The Seed of Abraham
Children of the Covenants
by: Robert (Bob) Somerville
"Surely He hath borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows:... He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities...the LORD hath laid on Him the iniquity of us all" (Isaiah 53:4-6)
The above scripture is God's answer to the sin question and His provision for humanity's fallen condition whether Jew or Gentile. Reliance upon and acceptance of the Messiah (Jesus) is the only true way of faith for man, regardless of race or nationality. No man can circumvent God's redemptive plan. It is needful to say this before proceeding with our subject, since the question of redemption invariably arises when one attempts to assert any possible uniqueness attached to the Jew in the purposes of God today. To suggest that any people, other than the Church, could have a favorable status with God violates what many Christians have come to believe.
Here we hope to offer a balanced view of the controversies that surround the Jewish question and the role that Israel and the Jews play in the divine scheme of things in our time. Much prayer and caution have gone into this composition so that its scriptural and historic integrity might be preserved. Through the centuries the issue of Israel and the Church has proven to be one of great contention. This book offers some reconciling perspectives for both those who are enthusiastic about national Israel and those who have great reservations as to its spiritual significance.
We face an either/or situation. Either God is at work with the Jewish people to regather them to their land and restore their nation or He is not. If He is, it is vitally important that we all, to some degree, become supportive and involved in what He is doing. If on the other hand He is not, the Church would be wasting its time, misrepresenting God's will and perhaps playing into the hands of Satanic forces to involve us in some questionable way. Rather than be burdened with taking a definitive position, some are choosing to plead ignorance and down play or minimize the importance of the whole issue, hoping to absolve themselves of any obligations to act responsibly. However, decisions must be made. There will be no "middle-of-the-roaders." Everyone must eventually take a position since God has surely done so. God does not wink at ignorance (Acts 17:30). The Church must know the truth and be a participant. We believe the truth of this controversy can be ascertained by the answer to one all important question: "Who are THE SEED OF ABRAHAM - Christians or Jews?" If you are not sure, this book will prove to be stabilizing. If your mind is made up, it will either reinforce your position, challenge it or change it.
THE SEED OF ABRAHAM
Historic controversies continue to stir within the body of Christ today concerning the Biblical distinction between the Jewish people and the Christian believers. Which of these two groups should legitimately be considered "The Chosen of God?" Who, from God's perspective are the "Seed of Abraham" today? Contending "winds of doctrine" are tossing many believers to and fro, inflicting considerable damage. Unless this dilemma on the issue is quickly resolved and greater clarity of understanding surfaces, a time of severe doctrinal crisis for the Church is inevitable and in fact is already in evidence.
The most prominent of polarized positions on the subject might best be identified as "Replacement Theology" and the "Theology of Continuation." The Replacement concept contends that the ministry of Jesus rendered a situation wherein the Church totally replaced ISRAEL as the people of God, creating a "Spiritual Israel" or seed of Abraham, and that He no longer deals with the natural Jew in a divine way. The Continuation concept maintains that although the Church was a spiritual body of believers birthed by Jesus through the New Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant with the Jew was not terminated nor canceled but rather was reinforced and remains binding upon them today. Therefore God continues to have plan and purpose for the natural Jew for Abraham's sake. This, it is contended, has affected their movements as a nation of people and will ultimately conform them to a divine destiny which is reflected in their regathering to the land and restoration to statehood.
Of course there are varying shades of persuasion between the two concepts. Each has merit but an extreme of either position must be cautioned against. For example, an extremist on "Replacement" might suggest that the Jew is unredeemable. While an extremist on "Continuation" might suggest that through their national suffering, Jews have now become their own redeemer or savior. However, there is some middle ground available which can reconcile both positions that seem intrinsically pitted against each other. All too often, one side tends to ignore the persuasive points of the other, preferring to vociferously emphasize their own. The truth often lies between two extremes. The ultimate conclusion must be definitive and absolute, but the rationale that leads to the proper conclusion may be somewhat complex. A little stripping away of some traditional ideas should help to bring it into clearer focus.
