Before continuing with the 4th part of this essay I wanted to go back to part one and a specific point brought up by the author:
That most of the Jews “returning” to Palestine never came from Palestine in the first place; that they are not even of the lineage of Shem. They are Gentile converts. This throws a massive curved ball from an eschatolgical standpoint at the idea of Jews returning to the modern State of Israel under divine sanction. In reality, upwards of 85% of today’s Jews are descended from the Khazars, according to the respected Encyclopaedia Judaica, Princeton Professor D.M. Dunlop’s The History of the Jewish Khazars, and Arthur Koestler’s The Thirteenth Tribe (Random House, N.Y., 1967)…..
Adam, at Pursuing Truth Blog posted a very informative article on this very topic back in August of this year and I want to share the link with any readers who are following this series: Who Are the Jews in Israel?
What makes this interesting is the fact of all genealogical records being destroyed in 70AD when the city of Jerusalem and Temple both were destroyed by fire. We know from biblical accounts of our Lord’s very words, (and even OT prophecy) what occurred in 70AD was an act of God’s judgment. In light of this knowledge, the complete destruction of ALL genealogical records can be said to have been an “act of God” as well. I believe both historically and theologically, that this is an important fact; God saw to it no records survived.
What are we to take away from this? Would like to hear anyone’s thoughts on this. WHY would God have ensured no genealogical records survived?
Continuing with part (4)
3. THE REAL HOPE FOR ISRAEL IS NOT A RESTORATION TO THE LAND OF ISRAEL BUT TO JESUS CHRIST AT HIS FIRST COMING
The O.T. prophecies which appear to speak of the restoration of the nation Israel to a land inheritance were either fulfilled at the end of the exile in Babylon or are to be understood to refer figuratively to the gathering under the Messiah at His first coming. This is where the real point of resistance to Bible teaching occurs. The failure to accept that the Lord can speak figuratively when uttering prophecies in the Old Testament about the future restoration of Israel is one of the main causes of confusion concerning its proper inheritance.
One of the main problems here is that it is assumed by so many professing Christians today — especially those who believe that there is still a place for the theocratic nation Israel in God’s purposes today — that if one interprets an O.T. prophecy figuratively rather than literally then it implies a liberal, even apostate, approach to Scripture. However this is a false deduction. It is certainly true that liberal theologians allegorise the Word of God in the places at which it should be taken literally. But that does not mean that one should never under- stand any Scripture figuratively, for fear of being a liberal theologian! For example, when we read that an angel came down from heaven, “having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand” (Rev.20:1), are we to take that literally? Is it an actual material chain with metal links which is being spoken of here? And if one takes that chain figuratively does that make one apostate? Surely not! Is it not true that every single Christian has taken that chain to be figurative — interpreting it figuratively rather than literally?
However, when it comes to O.T. prophecies about Israel, so many folk are suddenly overcome with a fit of hyper-literalism and begin to denounce anyone who dares to spiritualise a text in any way. While it is obviously true that there are dangers in consistent allegorisation and that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation” (2 Pet.1:20), there are sound rules which we can follow which have even been laid down for us in the Word of God. Let us demonstrate with a classic example. Take Amos 9:11-15, which says:
“On that day I will raise up the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down, and repair its dam- ages; I will raise up its ruins, and rebuild it as in the days of old; that they may possess the remnant of Edom, and all the Gentiles who are called by My name, says the LORD who does this thing. Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him who sows seed; the moun- tains shall drip with sweet wine, and all the hills shall flow with it. I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; they shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; they shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. I will plant them in their land, and no longer shall they be pulled up from the land I have given them, Says the LORD your God”.
