By nine o’ clock in the morning, Jesus Christ had been arrested and tried before the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate. All were kangaroo courts. No substantial charges could be made. No credible witnesses or evidence could be presented. Yet, he was condemned. Hardened soldiers stripped him of his outer garment and laid the Roman scourge across his backside with a vengeance. Jesus was flogged, dressed with a makeshift royal robe, given a stick for a scepter and crowned with a wreath of thorns. He was led out before Pilate and an angry crowd – drunk with a blood-thirst …
“Pilate therefore went forth again, and saith unto them, Behold, I bring him forth to you, that ye may know that I find no fault in him. Then came Jesus forth, wearing the crown of thorns, and the purple robe. And Pilate saith unto them, Behold the man! (John 19:4-5).
Every Easter, we are reminded of the arrest, trial and crucifixion of the savior Jesus Christ. We imagine the scene – the purple robe and the crown of thorns and realize that Christ was mocked as the King of the Jews. We know that he really is their true King, but have we understood the significance of the thorns?
In order to fully comprehend God’s plan for Christ to wear a crown made out of thorns, we must follow the trail back into the pages of the Old Testament. There we find the thorns associated with the coming Antichrist – a result of the fall of Adam in the Garden of Eden. Until the fall, the earth did not produce thorns …
“And unto Adam he said, Because thou hast hearkened unto the voice of thy wife, and hast eaten of the tree, of which I commanded thee, saying, Thou shalt not eat of it: cursed is the ground for thy sake; in sorrow shalt thou eat of it all the days of thy life; Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee; and thou shalt eat the herb of the field” (Genesis 3:17-18).
From this point in scripture, thorns and thistles appear to be associated with both the curse and the seed of the serpent – the Antichrist.
ISAAC’S SUBSTITUTE RAM
The next time the thorn bush appears in the Bible, Abraham is about to slay his son. An angel stops him and points out a substitute sacrifice. Abraham saw a ram caught in a thicket. Think about it! The substitute sacrifice was caught in a thorny bush. Are bells ringing, clinging and clanging in the old noggin yet? If no, I’ll say that again, the “substitute sacrifice” was caught in a “thorny bush” … crown of tho … COUGH! COUGH Ehem! … moving on …
THE BURNING BUSH
Then, there is the thorn bush on Sinai that burned, but was not consumed. According to the late M.R. De Haan, it was prophetic of Israel who has gone through the fire without being consumed.
THE ARK AND THE TABERNACLE
The bramble or thorn bush is a member of the acacia wood family. It was the type of wood used in building both the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle and is typical of our humanity. At our very best, the human race is nothing better than a bramble bush. We are just producers of thorns and thistles.
THORNS AND THE ENEMY
In the books of Numbers and Joshua, thorns are used to describe an enemy – “… thorns in your sides” and “thorns in your eyes” …
“But if ye will not drive out the inhabitants of the land from before you; then it shall come to pass, that those which ye let remain of them shall be pricks in your eyes, and thorns in your sides, and shall vex you in the land wherein ye dwell” (Numbers 33:55).
“Know for a certainty that the Lord your God will no more drive out any of these nations from before you; but they shall be snares and traps unto you, and scourges in your sides, and thorns in your eyes, until ye perish from off this good land which the Lord your God hath given you” (Joshua 23:13).
THORNS AND FIRE
In both Exodus and the Psalms, thorns became associated with a judgment of fire – a reminder of Hell …
“If fire break out, and catch in thorns, so that the stacks of corn, or the standing corn, or the field, be consumed therewith; he that kindled the fire shall surely make restitution” (Exodus 22:6).
“They compassed me about like bees: they are quenched as the fire of thorns: for in the name of the Lord I will destroy them” (Psalm 118:12).
Here, we can note that thorns are a part of God’s judgment upon a wicked and sinful humanity.
