One More Year

by Pastor Kevin Sadler

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“A man and his wife had just moved to town, and he was coming home from his first day at work. As he’s driving down the highway, his cell phone rings, and it’s his wife. ‘George, I just had to call you and tell you to be careful. I just heard on the radio that some nut got off the on ramp and is now driving the wrong way down Hwy. 280!’ ‘It’s worse than that!’ said George, ‘I’m driving home on 280 and it’s not just one car. It’s hundreds of them!’”

This man was traveling the wrong direction, and in the time of Christ, Israel also went the wrong direction in her unbelief and rejection of Christ.

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“And He said also to the people, When ye see a cloud rise out of the west, straightway ye say, There cometh a shower; and so it is. And when ye see the south wind blow, ye say, There will be heat; and it cometh to pass. Ye hypocrites, ye can discern the face of the sky and of the earth; but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” (Luke 12:54-56).

In Luke 12 and 13, the Lord addressed His disciples and a large crowd. Luke 12:1 tells us that “there were gathered together an innumerable multitude of people, insomuch that they trode one upon another….” In this address, the Lord urged the people to discern the significance of their present time. This was important in light of the division of opinion concerning Himself and the judgment that would follow if they continued in their rejection of Him.

The Lord equated observing His ministry to noting daily weather patterns. Both offered
unmistakable signs of what was to come. The people all knew how to judge the future in light of the present, such as when predicting the weather.

The Lord told them that, when clouds formed in the west over the Mediterranean Sea, they could all predict that rain was on the way. And they knew that when the warm wind blew from the south in the Arabian desert, a heat wave or a hot day was coming. And this is exactly what would come to pass in each instance.

The ability to judge the evidence and to see its implications was not restricted to the experts. Everyone could come to the same conclusion from the plain evidence they could readily observe.

The point the Lord was making was that, seeing as how they were able to reach correct conclusions about the weather, they should have been able to discern the times and come to the correct conclusion that He was their Messiah, based upon the mountain of evidence He had given them through His life and ministry, all of which fit perfectly with the predictions of the prophets. They didn’t need the so-called religious experts of the scribes and Pharisees to tell them. They were able to reach the correct and obvious conclusion themselves.

When it came to the weather, they would see the signs and make the correct, logical conclusion, but they were not making the logical conclusion that the Messiah had arrived and His kingdom was coming.

Thus, the Lord rebuked this large crowd, calling them hypocrites and telling them that they could discern the sky and the earth, “but how is it that ye do not discern this time?” (v. 56 cf. Luke 19:41-44).

They did not see or realize the pivotal time which had arrived in Israel’s history, the time of their Messiah’s visitation. This was Israel’s day, the time of her people’s greatest blessing and special opportunity with her Messiah’s presence among them. And the people and their leaders had all the light they needed to know that it was Him, yet they chose to reject Him.

So again, like the signs of a cloud in the west or a south wind predicted future weather, the Lord warned them that their present rejection of Him would lead to future judgment.

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“There were present at that season some that told Him of the Galilaeans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices. And Jesus answering said unto them, Suppose ye that these Galilaeans were sinners above all the Galilaeans, because they suffered such things? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish. Or those eighteen, upon whom the tower in Siloam fell, and slew them, think ye that they were sinners above all men that dwelt in Jerusalem? I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:1-5).

Next, the Lord was told by some in the large crowd about “the Galileans, whose blood Pilate had mingled with their sacrifices.” For reasons unknown to us, Pilate, the governor of Judea, had cruelly ordered the slaying of some Galileans who had come to Jerusalem to worship at the temple. This was done while they were offering their sacrifices, and their blood was mingled with the blood of the animals that they were offering. The Lord used this tragedy to remind Israel of their need to “repent” of their rejection of Him, lest they “perish” and suffer a worse tragedy.

Then Christ reminded the crowd of the collapse of a tower supporting an aqueduct by the pool of Siloam in Jerusalem which caused the death of eighteen persons. The Lord emphasized that these catastrophes should not be interpreted as God’s special judgment on those people for their sins and wickedness and
that they were not worse sinners than others. All those who were listening to Him were also sinners, individually, and worthy of God’s judgment.

Thus, the Lord said, “Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (vv. 3,5). Each person individually needed to repent and believe in Christ as the Messiah and the Son of God, so that they would not perish eternally in their sins. However, it’s important to remember that God’s dealings with Israel were primarily national in nature. Thus, when the Lord said, “Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall ALL likewise perish,” He is speaking to Israel nationally. Israel, as a whole, had rejected her Messiah and was guilty. And the Lord challenged that large crowd and all Israel to repent, and told them that unless they repented and had a change of heart and mind and accepted Him as their Messiah, they would “ALL likewise perish.”

