"They which were scattered abroad . . . travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to NONE BUT UNTO THE JEWS ONLY." - Acts 11:19
"FOR THE HOPE OF ISRAEL I am bound with this chain." - Acts 28:20
"For if the casting away of them (the Jews) be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?" - Rom 11:15
The idea that the gospel hope is inseparably linked to the modern Jewish people and the reestablishment of the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan (Eretz Israel) is completely foreign to the thinking of traditional Christianity. Nevertheless, the Bible is clear that such a connection does exist, and it is up to us to carefully heed the words of scripture and understand why this is so and what it means to us.
The interest taken by "Christians," as a body, in the Jews, is purely sentimental in character, and relates more to historical rather than future significance. It arises from the history of the Jews - from their national relation to the Deity in former times; from God's use of them as the channel of Divine revelation; and from their flesh-and-blood connection with the Messiah in that Jesus was himself a Jew. It does not stretch into the future, except in the form of professed concern for the spiritual interests of the Jews, in common with those of mankind in general. It does not recognise that the salvation of mankind is directly dependent upon the future of the Jewish people.
The salvation of the world is bound up in the destiny of the Jews. In this lesson we will learn that without the literal national glorification of the Jews, there will be no salvation for individuals or nations in any shape or form. Anyone who is either ignorant or skeptical of this coming future development with regard to the Jews, is lacking one of the major and essential features of Bible teaching. Consider the evidence. Jesus said to his disciples -
"I am not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel". (Matthew 15:24).
That the phrase "lost sheep" refers to the Jews specifically is evident from another similar statement which excludes all but the Jews - "Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." - Matthew 10:5,6.
Jesus further declared to the woman of Samaria, at Jacob's well - "Salvation is of the Jews" (John 4:22).
These passages show that the salvation proclaimed by Jesus and his apostles had a national restriction. Jesus was a Jew, born to the house of David as the God-appointed heir of David's throne. The apostles who laboured with him were also Jews. They proclaimed a message which came from the God of the Jews, and which according to the original instructions of Christ was only intended for the Jews. Therefore, Paul could emphatically characterize the gospel as "THE HOPE OF ISRAEL," which he did when he declared ...
"FOR THE HOPE OF ISRAEL I am bound with this chain." - Acts 28:20.
He also made the following statement with very pointed emphasis, in defending himself before king Agrippa ...
"And now I stand and am judged for THE HOPE OF THE PROMISE made of God unto our fathers; unto which promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, HOPE TO COME; FOR WHICH HOPE'S SAKE KING AGRIPPA, I AM ACCUSED OF THE JEWS". (Acts 26:6,7).
He could also say with a truthfulness not generally appreciated: "My kinsmen, according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertain the ADOPTION, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, AND THE PROMISES" - Romans 9:3-4.
Thus it is evident that the gospel of salvation proclaimed for acceptance is intensely Jewish in its origin, its application, and its future bearing. It is equally evident that this was the context in which it was regarded by the disciples immediately after the day of Pentecost
"They which were scattered abroad . . . travelled as far as Phenice, and Cyprus, and Antioch, preaching the word to NONE BUT UNTO THE JEWS ONLY." - Acts 11:19.
Peter required a special revelation to convince him as to God's proposed admission of the Gentiles into the blessings of Israel, and even then he threw the onus of it upon God. He did not attempt to justify it himself, but apologised to his brethren for preaching to the Gentiles, saying,
"What was I, that I could withstand God?" (Acts 11:17).
The fact is, the admission of the Gentiles to the hope of the gospel was one of the "mysteries" of the gospel referred to by Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians:
"Ye may understand my knowledge in the mystery of Christ, which 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; that the Gentiles should be FELLOW-HEIRS, and of the SAME BODY, and PARTAKERS of his promise in Christ by the Gospel." - Ephesians 3:4-6
But this opening of the way for the admission of the Gentiles did not destroy the Israelitish character of "THE HOPE." In fact, the effect was just the other way. Instead of the Gentiles converting the hope into Gentilism by their reception of it, the hope converted Gentiles into Jews, conforming them to its essentially Israelitish character. Hence the statements of Paul to Gentile believers...
