Perhaps you have wondered why it is that a land that geographically speaking is approximately the size of Rhode Island, would be in the National and International news virtually on a daily basis. Why are the eyes of the entire Middle East, and really the world, focused on this tiny sliver of land lying on the Eastern end of the Mediterranean Sea, bordered by Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan to the east, and Egypt to the southwest? What is it about the Sovereign State of Israel some 20,770 km (8,019 sq. miles) in area, with over two percent of it under water, that causes the world such consternation? While political pundits and news commentators may offer their explanations, I can tell you the fact that sets this land and this people apart from all others, and that is what we could could refer to as the God factor.
What do we mean by, “The God Factor?” Simply that this people, the Jewish people, and this land, the land of Israel, and the city; the city of Jerusalem, have been especially chosen by God for His eternal purposes. I know there are those who would disagree with that which I have just stated. I understand that. There is a brand of theology that postulates that all of the covenant promises made in scripture regarding Israel and the Jewish people have now been transferred to the Church. This theology basically states that God has abandoned Israel and the Jews and is now working strictly with the Christian Church in the earth. Where did such an idea come from? It really began in the early days of the Church. Early Christian scholars who are typically referred to as the Ante-Nicene Fathers, such as Ignatius of Antioch, Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, Tertullian, Origen, Eusebius, and John Chrysostom all adopted views that said that God had rejected the Jewish people, poured out His wrath on them in 70 A.D., and had now replaced them with the Church. Origen especially was credited with adopting the allegorical method of interpreting scripture where every time the words, “Israel” or “Jew” appear in scripture, he simply replaced that with the “Church” or “Christians”.
This gave way to a great deal of antisemitism in the Church that had only grown worse by the time of the Reformation. In fact, Martin Luther, the very man who launched the Protestant Reformation made some horrible antisemitic statements in his writings. For example in 1543 he wrote a pamphlet entitled: “Concerning The Jews And Their Lies”, in which he referred to the Jews as, “A miserable and accursed people”, “Stupid fools”, “Miserable, blind, and foolish”, “Thieves and robbers”, “The great vermin of society”, “Lazy rogues”, and “Blind and venomous”. These writings were embraced by Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich. In fact the Nazis gleefully quoted Luther as they rose to power. In his book, Mein Kampf, published in 1925, Hitler referred to Luther as, “a great warrior, a true statesmen, and a great reformer.” With all of this it is easy to see how so many Christians have bought the lie that God has forever rejected the Jews and that they have no place in God’s End-time program. Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Apostle Paul, to whom was given the meaning of the New Covenant, namely Christ and Him crucified; wrote in his great epistle to the Romans in chapters 9, 10, and, 11 with unmistakable clarity that God has not forsaken and turned away from His promises concerning Israel and the Jewish people. In fact, those three chapters while generally viewed as being prophetic in nature are really a warning to the Gentile believers who have been “grafted in” as wild branches to the Olive Tree of Israel, to continue in faith or they too could be broken off as the natural branches (Jews) were. During this prophetic period of time we can refer to as the Church Age or the Dispensation of Grace, God’s primary focus has been calling unto Himself a Gentile Bride, the Church.. What has been His great purpose in doing so though? God warned Israel through Moses that if they ever turned from Him what He would do. He said, They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. [Deut. 32:21] Paul quotes this passage in Romans 10:19 and there the Holy Spirit applies it to Gentile believers, or the “wild branches.” So, rather than casting aside His Covenant people, Israel, His great desire has been and is to draw them back to Himself. Rather then for those of us who are Gentile believers becoming high-minded concerning Israel, we should bow before the Lord in humble gratitude for Him including us in His great plan that will ultimately result in both Jew and Gentile becoming one new man in Christ. This process has been going on for some 2,000 years now and will end with Israel finally occupying her rightful place in the great plan of God for the Ages in the Kingdom Age. No, God is not finished with the Jewish people. No, He has not cast them aside. God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. [Rom. 11:2a]
There is an equally erroneous teaching going around that basically states that God is through with the Church, (I refer to it as reverse Replacement Theology) and is in fact calling His people out of the Church and awakening them to their “Jewish Roots”. Those who become part of this movement don’t have Bible studies, but rather Torah studies. The Torah is the five books of Moses, Genesis – Deuteronomy. The adherents to this doctrine observe the Feasts of the Lord, hold to strict Sabbath keeping, utilize the Jewish “Prayer Shawl” in their prayers, and wear the ti-zits, (strands of string tied according to the specifications of the Mosaic Law to remind the wearers of the promises of Yahweh). The Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM), are committing the same errors to which Paul addressed himself to in his epistles to the Galatians and Hebrews. In fact, Paul referred to the ceremonies, washings, Feast Days, etc. as, “weak and beggarly elements” [See Gal. 4:19] The fulfillment of it all is found in Christ. Christ is the “end of the law for righteousness for all who believe.” [Rom. 4:19] Of course many adherents to the Hebrew Roots Movement (HRM) denigrate Paul and try to explain away his clear teachings inspired by the Holy Spirit, but they cannot honestly and truthfully do so.
