"The Hope of the Gospel." Christ's Personal Teaching
In a previous chapter it was pointed out, from the repeated utterances of the apostle Paul recorded in the last six chapters of Acts, that "the hope of Israel" is identical with "the hope of the gospel," which hope is, of course, the resurrection. We recall that to the Jews at Rome Paul 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 28:20).
What he had preached as the hope of Israel is clearly stated in previous chapters of Acts. Thus, in chapter 23:6 he had said, "Of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question" (see also 24:14,15). And in replying to his accusers before Herod Agrippa he said: "And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our father, unto which our twelve tribes instantly (or intently) serving God day and night hope to come. For which hope's sake, King Agrippa, I am accused of the Jews. Why should it be though a thing incredible with you that God should raise the dead?" (Acts 26:6-8). And in the same address he solemnly affirmed that in all his testimony, both to small and great, he had said "none other things than those which the prophets and Moses did say should come" (v. 22).
Thus the apostle proclaimed everywhere, both by word of mouth and by letter, that there is but one hope for all mankind, a hope which indeed had been promised by the O.T. Scriptures to Israel only, but which, according to the now revealed "mystery of Christ," is preached to Gentiles equally with Jews. He taught that just as there is but "one faith" for both Jew and Gentile, so likewise there is but "one hope of your calling" (Eph. 4:4), which "calling" (as Chapters I-III were written specially to show) embraces both Jews and Gentiles upon identically the same terms (Eph. 3:6).
This, however, was directly contrary to the doctrine of the scribes and rabbis. According to their carnal interpretation of the Scriptures the promises concerning "Israel," which Paul applied to a spiritual people, were to have a material fulfillment; and "the hope of Israel," according to them, was the national restoration of the Jewish people. The difference between "the hope of Israel" as held and taught by them, and "the hope of Israel," as preached by Paul, was so radical as to arouse against him their bitterest hatred, insomuch that they denounced him to the civil authorities and plotted to take his life.
In view of these facts, so clearly set forth in the Acts and Epistles, it is a matter of deep concern that in our day there has been a revival (and that among evangelical groups of Christians) of the preaching of a distinct and different hope for the natural descendants of Jacob. Thus the preaching of the one and only gospel, with its "one hope" for all mankind, the only gospel and the only hope preached or recognized by the apostles, has been so far set aside in our day as to make room for the very same hope which the Jewish teachers held in Paul's day. And not only so, but out modern teachers support this radically different "hope of Israel" by the very same process of carnalizing the O.T. prophecies and promises which Paul denounced and refuted in his day. It was for this cause that he suffered persecution and imprisonment; for it is certain that, had Paul preached the same "hope of Israel" that is now commonly preached from orthodox periodicals, he would have been honored by his fellow countrymen, rather than persecuted.
NOT IN THE NEW TESTAMENT
It is admitted by those who teach a distinct hope for the Jewish nation apart from the "one hope" of the gospel, that there is nothing in the N.T. to support that doctrine. They admit that the N.T. will be searched in vain for any statement to the effect that, when the day of grace is ended and the Lord Jesus Christ is revealed from heaven in flaming fire, He will convert the whole Jewish nation then on earth, and re-establish them in Palestine.
This admission that the doctrine we are discussing is not found in the N.T. is fatal to it. For the prophecies concerning the second coming of Christ, recorded in the Gospels, Epistles, and Revelation, are so full and detailed that, if the national restoration of the earthly Israel were part of the program of the second advent, it would most certainly have been clearly set forth therein. And beyond all doubt Paul would have mentioned it in the eleventh chapter of Romans, where he speaks distinctly of the future of Israel. Moreover, he would surely have proclaimed it when put on trial as to his teaching concerning this very matter, first before the Sanhedrin at Jerusalem, and then successively before Felix, Festus, and Agrippa. We have seen that on all those four occlusions the apostle maintained, and at the peril of his life, that the "hope of Israel" was a radically different thing from what the Jewish leaders supposed.
For those who accept the teaching of Paul this should be decisive of the question we are now examining. But we propose to go further than this, and to show that the doctrine of national restoration for the Jewish nation at the beginning of the next dispensation, is directly contrary to the plain teaching of the New Testament as a whole. And if we can show this, then it must be contrary to the O.T. also; since there can be no disagreement between the two.
The present writer received the doctrine of the future restoration of "Israel after the flesh" as part of a system of teaching which he accepted in bulk because of the soundness and excellent of reputation of those who sponsored it. But, having now learned to his sorrow and mortification that he has held and taught error of a serious kind, it is his duty thus to confess it, and also to do what in him lies to establish the truth of the matter.
