Christian Churches of God
Cursing the Fig Tree
(Edition 1.5 20020310-20140429)
The cursing of the fig tree by Jesus Christ has great significance for the ritual of the Church of God. It falls in the sequence of the Cleansing and Sanctification of the Temple of God.
Cursing the Fig Tree
In Mathew chapter 21 we read of the cursing of the fig tree in the sequence following on from Jesus’ entry to Jerusalem, and the cleansing of the temple.
Matthew 21:1-22 Now when they drew near to Jerusalem and came to Beth-phage, to the Mount of Olives, then Jesus sent two disciples, 2 saying to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately you will find a donkey tied, and a colt with her. Untie them and bring them to me. 3 If anyone says anything to you, you shall say, ‘The Lord needs them,’ and he will send them at once.” 4 This took place to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet, saying,
5 “Say to the daughter of Zion,
‘Behold, your king is coming to you,
humble, and mounted on a donkey,
and on a colt, the foal of a beast of burden.’ ”
6 The disciples went and did as Jesus had directed them. 7 They brought the donkey and the colt and put on them their cloaks, and he sat on them. 8 Most of the crowd spread their cloaks on the road, and others cut branches from the trees and spread them on the road. 9 And the crowds that went before him and that followed him were shouting,
“Hosanna to the Son of David!
Blessed is he who comes
in the name of the Lord!
Hosanna in the highest!”
10 And when he entered Jerusalem, the whole city was stirred up, saying, “Who is this?” 11 And the crowds said, “This is the prophet Jesus, from Nazareth of Galilee.”
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
12 And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 13 He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer,’ but you make it a den of robbers.” 14 And the blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he healed them. 15 But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, 16 and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?” 17 And leaving them, he went out of the city to Bethany and lodged there.
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
18 In the morning, as he was returning to the city, he became hungry. 19 And seeing a fig tree by the wayside, he went to it and found nothing on it but only leaves. And he said to it, “May no fruit ever come from you again!” And the fig tree withered at once. 20 When the disciples saw it, they marveled, saying, “How did the fig tree wither at once?” 21 And Jesus answered them, “Truly, I say to you, if you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what has been done to the fig tree, but even if you say to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ it will happen. 22 And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.”
If we view this in relation to Mark 11 we see that the sequence changes. Thus, there is a series of actions taking place that are repeated.
Now when they drew near to Jerusalem, to Bethphage and Bethany, at the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two of his disciples 2 and said to them, “Go into the village in front of you, and immediately as you enter it you will find a colt tied, on which no one has ever sat. Untie it and bring it. 3 If anyone says to you, ‘Why are you doing this?’ say, ‘The Lord has need of it and will send it back here immediately.’ ” 4 And they went away and found a colt tied at a door outside in the street, and they untied it. 5 And some of those standing there said to them, “What are you doing, untying the colt?” 6 And they told them what Jesus had said, and they let them go. 7 And they brought the colt to Jesus and threw their cloaks on it, and he sat on it. 8 And many spread their cloaks on the road, and others spread leafy branches that they had cut from the fields. 9 And those who went before and those who followed were shouting, “Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord! 10 Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” 11 And he entered Jerusalem and went into the temple. And when he had looked around at everything, as it was already late, he went out to Bethany with the twelve.
Jesus Curses the Fig Tree
12 On the following day, when they came from Bethany, he was hungry. 13 And seeing in the distance a fig tree in leaf, he went to see if he could find anything on it. When he came to it, he found nothing but leaves, for it was not the season for figs. 14 And he said to it, “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” And his disciples heard it.
Jesus Cleanses the Temple
15 And they came to Jerusalem. And he entered the temple and began to drive out those who sold and those who bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons. 16 And he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. 17 And he was teaching them and saying to them, “Is it not written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations’? But you have made it a den of robbers.” 18 And the chief priests and the scribes heard it and were seeking a way to destroy him, for they feared him, because all the crowd was astonished at his teaching. 19 And when evening came they went out of the city.
