This sermon is number 4 in a series of 6
Crucial Questions On Christ's Return - Part 4
"Israel: Finished With Or With A Future?"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2004 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
This is our fourth study, as I've said, and we've entitled it tonight: 'Israel: Finished With or With a Future?'. Chuck Missler, who is a Bible scholar and prophetic teacher, has said many times in his prophetic ministry that there is only one piece of real estate on the face of planet earth that God has specifically said belongs to a specific people, and that is Israel. There is only one nation that can look up the pages of the Bible and say that God has granted them, and preordained them, a piece of literal geographical land on the face of this earth. This is a most categorical fact, yet it is also one of the most contested facts not only in the halls of theological excellence and debate, but even today in our contemporary halls of political deliberation. This very evening there is, as there seems to have been for almost 2000 years, a dispute as to who has a right and a claim to the land of Palestine. I think that dispute is even hotter because God enters into it in the sense that He is claimed by the various parties to specifically speak on this matter. Palestinians claim that God has given them the land, the Israelis claim from the Old Testament Scriptures - many of which we will look at tonight - that God has told them that it is their right to have the land of Palestine.
Yet what would astound us, perhaps tonight, is - even though this very evening, in the year of 1948 when Israel became a modern national state, even though that is the fact historically and geographically, and politically this evening - there are even evangelicals in the church of Jesus Christ who think currently that Israel as a nation, as an ethnic people, the Jews, have absolutely nothing to do with God's prophetic programme of the future. In other words, they believe that the Jewish people, the ethnic nation of Israel as we know of it tonight and as it was known in the Old Testament Scriptures, is finished with! God has passed them over in unbelief, and He has now turned to His New Testament people, the church, and Israel are finished with as a people of God.
So we want to consider this claim, which you will hear quite a lot, you will read of it in many of our Bible commentaries that you can buy in your normal Christian bookshops, and many godly men believe this doctrine. But we want to weigh it up with the weight and evidence of Scripture, and I want to do that in a threefold way. I want us, as it says on your sheet, to first of all look at Israel's past. We want to see where Israel came from, and some of the claims which they even have to this day and age. Then we want to look at Israel's present, why they don't believe in the Lord Jesus as we do. Then we want to look at Israel's future, and see if the Bible really does teach that God is finished with His ancient people Israel - are they finished with, or are they with a future?
So let's look first of all at her past. The first thing that I want you to notice is found in Deuteronomy chapter 7 and verses 6 to 8 which clearly states that God elected Israel as a people out of the world to be a nation unto Himself. Deuteronomy 7 and verse 6: 'For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt'.
It clearly states that God in election, in His sovereign election, chose not individuals, now, but chose a national people to be His people, to be a peculiar people among the nations of the world, to be a holy people, a kingdom of priests unto their God Jehovah. If you turn back to chapter 6 and verse 18 of Deuteronomy you will see that a land is entailed within that promise of election. God says: 'And thou shalt do that which is right and good in the sight of the LORD: that it may be well with thee, and that thou mayest go in and possess the good land which the LORD sware', mark that word, 'sware unto thy fathers'.
So right away we see, right at the beginning of the Old Testament Scriptures, that once God brought the people of Israel out of bondage from Egypt He told them - we see He told them it before - He told them then, once they were freed, as it were, from sin and bondage that they were special people unto their God, they were chosen not because they were a great number, but because they were the fewest of all the people in the world, and He would give them the land. Now the basis of God's election, if you were reading carefully in chapter 7 and verses 6, 7 and 8, was God's covenant relationship with Israel's fathers, the forefathers. Look at Deuteronomy chapter 10 just so that I can prove this to you categorically, Deuteronomy chapter 10 and verse 15: 'Only the LORD had a delight in thy fathers to love them, and he chose their seed after them, even you above all people, as it is this day'. The election of Israel was chiefly founded on the basis of the covenant relationship that God Jehovah had with their forefathers - that is the basis of election, the relationship that you will read of over and over again in the Old Testament that Jehovah is the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob whose name of course was changed to Israel, and whose twelve sons became the twelve tribes of Israel. That is the basis for God's election of Israel, the covenant relationship that God Jehovah had with their forefathers.
Now you might ask the question: well, what are the purposes for their election in such a way? Well, we haven't got time to go through them all because there are several, but Exodus 19 tells us that one of the purposes of the choosing of Israel out of all the peoples of the world was to become a kingdom of priests, to be a special people - when every other nation in the world was falling down to pieces of wood, and stone, and silver and gold, and fine gems, and worshipping the birds of the air, the fish of the sea, and the beasts of the field; that there was one people who were worshipping the true and living God, and worshipping Him in a way that was acceptable unto Him, that God should be glorified through this national people Israel.