"Ye [Gentiles] were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise... Now therefore ye are NO MORE STRANGERS AND FOREIGNERS, but fellow-citizens with the saints and of the household of God" - Ephesians 2:12 ,Romans 2:19
"HE IS A JEW which is one inwardly" - Romans 2:29
...that is, any person who is not a Jew by birth, but who understands and accepts the Jewish character of the hope (i.e., that redemption and salvation is linked to the promises that God made to Abraham the father of the Jews) is more a real Jew than the natural descendant of Abraham who is without understanding. Referring to the admission of the Gentiles, he speaks of it as a cutting out of the olive tree, which is wild by nature, and a grafting contrary to nature, into the good olive tree (Romans 11:24). Hence the Gentiles are "wild olive branches," without hope - without birthright - without promises - without a future portion of any kind; and if they would become heirs of the inheritance to come, they must cast off "the old man" of their Gentilism, and put on "the new man" of true Jewism ...
"...which is renewed in knowledge after the image of Him that created him" - Colossians 3:10
THE HOPE OF ISRAEL
Paul states that he was bound "for the hope of Israel" (Acts 28:20), which is equivalent to saying that he preached "the hope of Israel", seeing that it was for his preaching that he was put in bonds. In what sense can the set of ideas Paul preached be termed "the hope of Israel"? There is very little if anything taught by traditional Christianity that would cause it to be termed "the hope of Israel". How did Paul's preaching differ?
The essential feature of Paul's preaching recognized a Jewish national hope, based upon certain promises made by God to the fathers of the nation. Those promises on which that hope was based, constitute "glad tidings", or the "gospel" proclaimed by Jesus and the apostles; and those who believed it derived from it a very specific hope of redemption and salvation. From this it becomes readily apparent that there is an intimate connection between the Christian hope and the hope of Israel, because they are both based upon a reception of the doctrine of the Gospel. It is the purpose of this lesson to explore that connection.
The origin and history of the Jews is well documented in the Bible. Abraham, the member of a Chaldean family, was commanded to separate himself from his people, and go into a land "which he should after receive for an inheritance" (Hebrews 11:8). He obeyed, and went out, "not knowing whither he went." He was afterwards informed that his descendants would become a great nation, with whom God should have special dealings, and who should be the special objects of His care. In due time Abraham's household went down into Egypt, and settled in that country as a friendly colony. In the course of events, the Pharaohs enslaved them, and subjected them to a bitter rule for more than two centuries. At the end of that time, they were delivered through divine intervention by the hand of Moses; and after various wanderings and experiences, they settled in the land of promise as a kingdom under a divine constitution, i.e., the first and original Kingdom of God on the earth. This Divine constitution provided that so long as the nation was obedient to its requirements, they would remain in the land in prosperity, but that so soon as they departed from the statutes of God who had called and constituted them, adversity would overtake them. The subsequent part of their history is summed up in a sentence; they failed to observe the conditions of this national covenant, became divided into two kingdoms in the land (Israel and Judah), and thereafter were expelled from the national territory in disgrace, and scattered among the nations as fugitives, where they remain through the centuries until their recent re-establishment in the land of Palestine. Traditional Christian teaching does not go much beyond this general outline of the history of the Jews. That the Jews have any kind of a special future in the Divine plan is not a popular concept. Jewish national history is regarded as consummated, and the national destiny irrevocably sealed.
