the Land — even as Samaritans and others now shared the territory once known as Israel.

Then came Alexander and his generals, followed by Rome and its legions. To the Caesars, the Jews of Judea were a bothersome population in a backwater territory who were frustratingly insistent on maintaining their own religion. Convictional Jews longed for the Messiah. Zealous Jews sought a military leader to throw off Rome’s yoke. None of them were expecting the Anointed One to lay down His life on a cross.

While He ministered, Jesus consistently challenged the expectations of His disciples and His followers. He showed them that God is not pleased by sanctimonious religiosity, but with repentance and obedience. Through His death, He offered the innocent blood needed to ensure that God’s wrath would pass over anyone who put their faith in Him.

Jesus’ message was clearly for the Jews first, even as He demonstrated a willingness to bless Gentiles as well. However, His love for individual Jews was matched by impatience with the Jews as a collective whole. That is why He offered His disciples a dramatic object lesson by cursing a hapless fig tree on His way to cleanse the temple of money-changers.

Seeing a lone fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it except leaves only; and He said to it, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you” (Matthew 21:19).

That fig tree, found barren of figs even though it was not the season for figs, withered dramatically at Jesus’ command.

The Withered Fig

Cast Aside, But not Forsaken

We are sometimes convinced that Jesus was meek and mild to the point of being a wimp. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus balanced unfathomable power with absolute control. He did not lash out in rash anger or wring His hands in the face of evil. With a word He stilled a storm, healed broken bodies, and restored life. He described the judgment that would fall upon Jerusalem and the Jews in general, because most of them refused to accept Him in their time of visitation. Symbolized by a fig tree, the nation that bore little fruit would itself be cursed to wither for a season.

Approximately 40 years after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension into heaven, Rome’s 10th Legion put down a Jewish insurrection with an iron boot, destroying the temple in the process. Those Jews who were not slaughtered in Judea were driven out of the Land.

For the next 1800 years, Jews became known as outcasts and vagabonds. They were persecuted and ostracized. They were forcibly converted and then accused of heresy. Inquisitions, pogroms, and edicts kept them down and out in most of the places they dared to try to live. Lacking much fruit in the season of His first Advent, the Jewish nation was cut off and cast aside for almost two millennia. The lesson of Luke 13:6-9 was applied to God’s own chosen people.

But that is not the end of the story.

Tel Aviv

During the long centuries of the Diaspora — the Jewish dispersal among the nations — as the Jews were afflicted and oppressed, the Land became barren. Although in the fullness of time, God prepared both the people and the Land to realize the prophetic promises.

In the late 1800s, a few impassioned Zionists were advocating for a Jewish state. However, most Jews believed they were accepted by the societies in which they lived. The Jewish emphasis on academic study and financial prowess made them excellent students, musicians, businessmen, artists, doctors, scientists, and citizens. In spite of lurking antisemitism and episodic persecution, most Jews were content to pursue quiet lives in places like Germany, Poland, France, and Russia. All that would change in the 20th Century.

Preparing the Land for the People

Lest we get ahead of our story, it is important to realize that just as fertile soil is required for a healthy fig tree, the Land had to be prepared for the people before the Diaspora could return.

Over the centuries following Rome’s expulsion of the Jews in 70 AD, the Promised Land fell under a curse. Known as Palestine (the Latinized version of the name given to the Holy Land by the Romans), it was controlled by a succession of foreign powers — including Christian crusaders and Islamic caliphates. By the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire obliterated the 1000-year Christian Byzantine Empire and began to rule Palestine with a heavy hand.

God’s curse lingered on the Land throughout the millennia of the Jewish exile — as foretold in Ezekiel 33:28-29. And make no mistake, the Land was forsaken — denuded of vegetation, deprived of people, and largely devoid of life. In 1869, Mark Twain documented the cursed status of the Holy Land in his book, The Innocents Abroad. He rightfully understood that God’s hand of judgment had fallen on His own Promised Land.

But when Europe was consumed by war early in the 20th Century, the “sick man” Ottoman Empire sided with Germany. It chose poorly. In the aftermath of the war, the victorious allies divided the Ottoman territory among themselves. Thus, France came to oversee Lebanon and Syria, and the British acquired a mandate to govern Palestine and Trans-Jordan. For the first time in almost two millennia, the Jewish Seder prayer, “Next year in Jerusalem,” seemed like more than a throw-away sentiment.

Once the land was wrested from its Ottoman occupiers and a commitment had been given to support Jewish aspirations, the reestablishment of Israel would have seemed to be a fait accompli. But Jewish motivation was not yet sufficient to emigrate to a Middle East wasteland.

The horror of the Nazi Holocaust changed Jewish hearts and minds. Jews realized that away from their Promised Land they would always be homeless. So, by the thousands (and eventually millions) they streamed back to Eretz Israel — the Land of Israel.

The fig tree branch was becoming tender and beginning to put out leaves.

Now Learn This Lesson from the Fig Tree

In the week between the triumphal entry of Palm Sunday and His crucifixion, Jesus spoke much about Israel’s rejection (Matthew 21:28-44), the shift of the Gospel to the Gentiles (Matthew 22:1-14), and the judgment about to fall on Israel (Matthew 23:13-39). He also responded when the disciples asked Him, “Tell us, when will these things (the destruction of the temple) happen, and what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?” (Matthew 24:3).