The collective sin of Israel in their rejection of their Messiah put the people in danger of a national calamity. Christ warned Israel of the inevitable future that was coming if she and her leaders continued in their unbelief.

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“He spake also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. Then said he unto the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luke 13:6-7).

Next, the Lord told this large crowd a parable, which taught Israel about her future. After the warning that unless Israel repented, they would all perish, the parable gave the reason repentance was vital for Israel: judgment was nearer than they realized! This parable clearly depicts the nation of Israel on the edge of judgment, and God as merciful in allowing the nation one final chance to respond to Christ in faith.

The parable begins by referring to “a certain man” that “had a fig tree planted in his vineyard.” The “certain man” in the story is the owner of the vineyard and represents God the Father.

The fig tree and the vineyard in the parable are both symbols of Israel in Scripture. Putting these two symbols together, we find that the parable is teaching about the spiritual condition (fig tree, Hos. 9:10) within the house of Israel (the vineyard, Isa. 5:7).

The fig tree is a symbol of religious Israel. You’ll remember that, after Adam and Eve partook of the forbidden fruit, they tried to cover their nakedness and sin with fig leaves (Gen. 3:7). And that’s what the definition of religion is: man’s attempt, by his own efforts, to cover up his sin and thereby restore his good standing with God. The only legitimate religion in all of human history was the law of Moses, with its sacrificial system that atoned for and covered Israel’s sins.

During Christ’s earthly ministry, He lived and ministered under the law (Gal. 4:4), and He kept it perfectly. The fig tree represents the religion of Israel and their spiritual state under the law of Moses during the time of Christ’s ministry.

At that time, the Lord stated in the parable that the owner of the vineyard, or God the Father, “came and sought fruit thereon, and found none” (Luke 13:6). The ultimate purpose of a fig tree is to bear fruit. And from the beginning of Christ’s earthly ministry, God the Father sought spiritual fruit from Israel.

The parable shows that this fig tree had a favored position. It was in an ideal place for a fig tree. It had been planted in a vineyard, where the soil was especially rich for the grapes within it. And this tree also had the watchful care of a vineyardkeeper (v. 7). The tree was protected and well-watered, and the conditions were ideal for it to bear fruit. This was to remind Israel that they lived under ideal spiritual conditions to bear fruit unto God (Rom. 3:1-2; 9:4-5).

Fig trees have relatively large leaves which tend to obscure their fruit so that one must come close and look carefully for the fruit to find it. And in the parable, the certain man “sought fruit” on the fig tree. Unfortunately, the leaves did not obscure the fruit, because there was none to be found. Because of their favored position and ideal spiritual conditions, especially with His Son ministering right then among them, God the Father expected to find spiritual fruit in Israel, but He “found none.”

God the Father patiently waited and sought spiritual fruit in Israel for the three years of His Son’s earthly ministry, but the nation did not produce fruit. Israel was all leaves with no fruit, external performance with no spiritual life. As a whole, they were not believing, just, true, faithful, or loving toward God or their neighbor. There were no fruits of righteousness or “fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3:8).

The “certain man” then spoke to the dresser of his vineyard, the one whose duty was to trim the vines and care for the vineyard. Christ is represented by the vineyard-keeper. The vinedresser worked in the vineyard, that is, the house of Israel, and personally cared for the nation. Christ was sent by the Father to the vineyard of Israel (Matt. 15:24), and He worked in that vineyard for the three years during which the Father came seeking fruit on the fig tree.

The “certain man” talking to the vineyard-keeper is God the Father speaking to God the Son. And the Father told the Son that because He didn’t find any fruit on this fig tree for these three years that He should “cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?” (Luke 13:7).

Because of its fruitlessness, God advised that the fig tree be cut down. It was cumbering the ground, meaning that it was occupying ground that could be used more productively. It was depleting the soil, taking up room, and blocking the sunlight; it needed to be removed.

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“And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down” (Luke 13:8-9).

Very much like Moses, who previously interceded for Israel when God was ready to judge her, so the Son interceded for Israel. The vinedresser, Christ, proposed giving the fig tree one more year to bear fruit. During that time, Christ said He would “dig about it,” or loosen, break up, and cultivate the soil around the tree, and He would “dung it” or fertilize the tree.

Christ appealed to the longsuffering of God and asked that Israel be given another chance and one more year to accept Him as her Messiah after the three years of His earthly ministry.

And then the vinedresser said, “And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down” (v. 9). The Son told the Father that if at the end of the one year it was still fruitless and in unbelief, then He could cut it down.

Israel was to be given one more year to respond in faith toward Christ. If she did, this would result in spiritual life and fruit for the fig tree. But if she failed to respond and accept Christ as her Messiah, this would result in her being cut down in God’s judgment.

