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Archive for May 2020 – Page 2

Until the Fulness of the Gentiles Comes In

You recall that I highlighted a very important parable in Luke 19 given by the Lord Jesus just days away from His cross (Luke 19:11-28). The reason for the parable was that the people (Jews) thought that the kingdom of God would appear immediately. This was not true.  The parable concerned a Nobleman that went away to receive a kingdom and return. He gave money to ten of his servants, told them to invest the money energized by the words “Do Business Until I Return.” We linked this parable to Christ’s ascension from the Mount of Olives and His giving gifts to men to invest during this age of the church – which is now (Ephesians 4:11-16).

What was to become of Israel during this time? It is not by chance that the Lord Jesus answered this very question with another parable in Luke 20 (right next door). The context is the same as the parable in Luke 19. The Lord Jesus was days away from the cross. His words could be the words of the dying Lamb of God. “A certain man planted a vineyard, leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country for a long time. Now at vintage-time he sent a servant to the vinedressers, that they might give him some of the fruit of the vineyard. But the vinedressers beat him and sent him away empty-handed. Again, he sent another servant; and they beat him also, treated him shamefully, and sent him away empty-handed. And again, he sent a third; and they wounded him also and cast him out. “Then the owner of the vineyard said, ‘What shall I do? I will send my beloved son. Probably they will respect him when they see him.’ But when the vinedressers saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.’ So they cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. Therefore what will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.” And when the people heard it they said, “Certainly not!” Then He looked at them and said, “What then is this that is written: ‘The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone’? Whoever falls on that stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.” (Luke 20:8-18).

This parable answers the question concerning the action of Israel before the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ and has come to pass in detail.  God’s kingdom at first was given to Israel (God’s vineyard) to bring forth fruit pleasing to God. They constantly dropped the ball. They beat and killed God’s prophets sent to them (Lk. 20:9-12). In the end God sent His only begotten Son to them. Surely, they would respect Him!

The King came and presented the kingdom to the Jews (Matthew 5-7). The leaders in Israel responded, “Here is the Heir, let’s kill Him and the inheritance will be ours” (Lk 20:14; Matt. 11-12). The leaders in Israel rejected their King and helped to kill God’s Son (John 1:11). What will the owner of the vineyard do to them? He will come and destroy those vinedressers and give the vineyard to others.

The truth of this came to pass exactly as it was given. Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans in 70 A.D., and the Jews were dispersed throughout the world. Dispersed, that is, until they were given a homeland in Palestine (the Balfour Declaration of 1917, fulfilled April 20, 1948). God’s kingdom has now been removed from the nation of Israel and given to another – the church! The vast number of Jews are now scattered throughout the world – and blindedto their true worth to God. They will remain blinded in part (partial) until (until what)? (Rom. 11:25). This blindness is partial because some Jews are responding to the gospel and placing their faith in their Messiah today.  This will continue “until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in – the last Gentile is joined to the body of Christ (Rom. 11:25).

Jesus spoke of the very same event. He said that Jerusalem would fall by the edge of the sword and be trampled by the Gentiles (70 A.D.) “until.” (Luke 21:24). Jesus used the time word. Until what? Until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. Wow! Until the last Gentile is added to the body of Christ. Until Jerusalem and the temple are no longer trampled down by the Gentiles. When this happens, the times of the Gentiles will end, the King will come again, and God will once again turn His attention to the Jews to fulfill His promises to David. God is a covenant keeping God. He never goes back on His word. Amazing! Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

Partial Knowledge Until . . .

There is coming a time for Israel when God will comfort those who mourn in Zion and give beauty for ashes (Isa. 61:3).  It appears that Israel, God’s chosen people, have been left on the ash pit of history (Deut. 7:6-10). Not so!  The Jews will once again be at the head of the table and not the foot.

Romans 11 stands high above the fray when discussing Israel’s future. Paul asked a simple but extremely important question: “Has God cast away His people?” He shouted with his pen, “Certainly not!” Paul was living proof. To make his point crystal clear, he mentioned that he was from the seed of Abraham and that he was of the tribe of Benjamin. He was obviously making the case for his Jewishness and not the fact that he had become a new creation in Christ (Rom. 11:1-2).  

Paul used Elijah’s experience at Mt. Carmel as an illustration of God’s preserving a Jewish remnant. God had aligned Elijah against the prophets and priests of the pagan god, Baal. Elijah posed an ultimatum to the Jews hiding in caves. If Baal is God, serve him, but if Yahweh is God, serve Him. After the gods of the prophets of Baal failed to produce a fire, Elijah asked the living God to send down fire from heaven. God responded with a fire that consumed the sacrifice and the entire altar. It was a graphic, powerful victory for Elijah and the Jews (1 Kings 18:25–39).

