Judgment on the Fig Tree
Matthew Lesson #124
June 19, 2016
“Father, the psalmist said that Your Word gives us light. It is a lamp unto our feet and a light into our path. And it is in Your light that we see light. So Father as we study Your Word, our thinking is illuminated to reality as You shed the light of Your Word on our thinking; that the challenge for us is to submit our thinking to Your Word, to let Your Word renovate, overhaul transform, reshape our thinking, so that we don’t think according to the relativism of human viewpoint thinking—the transitory ideas that affect different cultures at different times—but that our thinking, our opinions, our understanding, our interpretation of the events around us are grounded in that which is eternal and steadfast and never can be shaken.
Father, as we study Your Word today, may we be reminded of who Jesus is and what He did. May we have a greater understanding of our Savior and also of Your plan and purpose for each one of us as believers.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Oh, we’re in a fun passage today. A passage that you might read and think that, “Well, that’s pretty simple and straightforward.” You ought to know by now that that’s not always the case, especially in the Gospel of Matthew. Because as we have seen in our study in the past, that Matthew is not writing like a modern 20th-century biographer would write. None of the Gospel writers do. They’re not writing biographies in the modern sense. They are writing Gospel tracts. They are writing an overview of the life of Jesus to demonstrate certain key points. Each one has a different emphasis.
Matthew’s emphasis is that Jesus is the promised and prophesied Messiah from the Old Testament. He’s writing to a Jewish audience, an audience that is made up of Jewish Christians. He’s not writing to tell them how to become saved or how to trust in Christ as Savior, which is the focal point of the Gospel of John. Matthew is writing to this group of Jewish-background believers in the context of the rising opposition and persecution that they’re experiencing both within the land of Israel and those outside of the land of Israel, and responding to a question that would be asked, then as it is sometimes asked now, if Jesus is really the Messiah why didn’t the Kingdom come in? Why aren’t we experiencing all of the prophecies, the fulfillment of all of the prophecies and promises of the Old Testament?
Because if You look at the Old Testament, there are probably 300 to 400 prophecies and specific promises related to what the Messiah will do. Some of them are related to a suffering Messiah. Others are related to a glorious ruling Messiah.
Jesus came to fulfill the suffering promises first because redemption had to be accomplished before there could be the kingdom. There had to be a payment for sin before man and the earth could be redeemed and experienced all that God had originally intended for Adam in the creation.
He was created in the image and likeness of God, and he was created to rule over the fish of the sea, the birds of the air, and the beasts of the field. Remember that in Genesis 1:26–27, God has created man in His image and in His likeness to rule over the creation.
But something happened. Adam disobeyed God in the garden. He ate of the fruit of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, plunging not only himself into condemnation as a sinner, but also plunging the whole of creation under the curse of the judgment of God. So the creation that we see today is far removed. In fact, it’s actually two steps removed from the original creation.
The first step once removed was the creation from the fall to the flood, and then with that worldwide judgment of the Noahic Flood, then you have another earth that is much different from the pre-flood earth.
By the way, the flood was the focal point of this year’s vacation Bible school. It was a curriculum that we purchased from Answers in Genesis, which is a great ministry that has to do with creation and teaching principles of God’s creation to all Christians. They have tremendous material. It’s a great resource, and our folks did just a fabulous job during the whole week.
They had a great group of kids. The kids were enthusiastic. I’m going to have Mark Friedrick give a report next week—they’re on vacation this weekend—to give a summary of everything, but I just wanted to say something this morning about what a tremendous job they all did in teaching.
We had more kids than we had last year, and I think it just came off great. So I’m looking forward to next year already. I think the kids are too. The kids didn’t want to leave. That was a report I got from several people who said their kids were crying on the way home, “I want to go back!” And the last day was like, “Is it over already?” So it was good, and I commend everyone who was involved in that production.
So back to where I was. We have man originally created to rule over God’s creation as His vicegerent. He is God’s representative. Some of you, I know I get this question every now and then from people, “He’s God’s vice-regent?” No he’s not. These are two different words. A vice-regent is like a vice president. If the regent dies, then the vice-regent takes over, but a vicegerent—aah, that’s the important word—is the representative of the King. That’s the difference. Man is created as the representative image of God to rule over His creation.
