Saturday, June 12, 2021

Rebuilding the Middle Wall

Why are so many prophecy teachers determined to rebuild the wall of partition dismantled previously by JesusA pastor wrote the following on Christian attitudes about the modern sate of Israel - “And as you recognize the signs of the times, with the approach of the Lord's return, a line is being drawn in the sand to separate who loves Israel and will stand with the nation and who won't.”

Stone Wall - Photo by Daniel Born on Unsplash
[Photo by Daniel Born on Unsplash]

So, as the logic goes, if I harbor the wrong opinion about this particular nation-state I might find my name erased from the “Lamb’s book of life.” H
ere all this time I thought the ultimate “line in the sand” was whether one embraced or rejected Jesus!

Frankly, I am not at all sure how Jesus fits into this popular scenario. Perhaps God may indeed decide my everlasting fate based on my political views on Israel, but I am not privy to His thoughts except for the ones I find recorded in the Scriptures. What many church leaders are advocating reflects their political agendas and ideologies rather than anything taught by Jesus or his Apostles.

From which teaching of Jesus do we find that the great dividing line between “sheep and goats” is our attitude regarding modern Israel? Certainly not in the Book of Revelation

What decides whether your “name is written in the Lamb’s book of life” is whether you “render homage to the Beast” or “follow the Lamb wherever he goes.” In “New Jerusalem,” it is men and women “FROM EVERY NATION who were redeemed by the blood of the Lamb.” One’s ethnicity has nothing to do with it!

Paul was quite adamant. Now, “in Christ,” no longer can there be “Jew or Gentile,” period. By his death, Jesus “broke down the middle wall of partition” that once separated Jew from Gentile, “that he might reconcile them both in one body for God through the cross, having slain the enmity thereby.” 

So, why are some church leaders so determined to rebuild the “middle wall of separationbrick-by-brick? If ethnicity no longer matters, why is it so important whether anyone is Jewish or not?

What did Jesus say about the Great Divide on the day of his return, his “line in the sand”? “Will the Son of Man find the faith on the earth.” No mention of ethnicity or biological descent. What matters is “the faith,” which means a deliberate and free decision for him.

When the nations are gathered before him, he will decide the fate of every man based on how they treated “these the least of my brethren” – according to their actions, not their physical descent.


What about the promises to Abraham?  Well, if your genes make all the difference, why did John the Baptist warn the Pharisees and their cohorts from Jerusalem:
  • You offspring of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come?  Bring forth therefore fruit worthy of repentance: and think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say to you, God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham” – (Matthew 3:7-9).
Offspring of vipers” is not exactly a ringing endorsement of one’s lineage, and John made this declaration to the leading representatives of the Jewish nation.

As for God “raising up children of Abraham from stones,” that was not an exaggerated analogy meant for literary effect, but a veiled prediction of what God would do, with “stones” symbolizing the Gentile nations. As the Apostle Peter wrote to congregations that included many Gentiles:
  • (1 Peter 2:5) - “You also, as living stones are built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
Perhaps in an emotional fit, John went beyond his authority. Regardless, later, while teaching in the Temple, Jesus likewise responded, and rather sharply, to the “Jews” who came to question him:
  • I said that you will die in your sins, for except you believe that I am he, you will die in your sins…They answered him, Our father is Abraham. Jesus said to them, If you were the children of Abraham, you would do the works of Abraham. But now you seek to kill me, a man that told you the truth, which I heard from God: this did not Abraham. You do the works of your father…You are of your father the devil” – (John 8:23-44).
Again, and this time according to Jesus, your standing before God is NOT dependent on biological descent. What matters is faith in him and what accomplishedthrough him.

Yes, Paul taught that Gentile believers are “grafted into the root,” but that “root” is Abraham and the Patriarchs. Gentiles, the “wild branches,” were grafted in because of their faith. In contrast, Jews, the “natural branches” were cut off because of “unbelief.”

Yes, Yahweh said He would “bless YOU,” that is, Abraham, but not necessarily Israel or all his physical descendants. For that matter, the Old Testament provides numerous examples of Abraham’s offspring who were NOT included in the covenant, including Ishmael and Esau. D.N.A. was no guarantee of inclusion.

When God confirmed His original covenant to Abraham, He promised that he would become the “father of a multitude of nations.” Thus, the Gentiles were included in the covenant promises from the start.

Moreover, He would establish my covenant between me and you, and your seed after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant…And I will give to you and to your seed after you, the land of your sojourn.”
These words raise a question or two. Who or what is the “seed of Abraham,” and who are his “children”? What is it that sets this company apart from all others?
Once again, the Apostle Paul provided clear answers. The “seed of Abraham” is none other than Jesus himself, and the “children of Abraham” are all the men and women who exercise faith in him.
  • Know therefore that they who are from faith, the same are sons of Abraham, and the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles from faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, In you shall all the nations be blessed.Therefore, all they who are from faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham.” – (Galatians 3:7-9).
Is not ethnic Israel God’s “chosen people?” Again, the original covenant always envisioned the inclusion of the Gentiles, NOT their exclusion. God has one covenant people, not two.

