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The Place of Israel


The past few days I’ve been following the on-going dialogue taking place at Adam’s blog under his post, Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology. And while the biblical argument concerning chosenness under the new covenant, and who is (instead of what is) Israel today and has been for the last 2000 years, can be a difficult one to make to anyone holding to the dispensationalist view of the scriptures, Adam is dong an excellent job.

Anyway, after reading through the comments again today the late John Stott’s sermon, The Place of Israel, came to mind. 

Preached at All Souls Church, London England

Our topic has been announced as “The Place of Israel,” and the topic that has been set for us is an object lesson in biblical hermeneutics as it’s usually called in the principles of interpreting the Bible.  But I would like to remind you right at the beginning that there are at least four ways in which the word “Israel,” whose place we are to investigate, can be used.

One:     Israel was that devious scoundrel, the second son of Isaac, whose first name was Jacob – meaning “he who deceived or he who struggles,” who amply lived up to his name – but whom God renames “Israel,” because having struggled with men all his life, he at last came to struggle with God for the blessing he needed (a blessing to which he was not entitled).

Two:     Israel is the chosen people of the Old Testament days – the 12 tribes descended from the 12 sons of Jacob called the children of Israel, because Israel (or Jacob) was a common ancestor.

Three:   Israel is the messianic community – the people of Jesus – the true descendents of Abraham because they share Abraham’s faith.  This includes Gentiles like most of us if we believe in Jesus, but excludes Jews who don’t.  When Paul ended his letter to the Galatians, “Peace and mercy upon the Israel of God,” he was referring to believers in Jesus, whatever their ethnic origin.  So Israel is the messianic community.

Four:    Israel today, for many people if you read the newspapers, is the Israeli nation, promised a national home by the Balfour Declaration of 1917 and given it in 1948.

So Israel has four meaning.  It means Jacob.  It means Jews.  It means Christians.  And it means Israelis.  And that is just the problem when you are asked who you are talking about.

I’m not going to refer much anymore to the first and the fourth meanings, though a little big at the end to the fourth, but to concentrate, how the Bible concentrates, on the second and the third.

What is the place of Israel in the purpose of God?  And in particular at the end of the world (which is our theme on Sunday mornings)?  But you cannot jump to the end unless you begin at the beginning.  So the best way for us to handle this delicate and controversial theme this morning is to consider Israel past, present, and future and try and get a perspective on the whole of the biblical revelation.

So we begin firstly with Israel’s past.  I’ll come to my text in a moment.  The Old Testament Israel was the chosen people of God, sometimes called “the covenant people of God.”  God’s covenant was given to Abraham and to Isaac his son and to Jacob his grandson, and the promise of the covenant was, “I will be your God and you shall be my people.”  It’s quite true that after 400 years of dejected slavery God seems to have at least temporarily forgotten His covenant.  But then we read at the beginning of Exodus that God remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and as a result He rescued His people from their Egyptian slavery.

About three months later at Mt. Sinai, God said to the people through Moses, “I carried you on eagle’s wings and brought you to myself.  And now if you obey my word and if you keep my covenant, then out of all the nations of the world, you will be my treasured possession.  And all the whole earth is mine.  You will be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”

Now the people of Israel never forgot those promises and they never forgot that covenant, and the literature of Israel (which we call the Old Testament) is crammed full of expressions of wonder that God should have chosen them to be His nation out of all the nations of the world – that He should have entered into a covenant with them and made them His people and that He should have had mercy on them like that.

Let me give you one or two examples of this expression of wonder.  Listen to five rhetorical questions from Moses:

  • What other nation is so great as to have their God near them the way the Lord our God is near us whenever we pray to Him?
  • What other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws which I am setting before you today?
  • Has anything so great as this ever happened before?
  • Has any other people heard the voice of God speaking out of fire as you have done and lived after the experience?
  • Has any God ever tried to take for Himself one nation out of another nation by His mighty hand and outstretched arms?

There are five rhetorical questions, all expecting the answer, “No,” and if you want to look them up sometime, you will find them in Deuteronomy 4.

And Moses goes on, “The Lord didn’t set His love upon you and choose you because you were more numerous than any other nation.  The Lord set His love upon you because He loves you.”  That is Deut. 7.  Then again, “He has revealed His words to Jacob, His laws and His decrees to Israel.  He had done this for no other nation.  They do not know His laws.”  Psalm 147.

I could go on.  The Old Testament literature of Israel is full of expressions of wonder that God had made them His special people.  It is a sense of unique revelation that permeates the whole of the Old Testament.

Now the text.  Turn to the New Testament to Romans chapter 9, and although we have several texts, we are going to stick to Romans.  At the beginning of chapter 9, the Apostle Paul lists 8 privileges that distinguish the people of Israel.  We are talking about Israel in the past and her distinct privileges as the holy nation of God.

Romans 9, verse 4.  They are Israelites and to them belong the following 8 things:

1.         The sonship, because God adopted the nation to be His son.

2.         The glory – the shining symbol of God’s presence in the temple.

3.         The covenants by which He pledged Himself to be their God.

4.         The giving of the law, also called the oracles of God, because in the law He reveals His will.

5.         The worship – both the sacrifices that preceded the Lord Jesus and the Psalter which we use in our worship today.