NO SECOND CHANCE
In the first place then, we affirm with all possible emphasis that for those who now reject the offer of God's mercy in the gospel of His grace there is no second chance. This is the truth of God as revealed in every part of the New Testament. It applies to Jews and Gentiles alike; for there is absolutely "no difference" of any sort, kind, or description. All are in precisely the same condemnation; and likewise, to each and all, the gospel of Christ offers precisely the same salvation, with precisely the same eternal consequences for all who refuse it. "For," says the apostle, "we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles that they are all under sin" (Rom. 3:9) and from that starting point of perfect equality in guilt ("all the world guilty before God") he proceeds to declare the one ground of pardon for all, "the redemption that is in Christ Jesus," and the one condition upon which it is bestowed, "through faith in His blood" (Rom. 3:23-25).
Moreover, the apostle shows in this very passage that the true meaning of God's promise to Abraham was not that his natural seed should possess the land of Canaan, but that his spiritual seed (believing Jews and believing Gentiles forming one family) should share with him "the promise that he should be the heir of the world" (Rom. 4:13-17; and cf. Rom. 8:17). And finally he shows that the promise was to be fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead (4:24,25).
According to the modern teaching we are now discussing, those who are saved through the gospel are forthwith incorporated into the church, which is the body of Christ, and these will be in the highest sphere of blessing and glory hereafter; and those who reject Christ now, if Gentiles, will be lost finally and forever, but if Jews, they will be converted in a body at some time subsequent to the second coming of Christ. Now we are quite at a loss to perceive wherein this doctrine differs from that of "Russellism," or "Millennial Dawn," excepting that the second chance which the former limits to the natural descendants of Jacob, is by the latter extended to all mankind. Indeed we think the view of the Russellites would be easier to support from Scriptures than the other; seeing that it is at least consistent with the principle that God is no respecter of persons, and that all natural and national distinctions have been forever abolished by the cross of Christ.
But to the entire doctrine of another chance, whether to all mankind, or to a select portion of the human race only, we oppose the plain and unimpeachable truth of the Scriptures that, in "the day of God, Who will render to every man according to his deed" (Rom. 2:5,6) there will be no salvation or mercy for any who reject God's offer of pardon and life now. We affirm that, in that day, so far from there being any special salvation for the Jew, God will visit "indignation and wrath, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, OF THE JEW FIRST, and also of the Gentile" (id. vv. 8,9). We affirm that "now is the accepted time, and now is the day of salvation"; and there is no other day or hour of salvation for any individual, or for any section of the human race. We affirm that, since the sacrifice of Jesus Christ upon the cross, and by reason thereof, God now recognizes no man after the flesh; and particularly that the old covenant and everything connected with it, including the forfeited promise and hope of earthly blessing to Israel after the flesh (which when given was conditioned upon faithfulness and obedience on their part) has been abolished finally and forevermore.
Does the New Testament teach that "Israel after the flesh" will be converted after the second coming of Christ? and will be then reconstituted as an earthly nation, and re-established as such in Palestine? Or does it, on the contrary, teach that Christ's coming the second time will be for the eternal salvation of all those who look for Him (whether by nature they were Jews or Gentiles), and for the eternal condemnation of all, both Jews and Gentiles, who have not believed on His Name? Does it teach that there will be given to the Jews, after the ending of the day of grace, another opportunity to believe on Him and be saved from the wrath to come,, and opportunity from which they who are by nature Gentiles will be excluded? Will the coming "day" be one of mingled wrath and mercy? the former for all unbelievers who are Gentiles in the flesh, and the latter for unbelievers who are Jews in the flesh? These questions truly are of great moment; and it must be that clear answers to them can be found in the New Testament Scriptures. We shall seek them first in
THE PERSONAL TEACHING OF CHRIST
Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43. This passage contains the parable of the Tares of the Field. Its teaching on the subject of our inquiry is plain; for the meaning of the parable is explained by the Lord Himself. Its emphasis is upon what will happen at the end of the age. Two classes of people are now mingled together in the world, even as wheat and tares are mingled together in the same field. That state of things is to continue "until the harvest," and "the harvest is the end of the age." At that time there will be a complete separation of the tares and the wheat. The tares will be gathered together and bound in bundles to burn them. This will be done "first"; but the wheat will be gathered into the garner (v. 30). The tares include all who are not "the children of the kingdom," that is to say, all who, whether Jews or Gentiles, have not been regenerated by receiving "the good seed" of the gospel.
