A Voice in the
Did not God put away His people? Let it not be! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin." (vs1)
It continually amazes me when I hear the arguments that say things like, "Israel is gone, it's the church now." They look at prophecies written to and about Israel, apply them to the Church, with the argument that since God cast away Israel, all these things now 'must' apply to the Church. That the Church is "spiritual" Israel. So they teach things like the concept that the Church is to be "purified" before the Lord returns. That the Church is to go through God's wrath of what is often called "the Tribulation". That the rapture of the Church occurs at the -end- of the Tribulation.
Paul gives his own credentials as an "Israelite". He could trace his lineage back to Benjamin. People today should simply "open their eyes" and -LOOK-. Look over in the middle-east. There is a -nation- over there called "Israel". These "church" people who say that Israel is "done for" are no better than the Arab peoples who refuse to label Israel on their maps as "Israel". But after years of being scattered like stubble (Jer13:24), they have again been a nation since 1948. And their military prowess has brought back memories of Joshua and David. And their continual strivings to -negotiate- with people who make no secret of their desire to obliterate Israel off the earth are reminiscent of their peace treaty with Gibeon. (Josh9) Obviously, they are still the same people! They still haven't learned! [Ed: This is being written in August. What new treaties may be in effect by the time this is mailed is hard to say.]
The fact that Israel currently is yet in unbelief (Heb3:19) is apparent. The "Israel My Glory" magazine each issue has a section by Zvi, a Christian Jew living in Israel. His column each time testifies to Israel's blindness to the Gospel, God's Word and their Messiah Whom they rejected 2000 years ago, and still do to this day, as Zvi witnesses to them from the Scriptures. The Temple Mount Faithful movement, while they seek to rebuild the temple, and have many preparations already in the works for that to happen, are in unbelief of their Messiah. Even today, they are "ignorant of God's righteousness and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves to the righteousness of God." (10:3) They are busy doing things "for God" to usher in Messiah's reign. (Just like the "christian" Restorationist movements.) But in their e-mail messages there is nothing about Faith in Christ, their Messiah Who -came-.
The Church is "Abraham's seed...according to the -promise-" (Gal3:29) because they are "Christ's". Jesus Christ Who -is- Abraham's "Seed". (Gen22:18) Israel of Israel. (9:6) Christian christian.
The ones who are purified during God's wrath are the "sons of Levi" (Mal3:3) which is something that is obviously necessary, as God's "woes" were pronounced upon the "shepherds" of Israel. (Jer23:1) Before His crucifixion Jesus pronounced "woe" to the Scribes and Pharisees, the religious leaders. (Mt23:13-39) They even heaped woe upon themselves by crying out, "His blood be on us and on our children". (Mt27:25) So, yes, the "sons of Levi" (Levi, being the religious ruling tribe that was condemned) -need- to be purified. Israel, indeed, -will- go through the time of God's wrath, as only a third of them will survive alive..."refined". (Zech13:8-9)
No, God did not totally obliterate His people "whom He foreknew". (vs2) They were scattered like stubble into the nations. But He has kept them as a distinct people. Just like Elijah didn't think there were any Believers left, God informed him, "I have reserved to Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal" (vs4,1Kg19:18) Even in Paul's day he said there was a "remnant". Perhaps it is safe to say that even today there is a remnant? By his wording it would seem to be some group other than Jews who are part of the "Church"? Jews (by genetic heritage) who are part of the Church through Faith in Christ are united with Christ, together with Gentiles (Eph2:13-16) and will be part of the Rapture. But there obviously has to be some entity God works with when Israel is purified during His Wrath. I don't understand it, but accept that it is so. The "seven thousand" are labeled as ones who had not "bowed to Baal". But it doesn't necessarily say they were faithfully keeping all the Law. What is God's criteria for those making up this remnant? God knows. This remnant that "shall be saved". (vs26) Perhaps it is people like the "Temple Mount Faithful" who are presently "blind" and have not acknowledged their Messiah, but in their own way, they are earnestly -seeking- God? (Jer50:4) Let's continue...
Who are these "remnant" people? God knows. How are they selected? "Election" (vs7) On what merits? Certainly not their own, because they are still "darkened" from seeing. (vs10) Again, does God go "eeny, meeny, mynee, mo?" Remember, they are His people "whom He foreknew". (vs2) While they are still blind, God reaches down with His "grace". (vs5) Until they are "all" saved (vs26), how many of them are merely "Israel", and how many are to be Israel of Israel? God knows.
Israel's fall: was it permanent? (vs11) "Let it not be!" When Paul wrote this, 1948 hadn't yet come around. We have now seen decades of God's working to bring Israel back. So, it should be obvious that God is not finished with her yet.
