And the Nation Revives
Let us read vss. 28-30
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. Even so, you too, when you see these things happening, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Amen, I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
This prophecy of the fig tree is the sequel to an earlier one. Just a few days before in chapter 11, just after the Triumphant Entry, Yeshua searched for fruit on a fig tree, but found none, and as a consequence, the tree withered. This withering represented the leadership of the country who rejected their own Savior and triggered what Moses has prophesied 1500 years prior; the Diaspora along with the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem.
But here in our text, Yeshua gives one more prophecy, one more important sign which will trigger the end times, this being the renewing of the fig tree by saying, When you see its branch being tender and giving forth leaves, you know that summer is near, that is, the time of harvest is coming, that is His Second Coming is at the door.
We have previously seen that the fig tree, mentioned more than 40 times in the Scriptures, represents national Israel. The prophets Micah, Zechariah, Habakkuk and Amos all speak of the millennium when Israel shall sit under his vine and under his fig tree, And no one shall make them afraid (Micah 4:4). However, some prophets have spoken of the fig tree as stripped fruitless and bare when speaking of punishment. So we can see how the fig tree was in some way used to represent both the punishment and blessings for this nation.
And so, what we see here with the rebirth of the nation of Israel is the beginning not only of the end times, but also of the rise of the nation of Israel leading to the Messianic times. And the way in which this prophecy is given, links it to other Hebrew Bible prophecies concerning the rise of Israel in our time.
Notice when Yeshua mentions the branch, it is in singular, referring to the one branch, with a definite article, “the”. In the other 9 mentions of branch in the New Testament, it is always in the plural. Why point out here only one branch. There is something beautiful that we can take from the prophecy of Ezekiel concerning the rebirth of Israel and apply it to this tender branch.
We have often connected the prophecy of the Dry Bones with that of the Fig Tree as both speak of the rebirth of Israel in the end times. Just as the dry bones of Ezekiel get new life when the Spirit was blown into it, so now this tender shoot will eventually produce the necessary fruit. Both these prophecies point to the revival of the Jewish nation and eventually to a return to service in the millennium. But one of the prophecies of the Dry Bones ends with another parable speaking of the formation of one piece of wood, one branch.
It is the prophecy of the Two Sticks which becomes one piece of wood. Perhaps this is where the single branch in the fig tree brings us.
This parable is directly connected with the revival of the dry bones and there, after prophesying concerning the return of Israel, God asks in Ezekiel 37:16 to take two sticks and write on one of them, Judah and the Israelites associated with him, and on the other of Joseph (Ephraim), and all the House of Israel associated with him. There, Ezekiel is asked to join the two sticks together to form just one branch.
Since their entrance into the land of Israel, there was always animosity between the northern and southern tribes. King David succeeded in bringing them together as one nation, but both Solomon and his son Rehoboam caused havoc and these tribes separated into the north and south, often engaged in wars between them. However, the descendant of David, Yeshua, will bring all Jews back together again and establish them in the land of Israel. This is God’s conclusion from the parable of the two sticks in Ezekiel 37:21, I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land and I will make them one nation. This prophecy began in 1948, with the rebirth of the Fig Tree and yes, while Israel will go through a severe tribulation, they are here to stay in this land. In this prophecy, the Lord emphasizes the oneness, the unity and singularity of the Jewish people; from vv.16 to 24 the one, Echad is mentioned 11 times.
And when Yeshua speaks of that one branch of the fig tree, He may very well bring us to consider its sister prophecy of the Dry Bones and of the One Stick, which we can perhaps rename: the One Branch parable. This is the positive sign of the parable of the fig tree. It tells us that Israel is back in its land forever. It will be there during the millennium as well as in the Eternal State. Her existence will continue that long!
And this one branch also brings us to think of Yeshua Himself who is the One who brings Israel back as a nation. He is fully implicated in this. The One Branch is often a symbol of His presence. He is spoken of as the Righteous Branch whose name is the Lord our Righteousness. This is the only time when One individual, who is Yeshua, is called LORD.
Isaiah tells us that In that day the Branch of the LORD will be beautiful and glorious Isaiah 4:2. Zechariah speaks of God’s Servant the Branch through whom He will remove the iniquity of the land, Zech. 3:8. It was at around this same time period, close to when Israel became a country, that the LORD began to move within the hearts of many Jews and many of them came to believe in Yeshua. It was during this time that Jewish missions rose – the first time in history, and by 1900 it is estimated that 250,000 Jews became believers. These Jewish missions first began in Germany, took further root in England, and finally came to fruition in the United States. Have you noticed that Jews were almost non-existent in the history of the church until then? This recent turn of events is significant, and many are still coming to believe in these days.
Now, practically speaking, as we see the parable of the fig tree’s one branch along with the one stick in Ezekiel being fulfilled in front of our eyes, who might we consider in today’s Jewish community as representing the two sticks? This may be a reference to those two groups of Jewish people who were separated during the last 2000 years and only recently have come together to form that one echad, that oneness.
Can you guess who they are? These are the Ashkenazim and the Sephardim. The Ashkenazim who represent about 75% of the Jewish community are Jews mainly from Europe while the Sephardim, who represent about 25% of the Jewish community are Jews mainly from Spain, for Sepharad is the name for Spain. After the inquisition in the late 1490’s when Jews were kicked out of Spain many of them went to Arabic countries, and so Sephardim also include Jews from these countries. Some have estimated that the number of Jews who were part of that Inquisition was close to 600,000 souls (Hist. Inq. Spain Vol.1 p.142).
So, during the past 2000 years, there was little communication between the two groups. It is only with the creation of the state of Israel that they met after such a long separation. These two groups may very well represent the two sticks put together and becoming that one branch.
How did they get separated in history? After the destruction of the Temple and Jerusalem, the Jews were dispersed primarily to Mesopotamia, which is modern Iraq, and other fled to lands around the Mediterranean, such as southern Spain, southern France, Greece. Later on, Jews headed north and lived in areas that are present day France, Holland, Germany as well as northern Africa, including Morocco and Tunisia. And so, those Jews living in Europe and living in Germanic lands came to be known as Ashkenazim while those in Spain and northern Africa were known as Sephardim.