Not only were they to become a kingdom of priests to worship God, but they were also to be recipients of God's revelation. If God was going to speak to men and women on this earth, He needed a people to do it through, and He chose the nation of Israel. You can read in Deuteronomy 4 and Deuteronomy 6 that God gave them His laws and precepts, and He told them to teach them unto their children and their children's children, the prosperity and the genealogy of the people, in order that God's revealed will should be always passed down. Israel was chosen for the purpose of keeping God's revelation alive. Now let me show you this, even from the New Testament, for a moment, in Romans chapter 3. Romans, strangely enough, apart from the title, has a great deal to say about the nation of Israel - and we'll see that in further detail tonight. Romans chapter 3, thinking of how God chose Israel to reveal His divine will, verse 1: 'What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way', there's a lot of profit in being Jewish, 'chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God'.
The revelations of God were not committed to Gentiles, or Gentile people nations, but were committed to the Jewish nation. Verse 3: 'For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?'. The Jewish people were given the revelation of God whereby men could believe, the message of God had come to men through the Jew. Another purpose of their election was to propagate the doctrine of one true and living God. To hear the Muslims today, you would think the Nation of Islam was the only people that believed in one true and living God, but the Jewish people - that is one of the reasons for their election and their existence, to tell the world that there is but one God, and none other God beside Him and Him alone shalt thou serve. That is why Israel was chosen and elected.
Perhaps the most important primary and chief reason for the purpose of Israel's election was simply this: that through this ethnic national people Messiah would come. Let me turn you to a few verses even in the New Testament - Romans 9 verses 5 and 6: 'Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen. Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel'. Now we will find out later in a bit more detail in chapter 9, 10 and 11 that Paul directs his attention to his kinsmen according to the flesh, the Jewish race. But he is now asking this question rhetorically in verse 5: 'What nation did God choose to bring the Christ out of?' - it was the Jewish nation! Because the reason why they were elected way back in Deuteronomy, and right before it in the very bowels of Abraham through that promise in Isaac, was that the Messiah should come - and as God said to Abraham, that all the nations of the earth should be blessed through the Jew - why? Because, as the Lord said in John's gospel, salvation is of the Jew - why? Because Messiah is from the Jews. Never you forget that, my friend. Your Saviour and your Lord Jesus Christ was a Jew, He was a Jew, He is a Jew, He always will be a Jew.
That was the chief reason why Israel was elected - the first thing in their past that we need to lay as a foundation stone. Here's the second thing I want you to notice in her past: not only was she elected, but she was given through her forefathers unconditional covenants. Now 'unconditional' simply means that God didn't lay down any particular conditions that they should be ultimately fulfilled - in other words, God gave His word on a thing - now it's not that He didn't require obedience from His people, but ultimately that obedience was not required for the ultimate sovereign fulfilment of what He had said He would do. That's important.
Now there are four unconditional covenants that we read of in the Old Testament. The first is found in Genesis 12 through to 13, it is the Abrahamic Covenant given to Abraham, as I've alluded to - where God told him that out of his bowels at that very old age there would come a son, and his progeny would be greater than all the sand of the seashore and the stars of the sky. It was an unconditional promise. Then we read further in Deuteronomy 28 to 30 of the Palestinian promise, that has often been called the promise of the land. This map that you see up on the screen, the promise of God's geographical piece of sod that is the land of Israel that we know today - and even farther than that. God was guaranteeing them in an unconditional Palestinian promise, a promise that they would possess the land ultimately - it would be guaranteed.
The Abrahamic Covenant, unconditional; the Palestinian Covenant, unconditional; then we read of the Davidic Covenant given to David in 2 Samuel chapter 7, and also in 1 Chronicles chapter 17. David was told that his throne would endure for ever, that his lineage, his children would continue forever on his throne, and his kingdom, the Davidic kingdom would be an eternal kingdom - in other words, that Davidic Covenant assures us that there will, and has to be one day if we interpret Scripture literally, grammatically, historically, a literal reign of Christ upon the earth for 1000 years from Jerusalem.
