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The Hope of Israel: What the Fathers of Israel and the Apostles were looking for

If you’ve not been following the earlier posts containing excerpts from Philip Mauro’s book, The Hope of Israel: What Is It?, please see:

The impossibility of a restoration of the earthly nation of Israel and other abolished shadows of the old covenant

The Hope of Israel: What Is It?

Old Testament Prophecies of Blessing to Israel

O.T. Prophecies to Israel: Interpreted by Paul

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. For by it the elders obtained a good report. Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh. By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God. But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him. By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith. 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: 1-10 and 13-16 )

From the last post,

The Scriptures we have been reviewing make it plain that “the hope of Israel” was to be realized in the resurrection. Christ was to suffer, to die, and to rise again; He the first, and afterward they that are His (1 Cor. 15:23). There is no other hope for Israel, and never was. If the promise of God to Israel had been earthly dominion, or if that had been even a part of the promise, it is impossible that Paul should not have declared it on the occasions to which we have referred, and should not have spoken of it in his Epistles- especially Romans….. 

We turn back now to the Old Testament Scriptures for the purpose of ascertaining what is foretold therein concerning the future of the Israelitic people, and particularly what, if any, indication they contain as to the restoration of their national greatness in a yet future day.

And first we direct our attention to the patriarchal era, in order to learn what it was that the fathers of Israel were taught of the Lord to anticipate for themselves and their posterity. This is the proper place to begin our inquiry; for we recall that when Paul was arraigned before King Herod Agrippa by his infuriated fellow countrymen, because he preached a hope for Israel radically different from that held and taught by them and their rabbis, he declared that he was “judged for the hope of the promise made of God to our fathers.” And he went on to say that God’s promise to the fathers was the true hope of all Israel – “our twelve tribes” (Ac. 26:6,7).

It is written that “faith is the substance of things hoped for.” If, therefore, we know what a man is hoping for, we know what he believes. “The faith of Jesus Christ” is that on which is founded “the hope of the gospel” (Col. 1:23); and there is just the “one hope” for all men (Eph. 4:4); because there is but one gospel (and never was, or will be, “another gospel.” Gal. 1:6-9). The hope of the gospel has ever been the coming of Him who should bruise the serpent’s head, and who should be Himself “bruised” in the deadly conflict; Him who by death should destroy him, that had the power of death, the Devil.

It is fitting that the faith of Abraham should have a large space in the eleventh chapter of Hebrews; for Abraham is “the father of all them that believe” (Rom. 4:11). That chapter does not state what the gospel was that “God preached unto Abraham” (Gal. 3:8); but it tells what the effect thereof was upon his life and conduct, and what his hope was, that is, what he was looking for.

It is recorded that – By faith he sojourned in the land of promise as in a strange (or foreign) country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise” (v. 9) And verse 10 gives the explanation – “For he looked (lit. was waiting for) the (not a) city which hath foundations, whose Builder and Maker is God.”

Mention is made also of Sarah’s faith, which was also an important factor in the accomplishment of the purposes of God, and who is herself a type of that heavenly city upon which Abraham’s hope was fixed…the “Jerusalem which is above, which is the mother of all” (Gal. 4:26). And further, it is expressly declared that Isaac and Jacob were co-heirs with Abraham of “the same promise” (v. 9). And then, concerning those four – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and Sarah, to whom “the promises” were directly given, we have this illuminating testimony:

“These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off; and were persuaded [fully convinced] 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 seek 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” (vv. 13-16).

This gives us clearly to know, first that “the promises” exerted a mighty influence over those to whom they were first given, (proving that their faith in what God had spoken was real and unwavering); and second, that the nature of the promises were such as to turn their thoughts entirely away from the earth, and to raise in their hearts the expectation of a country “better” than the very best of earth. For those promises had the effect of making even “the land of promise” itself to be to them as a foreign country. For while the land of Canaan was indeed promised to Abraham’s natural seed, that promise never was “the hope of Israel.” The hope of the gospel which God preached to Abraham was of such a nature that it caused him, and those who were “the heirs with him of the same promise,” to declare themselves “strangers and pilgrims on the earth.”

As will be more fully shown in subsequent Chapters, God’s promise that He would bring Abraham’s descendants into that land was punctually fulfilled.

For it is recorded in the Book of Joshua that “the Lord gave unto Israel all the land which he sware unto their fathers to give them, and they possessed it, and dwelt therein… There failed not ought of any good thing which the Lord hath spoken unto the house of Israel” (Josh. 21:43-45).