The Lesson from the Withered Fig Tree
20 As they passed by in the morning, they saw the fig tree withered away to its roots. 21 And Peter remembered and said to him, “Rabbi, look! The fig tree that you cursed has withered.” 22 And Jesus answered them, “Have faith in God. 23 Truly, I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and thrown into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says will come to pass, it will be done for him. 24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. 25 And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone, so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.”
The Authority of Jesus Challenged
27 And they came again to Jerusalem. And as he was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to him, 28 and they said to him, “By what authority are you doing these things, or who gave you this authority to do them?” 29 Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one question; answer me, and I will tell you by what authority I do these things. 30 Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man? Answer me.” 31 And they discussed it with one another, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ he will say, ‘Why then did you not believe him?’ 32 But shall we say, ‘From man’?”— they were afraid of the people, for they all held that John really was a prophet. 33 So they answered Jesus, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Neither will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”
This sequence shows that he entered the Temple on consecutive days and cleansed it. He was entering the Temple to ensure it was cleansed from the first of Abib onwards in accordance with the Law, and the sections we see listed in Ezekiel 45:18-25:
18 “Thus says the Lord God: In the first month, on the first day of the month, you shall take a bull from the herd without blemish, and purify the sanctuary. 19 The priest shall take some of the blood of the sin offering and put it on the doorposts of the temple, the four corners of the ledge of the altar, and the posts of the gate of the inner court. 20 You shall do the same on the seventh day of the month for anyone who has sinned through error or ignorance; so you shall make atonement for the temple. 21 “In the first month, on the fourteenth day of the month, you shall celebrate the Feast of the Passover, and for seven days unleavened bread shall be eaten. 22 On that day the prince shall provide for himself and all the people of the land a young bull for a sin offering. 23 And on the seven days of the festival he shall provide as a burnt offering to the Lord seven young bulls and seven rams without blemish, on each of the seven days; and a male goat daily for a sin offering. 24 And he shall provide as a grain offering an ephah for each bull, an ephah for each ram, and a hin of oil to each ephah. 25 In the seventh month, on the fifteenth day of the month and for the seven days of the feast, he shall make the same provision for sin offerings, burnt offerings, and grain offerings, and for the oil.
These cross-reference the texts in Genesis 8:13; Exodus 12:18; 29:1-14. In Ezekiel 43:18 we see that the consecration begins with the altar, whereas the consecration of the priests is required by the Levitical priesthood under the Law (Lev. 8:1-10). Thus, here we are dealing with a priesthood already sanctified and commencing the sacrifices of the altar within a new system. In this, the Zadokites are the only Levites to be admitted (Ezek. 40:46; 44:15; cf. Rev. chapter 7). This is the priesthood of Melchisedek. This priesthood preceded Levi, and Levi tithed to it in the loins of Abraham. Shem was its high priest from the time of Noah. It was placed at Jerusalem until David occupied Jerusalem. The king there was titled as Adonai-Zedek or Melchisedek on a continual basis as we see from Scripture (cf. the paper Melchisedek (No. 128)).
This being was not Jesus Christ for a number of sound scriptural reasons. Jesus Christ could not have been a human being at Jerusalem and appear at the same time to Abraham as the Angel of Yahovah with two other beings at the destruction of Sodom. Moreover, as the Angel of Yahovah he was with Israel in the wilderness, and in the occupation of Jericho and all Canaan. How then could he also be there in Jerusalem as Adonai-Zedek? What is the purpose of the incarnation if it was already a fact over a period of some five hundred years previously? (See also the paper The Angel of YHVH (No. 24).)
In the text in Exodus 29:36 a bullock is offered on seven consecutive days. Here (Eze. 43) it is offered only once and on the other days a kid of the goats. This is clearly another Temple and another sequence. These offerings in Ezekiel 43:18-27 are national and priestly where the priestly represents the nation.
