All Israel, Part 3 – God’s covenant with Israel

II-God’s covenant with Israel

Before we look at Paul’s development of thought in Romans chapters nine through eleven, perhaps it would be useful to focus first, on something that presents itself to us in the immediate context of verses 25-27. This is of course, Pauls emphasis on the covenant with Israel (verse 27). Both the issue of “all Israel will be saved,” as well as the nature of this salvation in the present and future state of an Israel in the Middle East, come together in this one truth concerning the covenant. In order for the Jewish people to claim that land as theirs, and for Christians to accept this claim, there must be a legitimate connection to the original covenant promise to Abraham. For who could possibly dispute such a claim, if indeed, the land of Israel is the permanant possession of Jewish people in all ages, according to the promise of God? So the significance of the covenant, especially as it relates to the physical territory of Israel, cannot be overlooked.

There is no doubt but that the Jewish people, those who are the descendants of Abraham, have played a very important role in God’s redemptive purpose throughout history. Not only is the majority of the Old Testament devoted to the Jewish people and their religion, but the majority of the New Testament itself, is devoted to showing the relationship between the two. The covenant history of the Jewish people, begins in the early pages of Genesis with a promise given to Abraham, that among other things was to result in the development of an entire nation (Gen. 12:1,2). That nation was to reside in the land we now know of as Israel. And not only would Abraham’s family be blessed, because of this covenant promise given to him, but indeed, every family of the earth would be included in this blessing, meaning every nation in it (Gen. 12:3). So the particular blessing in the promise, was not exclusive to the family of Israel alone. This is important, because the immediate part of the promise was given in reference to Abraham’s family as a nation, within the land.

Throughout the Old Testament, everything that took place in reference to the Jewish people and their nation, had a respect to this covenant promise made to their forefather Abraham. Indeed, the relationhip Jewish people had in the Old Testament with God, was based on His stated commitment to bless them in their own land. In remembrance of this commitment years later, God delivered Abraham’s family out of bondage in Egypt, back into the land of Canaan with a mighty display of power (Ex. 2:23-25, 3:7,8). Upon their arrival, God caused the Jewish people to prevail over their enemies in the land of Canaan, so that they might be established there (Josh. 1:1-5). God set up the nation of Israel as an independent kingdom. The kingdom of Israel was to be defined by its religion, by its monarch, and by its prophetic ministry. In short, Israel was to be a nation under God, a special covenant people of His here on earth (Ex. 19:5,6).

The New Testament era however, quickly began to change its focus from the exclusivity of the Jewish people, toward the much broader context of the Gentile world outside of Israel. For it was here that the blessing of God to all families of the earth would find fulfillment. Certainly, the religion of God retained a certain amount of its Jewish character in the New Testament church. But It did so however, in a different way than had been previously anticipated. In the New Testament, Abraham is held up primarily as the father of the faithful, rather than of physical children (Rom. 4:13,16). Although the apostle Paul made an argument in Romans four concerning justification, in doing so, he tied gospel faith to God’s redemptive purpose first revealed to Abraham. This shows that the covenant promise to Abraham really has its fulfillment in the New Testament. And as the gospel of Christ was and is to be preached to every creature throughout the world, this explains the meaning in God’s promise of blessing to every family.

The church of Jesus Christ then is really what God’s promise to Abraham envisioned, even though the Jewish people played such a prominent role in its development. From a historical perspective, Israel and the church are two distinct entities. In the purpose of God however, the latter has succeeded the former, not as a replacement, but as a fuller display of His kingdom (Eph 3:1-7). This is why Israel, as the former nation of the Jewish people, and the sons of Abraham, ceased to exist.[1] This is a provable assertion too, not only in a study of God’s word, but in simple observation from providence. The Christians that lived in the New Testament church, both Jew and Gentile, became aware of this fact over time. Therefore, they, meaning the early Christians, separated themselves from the temple and its worship. It was also the same reason that Stephen was stoned by the unbelieving Jews, after having pointed this out to the Jewish leaders from the Scripture (Acts 6:13-15, 7:2,3, 37,38, 44,47-50).

In spite of this obvious transition that took place in the New Testament, away from the Jewish toward the Gentile world, many Christians have tried to see a continuing purpose of God for the Jews in Scripture. This is where the need for Israel to return again to nation state status comes in. With so much of an emphasis on the Jewish people in Scripture, an untaught student of the Bible can easily fall for this view, looking at it with no more of an appreciation of it than face value. There were a great many promises made to the Jewish people throughout the Old Testament era, but all of them have already come to pass now in the New. These promises were of a purely Messianic nature, they have as their purpose the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is true that many of these Old Testament promises seem to have a future kingdom of God in view, exclusively for the children of Abraham. It is also true that these promises seem to focus on a kingdom here on earth, centered around the temple of Israel, and the Jewish people.

Dispensationalists cite the earthy nature of the Old Testament promises as proof that they are not fuflfilled in the Christian church. They take these promises quite literally to mean that God will reinstate Israel as an earthly kingdom of God, completely apart from the New Testament church. One of the main ways they base such an opinion, is on the promise made in the Old Testament of the land of Israel being an everlasting possession of theirs, according to an everlasting covenant (Gen. 17:7,8; Ez. 37:25-28). Since the Jews lost the land long ago, and the promise of it was everlasting, they conclude there will be a return to it in fulfillment of the promise. In fact, 1949, the year Israel was constituted a new nation, marks what these folk believe is the beginning of an era, one that will usher in the return of the Lord. Scripture however, presents this opinion a problem that cannot be easily answered. In several places, under different writers, Scripture asserts the land promise had already been literally fuflilled, long before the New Testament era began (Josh. 21:43-45; I Kings 4:20,21; Neh. 9:7,8). Even the promised return to Jerusalem with the rebuilding of the temple took place too (Ezra 1:1,2, 2:1,70).

Those who believe otherwise tend to ignore the Scriptural data cited to the contrary. They suppose none of these verses to be a literal fulfillment of the promise. And not only that, they reason, when Messiah did come, He did not establish an earthly kingdom like that which had been supposed. This has led in no small part to the idea that it is all still yet to come. There are many Christians today who for this reason, mostly but not exclusively dispensationalist, have interpreted Romans chapter eleven to be the very proof of some inevitable consequence. In it, they see a renewed state of Israel, one in which all Jews someday will be saved in. They expect the Jews will someday return to God, this time receiving Jesus Christ as the Messiah. This is why there is so much material and political support to Israel from the West. This is why Christians tend to support just about any sort of action Israel makes against its neighbors, even to the point of possibly involving America in war over in the Middke East.

The question for us then, as well as all others that are related to it is, are there as yet, unfulfilled covenant promises made by God to ethnic Jews? This question, in reference to the current state of Israel, requires a careful examination from Scripture, especially from Romans chapter eleven. Also, another question should be, is the present renewed state of Israel a fulfillment of God’s purpose for the Jewish people? These questions demand an answer now more than ever, for the faith of God’s people in the New Testament needs this information, in order to serve Him and the Lord Jesus Christ aright. Also, we want to make it clear that our question does not involve the legitimacy of Israel to exist as a nation. Every nation that presently exists, has a right to do so, this is not the question. The question is, does Israel as an eschatalogical ideal that Christians should embrace, exist as a requirement of our faith, and is it so from Scripture?

The first thing to consider in looking at Romans chapter eleven, and verse 26 in particular, is the prominence of the word “covenant” situated in it. Its origin is from the Old Testament, and is used as a quotation to underscore the argument being made. Keep in mind that Paul is not speaking to Jews in this passage, but to Gentile Christians in the Roman church, explaining to them God’s covenant of which they are partakers (Rom. 11:13,17). There are actually two Old Testament verses being quoted together in verse 26, both from Isaiah. The first is from chapter fifty nine, verses 20 &21, and the second from chapter twenty-seven, verse 9. It is the ninth verse of Isaiah twenty seven that contains the word “covenant” in it here, that is the key to understanding what is meant in Romans chapter eleven. God’s covenant promise is what is in view, regarding the saving of “all Israel.” In order to understand what this means, it is necessary to consider what was intended by God in His covenant to the Jews of old.

