Who is Israel?
Israel and Prophecy
There are many prophetic passages of Scripture in the Bible. Many of these prophecies are about Israel. And many of these prophecies about Israel remain unfulfilled – or appear to be unfulfilled. Therefore, it often happens that, when people read these prophetic passages, pertaining to Israel, and realising they have been unfulfilled, they then expect and look for these prophesies to be fulfilled in the future. But who is Israel? Who will be the beneficiary of the promises and prophecies? Is it the literal nation of Israel – the nation that exists today, in the Middle East, bearing the name of Israel? Or is it spiritual Israel – the nation that exists worldwide bearing the name of Christian?
To answer these questions we need to ask another question. And the question is this: Are there conditions to God’s promises and prophecies? Or are God’s promises and prophecies totally unconditional? The best answer is found in the Book of Jeremiah:
Then the word of the Lord came to me, saying, O house of Israel, cannot I do with you as this potter? saith the LORD. Behold, as the clay is in the potter’s hand, so are ye in mine hand, O house of Israel. At what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to pluck up, and to pull down, and to destroy it; if that nation, against whom I have pronounced, turn from their evil, I will repent of the evil that I thought to do unto them. And at what instant I shall speak concerning a nation, and concerning a kingdom, to build and to plant it; if it do evil in my sight, that it obey not my voice, then I will repent of the good, wherewith I said I would benefit them. Jer. 18:5-10.
In this passage we first hear God claiming the right to do whatever He likes with Israel. Then we hear God informing us why He has the right to do whatever He likes with Israel. The basis of His dealing with nations is dependent on whether they do the will of God or not. If the nations obey Him, He will bless them. If they disobey Him, God will allow evil to befall them. God is clearly informing us here that, He is a conditionalist. In other words, all the promises and prophecies in the Bible are conditional. And what are they conditional upon? Answer: obedience.
When we read Scripture, we need to pay attention to the little word ‘if’. When the word if is used, it introduces a conditional clause. And the conditional clause is used to introduce a conditional sentence. And the conditional sentence is used to introduce a conditional statement. And the conditional statement is used to introduce a conditional promise or prophecy or agreement or contract or covenant. Gods’ promises/covenants are therefore, conditional – conditional on the terms of the promises/covenants being fulfilled. The terms of the promises/covenants are always compliance or obedience. For example, God, through Isaiah, has told us the same thing He said through Jeremiah:
If ye be willing and obedient, ye shall eat the good of the land: but if ye refuse and rebel, ye shall be devoured with the sword: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. Isa. 1:19, 20.
Please notice the little word ‘if.’ Parents often use the same conditional promises when they are dealing with their children. Such as: “if you do your homework properly, we’ll go out for ice cream tomorrow.” Unfortunately, the children never hear that little word ‘if.’ They never do their homework properly, but still expect the ice cream. The same lack of ‘ears to hear’ prevailed with God’s people – they never heard the little word ‘if’ but still expected the blessings. And the same principle applies to those who read Scripture, they read about the promises and prophecies, and never pay attention to the little word ‘if’ – so they wrongly conclude that the promises and prophecies still apply to the same people.
A classic example, of God’s conditional principle at work, is recorded in the story of Jonah. Jonah was tasked with going to Nineveh to warn the people that, God was going to destroy the city. But Jonah proved to be one of the greatest evangelists of all time, because the whole city heeded the warning and they repented. Therefore, because the Ninevites had ‘ears to hear’ and obeyed the message sent by God through Jonah – God then changed His mind and did not destroy the city.
Therefore, what we can conclude so far is that, just because God made promises and prophecies to physical Israel, it does not necessarily follow that physical Israel will inherit the promises and prophecies. We have already discovered that physical Israel disobeyed God much more than they obeyed Him. This rebellious attitude culminated in the crucifixion of their Messiah. This crime against Christ was the end of the road. The Israelites/Jews had reached the ultimate destination on a long road of rebellion. They were now going to suffer the consequences of their actions. One of the principles that operates in God’s universe is, “you reap what you sow” (Gal. 6:7). And Israel reaped what it sowed – it was rejected as the chosen nation of God.