Bullinger sees that they are not individual, but assumes that there will be no Day of Atonement and deduces from this fact that they will not be under the Law. Whilst they will be in the millennial system and the application of the law will differ under Christ regarding the sacrifices, the fact that the feasts follow from Passover to Tabernacles, and Atonement and Trumpets are not mentioned, (Eze. 45:24-25) does not mean they will not be kept (cf. the paper FAQs on Ezekiel Chapters 36-48 and the Sanctification of the Temple (No. 292) and the Sanctification of the Temple of God (No. 241)). It is also noted that the New Moons are not considered working days and will be enforced in the millennial system as we see from Ezekiel 45 f. and also Isaiah 66:23, and those who do not keep them will die (Isa. 66:24).
The sequence of the cleansing then takes place from the first of the First Month through the seventh. Christ took it on to the tenth day when he entered Jerusalem. He was hungered in this sequence. That would normally be interpreted as showing that he had fasted over this period.
It is a process of fasting understood by those who undertake such activity. Normal day-to-day hunger is hardly noteworthy.
It is quite likely that he fasted for the period on a number of days, or even all of them. Although he seems to have passed periods at the houses of several of his friends during that time.
The gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke tell us that Christ was in the Temple, cleansing it and ensuring that it was clear of moneychangers and such parasites.
Thus, after the Sanctification of the Simple and the Erroneous, Christ went to Jerusalem, approaching from Jericho on 8 Abib, and passed that Thursday night in the house of Zacchaeus. The first entry to Jerusalem was from Bethphage on the day of 9 Abib (Friday) and not from Bethany (cf. Mat. 21:8-9). He was unexpected and he cleansed the Temple (Mat. 21:12-16), and he then departed for Bethany (Mat. 21:17). The sequence is outlined in the tables in the paper Timing of the Crucifixion and the Resurrection (No. 159).
On 11 Abib, the fourth day before the Passover, he entered the Temple and looked around and then returned to Bethany (Mark 11:11). On 12 Abib, the third day before the Passover in 30 CE, he reappeared in the Temple, re-cleansed it and then taught in the Temple (Mk. 11:15-17; Lk. 19:45-46). He faced the opposition of the rulers (Mk. 11:18; Lk. 19:47-48) and then left the city probably for Bethany (Mk. 11:19; Lk. 21:37-38).
On the second day before the Passover on 13 Abib (Tuesday), Christ is again in Jerusalem and the Temple (Mat. 21:23-27; Mk. 11:27-33; Lk. 20:1-8). The first great prophecy is then given in the Temple (Lk. 21:5-36).
The statement concerning the Lord’s custom is made in this last week (Lk. 21:37-38).
Then the second great prophecy is given on the Mount of Olives (Mat. 24:1-51; Mk. 13:1-37) and continued (Mat. 25:1-46).
Christ, by his clear example in the gospels, was cleansing the Temple entirely over this period, from 1 Abib as required by law, right up until 13 Abib or Nisan, which was the beginning of the preparation day for the Passover. At the end of 13 Abib, he and the disciples retired to the upper room for the Last or Lord’s Supper and the betrayal, trial of Messiah, and the Crucifixion of the Passover Lamb on the afternoon of 14 Abib.
The Lesson of the Fig Tree
A major lesson to be learnt in this process of cursing the fig tree was that it was set within, and related to the process of the preparation for the Passover, and was part of the cleansing process. The reference to the absence of fruit and the curse was a lesson for the Churches of God, that in this process of cleansing, that which failed to bear fruit was thus left to wither and die.
This lesson was never more appropriate in the latter part of the twentieth century, when the cleansing was never undertaken, and the preparation for the Passover was never directed at the sanctification and salvation of Israel and the nations.
It is for this reason that the parables in Matthew and Mark follow on, dealing with the obtaining of other labour and other sons. One promises to go and labour and one refused to promise. However, the one who promised does not go and the one who refused went and worked as the Father required. This parable was directed at Judah and Levi and ultimately Israel. The parable of the absent landowner (Mk. 12:1-12) was about the prophets and Christ himself, and the vineyard was the whole house of Israel (Isa. 5:7) (cf. The Covenant of God (No. 152)).