What is the answer to these extremes with respect to Israel’s place in the great plan of God, with respect to her prophetic future? The answer lies in rightly dividing the Word of Truth. Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 2:15, Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth. What does this mean exactly? It is the picture of a workman being given a test by a superior, and that workman doing their utmost, doing their due diligence to pass the test and meet the specifications set forth by the one putting them to the test. “Rightly dividing” is the Greek orthotomeo, and means to, “cut straight.” It is the picture of a skilled artisan cutting stone precisely so as to properly fit into a pattern with other stones. The thing to keep in mind here is that if one can rightly divide the Word of Truth, they can wrongly divide it as well. If you can correctly “cut” the Word, you can incorrectly cut it too. Many are not “cutting it straight” when it comes to prophecy, especially regarding Israel and the Jewish people. How can we have “straight” end-time doctrine? This will not be an exhaustive treatment of this subject.
- RECOGNIZE THE DIFFERENT DISPENSATIONS:
Many don’t adhere to dispensational theology I realize. However, I believe when one looks at the scriptures it becomes clear that God in unfolding His great plan for man has dealt with man, and conversely; man has dealt with God, in different manners at different times. Another way to say this would be to say that God has related to man, and man has related to God differently at specific points in time. What is a “dispensation”? Easton’s Bible Dictionary defines it thusly, “ The method or scheme according to which God carries out his purposes towards men is called a dispensation.” “Dispensation” is from the Greek, oikonomia, and means, “Management” or “economy”. Easton speaks of three basic dispensations – The Patriarchal, Mosaic, and the Christian. However, most dispensational teachers set forth seven distinct dispensations:1) The Dispensation of Innocence, man before the entrance of sin living in a state of moral and spiritual innocence; 2) The Dispensation of Conscience – man after the fall living by his conscience, doing that which was right in his own eyes.; 3) The Dispensation of Human Government – This was Noah and his descendants governing the earth. It ended at Babel with the confusion of tongues; 4) The Dispensation of Promise – This period of time in the government of God began with Abraham, and ended with the children of Israel in bondage in Egypt; 5) The Dispensation of Law – This period began with the giving of the Law to Moses, and ended after Jesus’ Crucifixion and Resurrection. 6) The Dispensation of Grace or The Church Age – Obviously, this is the current dispensation. It will close at the rapture of the Church, although there will be those who continue to be saved during the Great Tribulation. At His personal Return to the Earth, Jesus will introduce the seventh and final dispensation; 7) The Kingdom Dispensation, or the Government of God. It is clear as one studies scripture that God has a wonderful plan for man, and it has been revealed in these seven distinct periods of time. God has dealt with man and man has related to God in different manners and ways based on these periods of time. The ultimate goal of the Lord in all of this was to point man to Christ and His finished work on the Cross, the one and only remedy for sin. Secondly,
- RECOGNIZE THE THREE PEOPLE GROUPS GOD DEALS WITH:
Every Christian needs to learn the truth of the following statement: All of the Bible is FOR you, all of the Bible is TO you, however all of the Bible is not ABOUT you. What does that mean? Simply that God has plans and purposes for other people in the earth other than the Church. He actually is dealing with three groups of people. Who are they? Paul wrote the Corinthians, Give none offence, neither to the Jews, nor to the Gentiles, nor to the church of God. [1 Cor. 10:32] I know man comes up with a more diverse breakdown of division between people, but God sees only three. Every person in the earth is either a Jew, a Gentile, or they are a member of the Church