But before considering God’s specific covenant with Israel, it would be a good idea as well, to consider it from the more general standpoint of exactly what is a covenant. In asking the question, what is a covenant, it is important to restrict the answer to what it means concerning God in Scripture. We say this because of the danger and folly in ascribing to sacred writ, concepts that are derived from no other place than that in common usage to us in modern America. This should not be done to God and His covenant purpose. Nevertheless, Scripture does present us with this word covenant, so that we should come to an understanding of its concept, as something that is similar that which is in common usage. An ordinary covenant is something that is commonly understood to take place between two human parties, as an agreement that usually involves something of a financial nature. One party covenants to do something, in exchange for something else from the other party, making it a contract based on performance. A covenant however, as it concerns God is something quite different from that, even if it does involve some of the same elements.

A-What is a biblical covenant?

A covenant is an agreement between two parties by which a relationship is established and kept.[2] This agreement is the basis by which the parties involved relate to each other and conduct themselves. The covenant then becomes a legal, or, a ruling principle in that relationship (Amos 3:3). Scripture is clear that God deals with man on the basis of a covenant of one sort or another. This fact reveals that God is very consistent in the way in which He deals with mankind. Once that is understood, a lot of the mystery and conjecture that people come up with concerning God’s dealings, are dispelled. Scripture also reveals that God’s dealings with man have a purpose and a progression throughout history. There is nothing open about what has occurred in history, for God is sovereign in all His dealings with mankind. None of them have been contingent on man and what he does. Still, at the same time, man does have a will, and does act and react on the basis of things that come to pass historically.

To understand anything from Scripture that relates to actual historical events, it is necessary to understand God as a covenant making, covenant keeping God. This is certainly true when trying to ascertain God’s dealings with His people in both the Old and the New Testament economies. It is important then to break down the elements that are involved in any covenant that God has made with men. This is in order to arrive at an understanding of what His covenant is or was comprised of, in His dealings with the Jewish people. There are three basic things that comprise what the meaning of a covenant is from God. 1-the purposes of it, 2-the promises of it, and 3-the obligations of it. With God, a covenant begins as a matter of an eternal decree, which has as its end diverse intentions that all emanate from the unseen glory of God. The purposes of God, although deep and many, always have this one ultimate goal in view, and that is to declare His unseen excellence to His creatures.

God has purposed that numerous covenants should be established between Himself and His creatures in the pursuit of His glorious intention. But over all of them there lies this one main purpose that God has in them all. They all exist as adjuncts to, or, subsidiary means to serve one central purpose known as the eternal covenant of grace. This covenant of God’s grace is that overall purpose, by which God decreed from eternity past, to have a special, redeemed people for Himself. Even Dispensationalists, who believe in a special future intention of God for the Jewish people, believe that God has an overall redemptive purpose in Christ.[3] The idea of a covenant as it concerns God, is a departure from the idea of a covenant which humans routinely engage in with one another. The difference of the two is that when humans’ covenant with each other, they do so as equals with one another, standing on equal ground before man’s law. This is not the case with God when considering what a covenant is, for the difference that exists between God and His creatures make this so.

God purposes in Himself to have a covenant relationship with His creatures, one which exists on totally unequal grounds. God as Creator is completely other in nature from His creatures, being eternal, immutable, omnipotent, and omnipresent in His attributes. God has everything at His disposal to purpose and to offer by way of a covenant, but with man this is not so. Man has nothing and is nothing as it concerns the eternal Deity, therefore, a covenant with God is completely one sided. The one-sided nature of a covenant with God, is based on a promise of something from Him to His creatures, that only He is able to fulfill. A creature made by God has nothing to offer God in return whatsoever. When God promises something, it is up to Him to fulfill it, which means that His integrity is on the line in regards to it. Besides having nothing to offer God, man also has no integrity as a sinner.

God owes sinful man nothing but death and Hell, so that if he receives anything better than that from Him, it is completely undeserved by him. In fact, the nature of a covenant promise made by God to man is something that on its surface seems contrary. What man would enter into a covenant with another, to give him something in exchange for nothing? Yet, this is exactly what is done when God gives His promises to a creature. Along with the promise’s God gives in the form of a covenant, comes with it the obligations that it has toward God. A covenant still is an agreement between two parties even if it comes from God. A promise made by God always requires something in response to it from the one to whom it is given. It has already been established above, that man has nothing in which to give His Creator, in return for the promises He gives by way of covenant. So how is it possible that man could fulfill that obligation to His God? The answer lies in what purpose it is that God has in the covenant promise He has given.

A covenant may be that which is intended either, to be conditional or unconditional, according to the purpose of God. And it is also so in regard to the particular ability, or lack thereof, of the person receiving it. A conditional covenant is one in which God expects something from the one He has given the promise to, for the maintenance of that covenant. This does not imply Gods promise does not come with His provision in the conditional covenant, just that there is something by way of duty required for it’s maintenance and longevity. Why would such a covenant as this be made by God to His creature? It has to do with the purpose intended in it, what He designs to accomplish both in the giving of it, and of the outcome of it. A good example of this sort of a conditional covenant is that of God’s original covenant to mankind as represented in Adam its first parent.

This covenant is referred to as the covenant of works, being that is was based on a promise given to Adam which he was required to keep. The promise of this covenant was eternal life, and it was offered to Adam on the condition that he would refrain from violating the one requirement God gave him in it. The requirement was made of not eating of one particular forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden (Gen. 2:16,17). There was plenty of provision made for Adam and his wife in that covenant requirement, in order that he might be able to keep his obligation to God in it. Adam was placed in a garden full of fine fruit to eat, so that he would never go without that which he truly needed from it to live. Furthermore, Adam had in his created humanity an original righteousness by which he was well able to keep this command of God. The promise of death to Adam by God upon his failure to keep his required obedience, was in essence, the promise of eternal life. Not only did Adam have a positive righteousness in his humanity by which he was able to obey God, but he also had propositional revelation given to him as the guiding, authoritative principle by which to live and enjoy God and His promise.

When Adam, along with his wife, failed to keep God’s covenant in the eating of that forbidden fruit, he received the promise of its curse from God. With God, a conditional covenant that is broken has consequences attached to it. There were two things that happened in this that Adam was to discover from God. The first of these was that God is a merciful and gracious God, and the second was, that God does not excuse the guilty (Ex. 34:6,7). Adam found himself needful of a better and a new relationship to God through another covenant, the covenant of God’s sovereign, eternal, and unconditional grace. Adam was saved from his sin, and eternal death by the gracious appointment by God of a Redeemer (Gen. 3:15).

This second covenant introduced to mankind after Adams fall was different from the first, in that it was completely unconditional. God gave this covenant grace to Adam while he was in a condition of complete poverty, unable to do anything toward the redemption of his soul. God did everything in appointing His Son, Jesus Christ to be a Redeemer of all to whom the promise of salvation is intended. In this covenant, the obligations of it are met by God Himself in providing everything necessary to its fulfillment. While Adam and his posterity were all parties to the covenant of works, it was not to be so concerning the covenant of grace. When Adam sinned, his entire posterity sinned with him (Rom. 5:12). So, what about the covenant of works then, what happened to it, did it cease or is it still in effect? God’s covenant of works still remains in full effect to this very day as it is witnessed to by the apostle Paul (Rom. 7:7-12). All of the requirements are still the same for every son of Adam born into this world, yet not one of them has the ability to fulfill its requirements, because all are born in sin (Rom. 3:23). Even though God’s covenant of grace is an unconditional one, that does not mean that there are not any duties attached to it.