God, however, thinks differently, and the Bible, His word, speaks differently. Consider the following testimonies regarding the national standing of the Jews before God :--
"I the Lord am holy, and have severed you from other people, that ye should be MINE" - Leviticus 20:26
"Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God. The Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a SPECIAL PEOPLE UNTO HIMSELF, above all people that are upon the face of the earth" - Deuteronomy 7:6
"Thou art a holy people unto the Lord thy God; and the Lord hath chosen thee to be a PECULIAR PEOPLE UNTO HIMSELF, above all nations that are upon the earth" - Deuteronomy 14:2
"The Lord hath avouched thee this day to be HIS PECULIAR PEOPLE, as He hath promised thee; and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments, and to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour: and that thou mayest be a holy people unto the Lord thy God" - Deuteronomy 26:18,19
It would be difficult to give more emphatic expression to the idea of a special, deliberate, and unconditional selection by God of the Jews as a people to Himself. Who are we to question it? "Hath not the potter power over the clay?" Hath not the Eternal Creator, in His infinite wisdom, the right to develop His own plans in His own way? The selection of the Jews is one feature of the great master plan which He has conceived in relation to this world. This is incontestably proved by scripture testimony.
The Bible is very clear that the selection of the Jew as the chosen nation is not really about the Jew. It has nothing to do with their worthiness or unworthiness. If it were, they would long ago have been destroyed - not only as a nation, but as a race. The selection of the Jew, and everything that happens to the Jew, is really about God. God has elected to select them irrespective of their moral condition, FOR HIS SAKE AND FOR HIS GLORY...
"I do not this for YOUR SAKES, O house of Israel, but FOR MINE HOLY NAME'S SAKE, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went." - Ezekiel 36:22
Nothing can undo the divine selection. "The gifts and calling of God are without repentance (i.e. change)." The Jews themselves cannot nullify the decree. They may bring upon themselves, as they have done, the divine displeasure and the divine affliction by their sins, but they cannot alter their position before God as His chosen nation. The very punishments which they have endured for many generations are proof of the divine speciality of their national character. The language of God toward them is specific...
"You [Israel] only have I known of all the families of the earth; THEREFORE I will punish you for all your iniquities." - Amos 3:2 Likewise, the calamities which have befallen them are proofs of divine supervision and control. They were scattered because of their iniquities, but not for ever cast off, as the common idea is:-
"God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew." - Romans 11:2 The Divine message through Jeremiah is even more to the point ...
"Though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee [Israel], yet will I not make a full end of thee; but I will CORRECT thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished." - Jeremiah 30:11
The national sufferings of Israel are but the measured correction to which God is subjecting them; but nowhere does God indicate that He has finally rejected them. The Divine language of Jeremiah 33:24-26 would imply that some, in ancient times, took a contrary view, and contended, as many now do, that God had for ever disowned His people, and intended their destruction. The answer is emphatic and without doubt ...
"Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the Lord hath chosen He hath even cast them off. Thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. Thus saith the Lord, if my covenant be NOT with day and night, and if I have NOT appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth, THEN will I cast away the seed of Jacob and David my servant." - Jeremiah 33:24-26
The Jews suffered as a consequence of spiritual stubbornness. This was foretold by all the prophets. The evidence of their truthfulness is before our eyes. We know there was wide-spread dispersion of the nation which was once the sovereign people of the word; we see it in the manner by which they have been treated by their host nations (for example, the holocaust). But all this is to change:-
"Thus saith the Lord, like as I have brought all this great evil upon this people so will I bring upon them ALL THE GOOD THAT I HAVE PROMISED THEM" - Jeremiah 32:42
Here is a complete answer to the question. Its affirmation is that good will succeed the evil which has been their experience. This implies that the present time of national adversity will come to an end. Note carefully, that the good predicted is declared to have been "promised": What good has been promised them?
