With the many things which are transpiring in the land of Israel and among its people, the question most recurring is this, “Is the fig tree budding?” There are some interpreters today who go to great lengths and pains trying to prove that our Lord did not use the fig tree to symbolize the nation of Israel. I want first of all to establish from the Word of God that the fig tree is a symbol of Israel, and in the second place to establish the fact that the fig tree is budding.

The import of all this is to be found in the statement of our Lord that when the fig tree begins to bud, His coming draws nigh. In Matthew 24:32, the Lord says, “Now learn a parable of the fig tree…” The ASV gives it as, “Now from the fig tree learn her parable …” None other than the Lord Himself said that the fig tree is a parable; that is, the fig tree is used by Him to symbolize or portray something besides the tree.

A tree in Scripture is used by the Lord to symbolize a national power (see Judges 9:8-15; Daniel 4:10-16, 19-27; Matthew 13:31, 32). In Judges the nations symbolized by the trees seek to elect a king to rule over them. In Daniel 4, Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonian Empire are symbolized by the great tree which is cut down for seven years. In Matthew 13, the mustard bush, a vegetable, becomes a tree, or a world power. We find two trees and a vine being used to symbolize Israel. In Isaiah 5:1-7, the Lord tells us that the grapevine symbolizes Israel. In Romans 11:17ff, the Lord tells us that the olive tree symbolizes Israel, and in Matthew 21:19; 24:21; Mark 11:12-14, 20, 21; Luke 13:6-9, the fig tree symbolizes Israel. In Judges 9:8, the trees of the forest sought the olive tree to reign over them. She refused. In the tenth verse they sought the fig tree to reign over them. She refused. In the twelfth verse they sought the grapevine to reign over them. She refused.

The olive tree symbolizes Israel in her covenant relationship to the Lord. The grapevine symbolizes the spiritual blessing Israel is to be to the whole world. The fig tree symbolizes Israel as God’s national witness to all the world. The vineyard was allowed to go to waste. Some of the branches of the olive tree have been cut off, but the fig tree itself was cut down.

Our Lord spoke three parables concerning the fig tree. Matthew 21:18-20 says: “Now in the morning as he returned into the city he hungered. And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee hence forward forever. And presently the fig tree withered away. And when the disciples saw it, they marvelled, saying, How soon is the fig tree withered away!” Herein the Lord turned aside to obtain some fruit to satisfy His hunger when He saw the fig tree in full leaf by the wayside. Finding no fruit upon the tree He said, “Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward forever.” The word translated “forever” has disturbed many Bible students by causing them to believe that the nation of Israel would never again bear fruit; but the Greek word is aion which simply means “the age.” When the Greek wishes to express “eternity” it uses the words which are translated “the age of the ages.” When this present age comes to a close and Israel is restored and recommissioned, she will bear fruit in the age which is to follow.

In Luke 13:6-9, we read:

“He spake also this parable: A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground? And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well; and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down.”

When the Lord turns aside to the fig tree in full leaf to obtain fruit and finds none, He says, “Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none.” That experience took place after three years of our Lord’s earthly ministry and sets forth the fact that during these three years He had sought some spiritual fruit from His own people in Israel and had found none. With the command to cut down the tree the vineyard keeper says to let it alone for another year, or give it another chance this year, and then if it does not bear fruit we will cut it down. The Lord agreed to so do, and we find, in reality, that He gave Israel another chance. In answer to the prayer of our Lord from Calvary’s Cross, “Father forgive them for they know not what they do,” God gave Israel another chance on the Day of Pentecost. God gave them another chance when Peter preached his second sermon; and He gave them yet another chance by the preaching of Stephen. When Israel steadfastly refused to obey the Lord she was set aside and God allowed her to be scattered to the four points of the compass.

In Acts 1:8, we find that He chose another group to be His witnesses. In Romans 11:25, we find that the setting aside of Israel as expressed by her blindness is only in part and that it is temporary and not permanent. Romans 11:17 states conclusively that just SOME of the branches were cut off and not all. The Gentiles being grafted in AMONG the olive branches bear fruit only as the sap from the Jewish roots flows through the Jewish trunk out through them.

Back to Matthew 24:32, 33, our Lord says that one of the signs of His coming is the budding of the fig tree, and while her branch is yet tender and is just beginning to put forth leaves, you may know that He is near, even at the door. The fig tree budded May 14, 1948, when Israel became a nation. Israel was the 59th nation admitted to the United Nations and has been recognized by some 67 or 68 nations up to the present time (1953). In keeping with the symbolism of the budding of the fig tree we feel that the coming of the Lord is to be soon after Israel becomes a nation.

But one says, “In Luke 21:29-31, it speaks of the parable of the fig tree and ALL the trees.”

Yes, that statement but enforces that which we have been explaining: When Israel becomes a nation and when all the other nations symbolized by trees become very conscious of their national existence, then you know that the Kingdom draweth nigh. This simply means that when Israel becomes a nation all the other nations will begin to draw back from the desire to be one world and will want to be separate and distinct nations in the world. And that is exactly what is happening in the world today. Yes, the fig tree has budded and the coming of the Lord doth draw nigh. “Even so, come, Lord Jesus.”

“As it is written, Behold I lay in Zion a stumbling stone and rock of offense: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed” (Rom. 9:33).