6.         The promises, especially of the coming kingdom of the Messiah.

7.         The patriarchs whose stories are recorded in the book of Genesis for our instruction.

8.         Above all is stressed the human ancestry of Jesus Christ, who is the amazing expression of God over all, blessed forever.

Do you wonder that Paul says at the beginning of this chapter in verse 1, that he has great sorrow and unceasing anguish in his heart for Israel according to the flesh, because with all these eight privileges, they did not recognize Jesus as their Messiah.  Paul said he could wish that he could even be cursed and be cut off from Christ for the sake of his countrymen if only thereby they could be saved.  You get a sense of his passionate love for the people of Israel.

There is no doubt that we need to conclude at this point by saying, “Away with anti-Semitism:”  If there is anybody in church today who has any anti-Semitism feeling let us bow down in penitence.  Away with anti-Semitism.

Now who, according to the New Testament perspective, is Israel today?

And the answer we are going to see from the Bible is this extraordinary event – that true Israel today is neither Jews nor Israelis, but believers in the Messiah.

Now this seed began even in the Old Testament.  We haven’t time to look into it in detail.  I remind you of things already in the Old Testament.  The physical descendent from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is not regarded as being sufficient to be a true member of the covenant.  Of course, the people thought it was.  They interpreted election as favoritism, but the prophets kept insisting to them that their choice by God to be the covenant people of God would not guarantee them immunity from the judgment of God.  Perhaps the most striking example is in Amos when God said, “You are the only people that I have known,” God said, and how the Jews felt absolutely secure in the election of God!  They expected Amos to go on, “You are the only nation I have known and therefore I will protect you from every disaster.”  But Amos went on, “Therefore I will punish you for your iniquities, because of the greatness of your privileges.”  And the prophet tends more and more to draw a distinction between Israel as a whole as a defenseless nation and the Israelites’ faithful remnant within the nation.

Then we get to John the Baptist, the last Old Testament prophet.  He taught the positive counterpart.  Listen carefully.  John the Baptist taught that not only are there some Israelites who are not true Israel, but that there are some not Israelites who are true Israel.  Because John the Baptist said to the people, “Don’t say to yourselves ‘We’ve got Abraham as our father.’  I’ll tell you, God is able to raise up children from Abraham out of these very stones.”

God didn’t raise up children to Abraham from stones, but He did from gentiles, who were rather like stones in a way.  And Jesus stunned his contemporaries by saying that many are going to come from the North and the South and the East and the West, from all the gentile nations.  They are going to sit down in a Messianic banquet with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Some of the citizens of the kingdom who are descended physically from Jacob are going to be excluded from the kingdom.  So some of the Israelites are not true Israel and many of the gentiles who are not Israelites are the true Israel.  It is the teaching of the Old Testament, it is the teaching of John the Baptist, it is the teaching of Jesus, but it was particularly the teaching of Paul, the apostle to the gentiles to whom God gave the fullness of the revelation of this amazing development.  Turn back now to chapter 2 of Romans and let me read you the last few verses starting with verse 2B.  It is an amazing statement that Paul makes.  “He is not a real Jew who is one outwardly by descent from Jacob.  Nor is true circumcision something external and physical.  He is a Jew who is one inwardly, that is by faith in Jesus.  And real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal.”

Then again in chapter 9, I’ll give you another phrase – “Not all who are descendents of Israel belong to Israel.”  Paul says in another place in Philippians, “We are the true circumcision – we who follow Jesus, whether we are gentiles or Jews.  We are the true circumcision who worship God by the spirit of God and put all our confidence in Christ Jesus and none in the flesh,” (that is our physical descent.  It is not a matter of physical descent.  It is a matter of faith in Jesus.  Peter says the same thing.  With great audacity given to him by the Holy Spirit, he takes those expressions in Exodus 19, “You are a holy nation, a kingdom of priests,…” and he transfers them to the followers of Jesus.  And he says, “You who follow Jesus, you are a holy nation, a special people and a royal priesthood and a holy nation.”  It’s amazing what these New Testament writers are willing to do.  The paradox of our position in this: True Jews today are Christians.  May I say it again?  The true Jews today are Christians.  Or if you don’t like that expression, try this one:  “The followers of the Messiah are more truly the people of Israel than those people of Israel who reject Him.”

Well, you may say, “How can you justify that identification?”  The answer is, “In Christ.”  The logic is absolutely irresistible.  God promised to bless the nation through the seed of Abraham.  The seed of Abraham is Jesus Christ.  If you look at his genealogy in Matthew and Luke, you will see that He is descended from Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  So God promised to bless the seed of Abraham.  The seed of Abraham is Christ and therefore anybody who is in Christ receives the promised blessing.  And we are in Christ not by birth, but by rebirth; not physically by descent, but spiritually by faith.  Paul writes in Romans 4, “Abraham is the father of all who believe.”  Whether circumcised or uncircumcised, Abraham is my father.  I’m not a Jew by descent from Jacob or Isaac or Abraham, but Abraham is my father.  He is the father of believers, and if you and I are believers in Jesus, he is our father.

