Israel – Replaced or Restored?

Our last article looked at God’s exiling of the divided kingdon of ancient Israel – the northern kingdom, Israel and the southern kingdom, Judah. The reasons for the exiles are given by the Old Testament prophets. Israel and Judah had replaced true worship of God with idolatry (what they thought was right based on copying the pagan nations around them rather than following God’s revealed ways to them) and their behaviour changed in keeping with their idolatry – practices that God and we find abominable. Israel had initially been chosen by God, and was given her own land, in order to be a shining light to all other nations. But Israel and Judah had descended into violations of both worship of God and obedience to His commandments, as we saw in the previous article, “All Our Righteousness Is As Filthy Rags”. As punishment for these violations, ancient Israel and Judah were exiled. But is this the end of the story? Would Israel now be forgotten by God as His special people? We find at the end of the prophets’ books many promises of restoration for Israel. 

There is disagreement amongst Christians as to whether these promises should be read metaphorically, as representing promises to the new Israel, the Church, or literally, meaning that Israel as a people and a nation would in the future be ultimately restored to true worship of God, accepting Messiah Jesus as their promised Messiah. Or did the promises apply only to the first return of the Jews from their places of exile? I believe that Israel was restored, through its restoration/return to their homelands and second temple re-building, but will also be restored to God in the future, and that the Old Testament prophets’ predictions are coming to pass in our own day, starting with the re-formation of the nation of Israel from 1948 AD. Here are the sciptures that I believe support this, starting with  

Romans 11:25-27 : 25 For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; 27 For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” Concerning the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

What is the “blindness …in part (that) has happened to Israel”? Surely it is the rejection of the Messiah promised to Israel throughout the Old Testament. But Israel has not definitively been rejected by God “For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.”

Jeremiah 30:9b : for the Lord will again rejoice over you for good, just as He rejoiced over your fathers;

Note “the Lord will AGAIN rejoice over you, just as He rejoiced over your fathers”. The people being addressed are God’s original chosen people, not the “new Israel”, otherwise the word “again” has no meaning. And God must be addressing ancient Israel because of His mention of “your fathers”. And see the word, “again”, repeated twice in Jer 31:4 and once in Jer 31:5.

Jeremiah 31:1 (ibid.) 1 “At that time,” declares the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”

At what time? At Jesus’ first coming? I don’t think so. Didn’t Jesus Himself say in Matthew 23:37-39 (ibid.) :

37 “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is HE who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Only a believer would say, ‘blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’. So we see this clear reference to Israel’s future turning to Christ.

Acts 2:36-41  36 “Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” 37 Now when they heard this, they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” 38 Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is to you and to your children, and to all who are afar off, as many as the Lord our God will call.” 40 And with many other words he testified and exhorted them, saying, “Be saved from this perverse generation.” 41 Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.

Note that verse 41 lets us know that 3,000 Jews became believers that day in response to Peter’s sermon. Three thousand is not the whole of Israel. As for verse 36, the “let all of Israel know” part of the verse, this is a declamatory statement – an imploring that all of Israel would one day know what these 3,000 repentant Jews came to know on that day.

Amos 9:13-15  13 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “When the plowman shall overtake the reaper, And the treader of grapes him who sows seed; The mountains shall drip with sweet wine, And all the hills shall flow with it. 14 I will bring back the captives of My people Israel; They shall build the waste cities and inhabit them; They shall plant vineyards and drink wine from them; They shall also make gardens and eat fruit from them. 15 I will plant them in their land, And no longer shall they be pulled up From the land I have given them,” Says the Lord your God.

These verses MUST apply to a future time because verse 15 speaks of the captives “no longer (being) …. pulled up from the land I have given them”. Well, after the return following the Jews’ first captivity, they were again pulled up from their land – the second temple was destroyed in AD 70 and the Jews became a diaspora.

