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Does the Nation of Israel Have an End Time Role?

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Two Major Problems

I have found several conflicts in the Bible relating to the idea that the nation of Israel has a prophetic role during the Great Tribulation. Since this response has to be short due to the length of this article, I would like to present two significant problems. The first concerns the Old and New Covenants. The second problem concerns the rapture, the 70th week and the judgment of Christ.

Problem 1: Two different Covenants – Two Different Schematics

Many Christians believe that salvation’s prerequisites change from dispensation to dispensation. In other words, advocates of dispensationalism believe that a person is saved in different ways at different times throughout history. I cannot accept this teaching because I believe that salvation – from Genesis through Revelation – always comes through faith. Hebrews 11 (New Testament) obviously indicates that salvation came through faith during Old Testament times.  In fact, I believe the Bible teaches that faith in God (a willful submission to the call and will of God) was necessary in Heaven before sin began  and I believe that faith in God will be necessary throughout eternity.  Lucifer and one - third of the angels were cast out of Heaven because they refused to trust God. Adam and Eve sinned because they did not trust God. God’s children, whether fallen or unfallen, sinful or sinless, are called to live a life of faith. Absolute trust in God is the only way finite beings can live with an infinite God “whose ways are not our ways.” (Isaiah 55:9)

Abraham had a heart for God. When God called Abraham to leave his home, the Bible says that by faith Abraham “went out, not knowing whither he went.” (KJV, Hebrews 11:8) Abraham’s departure from home required a lot of faith in God and the Bible states that God counted Abraham as a righteous man because of his faith! (Genesis 15:6) In other words, because of his faith, God considered Abraham a saint instead of a sinner he actually was.  (Romans 1:17; 4:16, Galatians 3:9) Remember, this happened before God made a covenant with the nation of Israel. Because Abraham humbly walked with God (lived in harmony with God’s calling and will), Jesus honored Abraham’s faith by making three unconditional promises to him. First, Jesus promised to give Abraham’s descendants the land of Canaan. (Genesis 15:18) Second, Jesus promised a childless Abraham that his descendants would someday be as numerous as the stars in the sky. (Genesis 15:5) Third, Jesus promised Abraham that all nations would be blessed through him. (Genesis 18:18)

About four hundred years after making these promises. Jesus miraculously delivered Abraham’s descendants from Egyptian slavery and took them into the desert to prepare them for service. These slaves were the descendants of Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, whose name had been changed to Israel because of his faith in God. At mount Sinai Jesus entered into a covenant with the nation of Israel. It is important to understand that God’s covenant with the nation of Israel was not for the purpose of salvation. God does not save people in groups. Salvation is an intimate, personal matter. Salvation comes to one person at a time when he surrenders his life to God’s control (lives by faith).

The covenant that God offered the nation of Israel was that of serving as trustees of His gospel. From the beginning of sin, the plan of salvation has operated as a living trust. A living trust has three elements: A benefactor, one of more trustees, and one or more beneficiaries. In a living trust, the benefactor chooses trustees to deliver his benefits to his beneficiaries. Prior to Mount Sinai, the patriarchs were the trustees of the gospel. They spoke for God and the gospel preached contained important information that was otherwise unknown. After God dispersed humanity at the Tower of Babel and nations formed, He decided to use one nation to reach al the other nations. So, God – the Benefactor – chose Israel as  trustee through which He would bless all nations (beneficiaries). The wonder thing about the eternal gospel is that whosoever will may come and enjoy the benefits of God’s salvation. As the Creator of mankind, God is not exclusive; instead, He is inclusive. At Mount Sinai the nation of Israel agreed to do whatever the Lord commanded. (Exodus 24:3) It is most important to understand the nature and structure of God’s covenant because God’s covenant with Israel was conditional from the beginning.  Look at two passages (there are many) from the Old Testament showing that the covenant between God and the nation of Israel was conditional: 

1.  “Then Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him from the mountain and said, ‘This is what you are to say to the house of Jacob and what you are to tell the people of Israel: ‘You yourselves have seen what I did to Egypt, and how I carried you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. Now if you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.’” (Exodus 19:3-6, underlines mine)

2.  If you fully obey the Lord your God and carefully follow all his commands I give you today, the Lord your God will set you high above all the nations of earth… However, if you do not obey the Lord your God and do not carefully follow all his commands and decrees I am giving you today, all these curses will come upon you and overtake you.” (Deuteronomy 28: 1,15, underlines mine)