Of the two concepts, perhaps "Replacement Theology" is the least scriptural, yet the most universally accepted and taught by the Church. Why? Let us examine its origin and the circumstances which gave it birth.
The concept of "Replacement" is a brainchild of necessity born of historical crisis whose roots can be traced back to the formative years of the first century Church. This crisis was more specifically an "identity crisis" which troubled the infant Church for at least the first ten years of her existence. So close was its identity with the nation of Israel in character and faith, that for many years the Church was simply considered a "sect of the Jews." The only distinction was its belief in Yahshua (Jesus) as Messiah. Believers were not known as "Christians" (a term created by their detractors) until about 42 A.D. (Acts 11:26). Through the process of time, the demand for a clearer distinction between believing and unbelieving Jews increased. Eventually that body of believers consisting of both Jews and Gentiles, adopted the identity "Christian Church" which continues with us today. While this went far toward resolving the identity crisis, it also set the stage for a polarization between Israel and the Church, or Christians and Jews that has been warlike ever since. No extreme was spared to disassociate one from the other, laying the ground work for systematic replacement theology taught in the Church.
The doctrine of "replacement" not only asserted the replacement of the Jews by the Church, but presented a laundered gospel which deleted everything Jewish from the doctrine and liturgy of the Church. The historic Church was so victimized by this anti-Semitic concept, that for the most part it remains entrenched in it today.
In the post-Pauline period an entire catechism was developed, dedicated to the popularization of extreme "Replacement Theology". It was carefully tailored so as to entirely strip the Jewish people of their identity with the Covenant of Abraham, making the Church the sole heir of God's promises, concerns and covenants. After Paul's departure, church leaders took advantage of some of his statements that the Covenant of Grace replaced the Covenant of the Law (Hebrews 8:13), reading into them the notion that the reforming work of Christ (Hebrews 9:10) also canceled the Abrahamic covenant with the Jews and that they were now "rejected" and had been "replaced" by the Church. Nothing could be further from the truth. No scripture of the New Testament fosters such an idea, not even Hebrews 8:13 (as we shall show). It is important to bear in mind that we are dealing with three separate and distinct covenants.
There is an enormous difference between the Covenant of Abraham, the Covenant of the Law and the Covenant of Grace (New Covenant). There were more covenants than just the two commonly referred to as the "Old" and the "New."
THE VANISHING COVENANT
"In that He saith, a NEW COVENANT, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13)
The Old Covenant referred to here is not the Covenant of Abraham nor even a restatement of it as some scholars contend. It was a separate covenant made with Moses and the children of Israel at Sinai (the law). It might even be referred to as the Mosaic covenant since Moses (not Abraham) was its administrator.
Those who feel that God is no longer committed to the Jewish people in covenant, quite often invoke this passage of scripture to conclude that the Abrahamic Covenant is no longer in force. A close inspection, however, reveals that is has nothing whatever to do with the covenant that God made with Abraham. How can we know this? We are assured of it by the following scripture:
"For finding fault with them, He saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers (Moses and the Elders) in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt..." (Hebrews 8:8-9)
Clearly, this scripture is speaking of the Covenant of the Law, not the Covenant of Abraham. However, most Christians do not know the difference between the Mosaic Covenant (Law) and the Abrahamic Covenant. Their understanding is, for the most part, limited to the common understanding that there was only an Old Testament (Covenant) and the New Testament (Covenant). Their impression is that the NEW replaced the OLD and (presumably) that ended the matter. Abraham's Covenant tends to get lost in the shuffle. There were other personal covenants made between God and man throughout Biblical history (seven in all), but the three primary covenants to concern us are: the Abrahamic, the Mosaic and the Messianic Covenants. They are as follows:
"And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an EVERLASTING covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. And I will give unto thee, and to thy seed after thee, THE LAND wherein thou art a stranger, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God" (Genesis 17:7,8)
"And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights: he did neither eat bread, nor drink water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments" (Exodus 34:28)
"This is my blood of the (New) Covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins" (Matthew 26:28 NIV)
The Messianic Covenant of Grace did indeed replace the redemptive effects of the Mosaic Covenant of the Law but not the Covenant of Abraham. It is important that this be made perfectly clear, because this is where much of the confusion lies as to whether or not God is still committed to the Jewish people today. Simply stated, if Jesus did not nullify the Abrahamic Covenant with the Jew, then that piece of real estate in the middle east called the "Holy Land" continues to be their promised possession, which obviously accounts for the miraculous restoration and perpetuation of the statehood of Israel.