But when Israel stumbled, it opened the door for "the nations" (mkjv) to receive Salvation. (vs11) Israel rejected Christ. So Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles informed them, "the salvation of God is sent to the nations (Gentiles).." (Acts28:28)
And so, what of the predominantly "Gentile" Church? Who is it related to? What is its foundation? Has it been grafted in "to Israel"? After all, God called Abraham, and those who are in Faith in Christ are "Abraham's seed". (Gal3:29) When the Holy Spirit came at Pentecost, the fledgling Church was "Jewish".
First of all let's consider -logic- from this passage. If the "branches were broken off" (vs19) and "I [am] grafted in", it should be obvious that the "branches" are Israel. Branches grow from a main tree, which in turn grows out of a root. Those who say the Church is grafted in "to Israel" unwittingly are saying that the Church is grafted in to an entity that is "broken off". Something that is broken off is without life... is dead. But the Church is NOT dead!
Jesus said, "I am the vine, you are the branches." (Jn15:5) When Jesus came into Jerusalem Passover Monday, He looked for fruit (Mt21:19) and found none. The fig tree withered up, and He then pronounced woes against the Scribes and Pharisees (Mt23). In similar fashion, the Father, the "Vinedresser" looks for fruit, and prunes away branches not bearing fruit. (Jn15:2) Israel was not bearing fruit, and was pruned from the Vine, Jesus Christ. Ever since their 'birth' in the wilderness, Israel was branched off of Christ. (1Cor10:4) People who say the Church is grafted in to Israel, unwittingly are rejecting the same Christ that Israel rejected; making Israel the "root". Again, like the "sons of Levi" who complained about the "Root" Jesus Christ taking away -their- place and nation. (Jn11:48) But the "foundation" is Jesus Christ. (1Cor3:11)
Gentile Believers, also, should be careful not to be too boastful! In relegating Israel to the garbage heap, they set themselves up in pride. We should never forget that in God's plan of "election" He chose Abraham...and subsequently, Israel. Gentiles were "outcasts" and "foreigners" to God's salvation. (Eph2:12) If Israel, God's "elect", being in the palm of His hand, was rejected due to unbelief and hard hearts; we should beware lest a hard heart cause us to be "cut off". (vs22) If they died "without mercy" we should be careful lest we "[insult] the Spirit of grace". (Heb10:28-29)
In His redemptive plan we are -merely- the "gleanings". (Lev19:9-10,23:22) And yet, He made us into the "glorious Church" (Eph5:27) by His grace. What kind of 'glory' do you suppose Israel will be once they are restored again! (vs15)
But Israel's breaking off was for a purpose. Remember, God is "not willing that any should perish". (2Pt3:9) While He "elected" (vs7) Israel as His special nation (1Pt2:9), He also loved "the world" (Jn3:16) and made provision for the rest of "the nations" to be saved. Since Israel was hoarding it to themselves in unbelief and called the Gentiles "dogs" (Mk7:27-28), their blindness will continue "until the fulness of the nations has come in." (vs25) God desires to have his "house" filled. He is in the process of "compelling them to come in" (Lk14:23)
Ultimately Israel, "all Israel" will be saved. (vs26) Even though they have been at enmity against the Gospel, rejecting Christ, God is going to perform a work in them. He is going to make a new Covenant with them. He is going to change their hearts, putting His Word in their hearts. (Jer31:31-34) While they have been enemies of the Gospel, they are still His "elect". That is their -title-. "Israel My elect, I -entitle- you." (Is45:4 litvŠ1999) So, when God sends His angels to "gather His -elect- from the four winds" (Mt24:31) we know Jesus was talking about "Israel"; NOT the Church.
God is going to do this by His "grace" (vs5) as "free gifts" (vs29). And He will do this without any regrets ['repentance']. This will be the ultimate display of His "mercy". (vs32) A nation who so blatantly rejected His law and His Son, He will "abundantly pardon". (Is55:7)
But... God! You don't know what You are doing! To receive such scoundrels! "Who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? Or who first gave to Him, and it will be repaid to him?" (vs34-35) When a person reads Israel's account throughout the Scriptures, how they were in the palm of God's 'hand', and had every blessing; and then rejected Him soooo royally, even to asking God's curse upon their own descendants, in order to crucify God's Son, their Messiah; and as we see their continued unbelief and pride today; to understand how God is going to "change" them, reach into their hearts and soften them so that "all" Israel is saved... it is unsearchable. People claiming to be "Christians" with hard hearts, themselves, refuse to accept that it will happen. They presume that Israel is "done for". Permanently.
"O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments, and His ways past finding out! (vs33) Just a demonstration of His love, grace and mercy! Unbelievers in pride may object to His ways. But "of Him and through Him and to Him are all things; to Him be glory forever! Amen. (vs36)
"They [Israel] shall call on My name, and I will answer them; I will say, It is My people; and they shall say, Jehovah is my God." (Zech13:9b)