Again, in Galatians 3 we see that if you belong to Christ, you are Abraham’s seed and you are heirs according to Christ.  Now that is why you see that those of us who believe in Jesus read the Old Testament scriptures as our scriptures.  We sing the Old Testament Psalms.  We claim the Old Testament promises as referring to us, because all of God’s promises are fulfilled in Christ and we are in Christ – therefore the promises belong to us.  It is a tremendous truth.

What we have seen so far is this.  In olden days, Israel was a physical designation and meant the descendants of Jacob.  Today, Israel is a spiritual designation and means believers in Jesus, whether descendants from Jacob or not.

So this brings us to the third question about Israel’s future.  If Israel meant the descendants of Jacob in the Old Testament and means believers of Jesus in the New, must we conclude that God has no special future for Israel according to the flesh?

Well, it’s funny you should ask that question because it’s the very question that Paul is teaching.  Turn to Romans 11, verse 1.  “I ask then, has God rejected His people?  Has He rejected the descendants of Jacob, the people of Israel according to the flesh?”  That’s what Paul asked.  It’s apparently what you are asking.

You see Paul’s answer: “By no means.”  He gives two answers to the question and on both occasions he begins, “By no means.”  The first answer is in verse one:  “I myself am an Israelite.  Of course He hasn’t rejected all His people.  I am one of them,” Paul says.  And he goes on, “God has not rejected His people of faithful, Jewish descendants of Jacob and believers in the Jesus.”  All of the first followers of Jesus were like that.  They were all Jewish by physical descent, and thank God there are many Hebrew Christians today – some members of our own church family.

Yes, but what about the other descendants of Jacob who are not believers in Jesus?

Now we come to the second answer and you will find it in verse 11.  He asks, “I say then, the did not stumble so as to fall, did they?”  Does this mean that the descendants of Jacob, the Jews who rejected Jesus, are going to reject him forever?

Paul says, “By no means.”  God’s rejection of them is not final, because their rejection of the Christ is not final either.  In order to illustrate that, he develops the picture that is familiar to all of us in Romans 11 about the two olive trees.  The cultivated olive tree which is a symbol of physical descendents of Jacob and the wild olive tree that is the symbol of us gentiles coming from the gentile nations.  He says in verse 17 that some of the branches of the cultivated olive tree, that is Jewish unbelievers, have been broken off.  In their place a slip from a wild olive tree (that’s us) has been grafted in to the olive tree.  Gentiles have now been included in the children of Abraham by faith in Jesus.  But he says, “One day the olive branches that have been broken off,” that is the unbelieving Jews, “are going to be grafted back in again.  Let me read you verses 24 onward.

24For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?

25For I do not want you, brethren, to be uniformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the gentiles has come in;

26and thus all Israel will be saved;…

That is the whole people of God’s election will be gathered in.  There is going to be a wide spread turning of Jews to Jesus.  The hardening that is taking place now that makes them blind to their own Messiah is only temporary.  The veil is going to be lifted.  They are going to see and believe – maybe hundreds of thousands, maybe more – someday in the history are going to believe and to be grafted back in.

Now that leads me to the question that must be in some of your minds, “What about the promised land?”  Is the setting up of the State of Israel a fulfillment of the prophecy?  Well, I cannot go into this in a detail.  I can only say this:  Some people think so.  Especially dispensationalists, as we call them.  There may be some here.  They say in effect that the prophets promised that the Jews would return to the promised land.  They even delineate the boundaries that the Jews would occupy in the promised land.  Those promises were not fulfilled in the Old Testament literally, so we look for a fulfillment in the future.  It is a reasonable view to hold, and many do hold it.  And we regard them with respect and love.  Others, among whom I number myself, do not hold that view.  I’ll leave aside political questions that could occupy us for a long time, but I’ll just mention to you that you need to think about political issues here.  The risk of ignoring the justice of the Palestinians’ cause is on the one hand, and on the other is the risk of encouraging further Jewish expansionism since the land promised to Abraham in the Old Testament included territory that belongs today to Jordan and to Lebanon and to Syria.  So beware of what you are saying if you think all that belongs to the Jews forever.

1.  The Old Testament promises about the Jews’ return to the land are comforted by promises of the Jews’ return to the Lord.  It is hard to see how that secular, unbelieving State of Israel can possibly be a fulfillment of those prophecies.

2.  The Old Testament promises about the land are nowhere repeated in the New Testament.  The prophecy of Romans 11 is a prophecy that many many Jews will turn to Christ, but the land is not mentioned nor is Israel mentioned as a political entity.  There is only one verse in the New Testament that has ever been regarded as a promise that the Jews will return to the land, and that is Luke 21:24 when Jesus says that Jerusalem is going to be trodden down by the gentiles until the times of the gentiles be fulfilled.  That is an ambiguous verse, and it can be interpreted in two different ways.  It could refer not to a period of gentile domination after which Jerusalem is going to be rebuilt, but the times of the gentiles could rather refer to the whole of the present world order until the end of history when Jesus will come again in power and great glory.  But even that left aside, there is no other verse that repeats the promises of the Old Testament.  So we need to be very cautious in simply jumping back to the Old Testament promises and ignoring how they are handled in the New.