The Parable of the Tenants
Mark 12:1-12 And he began to speak to them in parables. “A man planted a vineyard and put a fence around it and dug a pit for the winepress and built a tower, and leased it to tenants and went into another country. 2 When the season came, he sent a servant to the tenants to get from them some of the fruit of the vineyard. 3 And they took him and beat him and sent him away empty-handed. 4 Again he sent to them another servant, and they struck him on the head and treated him shamefully. 5 And he sent another, and him they killed. And so with many others: some they beat, and some they killed. 6 He had still one other, a beloved son. Finally he sent him to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ 7 But those tenants said to one another, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, and the inheritance will be ours.’ 8 And they took him and killed him and threw him out of the vineyard. 9 What will the owner of the vineyard do? He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others. 10 Have you not read this Scripture:
“ ‘The stone that the builders rejected
has become the cornerstone;
11 this was the Lord’s doing,
and it is marvelous in our eyes’?”
12 And they were seeking to arrest him but feared the people, for they perceived that he had told the parable against them. So they left him and went away.
Here we see the tenants are the house of Israel, who were the priests and Levites charged with the work of God, and also the house of Judah that had been broken down by Edomites and the Hellenised practices. The message was to the elect of the nation and then to the Church that was to follow them.
Rendering to Caesar
Separation of the matters of the Church from those of the world in the preparation period was emphasised in the lesson of giving to Caesar in Mark 12:13-17.
13 And they sent to him some of the Pharisees and some of the Herodians, to trap him in his talk. 14 And they came and said to him, “Teacher, we know that you are true and do not care about anyone’s opinion. For you are not swayed by appearances, but truly teach the way of God. Is it lawful to pay taxes to Caesar, or not? Should we pay them, or should we not?” 15 But, knowing their hypocrisy, he said to them, “Why put me to the test? Bring me a denarius and let me look at it.” 16 And they brought one. And he said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They said to him, “Caesar’s.” 17 Jesus said to them, “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.” And they marveled at him.
The sequence of the parables is given, as they are to impart teaching to the Church.
The Church of the Resurrection
Christ dealt with the Sadducees also at that time regarding the Resurrection in Mark 12:18-27.
18 And Sadducees came to him, who say that there is no resurrection. And they asked him a question, saying, 19 “Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies and leaves a wife, but leaves no child, the man must take the widow and raise up offspring for his brother. 20 There were seven brothers; the first took a wife, and when he died left no offspring. 21 And the second took her, and died, leaving no offspring. And the third likewise. 22 And the seven left no offspring. Last of all the woman also died. 23 In the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be? For the seven had her as wife.” 24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God? 25 For when they rise from the dead, they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 26 And as for the dead being raised, have you not read in the book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him, saying, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? 27 He is not God of the dead, but of the living. You are quite wrong.”
In this text he spoke of the Resurrection (Mk. 12:18-27) and the Church as the resurrected firstborn, for he said when he spoke to Moses in the burning bush: “I am the God of Abraham and the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob.” He is the God of the living and not the dead and therefore, Christ here speaks of the Church – those who have fallen asleep in the Lord.
It is the process of the preparation of the Temple that is undertaken from 1 Abib through to the Passover. Then Unleavened Bread is eaten seven days from 15 to 21 Abib, and the fasting month is brought to a seven day close, returning to the normal processes in the omer count to Pentecost and the wheat harvest, which is the harvest of the Church of the firstborn.
This process is a sequence starting from 1st Abib and in effect ending with the resurrection of the church fifty days after the wave sheaf offering which occurs on the Sunday within the Passover. This sequence is part of the tree required to bear fruit. The tree that doesn’t fast and prepare itself for the sanctification is cursed and withers and dies.