The Abrahamic Covenant, the Palestinian or Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and fourthly what is called the New Covenant. God promised His people Israel, primarily this promise was given to them that He would take away their heart of stone and give them a heart of flesh, and He would live within them. We read of the valley of dry bones in the book of Ezekiel, and that still has yet to be fulfilled - the New Covenant coming to national fruition in the life of the Jewish people. Now we have entered into the blessings of the New Covenant in Christ, but as yet to the people of Israel as an entity, they do not enjoy those blessings this very evening. What I want you to notice is that these covenants were unconditional - that means God promised, and you and I both believe that when God says something and promises something, He will fulfil that thing. These promises have, to this very day, as yet remained unfulfilled. Please remember that as we follow through tonight.
The third aspect of their past that I want you to notice is the Mosaic Covenant, or the Mosaic Law. Now this is a conditional covenant, because God said 'Do this and you shall live, and you shall remain in the land'. In the centre of the Mosaic Law - we know it as the Ten Commandments, the Decalogue, but there are a lot of other laws right from Exodus through to Deuteronomy that we are very unfamiliar with, perhaps, but the Jewish mind knows, and the lawyers, the Pharisees and the Scribes were experts in all of this - the centre of it all was the blood sacrifice. Now the blood sacrifice in the Old Testament, please do not misunderstand this, it only serves to cover over in a temporary sense the people's sin in order that they could worship God, but it did not remove their sin. It covered it over.
Although the sacrifice is central, God gave Israel these commands in His Mosaic Law, and those commands were not given to Gentile nations, they have not been given in the New Testament to the church - although we in the spirit would obey the spirit of the law because Christ lives in us by the Holy Ghost, but these laws were not given to the church of Jesus Christ, they were given to the Jews. Read about it in Exodus 19 and 20. Let me also sound a word of caution: the law, the Mosaic Old Testament Law, never means salvation - you cannot be saved through the Mosaic Law. Salvation, from beginning to end of the Scriptures, is always by grace through faith - but the Mosaic Law was given really, if I could summarise it, for two reasons. The children of Israel were going into the wilderness, and God knew they would be in the wilderness, and God gave him these commands first and foremost to keep them from sin, as a moral code. But secondly, and really what is enlightened by the New Testament Scriptures to us today, the law was given to them primarily to reveal their sin - not just to keep them from it, but we find that right after they were given the Law, remember Moses was coming down from the Mount - and what were Aaron and all the children of Israel doing? They were sinning and worshipping the golden calf, and having an orgy of drunkenness and sexual immorality. Right at the moment they were given the law, it was proved to them that they couldn't keep the law. So the law is the school master, as Galatians says, to bring us to Christ, in anticipation of the ultimate Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world.
Now we've laid down the foundation, I hope, well of Israel's past. She was elected of God; there were unconditional covenants, four, given to her; and the Mosaic Law has been given to Israel. Now let's look at how she is in the present predicament this very evening - her present. Why is it that the nation of Israel does not recognise the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah as we do? Well, let's look at when it all happened - if you turn with me first of all to Matthew chapter 12, Matthew being particularly the Jewish gospel. That does not mean, as some ultra-dispensationalists teach, that there's nothing for us in the church in the book of Matthew - of course there is. But primarily the chief context of this book is written to the Jew - verse 22, the Lord has been performing miracles: 'Then was brought unto him one possessed with a devil, blind, and dumb: and he healed him, insomuch that the blind and dumb both spake and saw. And all the people were amazed, and said, Is not this the son of David?' - that means Messiah - 'But when the Pharisees heard it, they said, This fellow doth not cast out devils, but by Beelzebub the prince of the devils. And Jesus knew their thoughts, and said unto them, Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand: And if Satan cast out Satan, he is divided against himself; how shall then his kingdom stand? And if I by Beelzebub cast out devils, by whom do your children cast them out? therefore they shall be your judges. But if I cast out devils by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God is come unto you'.
Christ is saying: 'I have come to you, and the kingdom of God has come to you, and you are attributing the power behind the kingdom of God to the prince of demons'. As we read on the Lord Jesus pronounces His judgment upon them, verse 31: 'Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come'. From that moment on the nation of Israel officially rejected the Messiahship of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Lord Jesus starts in the next chapter, chapter 13, to talk about the mystery kingdom.
My friend, this really proves the rejection of Messiah by the nation of Israel in the New Testament Gospels and the consequences which are on the nation this very evening because of what we have read in Matthew chapter 12. Israel officially rejected the Kingdom of God and our Lord Jesus Christ, and the consequence of that was, as the Lord said, your house will be left unto you desolate. We heard last week, and it's a fact of history, that in AD 70 Jerusalem was sacked and destroyed and rifled by the forces of Rome. Jerusalem as a city was destroyed, the temple was plundered and not one stone was sitting upon another, and those were the partial fulfilment of Christ's judgment upon the nation of Israel because of their rejection of Him.