In thus teaching that the day of judgment will begin by an outpouring of the fiery wrath of God, which will consume all the wicked, this parable is in perfect agreement with the voice of the whole Scripture from beginning to end. What then is the source, and what can be the purpose and effect, of this modern doctrine which makes an exception in favor of an entire race of men, and that upon the ground of natural descent only? The Lord's words are plain. They admit of no exception. And moreover, they were spoken directly into Jewish ears, and were intended primarily as a warning to a Jewish audience. "As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world. The Son of man shall send forth His angels, and they shall gather out of His Kingdom all things that offend, and them that do iniquity; and shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then shall the righteous shine forth in the Kingdom of their Father."
Thus the Lord has made it plain that the judgment of the wicked will be simultaneous with, if not anterior to, the manifestation of the children of God in glory. And by the testimony of many Scriptures it is clearly established that the manifestation of the sons of God is at the same moment with the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Thus it is written that, "When Christ, who is our life shall appear, then shall ye also appear with Him in glory" (Col. 3:4). Again it is written: "When He shall appear we shall be like Him" (1 John 3:2). See also to the same effect 1 Corinthians 15:51,52; and 1 Thessalonians 4:14.
John the Baptist had already preached the same warning concerning "the wrath to come" to the many Jews who had flocked to his preaching, saying that He who was to come after him would baptize them with the Holy Ghost and with fire, "Whose fan," said he, "is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor, and gather His wheat into the garner; but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire" (Matt. 3:11,12).
Thus from the very first, and to exclusively Jewish audiences, it was proclaimed that there was but one salvation for all; and that when the day of grace was ended, there would be an immediate and final separation of the saved from the lost.
The foregoing Scriptures therefore completely refute the doctrine of a special salvation for the Jewish nation after the manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ in glory.
Matthew 16:24-28. In this passage the Lord taught His disciples (all Jews) that for a man's salvation it was necessary that he should take up his cross and follow Him now "For," said He, "the Son of man shall come in the glory of His Father, with His angels, and then He shall reward every man according to His works." There will be no mercy or grace to any unsaved ones after that. This teaching is amplified by the Lord in Matthew 25:31-46, as will be presently shown.
Luke 17:20-37. The Lord here replies to the question put to Him by the Pharisees, "when the kingdom of God should come." He tells them first that the kingdom was not coming then ("cometh not") with outward display, but was already in fact in the midst of them (though they knew it not). But He goes on to speak of the coming of that kingdom in power and glory. The coming of His Kingdom in its future aspect will be "as the lightening, that lighteneth out of one part under heaven, and shineth unto the other part under heaven."
And now let us attend carefully to what follows; for here we have teaching of the clearest sort upon the subject of our inquiry. Our Lord's second coming will be in circumstances like unto those in the days of Noah, and those of the days of Lot. And the resemblance lies in this, namely, that like as, in both those epochs of impending judgment, men in general pursued with entire unconcern their ordinary occupations, as if things were to go on in that way forever, even so shall it be "in the day when the Son of man is revealed." And what then? There shall be an immediate and final separation. "There shall be two men in one bed; the one shall be taken (to a place of safety, as was Noah and Lot in his) and the other left (for the outpouring of God's wrath). Two women shall be grinding together; the one shall be taken, and the other left. Two men shall be in the field; the one shall be taken, and the other left."
The significance of the words "taken" and "left" appears clearly from the context, which tells that Noah and his family were taken away in safety, and all the rest of the world left for judgment; and so likewise in the case of Lot and his wife and daughters. And the whole point of the lesson is that the judgment, which destroyed "all" that were left, came upon the very same day that those who believed God's warnings were saved. For the words are: "until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and the flood came, and destroyed them all" (v. 27); and again, "But the same day that Lot went out of Sodom, it rained fire and brimstone from heaven, and destroyed them all" (v. 29). And then, to put the matter beyond all doubt, the Lord adds these words: "Even thus shall it be in the day when the Son of man is revealed" (v. 30).
Is not this teaching, which comes to us from our Lord's own lips, as clear as words can make it? How then say some among us that, so far from the coming of sudden and everlasting judgment in that day upon all who are not in the place of safety which God's grace has provided, that is, "the kingdom of His dear Son" (Col. 1:13), the entire Jewish nation will then look upon Him whom they pierced, will be granted repentance unto life, and will be saved from the coming wrath?
As will be pointed out more fully below, the apostle Peter repeats this teaching of Christ in his second Epistle (Chapter III) laying special emphasis upon the unexpectedness of Christ's second coming and of the prominence in those last days of a class of leaders who would speak derisively of "the promise of his coming."