THORNS AND SNARES
In the book of Proverbs, thorns are associated with traps and snares …
“The way of the slothful man is as an hedge of thorns: but the way of the righteous is made plain” (Proverbs 15:19).
“Thorns and snares are in the way of the froward: he that doth keep his soul shall be far from them” (Proverbs 22:5).
THORNS IN THE DAY OF JUDGMENT
As one progresses through the scriptures, the use of thorns becomes even clearer. Isaiah uses the symbolic “thorn” eleven times. Most of the passages have to do with scattering the Jews among the nations. Also, a promise is given that the Messiah – the “Holy One” – will come someday and destroy the evil one and his thorns …
“And the light of Israel shall be for a fire, and his Holy One for a flame: and it shall burn and devour his thorns and his briers in one day; And shall consume the glory of his forest, and of his fruitful field, both soul and body: and they shall be as when a standard-bearer fainteth. And the rest of the trees of his forest shall be few, that a child may write them. And it shall come to pass in that day, that the remnant of Israel, and such as are escaped of the house of Jacob, shall no more again stay upon him that smote them; but shall stay upon the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth” (Isaiah 10:17-20).
Isaiah promises that in the future messianic kingdom, thorns will have no place …
“Instead of the thorn shall come up the fir tree, and instead of the brier shall come up the myrtle tree: and it shall be to the Lord for a name, for an everlasting sign that shall not be cut off” (Isaiah 55:13).
THORNS AND SOCIETY
Micah describes world conditions following the rapture of the church. Israel is left behind and finds itself in the midst of a Luciferian society with no friends. Here, Micah associates the thorn with the wicked and their leader – the future Antichrist …
“The good man is perished out of the earth: and there is none upright among men: they all lie in wait for blood; they hunt every man his brother with a net. That they may do evil with both hands earnestly, the prince asketh, and the judge asketh for a reward; and the great man, he uttereth his mischievous desire: so they wrap it up. The best of them is as a brier: the most upright is sharper than a thorn hedge: the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh; now shall be their perplexity” (Micah 7:2-4).
The brier and the thorn hedge are used to describe the wickedness of society after all of the saints have been removed from the earth in the rapture event. The Hebrew term for “perished” is “avad,” meaning “to disappear.” The world may think that the true church of the saints are among those who have perished when, in fact, they have been removed from the earth supernaturally by Christ himself. In verse four, a reference is made to the prophesied invasion from the north – the battle of Gog and Magog which is said to involve Russia. Micah writes “… the day of thy watchmen and thy visitation cometh” (verse 4). The Hebrew term for “watchmen” is “mitzapeach,” from which “tzaphon,” meaning “north,” can be derived, leading some to suggest that the invasion could come from the north. Perhaps the rapture will occur on the day of a great worldwide war which explodes in northern Israel. Such a conflagration could quickly spread around the world if nuclear weapons or other devastating weaponry is used.
