The End Time Message in the Miracle of the Withering of the Fig Tree
Matthew 21:19-46: A Preterist Commentary: Summary and Highlights
In Matthew 21:19-46, Jesus tells two parables. The meaning of the symbols in Jesus’ parables is consistent throughout the Gospels. These two parables convey similar prophetic messages concerning Israel’s immediate and distant future. The meaning and fulfillment of these parables is explained in the following Preterist commentary on Matthew 21:19-46.
The following may seem unbelievable. However, all information is taken from unbiased historical records and is easily verifiable. Sources listed at the end.
The End Time Message in the Miracle of the Withering of the Fig Tree
19Seeing a fig tree by the road, he went up to it but found nothing on it except leaves. Then he said to it, “May you never bear fruit again!” Immediately the tree withered.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 21:19: The Fig Tree Represents Jerusalem which is soon to be destroyed by the Romans because of its wickedness.
Trees are often used in the Bible to signify a kingdom or city (Isaiah 10, Ezekiel 15, Ezekiel 17, Ezekiel 31, Nahum 3:12). The fig tree in this parable represents Jerusalem, Jesus’ destination that morning. Good fruit is a Biblical symbol of the virtue of the saints: “[T]he fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).” The fact that this tree does not have fruit represents Jerusalem’s lack of virtue. During his ministry, Jesus frequently assailed his people calling them “a wicked and adulterous generation (Matthew 16:4).” This accusation is not mere rhetoric. The lack of fruit on the fig tree represents the wickedness of these people who killed the prophets, Jesus, and Jesus’ disciples after his crucifixion.[iv]
20When the disciples saw this, they were amazed. “How did the fig tree wither so quickly?” they asked. 21Jesus replied, “I tell you the truth, if you have faith and do not doubt, not only can you do what was done to the fig tree, but also you can say to this mountain, ‘Go, throw yourself into the sea,’ and it will be done. 22If you believe, you will receive whatever you ask for in prayer.”
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 21:21: The Mountain in v. 21 is Jerusalem and the Sea symbolizes the Gentile Nations. Therefore, the Casting of the Mountain into the Sea represents the Exile of the People of Jerusalem throughout Rome after the Jewish War.
Mountains are also often used in the Bible to represent cities (Psalms 2:6, Psalms 48:1, Isaiah 66:20, Jeremiah 51:25, Joel 3:17). The mountain in this parable like the fig tree that withered represents the city of Jerusalem. Sea is another common Biblical symbol. Sea represents the Gentile nations (Daniel 7:2-3, Revelation 17:15, Psalm 65:7, Psalm 144:7, Isaiah 8:7-8, Isaiah 17:12, Isaiah 60:5, Jeremiah 47:1-2, Jeremiah 51:55-56 and Ezekiel 26:3). After the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70, many Israelites were exiled throughout the Roman Empire. [vi] There many Jews were enslaved and killed in public spectacle. The casting of the mountain or city into the sea represents the exile of the people of Jerusalem throughout Gentile Rome.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 21:21: The Sea also represents the Abyss, the Realm of the Dead. Therefore, the Casting of the Mountain, Jerusalem, into the Sea also represents the Slaughter of the People of Jerusalem during the Jewish War.
Sea has another, deeper meaning in the Bible. The sea is the Abyss, the realm of the dead. The hurling of a mountain or city into the sea or Abyss is a symbolic expression of the destruction of a city and the slaughter of its inhabitants. The casting of the mountain into the sea in this parable points to the destruction of Jerusalem and the massacre of its people in A.D. 70.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 21:21-22: God answers the Prayers of the Saints, and the Mountain is thrown into the Sea.
According to Revelation 6:9-11, the plagues of Revelation and their fulfillment during the time of the Jewish War were ultimately a consequence of the prayers of the saints. After Jesus’ crucifixion, many Christians in Israel were murdered by their Jewish brethren. [vii] God answered their pleas for justice in A.D. 66 at the start of Israel’s war with Rome. During this war, Israel was destroyed by the Roman army. And many Israelites were killed and exiled. Jesus was right. As a result of the faith of the saints, the mountains of Israel had metaphorically been thrown into the sea.