Luke 19:11-27. In this parable also our Lord declares what will happen at His second coming. The part which bears upon our present inquiry is what He says as to the way He will at that time deal with His "citizens," who had hated Him and sent after Him a defiant message, saying, "We will not have this Man to reign over us." This passage is specially pertinent because the description of those "citizens" applies specially to the unbelieving Jews (comp. Psa. 2:1-3, and Acts 4:25). Does He say that He will then reveal Himself to them in grace, and convert the nation in a body? On the contrary, His words are: "But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me."
Matthew 22:1-13. This passage contains the parable of the wedding supper, in which our Lord foretells the course of the preaching of the gospel and its results. There is no need to speak of the details of the parable. It suffices for our present purpose that the doom pronounced upon the man who had not on the wedding garment is regarded by commentators of every school as revealing what will be the fate of all, Jews and Gentiles, who refuse the garment of salvation which is now offered in the gospel.
Matthew 24:36-44 In this passage our Lord repeats to His own disciples the teaching He had previously given to the Pharisees (Lu. 17:20-37). The point He emphasizes is that even His own people will not be warned beforehand of the approach "of that day and hour." "For as in the days that were before the flood, they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be... Watch therefore, for ye know not what hour your Lord doth come."
Matthew 25:31-46. This passage contains the most complete statement our Lord has given as to what will take place "when the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him." As in all His teaching on this subject, the first thing is the separation of all human beings into two companies. For "then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory; and before Him shall be gathered all nations; and He shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats." By some expositors it is thought that our Lord is here speaking only of those living on earth at the time of His coming; and we will take it that way, since it is immaterial, for the purpose of the present inquiry, what view of the scene is adopted. Let it be noted, however, that the separation is by individuals, not by nations. All the "sheep" are put on one side, and all the "goats" on the other. The two companies are separated, not according to nationality, but according to the nature of the individuals, as manifested by their conduct. To those on the right hand the King shall say, "Come, ye blessed of My Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world." And to those on His left hand He will say, Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels." Here again we have a clear statement that the judgment then pronounced will be "everlasting."
Those on His right hand, the "sheep," are evidently His own people. "My sheep," He calls them in John 10:27. It is His "one flock" (John 10:16, Gr.); and so here we are given to foresee the fulfilment of His precise promise, "Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give unto you the Kingdom" (Lu. 12:32). His sheep hear His voice; and these who stand on His right hand in that day have manifested that they are His sheep by obeying His law of love.
But those on His left hand have manifested by their conduct that they are not His; for they have repudiated His authority and His law. There is perfect harmony here with the teaching recorded in Luke 19:11-27; for the conduct of those whom He here bids "depart from Me," plainly said "We will not have this Man to reign over us." There is perfect harmony also with the teaching of Paul in 2 Thessalonians 1:5-10 (to which reference will be made more particularly later on) where he tells of the coming of the Lord to punish "with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of His power," those that "Know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ." In both passages the occasion described is the coming of the kingdom in power and glory; and the eternal blessedness or misery of the individual man in that day will depend upon whether or not he has obeyed the gospel. The righteous will then receive the long promised Kingdom, "the Kingdom of God for which ye also suffer" (2 Th. 1:5). But for the rejecters of Christ and His gospel, there is "everlasting punishment" (Shall be punished with everlasting destruction"), away "from the presence of the Lord" (not His own words, "Depart from Me, ye cursed").
Some have gone far astray in regard to the words: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of My Brethren, ye have done it unto Me." For, in order to make the passage agree with the doctrine of a special judgment-day salvation for the Jewish nation, the idea has been advanced that, by "My brethren," our Lord meant the Jewish people (whom he had stigmatized as "children of the devil," and as a "generation of vipers"), and that living nations would be blessed or cursed in that day, according as they had treated the Jews well or ill. But how can there be any uncertainty as to those whom He is not ashamed to call "Brethren" (Heb. 2:11)? For, in this same Gospel is the record of His own answer to the question, "Who is My mother? and who are My brethren?" He Himself asked that question; and thereupon He stretched forth His hand toward His disciples and said, "Behold My mother and My brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of My Father which is in heaven, the same is My brother, and sister, and mother" (Matt. 12:46-50). This makes it quite clear; and all Scripture agrees, that those He is not ashamed to call "Brethren," whom He Himself has sanctified and brought to the Father (Heb. 2:10,11) are they who have received Him by faith. For "as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His Name" (John 1:12).
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