We have extensively addressed the discourse that follows in Matthew 24. But the lesson of the fig tree offers a key to understanding the timing of the end. Jesus said, “Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; so, you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door” (Matthew 24:32-33).

There are many signs contained in the proceeding 27 verses. But Jesus specifically pointed His disciples back to the dramatic lesson of the fig tree from earlier in the same week. The fig tree that was cursed for failing to bear fruit for the Messiah would be restored. And, along with all the other signs of the times, that crucial sign tells those with eyes to see that He is near.

Evidence Right Before Your Eyes

Ask the average Christian to describe a present-day fulfillment of Bible prophecy and they’ll probably look at you funny. The idea that God is actively bringing His ancient promises to pass before our very eyes is something they probably haven’t considered.

But over the past 100 years, the amazement of Habakkuk 1:5 is once again appropriate: “Look among the nations! Observe! Be astonished! Wonder! Because I am doing something in your days — you would not believe if you were told.”

That was the way the Lord described His plan to raise up the Chaldeans to sweep across the Jewish nation. Habakkuk was appalled at the horror of such a judgment and registered his complaint before the Lord. God reiterated the finality of His declaration, saying, “For the vision is yet for the appointed time; it hastens toward the goal and it will not fail. Though it tarries, wait for it; for it will certainly come, it will not delay” (Habakkuk 2:3).

In the case of the most important prophetic sign of all, the evidence is right before our eyes. The withered tree that did not bear fruit when Jesus was here 2,000 years ago has become tender and put forth new branches. We know that He is coming soon.

I Know the Plans I Have for You

Throughout the Old Testament, God offered glimpses of His plans — His Gospel plan, His plan to discipline yet protect and preserve Israel, and His plan to bring all of human history to a close. Scoffers have dismissed the relevance of His plans for ages because God has tarried. But those of us who put our faith in Christ are given understanding when we “read and heed” (in the language of Revelation 1:3 and 22:7) His prophetic Word.

In his beautiful song, “It Is Well With My Soul,” Horatio Spafford wrote, “And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight…” Some of the glorious promises of Bible prophecy still await fulfillment. Others are being fulfilled before our very eyes. We can bear witness to God’s faithfulness by pointing to the promises He is keeping right now. That is also why we take pilgrims to Israel: to bear witness to what God is doing in our own day and age.

Let the Redeemed of the Lord Say So

Take a moment and read Psalm 107.

In light of the Diaspora (the scattering of the Jews) for almost 2,000 years, see if that Psalm does not describe the Jewish regathering “from the east and from the west, from the north and from the south” (v. 3). One day Jewish eyes will be opened en masse to see the Messiah. Until then, you and I have a great privilege. We are among the redeemed mentioned in verse 2. We know already that the LORD is good; that His lovingkindness is everlasting.

If you are among the redeemed of the Lord, don’t miss an opportunity to say so. In the words of Psalm 107:43, “Who is wise? Let him give heed to these things, and consider the lovingkindnesses of the LORD.”

In conclusion, all of the great prophetic promises fulfilled just recently in the land of Israel prove that we are living on borrowed time!

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Tim Moore

Colonel Tim Moore serves as the Director and Senior Evangelist of Lamb & Lion Ministries. He leads pilgrimages to Israel and is the host of the television program Christ in Prophecy.

11 CommentsLeave a Comment

  • What a thorough and encouraging summary of Gods ever-faithful plans and providence for His beloved people and the sign that urges us to wake up to its soon fruition!

  • Interesting article, but don’t make something complicated that was meant to be simple. Just go by what Jesus actually said when he cursed the fig tree. In Matthew 21:21 and Mark 11:23 he said that if “anyone” has faith and believes without a doubt that what he says will come to pass, it would be done for him. He was teaching us a basic principle of faith. He spoke to a fever, a fig tree, the wind, waves, demons, etc. and they obeyed him because he had faith (not because he was God). He’s telling us to use our faith. We may never have mountain moving faith, but we should at least use the faith we have for something in addition to getting us to heaven.

    • Johnny, please address Matt. 24:32, since it is an extension/addition/layer (whatever you want to call it) of Matt. 21:21 and the Lord Jesus connected it Himself to Matt. 24:32. I felt like Matt. 24:32 is pretty much the main thrust of this article. Are you supposing that one layer of thought cannot build on another layer of thought producing multiple layers of deeper understanding? My belief is that is how we function in life, building information as we go similar to learning addition in kindergarten, then subtraction, then multiplication, culminating in algebra, calculus, trig and so forth in college. The end not being complicated but being growth because it was built up from the simplicity of addition in the beginning. Curious as to what you think about this in relation to these passages.

      Also, setting aside your thought that His ability for miracles was “not because He was God”, would you consider that because He is God possibly lends to His greatness in moving mountains, having faith, and otherwise?

  • Thank you, Colonel Moore. Before today, I never understood the “episode” of the cursed and withered fig tree. Now, with your excellent help, I DO!