Jesus then entered the temple courts. While there the elders and the chief priests of the people came to him and questioned his authority. In response, Jesus told them this parable:
33“Listen to another parable: There was a landowner who planted a vineyard. He put a wall around it, dug a winepress in it and built a watchtower. Then he rented the vineyard to some farmers and went away on a journey. 34When the harvest time approached, he sent his servants to the tenants to collect his fruit. 35“The tenants seized his servants; they beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36Then he sent other servants to them, more than the first time, and the tenants treated them the same way. 37Last of all, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38“But when the tenants saw the son, they said to each other, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance.’ 39So they took him and threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. 40“Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those tenants?” 41“He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,” they replied, “and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.” 42Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ” ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes?’ 43“Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. [viii]
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 21:33-43: The Meaning of the Symbols in Jesus’ Parables is consistent throughout the Gospels.
The meaning of the symbols within Jesus’ parables remains fairly consistent throughout the four Gospels. The landowner is God or the divine Messiah; the vineyard is a city or kingdom, in this parable it represents Jerusalem;[ix] the tenants or farmers are the Jewish authorities, specifically the elders, chief priests and Pharisees; the landowner’s servants are apostles, saints and prophets; the fruit of the harvest are virtuous saints; and the harvest, as is the case in Matthew 13:39, is the end of the age.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 21:33-43: The Deaths of the Saints, the Death of Christ, the Second Coming, the Jewish War and the Conversion of Israel . . .
Seeing a land unfruitful in virtue, God, the landowner, sent his servants, the prophets, to warn Jerusalem, the vineyard, to repent or face disaster. Ignoring these prophetic warnings, the tenants representing the Jewish authorities stoned, beat and killed these prophets. Then God sent his son to teach repentance and warn of the coming war with Rome.
Verse 38 reveals the true motive behind Jesus’ murder. Because Jesus publically denounced their wickedness throughout his ministry, the chief priests and Pharisees feared that they would lose their positions of power in Jerusalem if Jesus became king of the Jews. Fearing that they would lose their jobs or perhaps even their lives, the Jewish authorities plotted to have Jesus killed so that they could continue to reign over his inheritance, the vineyard representing Jerusalem in this parable. Then in fulfillment of v. 39, Jesus was taken outside of Jerusalem, the vineyard, and crucified. After his resurrection, Jesus was seated at the right hand of the Father. Having received the Father’s kingdom, Jesus is now the landowner.
The coming of the landowner in vs. 40-41 is Jesus coming on the clouds in judgment at the second coming. A couple months after Jesus’ return in A.D. 66, the Roman army arrived in Israel. During the Jewish War and the death of the lawless one, Jesus made several appearances including coming on the clouds of heaven at the head of the Roman army at the siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 70. These appearances of Christ during and shortly after the Jewish War are a climatic exemplification and fulfillment of seemingly all the various ways in which God appeared to people in the Old and New Testaments. They also seem to literally fulfill every detail of every prophecy concerning the parousia or second coming. See Historical Evidence that Jesus, the Son of Man, was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century.
The Romans then destroyed Jerusalem and killed the wicked people therein. After the war, Christian refugees returned to inhabit the land. And over the next one thousand years, Gentile Christians became the new tenants of the vineyard, Jerusalem, having replaced the former Jewish occupants in fulfillment of v. 43.[x]
44He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.” 45When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus’ parables, they knew he was talking about them. 46They looked for a way to arrest him, but they were afraid of the crowd because the people held that he was a prophet.
A Preterist Commentary on Matthew 21:44: Verse 44 is an Allusion to Daniel 2:34.
In v. 44 Jesus refers to himself as the stone in Daniel 2:34. In this verse, a rock representing Jesus strikes the feet of a statue signifying Rome. The rock shatters the statue and then grows to become a large mountain. This mountain is the kingdom of God.
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Interested in THE PRETERIST VIEW OF ESCHATOLOGY, or are you a PRETERIST struggling with a prophecy or verse? It DID happen just like the Bible says! If you liked this essay, see PRETERIST BIBLE COMMENTARY for a detailed explanation of the FULFILLMENT OF ALL MAJOR END TIME PROPHECIES IN THE BIBLE. The more unbelievable the prophecy, the more amazing and miraculous the fulfillment!
