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The Christian Counter

 


Israel’s Failures

 

Israel’s history is one of apostasy, time and time again. After the Babylonian captivity, Israel’s apostasy went from bad to worse. Instead of becoming a people who loved God with all their hearts, minds and soul’s and their neighbors as themselves, Israel’s religion was hijacked by a sect of religious zealots (the Pharisees) who created a corrupted version of Judaism that was worse than before. Instead of worshiping and exalting the God of Heaven, they ended up worshiping and exalting false religion. Of course, if you had asked a Pharisee if he hated God, he would have indignantly said, “Absolutely not!” If you had asked him at the crucifixion if he hated Jesus of Nazareth, (who was God in the flesh) he would have said “Yes, absolutely!” As I have written before, the devil’s ultimate deception occurs when people believe right is wrong and wrong is right.

 

Jesus deliberately chose to begin His ministry at the peak of Israel’s apostasy. In spite of the signs and wonders Jesus performed, Israel rejected Him because He spoke the Word of God. “He [the Word] was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10, insertion mine) Because Israel wanted nothing to do with the Word of God or the gospel commission, Jesus abolished His covenant with Israel. He divorced Himself from the biological offspring of Abraham with this decree: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house [of worship] is left to you desolate [empty]. [As a nation you have no further part or place in my plans.] For I tell you, you will not see me [striving to win your hearts] again [I will not be found by this people] until you [see me sitting beside the Father and are forced by my consuming glory to] say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’ Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its [magnificent] buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?” he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down [in A.D. 70 by the Romans].’” (Matthew 23:37-24:2, see also Matthew 26:64. Insertions mine)

 

The bottom line is sad, but simple: The trusteeship of the gospel was taken from Israel and given to the Christians. Israel’s lampstand was removed and seven lampstands took its place! 

 

Christianity: The Seven Lampstands

 

When Jesus terminated His covenant with Israel, He created a new and better covenant (Hebrews 8:6), and all who choose to enter into the covenant constitute a new Israel who will inherit the New Jerusalem. Jesus established a new covenant because he wants His gospel of salvation and truth delivered to the whole world. (Note: God loves the Gentiles just as much as He loves those who are called to labor for the Gentiles! (Romans 3:29) The transition from the old covenant to the new covenant confuses a lot of people. Here are two important things that every Christian should understand about this transition:

 

First, the promises and prophecies given to ancient Israel under the old covenant were abandoned when the old covenant was terminated. This means that since the cross, God recognizes Israel as a Gentile nation. Israel lost their favored status, their trusteeship, through rebellion. Because God’s covenant with Israel was a mutual covenant (like a marriage), God was set free from Israel because Israel was unfaithful. (Ezekiel 23) Many Christians do not understand the bilateral nature of God’s covenant with Abraham’s offspring. To make matters worse, they do not understand the termination of the old covenant with its promises and prophecies, and as a result, they continue to lift passages from the Old Testament and apply them to the end time. This errant practice has produced a series of prophetic concepts that are totally misleading. Millions of people are now anticipating prophetic events that will not occur.

 

The second issue that confuses a lot of people today is the identity of Israel. The new covenant redefines the seed (the sperm) of Abraham. “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” (Galatians 3:28,29) God redefined Israel because God’s covenant with Abraham is not conditional. The covenant God gave to Abraham was unilateral – one sided. Jesus made three promises to Abraham that He will keep. First, He promised Abraham would become the father of many nations. (Genesis 17:4) Second, God told Abraham that all nations would be blesses through his offspring. (Genesis 18:18) Last, God promised to give the land where Abraham lived to his descendants. (Genesis 15:18) Notice how these three promises will be fulfilled: At the Second Coming, a numberless multitude from every kindred, tribe, and nation will be redeemed because they put their faith in Christ just like Abraham. (Revelation 7:9) Thus, Abraham will be called the father of the “faith-full” from many nations. When the New Jerusalem descends from Heaven at the end of the 1.000 years, it will physically encompass all of the land promised to Abraham. (Revelation 21:16) Thus, Abraham’s seed will inherit the land. Finally, because Jesus came through Abraham’s lineage, people from every nation will be saved and this fulfills the promise that all nations will be blessed through Abraham’s offspring. (Acts 4:12; Galatians 3:14; Ephesians 2) All three promises made to Abraham will be fulfilled – but not with Abraham’s biological offspring!

 

Paul leaves no wiggle room on the redefinition of Israel. “A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is on inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God.”       

(Romans 2:28,29) If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed [the Greek word for seed is sperma], and [as a descendant of Abraham you are] heirs according to the promise [which God gave to Abraham].” (Galatians 3:29, insertions mine) So, many Christians are grossly misled on this topic. Modern Israel has no prophetic role or spiritual importance during the end time. On the other hand, the new Israel – the Israel redefined by the new covenant – will take center stage. The new Israel is both the target of Lucifer and the bride of Christ which Jesus is coming back to receive. At the second Coming, Jesus will “airlift” Abraham and all of his faith-full heirs (both from the dead and the living) to live in the New Jerusalem!

