The Lesson of the Fig Tree

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Randy Kluth

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Not another tree, they must be grafted back into the good olive tree, and this shall only happen if they turn to Christ in faith!
The "tree" was a metaphor used for the ideal state of Israel. The "tree" can also be used for the failed current state of Israel, ie in Jesus' time. Nothing is to be grafted back into that. It perished in 70 AD.

I don't know how I can explain this to you without you getting upset? This is not a strange doctrine, as you've tried to notify the others. "Blah, blah, blah" all you want--I don't care. I'm just giving you an honest assessment of where our different beliefs are. And no, they're not strange coming from me.

The belief in a literal restoration of Israel was a belief held in the earliest history of the Church. Acts 1.6 is an example of this. There are others. Even some of the early Church Fathers entertained the possibility it could happen, but they quickly departed from any hope that "Israel" represented anything but Christian faith as an international entity. The existence of "Jews" or literal "Israel" wasn't denied. But "Israel" became a symbol of something alluded to, and not literal. The thought "Israel" represented "unbelieving Israel" that would become literal "believing Israel" in the future was lost. But it wasn't "strange!"

And so, what evolved was your belief, and the belief of the Church through most of history, that Israel never was "Israel," but only a foreshowing of it, like an external allusion to something real, internal, and spiritual. This is typical of "allegorical interpretations," men like Origen were attracted to, since the OT temple represented the heavenly temple, Israel being thought of as "symbolic of the Church."

But for these allegorists, Israel was fake, and real "Israel" is an abstract reality alluded to by the Israel of old. I reject this allegorical view, though natural, literal was still accepted as real, but only of value to God as an allusion to "true Israel."

And I rejected this also because Premillennialism has been revived by about 4 scholars, Ribera, Lacunza, Irving, and Darby, who recognized the weakness of the old Replacement Theology of the Church, though it wasn't called that at that time. Futurism was not a reinterpretation of the past through allegory, but rather, a fulfillment of all of the OT promises. Furthermore, Israel has come back into history, just as advertised!

But if you're going to get cantankerous about it, we can let the issue lie?
 
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Randy Kluth

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I wrote this to my brother, as well, on the 13th, because I was discussing the issue of "Replacement Theology" with him. This may help to explain how I view the argument...

In the matter of "Replacement Theology," which adherents often view as a term of disparagement, but which I do not, you should be aware that this is a fought-over term. I've been discussing it for years, and this is an example of the confusion involved.

I say that physical Israel in the Middle East today has not been "replaced" by the International Church, rendering "Israel" an illegitimate representation of "true Israel" (the International Church). On this basis, Israel in the Middle East is viewed as an imposter, pretending to resurrect the old Israel of the OT, whereas it is believed that even the term "Israel" only represented a select remnant of faith among Jews in Israel in the OT era.

That is, "true Israel" is for Replacement Theologians a universal, timeless term, that never did apply strictly to the entire people of Israel, living in the Promised Land. It only applied to the select number who had faith within the total membership of Israel, with the "Promised Land" really alluding to "Heaven."

And so, for this group, whether Catholics or Reform Protestants, "Israel" in the NT era also refers only to "True Israel," ie those among the many nations on earth who have genuine faith, excluding all imposters, who are purely nominal in their faith. "Israel" becomes for them a non-national term including a heavenly congregation of Christians from all nations, united under the one head, Christ.

For me this presents a problem, because God never distinguished between believers in Israel and purely "nominal" members of the nation. They were all Israel, and were only distinguished when members of that nation were "cut off" due to apostasy against the faith. They were dis-fellowshiped, as such, and not viewed as "true" to their faith or to their nation's faith.

Sin did not divide them, since ceremonies were put in place to mitigate it. All were included in Israel's citizenship, not just because they were descended from Abraham, but also because in being members of the nation they opted, by default, to serve Abraham's God. Even those not descended from Abraham could become members of Israel simply by opting to marry into the nation, choosing to live in that nation's boundaries and serve that nation's God.

If we are to call "Israel" only elect believers, then we have all kinds of language problems when the Prophets addressed backslidden, unbelieving Israel, indicating they would either be judged or later forgiven upon repentance. To exclude those who needed judgment or correction makes a mockery of God's use of the word "Israel."

My opinion only--it is very, very controversial on the forums I'm on. And this issue spans the entire history of the Church, when it became evident the predominant number of Jews would *not* convert. However, in the last century, we've seen a mass return of Jews to the Promised Land, giving rise to the possibility ancient prophecies are literally being fulfilled.
 

rwb

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The "tree" was a metaphor used for the ideal state of Israel. The "tree" can also be used for the failed current state of Israel, ie in Jesus' time. Nothing is to be grafted back into that. It perished in 70 AD.

