There were two Judases in the New Testament, one good and one not so good. Judas Iscariot, as we have seen, betrayed Jesus. The other Judas was Jesus' half-brother along with James (Matt. 13:55; Mark 6:3). The writer of the book of Jude identifies himself in verse 1 in this way:
1 Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ.
This good Jude (short for Judas) considered himself to be a bond-servant to his older half-brother, Jesus, whom he recognized as the Messiah. His heart attitude was right. The same could be said of his brother, James, who was a pillar in the church of Jerusalem and the author of the book by his name.
This good Judas became a prophetic pattern of all the people of Judah who really had a heart to follow God and who therefore recognized, accepted, and followed the Messiah when He came. They were the sheep who heard His voice (John 10) and followed Him. But not all of the people heard His voice. There was a division among the people, as we read in John 10:19-21,
19 There arose a division again among the Jews because of these words. 20 And many of them were saying, "He has a demon and is insane. Why do you listen to Him?" 21 Others were saying, "These are not the sayings of one demon-possessed. A demon cannot open the eyes of the blind, can he?"
The division among the people was manifested in their ability to hear the voice of the Shepherd, Jesus Christ. Those who heard His voice were, as a body, the good Judas. Those who did not hear His voice were, as a body, the other Judas, that is, Judas Iscariot, who betrayed Him by helping the chief priests to crucify Him and seize on His inheritance--the throne of David.
The Two Baskets of Figs
Jeremiah 24 speaks of the nation of Judah being like two baskets of figs. The fig tree was, of course, the symbol of the nation of Judah. One basket had very delicious figs; the other had very corrupt figs that were so bad they could not be eaten. Jesus said in Matt. 7:17-20,
17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
It is apparent that the two baskets of figs came from two different fig trees. The good tree brought forth good fruit; the bad tree bore bad fruit. Both are of Judah (Judas), but there was a clear division between the people represented by these trees. The good figs submitted to the judgment of God against the nation by willingly going to Babylon for 70 years. The bad figs disagreed with God's judgment for their sin and decided to fight the army of King Nebuchadnezzar. This is clear from a simple reading of Jeremiah 24-30.
The divine law said in Deut. 17:9-12 that the people were to obey the verdict of the priests when they stood to judge the people according to God's law. Verse 12 says,
12 And the man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve the LORD your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die [for unrepentance and contempt of court]; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel.
Jeremiah was one of the priests of Anathoth (Jer. 1:1). God used him to pronounce judgment upon the nation of Judah in 7:9-15, with these words:
9 "Will you steal, murder, and commit adultery, and swear falsely, and offersacrifices to Baal,and walk after other gods that you have not known,10 then come and stand before Me in this house, which is called by My name, and say, 'We are delivered!'-- that you may do all these abominations? 11 Has this house, which is called by My name, become a den of robbers in your sight? Behold, I, even I, have seen it,"declares the LORD.
12 "But go now to My place which was in Shiloh, where I made My name dwell at the first, and see what I did to it because of the wickedness of My people Israel. 13 And now, because you have done all these things . . . 14 therefore, I will do to the house which is called by My name, in which you trust, and to the place which I gave you and your fathers, as I did to Shiloh. 15 And I will cast you out of My sight, as I have cast out all your brothers, all the offspring of Ephraim."
In this lawful sentence against Judah, God says that He was to cast Judah and Jerusalem out of His sight--even as He did Shiloh and Ephraim. Shiloh was the place where God put His name at the beginning, after Joshua conquered Canaan (Josh. 18:1; Ps. 78:60). Because of Eli's sons, God removed His presence (ark) from Shiloh and placed it in Jerusalem.
God never returned to Shiloh but permanently forsook that place and ultimately cast Ephraim out of His sight into the Assyrian captivity. Even so, God said He was about to do the same with Judah and Jerusalem, because they were as corrupt as the Eli priesthood and the people of Ephraim.
There were some Judahites who had sense enough to submit to God's judgment, but the majority did not. They chose to fight it, and so God pronounced the death penalty upon the evil fig tree in accordance with Deut. 17:12.
The Second Fulfillment
In Matthew 21 Jesus pronounced judgment against the temple in Jerusalem and the nation in general when He said in 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 was a direct reference to Jeremiah 7:11, showing that there was to be a second fulfillment of judgment upon that temple and the city of Jerusalem. A few verses later, in Matthew 21:19, Jesus cursed the fig tree, saying, "No longer shall there ever be any fruit from you" (NASB).
Was Jesus talking about the good fig tree, or the bad? Obviously, the bad fig tree was cursed, for this was an act of spiritual warfare against that part of the Judah nation producing no fruit worth eating. In the laws of war in Deut. 20:20 it was prohibited to cut down trees that could yet bear fruit. But this Judah-fig tree would never again bear fruit, so it was lawful for Jesus to curse it. Later, of course, Jesus said that this fig tree would someday bring forth more LEAVES (Matt. 24:32), but He did not say it would bring forth fruit.
