GOD’S PLAN - THE PROPHETIC IN SCRIPTURE
Each year, at Christmas time, we are all used to looking at the Christmas Story and reminding ourselves of the prophecies regarding Jesus’ first coming. These include those spoken by Isaiah, "Behold a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His Name, ‘Emmanuel,’" (Isaiah 7:14), and "A child will be born to us, a Son will be given," (Isaiah 9:6). Although we are used to reminding ourselves that the coming of Jesus the first time was prophesied, and in the plan of God, are we equally aware that God has shared with us, through the Scriptures, His overall plan for mankind, and that there is still much to be fulfilled?
The ‘prophetic’ is an integral part of Scripture. The phrase, "..that Scripture might be fulfilled..", (e.g. John 19:24&36) is one that we often read in the Gospel record. As we read the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, we can see that we are living in the middle of what God has told us is going to happen. This ‘forth-telling’ is what is meant by the ‘prophetic’. It is God declaring what will happen before it happens. In Amos 3:7 it says, "Surely the Lord God does nothing unless He reveals His secret counsel to His servants the prophets."
The Scriptures seem to divide time, from the creation of man to the "new heaven and the new earth," of Rev.21:10, into periods of time which are sometimes called ‘dispensations’. Scripture refers to these periods as "ages", (Eph.2:7), which are marked by certain spiritual or moral characteristics. In this age, the one in which we presently find ourselves, we read of the gospel being preached to "all the nations," (Luke 24:47). We, who have believed that Jesus is the Son of God and has been raised from the dead, and have been born again, are part of that company who have been ‘called out’ from among the nations and the world, but do we realise that this was prophesied in the book of Genesis?
Genesis 12:1-3 says, "...and in you all the families [nations] of the earth will be blessed." Paul, in Gal.3:8, refers to this very Scripture, saying, "The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘All the nations shall be blessed in you.’"
Paul goes on to explain that it is by faith we have been saved, and quotes from Genesis again, (Gen.17:7): "I will establish between Me and your seed [sometimes translated descendant] after you... an everlasting covenant." We are told in Gal.3:16, that the "seed" is Christ.
So we see that it was in God’s Plan that the nations would get the opportunity to believe, [by faith], because of His promise to Abraham nearly 2000 years before Jesus was born! God also explained that the Israelites would go into captivity in Egypt, telling Abraham in Genesis 15:13, "Your descendants will be taken into Egypt and enslaved and oppressed for 400 years." Later, we see that when God was outlining the conditions of the Old Covenant, which He gave to Moses on Mount Sinai, He knew the Israelites would go astray. God told Moses that if the Israelites would obey His commandments they would receive blessings, but if they were disobedient they would be cursed. The blessings of the Old Covenant brought ‘health and prosperity’, but the curses brought ‘sickness and poverty’, (Deut.28). Part of the curse was to be "scattered among all the peoples, from one end of the earth to the other," (Deut.28:64). The amazing fact, that God knew this would happen, is found in Deuteronomy 30, where God explains that "when all these things have come upon you, the blessing and the curse which I have set before you, and you call them to mind in all the nations where the Lord your God has banished you, and you return to the Lord your God, and obey Him with all your heart and soul, according to all that I command you today, you and your sons, then the Lord your God will restore you from captivity and have compassion on you, and will gather you again from all the peoples where the Lord your God has scattered you," (Deut.30:1-6). This same thing was prophesied in Deuteronomy 4, telling us it will be in the "latter years" that "Israel will return to the Lord," and "listen to His voice," the Lord having scattered them "amongst the peoples," but promising He would not fail them, nor destroy them, nor forget the covenant made with their fathers, (Deut.4:24-31).
Where Are We Now in God’s Plan?
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus prophesied regarding Jerusalem; that when she was "surrounded by armies" her desolation was at hand and the people would "fall by the edge of the sword" and "be led captive into all nations; and Jerusalem would be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled," (Luke 21:20-24). Jesus’ words were dramatically fulfilled when the Roman Armies, under the Emperor Titus, destroyed Jerusalem in AD70. [This event must not be confused by a yet future time when the inhabitants of Judea are commended once more to "flee to the mountains," which Matthew records will be necessary when the abomination of desolation is standing in the holy place, Matt.24:15&16].
This century has seen the beginning of the return of Israel from many nations and so we now find ourselves living in the days when the prophecies in Deuteronomy are going to be fulfilled. The "times of the Gentiles" are coming to an end. We have seen the Jews beginning their return to the land, and the nation of Israel once more established as a Nation State on 14th May 1948. Since then we have continued to see the return of Israel to her own land, but there is more prophecy to be fulfilled. Some mistakenly think that as a result of the annexing of Jerusalem by the modern State of Israel, during the ‘Six Day War’ in 1967, (NOTE 2: Some wrongly believe the times of the Gentiles ended in June 1967, when Israel took control of Jerusalem in the ‘Six Day War,’ but they overlook that the Palestinians still control the Temple Mount, and there will yet be further turmoil within the walls of Jerusalem. Thus we are still in the times when Gentiles can be saved and will remain so until the Lord’s return.) the end of the "times of the Gentiles," has already been ushered in, overlooking the fact that this age of grace is not yet complete.