The message of the gospel is to believe in Jesus Christ, in His life, death, and resurrection for salvation. This does not imply that faith is a condition of salvation, as that would negate the graciousness of it. The apostle Paul makes it clear that even the faith necessary to be saved is a gift of God’s grace (Eph. 2:8). If God has saved someone, He has given them faith to receive what He has given. Those who do not believe are not included in God’s unconditional covenant of grace. That is not all, for God requires that His people are to be holy like Him (I Peter 1:15,16). That too is provided in the eternal covenant of grace that God gives His people, which they are to work out in obedience to Him (Phil. 2:13). At this point it needs to be said that the main difference between these two covenants, the one being conditional, and the other being unconditional, is the difference of God’s purpose in them. Or, to go even further with it, there is a difference in God’s purpose toward the people under both of these covenant relationships.

Every creature made in the image of God has a relationship to Him on the basis of one of these covenants. It is frequently stated that men born in sin do not have a relationship to God, but this is not true. It is often put this way by well-meaning Christians because men born in sin do not know their Creator, not that they don’t have a relationship to Him. That kind of relationship is one of being in rebellion as a hater of God. This is true even though the fact remains that they know they have a Creator, they just simply do not want to acknowledge Him as such (Ps. 14:1, Rom. 1:19). All men are born having a relationship to God on the basis of the covenant of works. This covenant is still in full effect, and it promises life to the one who keeps the law of God in its entirety. The problem with it however, is that to stumble in a single part of God’s law, it then makes a man guilty of the whole law (James 2:10). Couple that truth in James with the fact that all men are born sinners, not seeking after God, and it is clear that unless they are saved under God’s unconditional covenant, they are lost.

Now this is exactly what God intends in these two covenants, the one being of works, and the other of grace. God chooses some of the posterity of Adam according to the purpose of election, to save by His unconditional covenant of sovereign grace. God sent His Son to die for these specifically, that their sins would be paid for, and that they would be justified by the imputation of His righteousness. God’s purpose in this for those who are saved is that they would be His people, blessed forever in glory with Himself. Those who are not included in God’s covenant of grace, He has also elected, but for the very opposite purpose than salvation. God has reprobated all those under the covenant of works whom Christ did not die for (Rom. 9:21-23).

God is glorified in both the saving and damning of the sons of Adam. God’s glory is the highest purpose in what He does, but what He does toward that end from a covenantal perspective, serves that purpose. It is clear from Scripture that the covenant of works does truly hold out a promise of life in it to the sons of Adam in a general sense (Rom. 2:4-11). If men were to be truly good in that sense of it, they would be judged so by God who is just and impartial. However, all mankind is born as sinners in the first place, so that God’s goodness shown in nature toward them, is like a voice calling them to repentance. Sinners neither do good works, nor repent under the covenant of works, for God has purposed this too.

B-God’s covenant with the Jewish people

This brings the question of God’s covenant to Israel up for a review of what sort it is. Is the covenant with Israel and the Jewish people a conditional, or, an unconditional covenant? This is a question that must be answered in order to ascertain what the Apostle Paul says about Israel being saved (Rom. 11:26,27). When the Old Testament is read, it is clear that many covenants are mentioned in it. This fact has been a matter of contention to some extent in the New Covenant era among Christians. The reason being for this is that the New Covenant itself is mentioned as a distinct covenant by the Prophet Jeremiah (Jer. 31:31-33). This covenant promise made by God to His people through Jeremiah was the last one made in the Old Testament dispensation. It appeared as a final promise from God concerning the establishment of His kingdom, in reference to the coming Messiah. It is certainly clear that the New Testament dispensation in Jesus Christ is the fulfillment of what Jeremiah prophesied (Heb. 8:7-13, 10:16,17).

The question then is this, is there a single, overall covenant promise of which all of the other individual covenants are related, or, are there numerous individual covenants with each of them having distinct promises? We have already stated the case in reference to the covenant of grace and works. What is at issue here is one that is more of a matter of nuances. This has been a contention between Paedo and non Paedo-Baptists ever since the Protestant Reformation. At first glance, the issue of Baptism doesn’t seem on the surface to have anything to do with God’s covenant with Israel, but in reality it does. If all covenant terminology is just really one covenant, then both Old and New Testament truth can be successfully blended together. This is exactly what occurs in the mind of many Presbyterians, who see Israel as the church, and also import a great deal of Israel’s theocracy into the New Testament.

Baptists, on the other hand, view God’s overall covenant purpose as being defined and distributed in the form of many subsidiary covenant promises. To Baptists, this explains the use of multiple covenant terminology in the Old Testament, as well as the use of the term New Covenant in the New Testament. The New Covenant would then be but one of the subsidiary covenants in God’s overall plan. It is not the purpose here to try to resolve these two different views,[4] but suffice it to say they do play a role in the confusion that surrounds the question of Israel. Added to the confusion too, are the two hundred year old prophetic views of Dispensationalists, all of who happen to be Baptists themselves.

Dispensationalists take the matter of covenants to an extreme because of the peculiarities of their system. The Dispensationalist takes the idea of a purpose or plan of God attached to a promise, and couches it in their peculiar doctrine of dispensations. A dispensation is simply an era of governmental administration. This English word is only used twice in the New Testament to distinguish between the Old and New Testament form of religion (Eph. 1:10, 3:2). The Dispensationalists however, place way more meaning and importance on this term than the apostle Paul did in his letter to the Ephesian church. In Dispensational Theology, God deals differently, with different people, in different ages, hence the term Dispensationalism. Each particular dispensation within their scheme, becomes the source of God’s purpose and promise, more than by an individual covenant. The various covenant occurrences then become subservient to the dispensational purpose of God.[5] The idea of conditional and unconditional promises also works into the dispensational scheme.

Dispensationalists are primarily Amyrauldians theologically.[6] As such, they view the decrees of God as being of a twofold, and of a parallel nature. What is meant by this is, God actually has two separate wills, one that is decreed, and one they call permissive. The decreed will of God is secret, and is what will come to pass in the end. The permissive will is what God allows man to do, with His interventions in it of course. What this really translates into however, are God decrees what comes to pass because He knows what man will do according to his free will. So then, to Amyrauldian Dispensationalists, God has both conditional and unconditional promises tied to these various dispensational purposes that they see in Scripture. This idea of multiple wills at work in it all, somehow explain the contradictions that are raised in having dual kingdoms.

A combination of these three perspectives on God’s covenants in the church, has made the goal of understanding Pauls meaning of the term, “All Israel will be saved,” a difficult one indeed. The only way to approach this is by asking what does the Bible say, not what does this or that system say. Of course, the Bible is thoroughly logical in what it says, because God Himself is so (John 1:1). Oftentimes, the claims of so-called biblicists are nothing but a hodgepodge of contradictory statements, thrown together to form some sort of pseudo piety. Therefore, systematic analysis is always in order in determining what says the Lord. There are a couple of basic facts that cannot be denied from Scripture about the matter. God did give specific promises to Israel as a people and a nation. In these promises, there are many very literal sounding things said to them, about the permanent establishment of a theocratic kingdom, here on earth.

By the end of the Old Testament era however, these promises had seemed to have failed concerning Israel. Israel as a nation was perpetually disobedient to God, leading to their eventual destruction as a nation. God destroyed the nation of Israel first by dividing it, and then by invading it by a foreign power. Even though there were promises given to Israel through the prophets, of an eventual renewal from this, what has come to pass historically and redemptively, hardly seems to fit the description of it that was given. This then begs the question, is the renewal to be still yet in the future? When the statement “All Israel will be saved” appears in the New Testament, there is a temptation to believe that the literal promises made to the nation of Israel will have their fulfillment in it. Coupled with this is, the fact that a modern day nation called Israel, has now come into existence, making it a foregone conclusion to many that it does.

