Promises to Israel – An Introduction

brown book pageThere is a new end times book based on the US recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of Israel!

First off, I need to say that I have not read this book, and that I found out about this publication based on a conservative talk show commercial.

Nevertheless this commercial got me to considering a time when this end times topic would have grabbed my attention. Now it just makes me angry. Anger due to the bare faced profiteering off of the modern day church, but more so due to the distraction and confusion the topic causes believers.

Distraction from the Word of God. (How often have I chosen man’s thoughts over God’s?)

Confusion in that so many books elevate the nation of Israel as the focus and purpose of all that God does. (Spoiler alert – The focus and purpose of all that God does is to reveal Jesus Christ.)

Of course, this raises a central question in my thinking that will provide the fodder for the following posts. The overarching question is…

Should the nation of Israel expect realization of Old Testament promises in the future?

I suppose if the promises God made to Israel in the Old Testament have not been fulfilled, two consequences occur to me.

  • The promises have yet to be fulfilled, for no other reason than to maintain the honor of God. This thinking fuels the futurist theology that seems so popular in the modern American church.

  • God is a liar.

No one wants to think of the second bullet – Dang I had a hard time typing it! The desire to see God honored is fantastic. No denying that.

But wait – The two consequences above are a false dichotomy – I think I’m seeing another possibility!!

What if the promises made to Israel in the Old Testament have been fulfilled?

Lets consider.

God made three big promises to Israel in the Old Testament. The next three blogs will deal with these promises, with a final post supplying a conclusion, that hopefully ties together the discussion and provide some insight.

  1. Promises to Israel – The Land

  2. Promises to Israel – The Seed

  3. Promises to Israel – The Nation

Each post will offer a chance for discussion and comment, which I look forward to receiving.  Hope to see you in the next post.

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Christianity & America

Is America “A Shining City Upon A Hill”?

Sunday school was informative this morning.

We spent close to an hour listening to quotations of the founding fathers, and the moral foundation required for the republic of America to succeed upon. Multiple quotations of the founding fathers (and there were a lot of ‘em) referred to the importance of America having citizens with moral character.

May I submit, that the higher the moral character of citizens of any nation adds to the potential for that nation to “succeed”.

As western civilization spread from Jerusalem and Athens, nations have been impacted by the ethic of the Bible and their societies have been influenced by the Judeo-Christian ethic.

As an example, moral teachings such as “thou shalt not steal” produced the social acceptance of property rights.

Thankfully, many nations have claimed this foundation.

But one thing bugs me. During the Sunday school class, a number of times, America was referred to as a Shining City upon a Hill.

His Intentions

When the Master spoke to His disciples of “a city set on a hill”, did He intend for them to understand it as a description of a “nation” as we understand it today?

Matthew 5:14

¶“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.

It appears the Master was speaking to

  • His followers.

  • the disciples that were listening to Him.

  • the individuals that sought to follow Him.

  • the folks who wanted to know more.

To imply that America is that “city set on a hill” described in Matthew, in my opinion, is either innocently misunderstanding the passage, or assuming a description that it has no right to.

Of course, this depends on my understanding of the Masters intended message found in the Sermon on the Mount. If the Master was intending the message to be understood by His followers, and not a collection of people brought together by geographical limits or political systems, then possibly the Body of Christ is the Master’s intended audience.

Let me explain

Lets consider the Church, comprised of all believers, as the intended recipients of this exhortation. Numerous times through the New Testament, the Body of Christ, the Church is referred to as a Kingdom. This can be understood by considering some of the references to “Kingdom” in the New Testament.

An Eternal Kingdom

A kingdom that cannot be shaken. The Hebrews author is comparing the excellencies of the new covenantal church with the first (old) covenantal condition.

Heb 12:28

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

A Non political Kingdom

Sometimes, when I see the word “kingdom”, pictures of a political, physical nation erupt in my mind. Not to sure this passage justifies this understanding. (Note that this passage has bearing on future thoughts.)

 Matthew 21:43

Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.

A Non Geographical Kingdom

The kingdom of God is not restricted by geographical boundaries.