Therefore, the promises and prophecies are now the inheritance of spiritual Israel. This is what Paul was referring to when he emphasised the point that the first born sons Ishmael and Esau did not gain the inheritance (as normally they should have), but that the second born sons, Isaac and Jacob, gained the inheritance. In this regard God is teaching us the same lesson that He taught Peter:
Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons. Acts 10:34.
God is sovereign. He is not beholden to anyone, and He is not dependent on anyone. He is the potter and the whole of His creation, including mankind, is the clay:
Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction. And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles? Rom. 9:20-24.
The modern idea that the Jews are still the people of God and that unfilled Old Testament prophecy will be fulfilled by them, owes its origins to one man, John Nelson Darby (founder of the Plymouth Brethren). Darby introduced new ideas into Christianity that had never been heard of before. These ideas are collectively known as dispensationalism and the Plymouth Brethren openly claim ownership of it, and the doctrines derived from it:
A number of doctrines that are now widely held within evangelical circles were first discovered by the Brethren (post 1830 AD or were promoted and propagated by the Brethren. In no particular order these include: pre-tribulational rapture, dispensationalism. Source: Plymouth Brethren: Theological contributions of the Brethren: FAQ #16)
The basic premise of Darby and Brethren doctrine is that the Kingdom (which belonged to the Jews) and the Church (which belonged to the Christians) were two separate entities with two separate histories or programs. They are separate because:
- God was caught by surprise when the Jews rejected Christ. God was not expecting the Jews to reject Christ
- Therefore, God had to come up with a new program to compensate for the Jews rejection of Christ. The new programme was the Christian Church.
- Whilst the Christian Church is on earth the program of the Jews is suspended.
- However, the Jewish program will be re-activated after the Christian Church has been raptured secretly to Heaven.
- The Kingdom (the Jews) will remain on earth until the Second Coming, during which time the remaining unfilled Old Testament prophecies will be fulfilled to them.
Darby was a great evangelist for dispensationalism and it has become wildly popular around the world, but especially in America, through the publication of the Scofield Bible (which is a Bible full of footnotes supporting dispensationalism).
Many critics of dispensationalism point out that these ideas are a very radicle departure from traditional Christian doctrine. If these ideas are true, the critics wonder why the Holy Spirit only revealed then to one man, in the period 1830 – 1840. Why did the Holy Spirit conceal such important information for 1800 years? The following is a sampling of such criticism:
Until brought to the fore through the writings and preaching and teaching of a distinguished ex-clergyman, Mr J. N. Darby, in the early part of the last century, it [rapture theology] is scarcely to be found in a single book or sermon through a period of sixteen hundred years [230-1830 AD]. Harry Ironside, The Mysteries of God, 1908.
About 1830 a new school arose within the fold of Premillennialism that sought to overthrow what, since the Apostolic Age, have been considered by all premillennialist as established results, and to institute in their place a series of doctrines that had never been heard of before. The school I refer to is that of ‘The Brethren’ or ‘Plymouth Brethren,’ founded by J. N. Darby. Alexander Reese, The Approaching Advent of Christ, page 18.
Now, be it remembered, that prior to that date (1830s), no hint of any approach to such belief can be found in any Christian literature from Polycarp down…. Surely, a doctrine that finds no exponent or advocate in the whole history and literature of Christendom, for eighteen hundred years after the founding of the Church – a doctrine that was never taught by a Father or Doctor of the Church in the past – that has no standard Commentator or Professor of the Greek language in any Theological School until the middle of the Nineteenth century, to give it approval, and that is without a friend, even to mention its name amongst the orthodox teachers or the heretical sects of Christendom – such a fatherless and motherless doctrine, when it rises to the front, demanding universal acceptance, ought to undergo careful scrutiny before it is admitted and tabulated as part of ‘the faith once for all delivered unto the saints. Robert Cameron, Scriptural Truth About The Lord’s Return, page 72-73).