1-The purpose of the covenant

Scripture always provides the keys to understanding its many mysteries, therefore, it is no different here concerning this question of Israel. These keys are determined by asking the right questions about what it is that is being asked. The first key then to a proper understanding of God’s covenant with Israel is this question. What is God’s stated purpose for these people called the Jews, who made up the ancient land of Israel? The answer to this has its place in the very beginning of Scripture history, in the garden of Eden itself. God made a promise that He would send forth a Savior who would be born of Eve, to save her and Adam from sin and death (Gen. 3:15). This promise from God presupposed several things that would not have been apparent to Adam and Eve at the time. However, now looking back in history a number of things should be apparent about this pre evangelistic promise.

First of all, this Savior would be born of a woman, meaning that He would be of her nature. Second, because of God’s expressed purpose of populating the earth, this Savior would have to hail from one particular genealogy, dating back to Eve. Third, it is clear from what God said in the garden, that there would be two separate descendants from Eve in the world, her seed, and the seed of the serpent. And fourth, as it was God’s will that the sons of men should be divided on the earth, that meant that this Savior must have a certain racial and national identity. Taking these four things into consideration, it becomes clear now that the Jewish people from whom the Savior of God’s people came, were formed into a nation for this very purpose. In fact, everything done by God in history preceding the first appearance of the Lord here on earth was done for this purpose. Israel as a people and nation fit into this purpose too, in a major sort of way.

History is a twofold record. On the one hand, it is the record of God’s providence in creation. On the other hand, history is the record of man and his actions on earth. Because man is made in the image of God, therefore, it must be by a man that God would redeem those whom He had marked out beforehand for it. This man who would be born of a woman then, is a historical figure, one who would appear at a certain place and time in history, to accomplish the purpose of redemption marked out for Him by God. As a man, the Redeemer of men Jesus Christ, bore that image in order to redeem it (Gal. 4:4). The Jewish people, although marked out by God to be special, were but fellow members of Adam’s sinful race. The implication of this is, that whatever God’s plan was for the Jewish people, it was to serve this very purpose. The Jewish people are humans no different than anybody else, being born in sin and needing a Savior.

When God covenanted with the Jewish people to make them a nation, it was to set apart in them, a definition and standard by which God would deal with humanity. This is seen most notably in the giving of the Ten Commandments to Israel. These commandments were in reality creation ordinances given by God in the beginning, to Adam and his posterity. It is true that Scripture records only one command that God gave to Adam, which was not to eat of the fruit of the tree of good and evil. But once having eaten that fruit, and knowing by experience what good and evil are, Adam now needed a broader, more encompassing understanding of God’s law (Rom. 5:12,13). The Ten Commandments as creation ordinances, address every aspect of fallen human nature in reference to what God expects of man, by way of righteousness. God’s covenant to Israel, by which these commandments were codified, testifies to mankind what His definition of righteousness is. And not just what God’s righteousness is, but what it is supposed to be in man himself.

When Jesus Christ came into this world born of a woman, He also came into it born under the law (Gal. 4:4). For what purpose did this happen? It was to redeem God’s people, both Jew and Gentile who were born under the law too (Gal. 4:5). Jesus was subject to the law of God so that He might fulfill its righteous requirements, and so that then He could condemn sin in the flesh (Rom. 8:3,4). In other words, Jesus fulfilled the law that Adam broke, bringing death and destruction on the human race. Once having done this, Jesus then died on the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for His people. Paying for their sins, Jesus saved His people from them (Matt. 1:21). Seeing this purpose in Christ from a New Testament perspective, it becomes clear that God’s covenant with Israel was in support of this. In fact, God called Israel His servant in the Old Testament, just before calling their Messiah His servant ( Is. 49:3,5). Israel’s covenant with God then was to serve the purpose of providing a context for the humanity of Jesus, in respect to the law.

How did this come about? The Jewish people were really formed as a people while living as slaves in the land of Egypt. It was through the promise made to their father Israel, that defined them as covenant people. In time, God appointed Moses to be the executor of it to them, of which he was called to be their human deliverer from slavery (Ex. 3:7-10). In other words, this promise called the Mosaic covenant, was the basis for the formulation of the Hebrew people into a nation. In these words to Moses, God called the Jews “My people” and gave these commandments to Moses and the people of Israel to hold for Him on earth. Before establishing Israel as a kingdom God made it clear to them what it meant to be His covenant nation (Ex. 19:5-7). Israel was to keep God’s covenant by keeping His commandments which were given to them through Moses.

In keeping the commandments of God, Israel was acting as His servant to humanity, as is witnessed by the words “All the earth is Mine,” making God’s purposes far greater in scope than just Israel itself (Ex. 19:5). Because this covenant was given to Israel through Moses, their acceptance and commitment to it were absolutely necessary if that purpose was to be fulfilled (Ex. 19:7). What Israel did with that covenant was to determine their entire history as recorded in Scripture throughout the Old Testament. In a sense, and humanly speaking, the maintenance of God’s law was dependant on the nation of Israel. Therefore, God spoke to them in this manner when He constituted them as His people under it saying, “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. “You shall have no other gods before Me.” (Ex. 20:2,3). What God was saying to Israel, was that He delivered them from their slavery in Egypt for this very purpose, that they should maintain His law, His worship, and His testimony in the world. When Jesus Christ came as the Son of God, being born of a woman, this covenant was to be handed to Him as its righteousness and as a light to the world (Jer. 23:6, Matt. 3:3-17, Is.42:6).

When God promised Eve that her son would be her deliverer, she had no way of knowing which son or when. According to the inspired record, Eve had many children, and yet, she died before ever seeing the one for whom she awaited. God in His wisdom designed it this way, for His will was to populate the earth with a great multitude of people, all from the bodies of Adam and Eve. The Son promised to Eve, would come many generations later to accomplish her salvation, and all those who would be saved by Him. As is well known to all, genealogical information is hard to maintain. It seems that after only a few generations, that information becomes lost or obscured. Until the time of the Mosaic covenant, there was no more than a verbal record of the human race and it’s history on earth.

Today, every civilization on earth, no matter how civilized it is or not, has a record of their history one earth. Among those cultures that have a written record, no matter how good it may be, yet, it is obscured by time and is dependant as well, on the records of previous generations. Among those cultures which have no written record at all, their oral history is shrouded in myth, making it even more unreliable. God Himself preserved through His Spirit, the historical record of His Son back to Eve. God did this under the Mosaic covenant, while Israel sojourned in the wilderness. God gave to Moses an accurate account of creation, and all that proceeded onward to his time as a permanent and inspired record. The nation of Israel served an important function in this regard, they became the official bearers of that inspired account of the promise given to Eve of a deliverer. The nation of Israel of old was born of one family, through whom the Savior of God to the world would come. Consequently, from the time of Adam onward there was a line of descendants born of Eve that would provide that natural link between her, and that special Son of promise.

Once Israel was born as a nation and established, the inspired record of Moses then became preserved for the world, and especially the genealogical record of Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:1-17, Luke 3:23-38). It was a daughter of Eve, the virgin Mary, that God chose to be the human mother of Jesus, whose humanity is traceable back to her. Every devoted daughter of Israel longed to be the one chosen of God for this honor. Take Hannah for instance, she prayed for and received of the Lord a son, whom she dedicated to God’s service (I Sam. 1:19-28). The exuberant prayer of Hannah recorded in Scripture, revealed the fact that she imagined that her son Samuel, might be the long awaited Messiah (I Sam. 2:1-11). Certainly, Samuel turned out in the providence of God, to be a Priest, a Prophet, and a Judge, but not the Messiah. When Mary herself, became overcome by the honor placed upon her by God, she expressed herself in prayer, echoing the words of Hannah spoken before her (Luke 1:46-56).