So this is his role. That role was harmed but not destroyed by the fall of Adam. Now that’s part of the backdrop for some of what is going on in our particular passage.
A lot of what Matthew says is implied. He sometimes gives us A, E, J, and M, and we have to come through and connect the dots. If you’re coming to Matthew from a background of being a Gentile, then you don’t understand the implications of what he is saying in terms of the Old Testament. So we’ll get a look at some of that.
This is one of those really abbreviated passages where there’s a lot more going on here than meets the eye. As I’ve been thinking it through this week, I’ve been trying to figure out, “How am I going to be able to explain this?” I don’t know, we’ll find out. So let’s review a little bit.
First thing we need to remember in terms of the passage is that in the first episode that occurs in Matthew 21:1–10. Jesus enters into Jerusalem, riding on the unbroken colt of a donkey. It’s in fulfillment of a prophecy in Zechariah 9:9, that the King is coming to them lowly, sitting on a donkey, riding the colt, the foal of the donkey. I mean the point here is important. It is the King is coming. He’s making a very specific intentional statement that He is the promised King, the promised Son of David. That term is going to be used here in just a minute.
As a result, the people, most of these would be the multitudes that have followed Him from Jericho to Jerusalem, the people respond to Him, and they are going to cry out in praise from Psalm 118.
Now I’m going to put the title slide here for just a minute because that’s the first one there. It’s a judgment on the fig tree. How in the world are we to understand this judgment on the fig tree? That’s really important. If we don’t understand the context, we won’t understand it. You can’t just look at what Jesus did there without understanding it in terms of the structure of everything else that’s going on at this first part of His final week in Jerusalem.
He enters into Jerusalem, and the multitudes are quoting, they’re singing from Psalm 118:25, which reads, “Save now, I pray, O Lord, O Lord, I pray, send now prosperity. Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord. We have blessed You from the house—that’s the temple—from the house of the Lord.”
That language in Psalm 118, “the house of the Lord”, is important because He’s going to have a quote here when He cleanses the temple, where He quotes from Isaiah and says, “My house shall be called a house of prayer.” So we’ve got to connect the dots.
One of the things I want to remind you of is that if you’re writing to a Jewish audience at that time, the audience knew the Old Testament. So that if you’re quoting from the first verse of a Psalm, what comes to their mind isn’t just this isolated verse that’s taken out of context.
Jesus and Matthew are not proof texting, which is what often happens today. They understand that by making this statement referring to a verse, that the whole context is going to come into the minds of their hearers because they know what the Old Testament says. Unlike Gentile audiences which look at you at you with a blank stare and go, “That’s from what Psalm? Is it in the Old Testament? How do I find that?” We have to connect all these dots.
This is what they’re saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David,” which comes from the Hebrew hoshiy’a na. Hoshiy’a means to call upon God, to save them, to deliver. The na indicates it’s a prayer, or it’s a request. “Save now.” Then if you look at the text in the last line, “Hosanna in the highest” is not italicized because they’re adding that as part of the application of this to that particular time.
I want you to notice that when they say “hosanna in the highest,” that this term “the highest” is not a geographical or spatial term relating to Heaven. But the word here is a word that defines God. It is often used in the Scripture to refer to God. In the Old Testament, this Greek word translates the Hebrew “for the Lord most high.” It’s an exaltation; it’s a praise. You find it all through the Psalms.
You can find it as far back as when Abraham goes to Melchizedek in Genesis 14, and he has rescued Lot and many others who were taken captive by the kings of the East that came in and destroyed the various cities of the plains. He goes to Melchizedek who worships the “God most high.” This is an ancient name for God.
So it’s a name for God. It is not, this phrase in the Greek is not talking about where He is, but who He is.
Luke uses this the most of the Gospel writers.
Gabriel announces to Mary that the Son that you will have “will be great and will be called the Son of the highest.” That’s the God most high.
In Luke 1:35, “The angel says to her, the Holy Spirit will come on you and the power of the highest will overshadow you.” It’s the same word that we have in the Matthew passages. It’s not talking about where He is, but who He is. He is over everything. It emphasizes His sovereign rule of history, just as the passage in Psalm 47 does. He is the great King over all the earth.