Now you can bring various gospel spiritualities out of what is called the unpardonable sin, or the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost - and there are some legitimate applications that you may make, but the fact of the matter is that the primary contextual interpretation is this: the unpardonable sin was Israel's national rejection of Jesus as their Messiah. This was their sinning against the Holy Ghost. You can read of it in John's gospel chapter 13 verses 38 to 41, and John said there that what was happening to the Lord Jesus from the Jews was a fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy that God allowed them to have eyes but not see, and ears but not hear, and their hearts were hardened because of their rejection of the Lord Jesus. You read in John's gospel chapter 13 that they could not believe - now don't change that into 'would not', they could not! They had hardened their hearts, rejected Christ's works, attributed it to demonic forces, and from that point on they forfeited the kingdom of God - now not ultimately or finally, but for the time being, partially, they were blinded.
[This chart originally appeared in H. Wayne House and Randall Price, Charts of Bible Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003),
p.114, and is used by permission of Dr. Randall Price. Click image for full size view]
Now that is the point of Paul's teaching in Romans 9 to 11. You've got it on the back of your sheet tonight, Israel's national rejection - you see there Christ's first coming, the big arrow pointing down - you see the arrow? And then below that, not long after the Lord came, John 12 that we've quoted, the rejection by Israel culminates. Then there's the desolation in part in 70 AD, but we are now in the time of Gentile inclusion - that means the age of the Gentiles, because the Jews have rejected God's word. Israel's rejection of the Messiahship of Jesus, it was final in the sense of when Christ was upon the earth, but don't for one minute think that God had got caught by surprise because they rejected the Lord Jesus Christ. It was very much part of God's plan that it should happen this way. It's not that we, as believers coming from the Gentile world, were some kind of 'Plan B' for God, and He thought He had to save somebody because the Jews wouldn't have Christ, so He brought us into the blessings. It's nothing of the sort! From the very beginning God would bless all the nations of the world, and He had prophesied that they would reject Messiah in Isaiah 53 and many other portions of Scripture. God was not taken unawares by this - in fact it was His plan, in this age that we are living in, to bring you and I as Gentiles into the blessings of Israel.
Now we read in Romans chapter 9 and 10 that God does not deal with men and women in this age of Gentile grace nationally - it doesn't matter whether you're from Ireland, or whether you're from Timbuktu, or whether you're from Israel or another Gentile nation - God doesn't deal with men in this age in their national allegiance, He deals with men individually. That's why you have, in Romans 9, 10 and 11, particularly chapter 10 and verse 13, this pronunciation that there shall come a day when 'whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved'. When any person from any nationality, if they cry in the name of the Lord, shall be saved - the word of God is nigh thee, it is even in thy mouth; that if thou shalt confess the Lord Jesus Christ with thy lips, and believe in thine heart that God hath raised Him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.
Now listen, I know this can be complicated for some folk, but if you're not saved and you're in this meeting tonight, you need to be thankful that you were born this very day, that you're alive in this age - because there's an opportunity that has never been before for men and women of every creed and colour and people and nation and tongue and culture to be saved, because God is a God of grace and He has come out to the Gentile peoples of the world in the offer of salvation. But what I want you to notice, and this is an answer to our question 'Is Israel finished with?' - this age of grace today does not mean that the church is God's only plan, and that Israel is finished with, but Paul tells us in Romans 9, 10 and 11 - read those when you get home - he tells us that Israel will be restored. He even says in chapter 11 that all Israel will be saved in a day! They will be converted and they will come back to Messiah. He tells us in verses 1 to 11 of chapter 11 that there will be a remnant of Israel who will come in faith to the Lord Jesus Christ. He tells us in Romans 11 that the purpose of Israel's stumbling was not just to bring Gentile people like you and me into the blessings of God, but in fact he actually says that we have been saved as Gentiles to make Israel jealous that we are enjoying the blessings of God! Did you know the way that Jews are converted today is through that method, jealousy that we are enjoying their blessings that they have forfeited!
Isn't it amazing? If you don't believe me turn to Romans chapter 11 for a moment, verse 25: 'For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness', or hardening, 'in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in'. It's not a complete and final ultimate hardening that God has left them off, but this age of Gentile salvation and Gentile rule will come to pass one day, and when the last Gentile in the church is saved the Lord Jesus Christ will rapture them to glory, the tribulation period will come in which ultimately will bring the Jew back to Christ, and they will cry out to their Messiah at the end of the seven years. Christ will return to the earth and all the remnant of Israel on that day will be saved - don't you believe for one moment that God is finished with Israel!
