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The passage in Luke 13:34, 35, which is explained in more detail in Matthew 23:29-39, is the climax of Jesus’ warning to Jerusalem and its inhabitants.
There are two prominent signs of the city’s destruction. One is the statement, “you shall not see Me until the time comes when you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord’.” This prophecy is usually taken to mean that the people will indeed make this statement, and when they do, Christ will return to save the city from destruction. However, the pattern established on “Palm Sunday” says otherwise.
On Palm Sunday, Jesus came to Jerusalem, where Matthew 21:9 tells us,
9 And the multitude going before Him, and those who followed after were crying out, saying, “Hosanna to the Son of David; Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord; Hosanna in the highest!”
This great confession did not overturn His rejection nor did it prevent His crucifixion. The confessions of faith by these individuals on Palm Sunday were overruled by the official judgment rendered by the high priest and the Sanhedrin. Some forty years later Jerusalem was destroyed in spite of Palm Sunday’s events. Yet this confession meant that those people “saw” Him as the Christ, even if the religious leaders did not. Those who remained firm in their faith later became part of the church in Jerusalem.
Jesus’ statement in Matthew 23:39 was first a reference to Palm Sunday. However, because there are two comings of Christ, it will surely find a second (greater) fulfillment in the future. It is often assumed that this second fulfillment will represent a world-wide conversion of the Jews that will save the city at the last minute from destruction. However, that assumption is based upon a misunder-standing of other passages.
The misunderstanding comes first when men assume that the Jews are Israel. The term “Jew” is a shortened form of Judah. The Greek term translated “Jew” is Ioudeos, or “Judean.” Judah was not the same nation as Israel. The kingdom was divided after the death of Solomon, and from then on they were known as Israel and Judah. The prophets always distinguish between the two nations and their distinct callings.
Israel and Judah had two different callings. Israel contained the tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh), to whom the Birthright was given (1 Chron. 5:1, 2). Judah was given the Scepter and was the nation through whom the Messiah-King was to come.
The Birthright contained the Fruitfulness Mandate, for Jacob blessed Joseph, saying, “Joseph is a fruitful bough (i.e., son)” (Gen. 49:22). Hence, the prophet says in Isaiah 27:6,
6 In the days to come Jacob will take root, Israel will blossom and sprout; and they will fill the whole world with fruit.
Isaiah was concerned about the northern House of Israel, which had been taken captive by the Assyrians. Although these became the “lost tribes of Israel,” the prophet insisted that they would fulfill their Birthright calling and would bear fruit for the Kingdom.
Hosea tells us that Israel would bring forth the sons of God (Hosea 1:10). This is the basis of Sonship, and Hosea connects it with the promise that Abraham would have many sons. Hosea also tells us that in order for this to happen, Judah and Israel must be united under the leadership of Christ, for he says in Hosea 1:11,
11 And the sons of Judah and the sons of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint themselves one leader, and they will go up from the land, for great will be the day of Jezreel.
Many take this to be exclusive of ethnic sons of Judah and Israel. Certainly, they are the main nationalities that received the promise, but even in Old Testament times, other people were invited to join with the nation, come under the covenants of God, and receive all the benefits of the Kingdom.
Hosea’s prophecy implies that neither Judah nor Israel could receive the promise of Sonship apart from accepting Christ as the Messiah. Furthermore, the Scepter of Judah had to be united with the Birthright of Joseph in order to see the manifestation of the sons of God. How was this to take place? The answer is in understanding who Judah is.
The House of Judah was to fulfill its calling in bringing forth the Messiah. But nowhere do we read that Judah was to bear fruit as a replacement of Israel. There are two Replacement theologies in Christian circles today: the first teaches that the Church replaced Israel, and the second teaches that the Jews replaced Israel. The first arose in the Roman Catholic Church; the second arose among Christian Zionists. Both are wrong.
The truth, as I see it, is that Judah was divided into two groups: good figs and evil figs. Jeremiah 24 speaks of two groups of Judahites, one bearing good fruit, the other bearing evil fruit. The evil fruit predominated, and the result was Jerusalem’s destruction. The evil figs rejected Christ, the good figs accepted Him. The evil figs were pruned off the fig tree, leaving only believers in Christ, who is its Root (Rev. 22:16). To this fig tree of Judah were engrafted many other ethnic branches in later years.
Hence, what later became known as “The Church” was actually the continuation of the nation of Judah, which at first consisted primarily of ethnic Judahites, but was soon overwhelmed by other ethnicities. Nonetheless, because the tree’s Root was the “King of the Jews,” it was still a fig tree—the real Judah group.