3.  The Old Testament promises according to the apostles are fulfilled in Christ and in the international community of Christ.  The New Testament authors apply the promise of Abraham’s seed to Jesus Christ.  And they apply to Jesus Christ the promise of the land and all the land which is inherited, the land flowing with mild and honey, because it is in Him that our hunger is satisfied and our thirst is quenched.  A return to Jewish nationalism would seem incompatible with this New Testament perspective of the international community of Jesus.

I’m sorry for this little parenthesis, especially if it has seemed controversial to some.

Let me conclude.  We tried to get the biblical perspective of Israel.  In the past, the chosen nation; in the present, the international messianic community of believers in Jesus; in the future, a growing community that will incorporate many more gentiles and many more Jews.

Let us end where Paul invites us to end in verse 22 of chapter 11 of Romans.  He says, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness…”

The God of biblical revelation is a God of severity and kindness, a God of judgment and salvation.  Note well the severity.  The God of biblical revelation is a God of judgment.  The history of Israel is a solemn warning against unfaithfulness.  Verse 21:  “If God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.”  Brothers and Sisters, beware.  Take that warning to heart.  Beware lest we forsake the Lord our God by our disobedience.  But not only His severity.  In particular His kindness.  The whole history of Israel and the whole history of the world is the story of the patient, loving kindness of God.  See how Paul emphasizes this in verses 30-32:  “Just as you were once disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient in order that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.  For God has shut up all in disobedience that He might show mercy to all.”

God’s merciful purpose, which is God’s missionary purpose, has not come to an end.  Religions of the world may threaten the spread of the gospel.  Hinduism tries to absorb Christianity.  Marxism tries to drive it underground.  Islam becomes even more aggressive.  Secularism permeates into the whole of our society.  But, beloved, God’s mercy is going to triumph in the end.  There is a great future for believers in Jesus.  The fullness of the Jews is going to be gathered in.  The fullness of the gentiles is going to be gathered in.  God is going to have mercy on the whole of His people.

When we wake up in Heaven, if by God’s mercy and grace we shall, we are going to be utterly dumbfounded.  We are going to find ourselves a part, not of a tiny little remnant, but of a great company so vast – so unimaginable – that in fulfillment of the promise to Abraham it will be like the stars in the night sky, the sand on the seashore, the grains of dust on the earth.  It is going to be actually innumerable.  Praise God for His mercy.

John Stott was ordained into the ministry of the Church of England in 1945. He served as the senior pastor (rector) of All Souls Church in London from 1950-1975. He became Rector Emeritus in 1975 and devoted his life to a ministry of teaching worldwide, and writing.  Stott has written over 40 books. His best known, “Basic Christianity”, has been translated into more than 50 languages. Other titles include “The Cross of Christ,” The Contemporary Christian,”  “ Evangelical Truth,” “New Issues Facing Christians Today,” and eight New Testament expositions.

19 comments on “The Place of Israel

  1. Paul says God has not cast away his people, and his proof is that there are believers like him. So he indicates that Jews who believe in Jesus are proof of the remnant according to election. Good post!

  2. Quote “2. The Old Testament promises about the land are nowhere repeated in the New Testament… there is no other verse that repeats the promises of the Old Testament.”

    Not so.

    Galatians 3:15-18
    15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it.

    16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ.

    17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

    18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

    No one sets aside a covenant or adds conditions to a covenant made by men, much less one made by God. God’s covenant with Abraham(Gen 15) concerning inheriting the land of Israel is what is in view here and it isn’t subject to abrogation or revision according to the apostle Paul. It cannot be changed. Gal 3:15 It’s fulfillment is guaranteed to Abraham in Christ, the true heir of the land.

    Gen 15:18
    “On that day the LORD made a covenant with Abram, saying, “To your seed I have given this land from the river of Egypt as far as the great river, the river Euphrates” .

    Christ is the heir to the land as much as he is the heir of heaven. He is as much a key to the earthly inheritance promised Abraham as he is to the heavenly inheritance. It is through faith in Him that the promised descendants of both spheres will gain access to the promised realms, whether heaven or earth.

    Two promises of Gal 3:16
    “The promises were made to Abraham and to Christ, his seed” Gal 3:16. Notice the plural, promises. There were two promises in Gen 15 concerning Abraham’s inheritance.

    Gen 15:5
    And God took Abraham outside and said, “Now look toward the heavens, and count the stars, if you are able to count them.” And He said to him, “So shall your seed be.”

    Gen 15:7
    And He said to him, “I am the LORD who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldeans, to give you this land to possess(inherit) it.”

    These are those promises. One a promise of a heavenly inheritance and one a promise of an earthly inheritance.To be attained in Christ, the Seed. The heavenly inheritance supposes a heavenly people and the earthly inheritance supposes an earthly people. Each distinct in their sphere of inheritance in Christ. To question the surety of the earthly inheritance made to Abraham and his natural descendants through Christ would have to allow for anyone to question the surety of the heavenly inheritance and his spiritual descendants, the promises having been made by God at the same time and to the same persons.