Now, that might be a bit simplistic for some folk - particularly theological folk, or people that think they are at least - they will come and say: 'Well, are we not as the church today, spiritual Israel? Are we not the new Israel? Has the church not, in some spiritual sense, taken the place of God's people in the Old Testament? Do we not really inherit many of the promises that the Old Testament people were given by God?'. Now let's look at this in detail tonight, your second point under 'Her Present' - the distinction of Israel from the church. There are primarily two views: one is that the church is a continuation of Israel, that we in the New Testament are a continuation of God's people the Jews in the Old Testament. The second view is that the church is completely different from Israel, and that is the one that I espouse to.
Now this first view is the predominant view of the church of Jesus Christ today, and I would have to say always really has been the predominant view, that the church is simply a refinement or a higher development of God's nation Israel. All the promises that we've read about that were made to Israel in the Old Testament, they are now owned by the church of Jesus Christ today, they are fulfilled in the church in a spiritual sense. So these promises that we read to Abraham about the land and so on, they take these promises and spiritualise them into blessings that are in the church today - 'we are blessed in all heavenly places with spiritual blessings'. But the strange thing about this theology is that they take all the blessings and apply them to the church, but all the prophecies of condemnation and judgment that have been given to Israel, they retain them literally by the Jewish nation - for they don't want all those curses as their own!
Can I say categorically that the church of Jesus Christ is never called spiritual Israel in the Scriptures, never is the church called spiritual Israel! Now if I can anticipate some protests that might come from those who believe this doctrine, they often turn to Galatians 6 verse 16, particularly if they hear someone say what I have just said - that the church is never called spiritual Israel in the Bible. Galatians 6:16, do turn with me to it: 'And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God'. 'There are you have it', they say, 'the Israel of God, it's a New Testament book speaking to New Testament Christians, and he calls them the Israel of God because he's invoking God's blessing upon them'. Now can I say to you tonight there is a spiritual Israel, there is a spiritual Israel, but that spiritual Israel never refers to the church: it refers to Jewish people who have believed in the Lord Jesus Christ. That's why Paul says 'all Israel is not Israel' in Romans 9, 10 and 11. To be a true Jew you need to be circumcised in your heart as well, not an ethnic Jew, but a spiritual believing Jew. Jews who trust the Messiah today, yes they could be called spiritual Israel, but the church as the people of God both Gentiles and Jews together is never called spiritual Israel. 'Well', you say, 'how do you explain this verse 16?' - well, I haven't got time to explain the whole of Galatians, but really Galatians was a debate whereby the Jewish Christians were saying: 'Look, you Gentiles, if you want to be saved you need to become Jews. If you want to be saved you need to be circumcised and keep the law of Moses as we keep it, and you can't be saved unless you become ad hoc Jews'.
Now my friends, Paul came in and he quite categorically said that if you were born a Gentile you're saved by grace, not by keeping the law - just as a Jew is saved by grace no matter what he wants to do. Now he's debating between these two parties, two parties that are both believers - Judaisers, some false teachers among them - but believers who were following these Judaisers. So there are two parties in this book, now read verses 15 and 16: 'For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature'. 'You Jews, it doesn't matter that you're circumcised. You Gentiles, it doesn't matter that you're not circumcised. All that matters is the new creation in Christ in salvation'...'And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God'. There are two parties in this book, and Paul in verse 16 pronounces his blessing upon the two parties: those that believe this rule, peace be on them and mercy, and upon the Israel of God - the Jews, whatever they believe, particularly the believers here.
Now some versions, the New International Version, translate it 'even the Israel of God', but the word is 'kai' in the Greek which should be commonly translated as the word 'and'. S. Lewis Johnson, a Bible scholar, has studied the different suggestions for translating this word 'kai', and he says it's normally translated 'and'; and he says: 'In the absence of compelling exegetical and theological considerations we should avoid the rare grammatical usages when the common one makes good sense'. It's usually translated 'and', a distinction from the church here in that it's believers who are Jews. So the first group are the Gentile believers 'them', and the second 'the Israel of God' are the Jews who have believed - is that not clear? Does that not make sense? Considering that there are no other Scriptures anywhere in the Bible that call the church of Jesus Christ spiritual Israel, is that not the only interpretation that you can take out of it? A simple rule of exegesis when you go through the Bible is this: Israel always means Israel. There's not a single instance in the whole of the Bible where Israel refers to anything other than Jewish people, it might be the Jewish people of the whole nation, it might be Jewish people who are a believing remnant believing in the Lord Jesus as Messiah, but it always means Israel.