The parentage of Israel served another very important function in the history of redemption. When God spoke in the garden to Eve about a Son of promise who would be the deliverer of His people, He also spoke of other sons too. God said that Eve would be the mother of two different families, two seeds would come from her body. One posterity that would be born of Eve would contain within it a particular person whom God referred to as her Seed (Gen. 3:15). The other posterity, which again would be born to Eve, was referred to as the seed of the serpent. In reality, there were to be two entirely different families born of Eve. In the statement from God to Eve it is clear that He had two different providential purposes in mind. These two purposes are represented in the term seed used twice by God in the same sentence.

To Eve it must have sounded like she would bear a child who would be of the serpent, sinful and rebellious like him, but she would also bear a Child who would be holy, and save her and Adam from judgement. This makes sense of what Eve expressed about her new son Seth, who replaced Abel that was killed, as a seed appointed from God to her (Gen. 4:25). Eve believed that Seth, not Abel was that special Son of promise, and why was this? It was because of the wickedness which became obvious to her from the other son Cain, who killed Abel. The seed terminology used in Genesis three is not only used there, but in the New Testament too. Trying to understand what God meant in speaking to Eve in Genesis three, has been for many Christians a difficult thing concerning God’s covenant promise. Fortunately for the church, the apostle Paul explained this term in his epistle to the Galatians in chapter three, expounding upon the important things in it to help unlock the purpose of God in His covenant (Gal. 3:16,19,29).

But before examining what Galatians three teaches about the “Seed,” it is necessary to go back to Genesis, and look at the figure spoken of in the Galatians passage, the person of Abraham (Gen. 11:26). Abraham was a descendant of Noah through his son Shem, as is shown in the genealogy given in Genesis chapter eleven. The beginning of the Jewish people as a family, took place in Abraham who is their patriarchal head and father. It was to Abraham that certain promises were made that led to the eventual rise of Israel as a nation (Gen. 12:1-3). It was this promise given to Abraham, that leads most Jews and many Christians today, to believe that the re emergence of the modern day state of Israel is it’s fulfillment. This fact cannot be understated, for it relates directly to what is at issue in determining the meaning of the word, “Israel” in Romans chapter eleven (verse 26).

The promise made to Abraham by God was a covenant which was comprised of three things, a land, a nation, and a family. It was through these three things that the Messiah, now known as Jesus Christ, would hail from in His humanity. In fact, Jesus Christ is the very purpose behind these three things that were promised to Abraham. First, the land given by God to Abraham’s descendants four hundred and thirty years later, provided Jesus, a place in which His human ancestry might be established. Second, it was necessary for Jesus to have a national identity, one that would be a matter of historical record. And third, it was necessary that Jesus have a racial identity through His human family, connecting Him not only to Abraham, but to Noah and all the way back to Eve. The people Jesus came from, were the descendants of Abraham through his son Isaac, and his son’s son Jacob who were also called Israel.

God sent Moses to these people, to deliver them from slavery in Egypt, and to lead them into a land of their own according to the covenant promise made with Abraham. There is no denying the fact that God looked upon the Jewish people with favor in doing all these things, it was a tremendous honor by Him to be the family and nation of the Messiah. But it must not be overlooked in any way, that the primary purpose of God’s covenant with Abraham, was His purpose in sending His Son into the world through him. It is not only Abraham, and the covenant made to him by God that is at issue in the present discussion of God’s purpose with Israel. The entire Old Testament and its history are about Jesus Christ as the long awaited Savior of God’s people. Jesus Himself brought this out when He scolded the Pharisees’, pointing out to them their ignorance of Him in the Scripture (John 5:39). Even Jesus’ own disciples failed to see all that the Scriptures had to say about Him concerning the purposes of God (Luke 24:19-21, 25-27).

God reserved the full understanding of His covenant for us, His people who now live in the New Testament church. These things were revealed by Jesus Himself through the apostles (Luke 24:44-48). This point however, has been lost on those who look at the people who inhabit modern day Israel, and see them as the citizens that have a special covenant relationship with God. They look at Jewish people and the state of Israel, as though they are what God’s purpose in the covenant is all about. The Jewish people and the nation of Israel are the historical context in which God chose to unfold His covenant purpose of redemption to the world. Therefore, the words “all Israel” most certainly has everything to do with this purpose we have laid out from Scripture.

2-The nature of the covenant

The second key to understanding God’s covenant to Israel in Scripture is answered in the question, of what nature is it? Surely, if it is supposed that the apostle Paul is referring to the renewed state of Israel, made so according to God’s covenant, then it must coincide with the nature of its intention. To put it another way, there must be a discernable reason for God’s original covenant promise to Israel, that can only be seen as consistent with a modern day nation bearing the same name. If it does not, then it is not right to suppose that Paul gives any legitimacy whatsoever, in Romans eleven to it. The underlying rationale of a modern day state of Israel, is in the belief of an everlasting covenant promise. So, was the promise made to ancient Israel a permanent or a temporary covenant? Likewise, were the promises literal or figurative in nature? Even those who are not disposed to dispensationalist thinking, often look at what Paul said in Romans chapter eleven, and come to the conclusion that the covenant made to them is not temporary, nor the promises figurative. Also, they suppose, just like the Dispensationalists, that it will find it’s ultimate fulfillment at some future time in this present age.

There is a serious problem that arises from such an interpretation as this. To believe that a national Israel is in view in Romans eleven, one has to suppose that everything pertaining to that land in the Middle East of the same name is subservient to it. This is what Dispensationalists think. But what about those who reject Dispensationalism? At least the Dispensationalists are consistent about this, when they think that the temple and its service will return some day. But if this notion is rejected, then the interpretation of a literal state of Israel in Romans chapter eleven, is actually pulled completely out of the context of the covenant promise. That is to say, if it is seen as national in nature, being fulfilled as a political state. As we’ve already said, there are some who are not Dispensationalists, but who still, nevertheless, believe in a future redemption of the Jewish people, based on Romans 11:25-27. So they have no problem with the present day claim of Israel to the land. But what about the rest of what is said by the prophets, about a new temple with new sacrifices (Ez. 40:1-43; Jer. 31:31-37)? If it is literal and permanent, they cannot be separated from each other.

The Abrahamic covenant has its roots in the covenant God made to Eve concerning her Seed, as the one who would crush the head of the serpent (Gen. 3:15). But this is where confusion often lies in understanding exactly what the nature of this promise is, and what it entails. In the Genesis account, God mentioned both the serpent and his seed, meaning that he, the Devil would actually be the father of children through Eve. This is purely metaphorical language used in the verse, lest anyone might think that Satan and Eve cohabitated together, or that Satan could even have physical offspring. The very fact that Satan, who is a spirit being, indwelt a serpent in the garden of Eden to tempt Eve, is evidence of his inability to do this.

Someone might wonder why this should be emphasized here at all. The reason for the necessity of it, springs from a popular teaching among Dispensationalists, which they have propagated for decades upon decades in the church. These teachers suppose that in the pre diluvial era when Genesis records that the sons of God took wives from the sons of men, that it means that angels cohabitated with the women of those days (Gen. 6:1,2). Furthermore, when the same passage relates that there were giants born as a result of these unions, it is believed that this is to be taken literally, and that these children were freaks of nature. Jesus Himself settles the matter by saying that angels cannot procreate (Matt. 22:29,30). Therefore, it should be clear from this, the words spoken to Eve in Genesis three about the seed of the serpent, have something else in mind. Their meaning is, there will be a spiritual seed. This is what we mean about the nature of God’s promises, they are spiritual in nature.

