Preparation of a Kingdom

Image result for why israel matters

In His covenant with Abraham, God promised land and descendants…a kingdom.  He gave Abraham and His descendants the land of Canaan (Israel today), establishing “headquarters” for the earthly kingdom.  But a new kingdom is being developed!  This kingdom is a worldwide family made up of those who receive the Messiah.  (Jews and Gentiles)  In this kingdom, there is no distinction.

For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.
~Galatians 3:26-29

This is the Millennial Kingdom…the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant!  It will be established when Jesus returns physically to this earth.  But remember, He must be invited back!  Here is what Jesus said in Matthew 23:37-39:

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

But interestingly, did you know Jesus heard that invitation previously?  Mark 11:9-10 records His triumphant entry into Jerusalem a few days prior, when the people welcomed Him with the very words, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.”

That was the first preparation for the Kingdom.  A practice run, perhaps.  But what it tells us is the Jewish people have been looking for the King and the Kingdom since the time of Jesus!  This is a long pursuit because they saw but didn’t believe.  Next time, they will see and believe!

As for the timing of the King’s return, we must remember there are two “finish lines.”  Spiritual Israel looks to the rapture, when those who have put their trust in Jesus are snatched away to meet Him in the air.  For unbelieving (natural) Israel, the earthly “finish line” is the glorious appearing of Jesus when He physically sets foot on the Mount of Olives and sets up His Millennial Kingdom.  The Second Coming is actually 1 event in 2 phases (rapture, glorious appearing).

Oh, what glorious days those will be (with a 7 year tribulation period in between).  To see the Lord and to be with Him for all eternity is the only thing worth living for!  I hope you are living to see that day!

Tomorrow’s focus will be on the immanency of Christ’s return, including a special surprise I want to share with you.  Come back tomorrow for the excitement!

 

God’s Plan for Natural Israel

Image result for why israel matters

God has a plan for natural Israel and He is not done with them yet!  (If you missed yesterday’s lesson, we defined natural Israel and spiritual Israel.  Without the definitions, today’s lesson may not make sense.)

Natural Israel (the nation and the people) are still the custodian of God’s Word.  God has entrusted His Word to them and He will not let them fail.  In Romans 11:24-26, Paul describes Gentiles as “cut from a wild olive tree,” indicating those who trust in Jesus Christ as Messiah are grafted into His cultivated tree.  Then, he explains a mystery (verses 25-26), ending with this promise: “…so all Israel will be saved.”

ALL Israel.  How does that happen?  It’s a mystery that Paul is revealing.  In simple terms:

  • Natural Israel will be restored.
  • Natural Israel will be grafted back into her own tree.
  • Natural Israel will join spiritual Israel as the true Israel of God.

Verse 25 tells us that will occur when the full number of Gentiles comes to Christ.  When the last Gentile says “yes” to the Lord’s invitation to salvation, God’s focus on redemption returns to His people…and they will be saved!

When spiritual restoration of natural Israel occurs, it will fully fulfill Ezekiel 37, the Messiah will return to earth and the greatest revival in history will take place!

Romans 11:11-15 summarizes the events, then ends with this exclamation:

 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

The last great account of life from the dead was Jesus’ resurrection, and Paul is likening this event to such great occurrences!  But before that, we have work to do!  That passage implores us as Christians to move the Jews to jealousy.  We have their Messiah…and we must share Him!

Believers, are you praying diligently for Jewish eyes to be open to the saving grace of their Messiah?  Are you showing the love of Christ by supporting Israel and the Jewish people?  Have you asked the Lord how you might be used to move them to jealousy?  I hope you are inspired to do so.  Time on this earth is fleeting and the season to make jealous is coming to an end.  Let’s seek the Lord and His ways for us, then do what He leads us to do!

Tomorrow we’ll look at preparations for the Kingdom that is to come.  I’ll hold your place at the study table!

One Olive Tree, One Flock, One Family

Image result for why israel matters

Let’s pick it up where we left off yesterday.  We’ve established, based on Galatians 3:7, 29, that those who are in Christ are descendants of Abraham.  God invites us (Gentiles) into a special family, and we will dive deeper into that today.

Let’s think of Israel in two ways: natural Israel and spiritual Israel.  Natural Israel is the nation itself, to whom God gave a destiny.  Natural Israel is the custodian of God’s Word, as it was written by Jews, primarily for the Jews (though we certainly benefit from it!), and it was preserved in Israel!

Spiritual Israel, on the other hand, is the true family of God.  It is those circumcised in the heart by the Holy Spirit and “born again.”  Spiritual Israel is made up of both Jews and Gentiles who trust in Jesus the Messiah.

