Tentmaker

The Hope of Israel

CHAPTER XII
What the New Testament Teaches as to the Future Mercy for the Jews.

Before turning to the New Testament for the purpose of considering certain passages that throw light upon the subject, we would remind the reader of the need of giving particular attention to what is written on that subject in the N.T. Scriptures. Chief among the reasons for this need is the fact that the prophecies of the Old Testament are occupied principally with the coming of the Messiah, the promised and long expected Son of David, for the redemption of His people, "as He spake by the mouth of His holy prophets, which have been since the world began" (Lu. 1:70). Those prophecies did not, except in a few instances, look beyond the events of this present era of the Holy Spirit.

In accordance with what had been predicted by the prophets of Israel, "when the fullness of the time was come" - for the fulfillment of their prophecies - "God sent forth His Son ... to redeem them that were under the law" (Gal. 4:4,5). But they had been taught by their "blind leaders" to look for a physical and political redemption, instead of a spiritual redemption from the dominion of sin and death, which was what their prophets had foretold. Consequently when the Divine Redeemer "came to His own [creation] His own [people] received Him not" (John 1:11); but rejected Him, betrayed Him, and compassed His death.

Needless to say, this unparalleled crime brought about an entirely different situation from that which had previously existed respecting the relationship between God and that people. Not that God was taken by surprise, and therefore constrained to re-shape His plans; for all had been foreseen; and all that happened was in strict accordance with the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, and for the furtherance of the eternal purpose, which He had purposed in Christ Jesus our Lord.

As to this there is no disagreement amongst those who hold the fundamentals of the Christian faith; and I think it is also generally agreed that, with the first coming of Christ, and with His death, resurrection and ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit, the era began which had been foretold by the prophets, the era when God would have another "people"; when He would say to them which were not His people, "Thou art My people"; and they should say, "Thou art my God" (Hos. 2:23). Indeed, the apostle Paul cites this very prophecy of Hosea and expounds it as referring to the people God is now calling to Himself out of all nations through the gospel; not from out "of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles" (Rom. 9:24-26). And this quotation is from the passage in which Paul explains who the true "Israel" is, to whom the promises were made; and in which, after stating, in the plainest of words that "They are not all Israel which are of Israel" (v. 9), he shows that, in fact, but a few - "a remnant" (v. 27) - of the naturally born Israelites, were embraced in the true "Israel," and that the full number of the people of God was to be made up of the saved from among the Gentiles. This is what Hosea and other prophets had foretold, though God purposely enveloped the meaning of their prophecies and His full purposes for the Gentiles, in "mystery," which mystery is now fully explained (Eph. 3:1-6).

Evidently then, as regards the purposes of God concerning the Jewish people after their rejection of that One through whom their promised redemption was to come, we must needs look to what is revealed in the New Testament; for there is where the Spirit of God has revealed "the fellowship of the mystery" (Eph. 3:9), that is, the union of Jews and Gentiles to form the true Israel.

Let us recall, moreover, that the covenant relations between God and "Israel after the flesh" were ended, even as had been foretold by their own prophets, beginning with Moses and Joshua (Deut. 4:26; 6:14, 15; 8:20; Josh. 23:15,16); the old covenant was dissolved and "ready to vanish away"; every vestige of it was shortly to be obliterated; and therefore, of necessity, all promises based upon that covenant, had there been any as yet unfulfilled, fell to the ground. But beside all that, God has now brought clearly to light, as we have seen, what He had but dimly revealed in times past, that the name ISRAEL belongs properly to His new-covenant people.

Therefore, it is not enough, for the settling of the question of God's future purposes for the Jews, that prophecies concerning Israel be found which apparently have not yet been fulfilled; for we must needs conclude, as to all such prophecies - unless the contrary plainly appears - that they pertain to the true "Israel of God," and that their fulfillment is in the realm of things spiritual and unseen.

What then does the New Testament say as to the reconstitution hereafter of the Jewish nation; as to the re-occupation by that nation of the land of Canaan; as to its exaltation to the place of world-supremacy and headship over other nations; as to the re-building of the temple, and the re-constitution of bloody sacrifices, etc.? Not one word.