"Behold the days come, saith the Lord, that I will perform THAT GOOD THING which I have PROMISED unto the house of Israel and to the house of Judah. In those days, and at that time, will I cause the Branch of Righteousness to grow up unto David: and he shall execute judgment and righteousness in the land. In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely." - Jeremiah 33:14,16
Here the "good thing promised" is briefly summarised. Its two main features are: (1) a king to execute judgment and righteousness in the land and (2) the salvation of Judah and Jerusalem in his day. This is neither more nor less than a promise of the Messiah to rescue them from their enemies, and to recover them from the oppressions to which they have been subject for ages, a promise which is repeated in the following words:-
"I will make them [Israel] one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations." - Ezekiel 37:22
Furthermore, the message of scripture is that not only will the Jews be restored, but that they are destined to subdue all kingdoms under heaven. Even powerful nations like the USA and Britain, with all their national sensitiveness and pride, will have to submit to them or be crushed by the stone which shall then be made the head of the corner:-
"Thou art my battle-axe and weapons of war; for with thee will I break in pieces the nations, and with thee will I destroy kingdoms." - Jeremiah 51:20
It is important to note the second element in the good thing promised: "In these days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely." Obviously these days are yet to come; for, at present there is no Messiah executing judgment in the promised land, and no dwelling safely of Judah and Jerusalem, and never has there been such a state of things. Yet the promise is that this "good thing" shall "come to pass," with all the certainty of the evil which has overtaken the nation...
"It shall come to pass, that like as I have watched over them [Israel], to pluck up, and to break down, and to throw down, and to destroy, and to afflict, so will I watch over them, to build and to plant, saith the Lord." - Jeremiah 31:28
This is to be in the days of the "Righteous Branch", i.e., the kingdom age, when "he shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth". Consider the following statements:
"At that time, they shall call Jerusalem the throne of the Lord; and all the nations shall be gathered unto it; to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem, neither shall they walk any more after the imagination of their evil heart. IN THOSE DAYS, the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel; and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given for an inheritance unto your fathers." - Jeremiah 3:17,18
"Thus saith the Lord God, Behold I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, AND BRING THEM INTO THEIR OWN LAND." - Ezekiel 37:21 "I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will BRING YOU INTO YOUR OWN LAND." - Ezekiel 34:24 There is no evading this language. It is too definitely worded to be vaguely spiritualised or misunderstood:-
"Hear the word of the Lord, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off. He that scattered Israel will GATHER him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock." - Jeremiah 31:10
As surely as the fact that the Jews were scattered, they are to be gathered again. On this the Bible message is clear; and when that happens, the Jews will be supremely honoured in like proportion as they are now despised...
"Behold, at that time...will I bring you [Israel] again, even in the time that I gather you; for I will make you a name and a praise among all people of the earth, when I turn back your captivity before your eyes, saith the Lord." - Zephaniah 3:19,20
"Thus saith the Lord of Hosts, In those days it shall come to pass that ten men shall take hold, out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." - Zechariah 8:23 JEWS TO BE THE "FIRST NATION" IN THE WORLD
This honour is connected with political supremacy. The Jews are to become the most powerful and renowned among the nations, having all people in subjection...
"The Gentiles shall come to thy [Israel's] light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising: . . . and the sons of strangers shall build up thy walls, and their kings shall minister unto thee; for in my wrath I smote thee, but in my favour have I had mercy on thee. Therefore, thy gates shall be open continually; they shall not be shut day or night, that men may bring unto thee the forces of the Gentiles, and that their kings may be brought. For the nation and kingdom that will not serve thee SHALL PERISH; yea, those nations SHALL BE UTTERLY WASTED The sons also of them that afflicted thee shall come bending unto thee; and all they that despised thee shall bow themselves down at the soles of thy feet; and they shall call the city of the Lord, the Zion of the Holy One of Israel. Whereas thou hast been forsaken and hated, so that no man went through thee, I will make thee an eternal excellency, a joy of many generations" - Isaiah 60:3,10-12,14-15.
