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Jesus' Cursing of the Fig Tree,

Apostasy, and 'Feng Shui'

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Question #1:  

Could you explain Mark 11:13-14?

Response #1:  

On Jesus' cursing of the fig tree during His final days (Mk.11:13-14; Matt.21:18-19), there are two points of explanation I think should be made. First, the miraculous nature of this event is addressed by our Lord Himself in Mark 11:20-26 (Matt.21:20-22). In terms of the miracle itself, our Lord assures Peter and the rest of the disciples that they too can (and will) do and perform similar miracles through faith which is solid and without doubt. Clearly without the power of God no human being can affect a tree in such a way. And in terms of other miracles, things we pray for that are impossible to the eyes of the world, we are promised here by our Lord for whom nothing is impossible that if we believe we will receive what we are praying for. It will indeed come to pass, as long as 1) we believe and do not doubt, and 2) we ask in an attitude of forgiveness in respect to any who have done us wrong. For if we forgive others, God will forgive us and hear our prayers; and if we believe without doubt in our heart that God has/is given/giving us what we ask, then we will receive it.

The fact that Jesus does not here add all the other caveats on prayer does not mean that He is hereby abolishing them. In addition to doubt (cf. Jas.1:6-7), Jesus also mentions lack of forgiveness as a hindrance to prayer, and of course there are others. For example, if what we ask is outside of the will of God (cf. 1Jn.5:14), or if what we ask is really only to gratify our own lusts (cf. Jas.4:2), then we should not expect to receive what we ask for, no matter how strong our faith might be. It is also not the case that prayer requests are received instantaneously. It was the next day when the fig tree was seen to be withered, and we know that "persistent prayer" is both commanded and encouraged in scripture (cf. Jesus' parable of the persistent widow: Lk.18:2-8). Further, although during the Millennium, prayer will be answered immediately (Is.65:24), the implication of that fact is that, of course, in this present world we are sometimes required to wait as the Lord tests and refines our faith (e.g., Abraham was 99 before his request for a son came true - but it came true with blessing upon blessing). On the comparison to "moving mountains", please see the following link:

            Moving Mountains in Mark 11:23-24

The second thing that needs to be said about this passage involves the important symbolism of what Jesus did in cursing the fig tree (and therefore why He did it). This passage is very reminiscent of what our Lord says in the parable of the unfruitful fig tree (Lk.13:6-9; compare Is.5:1-7). The fig tree in Mark represents unproductive Israel specifically, and, by application, anyone under the Lord's scrutiny who fails to produce (cf. the parable of the talents). Like fig trees, the Lord plants us, nurtures us, protects us, and gives us everything we need to grow spiritually to the end that we might help others to do likewise (i.e., that we might bear our own "fruit"; cf. Jn.15:1-8). But when the day of visitation comes, the time for which the Lord has been patiently waiting, if we have not done what He set us here to do, then . . . .

As Paul says in regard to our appearance before the judgment seat of Christ, "we know what it is to fear the Lord" (2Cor.5:11 compared with 5:12). We believers who are indeed pushing forward in spiritual growth and producing the fruit that Jesus would have us produce "delight in the fear of the Lord" (Is.11:3), just as Jesus our forerunner and example did in regard to His Father during His earthly life. This holy fear is thus no terror but a thrilling encouragement to stay on the right road, following closely in our Master's footsteps, confident as we do so that the day will come when we are out of this world (and so out of all danger), that blessed day of days when we will receive from the Lord's hand an overflowing reward for all that fruit He did find when He came to us.

Please also see these links:

Is Jesus the only One ever to restore sight?

The Course of Jesus' Earthly Ministry (in BB 4A: Christology)

In the One who was the fear of Isaac and whom we strive to love with all our hearts, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

Question #2: 

I recently stumbled on to your site inadvertently.  As I am reading through your analysis, I am struck by its clarity, authenticity and fearless approach to issues that may provoke either sadness of intellectual resistance. Last night I read your discussion as to how the US may (indeed) be the home base for the anti-christ, and would (therefore) qualify as the Babylon of Revelation. Let me raise with you one thorny issue for you to consider and answer at your leisure. It is clear that there will be a great falling away, however, in your discussion you used the phrase "former believers" My thinking is that there could never truly be a "former believer," although there could be a vast host of former Methodists, Episcopalians, etc. Does John address this issue when he talks about the spirit of anti-christ having gone out from the church, but not being "of" the church.

Let me again thank you for putting such a fine teaching tool online.

Response #2:  

Thanks for your trenchant and complimentary remarks. It is true - one wouldn't write such things out of a desire for popularity. Ichthys is neither an advertised nor "highly linked" site, and that has tended to be a good thing I think. I have total confidence in the Lord's ability to steer any and all who are genuinely interested in benefiting from such teaching to this URL.

