I realize that God’s program with Israel continued on following Israel’s rejection of Jesus and His return to heaven, and that during that time God gave “repentance to Israel” just as it says in Acts 5. I also understand that in Luke 13:6–9 Jesus had given a parable about this very thing. But I am wondering if there is anything in Acts 1 through 7 itself that actually indicates the passing of the additional year the Lord spoke about? Or do we just take it that it had to be a year because of what the Lord said?
6 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.
7 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?
8 And he answering said unto him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it:
9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that thou shalt cut it down. (Luke 13:6–9)
In view of what the Lord set forth in Luke 13:6–9, it is my understanding that the period of time during the opening chapters of the Book of Acts when God gave “repentance to Israel” did amount to the “this year also” that He spoke about in the parable. Or in other words, it did amount to a one year period of time from when the “repentance to Israel” commenced with the events of “the day of Pentecost” in Acts 2, to when it concluded at the end of Acts 7 when Stephen was given to see that the Lord was no longer sitting at the Father’s right hand waiting until His foes be made His footstool, but He was standing. For since the “these three years” in the parable are the literal time of the Lord’s ministry during which God ‘sought fruit’ from Israel and its vain religious system, so also would the “this year also” be the literal time during which the “fig tree” would be ‘let alone’ and given further and more intense attention, and thereby be given a further opportunity to “bear fruit.”
So then simply based upon the literal spans of time spoken about in the parable, (as well as upon the truthfulness of whatever the Lord says), we know that the time from Acts 2 to the end of Acts 7 lasted a year.
However the record of the opening chapters of the Book of Acts itself also testifies to the reality of this. It does this especially by what God has Luke record concerning Stephen, and the final opportunity that Israel’s leadership was given to ‘repent’ as they were confronted with his stinging indictment of them.
In Acts 6:9 where the account begins to describe God’s use of Stephen, the verse makes special mention of those who disputed with Stephen being ones who belonged to “the synagogue, which is called the synagogue of the Libertines, and Cyrenians, and Alexandrians, and of them of Cilicia and of Asia.” This synagogue is significant because it is composed primarily of ones who are not native to the land of Israel or to Jerusalem, (and therefore did not live in Jerusalem or the land of Israel all the time), but who came to Jerusalem every year when required by the law, as for the day of Pentecost.
Wherefore this particular synagogue is mentioned in Acts 6:9 not simply because they were the ones who were “disputing with Stephen” at this time. But rather it is specifically mentioned because with this particular synagogue being ‘in operation,’ so to speak, at this time, it therefore testifies to the fact that a year had now transpired since the time of the day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when these of Asia, Egypt, Cyrene, and the like, previously had been in Jerusalem.
Therefore this one year span of time from Acts 2 to Acts 7 not only perfectly tallies with what the Lord had said in Luke 13 about “this year also,” but what Stephen was given to see following Israel’s rejection of his indictment of them also perfectly tallies with the time having arrived for the “fig tree” to be cut down. For Stephen was given to see that the Lord was no longer sitting at God’s right hand as He had been doing since the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2, but He was now standing, ready to make His foes His footstool.
Now had it not been for God unexpectedly suspending His program with Israel at this point in time, and then raising up Paul to be His brand new apostle and bringing in this present dispensation of His grace in connection with revealing “the mystery of Christ” to Paul, God would have continued on in His program with Israel as prophesied. The Lord, therefore, would have begun to ‘make His foes His footstool’ and “the fig tree” would have been ‘cut down’ in order to consign it to its prophesied destruction during the Lord’s day of wrath.
But now both the ‘cutting down’ of the “fig tree” so that it no longer ‘cumbereth the ground’ of God’s “vineyard,” together with the administering of the Lord’s day of wrath, await the resumption and fulfillment of God’s program with Israel which is still yet to come, following the conclusion of this present dispensation of His grace.
– K.R. Blades
[Note: The next question also deals with the opening chapters of the Book of Acts, but it concerns the curious events of Acts 8 immediately following the end of God giving “repentance to Israel.”