Fig leaves are not what God is looking for. Fig leaves have been the problem since Adam and Eve sinned (Gen. 3:7). We sew fig leaves for ourselves while we are still running and hiding from God. Fig leaves are man's attempt to cover sin in an unlawful manner apart from the blood of Jesus Christ. In 1948 the cursed fig tree again began to bring forth leaves, even as Jesus prophesied. In one sense it will not bring forth fruit at all--for this was the substance of Jesus' curse. In another sense, it can only bring forth corrupt fruit, presenting God with a basket of evil figs that He cannot and will not eat.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves again. During the 40 years of grace that God gave to Judah, there were many individuals who repented and accepted Jesus as the Christ. This began on the day of Pentecost with the conversion of 3,000 people (Acts 2:41). Another 5,000 were converted a short time later (Acts 4:4). In Acts 6:7 we read,
7 And the word of God kept on spreading; and the number of the disciples continued to increase greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests were becoming obedient to the faith.
This conversion rate caused a reaction from the chief priests, who began to persecute these "good figs." First, Stephen was stoned (Acts 7). Then in Acts 8:1 we read,
1 And Saul was in hearty agreement with putting him to death. And on that day a great persecution arose against the church in Jerusalem; and they were all scattered throughout the regions of Judea and Samaria, except the apostles.
God used this persecution to separate the good figs from the bad, for it was God's intent to bring judgment upon Jerusalem and its priesthood. No Christians were left in Jerusalem by the time Rome destroyed the city. When Jesus' half-brother, James, was murdered by the temple priests in 62 A.D., they killed their last great intercessor that had stood between them and the judgment to come. The first-century Jewish historian, Josephus, mentions this incident briefly in Antiquities of the Jews, XX, ix, 1:
"And now Caesar, upon hearing of the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea as procurator; but the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called Ananus. . . . This younger Ananus, who, as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who were very rigid in judging offenders . . . . he assembled the Sanhedrim of the judges and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned."
Eusebius, the 4th-century bishop of Caesarea, wrote how Jesus-brother, James, was called "the Righteous one," or James the Just, because he had the reputation as an intercessor. He was a Nazirite from his birth, a vegetarian, drinking no wine and not shaving his head. Bishop Eusebius writes in his Ecclesiastical History, 23.11,
"He alone was permitted to enter the Holy Place, for his garments were not of wool but of linen. He used to enter the Sanctuary alone, and was often found on his knees beseeching forgiveness for the people, so that his knees grew hard like a camel's from his continually bending them in worship of God and beseeching forgiveness for the people."
James' prayers were very effective in bringing many of the people to Christ during Jerusalem's 40-year grace period established many years earlier by the prophet Ezekiel's intercession (Ezekiel 4:6). Yet even his prayers could not avert the ultimate disaster that was to come upon the nation, for Jesus had already invoked Jeremiah's verdict. The priests had made the temple a den of robbers. After God had said this in Jeremiah 7:11, He told the prophet in verse 16,
16 As for you, do not pray for this people, and do not lift up cry or prayer for them, and do not intercede with Me; for I do not hear you.
Jeremiah did continue to pray for the individuals within the nation, but the nation itself was doomed once judgment had been passed. In the same manner James prayed for the people of his day-- with the understanding that judgment was inevitable, for Jesus had prophesied as much in Matt. 24:16. James knew that the nation was doomed, so he prayed that as many as possible would get out of the evil fig tree and come into a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. His prayers, of course, were answered, but his efforts cost him his life.
Eight years after James was martyred, the Roman armies came and destroyed Jerusalem and the temple. The people decided once again to fight the judgment, rather than to repent of their sins. Thinking they were righteous, they could not believe that God would fight against them. When the inevitable happened, many became embittered against God, thinking that He had done them a terrible injustice. That bitterness increased as time passed.
Throughout the centuries, God has continued to answer James' prayers, for there have been individual Jews in every generation that have repented and genuinely turned to Christ. In recent years it has become politically incorrect to expect a Jew to repent of the sins of his forefathers in rejecting and crucifying Christ. The mere mention of this sends modern rabbis into a frenzy, bringing accusations of "antisemitism." If they had their way, the New Testament would be banned as "hate literature."
It is my desire to see all men saved, including Jews. But I do not believe in editing the New Testament to make it easier for a Jew to accept Christ. Judaism is still an evil fig tree, as Jeremiah said. Jesus said that the evil fig tree of Judaism will never bear fruit that is acceptable to God.
There is still a good fig tree, however, which has grown steadily and has borne good fruit. This trunk of this fig tree is first of all, Jesus Christ, the King of Judah and of all the earth. True Christians that recognize His headship are the branches on this tree. At first, the Christians were primarily Judahites, but later people of other nations were engrafted on this tree.
All of them, regardless of their national origin, are Jews (lit. Judeans) by Paul's definition in Romans 2:28 and 29.
28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly; neither is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
A Jew is not a Jew by outward circumcision, but by a heart circumcision. Being under the old covenant does not make a person a Jew. A Jew is not a Jew apart from the King of Judah, who is Jesus Christ. The "tribeship" always resides with the lawful head of the tribe.
