(Psalm 33: 11-12) “But the plans of the Lord stand firm forever, the purposes of His heart through all generations. Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord, the people He chooses for his inheritance.”
An everlasting possession
In our last study we have seen from God’s Word that Israel are still God’s chosen people and that because of His covenant of blood sworn to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob the people of Israel would inherit the whole land of Israel to be for them “an everlasting possession” from the Wadi of Egypt to the River Euphrates and everything in between including the West bank, the Golan Heights, Gaza, and a portion of Syria terminating at the Euphrates River. Furthermore God made the New Covenant with the House of Israel and with the House of Judah and not with the Church. The Church by incorporation and inclusion become part of the commonwealth of Israel. We also discovered that God called the nation Israel, not Palestine and that it was the descendants of Isaac who would inherit the land and not Ishmael’s descendants who became the Arab nations. We also discovered from God’s Word that He has not forgotten His ancient people or cast them off but at the end of this age will save a faithful remnant in Israel and restore the nation to its former glory. We also discovered that what happened at Pentecost will happen again in Israel just before the Lord Jesus comes back. So let’s continue to look at Israel from God’s perspective.
1. The Church is not Israel
The Bible does not call the Church “spiritual Israel” or “the new Israel” as these titles came from the early Church fathers going all the way back to Augustine who held this view. They made their interpretations based on their theology and on the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church and not on the clear teaching of God’s Word the Bible. There are 79 references to Israel in the New Testament and they never refer to the Church. There are only three references used in the New Testament that describes believers in Jesus and they are used in a restricted sense to refer to those Jewish people who have believed in Jesus as their Messiah. A true Jew of course was one circumcised in heart by the Holy Spirit. The apostle Paul understood this when he wrote; “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 one 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) Paul also wrote; “It is not as though God’s word had failed. For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” (Romans 9: 6) and again he wrote; “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16)
The circumcision of the heart is what counts
In these verses the apostle Paul clearly tells us that real circumcision was the outward sign of the inward change of heart and in that sense everyone who is born again and has saving faith in Jesus is a true and genuine descendent of Abraham whether they are Jew or Gentile. God’s revealed will and purpose is the New Creation by the Spirit and that everyone who has been born again is spiritually united with Abraham the father of faith. However, God never intended the Church to replace Israel as a people otherwise many of His promises to restore Israel to their land in the last days don’t make sense at all! Israel used in the Bible means literal Israel and understanding this will make the prophecies of the Bible much easier to understand. There are promises made to both Israel and the Church and when we can distinguish these promises and apply them appropriately Bible Prophecy becomes much easier to understand. Even though the Church is spiritually joined to Israel they are still two unique and separate peoples. God has a specific plan for Israel as well as for the Church and you could say it is a “parallel restoration,” like two railway lines running in the same direction that meet up somewhere in the distance beyond human sight. They are like two sides of the same coin, separate, yet one. God’s purposes for Israel and the Church are aligned, yet separate. Ultimately in the Millennium Israel and the Church will be one flock under one shepherd! (John 10:16) Amen!
2. The Re-gathering and Restoration of the Jewish people to the Land of Israel is a significant sign of the Last Days.
God’s ultimate plan and purpose for Israel is to bring them abundant blessing as a nation and to make Jerusalem the capital of the world and Israel the chief nation over all of the other nations during the Millennium but first they must pass through “‘The Time of Jacob’s Trouble.” Jewish people have been coming back to Israel since 1948 yet they are coming back to face a holocaust far worse than the one perpetuated on them by Adolph Hitler. This one will be at the hands of the Antichrist. It is not because God is vicious and cruel but because without faith in their Messiah our Lord Jesus they are still under the curse of the law and of sin and death just as the unbelieving Gentile world is under the same sentence of death. Tragically it will take the time of Jacob’s Trouble to purify lsrael as a nation. God is Holy and will have a holy people. Sin cost the life of His dear and only begotten Son and this sacrifice ignored and rejected brings with that unbelief and rejection wrath and judgement. The Jewish people are still being regathered to Israel for the Time of Jacob’s Trouble but at the end of it they will be saved out of it. (Jeremiah 30:1-7). The prophet Zechariah spoke about this when he wrote; “Awake, O sword, against My shepherd, against the man who is close to Me!” declares the LORD Almighty. “Strike the shepherd, and the sheep will be scattered, and I will turn my hand against the little ones. In the whole land,” declares the LORD, “two-thirds will be struck down and perish; yet one-third will be left in it. This third I will bring into the fire; I will refine them like silver and test them like gold. They will call on My name and I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is our God.’ ” (Zechariah 13:7-9) In this prophecy given through the prophet Zechariah there are two prophetic events linked together. The first part of this prophecy was fulfilled when the Lord Jesus was taken and crucified and as a result his disciples deserted Him at that time. Matthew tells us this in His gospel. (Matthew 26:31) However if you link verse seven with verses eight and nine it is clearly a reference to Israel and by extension the Church in the last days. Zechariah chapter thirteen sits between Zechariah chapters twelve and fourteen.
The hour of crucifixion
During the reign of the Antichrist what happened to the Lord Jesus will happen to Israel and by implication to the Church. Both will have their “hour of crucifixion.” When the Antichrist devastates Israel and the city of Jerusalem he will also decimate the Church. This vicious act God will use to purify and refine His people. God does not send persecution but permits it within certain perimeters as He permitted it with Job. In the holocaust under Adolph Hitler it was reported that a third of the Jewish population in Europe were exterminated in the death camps. At least six million Jewish people perished at the hands of the Nazi’s during World War II however during the reign of the Antichrist two thirds will perish in Israel. This is something in the future that is almost beyond human comprehension in the light of the past Holocaust. This is why Jewish evangelism should be the No 1 priority of the Church. However, God will have a remnant that will pass through this fiery trial to be resurrected in power along with the Church when Jesus comes back. The hour is late and Israel needs all the friends it can get. A time is coming when the only friends Israel; will have will be born again Bible believing Christians who love Israel and believe in their spiritual and national restoration Biblically. A time is also coming when the Church will be divided over Israel. Many professing Christians will buy into replacement theology and the false claim that Israel is an apartheid state. You cannot love the Lord Jesus and hate the Jewish people.