The closing portion of the ninth chapter of Romans tells of Israel’s unbelief and their failure to attain unto righteousness because they sought it not by faith, and they subsequently stumbled at the stumbling stone. The stone of stumbling is also the rock of offense, and in this discussion of Israel’s blindness we want to set forth some of the teachings of the Word of God on Christ as the Rock as well as the Stumbling Stone.

Some say they do not believe in types, but such an attitude can only be manifest because of failure to understand the whole of the Word of God. In I Cor. 10:4, we have the Holy Spirit’s teaching that the Rock is a type of Christ. In the eleventh verse of the same chapter we read, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples.” The preferred translation is, “These things happened as types.” These statements should be sufficient for any openminded person to appreciate the fact that all of Israel and her experiences and appointments of worship, places of worship, and order of worship are types. And they are all written for our admonition.

Accepting the Word of God that the Rock is a type of Christ, we turn to Exodus 17:1-7. The children of Israel were camped in Rephidim where there was no water. They began to chide Moses crying, “Give us water that we may drink.” He rebuked them, and as their thirst increased so did their murmuring. Moses cried out to the Lord concerning his duty to the people, and the Lord told him to go on before them and take with him the elders of Israel and his rod. God promised that He would stand before Moses on the rock at Horeb. He was told to smite the rock and from it would flow water for the people to drink. The smitten rock is a beautiful type of the Lord Jesus Christ who, on Calvary’s cross, was smitten. From His riven side flowed blood and water (John 19:34). The rock being smitten provided water for the children of Israel. Christ being crucified provided life for all who would believe. We want to say in this connection that the crucifixion and death of Christ was an absolute necessity in God’s plan of redemption (John 3:14). In this verse we read, “Even so MUST the Son of man be lifted up,” showing the necessity of the crucifixion of Christ. Likewise we read in John 12:24 that “Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone. “This is Christ’s answer to the Greeks that they could have no part in Him until after His death. The beginning of one’s spiritual life is by coming to the smitten Rock, that is, the crucified Christ.

As the children of Israel continued their journey toward the promised land, we read in Numbers 20:1-13 that they thirsted again and began to chide Moses because there was no water. On this occasion, the Lord told him to take the rod, gather the assembly together with Aaron his brother, speak to the rock, and it would give forth water so that the congregation and their beasts could have drink. Moses disobeyed the Lord, and in a spirit of rebellion smote the rock twice. It was because of this sin that he was forbidden to enter into the promised land. (Here is something for earnest reflection: Moses, because of disobedience, was prohibited from entering the land of Canaan, which is a type of the Millennial reign of Christ. Moses, however, was saved. Scripture teaches that one may be saved and still not reign with Christ in the Millennium.)

We used to wonder how the Lord could bar Moses from entering the promised land just because he struck the rock instead of speaking to it, but when we came to understand the typical teaching of striking the rock the second time we realized the enormity of Moses’ sin. When he struck the rock the second time he was teaching, in type, that Christ could be smitten, or crucified, the second time; and nowhere do we find such a teaching in the Word of God. In Hebrews 6:6, we read of Christians crucifying to themselves the Son of God afresh. We say Christians because an unsaved person cannot crucify to himself the Son of God the second time. Christ died once to put away sin (Heb. 9:26).

These two experiences of the children of Israel with the rock, and the teaching of the Lord is evident. The rock was smitten once. Christ died once to put away sin. After that, sin in the life of a Christian is dealt with on the basis of speaking to the rock rather than smiting it. I John 1:9 says, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” We trust Christ only once for salvation. Our relationship is then established. We have become a child of God. Sin cannot affect this relationship once it is established; however, sin in the life of a Christian breaks the fellowship with God, and this fellowship is restored by speaking to the Rock.

Also in John 13:10, we learn that after one has been washed and then becomes defiled, he does not have to be washed all over again — only his feet, which have been soiled by travel. We also learn in the teaching of the Tabernacle that after the sacrifice has been offered on the brazen altar for sin, the priest does not return to the altar and offer another sacrifice to cleanse himself of defilement, but he goes on to the laver of brass where only his hands and feet are washed.

One should be able to see now that Moses’ great sin which kept him out of the promised land was the destruction of a type relative to speaking to the rock. In Matthew 16:18, the Lord said that He was going to build His church upon this Rock. In the seventeenth verse is the revelation that Peter’s confession was a God-given one rather than one of his own initiative. The Rock upon which God is building His church is the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. “For other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (I Cor. 3:11); “The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner” (Psa. 118:22); “Jesus said unto them, Did ye never read in the Scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes?” (Matt. 21:42). Jesus Christ Himself is the chief Cornerstone, the Foundation, the Head of the church.

There is a reference in Daniel 2:34, 35, 44, 45 relative to the future manifestation of this Rock, or Stone, in its relation to the Gentiles. After the four world empires described in this chapter (Babylon, Media-Persia, Greece, and Rome) have run their course, a Stone cut out of the mountain without hands is seen smashing the great image on the feet and grinding it to powder. The powder then is blown away as chaff from the summer threshing floor, and the Stone grows until it fills the whole earth. This is God’s description of the smiting of the Gentiles by the Stone, the Lord Jesus Christ, described in our text as the Rock of Offense. With the smiting of the Gentiles, Christ will establish His Kingdom which will fill the whole earth (Isa. 11:9). Some erroneously believe that this refers to Christ’s first advent, but a casual glance at contemporary events will establish the fact that the Gentiles are still in power and that Christ’s kingdom does not fill the earth. The smiting of the Gentiles by the Rock of Offense will not take place until Christ’s second coming.

“…and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed.”