Any Jew who revolts against the King is cut off from among his people and no longer has the legal right to call himself a Jew. Those who followed Jesus Christ in the early Church were in the minority, of course, but they had the lawful right to remain in the tribe of Judah (i.e., to be called Jews), because they were united with the Head of the tribe. This tree consists of natural branches as well as engrafted branches, but they are all securely fastened to the trunk, which is Jesus, the King of Judah.
Meanwhile, those of the evil fig tree, which rejected and crucified the King in the spirit of Absalom, have continued to call themselves Jews on the grounds that they (the chief priests) now possess the throne. They staged a revolt to overthrow the King and seize the throne, even as Absalom did with David. But though Absalom occupied Jerusalem, this did not make him a Judahite. Only as long as he was united with his father, David, did he have the right to call himself a Judahite (Jew). When David left town, the tribeship went with him. God had anointed him as the true king, and nothing else was relevant, except to prophesy of the revolt against Jesus many years later.
So for nearly 2,000 years there has been a running dispute as to which fig tree is the real Kingdom of God. Judaism and Christianity both lay claim to this honor. The issue is clear. Either the evil fig tree is God's Kingdom, or it is the good fig tree. It cannot be both. There is no middle ground or room for compromise. Those who attempt to do so run the risk of playing the role of Judas, who was Jesus' friend, but betrayed him nonetheless.
Usurping the Birthright
When Jacob-Israel blessed his sons in the latter part of Genesis, he gave the sceptre to Judah, the priesthood to Levi, and the birthright to Joseph. 1 Chron. 5:1, 2 says,
1 Now the sons of Reuben the first-born [Heb., bekore] of Israel for he was the first-born, but because he defiled his father's bed, his birthright was given to the sons of Joseph the son of Israel; so that he is not enrolled in the genealogy according to the birthright. 2 Though Judah prevailed over his brothers, and from him came the leader, yet the birthright [Heb., bekoraw] belonged to Joseph.
The term "birthright" comes from the Hebrew word, bekoraw. Its root word is bekore, which means "firstborn." In other words, the birthright of the firstborn son, which normally should have been given to Reuben, was given to Joseph, not to Judah.
The prophetic implications of this are enormous, for this is the underlying secret of understanding prophetic events in the past century, particularly since 1948. In 1948 the evil fig tree that unlawfully called itself Jews in spite of their rejection of the tribal Head--these same people moved to usurp also the birthright of Joseph. This is why they took the official name "Israel" for their newly created nation in 1948.
In Jesus Christ's first advent, He came as the tribal head of Judah, and the chief priests, like Absalom, killed Him in order to usurp His throne. Now, in the events leading to Christ's second advent, the same people have stolen the name of Israel that Jacob gave to Joseph's descendants. Genesis 48:13-16 says,
13 And Joseph took them both, Ephraim with his right hand toward Israel's left, and Manasseh with his left hand toward Israel's right, and brought them close to him. 14 But Israel stretched out his right hand and laid it on the head of Ephraim, who was the younger, and his left hand on Manasseh's head, crossing his hands, although Manasseh was the first-born. 15 And he blessed Joseph, and said, "The God before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has been my shepherd all my life to this day, 16 The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; and may my name live on in them, And the names of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; and may they grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth. "
The angel who redeemed Jacob in Genesis 32 gave him the name "Israel." It was the birthright name, and only the holder of the birthright--in whom is the tribeship--has the right to use that name in an official, legal, and political capacity.
For this reason, when Israel split into two nations after Solomon's death, the northern tribes retained the name of Israel, while the southern kingdom was known as the House of Judah. This was because the two tribes of Joseph (Ephraim and Manasseh) joined the revolt against the Davidic throne. All the tribes who remained united with Ephraim retained the right to use the name "Israel."
The tribes of Israel were carried into Assyria from 745-721 BC and never returned. Some individuals from the tribes, of course, found their way back to the land, but in uniting with Judah, they lost the right to the name "Israel" in its official capacity. The same was true with the tribe of Benjamin, which remained loyal to Judah from the beginning.
Jesus came the first time of the tribe of Judah and the seed of David in order to claim His throne rights from that tribe. But a second advent of Christ was necessary in order to secure His birthright. For this reason He comes the second time in the capacity as Head of the tribe of Joseph.
Of Joseph, we read in Genesis 37:31,
31 So they took Joseph's tunic, and slaughtered a male goat, and dipped the tunic in the blood.
Of Jesus' second advent, we read in Revelation 19:13,
13 And He is clothed with a robe dipped in blood; and His name is called The Word of God.
The Sonship Message is the message of Birthright. As we showed earlier, the Hebrew word for firstborn son is the root of the word for Birthright. One cannot separate the concepts. In 1948 the Jews took Joseph's birthright name upon themselves, thereby implying that they are called to bring forth the manifestation of the sons of God. But in reality, the chief priests of Judaism staged a revolt against Jesus Christ, this time in the attempt to strip Him of His coat of many colors and deprive Him of His birthright.
The question is: Who will inherit the Sonship? Will it be the usurping chief priests of Judaism and their followers, or will it be Christ and His followers? Will it be the evil fig tree, or the good fig tree and its branches?