After the victory, Queen Jezebel threatened to kill Elijah, and he ran like a scared child. Lying on his face, he cried out to God, reminding Him he was all alone – as if God needed the information. God’s response was clear. “Get up, Elijah!” God said that He had reserved 7,000 people for Himself. This was sovereign choice. It can mean nothing else. God had set apart for Himself a specific number of Jews who had not worshipped false gods. Does one think that God asked the 7,000 if they wanted to be set apart or not?  God had reserved for Himself a remnant. There will always be a remnant, according to God’s election of grace (Rom. 11:5–6).

There is a believing remnant of Jews in the church today. They are both the physical descendants and the spiritual descendants of Abraham. In Romans 9:6, when Paul said that not all Israel is Israel, he meant that not all Jews believed in the Messiah (by faith), so not all of them were being born like Isaac. Many Jews still held on to the law to give them life. This was not going to happen. God made Isaac happen by faith, not by keeping the law. Only God could make Sarah’s dead womb alive and give Abraham’s dead body the seed necessary to birth Isaac.

Paul was teaching that the Jew is not a Jew – outwardly – because of circumcision. Physical circumcision is a sign, a symbol of real circumcision – a circumcision of the heart. This spiritual circumcision is a spiritual severing of the flesh from the spirit (Romans 2:28–29).  Physical circumcision cannot give life. This life can only come through the Spirit of the living God. There were then and there are today many sincere Jews depending upon their keeping the law and their physical connection to Abraham by circumcision to give them life before God. It will never happen!  

In Galatians 6:16, Paul referred to saved Jews as “the Israel of God.” He was not saying that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan for the ages. Not at all!  There are Jews today who are believing the gospel thus rejecting the religion of the Pharisees. They are being given life like Isaac. They are Jews who are indeed the Israel of God. Paul quoted Hosea to remind us that Gentiles, who were once on the outside, were now sons of the living God” (Rom. 9:26). This miracle happened only because of Israel’s blindness (Rom. 11:11-33). Paul quoted the prophet Isaiah, saying that though the number of the children of Israel were as many as the sand of the sea, the remnant would be saved. Paul used the article “the” to single out that remnant. Quoting Isaiah again, Paul said of the Jews that unless God had left them a physical line, they would have become like Sodom and Gomorrah (Rom. 9:27–29).

The vast majority of the Jews, during Paul’s day and even today, are still in unbelief.  A remnant of Jews is being saved, but as a whole, most are wandering about in a God-inflicted, blind stupor. And blind they will remain “in part until.” “In part” is a fraction and “until” is a time word. Only a fraction of the Jews will be saved until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in, at which point “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). Paul called this a mystery, and a mystery it is.

Many Gentiles are receiving God’s grace all around them, yet as a nation the Jews remain oblivious to what is happening. One day God will remove the blindness and the Jews will see. The Carpenter from Nazareth – He is the One. They will then be grafted back into their own olive tree (Rom. 11:24). They will be given beauty for ashes. Amazing! 

 

Don’t Forget the Jews

We dare not forget the men and women who gave their lives that we may enjoy freedom in America. In like manner, we dare not forget the Jewish race.  No people in all of human history have been hated like the Jews. They have become the scourge of the world. They endured the pain and suffering of the Holocaust in which over six million perished, but God has never failed to bless them.

The world has watched the Jews accomplish amazing things in the area of technology. Their specialists have been exceptional in mathematics, science, chemistry, physics, optics, medicine, economics, biotechnology, and computer science. They were instrumental in giving us the atomic bomb. Their discoveries and designs are legion.

God blesses them though the great majority are living in rebellion against Him. Is there any hope for their salvation as a nation? Asked another way, is there any real biblical reason to believe that God has permanently cast aside the Jews? No. In fact, there is every reason to believe that He has an incredible plan for their future. The reason is simple: God never goes back on His word. Never. Those dry Jewish bones mentioned by Ezekiel will live again (Ezekiel 37:4–11).

A glaring fact is that the Jews are still with us. They have not been assimilated into other nations, as one would expect. Some of them still know the various tribes from which they come. Most other nations have lost their original ethnicity, having been absorbed into other people groups. Not the Jews. They have at times become a part of other nations, but they have kept their identity as Jews. There are German Jews, Polish Jews, Russian Jews, American Jews, but they are still Jews.