Luke 1:76, “You, child, will be called the prophet of the highest. For you will go before the face of the Lord to prepare His ways.” This is Zechariah, John the Baptist’s father, talking here about John the Baptist, the prophet of the Highest. Again, the term, the Highest refers to God the Father.
Luke 2:14, this is the announcement of the angels. “Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” It’s talking about not where He is but who He is, “God in the highest.”
Matthew 21:9, when we come to this passage, it’s “Hosanna,” and then you have “in” plus the dative in the Greek, which almost always, in my opinion, emphasizes not location but indicates means. “Save us by means of the highest, the most high God.” It is a request that Jesus will be the one to save them, and it will be done according to the plan of God the Father.
Notice it is, “Save us, Son of David.” So this brings into the foreground, and this will be repeated again when the children repeat this same thing, that He’s the Son of David. This is a Messianic title, it emphasizes His human descent from David, the son of Jesse, who, in fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant, would rule on the throne of David from Jerusalem.
What we see in the first 11 verses that we looked at is this clear identification of Jesus with the most high God, that He is the Messiah, and that He is more than just a man. Because when He rides in on this unbroken foal of a donkey, the point is that He is demonstrating that He is a Creator who has authority over all of the animals, and He can get on this unbroken colt, and He will not be bucked off, and the animal is going to submit to Him immediately, and He will be able to ride that animal.
The response of the crowd and the whole city is that they are shaken. That’s the Greek word SEIO the verb, which is where we get our English word seismic. It’s used metaphorically here that just like an earthquake would physically shake the city, this is an earthquake of spiritual proportions.
Now, as we look at this, when Jesus then goes on to respond to this, He goes on to cleanse the temple, and He says to them when the scribes and chief priests challenge Him, He says to them, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer.”
Now what happens in the entry is He is making a clear statement of His deity and that He is the Messiah, and what happens here in Matthew 21:13, which is a quotation from Isaiah 56:7, “Even then I’ll bring to My holy mountain—that’s the temple mountain—and make them joyful in My house of prayer.” This is Yahweh speaking.
But what happens with Jesus’ quote in Matthew 21:13 is He is applying that to Himself, that He cleanses the temple because it is “My house.” He’s quoting it as applying to Him, not applying to Yahweh. It is a clear statement that He is God. He’s not just making a quotation here, He is claiming that the temple itself, He has authority to cleanse it, because it is His house. So what we see here is this emphasis at the beginning on the deity of Jesus as the Messiah.
Now notice, it’s not an overt statement as He states in the Gospel of John when He says, “I and the Father are One” in John 10:30. He’s not saying that. It’s not an overt, explicit statement. It is an implicit statement that comes out of your understanding of all these different passages and what is going on in the text itself.
Another thing that comes to comes to mind here when He talks about Him “coming to My house” is the prophecy in Malachi 3:1. Malachi 3:1 talks about two individuals that are coming to Jerusalem.
The first, God says, “Behold, I send My messenger, and He will prepare the way before Me.” That messenger that precedes and prepares the way for the Messiah is John the Baptist. So the first person mentioned here is John the Baptist who prepares the way for the Messiah.
Now, what’s interesting here is that this is where you have to be careful and observe what’s going on in Matthew. There’s this illusion here by this phrase “My house” back to Malachi 3:1, because the second person that’s mentioned there is the Lord, “and the Lord, whom you seek”—identifying the Lord with the Messiah. So again, this is a subtle allusion to the fact that the Messiah is divine.
It says, “The Lord, whom you seek will suddenly come to His temple.” Jesus says this is My house. This is My temple. So “the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant.” Who is the Messenger of the covenant? This is the Messiah. The Messiah is going to come to His temple, so that again implies He must be God.
Now see, in Judaism, in first century Judaism, among those who are looking for a Messiah and even today among the more conservative Orthodox Jews that are still looking for a Messiah, they believe that the Messiah was created before the creation of the world. They just don’t believe the Messiah is eternal, but He’s a creature, but is created before any anything else. But these passages indicate that He’s more than a creature, He is fully God. He is given the attributes of God.