Where did this fatherless and motherless doctrine come from? F. F. Bruce the foremost Brethren Bible scholar tells us that it was ‘plucked out of the air:’
Where did he [Darby] get it? The reviewer’s answer would be that it was in the air in the 1820s and 1830s among eager students of unfulfilled prophecy. F. F. Bruce, Book Review of ‘The Unbelievable Pre-Trib Origin’ in The Evangelical Quarterly, (Vol. XLVII, No. 1).
Yes, the origins of dispensationalism are unbelievable and they are also un-Biblical. It is clearly un-Biblical to claim that God was surprised that the Jews rejected Jesus. They are talking about the God who knows everything about the future, even in reverse, from the end to the beginning:
Remember the former things of old: for I am God, and there is none else; I am God, and there is none like me, declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times the things that are not yet done, saying, My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure. Isa. 46:9, 10.
Known unto God are all his works from the beginning of the world. Acts 15:18.
The concept of two separated peoples, one in a kingdom the other in a church is also un-Biblical. There is only one Kingdom and it is inhabited by Christians:
Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. Col. 1:13.
And hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father… I John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ… Rev. 1:6, 9.
[The purpose is] that through the church the complicated, many-sided wisdom of God in all its infinite variety and innumerable aspects might now be made known to the angelic rulers and authorities (principalities and powers) in the heavenly sphere. Eph. 3:10. Amplified Bible.
The Christian Church is now the Kingdom of God, and it is through the Church, that God has now chosen to (as is his right) to demonstrate His wisdom to the universe. There is no mention of some additional entity such as a kingdom of the Jews waiting in the wings to re-emerge as God’s chosen people once more.
The New Physical Nation of Israel
However, a re-emerged kingdom of Jews is, exactly what the dispensationalists believe they have found, in the recently established nation, bearing the name of Israel, in Palestine. Dispensationalism received a huge boost in popularity when Zionism managed to create the new nation of the Jews in 1948. This achievement was touted as a great fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy, and the many prophecies predicting the return of the Jews from their captivity in Babylon (which were all fulfilled 2500 years ago), were fraudulently presented as applying to the Zionist project in Palestine.
Dispensationalism was even further boosted in 1967. During the 1948/49 war with the Arabs, the Zionists failed to capture East Jerusalem. But in the 1967 war they managed to capture the whole city including the site where the Jewish Temple once stood. This was heralded as a mighty fulfilment of a prophecy found in the Gospel of Luke.
And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. Lu. 21:24.
There is no question that, when the context of Lu. 21:24 is examined, it is easily recognized that this verse is referring to the destruction of Jerusalem, which took place in 70AD. Therefore, from 70AD onwards Jerusalem will be trodden down ‘until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled’ – but who according to the New Testament is a Gentile?
Spiritual Kingdom Definitions
Just as we have already discovered that the New Testament definition of the temple is now referring to Christians, each one being a living stone in the Spiritual Temple (see Acts 15:1-16; 1 Cor. 3:15; 6:19, 20; Eph. 2:21, 22; 1 Pet. 2:5). And just as the New Testament definition of the temple has changed, so too, in the Spiritual Kingdom, other definitions also change.
We have also already seen that a true Israelite in no longer ‘according to the flesh’ – but a true Israelite is according ‘to the promise’ (see Rom. 9:1-13). In other words a true Israelite is a Christian.
We have also already discovered that a true Jew is not ‘outward’ (physically circumcised) – but a true Jew is ‘inward’ (spiritually circumcised) [see Rom. 2:28, 29). In other words a true Jew is one who has been ‘born again’ (having ones heart ‘circumcised’ is the same as being born again – or having ones heart, broken open by the Holy Spirit). A true Jew is, therefore, a Christian.