    Can either promise to Abraham be relied upon? Could I not make the same type of argument that would exclude any kind of heavenly promise or future inheritance for Abraham’s spiritual seed that is made to deny the promise of the land to his natural seed. Just a little scripture twisting here and there and we can forget about heaven, it’s all really just about living down here on earth. Heaven is just a metaphor really. After all Jesus is coming back to earth isn’t He? The New Jerusalem is coming down to earth isn’t it? His will be done on earth, right? Let’s just live our best life now, huh?

    As a matter of fact that is what the Jewish nation did in Jesus day. They wanted nothing to do with what was of heavenly hope and life that Jesus offered them, their focus was their place of dominion in this earth. Now we have a reversal of positions that seemingly knows nothing of the earthly sphere, it’s all about the heavenly. If one promise is subject to revisionism then logically the other could be also. The fact that there was a covenant added to the earthly promise and no covenant was made with Abraham concerning the heavenly promise could even give further rise to such admittedly absurd speculation. Both promises are to be fulfilled as promised to Abraham.

    Abraham questions about the land. How can I be sure?
    He said, “O Lord GOD, how may I know that I will possess(inherit) it?” Gen 15:8.

    God makes a covenant to further assure Abraham of His promise that Abraham and his earthly seed will inherit this land. This covenant and promise with Abraham are what Paul uses as an example to the Galatians of how the conditional nature of the law, which is dependent on man, and is doomed to failure, is not able to attain to the conditions of rightful inheritance and invalidate a promissory covenant with God. Prime example is Israel entering the promised land but failing to inherit. It is this background that Paul uses to show that the Law is not a means by which the New Covenant is to be fulfilled and it’s promises attained whether by the church and it’s heavenly aspirations or by the Jewish nation and their previous pursuit of earthly promises.

    Gal 3:17
    “What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise”

    The Law, having come 430 years after this covenant with Abraham, brought in conditions for the nation of Israel to be able to inherit the land and those conditions were not fulfilled, so Israel was denied the land BUT, Paul says, that failure still did not invalidate the covenant or nullify the promise concerning the land and it’s future heirs. Abraham will have natural heirs that will inherit this land because God has promised so even though they were unable to gain the land through their own merits under law.

    The promise, notice singular, not promises, was concerning the land. The covenant was concerning the land. The Law was concerning the land. And the nation of Israel, who was given the Law, as a condition of inheriting the land. If it was the nation of Israel that failed to inherit the land through the law then it follows that it is the nation of Israel that will be that people who will receive the land as a fulfillment of the promise that has yet to be dispersed to it’s rightful heirs.

    Again, Paul says the conditions of the Law that could not be met for the inheritance of the land by that nation called Israel will not keep that inheritance from being dispersed to it’s rightful heirs, who will be physical descendants of Abraham, a remnant of the nation of Israel and who through though dire and horrific conditions that will prevail in the latter days will be brought to faith in Jesus Christ to become possessors of that promised inheritance. This is the consistent and overwhelming witness of scripture.

    Gal 3:18
    “For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise”.

    God has granted IT to Abraham!!! What is it? That same inheritance of land that could not be possessed through law.

    • Davo, a few questions…

      What is Galatians chapter 3 (the entire chapter) concerning? Is this not mainly concerning the promises given to Abraham and which were completely fulfilled in Christ, and that these promises are obtained not by the law but by faith?

      The covenant was made with Abraham and his Seed (*Christ being that seed and those in Christ*). It is still in force; Christ abideth for ever in his person, and his spiritual seed, who are his by faith. By this we learn the difference between the promises of the law and those of the gospel. The promises of the law are made to the person of every man; the promises of the gospel are first made to Christ, then by him to those who are by faith ingrafted into Christ. Rightly to divide the word of truth, a great difference must be put between the promise and the law, as to the inward affections, and the whole practice of life. When the promise is mingled with the law, it is made nothing but the law. Let Christ be always before our eyes, as a sure argument for the defence of faith, against dependence on human righteousness. (Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary, Galatians 3)

      If the promise given to Abraham concerning land are to be seen as not fulfilled as yet today, then to whom would the “literal” land “still” be promised to…Abraham’s seed? Who are Abraham’s seed, according to God’s word, Davo?

      For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. Galatians 3:27-29

      Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. 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

      Does that mean then, the “literal” land is yours…mine…? For if you believe the promise of a literal land is still to be fulfilled to Abraham’s seed, then we, according to God’s very word, are that seed and heirs according to the promise.

      So, what about the promise of the land?

      By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went. By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise: For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God…. These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country. And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned. But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for he hath prepared for them a city. Hebrews 11:8-16

      God’s people (those in Christ…from all nations and ethnic groups) are not seeking “land” here but are looking for and awaiting that “better country”…

      Another question,

      During the time the people of God lived under the old covenant was all the literal land ever possessed, and therefore the promise fulfilled?

