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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

More on Modern Israel

We recently looked at modern-day Israel and how we are to view her in light of scripture rightly divided. I want to step back and take another look with a wider lens. The scripture, starting in Genesis 12 with the calling of Abram, is almost entirely centered around Israel with the exception of Paul's final seven epistles.

Israel was chosen from among the nations to be God's channel of blessing to the world. You will not see a gentile or a gentile nation mentioned in these scriptures apart from some connection to the nation of Israel or a Jew. The most obvious example is the great nations of Egypt, Babylon, Medo-Persia, and the Roman Empire. We also have the great cities of Nineveh, Athens, and Rome itself. World empires and great cities only seen through the lens of Israel and the Jews.

But today we live in the post-Acts Age of the Silence of God and the setting aside of Israel. It is truly a blessed age. The riches of God's heavenly blessings are offered to all men. The word "Jew" disappears from Paul's 7 epistles to this company. "Israel" is only mentioned twice, and in both instances it is in the past tense.

To be sure, Israel still has a role to play in a coming age; a very significant role. She will fulfill her calling to be God's nation of priests for the nations and once again be his channel of blessing for the earth.

Yes, many peoples and strong nations
Shall come to seek the Lord of hosts in Jerusalem,
And to pray before the Lord.’

“Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘In those days ten men from every language of the nations shall grasp the sleeve of a Jewish man, saying, “Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you.” ’ ” -Zechariah 8:22-23

"And they came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water [the 12 tribes of Israel], and threescore and ten palm trees [the 70 nations of Gen 10]: and they encamped there by the waters."
-Exodus 15:27

"And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, 'In you all the nations shall be blessed.'"
-Gal 3:8

But not all Israel is Israel (Rom 9:6). That is, although God speaks of Israel as a single entity, the individual Jew still has his responsibility. Let's be careful here. We dare not make the mistake that believers today are the "real Jews." Even in the Acts Age, Jewish believers were distinct from Gentile believers. Among the Jews, "true Israel" are those who believe. Today, there being no longer Jew or Greek, no one can possibly be a "real Jew" (except in the physical, genealogical sense).

All blessings must be entered into by faith. In our age, the blessings of the One New Man (Eph 2:15) and the heavenly blessings of the Dispensation of the Mystery must be entered into by faith. Just as all 12 spies came back from the promised land with a report, only Caleb and Joshua would enter into its fullness, for only these two believed the promises of God. The others feared what they saw and refused to believe the promises of God. Beyond faith, rewards and crowns are gained by faithfulness and works. That is, one must have faith and then walk in that faith.

The land promised to Abraham and his descendants will be given to Israel. It was Abraham's in his day, yet he never settled anywhere in it. He lived in tents all his days because he looked for a greater reward. He had faith, but he also walked in faith.

By faith Abraham obeyed when he was called to go out to the place which he would receive as an inheritance. And he went out, not knowing where he was going. By faith he dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God. -Hebrews 11: 8-10

Israel will soon be cleansed of her wickedness and idolatry through a time of testing. This testing, cleansing, and time of judgment is seen all through the prophets. The harlot wife will be restored to her husband (Hosea). But out of that wife, a chaste virgin, a bride, will be chosen. And although all who faith in the God of Israel will have the free gift of life by faith (as do all who believe in their own gospel), they will have different fates based on their works.

All of Hosea pictures God's relationship with an adulterous Israel. Here I only pull out a sample of God's restoration of his wife from her harlotry.

“And it shall be, in that day,” Says the Lord,
“That you will call Me ‘My Husband,’
And no longer call Me ‘My Master,’
17 For I will take from her mouth the names of the Baals,
And they shall be remembered by their name no more.
18 In that day I will make a covenant for them
With the beasts of the field,
With the birds of the air,
And with the creeping things of the ground.
Bow and sword of battle I will shatter from the earth,
To make them lie down safely.

19 “I will betroth you to Me forever;
Yes, I will betroth you to Me
In righteousness and justice,
In lovingkindness and mercy;
20 I will betroth you to Me in faithfulness,
And you shall know the Lord.

21 “It shall come to pass in that day
That I will answer,” says the Lord;
“I will answer the heavens,
And they shall answer the earth.
22 The earth shall answer
With grain,
With new wine,
And with oil;
They shall answer Jezreel.
23 Then I will sow her for Myself in the earth,
And I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy;
Then I will say to those who were not My people,
‘You are My people!’
And they shall say, ‘You are my God!’ ”
The condition will be for Israel to repent and for her to call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.

Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that He may send Jesus Christ, who was preached to you before, whom heaven must receive until the times of restoration of all things, which God has spoken by the mouth of all His holy prophets since the world began. -Acts 3:19-21

(Note, this is post-Pentecost. There was still an Israel in the Acts Age and still an offer of her promised kingdom available).
See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ” -Matt 23:38-39

All of Isaiah 62 should be read here, but I will pull out two verses as a summation.

You shall no longer be termed Forsaken,
Nor shall your land any more be termed Desolate;
But you shall be called Hephzibah [my delight is in her],
and your land Beulah [married];
For the Lord delights in you,
And your land shall be married.
For as a young man marries a virgin,
So shall your sons marry you;
And as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride,
So shall your God rejoice over you.