“The Lord, whom You seek, will come to His temple,—that’s Yahweh—even the messenger of the covenant”—that’s the Messiah. So if the One coming to His temple, if His temple is Yahweh’s, then the Messenger has to be Yahweh, has to be God. And He says “the Messenger of the Covenant—that’s the Messiah—in whom you delight. Behold, He is coming, says the Lord of hosts.” This is a clear claim that the Messiah is going to be God.
We see this and other passages in the Old Testament, such as the prophecy in Isaiah 7:14 that is debated by, especially by Jews as the terms of a reference to the virgin, “Therefore, the Lord Himself will give you a sign.” This indicates that this is something that is abnormal, that is something that is unique and distinct that will be a sign for Ahab and in the house of David.
“Behold, the virgin”—and Alma there, it’s a definite article. Even though Alma is not the most technical term that one could use for a “virgin,” it is clear from the passage that this has to be a … Alma refers to a young woman of marriageable age, and it is assumed that she would be a virgin. But it’s not a sign for just a young woman who’s not a virgin to get pregnant. That happens every day. Unmarried young women get pregnant every day. There’s nothing significant about that. So this has to be understood that way.
The rabbis, the ancient rabbis who translated the Old Testament into Greek, into the Septuagint between 200 and 300 BC, used the Greek word PARTHENOS here to translate Alma. PARTHENOS in the Greek literally refers to the virgin; that’s the name of the Parthenon, the temple for Athena in Athens.
“Behold the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call His name Immanuel,” which means God with us. El is “God”, Im is “with,” the anu is “us,” so Immanuel is a name that means “God with us.” It’s a clear claim that this Son that she conceives is God and is going to be fulfilled in Matthew 1:18, 24, 25 where this passage is cited.
Another claim that the Messiah is fully divine is Micah 5:2, that He will be born in Bethlehem. The passage says, “Out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting to everlasting.”
But He’s eternal. His goings forth are from of old, from everlasting to everlasting.
Then Isaiah 9:6 gives these various titles to the Child who was born. He’s not only born, but He’s also “a Son is given.” The term “Son” refers to He is coming from God; He’s the eternal Son. And “His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Father of eternity”—that’s usually translated Eternal Father, but the Hebrew construction indicates it should be “Father of Eternity.” That means He’s eternal. So again, this is the full attribute of God.
So what we see is there are numerous claims, and there are many more that I could go to in the Old Testament to demonstrate that the Messiah was to be God, and this is the first point that Matthew is making.
The second thing that happens in terms of His quote here is that He goes on to focus on not only the fact that He is God, but also that He is man. Now this again is a rather obscure understanding that comes from our understanding of Psalm 8, which focuses on not only the fact that He is God, but also that He is man.
Now the way this works is to understand Psalm 8 in terms of the context of Matthew 21. Matthew 21, the second event after He enters in, as He goes and cleanses the temple, He overturns the tables of the money changers. They were charging a usurious interest rate in exchanging foreign money for shekels in order to be able to pay the shekel tax, and so they were making huge amounts of money, taking advantage of those who were coming to worship God. They are under judgment because they are using the worship of God to line their pockets and to make themselves wealthy.
Then He says (Matthew 21:12), “… and the seats of those who sold doves.” Doves were sacrifices for the poor people, and they were overcharging, taking advantage of the poor. Then Jesus says, “It is written, My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you have made it a den of thieves.” We’ve already looked at that in terms that is a claim to deity.
(Matthew 21:15) “But then when the chief priests and scribes see these wonderful things that He did”—and the term “wonderful” was also a term that refers only to the miracles that God performs. It’s used in the Old Testament not in the New, so this is clearly again an indication of divine action.
Then it says, “and the children crying out in the temple and saying, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David!’ ” Again, they’re saying the same thing in terms of Psalm 118:25, again referring to Jesus as the Son of David, and they’re indignant.
In verse 16 when they challenge Jesus they say, “Do you hear what they are saying?” In other words, they want Him to shut them down—and Jesus said to them, “Yes. Have you never read?” As I pointed out several times, that’s a real insult to them because these are the scribes. They had copied and copied and copied dozens of times the Old Testament, and so they’ve read it, they’ve memorized it, and the chief priests would’ve also memorized it.