In other words, the Church did not replace Judah. The Church IS Judah. The good figs did not replace the evil figs; the good figs were the real Judah from the start. The evil figs were cut off from among their people, as the law had warned.
The good figs believed that Jesus was the Christ, the King of Judah, Israel, and of the whole earth. They also had faith in the efficacy of His sacrifice—His death, resurrection, and ascension. In other words, they believed in Him insofar as His first work was concerned. They understood that He fulfilled the feast of Passover through His death on the cross, the wave sheaf offering through His resurrection, and Pentecost by sending the Holy Spirit.
At this end of the age, we are called upon to believe an additional truth—that Christ is the fulfillment of the autumn feasts. This time Christ is manifesting Himself as Joseph, whose robe was dipped in blood (Gen. 37:31; Rev. 19:13). These are the overcomers who bear fruit unto God.
To believe in Christ as King of Judah fulfills the requirement to be part of the Church. To believe in Christ as the Birthright holder of Joseph fulfills the requirement to be an overcomer. Of course, this is an oversimplification, but further details may be studied in my booklet, The Sons of God.
When Jeremiah’s prophecy was recycled in the first century, Jerusalem was again presented with the option to bear good figs or evil figs. The city failed and was destroyed again. Are we now to believe that Judah and Jerusalem will bring forth fruit in this third occasion where Jerusalem is slated for destruction?
In Matthew 21, shortly after Palm Sunday’s public messianic proclamation, Jesus cursed the fig tree, representing Judah. In Matt. 21:19 He said to the fig tree, “No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you.” The fig tree withered and died within a day. So the real question is whether Jesus prophesied truly, or if the fig tree of Judah will prove Him wrong.
In Matt. 24:32, 33 Jesus followed up on this prophecy, saying,
32 Now learn the parable from the fig tree; when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; 33 even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door.
This is usually taken to be a reference to the Jewish state (Israel, as men have named it), which was established in 1948. I agree with this interpretation. However, Jesus did not say that the tree would bring forth fruit, but leaves only. Leaves cannot be eaten. In fact, the fig tree had been cursed, not because it was leafless, but because it was fruitless.
Matt. 21:33-44 gives the parable of the vineyard keepers who refused to repent and to give God the fruits of His vineyard. The whole point of this parable is to show that Judah was fruitless at that time as well as in the second coming of Christ.
Hence, the Jewish state has remained fruitless unto this day, and Jesus said it would never bear fruit. Only those individuals who bless Jesus as the Messiah will “see” Him, as the prophecy indicates. The nation itself—and the city of Jerusalem—will neither bless Him nor will they see Him. Neither will He come to save this City of Blood.
Jesus knew this, and this is why He lamented over Jerusalem in Luke 13:34, 35.
The second prominent sign of Jerusalem’s destruction is found in Matt. 21:13,
13 And He said to them, “It is written, ‘My house shall be called a house of prayer’; but you are making it a robbers’ den.”
This is a quotation from Jer. 7:11, where the prophet was indicting Jerusalem on its lawlessness. This was the cause of the divine verdict, whereby God said He would forsake Jerusalem as He had forsaken Shiloh three centuries earlier (Jer. 7:14).
So in Matt. 21:13, this same verdict was given the second time just before the Romans destroyed Jerusalem. A robbers’ den is a hideout, where thieves feel safe from the law and can do as they please with impunity. Such was Jerusalem and its temple, both in Jeremiah’s day and in Jesus’ day. Has this condition changed today? The same religious zeal for the traditions of men abound today, but there is still no sign of the fruit of repentance that is necessary to prevent utter destruction.
Keep in mind that both John and Jesus were sent as a “divine visitation” to search for the fruit of the Kingdom. John found none and was killed. Jesus also found none, and He too was killed.
Many Christians today are told that the Jewish nation will repent and bear fruit at the last moment. This belief is based on the idea that the Jews are Israel and that the Jews are fulfilling the prophecies given to Israel (i.e., Joseph). This misidentification causes Christians to doubt Jesus’ prophecy in Matt. 21:19, thinking Jesus surely did not mean what He said. Many Bible teachers have thus tried to soften the language of the New Testament and have searched for ways to re-interpret it in a more favorable way to Jewish sensitivities.
The result is that these Christians have given Jews a free pass into the Kingdom, allowing them to be “chosen” apart from Jesus Christ. The call to repentance, issued by all the prophets and by Christ Himself, has been brought down to a whisper so as not to offend Jewish sensitivities as they continue in their fruitless endeavors. This is a new form of evangelism, one not found in Scripture. All sinners alike are admonished equally to repent.