Fifteen hundred years after establishing His covenant with Israel at Mount Sinai, Jesus came to Earth as the Messiah. The very nation (Acts 3:15) that He had chosen to be His representatives on Earth rejected and killed Him. “He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him.” (John 1:11; Luke 20:9-16) The Old Testament is unmistakably clear! For 15 centuries, God did everything possible to get Israel to fulfill His objectives, but Israel rebelled at every turn. (Ezekiel 23, Romans 11:20,21) Israel’s rejection of Jesus as the Messiah was “the straw that broke the camel’s back.” The eternal gospel of Jesus could not be given to the world by a rebellious group of trustees. How could Israel teach the world about faith in God when a majority of people in Israel refused to live by faith? So, Jesus, the Benefactor, terminated His covenant with the nation of Israel by pronouncing this benediction:  “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often [over the past 1500 years] 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 [your nation] is left to you desolate [of God’s covenant, blessings and presence]. For I tell you, you will not see me [extending grace to this house ever] again until you [are forced by overwhelming circumstances to] say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord [at the Second Coming*], “’ Matthew 23:37-39, insertions mine, See Matthew 26:64 and Revelation 1:7.)

A few days after Jesus terminated His covenant with the nation of Israel, He implemented a New Covenant (Luke 22:20) because Jesus wants the benefits of His gospel to go throughout the whole Earth. Now, the New Covenant differs from the Old Covenant in two critical ways.  First, instead of choosing a nation of people to serve as trustees of the gospel, the New Covenant opens the door and allows “whosoever will” to become a trustee of the gospel. In the New Covenant, there is neither Jew or Gentile, male or female (these distinctions had been important in the Old Covenant). (Romans 10:12) Under the New Covenant, God approves every sinner who chooses to live by faith to serve as a trustee of the gospel of Jesus. Said another way, the Old Covenant pertained to a selected group of trustees, but the New Covenant pertains to a self-selecting group of trustees. One could also say that after Israel failed (Plan A), God created even a better covenant for those who would choose to participate in Plan B. (Romans 11:15, Hebrews 8:6) Keep in mind that a new covenant was required when the covenant with Israel was terminated because the plan of salvation operates as a living trust – there is a Benefactor, trustees, and beneficiaries.

The second difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant is profoundly important: These two covenants have different laws, different promises and different prophecies. Mixing and merging the terms and conditions of these two covenants will produce disastrous results. Millions of Protestants are hopelessly confused about Bible prophecy (including what will occur during the Great Tribulation) because pastors and theologians are mixing and merging the terms and conditions of the two covenants. The prophecies and promises given to ancient Israel under the Old Covenant will not be fulfilled because God terminated that covenant with the nation of Israel. Even though God abandoned the nation of Israel as trustees, any Jew who surrenders to the gospel of Christ by faith in Him can receive salvation because the New Covenant does not distinguish between Jews and Gentiles. (Early Jewish converts understood this concept well. See Romans 11:23.)

Consider this: The Old Covenant does not say one word about the Second Coming because everything in the Old Covenant centers around the First Coming which was supposed to be the only coming! Jesus would not have returned to Heaven and He would have established His kingdom on Earth just as John the Baptist predicted! (Mark 1:15) Everything promised and prophesied in the Old Testament would have been fulfilled just as it was written in the Old Covenant if Israel had remained faithful as trustees and had accepted Jesus Christ as Messiah. The past 2,000 year’s of Earth’s history would be entirely different than we now know it if Israel had met the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant. Sadly, the Old Covenant had to be terminated because Israel persistently refused to cooperate with God and accomplish His objectives. Therefore, God made a New Covenant for those who are faithful to Him.