Replacement Theology has merit but its merits are lost in the confusion of covenants. The Covenant of Abraham was "unconditional" and eternal but the Covenant of Moses was "conditional" based upon obedience to the law and was therefore terminated (in its redemptive value) because Israel failed to meet those conditions and broke their covenant made at Sinai. Should there be any question as to the singular and separate nature of the covenant made with Moses as compared with that of Abraham, the following scripture should remove all doubt"
"The LORD made not this covenant with our fathers, (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) but with us, even us, who are all of us here alive this day" (Deuteronomy 5:3)
The Covenant of the Law is the only "Old Covenant" that can in any sense of the word be considered replaced by the "New Covenant." Although it was not replaced in an absolute sense considering Jesus' statement, "I came not to destroy the law...". It was terminated as a means for obtaining righteousness which comes only through Jesus Christ. However, God has never found fault with His Covenant made with faithful Abraham (Genesis 12:!-3). Therefore, it has never been terminated nor replaced. The Abrahamic Covenant continues to apply to the Jewish people today. The Covenant of Abraham and the Covenant of Christ are coexisting in the earth today. The effect is that Abraham has two manner of seed manifested in the earth, a natural seed (Jews) and the spiritual seed through Christ (the Church). Unless this is clearly understood, many statements of the New Testament could appear confusing and indeed contradictory.
TWO MANNER OF SEED
Who are the seed of Abraham today? The following scripture provides some good insight into the answer. This is the God of heaven speaking to Abraham in allegorical and prophetic terms at the time of covenant:
"That in blessing I will bless thee (Abraham), and in multiplying I will multiply thy seed as the STARS of the heaven, and as the SAND which is upon the seashore..." (Genesis 22:17)
The words stars and sand are used symbolically to describe Abraham's seed. The Bible quite often employs such picture language to convey divine thought. Its use in this particular scripture sheds a great deal of light on the subject in question, WHO ARE THE SEED OF ABRAHAM? Notice that it emphasized two important characteristics of Abraham's seed: (1) They would be great in number. (2) They would be as stars and sand. Let us examine the second. Why did God use the analogy of STARS and SAND in the divine description of Abraham's seed? Is it only because they would be great in number? If so, only one of these descriptions would have been necessary. Perhaps there is more to it. A deeper lesson can be learned here. Let's look at it. Stars are elements of the heavenly realm while sand is terrestrial (of the earth). The inference seems to be that God would produce two manner of seed through Abraham; HEAVENLY and EARTHLY or SPRITUAL and NATURAL. One major event set the stage to create this scenario:
"And ye shall be left few in number, whereas ye were as the STARS of heaven for multitude; because thou wouldest not obey the voice of the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 28:62)
The promise of being "as the stars of heaven" was cancelled through Israel's disobedience, which in the foreknowledge of God set the stage for the implementation of an alternative program wherein all, or "whosoever will" through the Covenant of Messiah, may become "star seed" of Abraham.
"If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise" (Galatians 3:29 NIV)
Daniel, the prophet saw this in prophetic vision:
"And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the STARS for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3)
By this, two manner of seed were created which is now manifested as Christians and Jews. Both of these are a result of God's covenantal relationship with Abraham. It is what one might call a "dual posterity" in the earth (Hebrews 11:12, Galatians 3:29). We see this same principle expressed in I Corinthians 15:46:
"...that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual."