This silence is itself sufficient to dispose of the question before us; but there is much more than that to be learned from the New Testament; for there are statements in it which make it utterly impossible that there should be any such future in store for the Jewish nation. Some of those New Testament statements have been quoted in the preceding portion of this volume, and other will be cited hereafter.

Again it is particularly to be observed that, in "the manifold wisdom of God," and because of His foreknowledge of the rejection of the Messiah by His nominal people, He saw fit to conceal for a time, in the form of "mystery" (Eph. 3:1-12) and "allegory" (Gal. 4:22-26), the fact that the things historical and prophetic pertaining to "Israel after the flesh" were but the temporal foreshadowings (Heb. 10:1) of things eternal and spiritual; which mystery therefore "in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto His holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit" (Eph. 3:5).

That "mystery" (which is not a mystery any longer) comprised several elements, whereof the most prominent (and the hardest for the Jewish mind to grasp) was the place which believing Gentiles were to have in "the commonwealth of Israel," and the share that was to be theirs in "the covenants of promise" (Eph. 2:12); that Gentiles were in the eternal purpose of God, destined to be "joint-heirs" (with natural Israelites), "and a joint-body, and joint-partakers of His promise in Christ, by means of the gospel" (literal rendering of Eph. 3:6). And what is particularly pertinent to our present inquiry is the previously hidden, "but now clearly revealed, fact, that the true "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16), the true "seed of Abraham" who are the heirs of all the promises of God (Gal. 3:7, 29; 2 Cor. 1:20) are a body composed of all those - whether by nature they are Jews or Gentiles - who are "of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all" (Rom. 4:16).

Because of this "mystery of Christ" (Eph. 3:4) which Paul was specially commissioned to explain, it is most needful that we, in attempting the interpretation of the O.T. prophecies concerning Israel, Zion, Jerusalem, etc., should take pains to ascertain whether it was the earthly and natural people (or locality) the prophet had in view, or the heavenly and spiritual counterpart thereof. Happily it is generally possible, in the light of the explanations given in the New Testament, to do this with some degree of certainty.

Moreover, it will be found that, when we have set aside first all the O.T. prophecies and promises concerning Israel that have been already fulfilled, second, all that were conditional in character and hence have become null and void for failure by the Jews to perform the conditions on which they were based, and third, those that belong to "the Israel of God," there remains for the natural Israel no promises of blessing except "the common salvation" (Jude 3) which is proclaimed by the gospel of Christ, and which God bestows freely upon all - Jews and Gentiles - who fulfill the conditions of "repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ" (Acts 20:21).

Further, before taking up the passages of the New Testament that are relevant to our subject, we would recall to the reader's mind what is said in chapter II of this volume regarding what is commonly called the "literal" interpretation of the prophecies.

What we specially wish the reader to understand is that the literal interpretation of a prophecy may require it to be understood in the spiritual sense. For, as regards Israel, Zion, Jerusalem, the Land of Promise, etc., the spiritual and heavenly thing so designated is the real thing and is often (as the N.T. abundantly proves) what was literally intended. In Scripture the contrast is not between the literal and the spiritual, but between the natural and the spiritual; as it is written: "Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual. The first man is of the earth, earthly; the second man is from the Lord from heaven" (1 Cor. 15:46,47). These words reveal the rule or principle of God's order of procedure in the working out of His great purpose. Accordingly there is first the natural humanity and afterward the spiritual humanity; first the natural birth and afterward the spiritual birth; first the natural or earthly Israel, Zion, temple, priesthood, sacrifices etc., and afterward their spiritual and heavenly counterparts.

If therefore, there were nothing but this passage to guide us, it would be safe to conclude, in the absence of an express statement of Scripture to the contrary, that there is to be no reversal of God's settled order of procedure, no going back from the spiritual to the natural. Hence there can be no return hereafter to the natural Israel, the earthly Jerusalem and the earthly temple, with its smoking altar, its Aaronic priesthood and its animal sacrifices.

It will probably be agreed by all Bible teachers that there is no prediction in the New Testament of a national restoration of the Jewish people; and we believe it has been already shown in these pages that the testimony of the New Testament excludes the possibility of such a thing. Further proof to the same effect will be found below. But it is thought by some that there is a hint of the national restoration of Israel in the following Scriptures:

The Lord Jesus Christ, in warning His disciples of the then approaching doom of Jerusalem and the Jewish nation, said:

"And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations; and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled" (Lu. 21:24).