In the same way other things are re-defined by the Holy Spirit. For example, what is true New Testament circumcision?
And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: in whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Col. 2:10, 11.
Here we are told that true circumcision is spiritual circumcision. True circumcision is having sin cut out of our hearts/minds/lives.
In the same way the term ‘gentile’ has been re-defined by the Holy Spirit:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; that at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world. Eph. 2;11, 12.
Paul is referring to Christians “being in time past Gentiles in the flesh” and at that time they were outside the commonwealth of Israel. And what is it that kept them out of Israel? The reason given is because “at that time ye were without Christ.” Therefore, a New Testament Gentile is anyone “without Christ.”
Therefore, with our new understanding, of how the Holy Spirit takes things formerly understood to be literal, and turns them into spiritual things, we can now understand that Jerusalem will be trodden down of by those who are “without Christ.” Therefore, when the Zionists completed the capture of Jerusalem in 1967, they were just another conquering power, in a long line of conquering powers, “without Christ.” In other words, they were just another non- Christian occupier of Jerusalem, of many others that have done so in the past. And if a new literal temple is ever built there on the site of the old, it will not be God who builds it. This is because the current Zionist regime that, occupies the former literal land of the Israelites, is an illegitimate regime, and the most religious of all the Jews agree, and they reject the current state of Israel, and they actually want to see it dismantled.
Israel rejected by Jews
Not all Jews are Zionists. In fact the most devout of all the Jews – the Hasidim, totally reject the modern state of Israel. In fact, the Hasidim actively agitate for the peaceful dismemberment of the state of Israel, and that all Jews should leave Palestine. They actually hold large public protests around the world, against the state of Israel. These protests can be viewed on the internet, but they are never reported in the main stream media.
The reason why the Hasidim are so vehemently opposed to the modern state of Israel is because they say that, man created the state of Israel, not God. Therefore, according to the Hasidim, Israel is not a blessing to the Jewish people, but an abomination – and it is certainly not a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. And of course they are right. The Zionists created Israel, not for religious reasons they created it for political reasons – to be a safe haven for Jews.
For hundreds of years the Jews would solemnly say, every Passover, “next year in Jerusalem.” But the Zionist Jews became tired of saying this every year and decided they would no longer wait for God to return them, but that they would do it themselves. This is well known to the Hasidim and that is why they oppose the Zionists and the state of Israel. It is also well known to others:
Until 1800 the centuries had gone by in passive waiting for supernatural intervention. The prayer “Next year in Jerusalem” had marked the passing of each year since 70 A.D. like the dripping of water on a stone. But now it began to dawn on first one and then another that only their own hands on their bootstraps would pull Israel out of exile. “The Jewish people must be their own Messiah,” wrote the historian Heinrich Graetz in 1864. Many forces were at work in the nineteenth century to produce this revolutionary idea. Bible and Sword, Barbara Tuchman, Phoenix Press, London, 1984, p. 225.
The ‘forces at work’ to achieve the Jewish dream coalesced into the political/religious ideology known as Zionism. Unfortunately, there is also such a thing as Christian Zionism. These are Christians who believe in dispensationalism and who also believe it is their God-given duty to support the modern state of Israel. They believe they need to support the state of Israel because, it is of God, and it is a fulfilment of prophecy and that most of the last day events will occur there. What they do not realise is that the Jewish Zionists call the Christian Zionists ‘useful idiots.’ This is because the Zionist know the truth. They know how the modern State of Israel came into being. So do the Hasidim. They both know that God had nothing to do with it – they both know that it is not a fulfilment of prophecy. Only the dispensational/Zionist Christians believe these things. No wonder that after Jesus was asked, what it would be like at the end of the world, He replied, “take heed that no man deceive you” (Matt. 24:4).