Letters and Manuscripts — Volume 13 (1898)


Ms 32, 1898

The Barren Fig Tree


March 8, 1898

Portions of this manuscript are published in CTr 256; ST 02/15/1899.

“And on the morrow, when they came from Bethany, he (Jesus) was hungry: and seeing a fig tree afar off having leaves, he came if haply he might find anything thereon: and when he came to it, he found nothing but leaves; for the time of figs was not yet.” In the morning as Jesus and His disciples “passed by, they saw the fig tree dried up from the roots. And Peter calling to remembrance saith unto him, Master, behold, the fig tree which thou cursedst is withered away. And Jesus answering saith unto them, Have faith in God.” [Mark 11:12, 13, 20-22.] 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 1

It was not a common thing for a fig tree to present full foliage at that early period of the season. The fruit of the fig tree makes its appearance before the leaves; therefore a fig tree in full leaf might be expected to have fruit upon it. Christ approached the tree, expecting to find fruit there; but searching from the lowest bough to the topmost branch, He found nothing but leaves, and His curse fell upon it. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 2

This instance in the ministry of Christ is a singular one. It was unlike the ways and works of Christ. We trace His works, and we see that they were ever performed to restore, not to destroy. Wherever He went He scattered mercy in words of counsel and deeds of goodness. He was the Restorer, the Healer. He came not to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved. The disciples could not understand the action of Christ in punishing a tree for its barrenness, and they said unto Him, “Declare unto us the parable of the fig tree.” 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 3

Just before this Christ had made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. For the second time He had cleansed the temple, and had driven out from its courts the traffickers, saying, “Take these things hence. It is written, My Father’s house shall be called a house of prayer but ye have made it a den of thieves.” [John 2:16; Matthew 21:13.] Dishonest dealing was practiced by the men who brought cattle to sell in the temple courts; but the word of command was given; divinity flashed through humanity, and no priest in his gorgeous dress, or trafficker looking on that countenance, dared to remain. They fled from the temple courts in great haste. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 4

This was a parable of the dispersion of the Jews. Now Christ, under the symbol of the blighted tree, presents before His disciples the righteous anger of God as He sees the temple courts desecrated to obtain unlawful gain, and the destruction of the Jewish nation. That tree, flaunting its pretentious foliage in the very face of Christ, was a symbol of the Jewish nation, who had been separating from God until, in their pride and apostasy, they had lost their power of discernment, and knew not their Redeemer. When Christ came into His own nation, they would not receive Him. They were seeking to put Him to death, and this act was to prove their ruin. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 5

It was this thought that caused the tears of Christ as He wept over Jerusalem. Invitations and entreaties had been made to lead them to repentance, but they would not come unto the only One who could give them life. When Christ looked upon the sacrilege of the temple courts, He acted the parable before His disciples as an avenger of the honor of God. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 6

In order that the lesson of the parable might have its effect, Christ clothed the tree with moral qualities, and made it the expositor of sacred truth. That one fig tree, cursed for its pretentious appearance while it bore no fruit in piety and good works, was a symbol of the destruction of Jerusalem and its glorified temple. Thousands upon thousands were to fall in the siege, and in the ruin of Jerusalem. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 7

The orchard was filled with fig trees, all of which were alike destitute; but they made no pretensions. These leafless, fruitless trees represented the Gentiles, who had not been favored with great advantages as had the Jewish nation. Unto Israel had been committed the oracles of God, to be held as a sacred trust for the world. The darkness of the Gentiles was not yet broken. They had no fruit on their branches, but they made no pretentious, boastful claims. Their time was not yet, for the exclusion of the Jewish nation had not permitted them to be a blessing to the Gentile world. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 8

Ambition, and erroneous views in regard to Christ’s advent, had deceived the Jewish nation. They declared that they were to be exalted, and all the heathen world be overcome and become their slaves. But when Christ came as the meek and lowly One, they refused to receive Him. They perverted the Scriptures, they taught for doctrines the commandments of men. They made void the law of God through their tradition. That law of God, which they claimed to observe so strictly, they made a yoke of bondage. They had so complicated the observance of the Sabbath that, as they presented it, there was nothing in it but rigorous exactions. Satan had put his leaven into the most precious everlasting truth, to make of none effect the sacred institution, old as creation. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 9

The law of God, the transcript of His character, if correctly observed with heart obedience, would have produced altogether a different influence; but vain glory, selfishness, oppression, marked the character of the Jews. They were proudly displaying their ceremonies before the very face of Christ, who was the foundation and center of the whole Jewish economy, while they rejected the substance of all their ceremonies, and were so blinded by Satan that they knew not the day of their visitation. The antitype of all their types, the substance of all their shadows, was among them, and they knew it not. And God declared of them, “O Israel, thou hast destroyed thyself.” [Hosea 13:9.] 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 10

The explanation of this strange act of Christ was to stand as a living, warning appeal to all Christian churches. This blighted fig tree with its pretentious branches is to repeat its lesson in every age to the close of this earth’s history. The barren tree was condemned and destroyed because it bore no fruit. The present condition of the Christian churches is similar to that existing in Christ’s day. God is looking for piety, self-denial, self-sacrifice, compassion, and zeal for God. He longs to see in man a deep yearning of soul to save his fellow man from unbelief and ruin. But the Lord, with all the heavenly universe, beholds the fruitless fig tree. They see man trampling upon the law of Jehovah, making the memorial of God, the sign between Him and His commandment-keeping people, a thing of naught, something to be despised, while the rival sabbath is exalted as was the great golden image in the plains of Dura. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 11

In this age men claiming to be Christians will call the world to worship the image they have made. This is the mystery of iniquity, the devising of satanic agencies, carried into effect by the man of sin. A spurious sabbath is exalted, and all who will not observe it will be placed under oppressive laws. The ceremony and formalism, the vainglory and oppression seen in the course pursued by the heathen king Nebuchadnezzar is being, and will continue to be manifested in our day. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 12

Christ, the King of glory, the Majesty of heaven, walked the earth in human form. In the fourth and fifth chapters of Acts, when face to face with the Sanhedrin council, Peter tells the story. Read these chapters carefully. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 13

“And when the had brought them, they set them before the council: and the high priest asked them, saying, Did we not straitly command you that ye should not teach in this name? and, behold, ye have filled Jerusalem with your doctrine, and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us. Then Peter and the other apostles answered and said We ought to obey God rather than man. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him.” [Acts 5:27-32.] 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 14

If the spirit of Satan entered into unsanctified hearts in the days of Christ to counterwork the requirements of God in that generation, it will surely enter into the professed Christian churches in 1898. History will repeat itself. The Sabbath question will be the point of controversy. But the people who obey the commandments of God have no controversy. They take the Word of God for their guide. Read Exodus 31. Every word is of God. 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 15

The three Hebrew children had no controversy with the king, knowing it would only increase his fury. “O Nebuchadnezzar,” they said, “we are not careful to answer thee in this matter. If it be so (if this is your decision), our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace; and he will deliver us out of thine hand O King.” This was the language of faith. “But if not,” they added, “be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.” [Daniel 3:16-18.] 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 16

So will come the test upon the Sabbath question. The idol sabbath, which nearly all Christendom has exalted as a day to be worshipped, has not one particle of sanctity in it. It was not a “Thus saith the Lord.” And to the people who trample upon that day which God has sanctified and blessed, Christ says as He did of the Jewish nation, “Thou hast destroyed thyself.” [Hosea 13:9.] 13LtMs, Ms 32, 1898, par. 17