Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Lesson 49: Be Alert - Part 1 of 2

Brief 4-to-5 Minute Teaching Lesson

Why? and What is the Purpose? in My Life SERIES

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Lesson 49 of the Discipleship Making process.

I left you last time with these questions, “If the rapture of Christians occurs before Christ’s coming why didn’t Jesus or any of the apostles or prophets tell anyone or write it down?”

Jesus is concerned about the future. He wants His disciples to be prepared to meet its challenges. So He begins the Olivet Discourse cautioning His disciples not to be misled, then gives them the map of the future with road markers along the way and finishes by telling them to stay alert.

Jesus is adamant about staying alert. During the Olivet Discourse He issues twenty instructions that His disciples are to obey. The last ten deal with the issue of alertness.

Read: Matthew 24:32-44, Mark 13:28-33, and Luke 21:29-32

Immediately after telling His disciples how He will return to earth, Jesus instructs them to learn the parable (a parable is used as an illustration comparing the concepts about a known subject with an unfamiliar one) of the fig tree. Talk about using a parable for effect! Just hours before, the disciples had walked by a fig tree that Jesus had cursed the day before and noticed it had completely withered from the roots up in one day.

The reason Jesus cursed the fig tree was that it gave a false sign. The time of year was April. Normally, fig trees don’t put forth their leaves until July or August and the fruit becomes ripe in October. However, with the coming of its leaves the fig tree also puts forth its fruit at the same time. So Jesus walked over to the tree to see if there was any fruit on it (The fruit would have been green and hidden among the leaves so closer inspection was required.). Since there was no fruit (Matthew 12:33, Matthew 3:8, 10) on the tree Jesus knew it was an aberration and cursed it. The tree was an aberration because it did not follow the pattern that God created for the fig tree. In other words the tree was in rebellion against God and its own nature. It failed on two counts: 1) it put forth leaves at the wrong time and 2) it didn’t produce fruit with the leaves, which provided Jesus with a two-fold witness against the tree. Therefore, it was worthy of being cursed. The cursing of the fig tree also serves as a sign and warning to hypocrites who themselves are an aberration (i.e. those who say they are Christians but do not produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit). The hypocrite’s curse is that they will be assigned to a place where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. (Matthew 24:51).

It was common knowledge in the Jewish culture that a fig tree put forth its leaves in the summer time. So it served as a practical sign to all the people that summer was near, at hand or right at the door. In the same way Jesus wants His disciples to have common knowledge concerning the time of His coming. The signs in the heavens: the sun and moon not giving their light and the stars falling from heaven are to serve as a sign, like the fig tree (Revelation 6:12-13), of His soon return. It is near, at hand or right at the door. There should be no doubt about the validity of these heavenly signs being a precursor to Christ’s return, as all three of the synoptic gospels record the signs in the heavens immediately followed by the parable of the fig tree.

In part 2 of this lesson, we will continue to look at the question, “If the rapture of Christians occurs before Christ’s coming why didn’t Jesus or any of the apostles or prophets tell anyone or write it down?”, as well as, continue to look at Jesus’ specific instruction on when to become alert and as to the nearness of His redemption.

Until next time . . . Godspeed!

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