The formation of Israel from the loins of Abraham was only an early stage in a much larger redemptive program. To return to the ethnic and national limitations of the earlier but incomplete revelation would be regression to a much earlier stage.

At Sinai, Yahweh summoned Israel to become his peculiar possession, a priestly kingdom tasked with mediating His light to the nations:
  • Now therefore, if you will obey my voice indeed and keep my covenant, then you will be my own possession from among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you will be for me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words that you will speak to the children of Israel.” – (Exodus 19:5).
After the Death and Resurrection of Jesus, Peter applied this very passage to the largely Gentile congregations “in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia”:
  • You also, as living stones, are built up a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, because it is contained in scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, chosen, precious: And he that believes on him shall not be put to shame. For you therefore that believe is the preciousness: but for such as disbelieve, The stone which the builders rejected, The same was made the head of the corner; and, A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence; for they stumble at the word, being disobedient, whereunto also they were appointed. But you yourselves are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may show forth the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: who were no people, but now are the people of God: who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” – (1 Peter 2:5-10).
Again, inclusion in the “chosen race” is based on belief, exclusion on unbelief and disobedience, NOT ethnicity or nationality. Lest we doubt the promises apply to Gentile believers, the Book of Revelation is quite specific. By his blood, Jesus “loosed us from our sins and made us a kingdom, priests for his God.”

All creation declared the “Lamb worthy” precisely because “by your blood, you purchased for God men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation and made them for our God a kingdom and priests, and they are reigning on the earth.” It is this same group, the “innumerable multitude” from every nation that is seen standing before the “Lamb and the Throne” - (Revelation 7:14-17).


Well, what about the “land promise”? We need to heed what Paul wrote, and take his words at face value. Rather than discard the “land promise,” or limit it to a tiny territory in the Midle East, he expanded and universalized it:
  • For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his seed, that he should be heir of the world, but through the righteousness of faith. For if they that are of the law are heirs, faith is made void, and the promise is made of none effect.” – (Romans 4:13-14).
Thus, Abraham is now the heir of the “world,” the kosmos, a Greek term that can include the entire Earth, and even the universe itself. To return to the Book of Revelation, the original “land promise” is actualized in the city of “New Jerusalem,” not in the ancient city in Palestine:
  • He that overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go out thence no more: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God, and my new name. He that has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit is declaring to the churches” – (Revelation 3:12).
  • And he showed me a river of water of life, bright as crystal, proceeding out of the throne of God and of the Lamb, in the midst of the street thereof. And on this side of the river and on that was the tree of life, bearing twelve manner of fruits, yielding its fruit every month: and the leaves of the tree were for the healing of the nations. And there shall be no curse any more: and the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be therein: and his servants shall serve him; and they shall see his face; and his name shall be on their foreheads – (Revelation 22:1-4).
So, am I guilty of the unpardonable sin of “replacement theology”? Well, if I am, so is Paul, Peter, John, and Jesus himself, but so be it. What matters is what Scripture teaches, but this is an artificial term that is not from the Bible, a label used to disparage the motives of others.

What the New Testament does teach is FULFILLMENT IN JESUS. All the promises of God find their “yea and amen” in him, NOT in national Israel. God’s previously hidden mysteries are revealed in Christ. “In the prophets” God spoke in “many parts and ways,” but upon “these last of the days,” He has spoken fully in one who is “a Son.” 

Jesus and his Apostles did not abandon the promises to Abraham. They have come to fruition in him, including the “new covenant.”

Yes, we should pray for the nation of Israel and the Jewish people, above all for their salvation!! “For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel, neither because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children. When Jesus arrives to gather “his chosen ones,” what good will anyone’s ethnicity do if he or she is found in a state of unbelief?

Does any of this make me a “racist” or an “anti-Semite”? These are subjective terms. But if how one responds to Jesus determines whether he or she is found in the “Lamb’s book of life,” is not the ultimate act of anti-Semitism the refusal to warn individuals of Jewish descent that, just like nonbelieving Gentiles, they are at risk of undergoing “everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord” if they continue in their unbelief?

Jesus is the Messiah of Israel and  the Savior of the world. In him, God has made salvation available to all men and women, and on the same basis for all, namely, through  the “faith of Jesus Christ,” therefore, there no longer can there beJew or Gentile.” 

In Jesus, and in him ALONE, the God of Abraham has FULFILLED His covenant promises for all peoples and nations. In him, there is one covenant, one covenant people, and one way of salvation.