Now hopefully that's clear. What I want to show you to prove this further to you, the distinction between Israel and the church, is a comparison and a contrast by Thomas S McCall which I got from the Pre-Millennial Dictionary of Theology. It's up on the screen here, and you see the contrast between Israel and the church, you. The birth of Israel was physical as a nation, the birth of the church is spiritual. Circumcision of the flesh to the Israelites, circumcision of the heart to the believer today. The promise to the Israelite was the inheritance of the land, the promises to us are the inheritance of heaven - we're not citizens down here, but citizens of heaven. The government of Israel was the Davidic monarchy, the priests, the national entity of the land, the temple worship, and all sacrifice; but our government in the church are the apostles' doctrine, the pastors, elders, overseers, the body of Christ, decentralised worship wherever believers meet, where two or three are gathered, and the Lord's Supper - not animal sacrifice. The destiny of the people of Israel is the millennial kingdom, but our destiny is the rapture of the church, going to glory right away and coming back to reign for 1000 years with the Lord Jesus. The Messianic King is particular to Israel, but ours is a Messianic Saviour. Israel is described as the wife of God, who was married to Israel in the desert when the law was given in the covenant; we are the bride of Christ who has not yet been married to Christ, we are espoused as a chaste bride to Him. There's a Levitcal priesthood in Israel; there is a Melchizedek priesthood which is not Levitical that we have from the book of Hebrews. Jerusalem is the centre of the Israelite worship; missions is our centre - go ye into all the world and preach the gospel, not just one city. There is a believing remnant, even to this day, and always has been among the Jews; but we are a spiritual minority in Jesus Christ. The Jew keeps the Sabbath, we keep the Lord's day and celebrate the resurrection of the Lord - not under law. The Jew keeps the feasts, we have the ultimate fulfilment of the feasts, and the Jewish future as seen in the feasts. In eternity the Jew will be named, the twelve tribes, upon the gates of the New Jerusalem - but the church is not suchlike, in eternity the foundations of the New Jerusalem will be for the church.
Can I give you three other reasons of distinction between Israel and the church, given by Arnold Fruchtenbaum (sp?), a Jew himself? He summarises the distinctions in about five to six or seven ways. The first is this: the church was born at Pentecost, Acts chapter 2; Israel existed for hundreds, indeed many many years - what a distinction! The second: certain events in the ministry of Messiah were essential to the establishment of the church, the Lord had to come, He had to die, the kingdom had to be rejected, the spiritual kingdom had to be instigated so that you and I might believe, He had to rise again, He had to ascend to heaven to give gifts to men, otherwise we couldn't be saved as the church. The mystery character of the church, Paul tells us in Ephesians that there has never been anything like the church before, that's what 'mystery' means in the Bible, it had never been revealed - so if it hasn't been revealed, how can the church be Israel of the Old Testament? Four: there is a unique relationship between the Jews and the Gentiles 'in one', Paul says, 'new man'. Well, if it's an old man from the Old Testament Israel, how can Paul then call it a 'new man', 'a new creation'. Five: Galatians 6:16 that we have read, it doesn't prove that Israel is the church today, it proves the exact opposite in fact - that there is a distinction between the two. Number six: read through the Acts of the Apostles and you will find that you find the nation of Israel, Jews and the church existing simultaneously. When the church was born in Acts chapter 2, there was no pronouncement: 'Now all you people of Israel are now the church, and the church is now Israel', but they are seen as two distinct entities and are not confused right throughout. The two are always kept distinct.
Let me read to you what C.E.B. Cranfield says about confusing Israel with the church, and he is a commentator of renown, who commentates in a critical and exegetical commentary on the epistle to the Romans, and he said these words: 'It is only where the church persists in refusing to learn this message; where it secretly, perhaps quite unconsciously, believes that its own existence is based on human achievement; and so fails to understand God's mercy to itself'. Now let me paraphrase that: when the church starts to take for granted God's mercy in its own life, it is then unable to believe God's mercy for still unbelieving Israel! You think, 'How could God bring them back now after rejecting the Messiah?' - how can God bring any of us to Himself? He says: 'It is so to entertain the ugly and unscriptural notion that God has cast off His people Israel and simply replaced it by the Christian church. These three chapters, Romans 9, 10 and 11, emphatically forbid us to speak of the church as having once and for all taken the place of the Jewish people, but the assumption that the church has simply replaced Israel as the people of God is extremely common'. Listen to what he says: 'And I confess with shame to having also, myself, used in print on more than one occasion this language of replacement of Israel by the church'. It is called today 'replacement theology' - replacing the church with Israel and all its blessings, it came into vogue through Augustine's work 'The City of God', this allegorical spiritualisation of literal Scripture.