Such is the case with the Jewish People and the Church. The Jews (natural) came first, then came the birth of the Church (spiritual). One did not cancel the other. Paul's direct reference is to Adam and Jesus. Adam produced the human family (natural). Jesus the Messiah produced the Christian family (Spiritual). Father God was the author of both. Again, one did not cancel the other. They coexist in this earth today. Abraham reflects a similar dimension in that through him came his son, Isaac (natural seed) and Jesus (spiritual seed, Galatians 3:16). From this we must conclude that there are two continuing manifestations of Abraham's seed in the earth, Jews and Christians. Today, God is at work with His "dual posterity", the stars and sand, seed of Abraham, (the Church and Israel). While restoring the Church to its full spiritual potential He is also restoring the Jewish people and their nation, with a view toward their ultimate spiritual restoration (Romans 9:27).
That the Jews are the seed of Abraham and a covenant people seems clear but the question arises: What is the Biblical perspective of the Arabs in all of this? The Arabic people are indeed a natural seed of Abraham also through his son Ishmael and God has promised to bless them (Genesis 21:13, 17:20). They are not however, a promised seed nor a Covenant people as are the Jews (Abraham's descendants through Isaac). Therefore the Arabs are not included directly in this covenantal promise of Genesis 22:17.
GOD'S CHOSEN PEOPLE
Nearly everyone has heard it said, "The Jews are God's chosen people". What does that statement mean? How do we know? And if so, are they the only ones? These are reasonable questions that deserve sensible, factual answers. Many believers are not sure of what it means. Others who use the phrase quite often cannot fully explain it. Does it mean that the Jews are more loved by God than are other people? Are they about half saved? What, in fact, does it mean? Yes, Jews are a chosen people, but not for any of the aforementioned reasons. Isaiah, the prophet, tells us specifically what they were chosen for:
"Here am I, and the children the Lord has given me. We are signs and symbols in Israel from the LORD Almighty, who dwells on Mount Zion." (Isaiah 8:18 NIV)
To be "chosen" does not necessarily mean to be righteous. From their very beginning as a nation, they have been used by God to demonstrate the truth of His word in both blessing and cursing. They inherited this "chosen" status because Abraham was a chosen vessel. All that they have experienced historically has been predicted in the Bible. Naturally speaking, they are the greatest physical sign in the earth that there is a sovereign God in control of the universe, that the Bible is true and is His authorship. The scattering of the Jews throughout all the nations, their persecutions, their regathering as a nation and restoration to statehood, are all "signs" that God's word is faithful. They were the chosen family to bring forth the Messiah to redeem mankind.
The Scripture teaches that only three witnesses are necessary to remove all doubt about any question (2 Corinthians 13:!). Here we have produced more than adequate historic evidence and present day witnesses to confirm that the Jews are a chosen people. But are they the only ones to be considered a "chosen" people? No! The Church is also a chosen body of people in the earth. Jesus said, "I have chosen you out of the world" (John 15:19). The Church was chosen and ordained to perform spiritual signs in the earth:
"And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues; They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover" (Mark 16:17,18).
Natural Israel is a natural sign, spiritual Israel (Church) is a spiritual sign. Both the natural seed (sand) and the spiritual seed (stars) are fulfilling their purpose in the earth. They are as parallel beams of light who, through the prism of God's work, will be bent into the same destiny of the KINGDOM. God has committed Himself to both of the seed of Abraham; Christians and Jews.