But the possession of that land by later generations was forfeited through disobedience, apostasy, and idolatry, even as Moses and Joshua foretold; and, in consequence of their complete repudiation of Jehovah their God, they were “plucked off the land” (Deut. 28:63,64; Joshua 12:13)…. It was not until centuries of time had passed, not until faith had vanished from among the children of Israel, not until the true spiritual and eternal character of the promises had faded out of sight, and fleshly lusts had taken the place of heavenly hopes and longings, that there arose among the natural seed of Abraham the ruinous doctrine that “the hope of Israel” was an earthly thing. That doctrine was the product of degenerate times. Should we not therefore regard that odious doctrine with abhorrence and fear? And should it not be a matter of anxious inquiry as to how it has arisen and spread itself among the true followers of Christ in these perilous times?

And now we come to the passage we are examining, Hebrews XI. It is found in verse 16, where it is announced that the fathers of Israel desired “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”; and from Revelation 21:2,3, we learn that He will dwell with them in that city forever. Here is truth of the highest importance and most practical character.

These words give us the explanation of the fact that the Eternal God, the Almighty Creator, He who is infinite in power, wisdom and holiness, condescends to call Himself “the God of Abraham, of Isaac and of Jacob” (Ex. 3:6, 16; Matt. 22:32). There could be no more emphatic assertion of the oneness of God’s elect, the true “seed of Abraham” (Gal. 3:7,29), and of the truly fundamental truth that there is just “one hope,” one “common salvation” for them all, whether by nature they be Jews or Gentiles. And there could not be a more impressive refutation of the erroneous doctrine – now current amongst certain groups of Christians – that the biblical “hope of Israel” is a thing of earthly place and dominion. This is surely “another gospel,” very different indeed from the gospel God preached unto Abraham.

We should take notice in this connection of the fact that the apostles of Christ, and they who follow their teaching, were (and are) looking for the very same things which were in the vision of the fathers of Israel; for as Peter – writing “to them that have obtained like precious faith with us” (the apostles of Christ) says:

“We, according to His promise, look for new heavens and a new earth wherein dwelleth righteousness” (2 Pet. 3:13).

Thus the outlook of the true Israel of God, that “holy nation” which is, and always was, composed only of those who are “of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all” (Rom. 4:16), was ever the same. And it was, as we should expect, a radically different outlook from that of the apostate Jews, who looked for an age (or “dispensation” as it is now called) of earthly glory for the reconstituted Jewish nation; an age in which that nation will occupy the place of dominance.

Indeed the entire chapter bears strong testimony against that doctrine. The general subject of the chapter is “the promise of His coming” (v. 4); and its special purpose is to warn the Lord’s people of what would seem to them a long delay in His second coming and to assure them that the Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some would regard it, but that the reason for the seeming delay was because of the long suffering of God, and of His desire that not any should perish, but that all should come to repentance (vv. 3-9).

To all that give due attention to this passage it must surely be evident that what is immediately to follow this day of salvation for all men is “the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men” (v. 7), “the day of the Lord” (v. 10), “the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (v. 12).

If this present day of salvation were to be followed by a day of glory, peace and prosperity for the earth, a day in which the entire Jewish nation and other nations as well, are to be saved, there would be no long suffering and mercy in prolonging the Saviour’s absence; but just the reverse. The apostle’s reason for the delay is valid only if the return of the Lord is to usher in the day of judgment, and if it coincides with “the coming of the day of God.” The apostle reminds us that the world that existed in the time of Noah, “being overflowed with water, perished”; and goes on to say that,

“the heavens and earth which are now… are kept in store” – not for a thousand years of peace and plenty, but – “reserved unto fire” (v. 7).

(* I sincerely hope someone will share their thoughts on this and other verses in 2 Peter in relation to the teaching of a 1000 year Millennial Kingdom: I’d be very interested to hear your thoughts.*)

In verse 10 he warns us, as do other Scriptures (Mat. 24:42; 1 Thess. 5:2; Rev. 16:15), that our Lord’s coming will take the world by surprise; and he couples the warning with information which shuts out all possibility of a millennial dispensation to follow His coming; for the apostle says:

“But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat; the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up.”

And then he admonishes us as to what our “conversation” (manner of life) ought to be in view of the immanency of these exterminating judgments; and that we should be “looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens, being on fire, shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat” (v. 12).

To be continued


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