So He says, “Haven’t you read this—implying that they just have never understood it—‘Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants You have perfected praise?’ ”
What He says here is interesting because as He quotes from Psalm 8:2, here the Psalm itself is speaking of how God the Creator—we’ll look at Psalm 8 in a minute—how God, as the Creator, silences His enemies by means of strength or praise. It’s translated “praise” in some versions because the praise is for the power or the strength of God.
Jesus is making this and applying this explicitly to Himself. They are applying what is said of God the Creator in Psalm 8:2 to Jesus, and Jesus is accepting that. That is an implicit identification of Himself with God. So all through here you see Jesus clearly accepting the praise that belongs to God and accepting the application of passages and concepts from the Old Testament to Himself.
But if we stop there in Psalm 8:2, we sort of miss the backdrop, which is going to inform this next little episode.
He comes to this fig tree, Matthew 21:19, and let’s read the preceding verse, Matthew 21:18, “Now in the morning\.” He’s gone home to Bethany where He’s camped out, staying overnight there. “Now in the morning as He returned to the city, He was hungry.” What’s being emphasized here? His humanity. We’ve shifted from this emphasis on His deity previously to now an emphasis on His humanity.
Jesus does something really strange here. It says He’s hungry and He goes to this fig tree, which He sees “by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves and said to it, ‘Let no fruit grow on you ever again. Immediately the fig tree withered away’ ”. That’s the Greek word XERAINO, which means it just begins to dry up and shrivel. So it goes from the roots where the roots begin to dry up, and it goes up the tree.
Now that backdrop picture, by the way, is one I took outside the wall. It’s not there anymore. It was only there the first year I went Israel, about 10 years ago, and it’s a huge, enormous fig tree.
So this is what Jesus sees, and He pronounces judgment on it. But this is the only time Jesus has a miracle that’s a judgment in the Gospels, and it’s a judgment that is on this inanimate object. Some people think, “Well, is He angry with the fig tree? What is going on here?”
Jesus doesn’t do something like this just because He’s a little petulant that He’s hungry and there’s no food there. Mark tells us that it’s not the time for figs; it’s not the time of the year. This is early. This is around the end of March or the first of April. We’ve identified the date when Jesus entered in as March 30 of AD 33, so this is the first or second of April or a couple of days later. At that time, there is no fruit on the trees. The trees have really leafed out, though. Fig trees would have leafed out, and in some cases, they may even have some very, very small fruit, just the beginnings of the bud, but there’s nothing there for them to eat.
And He announces His judgment. Now why is He doing this? As I said, He’s not doing this simply because He’s upset that there’s not any food there. Clue number one, to understand this passage is the emphasis on His hunger. Now we’re shifting to His humanity. Clue number two is going to come from understanding this judgment on the fig tree.
One of the things that we learn in the Old Testament is the fig tree is often an example of Israel. It is a picture of Israel, and Israel is to be fruitful. You have passages such as in Micah 7 and also in Jeremiah 17, where the fig tree is used as an example of Israel, and the absence of figs is a picture of her rebelliousness of God and her lack of fruitfulness.
The lack of fruitfulness isn’t a lack of good works, it’s a lack of fulfilling her role as God’s chosen people. What this pictures is that Israel as the fig tree has rejected the Messiah. So she is rejecting her role as the one who would welcome the King and bring in the Kingdom. Because this generation lacks that that production, they are going to be judged. This was announced in Matthew 12, and it’s restated here.
Some have used this as a foundation for Replacement Theology to say that Israel has been totally set aside. This is just picturing a judgment on this generation. We’ll see many other passages, such as Romans 11, that clearly picture a future for Israel, for the remnant, for regenerate Israel. God has not permanently set Israel aside. Romans 9, the promises and covenants, Paul said in Romans 9:3, belong to Israel. They’re not firmly set aside, just a judgment on this particular nation.
You will find this explanation in most commentaries. That’s how this is interpreted, but is that how the Text is interpreting this? No. Why bring in the Bible all of a sudden, when you have a perfectly good illustration. This is the question that I’ve wrestled with during this week.