Let's move on, thirdly - her present - the proof that Israel has a future can be seen in the modern state of Israel today. If Israel has been condemned to extinction and has no future, how do you account for the supernatural survival of Jewish people since the establishment of the church 2000 years ago, against all the odds? Furthermore, how do you account for Israel's resurgence among the nations as an independent state? These are facts, less than ten years after Hitler boasted that he would build his Nazi Empire on the graveyard of Israel, on the 14th of May 1948 Israel became a nation state, ten years after the Holocaust. From that moment on she was victorious in several wars, her war of independence in 1948 - she was numbered 80 to 1, and as soon as Israel declared independence roughly half a million Jews in Palestine were surrounded by over 40 million Arabs all wishing to push them into the sea and drown them! Israel overcame. In 1956, the Suez crisis, Israel wasn't allowed down the Suez Canal - the war with Egypt. They won. 1967, the six-day war, they won. 1973, the Yom Kippur war, they won. 1982, Israel invaded Lebanon, Lebanon didn't invade Israel. From AD 70, the destruction of Israel, the Diaspora where Jews were scattered all over the world, to 1967 Palestine was ruled by 40 different nations - but tonight, she is under Israeli control, and from 1943 to today she has fought five national wars and won them all!
Now if that's not proof, what is? I could talk for a long time about economic flourishing of Israel, but the fact of the matter is prophetic Scripture, in the Old Testament in Ezekiel 20:22, Zephaniah 2, tells us that first of all Israel will be regathered in unbelief as a nation. This will be - the next slide, David - to prepare them for the seven-year tribulation period that's going to come on the earth. So Israel is being prepared now, the nation is gathering in Israel and Jerusalem as we speak, they're being gathered in unbelief so that they may be judged for these seven years, and then ultimately be gathered together at the end in belief when they will cry on the Lord for salvation and usher in God's blessing of the millennial reign.
Present Israel is not the fulfilment of God blessing in that second regathering, but we would have to say that this fulfilment and what has happened since 1948 comes in the category of that first regathering in unbelief, getting ready for the tribulation period, those seven years when God will pummel His people into submission. Imagine this, AD 70, the Jews are scattered, there's no Jew, not one in Jerusalem; only a handful in the whole of the land of Palestine. Then by 1880 there's about 25,000 Jews, one way or another they got into the land. Then in 1914, the beginning of World War I, there's 90,000 Jews in Palestine. In 1923 there's 180,000. By 1935 there's 300,000, by 37 there's 430,000, by 45 there's 500,000. When independence came in 1948 it becomes 650,000, after independence immigration comes in like a flock. The first group, one group en masse, 25,000 Jews all at once - and all of them, to a man, survivors of the Nazi Holocaust. Altogether 33,000 arrived during the first four months of national statehood of Israel. The new states' first-year total of immigration was 204,000. Before three years passed an additional 655,000 entered - thus by 1965 the total Israeli population was 2.2 million. In 1969 2.8 million; 1970 3 million; 1976 3.5 million; 1990 4 million - and it's even more tonight! Israel spends more on immigration than she spends on any other government department, even defence, and that's saying something for Israel! It has the highest rate of immigration ever recorded in the world - why? This is why! During the hearing of the British Royal Commission on Palestine in 1937 David Ben-Gurion, Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Jewish Agency for Palestine, said: 'The Bible is our mandate'.
Let's talk in the final moments of her future. It's threefold - in Daniel 9:27 we looked and saw that 70 weeks were determined for the finishing of the transgression of God's people. That meant that God's people who were even then starting to harden their heart against God, God was going to bring them back over a period of 70 weeks. We saw that the final week, the 70th week, was a period of seven years, we looked at it in great detail last week, the tribulation period - but that time of, as Jeremiah calls it, 'Jacob's trouble' was to finish Israel's sin and hardening against God and to bring them back to Himself. You read about in Matthew 24, Revelation 12 - the final attempt of Satan to bring a Holocaust on the Jewish people, to wipe them all out, and ultimately what Satan and the nations mean for evil, God means for good to bring those people back to Himself.