As to your question, you certainly have a point in that a large number of the so-called "apostates" will never have actually been believers in the first place. But this does not explain it all. I was raised a Presbyterian and in later years highly influenced by teaching that proclaimed a kindred, hyper-Calvinistic "eternal security" - a nice, warm-and-fuzzy thing to believe (but a dangerous one if not true). Coming to terms with the fact that scripture not only didn't support this theory but in actuality contradicted it in very stark terms was in many ways (in company with the same problem vis-a-vis the pre-Trib rapture theory) central to the development of the theology outlined at Ichthys. In short, I determined long ago to let scripture be my guide in a very real and concrete way, opening up to whatever was there regardless of who it alienated or offended. Not that it is my purpose to alienate or offend - far from it. I wish to know the truth - nothing is more important than the truth - and would wish for all my brothers and sisters in Jesus to wish to know it as well. But it is my intention to, by diligent and careful study, determine as best I can by God's grace precisely what the Bible teaches in all things and to teach what I am given to find out, regardless of consequences.

On the "former believer" point in particular, yes, the words are actually carefully chosen. You see, I believe that scripture teaches that faith is very much a living thing. It can grow, and it can decline. If left completely untended, it can also, like a plant in the heat without depth of roots, succumb to the scorching of life's trials and tribulations (the point behind the seed that falls on rocky ground in the parable of the sower: Matt.13:5-6). Nowhere will the heat be hotter than during the Great Tribulation and we are told that the falling away that will take place under its intense pressure will be considerable. There are many whose faith is weak, who are lukewarm in their zeal for the Lord, and it will largely be from the ranks of this group that those who are prophesied to fall away from the faith during that terrible time will come. After all, apostasy, from the Greek, means to "stand (i.e., move/fall) away", and I think it is difficult even prima facie to make the argument that Paul is talking only about institutional affiliation in 2nd Thessalonians 2:3 with his use of apostasia. In 1st Timothy 4:1, the Spirit says, he tells us, that in the last days "some will fall away (apostesontai) from the faith", and all usage and logic point to this meaning "belief" rather than mere participation in the community.

In short, I believe that scripture clearly teaches the possibility of loss of faith, a very sobering thing to contemplate indeed, especially when one considers the unprecedented pressures that will be brought to bear on faith during the Tribulation. Here are some links to places where this subject is treated in much greater detail:

        Apostasy and the Sin unto Death (in BB 3B)

        The Process of Apostasy (in CT 3A)

        The Great Apostasy (in CT 3A)

        Eternal Security: where does one draw the line?

        Eternal Security response #1

        Eternal Security response #2

        Three False Doctrines that Threaten Faith (Pet.#27, deals with "eternal security")

        The Parable of the Sower (in Pet.#12)

        Perseverance of Faith (Pet.#26)

       The Process of Apostasy (in Pet.#26)

Thanks again for your interest and for your very kind comments.

In the One who will ever remain faithful to us, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ - may we ever remain faithful to Him!

Bob L.

Question #3: 

Our local paper recently featured a article on someone who practices "Feng Shui". It is some sort of Chinese spirit force. Are you familiar with it?

Response #3:  

I'm sorry to say that I don't know very much about this at all beyond what is generally out there in the ether. That is, there is supposed to be some sort of spirit attraction / repulsion or agreement / conflict (or chi / sha ?) between the material world and our relationship to it. This gets into the whole harmony vs. disharmony thing and as far as I know it is mainly being applied today in the west in the arrangement of objects to promote harmony over disharmony. In "Bob" terms, it means that if your house is giving you bad vibes, you could move the sofa, or you could hire a spiritualist to come do mumbo-jumbo and then tell you to move the sofa (for a hefty fee, or course). Like all such practices which seek to invest a "spiritual" element into things that have nothing to do with true spirituality (as defined by God in scripture), everyone who opens him/herself up to this sort of thing runs the risk of demonic influence or worse. Sometimes this "mild" sort of anti-biblical false spirituality may seem very benign, but it can act as a doorway into other, darker practices, and to progressively greater obedience to demonic influences. Martial arts, for example, usually have a large degree of this sort of false mysticism which, when indulged too much, can result in the giving over of one's will to satanic forces. If I'm not mistaken, Feng Shui is connected to divination and astrology, so you can see the point here. Bottom line, things like this while they may seem relatively harmless if a person doesn't take them seriously, can be become very harmful to the extent that 1) they begin to be taken seriously, or 2) they contribute to weakening a person's natural common sense defenses against things that every conscience will initially rebuff. The only real difference between something like this and a Ouija board or Tarot cards is that the "magic" is of eastern instead of western origin, and so in our pop culture of the day not only has more cachet, but also at the same time is not considered as dangerous as western black magic (and for that very reason is perhaps more dangerous still; please see the link:  Demon Possession).

In Him who is the only truth, our Savior Jesus Christ.

Bob L.

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