Luke 13:29

And people will come from east and west, and from north and south, and recline at table in the kingdom of God.

A Non Visible Kingdom

The kingdom of God is, in a sense, invisible in its arrival. Get the picture with this next passage. The Pharisees were looking at the King, and asked when the kingdom of God would come. (Somewhat similar to when Pilate was staring at Jesus and asked “What is truth?)

Luke 17:20-21

Being asked by the Pharisees when the kingdom of God would come, he answered them, “The kingdom of God is not coming in ways that can be observed, nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or ‘There!’ for behold, the kingdom of God is in the midst of you.”

The Kingdom of God in Acts

The first clear instance of the Kingdom describing the New Testament church can be found in Acts 8:12. Earlier passages certainly speak of the kingdom being the Church, but I fear that understanding depends on my eschatology, as opposed to simply the content of the those passages. (Hey – trying to stay away from that dang eisegesis!)

Act 8:12

But when they believed Philip as he preached good news about the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ, they were baptized, both men and women.

Paul preached of Christ and Him crucified. Numerous times, Luke described Paul’s “preaching” activities as

  • reasoning about the Kingdom of God

  • persuading of the Kingdom of God

  • testifying to the Kingdom of God, and

  • proclaiming of the Kingdom of God.

Act 19:8

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God.

Act 28:23

When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets.

Act 28:31

proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching about the Lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hindrance.

Kingdom of God in the Epistles

Paul and the rest of the authors of the New Testament didn’t seem to be reluctant to use “Kingdom” as a synonym for the Church.

 Romans 14:17

For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.

 1 Corinthians 4:20

For the kingdom of God does not consist in talk but in power.

 1 Corinthians 6:9-10

Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God.

  1 Corinthians 15:24

Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power.

  1 Corinthians 15:50

I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

 Galations 5:21

envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 Ephesians 5:5

For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Colossians 1:13

He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son,

 Colossians 4:11

and Jesus who is called Justus. These are the only men of the circumcision among my fellow workers for the kingdom of God, and they have been a comfort to me.

1 Thessalonians 2:12

we exhorted each one of you and encouraged you and charged you to walk in a manner worthy of God, who calls you into his own kingdom and glory.

 2 Thessalonians 1:5

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering—

 2 Timothy 4:1

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom:

 2 Timothy 4:18

The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed and bring me safely into his heavenly kingdom. To him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.

 Hebrews 1:8

But of the Son he says,
“Your throne, O God, is forever and ever,
the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.

 Hebrews 12:28

Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,

 James 2:5

Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him?

 2 Peter 1:11

For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Conclusion

My point is that the Church, the Kingdom of God, is comprised of believers who are “the City on a Hill”.

Peter is so bold that he describes the Church, the Kingdom of God as a holy nation. Surely he is referring to a physical nation.

Let’s think back to Exodus 19. As the tribes of Israel entered into covenant with God at Sinai, Moses defined the family of Jacob, the tribes of Israel, as “a holy nation”.

But centuries later, the Jewish nation, (in the persons of the Jewish leadership) refused their rightful King. The Kingdom of God was then taken from them and given to another people. (Sound familiar? Consider Matthew 21:43 from above!)

As an aside, don’t get lost in the idea that a first century Jew was condemned because of this loss of nationhood. The entire world was condemned. Saving faith for the entire world was to be found in the Messiah.

Peter defines his audience, the believers he is writing to, as a holy nation.

1 Peter 2:9

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light.

To claim a status describing the Church as belonging to any physical nation seems to blur the distinctions that the New Testament defines for the church, the Kingdom of God.

With all that said, when any nation has an abundance of believers, blessings from God, (through believers), may be experienced. A nation that has a high percentage of believers does not become the City on the Hill. It simply enjoys the benefits of the assembly of believers within her society.

Of course, as any nation experiences a shrinking of the Kingdom of God residing within her borders, that nation will loose the blessing of God through those believers.

Try to remember the Kingdom we belong to. It may help when that other kingdom we associate with disappoints us.

 

 

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