The apostle Paul, in dealing with the very question we are now considering, namely, "Hath God cast away His people?" (Rom. 11:1), says:

"For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in" (Rom. 11:25).

The argument of those who cite the above passages in support of the doctrine of a national future for the Jews is, that the word "until" implies a change of some sort at the expiration of the period indicated, and they jump to the conclusion that the implied change is that which their doctrine calls for. But obviously, even if a change of some sort is implied by the word "until," it by no means follows that the change will be in the national status of the scattered people; or that it will take place in a yet future era. Strictly speaking, the word "until" gives not the slightest indication as to what will take place when the period which the passage limits shall have run its course. What that word declares, and all it declares, is that throughout "the times of the Gentiles" Jerusalem will be trodden down of the Gentiles, and that spiritual blindness, which has been laid as a punishment upon the greater part of the natural Israel, will persist until the fullness of the Gentiles be come into the fold of Christ.

But before inquiring what room is left by these Scriptures for a possible season of special mercy to those of Jewish descent, let us take note of the purpose for which they are apparently written.

What has chiefly impressed the writer when meditating upon the above Scriptures is that they constitute (and were specially designed to that end) a two-fold testimony to the authenticity of the Scriptures, a testimony which has this remarkable character, namely, that it was to be before the eyes of every generation of men throughout the entire Christian era. Here are two distinct predictions, one concerning the City of Jerusalem, the other concerning the Jewish people; predictions of such sort that, had they been the utterances of men, would long since have failed. They are, moreover, predictions that have required for their age-long fulfillment two continuing miracles; first, that Jerusalem should be preserved from destruction and yet should be trodden down of the Gentiles throughout the entire era; and second, that the Jewish race should be preserved and be everywhere recognizable - not amalgamated with other races - though scattered throughout the world and commingled with other peoples for centuries of time.

To all who reflect upon these truly miraculous facts and are willing to allow them their proper probative value, it will be evident, and apart from all other proofs, that the New Testament is indeed of Divine Authorship. For truly, these are stupendous miracles; and moreover, they are unique among the miracles of the Bible in that they have the character of continuance. Every successive generation has witnessed the remarkable fact that Jerusalem, though bereft of its proper inhabitants, has not shared the fate of other cities of antiquity - Babylon, Nineveh, Tyre and Sidon; and has witnessed also the companion fact that the Jewish people, in defiance of all natural law and contrary to all human experience, has not been absorbed into other races or exterminated by the fierce persecutions they have suffered, but have maintained their racial identity and have even thrived and multiplied during the nineteen hundred years of their dispersion throughout the world.

Surely the Book that foretold such unlikely happenings concerning a people and their dearly cherished city, sundered apart the one from the other, must be divinely inspired; and in this may be clearly seen the purpose of the above quoted passages. But regardless of this purpose, it is plain that, in neither passage, is there so much as a hint to the effect that there is to be, at the termination of the times of the Gentiles, a "dispensation" in which the Jewish nation is to be revived and re-established in the land of Canaan; in which Jerusalem is to become the political head and the religious center of a densely populated and completely pacified world; and in which the temple is to be rebuilt, its priesthood and animal sacrifices restored, etc., etc., as currently taught.

It cannot be too strongly insisted or too firmly maintained that the doctrine of a coming millennial age of Jewish supremacy on earth, an age in which nations of men are to be saved with a salvation different in kind from, and distinctly inferior to, gospel salvation, is a thoroughly unscriptural and anti-scriptural doctrine. It cannot be too strongly insisted or too firmly maintained that there is no going backward in the works of God; that He does not build again the things He has destroyed; that there is no salvation for Jew or Gentile other than gospel-salvation; that there is no day of salvation for any part of the human race except this present day of gospel mercy for all; that there is no "Israel" in God's purpose but "the Israel of God," and no "Zion" but that heavenly mount to which we "are come"; and finally, that the temporal shadows of the old covenant - the temple, altar, priesthood, sacrifices and ordinances - have now been abolished completely and forever. The current doctrine as to the conditions of things in the world during the millennium has no biblical foundation. It is a hybrid; the product of a commingling of heathen superstition and corrupted Judaism. To this subject we will come in our last chapter.