THE SONS OF GIDEON
Thorns are also associated with the story of Gideon and his sons. It is perhaps the most vivid account of thorns in scripture used to describe the reign of the Antichrist. The story begins about a hundred years before the saga of Saul and David. The northern tribes offered a crown to Gideon. The book of Judges records the victory of Gideon’s three hundred over the hordes of Midianites with what can only be described as a miraculous military strategy. At first, Gideon had over 32,000 men under his command, but God asked him to eliminate the unnecessary troops. After only two sessions, in which those who wanted to leave and those who were ill-prepared were sent home, Gideon was left with only three hundred soldiers. Each was armed with a clay pitcher, a light and a horn, yet Gideon managed to rout out the enemy. The startled and frightened Midianites killed many of their own men in the stampede to escape the lights and sounds. When Gideon was first chosen to deliver Israel from the Midianites, he could hardly believe it. He was not the type that one would normally choose to be a leader, yet the Lord called him a “… mighty man of valor” (Judges 6:12). He was so shocked by the Lord’s assessment of his character and so stunned by his calling that he had to put out a fleece just to make sure he was not mistaken. As the story goes, Gideon was asked to be their king. Though he was grateful for their appreciation, he kindly declined the throne, saying that the Lord should be the only King in Israel. After Gideon’s death, the evil Abimelech, one of Gideon’s seventy sons, approached the elders and asked that he be given the kingship once offered to his father. As an honor to Gideon, Abimelech was installed as their king. His reign, however, was a complete disaster. He ruled for a little over three years and brought misery to the nation. Abimelech’s sordid story appears to be a prophetic preview of the Antichrist. Shortly after his coronation, this wicked son of Gideon ordered a band of men to seek out and execute his brothers in order to keep them from becoming a political threat. However, Gideon’s youngest son, Jotham, was able to escape. According to the biblical account, Jotham went to Shechem and spoke to the elders of Israel. They ruled the nation from atop Mount Gerizim, overlooking the city of Shechem. It was the place where Joshua read the Law to the people and where, in later years, a Samaritan Temple was built. It rivaled the temple at Jerusalem. Gerizim represented a substitute capital for the nation of Israel – a prophetic pattern for the throne of the Antichrist. Jotham, youngest son of Gideon and half brother to the wicked Abimelech, climbed the top of Mt. Gerizim and declared a parable before the elders of Israel. His parable against Abimelech offers a magnificent, prophetic overview of Israel’s quest for a messiah. They were so anxious for the Messiah to come that they chose the wrong man. Abimelech, of course, did not last long. His three year reign is a prophetic foreview of the future Antichrist. According to the prophets, from the abomination of desolation to the conclusion of the Antichrist’s reign will be about three and a half years. The story concludes with a tale about Abimelech’s death. One day, in the midst of a battle, a woman dropped a rock from a window near the top of a tower and hit Abimelech on the head. In his dying moments, he turned to one of his soldiers and asked him to take his life, lest others learned that he died at the hands of a woman …
“Then he called hastily unto the young man his armourbearer, and said unto him, Draw thy sword, and slay me, that men say not of me, A women slew him. And his young man thrust him through, and he died” (Judges 9:54).
His soldier obliged, thus ending the life of the wicked King Abimelech. So wicked was his reign that he was not even listed among the kings of Israel. Enter Gideon’s youngest son Jotham and his parable of the thorn. Jotham begins his story to the elders of Israel with a parable. He likens the people of Israel to a forest of trees. Five trees are mentioned here and each one of them is an archetype or a type of Israel – the olive tree, fig tree, grape vine, bramble bush and cedars of Lebanon. Each tree, in it’s own way, seems to reveal certain characteristics about the nation. The bramble, a thorny bush, is used to describe the great betrayer – the Antichrist. In this story, that position is reserved for Abimelech. Jotham begins …
“The trees went forth on a time to anoint a king over them; and they said unto the olive tree, Reign thou over us. But the olive tree said unto them, Should I leave my fatness, wherewith by me they honour God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? And the trees said to the fig tree, Come thou, and reign over us. But the fig tree said unto them, Should I forsake my sweetness, and my good fruit, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said the trees unto the vine, Come thou, and reign over us. And the vine said unto them, Should I leave my wine, which cheereth God and man, and go to be promoted over the trees? Then said all the trees unto the bramble, Come thou, and reign over us. And the bramble said unto the trees, If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow: and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon” (Judges 9:8-15).
