Man's Failure and God's Success
Jun 13, 2007
If I were a Dispensationalist, I would call the age prior to the Cross "The Age of Failure." It was characterized by the failure of the first Adam and all who came after him (including Israel and Judah) to achieve righteousness and establish the Kingdom of God.
In all of this, however, God was not a failure. He gave them a perfect law to give them basic instructions on how to achieve perfection. Simply follow this law, and you will be righteous. And once you do all the outward things, apply it to your inward parts by the spirit of the law, as Jesus explained in His Sermon on the Mount. In other words, just because you have never murdered anyone doesn't mean you have fulfilled the spirit of the law. You must not hate your enemies either, for hatred is murder in the eyes of God.
The problem was that for all these instructions in the law, Adamic man lacked the inherent ability to follow instructions. The problem began with Adam's sin, which was imputed to all of his children, making us all mortal. Death working in us has made us weak and incapable of perfection. Until God reverses that situation, man will remain incapable of perfection.
So even 40 years after God gave the law to Israel, Moses told the people in Deut. 29:4,
"Yet to this day the Lord has not given you a heart to know, nor eyes to see, nor ears to hear."
In other words, God had not given them immortality yet, which is necessary to achieve incorruption. Many centuries later, the problem was still apparent, for Isaiah tells us in 44:18,
"They do not know, nor do they understand, for He has smeared over their eyes so that they cannot see and their hearts so that they cannot comprehend."
Thus, we conclude that God told Israel what to do by giving them the law, but He did not give them the ability to actually perform it unto perfection. Many things were hidden from them that would be revealed later to those whose eyes God would open. So it was in the divine plan for the first Adam, along with Israel and Judah, to prove its inability by failure.
This is why the glory departed from Shiloh (Ephraim). This is why the glory departed from Jerusalem (Judah). These departures were natural consequences of the failure of all flesh. So for Christians today to think that the flesh will succeed in the age to come where it failed in the age prior to the cross shows more confidence in the flesh than is biblically warranted.
There are others who say that once Jesus died on the cross and was raised from the dead, personal perfection is now achievable by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is true, but it is not the whole picture. In the early days of the Church, the people may have believed this as they reveled in the glories of Pentecost. But 25 years later, as reality set in, it became clear, as Paul tells us, that they had only received an "earnest" or downpayment of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1:22 and 5:5; Eph. 1:14). One cannot be perfected by a mere downpayment. We need a full dose to achieve perfection.
Pentecost proved to be a transitional feast (and a transitional age) to Tabernacles. Its OT type was King Saul, whose reign was characterized by "rebellion," which is "as the sin of witchcraft" (1 Sam. 15:23). Though he prophesied, Saul also received an evil spirit from God (1 Sam. 16:14).
Thus, even as righteous saints in the Old Testament remained imperfect, so also were the saints in the Age of Pentecost. We honor their memories, but recognize that they were still in the flesh, even as we are today. If it were not for the fact that God has IMPUTED us righteous, we would have no right standing with God and no claim to righteousness at all.
In fact, imputed righteousness has been the type of righteousness that all true believers have had since the first Adam sinned. This was the righteousness that Abraham himself received (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:22) as the reward of Faith. He is our pattern of both faith and righteousness.
Not understanding the transitional nature of Pentecost and its Saul pattern has been the source of much error in the history of Christian thought. Likewise, not understanding the difference between imputed and infused righteousness has caused many to misunderstand the nature of righteousness and has caused some to think themselves more righteous than they are, and others to despair of ever being good enough to be acceptable to God.
The bottom line is that one of God's purposes in history is to teach us to have no confidence in the flesh (Phil. 3:3). Paul himself was of the tribe of Benjamin, zealous in the law, "blameless" (in the eyes of men). But his good genealogy and religious zealousness did not make him righteous in the eyes of God. In fact, his genealogy only identified him with Israel after the flesh, whom God had blinded from the days of Moses--to say nothing of his identification with the First Adam through whom sin entered the world.
So Paul says in Phil. 3:8 that he counted it all as "rubbish" in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ. This does not mean that we must despise our racial heritage or our forefathers. It simply means that good genealogy has no ability to make a man righteous before God. Pure genealogy from Adam or from Israel or Judah only identifies a person with those in the past who FAILED to achieve what God expected of them.
For example, I believe that I am of Israelite heritage (in the flesh). My forefathers came from Europe, which was populated by the so-called "lost tribes of Israel," many of whom immigrated from Assyria across the Caucasus Mountains into Europe. Those Israelites were called Gamira, Ghomri, or Khumri in history books. Their name was the central theme of the book of Hosea, whose prostitute wife was named Gomer, or Ghomri. She represented Israel in the prophecy.
In other words, my heritage is from Israel, a spiritual prostitute who followed after other gods and found herself divorced from God as a result (Jer. 3:8). I fail to see how my identification with Gomer-Israel can give me the slightest amount of righteousness in the sight of God. Furthermore, once Israel was divorced and cut off, she lost the name Israel. From that point on, all of those lost sheep of the house of Israel were actually ex-Israelites of the dispersion.
The real question is how an ex-Israelite (or anyone else for that matter) can regain one's status as an Israelite in the eyes of God. Can it come by genealogical identification with Gomer, the Prostitute? No, for through her came the great divorce. I can no more attain righteousness through Gomer than I can by identifying with the first Adam.
In the divine plan, God has ordained that we all come to Him through the same Door--Jesus Christ. It is NOT the plan that some come to Him by genealogical goodness, while others come by accepting Christ. There is no double standard. Hence, while it is true that "all Israel will be saved," it is equally true that their salvation is not based upon their genealogy, but upon their Faith.
Likewise, the fall of Israel set the stage for the salvation of the world (Rom. 11:11), for in their restoration, God has purchased the whole world in order to obtain His peculiar treasure (Matt. 13:44). Isaiah says that others will be gathered with Israel (56:8).
The path to becoming an Israelite is two-fold. First, one must accept and believe in Jesus Christ and the first work that He did on the cross, followed by His resurrection. This makes a person a citizen of Judah and a "Jew" (Rom. 2:29). Secondly, to become an Israelite, one must have faith in Christ in His second work--the Birthright work--and to be willing to go beyond Passover and Pentecost into Tabernacles.
Dr. Stephen Jones