Returning to the immediate subject, there was only the mention of the one Seed of the woman in Genesis chapter one (verse 15). This has led Dispensationalists, who are also ultra-literalists, to infer that the seed of the woman is only referring to one person. The reason for the singular terminology in Genesis spoken to Eve is precisely because of the nature of the covenant. The one Seed, who is Jesus Christ, the Son of God and Savior of the world, is also the Father of a specific family. This family is one with Him and is included with Him in all that is said about Him. By saving His family, Jesus Christ does also crush the head of the serpent (Rom. 16:20). The family of the serpent on the other hand, are all those born in sin whom God has reprobated. So the point here is that the promise of salvation given to a particular people, is fulfilled in a spiritual, not a literal way. There are of course, literal things that must happen in reference to it. But the promise itself, which culminates in Christ and His salvation, has as its object a spiritual end.

To Abraham was given the promise of a family of descendants. In fact, Abraham was to be the father of not just one, but many nations (Gen. 17:4-7). Unless this promise is understood properly, it is impossible to understand the nature of God’s covenant purpose. Abraham became the holder of, and the progenitor of the covenant made to Eve with all its children. Certainly, the children of Abraham who are called Jews, are included in this covenant according to their biological relationship to him. But those are not the only children intended in the promise. Unless any of these particular Jews in Israel believed in God like Abraham did, they could not legitimately be included in the catalogue of faithful witnesses, recorded in Hebrews chapter eleven.

When Jesus who was a Jew came into this world, His own Jewish people rejected Him for the most part, as their Savior (John 1:12). But there were many, both Jew and Gentile alike who did receive Jesus Christ as their Savior. The apostle Paul explains this phenomenon by saying that all those who are called by the name Israel, are not actually the Israel of God (Rom. 9:6,7). How could this be, wasn’t God’s promise to Abraham that of a nation of particular people, born of his blood? And was not Abraham given a visible sign of that covenant promise that was made to him, the covenant sign of circumcision? First of all, not every one of Abraham’s descendants was included in the physical kingdom (Gen. 17:7-14). Abraham had children who were not included in the promise (Gal. 4:22,23). Second, Abraham also had slaves who were not even related to him, living in his household (Gen. 17:13). Neither they, nor any children born to Abraham of his servants had any claim to the covenant promise, though they were still required to bear this sign.

But in the New Testament it becomes clear that this sign is of no value concerning salvation, only faith in God such as Abraham had (Rom. 4:9-12). Abraham is called by the apostle Paul the father of those who believe, as opposed to those who are circumcised. What this indicates then, is that the nature of the covenant made to Abraham had two families in view, one that would be physical and abide in the land that became Israel, and one that were spiritual that would have no particular land or nation to call its own other than the world to come (I Peter 2:11). Only one of those families however, were saved by the Messiah Jesus Christ. That being the case then, when God’s purpose for the physical descendants of Abraham came to a close, there was nothing left for them of an earthly nature, according to the covenant promise made.

It is clear by what Paul says in the book of Galatians, that God purposed for two distinct families to be born of Eve which can be called “seeds.” God brought forth from one of those families a single Child referred to only as a “Seed.” This one “Seed” is Jesus Christ, the promised child to Eve in Genesis (Gal. 3:16). The apostle Paul in the same chapter, using the same reference to Jesus Christ as the “Seed,” joins the law of God together with Him and the covenant made to Abraham (Gal. 3:19). But Paul also makes it clear that there were other “seeds” which occupied the mind of God, in the giving of this covenant promise (Gal. 3:29). These are Christians, those who are saved like believing Abraham by faith. Only those Jews in the Old Testament who believed like Abraham was saved, and included by God in His eternal covenant of grace. There is only one person mentioned by God to Eve in Genesis chapter three. This is because all of the other “seeds” related to Him, are related to Him spiritually.

The Lord makes a distinction in Scripture between Abraham’s physical and spiritual descendants. He does this by indicating to us through the apostle Paul that there was actually two covenants made by God to Abraham, one literal and temporary, and one figurative and permanent (Gal. 4:22-26). Notice how the argument in Galatians four is framed by Paul. He uses the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael, to teach us this truth. Ishmael received no inheritance in the land of Canaan, yet, Paul uses him in a symbolic sense, to show the earthy nature of that promise. That covenant promise is for slaves, not sons. Paul applies what he means by this to the Jewish people, living outside of Christ. But those who are under a permanent, spiritual covenant relationship, are so through Isaac, the son of promise. This is the “seed” of promise, those who are free and have an inheritance in the heavenly Jerusalem, which now is, and will be fully revealed some day after the Lord returns (Gal. 4:26; Heb. 12:22; Rev. 3:12, 21:2,10). The children of Hagar are carnal, children of law, not grace. The children of Sarah are spiritual children, saved by grace who will inherit eternal life. These only are the Israel of God.

To sum this all up, the covenant promise to Eve of children, both physical and spiritual, became the same promise to Abraham. This covenant promise was twofold in nature. One was earthly and temporary, and the other spiritual and eternal. There was also a progression in it as well. The physical part of God’s covenant provided the circumstances by which the spiritual purpose of God could be carried out. For instance, the giving of the law, the ordinances, the oracles of God, the kingdom, the temple, and everything else which pertained to Israel was given for this purpose. When it was done and it had served its purpose, God ended it. Consider what happened thirty-seven years after Jesus died and rose again. God providentially brought the Roman empire upon Jerusalem and its temple, destroying it and scattering the people of Israel throughout the whole world. The Jews rebuilt Jerusalem and the temple, and in 135 AD it was providentially destroyed by God through the Romans once again, proving the point we have labored to make here from Scripture.

Earthly kingdoms have come and gone in the past, and so did the kingdom of Israel. Ancient Israel lost its kingdom and its religion, never to be regained. The Jews have longed for a return to the land, but have never cared, one wit about worshiping and serving God according to Scripture. They reject the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, but have none of their own. Instead, they have volumes of philosophy and commentaries on the law written by men they follow and call teachers. The church of Jesus Christ is a spiritual kingdom that never fails nor comes to an end, showing forth it’s permanency. Everything about the covenant with earthly Israel was temporal in nature. Israel’s possession of the land was only temporary for they were merely tenants on it (Lev. 25:23). The peace and prosperity of Israel in the land were decreed temporary by God (Deut. 4:26,27). The reason for this was that the covenant itself was only a temporary one which became obsolete, there was nothing permanent about it (Heb. 8:13).

According to Scripture, most of the Israelites under the Old Covenant were not elected by God unto salvation, but rather to perish in unbelief (Heb. 4:1-6). This provides further proof the covenant made to Israel after the flesh was no more than a temporal one, with only earthly promises in view. Once the Lord Jesus Christ came into the world to fulfill His ministry to God’s elect, it was God’s will for both Jews and Gentiles alike to believe in Him, and receive Him as the Messiah. For this to happen, it required a rejection of the Messiah by the Jews, and an end to their temple sacrifices by God. The rejection of Jesus Christ brought an end to their involvement in the temporal covenant made to Abraham after the flesh. To believe in the re emergence of Israel as a covenant nation under God, is simply an unbiblical idea, and one that should be rejected by all Christians. Yet, this is exactly what many Christians have done over the last two hundred years.

We admit, the favorable opinion toward an earthly Israel that presently exists among most Christians, makes the subject matter from Romans chapter eleven, verse 26, difficult to discuss in a critical manner. Nevertheless, we ask the reader what purpose can there be for a renewed earthly Israel in the progress of redemption, if it has been shown to be otherwise from Scripture? The obvious answer should be none at all. What Scripture does reveal is a transition from an obsolete covenant arrangement, to something new and better (Heb. 8:13). The earthly administration of God’s covenant promise, needed a replacement that was spiritual in nature, one that cannot fail through sinful unbelief. Everywhere throughout the New Testament the apostles have labored to show an end to God’s dealing with Israel as a nation, and instead, the fulfillment of those promises in the Christian church (II Cor. 1:20; Heb. 8:6; I Pet. 2:4-10).