When the olive tree was asked to be king over all the forest, it refused by saying that it was more important to use it’s oil for the glory of God. Olive oil was used to fuel the seven lamps of the golden lampstand in the Tabernacle. That light was typical of (represented) the Shekinah Glory of God. When the grape vine was asked to be king over the forest, it declined by saying that the fruit it bore brought happiness to both God and man. In actuality, it is the blood of Jesus Christ – the prophetic fulfillment of the grape that has brought happiness to both God and man. Christ became the atonement for our sins. The bramble bush, a member of the acacia tree family, was asked to be king over all the forest. Unfortunately, it agreed, saying to all the other trees of the forest, “If in truth ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow” (Judges 9:15). Thus, the most lowly and despised of all the trees, wanted to drag the rest of the forest down to it’s low estate. That was the only way it could be exalted above the others. Prophetically, that is what the Antichrist will do. These five trees, representing the nation of Israel, are used over and over throughout the Bible. They offer more than a mere explanation that the elders made a wrong choice. They actually demonstrate the character and reign of the Antichrist. Note that in his parable, Jotham begins with an invitation to the best tree and ends the parable with an invitation to the worst. It is typology of not only the nation of Israel, but also of the human race. Over the centuries man has become progressively worse – proving to be a failure in every generation. The history of humankind has been filled with a continual degeneration. This is true especially of the Jews. They have proven themselves (as we all have) unworthy of leadership in God’s creation …
“All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all” (Isaiah 53:6).
THE OLIVE TREE
Among all of the forest, the olive tree stands for peace. It’s branch, representing the Jews, has been a symbol of peace among nations down through the centuries. After the great flood, Noah sent a dove in search of life and it brought back a leaf of an olive tree. This was God’s way of saying to Noah that his judgment was past and that a new world filled with peace awaited him. The olive is not a pretty tree. It’s branches are gnarled and twisted. However, it will grow where no other trees will. It is enduring and persevering. Where other trees would have given up and died long ago, the olive tree clings to life and hope. Today, on the Mount of Olives, there are olive trees still growing, still alive, which are said to be over 2,000 years old. One tree in the Garden of Gethsemane is four feet in diameter. It is estimated to be 3,000 years old – still alive and still bearing fruit. Though it’s branches are gnarled and twisted and though much of the heart of the tree has rotted away, it’s hollow trunk still clings to life. It is a prophetic picture of the nation of Israel – still clinging to life and hope after 3,000 years of suffering. Though the Israeli nation does not seem to be a thing of beauty among the nations of the world, it still clings to life in the hope that it’s fruit will one day declare the glory of God. Presently, that nation is primarily the United States of America and has been ever since it’s inception … it’s divinely pre-ordained purpose.
THE MYSTERY OF THE FULLNESS OF TIME: AMERICA IN BIBLE PROPHECY
THE AMAZING AMERICA-ISRAEL CONNECTION
AMERICA: GOD’S END TIME VINEYARD (part 1 of 6 – parts 2 through 6 can be seen on my “END TIMES: DARKNESS DESCENDING” youtube channel)
According to the World Book Encyclopedia, when the olive tree is harvested, it’s branches are shaken or beaten. This seems to be a prophetic portrayal of Israel who must yield it’s fruit through suffering. Also, the olive’s oil can only give off it’s light when burned. Only one flower in every 100 will bear fruit. Most of the flowers on the olive tree will be imperfect and will fall off – rejected. In fact, Job makes a reference to this phenomenon …
“He shall … cast off his flower as the olive” (Job 15:33).
Only one flower in every 100 bears fruit. Furthermore, it is said that fruit is made better by grafting a cultivated olive branch into the stalk of a wild seedling. The Apostle Paul made a similar reference in Romans chapter 11, when he referred to the nation of Israel as an olive tree. In that chapter, he turned the process around. He wrote that a wild olive branch (Gentile Christianity) had been grafted into the good olive tree. Historically, it is true that we have our roots in Judaism. Paul was teaching that God cast Israel aside only temporarily. He plans to graft them back into that tree again some day. God is not finished with Israel. At Christ’s second coming, the tree will be made whole again.