When this shall come to pass, the enemies of Israel will be confounded. Those who now deride them, and mock at their national hope, will be overtaken by the retribution to which they are rendering themselves liable. The approaching noontide of Jewish prosperity will be the catalyst to their destruction. The preliminary symptoms of the change will fill them with panic. This is the message of the following Scripture...
"The nations shall see and be confounded at all their might; they shall lay their hand upon their mouth; their ears shall be deaf. They shall lick the dust like a serpent; they shall move out of their holes like worms of the earth; they shall be afraid of the Lord our God, and shall fear because of thee [Israel]" - Micah 7:16,17
The dreaded fate will overtake them...
"I will contend with him that contendeth with thee [Israel], and I will save thy children: and I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh, and they shall be drunken with their own blood as with sweet wine; and all flesh shall know that I, the Lord, am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty one of Jacob." - Isaiah 49:25-26
"Behold all they that were incensed against thee shall be ashamed and confounded. THEY SHALL BE AS NOTHING; and they that strive with thee SHALL PERISH. Thou shalt seek them and shall not find them, even them that contended with thee. They that war against thee shall be as nothing, and as a thing of nought." - Isaiah 41:11,12
Here, then, is certain doom for all who now take part against Israel; but there is a blessing in store for those who befriend them. "Blessed is he that blesseth thee, and cursed is he that curseth thee." This was the decree pronounced by Balaam under the influence of the spirit, and declared to Abraham centuries before. It is both individual and national in its application.
National restoration as a purpose of God is not conditional upon national reformation. Thus there will be an initial indiscriminate national restoration resulting in thousands of Jews being gathered from the countries of their dispersion who will never enter the land. Yet this will not destroy their national relationship. Being Jews, whom God has specially chosen as a nation, with a view to the development of His ultimate purpose, they will every one be gathered in the preliminary restoration.
"He shall set up an ensign for the nations, and shall assemble THE OUTCASTS of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth" - Isaiah 11:12.
However, although they will be gathered from the countries irrespectively of moral condition, admission to the land will be based upon the faith and moral integrity of every individual of the nation:-- "I will bring you [Israel] out from the people, and will gather you out of the countries wherein ye are scattered, with a mighty hand, and with stretched-out arm, and with fury poured out; and I will bring you into the wilderness of the people, and there will I plead with you face to face. Like as I pleaded with your fathers in the wilderness of the land of Egypt, so will I plead with you, saith the Lord God, And I will cause you to pass under the rod, and I will bring you into the bond of the covenant, and I WILL PURGE OUT FROM AMONG YOU THE REBELS AND THEM THAT TRANSGRESS AGAINST ME. I will bring them forth out of the country where they sojourn, and they shall NOT enter into the land of Israel." - Ezekiel 20:34-38
In this we recognise a parallel to what occurred to them after leaving Egypt under Moses. They were then a rabble of untutored, unbelieving slaves; and a whole generation, with the exception of two persons--Caleb and Joshua--perished in the wilderness. They "entered not in because of unbelief," says Hebrews 4:6. Likewise most of the Jews contemporary with the return of Christ will also be unfit to enter the land; and the Bible informs us that a similar purifying will take place in the wilderness, as in the days of Moses, and may occupy the same period and / or be of the same character for its accomplishment: - "According to the days of thy [Israel's] coming out of the land of Egypt will I shew unto him marvellous things." - Micah 8:15
"Thy people also shall be ALL RIGHTEOUS [after the purifying]; they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I may be glorified" - Isaiah 60: 21.
Thus, even in the future national restoration of the Jews, the same conditions of Divine acceptance apply to the Jew as to the Gentile; but the hope of the Gentiles is pivotal upon Jewish national restoration. "Blindness in part is happened to Israel, UNTIL the fulness of the Gentiles be come in; and so all Israel SHALL BE SAVED ... If the fall of them be the riches of the world and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more THEIR FULNESS? If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, WHAT SHALL THE RECEIVING OF THEM BE, but life from the dead?" - Romans 11:25,26,28,12,15.