Also see Historical Evidence that Jesus was LITERALLY SEEN in the Clouds in the First Century. For an explanation of how the end of the age and its fulfillment during the Jewish War mirror Genesis 1-3; how the Bible teaches that the resurrection of the dead is a resurrection of heavenly bodies to heaven, not a resurrection of perfected earthly bodies; and how the resurrection is a mirror opposite of the fall see How the Jewish War and Resurrection to Heaven Mirror Genesis and the Fall; and How Preterism fixes the Age of the Earth Problem and unravels the Mysteries in Genesis.
[iv]The miracle recorded in v.19 calls to mind Luke 13:1-9. After being informed of the deaths of some Galileans, Jesus told the people that these men were not worse sinners than the rest of the people of Galilee. Jesus warned them that unless they repent, they too will die. Jesus then told this parable in Luke 13:6-9:
A man had a fig tree, planted in his vineyard, and he went to look for fruit on it, but did not find any. So he said to the man who took care of the vineyard, ‘For three years now I’ve been coming to look for fruit on this fig tree and haven’t found any. Cut it down! Why should it use up the soil?’ ‘Sir, the man replied, ‘leave it alone for one more year, and I’ll dig around it and fertilize it. If it bears fruit next year, fine! If not, then cut it down.’
The fertilization of the fig tree in this parable represents Jesus’ ministry in Israel. Despite the wonders Jesus performed in conjunction with his message, most Israelites did not repent.
[vi] Josephus The Wars of the Jews 6.9.3.
[vii] Eusebius The History of the Church 3.5.
[viii] There is an implicit message about the resurrection in this parable.
[ix] It also represents Israel and all of creation.
[x] In this parable, Jesus conveys a message that is often repeated in the Gospels. Israel was to be a holy nation, but the people of the land had become wicked. As a result, at the end of the age, God would destroy these people and bring in others that would faithfully pursue righteousness. During the Jewish revolts against Rome, thousands of Jews were killed. Once populated almost exclusively by ethnic Jews, by A.D. 614 Judea was 95% Christian. (Thomas A. Idinopulas, Jerusalem Blessed, Jerusalem Cursed: Jews, Christians, and Muslims in the Holy City from David’s Time to Our Own (Chicago: Ivan R. Deer, 1991), 102) In the thousand years after the Jewish War, Jesus’ prediction had come true: There was a dramatic shift in demographics in Judea. After the second Jewish revolt, Hadrian ordered the expulsion of all ethnic Jews from Israel in fulfillment of Deuteronomy 28:63. After this revolt, few Jewish settlements remained with the exception of three areas in the Jordan valley. (M. Avi-Yonah, The Jews of Palestine: A Political History from the Bar Kokhba War to the Arab Conquest (New York: Schocken Books, 1976), 16) Jerusalem was then renamed Aelia Capitoline and racial Jews were not permitted to approach the city upon threat of execution. (Teddy Kollek and Moshe Pearlman, Jerusalem: A History of Forty Centuries (New York: Random House, 1968), 140) At the end of the fourth century with Jews still only allowed in the city one day a year, Jerusalem became an exclusively Christian city, the only one in the country. (Ibid., 149)
Matthew 21:41 reads, “’He will bring those wretches to a wretched end,’ they replied, ‘and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants [husbandmen], who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time.’” The Greek word translated tenants in v. 41 is more accurately translated husbandmen or farmers. Here the new Christian occupants that replaced the Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem shortly after the Jewish War and subsequent Bar Kokhba rebellion are symbolized as husbandmen or farmers. It is interesting to note that Jesus the son of Ananus who is identified as the two witnesses in the commentary on Revelation 11 was a husbandman or farmer. In the commentary on Revelation 11 it is shown that the two witnesses are Jesus Christ. Was Jesus the son of Ananus Jesus Christ in the flesh? Of course, one can never know for sure. But if he was then the fact that he returned in the flesh at the time of the Jewish War as a husbandmen may point to the impending fulfillment of this parable. In 1 Corinthians 12:27 Christians are called the Body of Christ. If the Christian church is the body of Christ and Christ came back as a farmer during the Jewish War, it is easy to see how Jesus’ followers might also be symbolically considered farmers as well in fulfillment of Matthew 21:41.
Matthew 21:19-46: A Preterist Commentary: Conclusion
In Matthew 21:19-46: A Preterist Commentary, the meaning and fulfillment of two parables with similar prophetic messages concerning Israel’s future were explained above.