 

Israel Redefined Not Displaced

Given this discussion on the two covenants, you may be wondering what all of this has to do with modern Israel and the end of the world. Here is the point: You might be surprised to learn that Jesus’ new trustees are also called “Israel” because He made three unconditional promises to Abraham. To fulfill these unconditional promises, Jesus had to redefine Israel: that is, Jesus redefined the “heirs of Abraham.” Consider this verse: “If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed [the Greek word for seed is sperma], and [therefore] heirs according to the promise [that will be fulfilled at the appointed time].” (Galatians 3:29, insertion mine) “It is not as though God’s word had failed [when He established the New Covenant]. For not all who are descended from Israel [Jacob] are [part of] Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children.  On the contrary, [biology means little to God. Faith means everything to God. This is why God said to Abraham] ‘It is through Isaac [the son who was promised to you and Sarah, not Ishmael] that your offspring will be reckoned.’ In other words, it is not the natural [biological] children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise [like Isaac, those who live by faith] who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.” (Romans 9:6-8, insertions mine)

The Apostle James knew that Israel had been redefined because he calls the believers in Christ the twelve tribes of Israel.  (See James 1:1 and 2:1.) Of course, current saints do not know which tribe is theirs, but this information will be clarified when the time comes for them to enter the Holy City. (By the way, no one belonging to the Jewish race today knows their biological tribe or origin either. The Roman army destroyed all of Israel’s genealogical records in the first century A.D.) So, biological origin, temple services, sacrificial offerings, circumcision, and all of the Old Covenant terms and conditions mean nothing to God today. (Galatians 2-4, Romans 2:28,29, Hebrews 7-10) God has terminated the Old Covenant, with its promises and prophecies, and has declared it null and void because there is a New Covenant, a group of trustees and new promises and prophecies.

Because the twelve tribes have been redefined, the 144,000 will come from all nations and religions. They are identified as the “twelve tribes” of Israel in Revelation 7 because the 144,000 will be people who have faith in God, just like Abraham and Jacob (also call Israel). These people will love God with all their heart, mind and soul as Abraham and Jacob did. Carefully study the passage and notice how Jesus defines the issue of ancestry: “’Abraham is our father,’ they answered.  ‘If you were Abraham’s children,’ said Jesus, ‘then you would do the things Abraham did. As it is, you are determined to kill me, a man who has told you the truth that I heard from God. Abraham did not do such things…. You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire…’” (John 8:39-44, emphasis mine) If our behavior reflects the faith of Abraham, God considers us children and heirs of Abraham. If our behavior reflects the rebellion of the devil, God considers us children of the devil.

Throughout the ages, the saints of God have been tested with persecution and the same holds true for the Great Tribulation. (Revelation 3:9, 12:17, 13:7) The Great Tribulation will separate people of faith from people of rebellion. Thus, in the end, all Israel will be saved (Romans 11:26) because the Israel of God (the descendants of Abraham) consists only of people who have a faith in God like Abraham and Jacob. When the Israel of god goes marching into New Jerusalem at the Second Coming, the twelve tribes will enter through their respective gates! (Revelation 21:12) Think about that glorious day! When the time arrives for all of Abraham’s children to enter into the Holy city, twelve great processions will form, and after marching through those pearly gates, a numberless group of “Jews” will gather around the throne of God and together as one man, they will bow down before Jesus, the Messiah, the eternal King of the Jews. (Mark 15:2, John 19:19-22)

A thousand years later, when the Holy city comes down from God out of Heaven and lands on Earth, the three unconditional promises made to Abraham will THEN be fulfilled. (1) The Holy City will physically encompass all of the land that was promised to the patriarch. Abraham’s descendants will possess the land, and the Holy city will be their home throughout eternity. Incidentally, the Holy City, built by God Himself, is the city that Abraham anticipated. (Hebrews 11:10) (2) When the saints of all ages are gathered around the throne, Abraham’s heirs will be as numberless as the stars in the sky. They will come from all nations and religious backgrounds, and a “once childless” Abraham will rejoice as he looks over the vast throng. Among the redeemed, Abraham will be known as “the father of the faithful.” (3) Last, there will be rejoicing throughout Heaven at the end of sin’s drama because the redeemed will realize that all nations were truly blessed with the gift of salvation through Abraham’s seed. Jesus, the Lamb of God and the Lion from the tribe of Judah, will be eternally praised to the highest Heavens for the salvation that He so generously provided to all who were willing to live by faith. Thus, the three unconditional promises given to Abraham will be fulfilled.

 

The salient point is that in this marvelous drama, the modern nation of Israel is not in the picture. The establishment of modern Israel is no different than the recent establishment of Serbia. Neither event is prophetically significant. For further study, please review these four articles:


http://www.wake-up.org/daystar/ds2006/jan.htm
http://www.wake-up.org/Revelation/Rev144.htm
http://www.wake-up.org/Alpha/Chapter7.htm
http://www.wake-up.org/Alpha/Chapter8.htm.

 

 


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