WHO IS A JEW
Those who would deny any ongoing significance for the natural or physical Jew in God's purposes today are quick to offer the following New Testament passage to substantiate their position:
"For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly... and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit..." (Romans 2:28-29)
On its face, this verse appears to strip the natural Jew of his identity. However, Paul in his discourses is constantly alternating the direction of his comments between the natural and spiritual concept of Old Covenant and New Covenant. In this particular passage he is indeed speaking spiritually, saying that Jews are not (New Covenant) Jews unless they have a heart experience (Ezekiel 11:19), which is the New Testament concept. But it is both interesting and educational to note that he immediately proceeds into the next chapter and states a profound truth (although confusing to many) about unbelieving Jews:
"What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? MUCH EVERY WAY..." (Romans 3:1,2)
We know that Paul's reference includes the unbelieving Jew (in N.T. terms) in that he further states, "What if some did not believe?" In spite of what he had just previously said about their not being Jews, he still acknowledges them as Jews even if they are in an unbelieving state and contends that there is a definite "advantage". Is Paul contradicting himself? He is if we persist in having a "one track mind" about WHO ARE ABRAHAM'S SEED? If however, we will flow with Paul from the spiritual context to the natural, we will begin to see the STARS and SAND or the two manner of seed in the earth, natural and spiritual. In these two chapters is reflected the two polarized positions of doctrine which exist in the Church today; Replacement and Continuation. Usually one chooses the interpretation or quotations that best suits his or her particular point of view. Paul recognizes both without sacrificing either one completely. Both Christians and Jews are a product of God's sovereign wisdom. Neither stands alone to represent the whole truth. Therefore, they are in a sense inseparable in the divine strategy of things. The word "Jew" becomes a generic term which means "Covenant People" and can be applied to people of either the Old or New Testament.
THE CHILDREN OF GOD
Another scripture which on the surface appears to rule out any significance for the natural Jew today is Romans 9:8:
"...the children of the flesh (Jews), these are not the children of God..."
A casual reading of this verse may cause one to conclude that the natural Jew in the New Testament concept has once again been stripped of his identity and replaced by the Church. A closer inspection will reveal something quite different. Although they are not children of God in a "Christian" sense, it does not say that they have ceased to be the SEED of Abraham, unique in the purposes of God (Romans 11:2). The biological fact remains that they are Abraham's descendants of the covenant for whom God has plan and purpose. It is not necessary to be a believer (in Christ) to retain the identity as "Abraham's Seed" nor even to be identified as people of God as some may have concluded from Galatians 3:29:
"And if ye be Christ's, then are ye (also) Abraham's seed..."
This was not intended to be an eliminating statement concerning natural Jews, but an inclusive statement about the relationship of Gentile Christian believers to Abraham. It was intended to show that as Gentiles, by accepting Christ they were now considered to be part of the "commonwealth of Israel" (Ephesians 2:10-12). A paraphrase of this might read, "If ye be Christ's then are ye STAR seed even if ye are not SAND seed". These Galatian people were not Jews (the natural descendants of Abraham). Nevertheless, through a heavenly operation they became included in the promises of God and the covenant to Abraham as a spiritual seed. There can be no question that believers in Christ, no matter who they are in nationality, are considered Abraham's seed. But what about the Jewish people as a whole? Can they in any sense be considered a people of God? Yes, they are His natural seed through Abraham:
"...Hath God cast away HIS people (natural Jews)? GOD FORBID... God hath not cast away HIS people which He foreknew..." (Romans 11:1,2)
There can be no question that the Jews are a people of God. To consider the Jews a "rejected" people is something God "forbids". However, there are those in Christian ministry today who are not so sure. Some will even go so far as to contridict the Apostle with a seeming cavalier disregard for his instructions, proceeding to preach and teach the notion that the Jews were somehow "cut-off" and cast-away. Obviously God has done nothing of the kind. It is unconscionable that anyone could persist in a theological posture that Paul said was forbidden by the Lord. The New International Version removes all doubt in the matter by stating categorically, "God hath not rejected His people". This Scripture established two important truths for us: (1) The Jews are still His (God's) people and (2) They are not rejected. No other conclusions can be drawn. Paul reinforces his position in Romans 11:11:
"I say then Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid..."
Therefore, if they did not fall it remains that to some degree Jews still stand before God as a people of purpose and destiny.
