In Christ’s parable of the fruitless fig tree (Luke 13:6-9) we find not only a warning to the nation of Israel, but a warning to the church in general. Jesus said–
6 …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.
The Father here established a kingdom where he planted a fig tree, his church, in the best environment for it to thrive. Fig trees are the easiest fruit trees to grow and they require little maintenance, which symbolically speaks to the simplicity that should be characteristic of the Christian life (2 Corinthians 1:12). That is why the Father expects his church to yield much fruit (John 15:8) as he pays his church regular visits.
However, the Father ends up grieved and disappointed with this particular church which bore him no fruit whatsoever in the three years they had to bring about results. The three years could be symbolic of the knowledge of the three dispensations of God made available to the New Testament church, namely: (1) The dispensation of the patriarchs (Adam to Moses at Mt. Sinai), (2) The dispensation of Mosaic law (Mt. Sinai to Christ’s death on the cross), and (3) The dispensation of Christ’s death and resurrection to the time of his return.
Fruitless churches are not only responsible for their lack of fruit, but they are wasteful of their God-given resources. That’s why the Father reserves the right to request any congregation’s removal for obstructing the “ground” that a more fruitful church could be occupying (v. 7 above).
Although this church has tried the Father’s patience, the caretaker, who is symbolic of Jesus Christ and his representatives in the church, intercedes on behalf of the fruitless tree, asking the Father for more time to give the church a more intense regiment of spiritual fortification. The intercession and supplication on behalf of this type of church shows God’s longsuffering to allow for repentance, spiritual reformation, and spiritual renewal, but only for a finite period of time. Should such a church fail to respond accordingly, they can only expect God to lower the boom on them.
I’m grateful to God for giving us fair warning in love with this parable for what he expects from his children.