THE FIG TREE
The fig tree was among the first trees mentioned in the Bible. It’s leaves were used as a covering for the sinful Adam and Eve. When the glory of God was gone from among them, they sewed fig leaves together to make clothes. The olive tree was typical (a typology) of God’s glory, and the fig tree was symbolic of the substitute covering wrought by the hands of man. As a fig tree, Israel was a substitute human race chosen by God to provide a covering for the sins of men. The Hebrew word for covering is also translated “atonement,” making Christ our atonement for sin. Unlike the other trees, the flower of the fig tree is located in the fruit. In fact, the fruit appears first and then the flower. Prophetically, it represents the concept that the real beauty of the believer can be found in the fruit he bears. If one wants to be pleasing to God as a believer, then one needs to be a soul winner. The only flowers that are pleasing to God are those which are found in the fruit. Unfortunately, as a fig tree, Israel bore no fruit. The nation did not take the message of God’s love, grace and redemption of the human soul through Christ to the Gentiles. As a prophetic picture of this, Jesus told the parable of a fig tree. The story is found in Luke 13:6-9. He said that a man who owned a vineyard planted a fig tree in the midst of it and had his gardener to care for it. The first year, he found that it bore no fruit. The second year, it bore no fruit. In the third year, it again proved fruitless. Finally, the owner of the vineyard then said to his gardener, “Cut it down. Why cumbereth it the ground?” This is exactly what God has done with the Jewish people.
Because they bore no fruit, God had the nation of Israel cut down and scattered among the nations of the world for the past 2,000 years. According to the Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, the fig tree produces two crops each year. The winter figs ripen in May and June, and the summer figs are harvested in the months of August and September. Two crops. They may be typical (typology) of the first and second advents of Christ. When he came the first time, Israel had borne no fruit. However, when he comes the second time, they will. When the fig tree was asked to be king over the forest in the parable, it refused, stating that it was more important to bear fruit than it was to be king. This should have been typical of Israel – busy bearing fruit for the kingdom of God. However, when Jesus came to inspect the fig tree, he noted that it had borne no fruit …
“And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away” (Matthew 21:19).
He found nothing but leaves. As a result, Christ placed a curse upon the fig tree. The prophecy here is that Israel was to be plucked from her land and scattered among the nations. Fortunately, Christ used that fig tree again in Matthew 24 to represent the return of the Jews to their promised land …
“Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, know that it is near, even at the doors. Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled” (Matthew 24:32-34).
He noted that one day, the fig tree will revive and bear fruit. In effect, Jesus was saying that when the nation of Israel comes back to life again and the Jews start to return to their land, then you know that the fulfillment of all Bible prophecy is about to come to pass. When these things happen, that generation will see the return of Christ. Many feel that we have been living in that generation since 1948 when Israel became a nation in one day as prophesied by Isaiah and other Old Testament passages of scripture. It was a dramatic fulfillment of prophecy for the end times indicating that his return is drawing near … it is the prophecy of the fig tree.
THE GRAPE VINE
The third tree in Jothan’s parable is a grape vine. Though it was not as tall and stately as the trees before it, nevertheless, it’s fruit brought refreshment and delight to both God and man. The prophetic fulfillment can be seen in the life of Jesus Christ who said … “I am the vine. You are the branches” (John 15:5). The fruit of the olive is burned to declare the glory of God. The fruit of the fig represents a covering for the souls of men. The fruit of the vine is a prophetic picture of the blood of Christ, which was shed for our sins and has indeed become pleasing to God and man. It is through his blood that we are given eternal life … if we individually and personally make a conscious decision to receive it. The crucifixion satisfied the mandate that sin should bring forth death. It allows us the opportunity to sidestep the verdict of eternal damnation and live forever. Christ paid the ultimate price for us. He was our stand-in at the judgment. If we individually and personally accept him as our savior, he will save us from eternal death and give us eternal life! The estrangement between God and man was dissolved at Calvary. Indeed, Christ has brought happiness to both God and man. Instead of a throne, Christ chose the cross. As the grape, Christ allowed himself to be crushed for our benefit. What appears to have been defeat was actually a victory. That brings us to the fourth tree in Jotham’s parable.