In the coming New Covenant [Jer 31; Heb 8], we read that it will be made with "virgin Israel;" Abraham and all those who sought, through faith, a greater inheritance, a "better resurrection." 

Others were tortured, not accepting deliverance, that they might obtain a better resurrection. Still others had trial of mockings and scourgings, yes, and of chains and imprisonment. -Heb 11:35-36

These endured much for the hope of that greater city. In the Revelation, the New Jerusalem itself is "adorned as a Bride." It will be the blessing given to the true Bride. The "church" is not the Bride of Christ (that phrase occurring nowhere in scripture). This place is reserved for the blessed of Israel.

But as in all ages, works will be judged. We have seen in previous studies the important place works take in regard to rewards. We looked at how we are justified (declared worthy) by grace through faith alone to gain resurrection life, yet we are justified (declared worthy) for certain rewards and blessings by our works. This is the great balance between Romans and James.

  • There is justification from the penalty of death by faith alone (through grace)
  • There is justification for entering into rewards and promises by resulting works

We've covered this balance in several recent studies, including our study on the The Parable of the Pharisee and Tax Collector. For this study, we apply it to the differences in the blessings placed before Israel.

Israel will get her land. She will have the kingdom restored. The times of refreshing will come. But the individual Jew's blessings depend on his faithfulness and stewardship. Not all will be in the New Jerusalem. Some will be cast out into the darkness among the nations (Is 60:2). Remember what the Lord warned in Matthew 8 in regard to the "outer darkness where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." This warning is given to "the sons of the Kingdom." That is, to the heirs of the promised kingdom in Israel. 

The "sons [heirs] of the kingdom" is not the church of this age and the "outer darkness" is not the Greek mythological "hell" taught in most churches. As we saw in our recent look at homosexuals in the church, a Christian can live in the flesh. In the Acts Age, living in the flesh meant losing the "inheritance." This is not a losing of the free gift of life (lest it not truly be a free gift), but a losing of a reward, a place in the earthly kingdom.

This outer darkness is again seen in the Parable of the Talents. 

‘For to everyone who has, more will be given, and he will have abundance; but from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the unprofitable servant into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
-Matt 25:29-30

The unprofitable servant is still a servant of the Master. In the Parable of the Guests at the Wedding Feast in Matthew 22, we see the invited guests (free offer) arrive, but without their robes. Let's look at what we saw in that study:

In Rev 16, in speaking of His return (the “Parousia”), the Lord says, “Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame.” When we get to the marriage supper in Rev 19, we get the specific description of the makeup of the linen worn by the “wife,” “for the fine linen is the righteous acts of the saints.

The linen garment worn by the faithful wife is "the righteous acts of the saints." Let us quickly look at the fate of those who arrive at the wedding without these garments.

“But when the king came in to see the guests, he saw a man there who did not have on a wedding garment. So he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, take him away, and cast him into outer darkness; there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’

These are "guests" at the wedding. We have taken up that topic in other places, but for our study today, we note that faith+works are the determining factors here. One must respond to the invitation by faith, but one must qualify for rewards by his works.

In regard to Israel, a Jew must BELIEVE, then he must qualify for his place in the Kingdom by obedience. And those who overcome fully qualify for a "better resurrection." To inherit the Kingdom, he must not walk in the flesh.

Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. -Gal 5
No, you yourselves [Christians] do wrong and cheat, and you [Christians] do these things to your brethren! Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor sodomites, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners will inherit the kingdom of God. -1 Cor 6

The Israel we see in the Middle East today is not the Israel of scripture. It may be we are seeing the stage being set for the next act in God's play, but, in this age, God sees no Jew or Gentile. We live in an extraordinary time of God's blessing offered to all men apart from the Law, apart from Covenants, apart from earthly ordinances. This truth also exposes further the follow of the "true Jew" idea creeping into Christendom

Unfortunately, most of Christendom is wallowing in the delusion that they are "true Israel" or that they have replaced Israel. Almost all have adopted the wicked doctrine of Replacement Theology. The Catholic Church teaches the mass (specifically "the Liturgy of the Eucharist") is "the new sacrifice of the new covenant." This is terrible error and leaves hundred of millions in darkness as to the true blessings of this age.

Unfortunately, the Catholic Church is not alone. Sadly, it is not just the Reformed churches who have also adopted the lie, almost all dispensational assemblies (including most of the Plymouth Brethren) have abandoned their roots and have embraced the lie.

When Israel is again at the center of God's plan, Jews will be on trial. They were tested in the wilderness (Heb 3:8) and they will be tested in the Time of Jacob's Trouble (Jer 30:7). They must believe. They must be faithful. And as God has always had in Israel, there will be a remnant who refuse to bow the knee to Ba'al. These will be saved from the horrors that are coming and they will be his Bride.

Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you, that unless your righteousness exceeds the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you will by no means enter the kingdom of heaven. -Matt 5:19-20
Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him. -Matt 21:32

Israel will be given charges and when the Master returns, they will receive rewards based on their stewardship. Those who have nothing to show will be cast out among the nations in the outer darkness.

Here are just a few related posts (I recommend the entire series on the parables of Matthew):