      So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. Joshua 21:43-45

      Now behold, today I am going the way of all the earth, and you know in all your hearts and in all your souls that not one word of all the good words which the Lord your God spoke concerning you has failed; all have been fulfilled for you, not one of them has failed. “It shall come about that just as all the good words which the Lord your God spoke to you have come upon you, so the Lord will bring upon you all the threats, until He has destroyed you from off this good land which the Lord your God has given you. Joshua 23:14-15

      Were any or all of the promises conditional, based upon obedience? What about the literal land?

      Doubtless ye shall not come into the land, concerning which I sware to make you dwell therein. . . ” Numbers 14:30 – Because of Israel’s disobedience, God delayed their entry into the land for almost 40 years until the generation of the rebels had died. If the possession of the land was unconditional, the Israelites would have been able to enter Canaan immediately, in spite of their disobedience. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that Israel’s possession of the land was not unconditional. (Thomas Williamson, Conditional or Unconditional?)

  3. A great verse people chuck around is this:

    “For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

    If Christ has not fulfilled all the prophecies in Himself, then we’re still under law. What does Paul say? No way, the law was nailed to the cross. In Christ, we are under grace, the perfect law of liberty, which brings life.

    • If Christ has not fulfilled all the prophecies in Himself, then we’re still under law.

      Amen Cal! Why can’t i answer things as simply (and as well) as you and some of the rest of my visitors? Aha!! I’m too long-winded and tend to ramble. Maybe its a ‘woman’ thing🙂

  4. Davo,

    What do you make of the stark reality God speaks to the Jews in Deuteronomy 31-33? And then the seeming proverbial hand writing on the wall from 2 Chronicles 36?

    But they kept mocking the messengers of God, despising his words and scoffing at his prophets, until the wrath of the Lord rose against his people, until there was no remedy. (2 Chronicles 36:16 ESV)

    Unless and until we can get Ancient Israel into context with present day Israel we’re going to continually arrive at the conclusion you arrive at.

    There is only one sole purpose for Israel then and now. And that purpose is to assist the Elect of God to come to Christ not to the land that again is becoming the focal point of adversity.

    The Law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ!

    When you consider the very transient nature of the physical man in light of these verses following you hopefully can see the impending train wreck a coming!

    The earth was not nor is the promised land, present day Israel; it’s served it’s purpose as these verses point and should hopefully open more and more eyes as the memo gets to all the people: These all died in faith, not having received the things promised, but having seen them and greeted them from afar, and having acknowledged that they were strangers and exiles on the earth. For people who speak thus make it clear that they are seeking a homeland. If they had been thinking of that land from which they had gone out, they would have had opportunity to return. But as it is, they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he has prepared for them a city. (Hebrews 11:13-16 ESV)

    Just think Davo that if what you’re saying is the correct view why when Jesus returns does he destroy these present heavens and earth? I think Hebrews 11:13-16 is a very clear answer why.

    • …. that purpose is to assist the Elect of God to come to Christ not to the land that again….

      Amen Michael!

  5. Christ wasn’t just added to the prophetic truths. He is the embodiment of all prophetic truths. The earthly tabernacle, the earthly priesthood, the earthly tribes, and the earthly land were all left for the surpassing glory of Christ and His better promises. And even though there are some hints about a future gathering of remnant Jews at the end, it still revolves around Christ and not land.

  6. PJ, I thought your response to Davo covered the bases in a very excellent way, from the promises being fulfilled in Christ, the seed of Abraham; to Christ’s followers seeking a heavenly country rather than an earthly land, right along with Abraham; to Joshua’s declarations that the land promises were fulfilled (see also Nehemiah 9:7-8); to the conditional nature of the land promises.

    One thing that has been evident in studying the New Testament is that everything about the Old Testament nation of Israel was a type and shadow pointing toward fulfillment in Jesus.

    I think Paul was onto this very idea when he said, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (I Corinthians 10:11). Paul even identified the spiritual rock that accompanied the Israelites in the wilderness as Jesus.

    I believe that the idea of the nation of Israel being resurrected in our day in order to fulfill Bible prophecy is not only misguided, but it’s like making a U-turn in redemptive history (just like it’s a spiritual U-turn to say that the sacrifices must be restored in a rebuilt temple). It’s a return to types and shadows when the fulfillment has already long come.

    • Thanks Adam.🙂

      One thing that has been evident in studying the New Testament is that everything about the Old Testament nation of Israel was a type and shadow pointing toward fulfillment in Jesus.

      I think Paul was onto this very idea when he said, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (I Corinthians 10:11). Paul even identified the spiritual rock that accompanied the Israelites in the wilderness as Jesus.

      Amen.

      I was blessed, as i’ve mentioned before, to have a pastor 30 years ago who was an excellent bible teacher and who taught extensively on old testament types and shadows during our monday night bible studies. We spent a good two years alone in the first 5 books of the old test. What made his teaching so interesting (and why our bible studies were popular with the congregation!) was he showed us how all things pointed to Christ in the old testament. The study of types and shadows in the old test. is one of the most interesting and influential studies i think i ever participated in Adam. I’ve thanked God more then once for the privilege of learning under the late pastor Trent. He was truly gifted.