On the face of it, if one was to take this passage absolutely literally, it appears to be a prophecy of the rebuilding of the earthly temple in Jerusalem, and the restoration of God’s people Israel to the land. However, although that may be the way it looks to the casual reader, if we want to be true to the Word, we have to take into account the fact that this passage is interpreted for us very differently elsewhere in Scripture. For when some Judaisers were causing problems in the early Church by saying that converted Gentiles needed to be circumcised in order to be saved, a council was called to make a ruling on the matter. After the debate had taken place, everyone present fell silent and James issued his wisdom:
“Men and brethren, listen to me: Simon has declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles to take out of them a people for His name. And with this the words of the prophets agree, just as it is written: ‘After this I will return And will rebuild the tabernacle of David, which has fallen down; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will set it up; so that the rest of mankind may seek the LORD, even all the Gentiles who are called by My name, Says the LORD who does all these things’. Known to God from eternity are all His works”. (Acts 15:13-18)
Do you see what James is saying? He quotes here the precise text from Amos 9 which many have taken literally as being a reference to a future earthly restoration of the nation Israel to the land. However, we are here being furnished with a model of correct exegesis when- ever we are confronted with Old Testament texts which seem to imply an earthly restoration of the Davidic kingdom and the bringing back under its dominion of the neighbouring non-Israelite nations over which David had once ruled.
The unbelieving Jew of today, with a veil over his eyes when he reads the Bible, will only ever see an earthly kingdom and an earthly dominion, just as did unenlightened Jewry at the time of Christ (Jn.6.15; 18:36; Lk.17:20; Acts 1:6).
AND to his support will come the over-literalistic, fundamentalist Christians of today who have failed to follow James’s lead in sound Bible interpretation.
For James, here in Acts 15:13-18, is plainly revealing that the rebuilding of “the tabernacle of David” referred to in Amos 9 is a figurative reference to the building of the Church of the New Covenant in Jesus Christ, into which would come the Gentiles. In fact, James is here showing that the Bible certainly does teach a form of “replacement theology”. The New Tes- tament Church has replaced the Old Testament tabernacle and temple, which was the heart and soul of the theocratic nation of Israel (cf. 2 Cor.6:16; Eph.2:21). The Church is the Israel of God today! That is precisely what James reveals and that is precisely what the neo-judaisers refuse to accept.
This is why we say — in answer to the claim that the Middle-Eastern nation-state of Israel today is a fulfilment of Bible prophecy — that the real hope for Israel is not a restoration to an earthly territory but to Jesus Christ at His first coming.
We can adduce further proof of this mighty fact from the words of the Apostles. For example, when Paul arrived in Rome, he called a meeting of the leaders of the Jews to present his case before them. During his discourse, Paul tells them why he was a prisoner:
“For this reason therefore I have called for you, to see you and speak with you, because for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain”. (Acts 28:20)
What was this “hope of Israel” for which Paul had been indicted? What message of hope for Israel had Paul been preaching that was so offensive to the Jews? Was it a future restoration of Israel to the land under an earthly king like David? Not at all, for that would have been perfectly acceptable. In his great commentary, Matthew Henry gives an illustrative paraphrase of Paul’s words to the Jewish leaders here, which plainly reveals the identity of the true “hope of Israel”:
“They would have you still expect a Messiah that would free you from the Roman yoke, and make you great and prosperous upon earth, and it is this that occupies their thoughts; and they are angry at me for directing their expectations to the great things of another world, and persuading them to embrace a Messiah who will secure those to them, and not external power and grandeur. I am for bringing you to the spiritual and eternal bless- edness upon which our fathers by faith had their eye, and this is what they hate me for,— because I would take you off from that which is the cheat of Israel, and will be its shame and ruin, the notion of a temporal Messiah, and lead you to that which is the true and real hope of Israel, and the genuine sense of all the promises made to the fathers, a spiritual kingdom of holiness and love set up in the hearts of men, to be the pledge of, and preparative for, the joyful resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come.’’
What a masterly summary this is by Matthew Henry of the meaning behind Paul’s words. The “cheat of Israel” has always been the continued notion of a temporal Messiah and an earthly kingdom in the land. But the “true and real hope of Israel” is the spiritual kingdom which has its roots in the death and resurrection of the Messiah, the Lord Jesus Christ and which finds its only earthly expression in the Church which is called out by His name. The true hope of Israel is
“The Deliverer” (who) “will come out of Zion, and He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins” (Rom.11:25- 26).
Sins can only be taken away by the blood of Christ in His New Covenant; and it is this which is the real hope of Israel.