Acts 1:6-8  6 Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” 7 And He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority. 8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

“… they (the disciples) were probably still expecting the restoration of a military and political kingdom that would drive out the Roman armies and restore national sovereignty to Israel, as had happened numerous times in the OT. Jesus corrected them, not by rejecting the question, but by telling them (Acts 1:8) that they would receive power from the Holy Spirit, not in order to triumph over Roman armies but to spread the good news of the gospel throughout the world. In other words, the return is in God’s timing; in the meantime, there are other key things believers are to do.”

ESV SB, Acts.

The disciples were awaiting some form of restoration of Israel and Jesus did not refute this supposition but He did divert them from their question. I find it hard to believe that Jesus would have allowed them to continue in a foolish idea and not correct them. He had corrected them numerous times before. In fact, Jesus tells them that they cannot know WHEN Israel would be restored. Scripture often uses the device of multiple fulfillments. There was the primary fulfillment of the people of Israel returning to their homeland, fulfilling prophecies of God’s rescuing and restoring them to their land. But these same prophecies will be fulfilled in a future sense as well. See the commentary from the ESV SB following the Jeremiah quote:

Jeremiah 30:24 - 31:1 24 The fierce anger of the Lord will not return until He has done it, And until He has performed the intents of His heart. In the latter days you will consider it. 1 “At the same time,” says the Lord, “I will be the God of all the families of Israel, and they shall be My people.”

30:24 God’s intentions include removing the wicked in Israel (v. 23), displacing Israel’s enemies, and establishing Israel’s king (v. 21). Israel will be God’s people again, yet only in the latter days, that is, sometime in the unspecified future.

ESV SB, Jeremiah.

Albert Barnes has this to say about some key verses of Ezekiel 37 :

vs 21 And say unto them, 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:

The gathering together of the children of Israel was to take effect in the first place in the return from Babylon, when the distinction of Israel and Judah should cease. The full completion concerns times still future, when all Israel shall come in to acknowledge the rule of Christ.

Barnes’ Notes, biblehub.com
vs 22 And I will make them 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, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all:

One king – The restoration of Israel to their native soil will lead the way to the coming of the promised King, the Son of David, who will gather into His kingdom the true Israel, all who shall by faith be acknowledged as the Israel of God. The reign of the One King David is the reign of Christ in His kingdom, the Church.

Barnes’ Notes, biblehub.com
vs 25 And they shall dwell in the land that I have given unto Jacob my servant, wherein your fathers have dwelt; and they shall dwell therein, even they, and their children, and their children's children for ever: and my servant David shall be their prince for ever.

An enlargement of the promises. The kingdom is to be “forever,” the covenant “everlasting.” This looks forward to the consummation of all God’s promises 1 Corinthians 15:24, 1 Corinthians 15:28.

Barnes’ Notes, biblehub.com
vs 27 My tabernacle also shall be with them: yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

This gives a final blessing reserved for God’s accepted servants. The tabernacle and temple were outward symbols of His presence. The re-erection of the temple by Zerubbabel was the first step to a restoration of the presence of God. The second step was the presence of Christ, first in the flesh, then in His Church, and finally the eternal presence of God and of the Lamb in the New Jerusalem Revelation 21.

Barnes’ Notes, biblehub.com

I don’t believe the Church has replaced Israel. Israel will one day, with a majority of her people turning to Jesus Christ as their Messiah, worship with Christians the God of the true Jew and Gentile alike. We pray for Israel’s salvation as a nation so that the world will be blessed.

Romans 11:12 Now if their trespass means riches for the world, and if their failure means riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their full inclusion mean!

References

1.  NIV Zondervan Study Bible, eBook: Built on the Truth of Scripture and Centered on the Gospel Message. Zondervan. Kindle Edition.

2.  NKJV, Olive Tree Software.

3.  NASB Strong’s (Lockman), Olive Tree Software.

4.   NKJV, Olive Tree Software.

5.  ESV SB Notes, Olive Tree Software. 

6.  NKJV, Olive Tree Software.

7.  ESV SB Notes, Olive Tree Software.

8.  https://biblehub.com/commentaries/barnes/ezekiel/37.htm  Retrieved 18/4/19

9.  ESV, Olive Tree Software.

Author: ourworldourfaith

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