      Not having an understanding of this important biblical issue, in my opinion, lies at the core of why so many Christians are still living under the old covenant…and waiting for fulfillments which were already fulfilled by Jesus Christ at his coming, life, death and resurrection. Do you know what i mean? Much of the teachings of Dispensational theology is a prime example of this.

  7. As bizarre as I find what is represented here by many as to what characterizes true Biblical fulfillment, it’s remarkable to me that after 1878 years there was re-founded a nation that is called Israel that is poised to be a part of what the Bible has clearly marked out as a major part of the destiny of this world and that this phenomena is relegated to a category by some that I can only assume would be considered as meaningless and coincidental. In spite of such staggering odds of fulfillment, this perspective has got to be chalked up to another of the modern theological marvels of our day that I seem to keep encountering when I drop by this web sight.

    “For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days”  Hosea 3:4-5

    After an extensive period of time the sons of Israel are predicted to return and to seek the Lord and David their king in the last days. The Lord and David both.

    “Simeon has related how God first concerned Himself about taking from among the Gentiles a people for His name. “With this the words of the Prophets agree, just as it is written, ‘AFTER THESE THINGS I will return, AND I WILL REBUILD THE TABERNACLE OF DAVID WHICH HAS FALLEN, AND I WILL REBUILD ITS RUINS, AND I WILL RESTORE IT, SO THAT THE REST OF MANKIND MAY SEEK THE LORD, AND ALL THE GENTILES WHO ARE CALLED BY MY NAME,’ SAYS THE LORD, WHO MAKES THESE THINGS KNOWN FROM LONG AGO”  Acts 15:14-18

    After the gathering of Gentiles(the church) the apostle James says that the Lord will return to earth and will rebuild the tabernacle of David. This same house is mentioned here:

    “Your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” 2 Kings 7:16

    The house and kingdom and throne of David are promised to endure forever. This was guaranteed by covenant and by oath to David and the necessity of it’s rebuilding by the Lord at His return confirms His faithfulness to David.

    “I have made a covenant with My chosen; I have sworn to David My servant,
     I will establish your seed forever and build up your throne to all generations.” Ps 89:3,4

    Promise and covenant and oath to David for his house, kingdom and throne to endure forever. This is what James is referring to in Acts 15 in reference to the Lord’s return. David’s kingdom will be established over these same sons of Israel in Hosea 3 that will seek him in the last days.

    The 12 apostles will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel at this time individually, if you can believe Jesus.

    And Jesus said to them, “Truly I say to you, that you who have followed Me, in the regeneration when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne, you also shall sit upon twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. Matt 19:28. 

    These tribes show up in Revelation 7:4.
    “And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel”

    This regeneration in Matt 19 is that same time spoken of by the apostle Peter as the restoration of all things when the Lord returns.

    Therefore repent and return, so that your sins may be wiped away, in order that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord; and that He may send Jesus, the Christ appointed for you, whom heaven must receive until the period of restoration of all things about which God spoke by the mouth of His holy prophets from ancient time. Acts 3:19-21

    The prophets have spoken clearly and consistently about a period of restoration when the Lord returns. This time of restoration includes Israel. For example: Isa 14.
    1When the LORD will have compassion on Jacob and again choose Israel, and settle them in their own land,
    3 And it will be in the day when the LORD gives you rest from your pain and turmoil and harsh service in which you have been enslaved.

    This passage viewed in connection with the argument made in the fourth chapter of Hebrews is a significant announcement. God had sworn to the unbelieving that they would not enter His rest and yet here is a promise of future rest given to Jacob and Israel. As of the writing of Hebrews chapter 4 this rest still remained to be enjoyed for Joshua’s provision of rest was not to be considered a fulfillment and God’s word must needs be accomplished. This rest was to be similar to the rest of God on the original Sabbath day, ceasing from work, complacency in the things created, when everything was “very good”.

    This promise is real, future, unfulfilled, open to all who believe, in their own land and has a Sabbath rest connection to the 7th millennium.

    • “For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. Afterward the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days” Hosea 3:4-5

      After an extensive period of time the sons of Israel are predicted to return and to seek the Lord and David their king in the last days. The Lord and David both.

      Hi Davo…though im not understanding the personal lead-in to your comment, except to think possibly (?) you’re frustrated with some posts here at the blog. But you should understand that im not a follower of dispensational teachings. And that seems to be where we differ?

      Anyway, taking one point at a time, if im understanding you from the quote above, you believe David himself shall again occupy his throne in the future. Am i correct? I’m aware that many dispensationalists do believe this. That’s why i ask…
      If correct, why do you believe this to be true?

      “The LORD has sworn to David, A truth from which He will not turn back; ‘Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne.” (Psalm 132:11).

      The Psalm from which this statement is taken is of a group of Psalms that were used in worship at the temple of God at Jerusalem. They were each called “A Song of Ascent” and this one asks for the Lord to bless the sanctuary, or temple, sometimes referred to as “Zion” after the mount upon which it was built in Jerusalem.