AN ELECT PEOPLE
"As far as the gospel is concerned, they (Jews) are enemies on your account; but as far as election is concerned, they are loved on account of the patriarchs, (Abraham, Isaac and Jacob) for God's gifts and His call (upon Israel) are irrevocable" (Romans 11:28,29 NIV)
What a remarkable statement from the New Testament this is. It flies in the face of the exclusivism in Christian thinking. Promoters of the "Replacement" concept cannot possibly accommodate this scripture nor the many others just like it. Paul is actually saying that even unbelieving Jews remain an "elect" people. Bear in mind that this was stated nearly thirty years after the death of Jesus. Paul recognized their uniqueness in God's plans. Ironic isn't it? Although the Jews may be considered the enemies of the Christian faith, this too has a divine purpose. He said that it was on your account, or so that a spiritual seed could be created in the earth (the Christian Church). Through their misfortunes, salvation has come to the Gentiles (Romans 11:11).
Unlike the Covenant of the Law which was destined to be replaced, the Covenant of Abraham was an "everlasting" covenant (Genesis 17:7). The Jews remain an "elect" people unto this present hour. Why? Not because they are so good or a "pet" people but because of God's abiding covenant with Abraham and the patriarchs. It is in this context that Paul can say with confidence that God's call and gifts to Israel are irrevocable.
Those who would question this uniqueness attached to the Jew in the purposes of God today quite often rely upon the uncertainty of dreams, visions and revelations as criterion for faith on this issue. However, these are all too vulnerable to human error and subjective interpretation. Healthy positions of doctrinal faith must have their focus in fact and in scripture, not in religious experience. No amount of religious rationale nor theological maneuvering can revoke God's gifts and calling on Israel.
What are God's gifts to the Jewish people? One of the major "gifts" to the Jewish people is the land of Israel. This is unmistakably confirmed by the prophet Ezekiel"
"...Because I swore with uplifted hand to give it (Canaan) to your forefathers, this land will become your inheritance" (Ezekiel 47:14 NIV)
This is not speaking of their initial occupying of Canaan land at the hand of Joshua but their prophetic restoration. These encouraging words were penned by Ezekiel while a captive in Babylonia. Obviously he also knew how irrevocable God's gifts were despite his circumstances. Should they be any less today?
Another gift of God to the Jews was His Word:
"What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God" (Romans 3:1,2 NIV)
The realization of this fact alone should cause the Christian to be more grateful for and appreciative of the Jewish people. It is not asking too much that we should be thankful and deliberate in our expressing this to the Jewish people. Historically they have paid a great price for this accomplishment and the devil has sought to destroy them because of it. In contrast God has called the Church to "bless" them for it. But we cannot be zealously motivated to do so unless we better understand who they are and what is God's present day perspective toward them.
Do the prophetic passages that speak of Israel apply to historic Israel, modern Israel, or do they now refer only to the Church? This question presents a dilemma in the minds of many students of scripture. Surely there is a divine creative law provided whereby we can arrive at the truth. God does not want us to remain in a condition of uncertainty. His will for us is: "...with all thy getting get understanding" (Proverbs 4:7). In the creation, God said, "Let us make man in our image, and after our likeness" (Genesis 1:26). The human body is the only creation of God about which such a statement is made. Our bodies contain the most complete display of God's laws and principles (physically and spiritually). Every system and every organ of our bodies is paced with eternal creative law that has spiritual application. The laws of physical sight can teach us much about the principles of good spiritual vision. Knowing this, Jesus did not fail to make use of this technique for teaching. One such occasion is found in Matthew 6:22. Jesus said, "The light of the body is the eye: if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of light." It is said that 80 percent of all learning comes through the eye. Therefore, good vision is very important to us both physically and spiritually. Science has discovered that one of the most basic laws which must be in operation for proper physical vision is that it be "three-dimensional". The three dimensions of physical sight are the perceiving of depth, width and height. It follows then that this principle (3-D vision) must be employed for good prophetic vision in Biblical truth.