 

Removing One and Installing Seven

 

The abandonment of Israel and the establishment of Christianity has been briefly discussed in this study so that you can understand why seven lampstands replaced the lampstand that once stood before the Lord in Heaven’s temple. The seven lampstands represent a new covenant – a new trusteeship for the gospel of Christ. “It is not as though God’s word has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel [Jacob] are Israel [God’s children]…. In other words, it is not the natural children [of Jacob] who are God’s children, but it is the children of promise [people who live by faith as did Abraham] who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:6,8)  Unlike the old covenant that is based on bloodline, the new covenant is an open covenant. It is based on the blood of Jesus. Anyone can become a believer in Christ, and through Jesus, receive all that was promised to Abraham!

 

You should now be able to see why seven golden lampstands replaced Israel’s lampstand. John writes, “On the Lord’s Day I was in the Spirit, and I heard behind me a loud voice like a trumpet, which said: ‘Write on a scroll what you see and send it to the seven churches: to Ephesus, Smyrna, Pergamum, Thyatira, Sardis, Philadelphia and Laodicea.’ I turned around to see the voice that was speaking to me. And when I turned I saw seven golden lampstands, and among the lampstands was someone ‘like a son of man,’ dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. His head and hair were white as wool, as white as snow, and his eyes were like blazing fire. His feet were like bronze glowing in a furnace, and his voice was like the sound of rushing waters.” (Revelation 1:10-15, italics mine)

 

Even though there were more than seven churches in Asia Minor in A.D, 95 when God gave John this vision, Jesus chose these specific seven churches to represent the whole of Christianity. Together, the seven churches had all the strengths and problems that every Christian church faces. Jesus foreknew that some Christians would fall into the Ephesus experience, that is, they would lose their first love. Jesus also foreknew that some Christians would have the Laodicean experience, that is, they would become lukewarm – distracted from the rigor of living by faith through the comforts of pleasure and wealth. Other Christians would be corrupted by sexual immorality like Thyatira and Pergamum.      

In 95 A.D. Jesus selected seven churches (seven is a whole number in God’s system of counting) – six churches have serious problems and one church is hanging on under very difficult circumstances – so that He could praise the good and identify the bad in each case. Unfortunately, the testimony of Jesus to the seven churches did not keep the seven churches from falling into apostasy.

 

Before we go a step farther, notice that Jesus threatened the church at Ephesus with abandonment. “To the angel of the church in Ephesus write: These are the words of him who holds the seven stars in his right hand and walks among the seven golden lampstands: I know your deeds, your hard work and your perseverance. I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false. You have persevered and have endured hardships for my name, and have not grown weary. Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first. If you do not repent, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place.” (Revelation 2:1-5)

 

Given that Israel’s lampstand had been removed at the end of the seventy weeks, the words of Jesus must be treated seriously. His threat, even though directed at Ephesus, also holds true for the other six churches because Ephesus was a part of the whole – one of the seven. I am highlighting this threat because the seven churches did not last long. They turned their backs on the Lord during the next seventy weeks (490 years). By A.D. 538, Christianity was in total apostasy.

 

The history of Christianity does not address or lament the disappearance of the seven churches. However, we know they ceased to exist for several reasons: First, Roman Caesars Decius (A.D. 249-251) and Diocletian (A.D. 284-305), issued decrees that all Christians in the Roman Empire were to be experimented. Second, if any of the seven churches escaped these purges, they either acquiesced to the demands of Constantine (A.D. 306-337) and the heresies taught by the Church at Rome, or they simply disappeared and went underground. Finally, Islamic conquests in Asia Minor during the seventh and eighth centuries A.D. terminated the existence of all Christian churches in a region that is modern day Turkey. Even though the seven churches disappeared, God’s Word was not totally extinguished. “The woman [faithful believers] fled to the desert to a place prepared for her by God, where she might be taken care of for 1,260 days.”

(Revelation 12:6)

 

By the sixth century A.D., the Christian church in Rome was powerful, full of heresy, and willing to destroy anyone who rebelled against its authority. The church’s slide into apostasy parallels Israel’s history. History proves that human beings, whether Jew or Christian, are the same. We have already discussed the fall of Israel and the disappearance of the seven churches. Those loving the Word of God went underground because the devil chased the woman into the wilderness for 1,260 years. During this millennium of persecution, history describes two versions of Christianity. One church is lavishly headquartered at Rome and the other church is destitute, hiding in the desert. The world is in the dark and which is why this period of time is called the Dark Ages. (538-1798)             


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