In a tape series on prophecy, Dr. S. Lewis Johnson mentioned a quote from David Baron.  I just paraphrase it here. Baron spoke of a river in the ocean. He said that in the harshest droughts it never dries up and in the largest floods it never overflows. The Gulf of Mexico is its fountain, and its mouth is somewhere in the Arctic seas. It is the Gulf Stream. There is no flow of water like it in the world. Its current moves faster than the Mississippi or the Amazon, and its volume of water is more than a thousand times greater. Its waters are the color of indigo blue. There is a visible difference between the Gulf Stream and the common sea water. Often one-half of a vessel may be observed as floating in Gulf Stream water while the other half is in common sea water.

This phenomenon in the physical world has its counterpart in life. There is a lonely river in the midst of the ocean of humanity. The mightiest floods of human temptation have never caused it to overflow, and the hottest fires of human cruelty have never caused it to dry up. Its fountain is in the gray dawn of the world’s history of the promise to Abraham, and its mouth is somewhere in the shadows of eternity. It too refuses to mingle with the surrounding waves. The line that divides it from the common waters of humanity is also plainly visible to the eye. It is the Jewish race.

Dr. Johnson went on to recall Baron’s words with an amazing illustration: If one was traveling on a boat in the ocean and reached down into the Gulf Stream and picked up a handful of water and threw it into common sea water, it would immediately be absorbed into the sea, losing its identity. But what if it was not absorbed? What if it continued to stand out? This is what has happened to Israel. They have been a mere handful of people scattered on the great ocean of humanity. But instead of being absorbed into other people groups, as we should have expected, judging from a knowledge as to what has happened to other nations of people, the Jews, after being in such a condition for thousands of years, continue to exist as a separate people.

The vast majority of Jews do not live in Israel. They are scattered throughout the four corners of the earth. God will one day open their spiritually blind eyes. He will draw them to Himself as a shepherd calls his sheep, and they will come. “The Spirit of the Lord God is upon Me, because the Lord has anointed Me to preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to those who are bound; to proclaim the acceptable year of the Lord, and the day of vengeance of our God; to comfort all who mourn, to console those who mourn in Zion, to give them beauty for ashes, the oil of joy for mourning, the garment of praise for the spirit of heaviness; that they may be called trees of righteousness, the planting of the Lord, that He may be glorified” (Isaiah 61:1–3). Stay safe and stay tuned.

 

God is Faithful

It has been years since God made the original promise to David to give him a house and a kingdom (2 Sam. 7:12-13). Kings have come and gone, and Israel today is in rebellion against God. Many Davidic kings became apostate. Rehoboam, son of Solomon and king of Judah left the faith and became a vassal of a foreign king. The question rings in our ears. What about the great Davidic promise? Is it still in play? Has God forgotten? Will He go back on His word because of the unfaithfulness of Israel?

Ethan, the Ezrahite, testified to the faithfulness of God in Psalm 89. Ethan began by singing of the mercies (chesed), the loyal love, of God. The very next thought that hit his mind was God’s faithfulness (emunah) to all generations (Psa. 89:1). The Hebrew word chesed means “loyal love,” or the loyal love of God that never changes. The other word, emunah, means “faithful.” To say the word faithful about a fallen human being is one thing, but to use this word for the living God is much more meaningful.

Ethan recalled God’s covenant promises to David of the continuation of his seed and of the perpetuation of his throne. God is faithful to all of those who have been set apart to know Him. Ethan’s thoughts turned to the fact that God’s righteousness and His justice form the foundation of His throne. He will never go back on His promises. Not one will fail.

God’s loyal love constantly goes before His face. He is reminded of it forever. No matter what happened in the life of David, God’s promise to him would remain (Psa. 89:2-4). If David’s sons were not faithful, they would be disciplined, but that could never negate God’s promises to David. God would not break His covenant with David, no matter what happened (Psa. 89:30-33). God says that He has sworn by His holiness that He will not lie to David. Like the sun and the moon, David’s seed and his throne will endure forever (Psalm 89:36–37). God is faithful and true to His Word (2 Sam. 7, 1 Chron. 17, and Psa. 89).

S. Lewis Johnson shared a testimony by Harold Singen of his days in the old city of New Orleans. Singen chatted one night with a resident whose family had been in New Orleans for generations. In the old days, there were outbreaks of a virulent kind of fever that took many lives – similar to Covid 19. The man’s father was walking outside the city when he chanced upon a little boy of seven years of age, lying on the grass with a raging fever. He asked the little boy what he was doing there. The child said, “I’m waiting for God.”

“Waiting for God!” the man said. “What do you mean?” The little boy answered that his father had died on Monday, his brother had died on Tuesday, and his mother had died last night. He was the only one left. His mother told him before she died that he must wait for God and that God would come and care for him.

“Oh,” said the man, “your mother said that!”

“Yes!” said the child. “And mother never told a lie.” The little boy’s trust was in his mother’s character and in her word.

