Now in the morning, as He returned to the city, He was hungry. And seeing a fig tree 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.
-Matthew 21:18-19 (NKJV)
The setting is just before the Passover and just after the Lord’s triumphal entrance into Jerusalem, hailed as King, the Son of David.
- “Hosanna to the Son of David!”
- “Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!”
- “Hosanna in the highest heaven!”
Israel is a type of Israel in scripture. The fig tree represents “national” Israel.
I refer us to the notes in The Companion Bible (Judges 9):
The Olive tree
- Israel's religious privileges (Rom. 11).
The Fig tree
- Israel's national privileges (Matt. 21).
- Israel's spiritual privileges (Isa. 5).
The fig tree can have two or three year’s growth of fruit on it. We are nearing the end of the Lord’s three-year earthly ministry and what we find is a tree full of leaves. It is looking for its king. It hails the true Son of David as blessed. Yet in a few day, she will be calling for his death.
Was this the end of Israel in God’s plan? No. The Lord is saying that Israel, in rejecting her king, was forfeiting her privilege as head of the nations, for a season.
Young’s Literal Translation translates verse 19 in part this way:
“No more from thee may fruit be -- to the age.”
When the Lord taught his disciples for 40 days after his resurrection, with their minds opened to understand (Luke 24), he taught them about the restoration of the kingdom to Israel (as we have seen, Acts 1:6). When Peter offers that restoration to “you men of Israel” in Acts 2 and 3, the condition is Israel’s repentance concerning the Holy One.
But you denied the Holy One and the Just, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Prince of life, whom God raised from the dead, of which we are witnesses.
Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began.
In Romans 9 we see that the religious privilege of Israel was still active. Gentiles in the Acts age (post Acts 10) were “grafted into” the olive tree.
This is groundwork to help us understand Matthew 22 and The Olivet Discourse. This is all built upon the foundation we built looking at the parables of Matthew 13, the Parables of The Kingdom. We find in Matthew 24 and 25, the conclusion of the coming age and the fulfillment of the promised kingdom to believing Israel.