From the above it follows, that there is but one form the mercy of God to the Jewish people can possibly assume. It must take the form of gospel-salvation; and hence it must come in this present "day of salvation," or not come at all.

All this being understood, it yet remains that the passage in Romans 11:25 leaves room for, even if it does not imply, a time to come during this gospel era when the supernatural blindness, imposed as a punishment upon the Jews as a nation, will be removed, or at least abated, so that the gospel message will have a far greater effect among them than during the time the vail was upon their hearts, and that many of them may be saved. Paul's heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel was "that they might be saved"; and it is reasonable to assume that, in so praying, he was "praying in the Holy Ghost." This lends support to the expectation that there will yet be a mighty working of the Spirit and the word of God amongst the Jewish people, something analogous to "the latter rain" - in which, of course, Gentiles too will participate.

It is apparent upon an attentive perusal of Romans IX-XI that the subject of a national restoration for the Jews is not in contemplation at all. What occupies the apostle's mind is the distressing "mystery" (11:25) of Israel's failure to recognize the promised Messiah when He came to them, and to receive the salvation He offered them. The salvation of God, foretold by the prophets and now proclaimed by the gospel (1 Pet. 1:9-12), is what Israel as a nation had "not obtained," though they had been seeking for it (Rom. 11:7); for truly they had been eagerly looking for what their expected Messiah was to bring them and do for them, though all but a very small remnant were wholly mistaken as to the nature of the salvation foretold by the prophets (See Chapter XVI herein).

Incidentally it may be well to point out that the chief item or feature of God's salvation is "the righteousness of God," "which is, by faith of Jesus Christ, upon all them that believe; for there is no difference" (Rom. 3:22); and this is the chief feature of the Kingdom of God, as defined in Chap. 14:17; for the Kingdom of God is salvation, and that Kingdom is what Israel as a people had ever been seeking for (though they utterly misunderstood the nature of it) and which the elect remnant in Paul's day had already "obtained."


THE FIGURE OF THE OLIVE TREE

At verse 14 of Chapter 11 Paul again refers to those of his own flesh and again gives voice to his intense desire that he "might save some of them." And he goes on to say: "For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?" (v. 15). The words "receiving of them," following the words "the casting away of them," indicate that Paul was not without hope that numbers of Jews might yet "be saved"; and then, in the verses that follow (vv. 17-24) he illustrates by the figure of the olive tree what God's salvation does for Jews and Gentiles alike, and how the true Israel is composed.

We do not attempt an exposition of those verses, it being necessary only to point out that the Israel of God's eternal purpose is here represented by an olive tree, whereof the branches are holy because the root is holy (see Psalm 52:8); that the salvation of Gentiles is represented as having the effect of grafting them (who by nature were the branches of a wild olive tree) into that "good olive tree," thereby making them fellow-partakers of the root (Christ) and the fatness (the Holy Spirit, commonly typified in Scripture by the oil derived from the olive) of that tree; and finally that the unconverted Jews are represented as branches "broken off" from the olive tree, in other words, as dead sticks fit only for the fire.

Verse 20 tells us it was "because of unbelief they were broken off," but evidently Paul did not regard their state as hopeless; for he says that "they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in; for God is able to graff them in again" (v. 23). Paul is here speaking of the salvation - not merely of an occasional individual, but - of the great mass of the people, represented by the branches broken off from the olive tree.

Thus, while the passage intimates, on the one hand, that there may come a time when the Jews as a whole will be much more receptive of the message of the gospel than they have been during the centuries past, it makes plain, on the other hand, that the only salvation for them is the same olive-tree salvation whereof Gentiles (as well as Jews) who believe in Jesus Christ are made partakers, and that the condition of their being saved is that "they continue not in unbelief."

The words "And so all Israel shall be saved" (v. 26) have been strangely misunderstood. They have been taken to mean that all natural Jews are to be saved in a coming dispensation. But they cannot possibly be made to yield that meaning. The adverb "so" declares how (not when) "all Israel" shall be saved. It refers to the process of grafting into the good olive tree branches from "a wild olive tree" and branches broken off from the good olive tree itself; and it declares that "so," that is to say, in that manner, and hence necessarily in this present dispensation of the Holy Spirit, "all" the Israel of God shall be saved. Instead therefore, of indicating a special (earthly) salvation for the Jews in a future dispensation, the words, "And so all Israel shall be saved," preclude all possibility of such a thing.

