The Nature and Importance of the Question
The writer seeks, at the very outset of this study, to impress the reader with the immense importance of the question we are about to examine.
It is not merely a question of the true explanation of prophecies concerning the Jews, the Gentiles, and of the Church of God, however so interesting and important these may be, for one may entertain mistaken ideas as to such matters without harmful consequences. But it is far otherwise with the question discussed in this volume; for the truth concerning the gospel of Christ and the salvation of man is involved in it. And specially, the work of evangelization of the Jews (which, in the opinion of many, including the present writer, the coming of the Lord awaits) is vitally affected by it.
What lies directly in the path of our present inquiry is a system of doctrine which, though of recent origin, is now accepted amongst strictly orthodox Christians, "Fundamentalists", according to which doctrinal system the promise of God to Israel through their prophets was that the coming Messiah would restore the earthly kingdom to Israel, would give it a glory far surpassing that of the days of David and Solomon, and would exalt the Jewish nation to the place of supremacy over the nations of the world. The leading authority for this new system of teaching states it thus: "When Christ appeared to the Jewish people, the next thing in the order of revelation as it then stood should have been the setting up of the Davidic kingdom" (Scofield Ref. Bible).
We propose in the present volume to bring this radical statement to the test of Scripture; for it is subversive of the Christian faith, in that it removes the sacrifice of the Lamb of God from its central place in God's eternal plan (Rev 13:8).
It cannot be that those who accept this radical doctrine realize what is involved in it. It is easy for the writer to believe this, because he himself at one time accepted that doctrine without the faintest idea that it involved the denial of important truth. But in course of time, after prolonged study of the Word of God, he was compelled to acknowledge, upon the testimony of the New Testament Scriptures (particularly that of the apostle Paul) that, not only is the doctrine under consideration directly contrary to the Scriptures, but it is the setting up, for the benefit of a future generation of Jews, of another hope, different from the "one hope" of the gospel of Christ; that, in other words it is "another gospel," the very thing against which Paul utters that tremendously solemn warning of Galatians 1:8,9.
Because of this, and because also of the great benefits that have followed the writer's deliverance from the "strange" doctrine referred to above, he deems it a duty to all the household of faith to bring to their attention, by every available means, the true teaching of the Bible touching the future of the Jewish people. It is with a view to the performance of that duty that these pages are written.
What then is the true and biblical "Hope of Israel"? To obtain a full answer to this question it is necessary that we search the Scriptures from beginning to end. But in order merely that we may have in mind a general idea of the answer while we pursue our study, it will suffice to refer to a few incidents in Paul's ministry, as recorded in the last chapters of Acts.
The subject is very prominent there, and indeed it was because of Paul's views and his preaching in regard thereto that he was furiously persecuted by the Jews, and was finally sent in chains to Rome. For we have his own testimony to "the chief of the Jews" at Rome, to whom, when he had called them together, he said: "For this cause therefore have I called for you, to see you and to speak with you; because that, for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain" (Acts 28:17-20).
Inasmuch as what Paul had been preaching, both to the Jews and also to the Gentiles, was the gospel of Jesus Christ, and nothing else, it follows that the true "hope of Israel" is an essential part of that gospel; and therefore it is a matter regarding which we cannot afford to be mistaken.
The above quoted statement of Paul to the Jewish leaders at the imperial city is very illuminating. It shows, to begin with, that, whatever it was he had been preaching as "the hope of Israel," it was something so contrary to the current Jewish notion thereof that it caused the people to clamour for his death (Acts 22:22), and led to his being formally accused before the Roman Governor as "a pestilent fellow, and a mover of sedition among all the Jews throughout the world" (Acts 24:5). Had he been preaching what the Jews themselves believed to be, and what their rabbis had given them as, the true interpretation of the prophecies (namely, that God's promise to Israel was a kingdom of earthly character which should have dominion over all the world) they would have heard him with intense satisfaction. But what Paul and all the apostles preached was, that what God had promised afore by His prophets in the Holy Scriptures was a kingdom over which Jesus Christ of the seed of David should reign in resurrection, a kingdom which flesh and blood cannot inherit, a kingdom which does not clash with the duly constituted governments of this world, and one into which the Gentiles are called upon terms of perfect equality with Jews (Acts 13:23, 34; Acts 17:2,3,7; Rom. 1:1-4; 14:17; 1 Cor. 15:50; 1 Pet. 1:12; cf. Luke 24:26).
Thus the teaching of Christ and His apostles in respect to the vitally important subject of the Kingdom of God, the hope of Israel, came into violent collision with that of the leaders of Israel; and because of this He was crucified and they were persecuted.
It was not a question then, any more than it is a question now, whether or not the prophets of Israel were the mouthpieces of God; for the Jewish rabbis, as well as Christ and His apostles, held firmly to the full inspiration of "the scriptures of the prophets." It was solely a question then, as it is solely a question now, as to how those prophecies are to be understood - a question of interpretation. The Jewish teachers understood the scriptures, and still interpret them, in what is now (wrongly) called the "literal" sense (i.e. that "Israel" is an earthly people, "Zion" an earthly locality, "Christ" an earthly conqueror, like David, etc., etc.) ; but Paul declared, when speaking of Jesus Christ in one of their synagogues, that it was "because they knew Him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every Sabbath day, that they have fulfilled them in condemning Him" (Acts 13:27).
And now, in concluding this preliminary chapter, let me impress it upon the reader's mind that the choice presented to orthodox Christians today as to the interpretation of the prophecies concerning "the hope of Israel" lies between that held by the Jews of those days and that for which Christ was crucified and Paul was sent in chains to Rome. This will be clearly seen by all who consider, with open minds, the proofs given below.
The question of the "literal" interpretation of the O.T. prophecies will be discussed in the next chapter.
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