Nations in prophecy--Part 1
Feb 14, 2012
As I have shown previously, Paul wrote in Romans 11:1-7 that although Israel as a nation was called, only the remnant of grace actually obtained the promise. In the example of Elijah and the 7,000 who had not bowed their knees to Baal, the king himself was a vessel of dishonor who persecuted the remnant of grace. King Ahab was called to be king, but he was not chosen.
Many are called, but few chosen.
Likewise, King Saul persecuted David. Undoubtedly, Saul was called to be king, but he was not chosen. In the highest sense of the word, to be chosen means to be an inheritor, whereas to be called merely gives the appearance of being chosen. Both Saul and Ahab would have argued with Paul vigorously, but David and Elijah would have understood perfectly.
So then, is there any advantage to being called in that sense? Yes, of course. Paul gives us the answer in Romans 3:2, immediately after affirming that a Judean ("Jew") in the sight of God is different from what men call Jews. God views the heart, while men view genealogy and the sign of outward circumcision. He then asks in 3:1,
(1) Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? (2) Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.
The Jew had the advantage of living in a land where the "oracles of God" were available for all to learn. Likewise, circumcision bound him to the Old Covenant and made him a citizen of the Kingdom--unless, of course, he had been "cut off from among his people" because of some sin. Being a citizen did not mean that he was immune to prosecution when he violated the law. It just meant that he had greater opportunity to learn the will of God than did those living in far countries.
Judea was also the site of the temple, which had been built by Solomon and rebuilt under Zerubbabel. Why did God not build that temple in Egypt or Rome? It was because God had called Jerusalem to be the place where He would place His name. That was a real advantage to every Judean.
Even before Jerusalem had been so called, God had placed His name at Shiloh, a city of Ephraim in the territory of the House of Israel (Jer. 7:12). The House of Israel was first entrusted with the oracles of God under the priesthood of Phineas. But finally, when that priestly dynasty became corrupted in the days of Eli, it passed to a new dynasty of Zadok, who ministered in the temple at its new location--Jerusalem--in the House of Judah.
Then, of course, when that place also became corrupted, God forsook Jerusalem "as Shiloh," and the glory of God departed and moved on once again (Jer. 7:14; Ez. 11:23). Years later, on the day of Pentecost, the glory came to rest in the new temple, whose foundation is Christ (Eph. 2:20-22).
Where the glory of God rests, the people have an advantage of revelation.
So we see from biblical history that being a citizen of Israel or Judah, whether natural or foreign convert, carried an advantage that other nations did not enjoy. As long as those nations were obedient to the Covenant and served God with their hearts, they retained their advantage. But when they failed to abide by the vow of that Covenant (Ex. 19:8), they lost the advantage. Even as the Covenant was conditional upon obedience, so also was their advantage.
As we saw earlier, it is ultimately the small remnant that actually inherits the promises of God. But what about the rest of the nation? Are they fully discarded and serve no further purpose in the divine plan? No, God has purpose for every nation, whether fleshly or spiritual, even as He has use for individuals who are yet dominated by their carnal minds.
Just because such men or nations lose the inheritance does not mean that they have lost everything. It is simply that they have lost God's highest call--to reign with Jesus Christ in His throne. Because they are yet carnal, they are in need of tutors and governors to rule them with the authority to bring them into spiritual maturity.
Here is where it is most helpful to understand the difference between non-citizens, citizens, and rulers in the Kingdom. The first category includes the mass of humanity. The last is the smallest, for they are the remnant of grace. In the middle are the fairly large group of citizens, who, being yet immature, are in need of parental authority and the imposition of law to discipline their carnal minds while they are growing up.
Look at the House of Israel for example. Its leading tribe was Ephraim, son of Joseph. After the death of Solomon, the kingdom was divided between Israel and Judah. Ten tribes formed Israel, and two tribes formed Judah. Those ten tribes of Israel quickly descended into lawlessness, and so 210 years later God brought judgment upon them and expelled them by the hand of the Assyrians.
Those Israelites never returned, as virtually all the historians know, including the Jewish rabbis. And yet, though cast off through the law of Moses, there were still promises given to them through Abraham. How can both covenants be fulfilled without stepping on each other's purpose? Abraham gives Israel everything with no conditions, but Moses says, "Not so fast! You cannot have that inheritance until you are mature and obedient."
The solution is in understanding that God's intent is not merely to justify men, but also to bring them to the place of spiritual maturity. Last Sunday I heard a preacher say that when a person turns to Christ and is saved, he suddenly becomes a child of the king and can now rule and reign with Christ. My reaction was, "I would not even give the car keys to a baby, much less the keys to the Kingdom."
Paul makes it very clear in Galatians 4 that an immature believer is still not ready to inherit the promises. To be "born again" creates a Kingdom Baby, but it takes time to teach the child obedience and turn him into son that is qualified to rule.
There are many forms of spiritual immaturity that we must consider. For the moment, we are looking at Israel as a nation. Although they were given the promises of Abraham and may be considered "heirs of the promise," they are unqualified to this day, due to their rebellious hearts. How do I know? Because I have studied their history.
The Assyrians deported them and resettled them in the territory around the Caspian Sea (2 Kings 18:11). Over the centuries, they multiplied greatly, but while in captivity, they were no longer called Israelites. The Assyrians called them Gimirra and Ghomri (named after King Omri in 1 Kings 16:23). These people later began to migrate north and west into Europe under many different names. These cast-off Israelites settled Europe and eventually became the European nations we see today.
Historically, these nations became the seat of the Christian religion. God did indeed bring the gospel of Christ to them first. That was their advantage as ex-Israelites in the dispersion. But instead of growing spiritually, the church removed the Scriptures from them and enslaved them to its priestly hierarchy. The church instilled in the people a slave mentality, keeping them in bondage as spiritual Ishmaelites.
So when these nations finally began to explore the world in the 1500's, most of them were totally unprepared to do the works of Abraham and become a blessing to all families of the earth. They viewed the people as potential slaves, and sought to take their property (land, gold, etc.) as if it were their own. Only a small remnant among them were spiritually mature and sought to bless all nations. The majority, however, acted like children with little regard to the inherent rights of others to own their own labor.
This is the first part of a series titled "Nations in Prophecy." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones