Are the Jewish Nation still God's people and do they still figure in His plans? My pastor says one thing but the apostle Paul seems to say something totally different. Didn't God reject the Jews - how then can they figure so largely in the prophecies of the future just as though they remain fully God's holy nation?
This is really puzzling me.
While this question lies in an area where Museltof Countercult and Apologetics UK say that Christians should allow some differences of opinion between each other, if we are asked a direct question like this, we must give a direct and biblical answer!
In the first place, since I like to back up the position of the pastors of the people who write to me, I am rather saddened that here I cannot.
From other things the questioner tells me in his much longer e mail, it is obvious that he comes from a tradition which has accepted the teachings of J.N. Darby. Though Darby was British (or Irish), his teachings never had much impact in the UK, but when Darby went to the States, many Americans accepted his teachings. Yet they would have remained largely unknown but for Scofield. Scofield accepted Darby's 'Dispensationalism' hook, line and sinker and wrote a reference work called the Scofield Reference Bible - this was basically a King James Bible with Scofield's notes added. Being a wholehearted supporter of Darby's Dispensationalism, Scofield was determined to popularise the teaching and his 'reference work' proved very successful. While undoubtedly a very sincere man, however, Scofield's theological knowledge was highly questionable.
Basically Darby divided the Holy Bible up into seven dispensations, or ages, during which God dealt with Mankind in different ways. According to this view, Jesus was surprised by the Jews rejection of Him. The rejection (according to the theory) forced God to put His working with Israel 'on hold' while He did a work with the Church which He (apparently) never originally intended! The quite staggering thing about Darby's so-called 'dispensations' is that they have been accepted by thousands of American Christians despite the fact that his whole scenario is imposed upon the Bible.
As many have pointed out, dispensationalism is actually rooted in Jewish Talmudic writings. The Jews expected their Messiah to institute a 'golden age', hence the question, 'Will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?' - they expected a prosperous Jewish kingdom on earth because of their misunderstanding of Old Testament prophecies. Of course, a few Christians have always been 'premillenialists' (putting a literal interpretation on the 1,000 years of Revelation 20 despite the fact that the whole of Revelation is heavily symbolic and very rarely literal), but Darby's teachings went much further than this and premillenialists were led much further into error.
The Bible never talks about Darby's 'dispensations' but it does talk rather a lot about the fact that, in Christ, the New Covenant has now replaced the Old, or Mosaic, Covenant.
The very plain teaching of the New Testament is that, rather than being a temporary inserted period until God gets back to His chief interest in physical Israel, the Church is now Spiritual Israel! The Church was no kind of afterthought, but was God's plan from time immemorial (Genesis 3:15, Revelation 13:8). Darby turned clear biblical teaching on its head! This teaching is so abundantly clear that it is hard to see how a few apparently are unaware of it!
But does this mean that Jews now have no hope? Not at all, because the offer of faith in Christ is now open to all peoples - yes, including Jews! Moreover, God has not entirely forgotten fleshly Israel and the day will come when a great work will be done among them. See Romans 11:25-32; this Scripture reveals that the hardening of Israel (national Israel), was only ever intended to be temporal! When 'the full number of Gentiles has come in', God again opens the door to National Israel. But are they not now rejected as the true Israel in favour of the Church? Yes, in a very real sense they are, yet God still has a sense of loyalty toward them:
'As far as the gospel is concerned, they (that is the Jews) are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, for God's gifts and His call are irrevocable.' (Verses 28-29).
So God continues to be faithful to the whole principle of working through Israel and the 12 tribes and, in fact, in Revelation 7, the 144,000 are numbered through them. But to see how God willingly adds non-physical Israelites to the '12 tribes' carefully read Matthew 22:2-10, but especially verses 8-10, and also Romans 11:15-20.
Yet it remains true that True Jews are now Spiritual Jews (Christians!). Let me quote H.C. Heffren:
'Like the true child of Abraham (Isaac), the true Jew is the product of faith and not of the flesh. To claim to be a Jew on any other grounds is declared to be blasphemy in Revelation 2:9, "I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews and are not, but are the synagogue of Satan."....Faith is required in order to be truly of the chosen people. In John 3:6 Jesus said, "That which is born of the flesh, is flesh," and in chapter 6:63 He said, "The flesh profiteth nothing." That applies to all natural flesh, even the literal descendants of Abraham.'
(Page23, H.C. Heffren, 'Thine is the Kingdom', Gospel Contact Press, 1981)
Of course, Paul makes this abundantly clear in Romans 9:6-8 in any case:
'For they are not all Israel which are of Israel; neither because they are the seed of Abraham are they all children; but, in Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, they which are the children of the flesh, THESE ARE NOT THE CHILDREN OF GOD; but the children of the promise are counted for the seed'
(Romans 9:6-8, my emphasis)
It is very odd really that even many who otherwise hold to Darbyism will freely admit that Old Testament Israel as 'the congregation in the wilderness' were often typical of the Church, and yet they will usually refuse to see that the Church are now fully 'Spiritual Jews' (Romans 2:28-29).
So far as physical Israel are concerned, God fulfilled everything that He promised to them: the land, the blessings and the prosperity. As far as the promise of the line of kings from David is concerned, that is plainly fulfilled in Jesus Christ.
Since they broke the covenant, there remains nothing for Israel in a national or fleshly sense. In His mercy, God abrogated their covenant and established a new and better one, based on much greater promises:
'But the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises'
(Hebrews 8:6, NIV)
This new, and better, covenant includes a believing 'remnant' of the first Israel together with all others who put their faith in Christ.
'What then? What Israel sought so earnestly it did not obtain, BUT THE ELECT DID. The others were hardened, as it is written:
"God gave them a spirit of stupor, eyes so that they could not see and ears so that they could not hear, to this very day."'
(Romans 11:7-8, NIV, my emphasis).
So Israel having failed to fulfil the requirements of the covenant, God has now rejected them as His people.
This is made plain in many verses, including some of the parables of Jesus. Look up the Parable of the Tenants in Matthew 21:33-45, especially noticing verse 43. And note in verse 45 that the Jewish religious authorities had little doubt that Jesus was saying that their period of influence was coming to an end! Also notice Matthew 22 and the Parable of the Wedding Banquet, verses 1-14. It is essential to note that these parables speak of a replacement of the people of God - not an addition to it!
God's Israel is composed of saved people; people who are His by faith - not by birth! The promises of God are now applicable to these people. See 2 Corinthians 1:20 and compare Romans 9:27 with Romans 11:5-7.
However, all the foregoing does not mean that God is now totally unconcerned about national Israel – indeed, as we have seen, Romans 11 makes it plain that many, many Jewish people will finally accept Jesus; Romans 11:16-32.
Regarding the argument of the so-called 'vacant throne' of Israel to which I referred in passing a little earlier, perhaps I need to say a little more. Look at Jeremiah 33:
'For thus saith the Lord; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat offerings, and to do sacrifice continually'
(Jeremiah 33:17-18, KJV)
In verses 19-22 of this chapter, we are told that God's promises are as sure as the stars in the sky and the moon in its orbit. In Jeremiah 31, we have this:
'If those ordinances depart from before me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before me forever'
(Jeremiah 31:36, KJV)
So here we have not one but 3 promises:
1. David will not lack anybody to sit on his throne.
2. The priests will not lack anybody to offer sacrifices.
3. Israel shall not cease from being a nation.
In consideration of these promises, H.C. Heffren, D.D. made these comments:
'We all know that there has not been a human occupant on David's throne for over two thousand years. The priests ceased to offer sacrifices after the destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and the dispersion of the Jews throughout the world. At that time the nation of Israel ceased to exist. However, prophecy was fulfilled in that Christ, who is the Seed of David, sits eternally on the throne of the Kingdom of God. He is also the high priest and He has offered up eternal sacrifices satisfying to God...Likewise the Israel of God has never ceased to exist as a nation. In 1 Peter 2:9 it says, "Ye are a chosen generation, a ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, AN HOLY NATION." And it is this holy nation, that is the Israel of God over which Christ is king, and we who believe on His name are His loyal subjects. The proof that the believers are heirs to all God's promises, both present and future, is very convincing. Romans 4:16 states that the promise is to those who are of "the faith of Abraham" who is father of us all. Galatians 3:16 says, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made, he saith not, and to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is Christ." Now referring to Galatians 3:29, "And if ye be Christ's then are ye Abraham's seed and heirs according to the promise." These plain Scriptures show that Christians inherit all the promises of God.'
(Heffren, pages 34-35).
So God continues to be utterly faithful to His choice to work through Israel, but we have to understand that the New Covenant defines Israel spiritually rather than racially. Yet even now God promises to do a great work through national Israel at some time in the future.
Robin A. Brace
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