During that period two-thirds of the Jewish people will be annihilated. Daniel 12 says that Michael the archangel will come and fight for the Jewish people to ensure their survival, but only one-third of them will be saved, and that one-third will become the believing remnant of national Israel's salvation. Now grasp this, at the end of this tribulation period, throughout it all two-thirds of the Jewish people, many of them unbelieving - all of them unbelieving in fact - will be wiped out. At the end of it here, when the nations gather around Jerusalem, there will only be one-third who will be left. Zechariah 13 is the passage that I want you to turn to, we're almost finished - what is Israel's future? Certainly they have a past, their present is obvious, but Zechariah 13 tells us that that one-third of Jews - verse 8 - who will remain in the land, speaking of them: 'And it shall come to pass, that in all the land, saith the LORD, two parts', two-thirds, 'therein shall be cut off and die; but the third shall be left therein. And I will bring the third part through the fire, and will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried: they shall call on my name, and I will hear them: I will say, It is my people: and they shall say, The LORD is my God. Behold, the day of the LORD cometh, and thy spoil shall be divided in the midst of thee. For I will gather all nations against Jerusalem to battle; and the city shall be taken, and the houses rifled, and the women ravished; and half of the city shall go forth into captivity, and the residue of the people shall not be cut off from the city. Then shall the LORD go forth, and fight against those nations, as when he fought in the day of battle. And his feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and toward the west, and there shall be a very great valley; and half of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and half of it toward the south'.
Only one-third will survive the Great Tribulation period, that one-third will cry on the name of the Lord, at the end of their tether when all nations surround Jerusalem. The Lord will hear their cry 'Baruch habah b'shem Adonai' - Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord! He will come, His feet will rest on the Mount of Olives, He will defeat all the nation's enemies, and He will bring in His reign at His second coming. Israel's future is tribulation, then the coming of the Lord, Armageddon when the Lord will wipe away all their enemies.
I think I told you this before, that that company that builds hotels - Holiday Inn - tried to build a hotel on the Mount of Olives, and the engineers called off the project because they found that there was a fault line running down the centre of the Mount of Olives - and they said: 'That is threatening to split one of these days'. You're dead right it's going to split! The Lord's feet will come, Joel says that in the valley of Jehoshaphat near Jerusalem there will be an awful sight of Messiah finally destroying the armies of the world. The battlefield will stretch from Meggido on the north to Edom on the south, 200 miles the whole battlefield. The Bible says that the war clouds south through the Dead Sea to the Gulf of Aqaba and the beautiful port of Elat that some of you have been at - the reason? Matthew 23:39: 'For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord' - but when they say it, their Saviour will come and deliver them, and the nations of the world will be judged - our nation will be judged, our leaders will be judged!
God's word stands for ever, that's why we believe that Israel is with a future, she is far from finished with! Ultimately when the Lord comes, after Israel's tribulation, after the tribulation, after the Lord's coming, Jesus shall reign where'er the sun doth its successive journeys run. The unconditional covenants that we read at the very beginning in Israel's past will be fulfilled, all the prophecies of the major and minor prophets toward Israel about the land, about the throne of David, about a reunited nation, about Jerusalem as a centre of world government and worship, about a millennial temple and worship in the millennium in the last chapters of Ezekiel - they will all be fulfilled! We will enter into the eternal state, even after the millennial reign Israel will still be a people!
You're told in Revelation 21 that in the New Jerusalem, the eternal Jerusalem, twelve tribes of Israel will give the names of the twelve gates of that eternal City, so that even after the millennial reign of Christ into eternity there will still be a recognition of who the nation of Israel is. For all eternity those names of those sons of Jacob will be remembered! How could anybody believe that Israel is finished with? Now you might say: 'What is the application to me?'. Well, apart from the obvious that the Saviour must be coming soon with all these things happening in Palestine this very evening, here is the primary application to all of our hearts, wherever you find yourself tonight: God's word shall not return unto Him void, but it shall accomplish that wherewith it was sent. God and His word never fails, 'Though heaven and earth shall pass away, My words shall never pass away'.
Lord, help us to be a people that pray for Thine ancient people. Help us to be a people that give to the Gospel missions towards the Jews; help us, if we know any Jews ourselves, to always be witnessing of Messiah. But Lord, help us to realise ourselves in this age of grace in which we are so blessed, that very soon our Saviour is coming for us, and very soon all these events will be disposed, and very soon the Saviour is coming. Lord, fill our hearts with these facts tonight; and help us to realise, whatever circumstances we might find ourselves in, that God's word is settled in heaven and it abideth ever, unchanged and ever true. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the fourth tape in his 'Crucial Questions About Christ's Return' series, titled "Israel: Finished With Or With A Future?" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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