Verse 20, “And when the disciples saw this withered fruit tree, they said how did this fig tree wither away so soon? Remember, they been walking this way the previous day. Look at what happened. If they weren’t with Him when He announces judgment on the fig tree, then they were shortly thereafter, but they understand this has happened very quickly. How did this happen? Jesus answers them in verse 21.
Now you just heard my explanation of the fig tree. And that seems to fit. But then Jesus gives this application, this statement. He says, “Assuredly, I say to you. If you have faith and do not doubt, you will not only do what was done to the fig tree, but also if you say to this mountain, ‘Be removed and be cast into the sea,’ it will be done. And whatever things you ask in prayer, by believing, you will receive.”
Are you confused yet? Let’s bow our heads and close in prayer.
How does this fit? What’s the connection here? Matthew’s assuming his readers can connect the dots, and you don’t even know where the dots are. So let me help you connect some of these dots that he’s making.
Remember, the context of all of this has to do with the promise of the Kingdom and the rejection of the offer of the Kingdom by Israel’s religious leaders that results in judgment upon them, because they have rejected the Kingdom. So the Kingdom is going to be postponed.
Now what is going to happen in the Kingdom? Man is going to fulfill His God-given destiny, which was lost by Adam at the Fall. How do we know that? Let me show you.
What we see here is a backdrop that would have been brought to a Jewish mind by the quote from Psalm 8:2. They would have thought of the whole of Psalm 8. Where Does Psalm 8 go after Psalm 8:2, where the children are praising God because He has destroyed His enemies? The result is man fulfills His destiny, because God destroys His enemies. And in Psalm 8:4 the psalmist says, “What is man that You are mindful of him, and the Son of Man that You visit Him?” Why is the human race important?
“For You have made him a little lower than the angels,” the psalmist explains. Mankind is created at a lower level than the angels. “You’ve made him lower than the angels, but you crowned him with glory and honor.”—picturing a future time when, even though the original creation of man was below that of the angels, now he’s going to be above the angels. He will be crowned with glory and honor. This is emphasized also in Hebrews 1.
“You’ve made him to have dominion over the works of Your hands, You put all things under his feet.” That’s Genesis 1:26–27. But that gets lost in Genesis 3. How is that fulfilled? Who is the man that fulfills what Adam lost? It’s Jesus. How do we know that? Well see, Matthew knew that, Jesus knew that, but where do you get it? You get it from Hebrews 2—Ugh, I didn’t put a slide in there for Hebrews 2.
Hebrews 2 gives us this same backdrop, “For He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.” This is in Hebrews 2:5. What’s he talking about—the world to come? What is the world to come? It’s the Kingdom. “He has not put the world to come, of which we speak, in subjection to angels.”
“But one testified in a certain place”—that’s how He refers to David who’s the author of Psalm 8—saying, “What is man that You are mindful of Him, or the Son of Man that You take care of Him? You’ve made a little lower than the angels; You crowned with glory and honor, and set him over the works of Your hands. You have put all things in subjection under His feet.”
So He quotes that whole section I just read to you from Psalm 8. Then He says, the writer of Hebrews says, “For in that He put all in subjection under Him. He left nothing that is not put under Him, but now we do not yet see all things put under Him.” The kingdom’s not here. We haven’t seen all things put under Him. And who is “Him”? It is the Lord Jesus Christ. He’s applying this to Jesus.
He says, “But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.”
Then the argument in Hebrews is, but then He is going to come back and, as the King, He fulfills and puts everything under His subjection, and He fulfills as the Son of man, the original mission of man from Genesis 1. Are you confused yet?
This is a backdrop for all of this—that Jesus, and Matthew’s left out the intermediate steps because He assumes that a Jewish audience having alluded to Psalm 8 already, that they’re going to get this.
What is Jesus doing when He brings judgment on the fig tree? He’s showing that the Kingdom is being postponed. He is showing that He, as God, has authority over the creation, and that He is going to ultimately demonstrate His power over creation as the Son of Man when He comes back.
That’s why when He says to the disciples, talks to them about faith and the promise of prayer, He’s talking to them not of what will take place in their life and in the Church Age, but He’s exhibiting, “This will be the power you will have over creation in the Kingdom, because you will come into the fullness of what God intended man to do, but when He comes in the Kingdom.”