The refiner’s fire
Satan will strike out at the seed of the Lord Jesus through the Antichrist. While Satan can no longer touch the Lord Jesus he can attack His image reflected in His people. Both Israel and the Church will suffer persecution by the Antichrist. For the faithful Church it will be to share in the sufferings of the Lord Jesus in order to be glorified with Him at the resurrection and for Israel it will be God’s refining process to bring them to the feet of their Messiah and older brother the Lord Jesus. As it is written, “Silver is purified in the crucible and gold purified in the furnace.” (Proverbs 17:3) When the refiner is refining gold he turns up the heat in the cauldron. After some time all of the impurities start to rise to the surface. Then when all of them are on the surface of the gold the refiner then scrapes away the dross from the surface of the gold and then looking into the liquid metal sees his own reflection and likeness. As the prophet Malachi also wrote concerning Israel; “Behold, I am going to send My messenger, and he will clear the way before Me. And the Lord, whom you seek, will suddenly come to His temple; and the messenger of the covenant, in whom you delight, behold, He is coming,” says the Lord of hosts. “But who can endure the day of His coming? And who can stand when He appears? For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a smelter and purifier of silver, and He will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, so that they may present to the Lord offerings in righteousness. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the Lord as in the days of old and as in former years.” (Malachi 3:1-4) God is Holy and will have a Holy people. Israel will be what God called them to be because “His gifts and calling are irrevocable!” (Romans 11:29)
Israel’s destiny is to have a reunion with their older brother in the flesh the Lord Jesus and it will be a wonderful and healing time as it was for Joseph and his brothers in the book of Genesis. When we see Joseph revealing himself to his wayward brothers we see a picture of the Lord Jesus revealing Himself to His wayward brothers, those chosen by His grace to be saved at the end of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble. (Zechariah 12:10-14) This time of purification for Israel and to a great degree for the Church will produce a beautiful, holy and clean bride for the Lord Jesus made up of both Jew and Gentile believers. Israel will pass through this Time of Jacob’s Trouble as a whole nation but will be saved out of it. Jeremiah the prophet said this would happen to Israel in the Last Days. He writes; “The days are coming,’ declared the Lord, ‘when I will bring My people Israel and Judah back from captivity and restore them to the land I gave to their forefathers to possess,’ says the Lord. These are the words the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah: This is what the Lord says: ‘Cries of fear are heard – terror, not peace. Ask and see: Can a man bear children? Then why do I see every strong man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labour, every face turned deathly pale? How awful that day will be! None will be like it. It will be a time of trouble for Jacob, but he will be saved out of it.” (Jeremiah 30: 3-7)
Israel is not finished!
What we see happening right now between Israel and their so called allies will turn sour in the end and bring upon the nation such an event that even the strong men will groan like women in labour at what will be descending on Israel at that time. But when it looks like Israel is finished the Lord Jesus will come back to destroy those nations that have come up to attack Jerusalem. If you read the rest of Jeremiah chapter 30 verses 8-24 you can clearly see God restoring Israel. This restoration continues on into chapter 31:1-14. The meaning of this text is plain and those who hold to a replacement theology will be hard pressed to interpret or explain this passage in any other way other than in a literal sense. In fact the whole Land of Israel is the Jewish people’s everlasting inheritance. God owns the Land and He has bequeathed it to them forever. God has promised; “I will establish My covenant as an everlasting covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you for the generations to come, to be your God and the God of your descendants after you. The whole land of Canaan, where you are now an alien, I will give as an everlasting possession to you and your descendants after you; and I will be their God.” (Gen 17: 7-8)
3. Israelis must hear the Gospel!
In the light of what is going to happen to Israel it is imperative that Israelis hear about God’s wonderful salvation through Jesus their Messiah who has paid the price for their sins, as two thirds will perish at the hands of the Antichrist. The Church must support Jewish Evangelism because without faith in their Messiah and older brother Jesus multitudes of Jewish people will go to hell. Professing a love for the Jewish people that ignores or neglects to give them the gospel is not the love of Jesus but is at its best sloppy sentimentalism. There are many in the Church today who have some kind of sentimental emotional attachment to Israel and they are so caught up with a kind of “Jewishness” that they do not want to see what is coming upon Israel, not to mention the Church! There are some who are even teaching that Israelis can be saved without faith in Jesus because they are ethnically Jews and God will save them in a different way than He does the Gentiles. This teaching is called “Duel covenant theology.” However, scripture is clear that without a living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as Saviour, Lord and Messiah no-one can be saved whether Jew or Gentile. As it is written, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
God loved Jacob
God loved Jacob but to bring him to the place in his life where he had a life changing forever encounter with his Messiah Jacob had to wrestle with his Messiah through the long night until the break of day. When the dawn of a new day came Jacob was a transformed man and after that encounter was then reunited with his brother Esau. When the Prince of Peace comes again to Israel the descendants of Abraham both Jew and Arab will be reconciled. As we have mentioned earlier in this study the man wrestling with Jacob was the Lord Jesus in His pre-incarnate form. At the end of the long night of struggling with His Messiah Jacob came through to a place of victory. The man wrestling with Jacob through the night prefigures and is a type of the Lord Jesus Israel’s Messiah wrestling with Israel through the long night of Jacob’s trouble and bringing them through it into a great deliverance and complete restoration!