This is why we find that all the godly, pious Jews such as Simeon, who were alive around the time of the Incarnation, were “waiting for the Consolation of Israel” (Lk.2:25). So for people like Simeon, Anna, Zacharias, Mary, Joseph and all the rest of the godly remnant of Israel who were alive when the Son of God came in the flesh, the fulfilment of the Jewish kingdom centred not on any restoration to the land but on belief in and union with the Lord Jesus Christ as the “Hope of Israel” and the “Consolation of Israel”. There is never the remotest hint in the gospels — nor in the rest of the New Testament — that the hope of Israel lies in a restoration to the land. Indeed, we see clearly from the Scriptures that the eye of faith enabled even the godly believers of the Old Testament to focus on something beyond a piece of real estate in the Middle East! For example, we are told that
“by faith Abraham dwelt in the land of promise as in a foreign country, dwelling in tents with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise; for he waited for the city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God”. (Heb.11:9-10)
Those Patriarchs knew that there was something beyond the promised territory on earth. Indeed, rather than revel in any territorial rights to land they
“confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. For those who say such things declare plainly that they seek a homeland. And truly if they had called to mind that country from which they had come out, they would have had opportunity to return. But now they desire a better, that is, a heav- enly country. Therefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for He has prepared a city for them.” (Heb.11:13-16)
That was the knowledge that all godly believers held dear in the Old Testament times. Their hope was in a heavenly country, a city prepared by God. What city is that? The answer lies in the next chapter of this letter:
“But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusa- lem, to an innumerable company of angels, to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel”. (Heb.12:22-24)
The city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, is none other than the Church of the New Covenant mediated by Jesus Christ, the fulfilment of the promise to Abraham that in his descendants all nations of the earth would be blessed. And we find this heavenly Jerusalem referred to by Paul in his extraordinary allegory in Gal.4:24-26, where he speaks of the difference between the Old and New Covenants.
First there is “the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage…and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is [i.e. the earthly nation of Israel]”, and then there is “the Jerusalem above [the New Covenant community]” which “is free, which is the mother of us all”, that is, all of us who are the people of God in the Gospel Age.
So the “heavenly city” to which the patriarchs looked forward was the Church of Jesus Christ made up of both Jews and Gentiles. This is why the Lord Jesus said that Abraham “rejoiced” to see His day (Jn.8:56). A transition in redemptive history has occurred which any godly Jew would have expected:
The transition from an earthly nation (Ex.19:5-6) to a spiritual nation (1 Pet.2:9-10), from an earthly Jerusalem to a heavenly one, from incessant corporeal sacrifices of lambs, goats and bulls, to a once for all time spiritual sacrifice of the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of Jews and those from every nation of the world, if they believe (Jn.10:14-16; 11:49-52).
For four hundred years there had been an awesome silence of divine revelation. Just as the whole creation groans now, as it awaits the full revealing of those who are sons of God by adoption, so the world was then filled with pregnant longing for the appearance of the expected One who is the Son of God by nature. And as the time approached it must almost have been possible to cut the spiritual air in Israel with a knife.
At that time Zacharias, Elizabeth, Mary, Simeon and Anna and all the rest of the remnant were waiting for their Hope, their Consolation (Lk.2:25). They were not looking for an earthly king to lead a revolt against the Roman occupiers (although Judas might have been). They were not waiting for a restoration to the land. Theirs was a spiritual hope. As Simeon said:
“LORD, now You are letting Your servant depart in peace, according to Your word; For my eyes have seen Your salvation which You have pre- pared before the face of all peoples, a light to bring revelation to the Gentiles, And the glory of Your people Israel”. (Lk.2:29-32)
The hope of Israel was also the hope of the Gentiles. And that hope did not rest on a mere piece of land in the Middle East. It was the hope of salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ. And when the Incarnate Son of God grew and called out disciples from the godly remnant of the Jews, these became the firstfruits of the New Covenant people — a spiritual nation which would consist of both Jews and Gentiles together.
Therefore, for all the above reasons we believe that the Middle-Eastern nation-state of Israel today cannot possibly be a fulfilment of the Bible prophecies which speak of a restoration of Israel.
To be continued…