UNTIL THE FULNESS OF THE GENTILES BE COME IN

When will that be? The advocates of modern dispensationalism seem to take for granted that it will be the very end of the gospel era, the very last day of grace. If that be indeed the sense, then either the blindness laid upon the Jewish people will never be removed, or else their deliverance from that spiritual blindness will take place in a future era. But I cannot conceive that, if the apostle had intended to express either of those meanings, he would have chosen the words of the text for that purpose. When he wished to indicate (as many times he did) the end of the day of salvation, he always did it by words of clear import; whereas manifestly the words "until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in," are most inappropriate for the purpose.

Rather do they indicate a coming season, of longer or shorter duration, when gospel work among the nations will have been substantially ended and the great mass of those that have been ordained unto eternal life will have been reached and saved; leaving a few here and there to be gathered in, two or three berries in the top of the uppermost bough, four or five in the outmost branches (Isa. 17:6).

It may mean (and I think does mean) that, just as there was at the beginning a short season that was distinctly Jewish (during which, however, some Gentiles were saved), and then a much longer season that has been distinctly Gentilish (although some Jews were saved during its course), so will there be at the end another period distinctly Jewish in character, during which, however, there will be some Gentiles brought into the Kingdom.

In yet another passage, written to Gentile Christians, (2 Cor. 3:12-18) Paul speaks of the spiritual blindness that had fallen upon the great mass of the Jewish people. Referring to the Old Covenant, which was but temporary, and comparing it with the New Covenant, which abides forever, the apostle recalls the occasion when Moses put a vail over his face, thereby foreshowing that the children of Israel would be unable to see "the end of that (covenant) which is abolished." And he adds: "But their minds were blinded; for until this day remaineth the same vail untaken away in the reading in the reading of the Old Covenant; which vail is done away (for them who are) in Christ. But even unto this day, when Moses is read, the vail is upon their heart" - blinding them to the fact that the Mosaic covenant is come to an end (and it is so even to this day, nineteen hundred years later) - "Nevertheless when it (the heart) shall turn to the Lord, the vail shall be taken away."

This passage seems to imply, or at least it leaves room for, a coming time when the heart of natural Israelites will "turn to the Lord" on a scale not hitherto witnessed. And this brings to mind the last words spoken by Moses to that people, in which, after warning them of what would befall them in the latter days because of their manifold sins and persistent disobedience, he said that nevertheless, if they would call to mind his words among all the nations whither the Lord their God should have driven them, and would "return unto the Lord" and "obey His voice," then He would turn their captivity and have compassion on them (Deut. 20:1-3).

To the writer's mind the foregoing is a far more glorious and worthy fulfillment of the promises of blessing to Israel, and a far more satisfactory interpretation of the prophecies, than what are obtained by the imagining of a millennium of earthly bliss with a reconstituted Jewish nation at the head of God-fearing Gentiles, all satiated with material prosperity and going up year by year to keep the feast of tabernacles at Jerusalem.

In concluding our remarks upon this part of our subject, we would point out that, conditions being what they are, the work of converting a multitude of Jews to Christ might be only a matter of days. For the millions of Jews now living, though scattered through all the nations of the world, are nevertheless in touch with one another through various organizations and societies, and are bound together by ties that have marvelously resisted the tooth of time and all the destructive influences of the world. Moreover, they are all located at, or are in easy reach of, one or another of the centers of Christian civilization; which means that they all have ready access to the word of the gospel. And finally, the facilities for swift communication by train, airplane, telegraph, wireless and radio, have been wonderfully developed within a few decades past; and it is as least possible that these may be what are represented by the horses and chariots and litters and swift beasts seen in the vision of the prophet who, looking on the days just preceding new heavens and the new earth, speaks first of those saved Israelites whom God would send "unto the nations," and who, says He, "shall declare My glory among the Gentiles" (Isaiah 66:19); and then adds: "And they (the Gentiles) shall bring all your brethren for an offering unto the Lord out of all nations upon horses and in litters (marg. coaches) and upon mules, and upon swift beasts, to My holy mountain Jerusalem, saith the Lord, as the children of Israel bring an offering in a clean vessel into the house of the Lord" (v. 20).

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