I don't know how I can explain this to you without you getting upset? This is not a strange doctrine, as you've tried to notify the others. "Blah, blah, blah" all you want--I don't care. I'm just giving you an honest assessment of where our different beliefs are. And no, they're not strange coming from me.

Randy, believe it or not I love having these discussions. What becomes exasperating is trying to discuss biblical doctrine without supporting what you believe from the Bible. When all we do is discuss one another's opinions without support from the Word of God we've stopped having biblical discussions. And though I do love discussions, I'm here to discuss what the Scriptures say.

Yes, I agree the fig tree as well as the olive tree are both found in Scripture to be representative of the Old Covenant nation of Israel. And yes, I agree by the time Christ came, the nation had become apostate and an abomination unto God. Christ uses the barren fig tree as an example of their apostasy, when He saw it bear no fruit. He cursed the fig tree (OC Israel), saying never again shall there be life found in them. And there was not, is not and never shall be, with the exception of the remnant of Jews who believed in Christ who had come with a New Covenant. This small remnant of faithful Jewish Christians were the beginning of the fig tree in the parable that Christ tells His disciples to observe, and when they see life on the fig tree they had seen and heard Christ curse, then they would know the Kingdom of God has come to the earth with the advent of Christ, and the fig tree would no longer represent the nation that was under the Old Covenant but would represent the whole world that people from every nation of the earth would become part of when they turned to Christ in faith, with repentance, believing on Him for eternal life.

The belief in a literal restoration of Israel was a belief held in the earliest history of the Church. Acts 1.6 is an example of this. There are others. Even some of the early Church Fathers entertained the possibility it could happen, but they quickly departed from any hope that "Israel" represented anything but Christian faith as an international entity. The existence of "Jews" or literal "Israel" wasn't denied. But "Israel" became a symbol of something alluded to, and not literal. The thought "Israel" represented "unbelieving Israel" that would become literal "believing Israel" in the future was lost. But it wasn't "strange!"

You continue to repeat this ideal "literal restoration" for Israel. But this opinion is foreign to Scripture.

Acts 1:6 (KJV) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

This verse does not help you Randy. This verse only shows how fixated the Jews were before the advent of Christ, with the belief that they alone belonged to the Kingdom of God. They had not at that moment yet received the Holy Spirit within them. Without Him they did not know that the Kingdom of God was going to become universal, and it would spiritually belong to whosoever according to grace through faith believe in Christ for eternal life.

Acts 1:7-8 (KJV) And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. 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.

The answer Jesus gave them was for them to wait for the coming Spirit, and through Him they would become His witnesses not only to Israel, but in all Judea, Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth. They didn't understand at the time, but once they received the Spirit from Christ in them, the first sermon preached after the outpouring of the Spirit was to devout men from "every nation under heaven." And these devout men upon hearing the Gospel of Christ that Peter proclaimed, believed, through the power of the Spirit they witnessed that day. When these devout, now Christian men returned to their own lands, do you doubt for a single moment that they told their families, friends and neighbors what they had witnessed and how their hearts had been changed that they might believe in Christ for eternal life.

It didn't matter that these first Jewish converts to Christ thought the Kingdom of God would come through Old Covenant Israel, and it doesn't matter if early Church fathers believed that Israel would be the recipient of the Kingdom of God. It doesn't matter IF it cannot be proven through the Word of God. And it cannot, because the Kingdom of God has never been exclusively of Israel. What dramatically changed from the Old Covenant to the New, was that for an outsider to belong to Israel and partake of the blessings possessing the Kingdom of God afforded them, one must submit to Judaism. To do that a woman must marry a Jew, and a man must be circumcised and both would then be required to be obedient to the Levitical Laws. But in Christ the Law has been fulfilled, and now anyone who believes in Christ by grace through faith belongs to the Kingdom of God through His Spirit in them. Because the Kingdom of God is not meat and drink, the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom that is NOT of this world and cannot be physically seen because the Kingdom of God is within you.

And so, what evolved was your belief, and the belief of the Church through most of history, that Israel never was "Israel," but only a foreshowing of it, like an external allusion to something real, internal, and spiritual. This is typical of "allegorical interpretations," men like Origen were attracted to, since the OT temple represented the heavenly temple, Israel being thought of as "symbolic of the Church."