  • To Johnny,
    What is so complicated as to see the land of Israel prospering “before our eyes” today. Israel is likened to a fig tree all throughout Scripture. History attests to the land of Israel being cursed for the past 2,000 years.
    The comment He spoke to a fever, a fig tree, the wind, waves, demons, etc. and they obeyed him because he had faith (not because he was God). This is diminshing the deity of Jesus Christ. He is the Creator of all things and by Him all things consist. Col. 1:16, 17
    Just to be sure, the faith that we are given by Christ is all sufficient to get one to heaven.
    This faith is minus nothing or plus nothing. Eph. 2:8,9
    Hebrews 11:6 ” But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he that cometh to God must believe that He is and is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.”

  • This is a reply to the May 11th post by Johnny:

    Tim Moore doesn’t make anything complicated, it’s just that he’s such a brilliant communicator, both orally and in writing, who has such an incredible grasp of ALL scripture that he’s able to piece it all together for us from Genesis to Revelation, that it may seem complicated to those of us without his level of Bible scholarship. The fig tree is commonly known to be a symbol of Israel amongst Bible scholars. After all, it’s his job, and we don’t work full-time studying Bible prophecy 7 days a week.

    I have to disagree with the ability of Jesus to make the fig tree, demons, storms, and disease obey His commands as a result of his faith alone and “not because he was God,” a theological point that can be debated endlessly. For example, Jesus was tempted by the devil and God could never be tempted by the devil: “Then was Jesus led up of the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil.” (Matt 4:1 KJV). Additionally, Jesus himself implied his subservience to God several times: “Why callest thou me good? None is good, save one, that is, God” (Luke 18:19 KJV) and “Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me; nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” (Luke 22:42 KJV) But this subservience repeatedly expressed by Jesus is seemingly contradicted by John 1:1 KJV “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” OR this is a succinct one sentence description of the Holy Trinity, that is, the Godhead, which includes Jesus as God. Nevertheless, I think everyone can agree that God the Father SPOKE THROUGH JESUS (“The Word” teaching salvation principles) and WORKED THROUGH JESUS (healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out demons, miracles) in a manner that far exceeds any prophet in history, none of whom can claim to be the Son of God who will ultimately reign over everything created. The intense level of saturation of Jesus by the Holy Spirit of God is something, I believe, no one on Earth can possibly fathom or comprehend with our little minds and spirits. So it’s reasonable to assume that the obedience of nature, demons, disease, and even death (raising the dead) to Jesus’ commands was NOT due to Jesus’ faith alone but due to God the Father working mightily through His Holy Spirit through His only begotten Son to save us all. Therefore, “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8 KJV)

    WORKS OF JESUS vs. WORKS OF SATAN:
    Teaching THE Truth vs. Suppression of THE Truth & Lies
    Casting Out Demons vs. Demonic Possession
    Healing the Sick vs. Disease & Paralysis
    Raising the Dead vs. Death & Murder (Genesis)
    Miracles & More Miracles vs. Destruction & Chaos

    Jesus taught for free, healed for free, and will execute judgment for free. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.” (Rev. 22:20 KJV)

  • Tim-this explanation was brilliant . You are a welcome addition to Lion and Lamb. You have truly raised the bar there.
    Few of my Christian friends are aware that our generation is blessed to see Scriptural prophecy fulfilled in our lifetime. I look forward to more insights from you.

  • I’m still confused wrt “this generation shall not pass away” before Yeshua’s return….so how long is a generation because Israel became a state in 1948….we are at 74 years and counting….or is that “generation” from when Jerusalem was recaptured/liberated in 1967? Is a generation 40 years?…the math isn’t adding up.

    • Jesus said that all the things He had spoken of concerning the Tribulation will be fulfilled during the generation (genea) that sees the “fig tree” reblossom. The day before Jesus had put a curse on a barren fig tree (Matthew 21:18-19), causing it to wither. It was a prophetic sign that God would set the Jewish nation aside because of their spiritual barrenness — that is, their refusal to accept Jesus as their Messiah. Now, the next day, Jesus calls the fig tree to mind and says, “Watch it. When it reblossoms, all these things will happen.” The setting aside of Israel occurred in 70 A.D. The reblossoming took place in 1948 when the nation of Israel was re-established.

      Since we don’t know for sure what a generation is, a literal translation of “generation” would mean a lifespan. In Genesis 6:3 God dropped the age of man down to 120 years. Psalm 90:10 reflects that man’s length usually is between 70-80 years.

      The text then bears weight to the idea that the peoples of this day who have witnessed Israel’s restoration are the group/age/race/generation that will have the Tribulation befall them. This is substantiated by all the end time signs that are occurring today (see http://christinprophecy.org/articles/an-overview-of-the-signs-of-the-times/).

  • Well said Dee,
    I agree that Tim Moore has done his study of Israel’s history and application to the Scriptures as a well done study. Thank you Tim for your willingness to “Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the Word of truth” ll Timothy 2:15

  • I appreciate you Tim. You are doing a good work to prepare the way for the Lord’s return…making the church ready. Keep up the great work.

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