Paul describes spiritual Israel in Romans 11:17-23.  It’s a familiar passage if you’ve hung out at our virtual study table, but I encourage you to read it in the New Living Translation.  Here, Paul uses the spiritual symbol of Israel, the olive tree, to describe spiritual Israel!  Notice:

  • Only believers in Jesus (Jew or Gentile) are part of the olive tree.
  • Jews and Gentiles alike must believe in the Messiah in order to be grafted into the olive tree.
  • Unbelieving Israel is cut from the tree…though they may be grafted back in.
  • Christians are those grafted into the Jewish heritage spiritually (but not naturally).
  • Those grafted in have no room for arrogance or boastfulness, as they do not support the root, but the root supports them!

There you have it!  God made a way for Gentiles to be “grafted into” His family tree!  We gain the spiritual benefits as adopted children.  But let’s be clear: this DOES NOT mean Gentiles become Jews ethnically, nor does it mean all God’s promises now belong to us Gentiles.  That is part of the teaching of Replacement Theology and it is not true.  God’s promises to the the Jewish people still belong to them, and the church has in NO WAY replaced Israel.

Before we call it a day, let’s see how the apostle John describes the relationship.  Read John 10:14-16.  Here, John refers to “other sheep, which are not of this fold.”  That reference is to unbelieving Israel.  But His intent is to bring them into the fold, so we become “one flock with one shepherd.”

Again, God’s view is a worldwide view.  He desires that none perish, but all come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.  Those who do are “one flock with one Shepherd”…Jesus Himself!

The Old Testament prophets looked forward in history and saw the shadow of the cross.  By forward-looking faith, they were saved.  In New Testament times, substance replaced shadow.  Jesus Christ lived, died, was buried and rose again to free us from sin.  The faith we have is backward-looking, to the cross, and we are saved.

We are one family in Christ Jesus, and Abraham is our father.  This is spiritual Israel…this is the “Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16).

Amazing how God creates His family, isn’t it!  By His grace alone, we Gentiles have been granted access to the family tree of His chosen.

But what about natural Israel?  God still has a plan for them, and we’ll touch on that tomorrow!  See you then.

Make Way for the King!

Pull up a chair and join us at the study table!  This is part 3 of a series I’m doing regarding the return of King Jesus!  If you missed the first two parts, go back and check out:

We found that King Jesus will not return physically to earth until His people invite Him to return.  Matthew 23:39 says:

“For I say to you, from now on you will not see Me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’”

Oh how He must long to hear those words!

When God made a covenant with Abraham, He promised him land and descendants…forever.  God had a world view in mind.  In fact, Romans 4:13 indicates that Abraham was to be “heir of the world.”  God’s idea was of a worldwide kingdom, and He uniquely invited us all to become part of His kingdom.

For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical.  But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God.
~Romans 2:28-29 (ESV)

We’re all invited in!  When the Lord Jesus circumcised our hearts (saved us, put a “new heart” within us), we entered His kingdom realm!

But hold on!  Good for us…not so good for the unbelieving Jew, who is also the descendant of Abraham.  How does that work?  Good question!  To understand, we have to draw a distinction between “natural Israel” (son of Abraham by birth and lineage) and “spiritual Israel” (son of Abraham by salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ.  (Galatians 3:29)

We share a “spiritual” heritage.  Spiritual Israel is the true family of God!  Paul puts it this way, in Romans 11:17-23:

  • Some Israelites have been broken off from their own tree.
  • Some Gentiles have been grafted into that tree.
  • As a branch, we cannot boast because the root supports us…the branch doesn’t support the root.
  • God is both severe to those who disobey and kind to those who trust Him.
  • The “broken off” (unsaved) people of Israel may be grafted back into the tree.

We all have the same opportunity!  John 10:14-16 tells us we are one flock with one shepherd, and Colossians 3:11 says there is no distinction between Jews and Greeks (Gentiles).

Yet, God has not forgotten about “natural Israel.”  They will be restored.  In fact, Romans 11:24-26a describes a national salvation of ALL Israel!  As great as the spiritual revelation is to us Gentiles, consider how much more glorious it will be when natural Israel becomes spiritual Israel!  The Apostle Paul spoke of it in Romans 11:11-15:

Did God’s people stumble and fall beyond recovery? Of course not! They were disobedient, so God made salvation available to the Gentiles. But he wanted his own people to become jealous and claim it for themselves.  Now if the Gentiles were enriched because the people of Israel turned down God’s offer of salvation, think how much greater a blessing the world will share when they finally accept it.  I am saying all this especially for you Gentiles. God has appointed me as the apostle to the Gentiles. I stress this, for I want somehow to make the people of Israel jealous of what you Gentiles have, so I might save some of them. For since their rejection meant that God offered salvation to the rest of the world, their acceptance will be even more wonderful. It will be life for those who were dead!

Oh glorious day when the King is invited back by His people!

But, here’s a secret…it will be a united effort!  Check back tomorrow as we bring this mini-study to a close.  There will be two parts tomorrow…so check back early, then again mid-day for the grand finale.  I have something special planned!

See you then!