This is not an expression of what I believe the Bible tells us regarding Israel. I am convinced by the multitude of biblical proof that both Old Covenant Israel and New Covenant Israel were always to have been a representation of the spiritual Kingdom of God in heaven that is found within the hearts of all people who have faith in Christ for eternal life. That's why God gave Old Covenant Israel the Laws and the Prophets. Both point out the inability for mankind to save themselves through anything they might do. Those of Old Covenant Israel who were obedient to the Law and believed the prophesy of a Messiah who would come to save them are the remnant that has always been found in Israel, saved by grace through faith, being ordained to eternal life through Christ.

What your opinion of the nation of Israel seems to be is that there must be a national conversion to Christ, because it has always been God's intention that they as a political people must be called a Christian nation. But you also say this national conversion isn't really national at all, because not all of them will be called a Christian??? That's a really conflicting and contradictory view imo.

This is becoming too long for anyone to digest, so I'll stop here. I apologize for my "blah, blah, blah" remark. I'll blame it on being tired and past ready for bed.
 

Randy Kluth

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Randy, believe it or not I love having these discussions. What becomes exasperating is trying to discuss biblical doctrine without supporting what you believe from the Bible. When all we do is discuss one another's opinions without support from the Word of God we've stopped having biblical discussions. And though I do love discussions, I'm here to discuss what the Scriptures say.
Obviously we *both* love having these discussions! And I'm not going to provide a Scripture verse every time I say this. I give you and others more credit than this. I think you know by inference what I'm suggesting *the Bible is saying?*

In reality, you're not saying I don't provide Scriptural references. In fact all you're saying is that I don't provide a biblical reference *every time* I state something! And that is an unnecessary burden that should be expected of nobody. That is purely a ruse--sorry!

Please state anything I've claimed that I have not already supported in this forum recently with a biblical reference? I'm not going to keep repeating for your sake, whatever your motive for asking this.

But even if you have not read a post where I've backed up a point with a Scriptural reference all you have to do is ask. Just don't make a general request that I back up things with Scripture. Address the specific point that you want backed up!

Otherwise, you're just derailing the conversation by diverting me to time spent needlessly. That's no better than you filibustering by stating your own points while demanding that I spend all my time reading books and defining terms, or looking up previous posts to prove my case.

I will address your other points separately...
 

Randy Kluth

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Christ uses the barren fig tree as an example of their apostasy, when He saw it bear no fruit. He cursed the fig tree (OC Israel), saying never again shall there be life found in them. And there was not, is not and never shall be, with the exception of the remnant of Jews who believed in Christ who had come with a New Covenant.
If a remnant of Jews remain, and if Jews can convert to Christ, then certain the nation of Israel can be restored. A "new tree" can be planted.

Rom 11.28 As far as the gospel is concerned, they are enemies for your sake; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, 29 for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable.

Matt 23.38 Look, your house is left to you desolate. 39 For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’”

Isa 6.13 And though a tenth remains in the land, it will again be laid waste. But as the terebinth and oak leave stumps when they are cut down, so the holy seed will be the stump in the land.”

Isa 11.1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit...
10 In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him, and his resting place will be glorious.


A tree can be cut down. But God said the stump that remains can re-grow. Or, it can be replanted...

Isa 37.31 Once more a remnant of the kingdom of Judah will take root below and bear fruit above.

This small remnant of faithful Jewish Christians were the beginning of the fig tree in the parable that Christ tells His disciples to observe, and when they see life on the fig tree they had seen and heard Christ curse, then they would know the Kingdom of God has come to the earth with the advent of Christ, and the fig tree would no longer represent the nation that was under the Old Covenant but would represent the whole world that people from every nation of the earth would become part of when they turned to Christ in faith, with repentance, believing on Him for eternal life.
We both agree the Jewish remnant of faith became an international community. That is not a point of contention.
You continue to repeat this ideal "literal restoration" for Israel. But this opinion is foreign to Scripture.
This argument is a "language issue!" I would argue that by definition "Israel" is a term referencing "Literal Israel!" Far from being "foreign to Scripture" it is the very definition of the word as used in Scripture!

All this was understood by Jews and Christians until the term came under the influence of allegorical interpretation. Then "Israel," used as an allegory for the Church, began to mean something non-literal.

The allegorized form of the word became the normal use of the word in the Church. This displacement of the original meaning of the term "Israel" is what I call "Replacement Theology."

There is no question that God expanded the faith community from a small believing remnant of Israelites to many Christian nations. However, the word "Israel" still means Literal Israel. It has not assumed a new definition.
Acts 1:6 (KJV) When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?