The New Testament declares the covenant with earthly Israel to be only symbolic in nature. Its rites, ceremonies and sacrifices are but copies of the true and spiritual things of heaven (Gal. 4:24; Heb. 9:9,23,24). In saying this it means there is a contrast between the Old and New Covenants, one of type and the other of anti type. The Old symbolize what is fulfilled in the New. The covenant with Israel was typical in nature, with everything in it concerning its rites and religion to be foreshadowing something spiritual in the New Covenant. God has a kingdom and a kingdom purpose. In the Old Covenant the things pertaining to this spiritual kingdom were layed out in symbolic form. The land prefigured paradise, the theocracy divine rule, the temple the throne room of God in heaven, the sacrifice’s Christ’s offering, and the offices of Prophet, Priest, and King Christ in all that He fulfilled.

If there is a purpose of God with earthly Israel in an eternal sense, there must also be a very narrow concept of it. Such a concept as that would have to fit within the boundaries of a very small nation. This is not so with the biblical concept of God’s kingdom that encompasses the entire world (John 3:16). The idea that God intended to restore a literal nation of Israel, in the current territory of Palestine, just does not square at all with what Scripture teaches about the kingdom. This is why no doubt, the eschatological city and temple described by Ezekiel in chapters forty to forty-eight of his prophecy give measurements that far exceed the present day Israel. The temple is larger than Jerusalem, and Jerusalem larger than the entire land of Israel. It merely prefigures something that goes far beyond anything earthly.

It is important to understand, the Abrahamic covenant, combined two entirely different peoples or families together in one earthly kingdom. It is not simply a matter of Jew and Gentile being merged together in one body when the Messiah came. It was the combination of the fleshly and the spiritual within Israel itself. There were two families contained within the physical descendants of Abraham. Those within Israel who were born again and believed in the righteousness of God were members of God’s eternal Covenant of Grace. This covenant being an unconditional covenant, all promises pertaining to it given through Abraham have their literal fulfillment in Christ. To this, the eternal nature of God’s kingdom is ascribed, a kingdom not of this world (John 18:36). The part of the Abrahamic covenant pertaining to the earthly kingdom of Israel had only earthly things attached to it. And here is the most important thing about it. This covenant was conditional and temporary, concerning all things related to it.

It was a covenant requiring strict maintenance from a human and a legal perspective. It came with all manners of earthly warnings and curses from God for this very reason (Lev. 20,26). Before God ejected Israel from the land, He called the heavens and the earth as His witness against them, just as He had done so in the wilderness before bringing them into it (Is. 1:2-4, Deut. 4:26). It was there that the prediction was made by God Himself that this would happen, showing the earthly covenant to be both conditional and temporary. God did end the captivity and rebuild the city of Jerusalem with the temple. It was done as a literal fulfillment to Israel after the flesh. But that literal fulfillment fell far short of its actual purpose. The fact that Gods glory did not fill that temple, revealed God had something for His true covenant people that would be far greater than a mere building, situated on a piece of land. The rebuilding of Jerusalem and the temple were done at that time for the preservation of God’s eternal purpose concerning the Messiah. After Messiah came, God destroyed that temple. It was no longer needed. Neither is a nation in the Middle East now known as Israel.

3-The end of the covenant

The theocracy was never restored after the first rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Why was this? There was no need for it concerning the nature of God’s true kingdom. By the time of the Babylonian captivity, everything that God promised the children of Abraham about the land of Canaan had already come to pass (Josh. 21:43-45). It was up to the Jewish people to keep what God had given them, which they did not do through their incessant idolatry and lawlessness against God. If it had not been for God’s eternal Covenant of Grace, which awaited the appearing of the Savior, Israel as a nation would conceivably have disappeared into historical oblivion long before it did. Even though God restored it to a certain extent under King Cyrus, Israel for all intents and purposes had ended as a kingdom. Jerusalem was but a territory of Persia even though the temple was rebuilt. There was only one brief time later on during the intertestamental period that Israel was again an independent nation.[7] Other than that one brief period, the Jewish people were never again a nation, but lived under the domination of various world powers.

In all, there were three complete destructions of the temple that occurred in Israel’s history, along with Jerusalem itself. If the new temple that Herod built is added, that makes four temples erected during Israel’s existence as a nation/territory.[8] After the destruction of the temple and Jerusalem in 135 AD, the Jewish people were scattered throughout the world to such an extent, that they were never able to organize again as people in a single district of their own. How could they? Was there to be a fifth, or, maybe a sixth restoration of the temple revealed in Scripture? There was but one and only one that God owned as a place of dwelling on earth. The one legitimate literal restoration of it was performed under the Persian king Cyrus, satisfying the earthly aspect of the covenant prophecy to Israel. Of course, the temple built by Cyrus was not the same as the original, as was witnessed by those who were present under the first (Ezra 3:8-13).

So what was it about the second temple that was not like the first? It was simply this. There was no presence of God in the sanctuary, no Shekinah glory filling it. The glory of God had departed from Israel, never to return again. It was Ichabod once again, but this time in a permanent manner. When the ark of the covenant had been lost to the Philistines, Israel called it Ichabod, which means the glory has departed from Israel (I Sam. 4:19-22). In fact, they were sorely mistaken, for the glory of God is not a wooden box overlaid with gold sitting in a building. The glory of God is the Shekinah glory that filled the temple that the box was merely a symbol of. The rebuilt temple in Jerusalem most certainly was not the same as the first, but it was also not really a fulfillment of what God intended to do concerning His kingdom.

In Ezekiel’s vision of the restored temple and city of Jerusalem, he saw the glory of God return (Ez. 43:1-5). This was a vision of the future temple in the spiritual kingdom of God, the church of Jesus Christ, not the one rebuilt under Cyrus. This is why the vision of Ezekiel’s temple is seen in the vision of John recorded in the book of Revelation. Israel had all it would ever have of God’s presence in the first temple, hereafter it would only be seen in the person of Jesus Christ (John 1:14). Those who maintain the apostle Paul is speaking of the nation of Israel in Romans eleven, verse 26, do also believe that there is yet, another temple to come. To believe that the covenant spoken of which brought about the first temple is being spoken of in Romans, is to believe that there is somehow a continuation of that which God has ended. The sacrifices of the temple were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, are they then to be started again? If the blood of bulls and goats could not take away sin under the Old Covenant, what will they accomplish in some future age (Heb. 10:4)? This is a completely unbiblical and anti Christian notion.

The present day occupiers of the modern day state of Israel are not concerned with temples and sacrifices. Those who live in present day Israel for the most part are, fairly irreligious people, being believers in the political ideal of Zionism. Their focus is on the state, on political control of the real-estate the nation sits on, rather than a religious ideal. To them, this is what renewed Israel is all about. Is this what Paul is talking about in Romans eleven? Hardly. Roman’s eleven is talking about spiritual salvation in a spiritual kingdom, not real-estate. God ended Jewish control of Canaan at the time of the Babylonian captivity which began in 597 BC. Seventy years later Judah came under Persian rule. Jerusalem was rebuilt, but it was done under the command of King Cyrus. His successor, King Darius began construction of the new temple, and installed Zerubbabel as the governor of Judah, but it remained a Province of the Persian empire (Hag. 1:1).