of God. If a person reads the Bible with any attention at all, it becomes clear that more than half of it deals with one of these people groups, the Jewish people. By an act of His Sovereign Grace He separated them from the mass of humanity, they are taken into Covenant with Jehovah, who gives them exclusive promises not given to any other nation or people. Their history alone is told in Old Testament prophecy. Other nations are mentioned based on how they touch Israel, either positively or negatively. Also, it appears that all of the communications of the LORD to Israel deal with the earth, and to a Promised Land. In fact, they are promised that if they are obedient and faithful to the Covenant earthly greatness, riches, and power. On the other hand, if they were disobedient, And the LORD shall scatter thee among all people, from the one end of the earth even unto the other. [Deut. 28:64a KJV] Even the blessing of the Messiah was to, “All the families of the earth.”
Now, as we continue to study the Word, it becomes clear that there is another distinct group of people, which is called the Church. This body of people also has a special relationship to God, and like Israel, have received specific promises from God. This is really where all similarity between the two ends. Instead of being formed from the natural descendants of Abraham alone, the Church is a body in which all distinction between Jew and Gentile is lost. Instead of a relationship based on mere Covenant, it is based on birth. Instead of obedience bringing earthly greatness and wealth, it is taught to be content with food and raiment; and to expect to be persecuted and hated. I know the modern Church doesn’t like a message like this, but we are talking about rightly dividing the Word. Just as clearly as Israel stands connected with earthly and temporal things, so the Church stands connected with spiritual and heavenly things.
Something else the careful student of scripture will notice is that neither Israel or the Church have always existed. They both have a place of origin, if you will. The beginning of Israel can be found in the call of Abram. The beginning of the Church comes much later. All the way from Abram (Abraham) to the earthly ministry of Jesus, the Church did not exist on the earth. Jesus spoke of the Church as yet future to His time when He said in response to the “Good Confession” of Peter, And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. [Matt. 16:18] Notice our Lord did not say, I have built, or am building, but He said I will build my Church.
Which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel: Whereof I was made a minister, according to the gift of the grace of God given unto me by the effectual working of his power. Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; And to make all men see what is the fellowship of the mystery, which from the beginning of the world hath been hid in God, who created all things by Jesus Christ: To the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God. [Eph. 3:5 – 10] Here we see that the Church was not mentioned once in Old Testament prophecy, but was in those ages, a “mystery hid in God.” Scripturally, we find the birth of the Church in Acts 2 at the Advent of the Holy Spirit, and the end of her career on the earth in I Thessalonians 4 at the rapture.
There of course is the third group, not often mentioned, but clearly distinguished from either Israel or the Church; namely, the Gentiles. I suppose we could more accurately refer to this group as the Nations. The Hebrew word for nations is, goy or the plural form, goyim. It may be helpful to see these different people groups as they are referred to in scripture. We see the Jew (Rom. 9:4, 5; John 4:22; Rom. 3:1, 2), The Gentile (Nations); (Eph. 2:11, 12; Eph. 4:17, 18; Mark 7:27, 28), and the Church (Eph. 1:22, 23; Eph. 5:29 – 33; 1 Pet. 2:9).
We are taking a look in this new series at Israel’s prophetic future. We have spent this first session laying what I felt was some necessary foundation. We will continue this path next time by looking at the land. We will also examine whether or not modern Israel has prophetic significance. Join us if you can.