This verse does not help you Randy. This verse only shows how fixated the Jews were before the advent of Christ, with the belief that they alone belonged to the Kingdom of God. They had not at that moment yet received the Holy Spirit within them.
To say the Disciples of Jesus, in his presence, were misinformed or unspiritual in asking the question about Israel's restoration begs the question: why did Jesus fail to correct them?

But he didn't. He assumed their question was legitimate, and explained it in a broader context, not at all denying that Israel would eventually be restored.

Acts 3.19 Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, 20 and that he may send the Messiah, who has been appointed for you—even Jesus. 21 Heaven must receive him until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.

Jesus called for his apostles to be witnesses 1st to Israel, and then to other nations--in fact all nations. None of this exempted the witness to Israel which was to fulfill the promises made to Abraham, that he would have a nation in Canaan.

Simply put, Jesus was saying that a long period of time, an outreach to the Gentiles, would precede the fulfillment of Israel's Hope. That Hope was not being denied.
It didn't matter that these first Jewish converts to Christ thought the Kingdom of God would come through Old Covenant Israel, and it doesn't matter if early Church fathers believed that Israel would be the recipient of the Kingdom of God. It doesn't matter IF it cannot be proven through the Word of God. And it cannot, because the Kingdom of God has never been exclusively of Israel.
Just because the Kingdom of God is not exclusively of Israel today does not mean that Israel is not intended to be the recipient of the Kingdom of God. In fact, Jesus implied that very thing, that Israel had been the recipient of God's Kingdom, and that is would be, for a time, transferred to another nation, which I believe was the Roman Empire.

Matt 21.43 “Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit."
What dramatically changed from the Old Covenant to the New, was that for an outsider to belong to Israel and partake of the blessings possessing the Kingdom of God afforded them, one must submit to Judaism.
Again, this point is not in contention. We both believe that under OT requirements, redemption ceremonies would have to occur in Jerusalem alone, among the Jewish People in the land of Israel. This didn't mean that God confined Mercy only to Israel. It only meant that Israel were the guardians of ceremonies that explained the necessity of atonement for Sin.

The fact Israel held these ceremonies did not mean they were not the recipients of God's Mercy any longer. It would just require a very long time of national punishment before their nation would be prepared to receive Christian Mercy for violating and breaking the Covenant entirely. And they broke the Covenant entirely by rejecting their Messiah.

The OT Covenant may be used as a kind of allegory of NT Grace, but NT Grace does not delegitimize the prior use of the OT Covenant. On the contrary, in its time the OT Covenant did authentically dispense grace, if only in a limited way. And it really did have value in keeping Israel connected to God spiritually, as well as blessed materially. It just didn't provide Eternal Life, which was reserved for the work of Christ.

There is this effort to create a dichotomy between the OT and the NT, between Israel and the Church. But it fails to see the different values in each. Instead, all value is placed on the OT fulfillment in Christ, disqualifying not just the OT Law but also the OT promises regarding Israel.
That's why God gave Old Covenant Israel the Laws and the Prophets. Both point out the inability for mankind to save themselves through anything they might do.
"Doing things" was not the problem. The legal work Christ alone could do was the problem. Israel perfectly well "did things" to please and obey God. And these things had value through faith.

The only thing they couldn't do was self-atone, nor were they ever asked to do things apart from God's word. That word was supposed to be in them, inspiring their obedience. As such, their deeds could follow them into the future eternal Kingdom.
What your opinion of the nation of Israel seems to be is that there must be a national conversion to Christ, because it has always been God's intention that they as a political people must be called a Christian nation.
Yes.
But you also say this national conversion isn't really national at all, because not all of them will be called a Christian??? That's a really conflicting and contradictory view imo.
I think this is often the problem when fellow believers don't understand what I'm saying. And this is because the entire history of the Church has been covered over in Replacement Theology (as I see it).

I've gone to pains to explain on a particular thread about this "Political Salvation." CLICK It is a distinct definition of "Salvation" that gets conflated with Evangelical Salvation. The 2 kinds of Salvation are related, because Israel's obedience to God, or their "spirituality," led to their political deliverance. If you care, read the thread: Political Salvation.

Thank you. I enjoy the conversation!
 

ewq1938

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All this was understood by Jews and Christians until the term came under the influence of allegorical interpretation. Then "Israel," used as an allegory for the Church, began to mean something non-literal.


It's as literal as it ever was. The title of Israel was given to Jacob and his sons, and it remained with them a long time but when Christ came, it shifted to only those who accepted him and included all others who also accepted. It's still a title placed upon people, with the new requirement of one believing in Jesus Christ as Messiah.