The three dimensions of Biblical vision are (1) historic (old Israel) (2) spiritual (the Church) and (3) end-time national (kingdom age, or restored Israel).
Controversy arises as to whether or not certain prophecies apply to the Church or Israel. For example:
"AWAKE, awake; put on thy strength, O Zion..." (Isaiah 52:1)
Do such Biblical texts as these which speak of Zion, refer to the Church or Israel? Such scriptures have certainly experienced a lot of ministerial tossing around. The truth is, they may be applied to both Israel (historic and restored) as well as the Church. We know this because the Church in the New Testament was certainly referred to as Zion (Hebrews 12:22). All three applications of prophetic vision, including spiritual vision, is impaired vision and consequently leads to confusion. Understanding this principle is very important to the resolution of the Jewish/Christian relationships dilemma.
ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED
The one-on-one Christian witness to those with whom we come in contact, whether Jew or Gentile, is the responsibility of every believer. But God's plan for national Israel is something quite different. Israel is unique to any other nation on earth in the divine strategy. Their spiritual awakening will be a sovereign work. God has reserved for them a special visitation. Their complete restoration will be brought about through a process of time; one that moves from one stage of development to another. This fact is most clearly demonstrated for us in the story of Ezekiel's bone yard (Ezekiel 37:1-14). There is a great lesson to be learned from this scriptural narrative that will be useful in our working with God concerning the nation of Israel. I like the story because it shows how much more patient God is in His work than we often are with ours. The Spirit of the Lord began to move upon the bones and there was a great noise as they came together but they were dead. Then there came sinew and tendons on the bones and still they were dead. As the process continued, they developed flesh and muscle and finally the skin. All of this is being done through the work of the Holy Spirit but they are not yet alive. This is a prophetic demonstration of Israel's end-time restoration. While we may share the message of the Messiah with the individual Jew at any time the door of utterance is opened, the great spiritual awakening in the nation of Israel is a divine strategy which is prophetically timed to achieve maximum effect on the international scene, signaling the end of this age and the coming of the Kingdom Age. It is closely tied to the Second Coming of the Messiah. The story concludes as Ezekiel prophesies to the bones and the four winds of heaven cause breath to come into them. Immediately and in unison they come alive and stand to their feet as a mighty army. This is a physical demonstration of a spiritual event, i.e., Israel's national day of salvation. It will be the greatest revival and spiritual resurrection known to human history. The apostle Paul understood this perfectly and alludes to it in Romans 11:15:
"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?" (resurrection).
The fact that the Jewish people have not become Christians "en masse" has no bearing on whether or not God is at work with them now. It is He who has gathered them back to their land. It is He who has brought about the re-creation of the statehood of Israel and God is continuing to deal with them to bring about His perfect will. They are His national people. He works with them in His own way and in His own time. Let us stay in step with God's stages and work with Him. This is the blessed hope, as it is written, "ALL ISRAEL SHALL BE SAVED" (Romans 11:26).
