Monday, September 19, 2011

Where does the Second Coming fit in the allegory of the olive tree?

As I looked over Zenos’s allegory of the olive tree in Jacob 5 recently, I noticed there was no big production at the exact moment when the Second Coming happens, which I thought was really odd. But there is a lot of previous warning; there are a lot of repetitions of “this last time” and “the end draweth nigh” and “only this once” and “the season speedily cometh.” The urgency to prepare is great, yet when the season or the end comes, it seems so normal that you don’t even notice it!

There are two ways of looking at this. One way is that it is a message of great assurance for the church members who stay faithful—all the careful efforts to prepare for the Second Coming will pay off and there will be no need for panic about our status in that day. Another way of looking at this is that it is an allegory and is not required to depict every element of coming prophesied events and to do so would have wrenched the reader completely out of the text. I choose not to worry about which way to interpret it.

The only hint we get that the Second Coming happened in the allegory is this verse:
And it came to pass that when the Lord of the vineyard saw that his fruit was good, and that his vineyard was no more corrupt, he called up his servants, and said unto them: Behold, for this last time have we nourished my vineyard; and thou beholdest that I have done according to my will; and I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good, even like as it was in the beginning. And blessed art thou; for because ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard, and have kept my commandments, and have brought unto me again the natural fruit, that my vineyard is no more corrupted, and the bad is cast away, behold ye shall have joy with me because of the fruit of my vineyard. (Jacob 5:75)
Notice, the vineyard is no more corrupted, so all the bad stuff is gone. (This tells me that the Second Coming had happened just before that place in the text.) The Lord’s speech to His servants turns from instructions to celebration, as indicated by the past tense:
  • this last time have we nourished my vineyard
  • thou beholdest that I have done according to my will
  • I have preserved the natural fruit, that it is good
  • ye have been diligent in laboring with me in my vineyard
  • [ye] have kept my commandments
  • [ye] have brought unto me again the natural fruit
  • my vineyard is no more corrupted
  • the bad is cast away
All of these things will be real causes for celebration too, considering they will have occurred as the rest of the world ripens in iniquity for destruction. To nourish the vineyard when there is a famine of the word of God is no small task. That the Lord does according to His righteous will to bring about His purposes even in these times of wickedness is an AMAZING testimony to His power. His preservation of the good fruit in the midst of corruption and destruction will be similarly amazing (and this should help us trust Him more).

Additionally, the Lord knows how hard it will be for us, hence His strong commendation of His servants for their diligence (when others have only been sporatic), His tribute to their obedience (when so many others were disobeying), and His praise for their righteous influence toward repentance (when others were such a negative influence).

This verse gives us reason to hang in there and be diligent servants. Our efforts will not be forgotten in the end.