In Jeremiah 31:10 we read the word of the Lord, "Declare in the coastlands afar off and say, ‘He who scattered Israel will gather him,’" and the following scriptures all refer to the return of Israel to her homeland: Jeremiah 3:12,18; 16:14-16; 23:3,7-8; 30:3; 31:8; 32:37; Ezekiel 20:34-43; 28:25-26; 36:22-28; 39:25-29; and Isaiah 11:11-12; 42:9; 43:4-7; 16-19; 46:9-13 and 48:6. In these scriptures we see the phrase repeated by God, that there will be a time when Israel will no longer say, " ‘As the Lord lives, who brought up the sons of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but ‘as the Lord lives who brought up and led back the descendants of the house of Israel from the north land and from the countries where I had driven them,’ Then they will live on their own soil," (Jer.23:7-8).
To this day, the Jews still celebrate and remember how they were brought out of the land of Egypt, doing this when the Passover is celebrated. There is coming a time, however, when an even greater Exodus will be remembered instead.
We see this future stage in God’s plan for Israel in the New Testament, in Romans Chapters 9 to 11, where Paul explains that God has not rejected His people, Israel, (Rom.11:1). Paul explains that the Jews’ transgression has become salvation to the Gentiles, and the Jews’ rejection, the reconciliation of the world, (Rom.11:11&15). Paul uses picture language when he says some branches of the olive tree, which is Israel, were broken off on order that the Gentiles, who are the wild olive tree, might be grafted in. This gives us a picture of where we have got up to in God’s plan because natural Israel is not yet grafted back in. More Gentiles are still able to be saved.
In 2Cor.5:18 Paul says, "We have been reconciled to God through Christ, and have been given a ministry of reconciliation," but Paul tells the Church in Rome, "I do not want you to be uninformed brethren... a partial (NOTE 3: It is partial because Jews can still get saved in this age by faith, but they then become part of the Body of Christ, the Church.) hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in," (Rom.11:25). Paul explains that the natural branches will then be grafted back in, (Rom.11:24). We can see in this picture of the olive tree, that the plan of God began before the ‘Church age’, and also goes beyond this age. We can read about the time when Israel is grafted back into the olive tree in the book of Ezekiel. Ezekiel prophesies, in Chapters 38 & 39, of a war which has yet to take place, and says that it will be at a time when the Jews are "gathered from many [not all] nations," (Ez.38:8). The ongoing return to the land of Israel by Jews now provides the possibility of a soon coming fulfilment of this yet unfulfilled prophecy. After this war, Ezekiel tells us God "will have mercy on the whole house of Israel" and "bring them back from the peoples, and gather them from the lands of their enemies." "Then they will know that I am the Lord their God, because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then gathered them again into their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer," (Ez.39:25-28). This future time is when Israel will be grafted back into the olive tree.
It is after the ‘Ezekiel war’, when God has gathered Israel "from all the lands," and brought them back into their own land, (Ez.36:24), that He will give them a new heart and put a new spirit within them. According to Ezekiel 36:26 & 27, the whole house of Israel will enter into the New Covenant in the blood of Jesus, as was also prophesied by Jeremiah in Jer.31:33 & 34.
Israel’s receiving of this "new heart" and a "new spirit" is that which has already happened to believers in this age, because this very scripture from Jeremiah is applied to us in Hebrews 8:7-13. The New Covenant we have already become partakers of is exactly the same one that the whole house of Israel (NOTE 4: Although God refers to the "whole house of Israel", concurring with Rom.11:26, "thus all Israel will be saved", Paul explains that "they are not all Israel who are from Israel", but "the children of the promise are regarded as descendants," (Rom.9:7&8). This explains why some of those who are ‘natural Israel’ will not make it into the millennial reign of Christ. [This will be discussed later.]) will become partakers of also. The whole house of Israel is to be ‘born again’, and this is concurrent with the grafting back in of the natural olive branches. which takes place after the times of the Gentiles has been fulfilled.
Whilst at this time the ‘new birth’ is by grace, through faith, Israel’s ‘new birth’, when she has been gathered again to her own land, will be by promise, and will be done by God in a sovereign way, Jesus being in their very midst. Natural Israel’s ‘new birth’ is in the next age, whereas ours is in this. We need to note, however, that the new birth we have received, and that which Israel will receive, is still part of the same New Covenant made through Jesus dying upon the cross and being raised from the dead. This is why Jesus had to come the first time for salvation before His second coming for judgement.
This book will explain that when Jesus comes again He will first come in the clouds for His saints before He comes to the earth with them. Jesus’ ‘Second Coming’ being in two stages. That natural Israel will still not have believed, when Jesus comes in the clouds, is foretold by Jesus, "Behold He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him [Israel]; and all the tribes of the earth will mourn over Him," (Rev.1:7). Zechariah prophesied of this ‘mourning’ in Israel when "they look on Him [Jesus] whom they have pierced," and "they will mourn over Him as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first born," (Zech.12:10).
It is essential to rightly divide the ‘word of Truth’ regarding Israel if we are to gain a correct understanding of the present ‘age,’ and as we do, we will see that God’s plan involves something much greater than just the Church in this age.
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