Jews and the End Times

This is another response to questions that were texted during the service this past Sunday on Eschatology.

Will the Jewish people be given a second chance as His chosen people?

This is a complicated question that a quick answer cannot due justice.  The Biblical texts that address this question are numerous, with several New Testament passages interpreting a myriad of Old Testament prophecies.  A little background here.  The Biblical story begins with the creation of everything including humanity followed by our Fall as a result of sin.  From this point God begins promising a “seed” that will crush Satan and his work and will redeem lost humanity (Genesis 3:14-15).  In God’s plan he called a man named Abram (God changed his name to Abraham) and made him several promises.  Those promises included making Abraham a great nation, even though he had no children at the time.  It also included a promise that all nations would be blessed because of Abraham (Genesis 12:1-3).  God kept his promise to Abraham miraculously as he and his wife had a son when they were both in their 90’s.  These descendants of Abraham become a family, which becomes a people who are in slavery in Egypt.  God delivers them from slavery and redeems them to Himself.  The one true God will be their God and they will be his people (Exodus 19:4-6).  God is continually faithful to Him, and he makes them a kingdom and gives them a place, the land of Palestine.  He makes a myriad of promises to His people, some of which were fulfilled in the Old Testament, some of which were partially fulfilled, and some of which have not been fulfilled.  But, everything in the Old Testament with the Jews or Hebrews is there to lead us to the “seed” of Abraham, Jesus Christ.  God raised this Kingdom to send King Jesus as their Messiah.  We see this in the Revelation 4:10 where John tells us about the picture of the 24 elders worshiping Jesus around his throne.  Most theologians see this as an image of the fullness of God’s people as shown in the Old and New Testaments, with the twelve tribes of Israel and the twelve Apostles.

After Jesus death and resurrection the full plan of God was revealed.  God’s people are not those who are physical descendants of Abraham, but are spiritual descendants, those who live by faith in Jesus (see Romans 4).  In this context there are several issues specifically about the Jews which theologians will disagree depending on which approach they will take to the End Times.  These positions are developed as people study the Old Testament promises, several passages in both the Old and New Testament on the End Times, and some of Paul’s thoughts in Romans 9-11.  So, once again I will give a few of my thoughts, but I hold the position lightly and encourage care in overemphasizing one’s view.

The first question is whether the Bible teaches that there are one or two people of God.  In other words, does the Bible teach that the Jews were God’s people in the Old Testament, but now Christians are God’s people in the New Testament?  I do not believe this is the case.  God’s plan always has been Jesus as the sacrifice for redemption.  The Old Testament rituals and religious activities of the Jews are there to demonstrate their need for a Savior and point forward to Jesus.  We now look back to Jesus as our atonement.  In several New Testament passages the Bible indicates that one of the beautiful things the Gospel has done is that it makes one people out of this diversity.  This is the clear message of Galatians 3:23-29 as Paul declares that there is neither Jew nor Greek, but that anyone who is in Christ is Abraham’s offspring and an heir of the promises of God.  The same message is echoed in Ephesians 2:11-22 as Paul uses the dividing wall between the Courts of the Jews and the Gentiles as an illustration.  Christ, Paul says, created one new man out of two (Jew and Gentile) bringing peace.  As a result, there is one building (a metaphor for the people of God), Christ is the cornerstone and we are the bricks.  The outcome is the Temple of the living God.

Therefore, I do not believe that the Jews are necessarily the people of God.  The New Testament is trying to show us that now and in the past, the people of God were those who lived by faith.  Romans 9:6 has an interesting phrase, as Paul says that “not all who are descended from Israel (a name given by God to Jacob who is Abraham’s grandson) belong to Israel.”  In this chapter Paul is making this very argument, that the children of promise by faith are the true sons of Abraham, whether they were children by birth or not.  Some will defend Israel as a nation no matter what they do, stating that these are the people of God and we must support them politically, even if they are wrong.  The danger here is that we as Christians can support Israel as a nation in such a way that we actually promote persecution of Palestinian Christians living in and around the Jews.  So I tend to reject a strong view of Zionism.

On the other hand the Bible contains a bunch of prophecies that were made to national Israel as physical descendants of Abraham.  Many of these promises have not reached ultimate fulfillment.  Those who hold an Amillennialism tend to see the fulfillment of these promises in growth of the church and the development of Christianity as a world-wide phenomenon.  I tend to believe that the Bible, including some thoughts from the mouth of Jesus (in Matthew 24), Paul in Romans 9-11 show that God’s work among the Jews is not done.  Two things here that Scripture may point us to.  First, there may be a day when God pours out his Spirit among the Jewish people resulting in a large number of Jewish people finding Jesus as their Messiah, and hence becoming part of the true people of God.  Some of this is happening in our day.  Second, the Scriptures present the possibility that God will work to keep promises God made to the Jews  through Abraham, David, and other significant Old Testament figures.  I am careful  to speak with a lot of certainty on how this will happen, but allow for the possibility that it is part of the Biblical storyline.

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