COMMISSION TO COMFORT
"COMFORT YE, comfort ye MY PEOPLE, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD's hand double for all her sins" (Isaiah 40:1,2)
This is God's call for the comforting of Israel and the Jewish people after years of persecution. There are those who would have us believe that this is God asking the Church to bless itself or asking us to bless and comfort each other. Such an interpretation is neither grammatically sound nor intellectually coherent. The "YE" being addressed in this verse is speaking most specifically to the body of Christ because it is the Church who has the spirit of the Comforter (John 14:26). "My people" is a direct reference to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. Through the prophet Isaiah, God Himself is giving a directive for someone to be His love extended and to be a comforter to the downtrodden remnant of Israel. The Church and Israel are the only two bodies of people in the earth who have been referred to as the people of God. The statement "her iniquity is pardoned" is not so much a redemptive word for Israel as a word of conclusion. This is the time when God says enough is enough and He will no longer permit their continual persecution and dispersion. This is a national forgiveness:
"For I will set mine eyes upon them for good, and I will bring them AGAIN to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up" (Jeremiah 24:6)
Concerning the commission to comfort, the following New Testament passage has been identified by theologians as the "Great Commission", meaning the phrase encapsulates the mission of the Church upon the earth:
"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to OBSERVE ALL THINGS whatsoever I have commanded you..." (Matthew 28:19-20)
Unfortunately this commission has too often been limited in scope to include only the redemptive gospel or just those things which have been set forth in the New Testament. However it is important that we also hear the words of Jesus as He spoke through the Old Testament writers. The "I AM" who spoke unto Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14) is the same as He who said unto the disciple: "...I AM the way, the truth and the life..." (John 14:6). Jesus is the eternal embodiment of the word of God to mankind. Therefore, the commissions which Jesus has delivered to the Church include those that are set forth in the old Testament as well as those in the New Testament. One of those commissions was heard through the prophet Isaiah: "COMFORT ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God" (Isaiah 40:1). This is not an option but a command and a mandate to the body of Christ. We must obey it and teach all nations to be obedient. Every minister of the Lord Jesus Christ is therefore duty bound to make the comforting of Israel a vital part of his ministry. Every church should make this a vital part of its agenda and teach all nations that blessing Israel is a significant aspect of the "all things" which are to be observed by the Church.
Once the remnant of Israel are gathered and restored to their land it will be a permanent restoration. It will also be a prelude to their spiritual restoration and redemption as is indicated by the following verse:
"And I will give them an heart to know me, that I am the LORD: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto me with their whole heart" (Jeremiah 24:7)
We see clearly the prophetic order of events. They must be restored to their land before their national day of salvation occurs. The individual Jew may be saved at anytime he accepts Messiah. But the great national revival that awaits them is a specific appointment and it is the comforting efforts of the Church that will contribute to the preparations that are necessary for this great event to occur.
The controversy between the two polarized theologies of "Replacement" and "Continuation" can be resolved. Let Israel be Israel and the Church be the Church. There is no conflict. We must permit the Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel to apply to both the Christian Church and the nation of Israel. This is Abraham's dual posterity, it is his natural and spiritual seed coexisting in the earth. God will, in due process, bring them both into His perfect will. Does God want His natural seed to become spiritual seed? Of course He does. Will it happen? We have God's word on it"
"...blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins" (Romans 11:25-27)
God works uniquely with the nation of Israel as with no other nation on earth. The Church must accept this, seek to understand it and assume its proper role in the divine strategy of their restoration and redemption.
God does not love the Jewish people beyond other nations of the earth. However, the Church must be a channel through which the Jewish people will receive the "mercy" which has been so long denied them by the nations of the world:
"Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy." (Romans 11:31 KJV)
As the tide of world opinion flows against the Jews, the Christian believer must stand in the gap and compensate for our failures of the past to do so.
The spiritual seed of Abraham are under obligation to bless the natural seed. It was the Jews who blessed the nations with God's plan of salvation. Jesus said:
"...for salvation is from the Jews." (John 4:22 NIV)
There is a sense in which Abraham was the father of salvation because Christ was the seed of Abraham. The Covenant of Abraham and the Covenant of Grace constitute God's redemptive plan.
The good news is that a fresh awakening to truth is taking place and many believers are getting a new vision of God's covenantal relationship to the Jewish people and the nation of Israel. If the Church must emphasize a "Replacement Theology" let it be one which declares the prophetic "re-placement" of all their land into the hands of its rightful owners, the Jews. Ultimately we shall rejoice to see both the land and the people restored to the eternal purposes of God and to participate in the full and complete reconciliation between Israel and the Church, Abraham's natural and spiritual seed (Ephesians 2:14). This is what God is working to achieve. LET US WORK WITH HIM. So who are "THE SEED OF ABRAHAM?" Can there be any doubt?
"O THE DEPTH OF THE RICHES BOTH OF THE WISDOM AND KNOWLEDGE OF GOD!" (Romans 11:33)