At the end of the three years of Christ’s earthly ministry, we know that Israel’s rejection of our Lord led to His crucifixion. At the Cross, He graciously interceded on behalf of Israel and said, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do” (Luke 23:34). The Father responded to His Son’s prayer and forgave Israel for rejecting His Son and crucifying Him, affording them the additional opportunity of one more year to receive Christ as their Messiah.

When the Father was prepared to cut down the fig tree of Israel in her unbelief, the Son interceded
and requested of the Father, “Lord, let it alone this year also.” And here is something fascinating. The Greek words, aphiemi autos, translated as “let it alone” in Luke 13:8, are often translated as “forgive” in Scripture. And when Christ prayed from the Cross, “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do,”
the words “forgive them” are the same Greek words, aphiemi autos, translated in Luke 13:8 as “let it alone.”

At the Cross, Christ was telling the Father to forgive them, to let the fig tree alone, don’t cut them down, give them another chance, give them one more year to believe.

After Christ ascended to heaven, the Holy Spirit was sent to Israel. And the cultivating and fertilizing work was then done through the Spirit. The Holy Spirit dug around the fig tree of religious Israel and fertilized it, stirring up the nation, powerfully working by signs and wonders, bearing witness to Christ’s resurrection and His identity. This work of the Holy Spirit was done for the purpose of persuading Israel to accept Jesus of Nazareth as her Messiah (Acts 2:22-38; 3:13-26).

Acts chapter 1 through Acts chapter 7, between Christ’s resurrection and the stoning of Stephen, is a one-year time period, the one more year that Christ asked the Father to give the nation of Israel. At the end of
that one year, Israel, nationally, remained in her unbelief, and the fig tree of Israel still had not produced the spiritual fruit of faith in Christ.

Stephen, a man full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5,8), then stood before Israel’s religious leaders and his powerful words cut them to the heart as he convicted them of being the betrayers and murderers of the Just One, Jesus Christ (7:51-54). Stephen looked up and saw “Jesus standing on the right hand of God,” standing in judgment which was to be poured out against the nation (7:55-56). Hearing this, these leaders rushed together upon him in their rage, grabbed Stephen, cast him out of the city, and stoned him with their own hands (7:57-60).

It was at this point, at the end of the one additional year, that God cut the fig tree down. Israel was cut down, and her fall was to result in judgment and being cast into the fire of the Tribulation (Luke 3:9). At that point, the next thing on God’s prophetic timeline was the vengeance and wrath foretold in Luke 21:

“For these be the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled… for there shall be great distress in the land, and wrath upon this people. And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles…” (Luke 21:22-24).

The Lord’s prophecy in Luke 21 was not fulfilled in the destruction of the temple in AD 70. This prophesied judgment was to be fulfilled during the Great Tribulation. This 70th week of Daniel was the next prophesied event after Israel was cut down because of her unbelief—but it didn’t take place. Why?

Special Report

“If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward: How that by revelation He made known unto me the mystery… Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men…And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God…” (Eph. 3:2,3,5,9).

At the stoning of Stephen, Israel fell, was set aside in unbelief, but the prophetic clock was put on pause. It temporarily stopped running because God interrupted His prophetic program with Israel with the dispensation of the grace of God. Thus, the Tribulation period was temporarily suspended, and the promised Kingdom was temporarily postponed.

Instead of the cutting down of Israel resulting in the judgments of the Tribulation, it resulted in God turning to the nations to have a program with us, the Gentiles (Rom. 11:11). For that purpose, God raised up the Apostle Paul, saved him by His grace, and called him to be the apostle of the Gentiles (Rom. 11:13; 15:16).

The dispensation of grace was something that God said nothing about until He raised up Paul
and revealed it to him first. It had been “hid in God” (Eph. 3:9) and “in other ages was not made
known unto the sons of men” (v. 5). For nearly 2000 years this dispensation of grace has continued, and we continue to live in this dispensation to this very moment.

To Paul, Christ revealed this dispensation of grace, along with its Church, the Body of Christ, its
gospel of grace that salvation is by faith alone, our heavenly hope and calling today, and Christ’s office
and position as the Head of the Church. And we must look to Paul to find God’s will and instructions for the Church under grace.

Christ also made known to Paul the truth of the Rapture of the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 15:51-53). It is this event, the catching away of the Church to heaven, that will bring this dispensation to a close. Following the Rapture, God will pick up right where He left off with Israel, and God will pour out His wrath on this world in the Tribulation, and He will chasten and bring to pass the prophesied judgment upon Israel.

Any and every day now the Rapture could take place, and then the world will be plunged
into the darkness of those seven years of judgment. In light of the sobering truth that we live
among people who could be suddenly thrust into that day of God’s vengeance, may we “not sleep, as
do others; but let us watch and be sober…putting on the breastplate of faith and love; and for an helmet, the hope of salvation” (1 Thes. 5:6,8).

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