Likewise, the only real basis for our faith and our future is the credibility of God’s character and the truth of His Word. King after king had been unfaithful to God. Surely God’s promise concerning David’s kingdom would be abolished. God said that in the latter days one called “the Assyrian” (a.k.a. the Antichrist, the Beast, the Man of Sin) would come against Israel, but victory would lie in the hands of a young child who was yet to be born. Isaiah said that unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall rest on His shoulders (Isa. 9:6–7). Now we understand the proper context of this passage. John described that battle and victory saying, “Out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron” (Rev. 19:15).

Jeremiah also said it: “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely. Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS. Therefore, behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “that they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land” (Jer. 23:5–8). Stay safe and stay tuned.

A Cosmic Chess Match

Some five thousand years had passed since God had pronounced His judgments upon Satan and Eve for their part in the Fall. God said that the seed of the woman would one day kill Satan (Genesis 3:15). This motivated a cosmic chess match. Satan immediately began to make his moves to keep this special seed from coming.

Cain killed Abel, the line through which the promised seed was to come (Genesis 4:8). God countered by moving Seth into that position. Satan’s next effort was to infiltrate the world and physically corrupt the human race, making it impossible for the seed to come as a human being (Gen. 6). God countered by selecting Noah and his family to preserve the human race so that His seed could come.

Satan moved by maneuvering events that caused Sarah to end up in Pharaoh’s harem (Genesis 12:15). Thinking she was Abraham’s sister, Pharaoh gifted Abraham with male and female servants. God countered by striking Pharaoh’s family with plagues (Gen. 12:17). Satan moved in stealth. The couple left Egypt with Pharaoh’s gifts in tow, one a servant girl named Hagar. Abraham and Sarah left Egypt, but a small bit of Egypt left with them (Gen. 12:20). God countered. Hagar was in God’s plan all along. Ishmael and Isaac struggled early in life, and they have struggled throughout history (Gen. 21:9). Ishmael, the oldest, was always hazing Isaac. The Arabs are constantly tormenting the Jews.

Satan moved. Pharaoh attempted to destroy all the male children in Egypt (Ex. 1:15–22). God countered by having Moses hidden from Pharaoh by his mother and then saved in a miraculous way (Ex. 1:22). Satan moved by pushing the Jews against the Red Sea, standing the chance to be annihilated by Pharaoh (Ex. 14:19–26). God countered and Pharaoh’s army was buried alive.

Satan moved.  Jehoshaphat’s son arranged a marriage between Jehoram and Athaliah, Jezebel’s daughter. Jezebel attempted to kill all of the sons in the line of Christ. God countered! Little Joash was miraculously hidden and saved. He was the only male survivor in the line of David (2 Chron. 22:10–12).

Satan moved!  Haman attempted to exterminate Esther and all the Jews (Esther 7:7). God countered by sending Esther to talk to the king. Haman lost! Back and forth the chess match would continue. Shortly after the birth of King Jesus in Bethlehem, Satan made another attempt to intercept and kill the seed of the woman. God moved!

After Jesus was born wise men from the East came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.” (Matthew 2:1–2). Satan countered! Herod the great was an Ishmaelite Arab born in Edom. He led Herod into Judea, near Bethlehem – to intercept the King. Herod was ruthless, suspicious, and very cruel. He murdered his wife, his own mother, his oldest son, and his two sons. Caesar Augustus of Rome was recorded as saying that it was much safer to be Herod’s pig (uous) than to be his son (huios).

Herod was ruling when wise men (Gentiles from Medo-Persia) came to find where the Christ child was to be born. They asked where the king of the Jews was being born. Herod heard the words “king of the Jews,” and he immediately set in motion a plan. He asked these Easterners to go and find the king and come back and tell him so he could go “worship him.” God counter moved by warning these wise men of Herod’s intent, and they went home another way.

Satan moved once more! Realizing that he had been duped, Herod was furious. He passed an edict to kill all the male children in the Bethlehem area that were about the age of Jesus. God counter moved. He warned Joseph to take his young family down into Egypt for a short vacation. There they stayed until Herod’s death. Just as Jochebed hid little Moses, and little Joash was hidden, Mary and Joseph hid the Christ child. God is still using Arabs as His divine instigators, antagonists used to pressure the Jews to recognize that Jesus is their Messiah.

Jesus began His special ministry of presenting the kingdom to Israel at the age of thirty (Luke 3:23). His ministry is clearly marked out in Matthew with His words to the Jews: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17). This was the kingdom that had been promised throughout the Old Testament. The angel Gabriel’s words to Mary are worth pondering. He told her that she would conceive in her womb and bring forth a Son and would call His name Jesus. “He will be great and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end” (Luke 1:31–33). Stay safe and stay tuned.