These events concerning the rebuilding of Jerusalem were significant, for a covenant promise had been given to King David, assuring him that he would always have a son to sit upon his throne (I Sam. 7:12-16). This promise of a kingdom was like the one concerning the land and the temple. It had both an earthly and a spiritual application. In the Davidic Covenant, the physical sons of David were under the requirement of perpetual obedience to God, making this part of it conditional (I Sam 7:14,15). David’s son Solomon did not maintain covenant obedience with God, and therefore, lost the kingdom, even if the judgement did not occur until after his death. The perpetual application of the covenant was in David’s son, Jesus Christ (Luke 1:68-75). In his song of praise, Zacharias states that the promise to David and his son, had its origins in the promise to Abraham and his son. That Son of promise is none other than Jesus Christ the son of David, the son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1).

So God’s covenant promise didn’t end, it merely ended as it concerned the Jewish people as a nation. There would never again be a king of Israel to sit upon the throne, after the Babylonian captivity. There is not, and cannot be any political kingdom in the covenant plan of God, to reemerge some day in reference to salvation. In ending this section of our essay, we quote from a paper by Dr. Sam Waldron, on the beginning and end of Israel as a theocratic nation.[9] “The data so far presented permits the following definition of the Theocracy. The Theocracy is the nation of Israel as constituted by the institutions and blessings of the Sinaitic and Davidic covenants made with them by Yahweh, their king. The destruction of the Theocracy implies, therefore, nothing less than the destruction of the nation of Israel. It implies the reversal of the Sinaitic covenant and the Davidic covenant, the removal of the peculiar institutions and blessings granted to Israel under these covenants. The land, the laws, the temple, the Davidic dynasty-Zion, a11 go in the destruction of the Theocracy.”

Notes:

[1] Israel divided into two kingdoms in 931 BC, Israel to the north and Judah to the south. The larger of the two was Israel made up of ten of the original tribes. Judah was comprised of the two remaining tribes. God’s covenant with Israel was through Judah however, so it became the focus of redemptive history (Gen. 49:10). Judah ceased to exist as an autonomous kingdom in 597 BC, when Babylon captured it, deposing Eliakim II as its king (II Kings 23:34). The end of Judah’s autonomy actually began before this date when Pharaoh Necho of Egypt, killed Eliakim’s father, King Josiah in battle (II Kings 23:29). Jehoahaz, his son, was the rightful heir to his throne, which was recognized by the people (II Kings 23:30). Necho seized Jehoahaz and threw him in prison, replacing him with his brother Eliakim. He did this to maintain functional control of Judah through a puppet ruler of his choosing. The Persians conquered Babylon in 541 BC; the Greeks conquered Persia in 333 BC; Judah became a Roman protectorate in 63 BC. Except for a few short years (167-160 BC) under the Maccabees, ancient Israel never again regained political control of the land. The importance of this history concerning Judah’s autonomy cannot be overstated in all of this, for theocratic rule over true eschatological Israel was to be passed from him to the Messiah, without interruption.

[2] Many Christians today believe the covenant arrangement between God and Israel was based on an ancient concept of a suzerain treaty. Ancient Hittite and Assyrian treaty documents have been discovered by archeologists that are similar in form to the language of the book of Deuteronomy. A suzerain was a king who gave instructions to his vassals, who lived and worked on his lands, concerning their faithfulness to him. There were certain obligations stipulated to them by the king, in exchange for his favor toward them, in the form of a suzerain treaty. The vassals agreed, or, covenanted with the suzerain in the form of an oath. Failure to fulfill their obligations made the treaty null and void. There is no mention of this in Scripture, however, although the idea does seem to square with much of the terminology that appears in the Pentateuch between God and Israel (Deut. 1:5,6, 4:26, 5:27, 30:19).

[3] Dispensationalists deny the unity of the covenants while admitting that Jesus Christ is the central theme of God’s purpose in Scripture (John 5:39). They do this by asserting God divided His purpose in Christ between two kingdoms. One kingdom is on earth through Israel, and one kingdom is in heaven through the church. They tell us the method found in Scripture to discover this is in II Tim. 2:15 where Paul exhorts Timothy to “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”

[4] There are two ways in which to view covenant language in Scripture, in reference to the manner in which it is presented. One way to do this is to view all covenant language as referring to a single covenant, restated on numerous occasions, which reveal a number of details of purpose in relation to it. This view is based on the fact that the word covenant always appears in a singular form in the Old Testament, which by the way, is where the covenant concept originates. Multiple examples of this are found in the book of Genesis 6:18, 9:9,11-13,15-17, 17:2,4,7,9-11,13,14,19,21. The other way to view all the covenant language of Scripture is, to see it as the presentation of a number of individual covenants, all within a single, overall covenant purpose. Each occasion a covenant is stated in the Old Testament, this is the introduction of a new and different covenant. This makes the New Covenant one of those stated covenants. Undergirding this view is three verses in the New Testament that all speak of the covenants as plural in number. These verses are all found in Paul’s epistles; Rom. 9:4; Gal. 4:24; Eph. 2:12.

[5] In the dispensational motif, each dispensation is accompanied by covenant promises and obligations. There are seven dispensations in this plan. Listed in chronological order they are 1-Innocence, 2-Conscience, 3-Human Government, 4-Promise, 5-Law, 6-Grace, 7-Kingdom. There are seven covenants within the dispensational scheme. Listed in chronological order they are 1-Adamic, 2-Noahic, 3-Abrahamic, 4-Mosaic, 5-Davidic, 6-New (Church), 7-New (Israel). These represent a progressive plan by which God deals with man on a different basis within each dispensation. The main emphasis of the dispensational scheme is Israel. It occupies three of the seven dispensations, and four of the covenants. While some of the covenant promises are conditional, those made to Israel as a kingdom are unconditional.

[6] Named after French Huguenot Theologian, Moises Amyraut (1596-1664). In Latin he was known as Moyses Amyraldus, hence the name Amyrauldian. Amyraut claimed he was a Calvinist, but objected to certain elements of it. His main objection to Calvinism was in particular redemption. This doctrine he substituted with the middle of the road approach, combining both universal atonement and election to salvation together, all within a single theological system. Though Amyrauldianism claims to be Calvinistic, it changes the meaning of every point. Depravity is not total, election depends on foreknowledge, grace is resistible, atonement is universal, and salvation is eternally secure. God also has two parallel wills, one decreetal and the other permissive.

[7] The Maccabean kingdom was not legitimate, for it did not have a king of Judah to rule over it. Furthermore, the Maccabean revolt was against God’s preordained Gentile rule over the Jews, revealed in the book of Daniel (Daniel 8:15-25, 10:10-11:45). After Alexander the Great died, Greece was divided between the Seleucids to the north, and the Ptolemies to the south. Roman rule was to follow them, with no mention of any restoration for Judah. Judah would not be restored until Messiah the Prince would come to take hold of the scepter maintained by God among the remaining remnant of believing Jews (Dan. 9:25; Gen. 49:10).

[8] The first temple was destroyed in 586 BC, along with Jerusalem. Jerusalem was destroyed in 167 BC, by Antiochus Epiphanes. Although he desecrated the temple with a pagan offering, it was not destroyed. Herod rebuilt the temple in 20 BC. The temple, along with Jerusalem, was destroyed together in 70 AD by the Roman General Titus. Jerusalem and the temple were rebuilt again, only to be destroyed once again by the Romans in 135 AD for the final time.

[9] Political Revolution in The Reformed Tradition-An Historical and Biblical Critique, by Dr. Sam Waldron. This is an unpublished thesis presented to the faculty of Grand Rapids Baptist Seminary in fulfillment of the requirements for the Th. M. degree. This thesis is not concerned with the political kingdom of Israel per se, but rather the issue of Christians engaging in civil revolts. Waldron did however, devote a large section of it to Israel’s theocracy, which is our present concern. This quote is taken from section B. The Destruction of the Theocracy.

 

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