THE BRAMBLE BUSH
There is no fruit to the bramble bush – only thorns. It is typical (typology) of the nation of Israel who will one day (in it’s unbelief) produce the Antichrist. The prophecy takes us to Calvary. The bramble bush is made into a crown of thorns and sits upon the head of Jesus Christ. In Jotham’s parable, the bramble was asked to become king over all the trees in the forest. At Calvary, that bramble bush was made into a crown to be worn by the King. Looking at it in perspective as it sat on the head of Christ in all of it’s shame, piercing the flesh, bringing the blood, it was indeed a lowly bramble bush. It was not a crown made out of olive wood, it was a crown made from a bramble bush. It was not a crown made of fig wood, it was made from a bramble bush. It was not a crown made out of grape vine, it was indeed a lowly bramble bush. In Jotham’s parable, when the bramble was invited to be their king, it replied, “If in truth, ye anoint me king over you, then come and put your trust in my shadow…” (Judges 9:15). In prophetic fulfillment, one can see the savior of the souls of humanity hanging their in utter humility beneath the shadow of the bramble bush. One can see it exalted upon his head. One can watch as it draws his blood and one can hear his declarative agonizing question of … “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). It looked as if the bramble bush was triumphant and that the olive tree, the fig tree and the vine will be forever defeated. It looks as if that “Root of David,” that “Rod out of the stem of Jesse,” that great “Branch” was to be forever humiliated by that crown of a bramble bush. When the bramble bush answered the request of the other trees, it said, “… put your trust in my shadow, and if not, let fire come out of the bramble, and devour the cedars of Lebanon.” It did not say, “I will devour the olive tree.” It did not say that it will burn the fig tree, or the vine. It said, “I will devour the cedars of Lebanon.” Forty years later, a fire devoured the great cedars of Lebanon, just like the parable said it would. The fulfillment of that prophecy came when the Romans burned the Jewish Temple to the ground. The doors of the Temple were made out of cedar wood from Lebanon. The prophet Zechariah also predicted it …
“Open thy doors, O Lebanon, that the fire may devour thy cedars” (Zechariah 11:1).
One day, yet in the future, that bramble bush will be made king. As the wicked
Abimelech ruled over Israel for some three years,
the Antichrist will usurp the throne and make himself to be ruler over Israel and the world. That, however, is not the end of the story. Keeping in mind that a crown represented kings and is a traditional symbolic form of headgear, or hat, worn by a monarch or by a deity, for whom the crown traditionally represents power, legitimacy, victory, triumph, honor, and glory, as well as immortality, righteousness, and resurrection, Abimelech came to an inglorious end and so will that crown of thorns. When the rule of the Antichrist has run it’s course, the savior who hung in shame upon that cross will return in power and great glory. Upon his head will sit – not a rugged crown of bramble bush, but a royal diadem …
“And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on his head were many crowns; and he had a name written, that no man knew, but he himself. And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God. And the armies which were in heaven followed him upon white horses, clothed in fine linen, white and clean. And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And he hath on his vesture and on his thigh a name written, King Of Kings, And Lord Of Lords” (Revelation 19:11-16).
The bramble bush shall not be king. When the Lord of Glory comes back to Earth, the olive tree will be exalted to proclaim the glory of God; the fig tree will be exalted to bear fruit; and the vine will be exalted to cheer God and man. In that day, Jesus Christ will be proclaimed King of Kings, and Lord of Lords. The bramble bush shall not be king. As clearly demonstrated, the thorn is woven throughout recorded biblical history right up to the very present and on to the very end of future Bible prophecy. It represents a curse immersed in evil. As one can clearly see by now, the crown of thorns placed upon Christ’s head at his crucifixion was not mere happenstance and fully of deliberate whims of the crucifying soldiers, but a deliberate act of God that would forever nail the curse of the thorn to the cross in complete and utter victory over the enemy. That is the prophecy behind the crown of thorns.