      But this Psalm is also prophetic in nature, referring to a promise the Lord had made to David through the prophet Nathan years before. The promise had involved the establishment of a permanent king who would sit down on the throne of David forever. This King would be a descendant of David.

      “When your days are complete and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your descendant after you, who shall come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be a father to him and he will be a son to Me; when he commits iniquity, I will correct him with the rod of men and the strokes of the sons of men, but My lovingkindness will not depart from him, as I took it away from Saul, whom I removed before you. And your house and your kingdom shall endure before Me forever; your throne shall be established forever.” (2 Samuel 7:12-16)

      This promise to David was fulfilled.

      Building the Lord’s house (vs. 13). In one sense, it is Solomon who built the Lord’s house when he built the temple at Jerusalem. But Jesus also built a house for God; made of living stones; a spiritual temple; the church of Christ (1 Corinthians 3:16,17; Ephesians 2:19-22; 1 Peter 2:4,5).

      The establishment of the descendant’s kingdom (vs. 12). The Lord did establish Solomon’s kingdom. Under Solomon, the Kingdom of Israel prospered, reaching its zenith. But the physical kingdom of Israel was not established “forever” as it does not exist today. However, it did give birth to God’s spiritual kingdom. Jesus established this kingdom (Mark 9:1; John 18:36; Colossians 1:13) and it is indeed eternal and “cannot be shaken” (Hebrews 12:22-29)

      How The Prophecy Has Been Fulfilled.

      “Brethren, I may confidently say to you regarding the patriarch David that He both died and was buried, and His tomb is with us to this day. And so, because he was a prophet, and knew that God had sworn to him with an oath to seat one of his descendants upon his throne, he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Therefore, having been exalted to the right hand of God, He has poured forth this which you both see and hear.” (Acts 2:29-33). According to the Holy Spirit, communicating through Peter and the apostles, the promise to “seat one of (David’s) descendants upon his throne” was fulfilled by the resurrection and exaltation of the Lord Jesus to the right hand of God. “Therefore, let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ-this Jesus whom you crucified” (vs. 36).

      The Hebrew writer refers to Nathan’s prophecy as being fulfilled as well; “For to which of the angels did He say, ‘Thou art My Son, Today I have begotten Thee’? and again, ‘I will be a Father to Him, and He shall be a Son to Me’?” and “But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, o God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom.” (Hebrews 1:5,8).

      We have seen that Jesus has sat down on David’s spiritual throne, ruling over spiritual Zion, a kingdom which cannot be shaken.

      (The Throne of David: The Expository Files)

      Only one can occupy the throne, and it is Christ. As i said, im aware there is a teaching which claims David will (in the future kingdom) reign in Jerusalem alongside or directly under Christ, but i do not believe scripture supports this. Dispensationalist’s have used this scripture on occasion, to support their belief,

      In that day,’ declares the Lord Almighty,‘I will break the yoke off their neck and will tear off their bonds; no longer will foreigners enslave them. Instead, they will serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. (Jeremiah 30: 8-9)

      But we know, Christ (the Messiah) is referred to in this manner on many occasions throughout old testament prophecies: as David or son of David, as a “type” of the True King.

      I will place over them one shepherd, my servant David, and he will tend them; he will tend them and be their shepherd. I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David will be prince among them. I the LORD have spoken (Ezekiel 34:23-24)

      *Christ is promised under the name of his progenitor, David, Isaiah 55:3, Isaiah 55:4; Ezekiel 34:23, Ezekiel 34:24; Ezekiel 37:24, Ezekiel 37:25; Hosea 3:5. (Clarke’s notes)

  8. We’ve been preaching through Daniel and Revelation at my church – our elders hold to the optimist/amillennial view, using Dennis Johnson’s Triumph of the Lamb as the framework, emphasizing the symbolic meaning of so much of The Apocalypse (as if the name was not enough). The twelve tribes in ch 7 ain’t the Old Testament tribes of the Hebrew nation, the names of the tribes are all wrong – in the wrong order, with some wrong names. Those 144,000 (a very symbolic number emphatically representing the completeness of the gathered people, not a limited finite number) which are the 12 tribes are the true Israel of God – the redeemed in Christ. From every nation, tongue, and tribe. Those who came through the great tribulation (keep reading ch 7) to the glory of God at the end of the age. Ain’t no room in the redemptive story for any of Abraham’s children according to the flesh only his children according to the promise, the promise made by the faithful Witness – the Lamb of God will bring all those whom the Father has given Him to salvation and redemption and adoption as a trophy of grace to be presented back to Our Father at the end of time. Earth focused talk about earthly Israel has the wrong focus. Fix your eyes on the unseen and be drawn unto Him Who forgives sinners and reconciles wretches to Holy God and secures them until the Great White Throne Judgment when all works will be revealed and all the sheep of God will be found to be written in the Lamb’s Book of Life – and be welcomed to the wedding supper and the New Earth. Wow! How awesome is our God!

  9. When the scriptures speak of all Israel will be saved it is qualified by the verses just before it. That says, Rom_11:23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.

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Teaching Sound Doctrine & Glorifying Christ

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