JEWS, CHRISTIANS AND THE KINGDOM OF GOD
The Christian world is so hung up on the Jew vs. Gentile issue. I find that so difficult to believe when the scriptures are so clear on the matter. Consider the following:
Paul in chapters 9-10 of Romans spends a long time describing the Jews/Gentile situation and how things are under the New Covenant of Christ. Under the Old Covenant ,as recorded in the Old Testament of the Bible, the Jews and the nation of Israel were God’s chosen people. They were just about the only monotheistic nation in the old world of nations worshiping many Gods. The truth is that God was trying to teach us, of this day, something about Christ, God and the law through the ancient nation of Israel. He was trying to teach us that man could not in himself fulfill the law and that Christ was needed to fulfill it for us (Matthew 5:17). The Law becomes our tutor to lead us to Christ (Galatians 3:24). The Law was not done away with but it was fulfilled in Christ who in turn wrote it on our hearts (Hebrews 8:10). Once the law is written on our hearts we have a new nature and sin is impossible for us as it was with Christ.
The new covenant after Christ did away completely with any distinction between Jew, Greek or Gentile. Christ dies for the world, not just for the Jews. His ministry made the foot of the cross level playing field equally available to all.
Paul, who was a Jew, recognized this even though it broke his heart. He says: “I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, and my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom belongs the adoption as sons, and the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises, whose are the fathers, and from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever. Amen”.
"But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; nor are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: “THROUGH ISAAC YOUR DESCENDANTS WILL BE NAMED.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants” (Romans 9:1-8). Therefore it is no longer the children of physical Israel who are the Sons but it becomes anyone who believes according to the covenant made between Abraham and God. Therein God reckoned righteousness to Abraham by his faith. The covenant with Abraham preceded the nation of Israel and the institution of the Law under Moses. God also told Abraham that his promise would be fulfilled to as many people as “the sands of the sea”.
God promised Abraham as follows: “Now when Abram was ninety-nine years old, the LORD appeared to Abram and said to him, “I am God Almighty; Walk before Me, and be blameless. “I will establish My covenant between Me and you, And I will multiply you exceedingly.” Abram fell on his face, and God talked with him, saying, “As for Me, behold, My covenant is with you, And you will be the father of a multitude of nations. “No longer shall your name be called Abram [exalted Father], But your name shall be Abraham; [Father of a multitude] For I will make you the father of a multitude of nations. “I have made you exceedingly fruitful, and I will make nations of you, and kings will come forth from you. I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. “I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God.” (Genesis 17:1-8).
Therefore Abraham’s covenant extended not just to the nation of Israel but ultimately to ALL nations, a multitude of nations. It is through this covenant with Abraham that our salvation springs, not from the nation of Israel. Romans chapter 10 again makes this clear. Paul, as he grieves over the nation of Israel losing its favored status with God says: “Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes” (Romans 10:1-4).
Paul explains to Israel why Israel lost out with God and lost their favored status. He points out that they tried to establish their own righteousness according to the Mosaic Law and did not understand the true righteousness that was revealed in Christ.
But then he goes on to say that because they rejected Christ they did not lose out because the promise was still as available to them as it was to everyone else. He says: “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:1-2). He goes on to say: “In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice. But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace. What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; (Romans 11:5-7).
Paul then goes on to explain how the Gentiles are grafted in to the promise to Israel and they both become equal partakers if they accept Christ. He says: “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their [Israel’s] transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be! But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. For if their rejection [of Christ] is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” (Romans 11:11-19).
Paul goes on to explain that God will forgive Israel their sin of rejecting Christ just as He has forgiven the sin of the Gentiles so that all will be one. He says”From the standpoint of the gospel they [the Jews] are enemies for your [Gentiles] sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. For just as you [Gentiles] once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! (Romans 11:28-33).
Anyone who doubts that the nation of Israel and all Jews are no longer solely the heirs of the promise of God consider the following. Paul said: “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God” (Romans 2:28-29). This pretty much clinches the fact that to be a Jew according to the flesh merits no favor with God, just as just as God does not favor anyone, Jew or Gentile, after the flesh or nationality. His Kingdom is a spiritual Kingdom and all who partake, partake not in a Kingdom of the Earth but in the Spiritual Kingdom (John 4:24; Philippians 3:3).Thus the participants are in a sense part of a “spiritual Israel” which is not a literal place or nation in the earth.
Revelation defines who become participants in the spiritual Kingdom of God. John says: “Then I looked, and behold, the Lamb [Christ] was standing on Mount Zion, and with Him one hundred and forty-four thousand, having His name and the name of His Father written on their foreheads. And I heard a voice from heaven, like the sound of many waters and like the sound of loud thunder, and the voice which I heard was like the sound of harpists playing on their harps. And they sang a new song before the throne and before the four living creatures and the elders; and no one could learn the song except the one hundred and forty-four thousand who had been purchased from the earth. These are the ones who have not been defiled with women, for they have kept themselves chaste. These are the ones who follow the Lamb wherever He goes. These have been purchased from among men as first fruits to God and to the Lamb. And no lie was found in their mouth; they are blameless”.
However they were not there by their own righteousness. They were there because of the blood of the Lamb Christ. John goes on: “Then one of the elders answered, saying to me, “These who are clothed in the white robes, who are they, and where have they come from?” I said to him, My lord, you know.” And he said to me, “These are the ones who come out of the great tribulation, and they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. “For this reason, they are before the throne of God; and they serve Him day and night in His temple; and He who sits on the throne will spread His tabernacle over them. They will hunger no longer, nor thirst anymore; nor will the sun beat down on them, nor any heat; for the Lamb in the center of the throne will be their shepherd, and will guide them to springs of the water of life; and God will wipe every tear from their eyes.” (Revelation 7:13-17). Thus those who partake of the Kingdom are those who become clean through the sacrifice of Christ on the cross and those who accept His grace. They fulfill God’s promise to Abraham. They are there because of their faith, not their race or nationality. And the temple within which they abide is not a physical temple but a spiritual temple in the Kingdom of God.
Just so it is made clear, this Kingdom does not exist just in the heavens. It is ultimately to exist here on earth, in the conjunction of the ages between the spirit and natural realms. That is why Christ told us to pray: “Thy Kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matthew 6:10).
©Kenneth B. Alexander
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