Now that this is not a verse like the “name-it, claim-it people” say that you can just name it and claim it, and you can have this kind of authority and do this now. That’s hogwash.
We saw a terrible example of this when we were in Israel. We had a very young gal on the bus who was with us, and she had a really, really, really, really, bad cold, and unfortunately she sneezed right in front of me. Fortunately, God didn’t allow me to get sick from that, but she got up, and she called on everybody to pray with her and claim dominion over her sickness in the name of Jesus.
All week long I just wanted to say, “How’s that working for you?” But I didn’t really see her again, because she was sick and in bed and missed 90% of the conference, and Jesus never gave her dominion over that cold.
See, that kind of authority, they’re right, that’s Kingdom authority, but we’re not in the Kingdom. We’re not in any form of the Kingdom. The Kingdom is what’s going to come.
So the backdrop to this section here is that Jesus is doing certain things to demonstrate that He is the Messianic King. He brings condemnation on the fig tree to bring out the point that the Kingdom is being postponed because of Israel’s un-fruitfulness. And then He moves from that statement to the implication, which is that at some time in the future, you’re going to be able to pray and move mountains and do things like this when the Kingdom comes. But it’s not coming yet.
Matthew just doesn’t have all the intermediate dots in there for us. But when Jesus—the thing that I struggled with as I’m interpreting this is that when you look at this imagery of Christ’s condemnation the fig tree, that is clearly—and it’s picked up in other places—that’s clearly demonstrating His judgment on Israel because of their unfruitfulness. The fig tree’s used all through the Old Testament as a picture of Israel, and their need to be fruitful. But His interpretation of it, that this has to do with prayer and trusting God to do great things, doesn’t seem to connect, does it?
So when I read commentaries, and actually commentaries do one of two things. The majority of them just focus on the fig tree is judged because this is a picture of God’s judgment on Israel for their unfruitfulness, or they talk about the prayer. But what I failed to find, which I struggled with all week, is how do those two connect, because I think they’re both right. So instead of one being right and the other wrong, and the other being right and the first one wrong, they’re both right.
Now we have to think about it and connect the dots. The dot is connected by understanding that the role of Psalm 8, that Jesus is the Son of Man who, when He comes in His Kingdom, man is going to be in a position where they fulfilled that initial destiny that God had for the human race to rule over creation and to exercise this kind of authority over creation. So this isn’t a prayer promise for today. It is a prediction of what they will be able to do when they are with Jesus in the Kingdom.
Now it’s going to take a little while to put all that together, but it ties back to part of what Jesus said in Matthew 17:20, when He said “Because of your unbelief; for surely, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you,”
But that doesn’t seem to be fulfilled in this thing. Now Jesus could be talking hyperbolically in that particular passage. Matthew 17 has as a backdrop, this whole issue of the postponement of the Kingdom and their future training to be those who rule and reign with Him in the Kingdom.
After this discussion with His disciples, then He leaves them. He goes out of the city to Bethany and lodges there.
“Father, thank You for this opportunity to go through this passage. It’s not simple; there may be those who still have a cloud between their ears rather than clarity, but we understand the principle that is being demonstrated here that Jesus, who is both the God man, is One who fulfills the promises and prophecies of the Old Testament, that He is the Messiah who came to offer the Kingdom to Israel and was rejected. And this leads, as we will see in coming chapters, to His crucifixion. He dies on the Cross. He suffers, so that our sins are paid for, and that we can have eternal life simply by trusting in Him.
If there is anyone listening that has never trusted Jesus Christ as Savior, then that’s the offer of salvation, but it doesn’t stop there. The Christian life doesn’t stop there. We’re called to continue to grow, because eventually Jesus will return and establish His Kingdom, and when He establishes His Kingdom, we will be in our regenerate bodies, and we will rule and reign with Him, and we will have the same authority and the power that He does, and we will exercise that under His authority.
But the issue for us today is twofold: Number 1, have we trusted Christ as Savior so that we might be new creatures in Him? and Number 2, are we willing to accept the challenge to grow to maturity that we may prepare ourselves for our future destiny to rule and reign with Christ in His kingdom? That’s the choice before us.
Father, we pray that we might respond to the challenge to both trust in Christ as Savior and to press on to spiritual maturity.
We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”