As a nation and people, Israel is seen in Scripture as a vineyard of God’s own planting. They are God’s chosen people, separated by Him from the Gentiles. As a nation they were delivered out of Egypt, wandered in the wilderness for forty years, and were brought into the land of God’s promise. God did many things for this people, privileged them in many ways above all others, even blessing them with His own presence dwelling in their midst. He was expecting to see fruit pleasing to Himself, suitable to His own nature. He was looking for obedience, justice, and righteousness. However, God’s vineyard failed to produce fruit unto God.
“Now let me sing to my Well-beloved
A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard:
My Well-beloved has a vineyard
On a very fruitful hill.
(2) He dug it up and cleared out its stones,
And planted it with the choicest vine.
He built a tower in its midst,
And also made a winepress in it;
So He expected it to bring forth good grapes,
But it brought forth wild grapes.
(3) “And now, O inhabitants of Jerusalem and men of Judah,
Judge, please, between Me and My vineyard.
(4) What more could have been done to My vineyard
That I have not done in it?
Why then, when I expected it to bring forth good grapes,
Did it bring forth wild grapes?
(5) And now, please let Me tell you what I will do to My vineyard:
I will take away its hedge, and it shall be burned;
And break down its wall, and it shall be trampled down.
(6) I will lay it waste;
It shall not be pruned or dug,
But there shall come up briers and thorns.
I will also command the clouds
That they rain no rain on it.”
(7) For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel,
And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant.
He looked for justice, but behold, oppression;
For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help.”
God’s Ways and Dealings with Israel
Jehovah had given the law to Israel at Mt. Sinai, looking for obedience, specifically for the fruit of righteousness. When they strayed in disobedience He would send His prophets to them to call them back to the law (II Kings 17:13, Neh. 9:26, Zech. 7:12). When they took up idolatry in the son of David, God divided them into two kingdoms. He sent more of His servants to them with little results. Israel’s abominations grew and festered to the limits of God’s patience and longsuffering. He scattered the ten tribes of the northern kingdom of Israel into the nations by the hand of the Assyrian, while a remnant of the southern kingdom of Judah He delivered into captivity (Jer. 2:8, Lam. 2:9, Zeph. 3:4). At this time Israel’s and Judah’s apostasy was so great that God could not tolerate dwelling in their midst any longer. He removed His presence and glory out of Jerusalem and from the earth, and He allowed Nebuchadnezzar to destroy Jerusalem and the temple. Years later, when Judah was delivered from its spirit of idolatry, God made provision for the return of this remnant to the land from Babylon. The ways of God toward this people had one final purpose in their testing.
(33) “Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. (34) Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. (35) And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. (36) Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. (37) Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ (38) But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ (39) So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him.
(40) “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?”
(41) They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.”
(42) Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures:
‘The stone which the builders rejected
Has become the chief cornerstone.
This was the Lord’s doing,
And it is marvelous in our eyes’?
(43) “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. (44) And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”
When God sent the Messiah of prophecy to Israel, that nation rejected Him as their King. They would not have Jesus but rather said that Caesar was their king. He came unto His own to fulfill promises and prophecy, but they would not receive Him. God came looking for fruit from the vineyard He had planted long ago, but this privileged nation had produced none (Matt. 21:18-19). “Then last of all the owner of the vineyard sent His Son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’”But they caught Him, and cast Him out of the vineyard, and killed him (Matt. 21:37-39).
Israel Set Aside by God
The passage from Isaiah and this parable from the Lord tell of the history of Israel as the vineyard planted by God. Also both show the outcome for Israel when no fruit was harvested or, as we saw in Isaiah, only wild grapes were produced. Israel, as the very privileged people of God, has been set aside by Him. As God remarks in Isaiah, “What more could have been done to My vineyard, that I have not done in it?” (Isaiah 5:4) The kingdom of God was taken from them; at least there would be no Messianic kingdom at that time (Matt. 21:43). Again in the passage in Isaiah God tells us what He will do to His vineyard. The hedge of protection would be brought down; the vineyard would be trampled underfoot; it would be laid to waste and burnt; He would not allow it to be watered by the rain (Isaiah 5:5-6).
The vineyard of God’s own making would be made desolate by God Himself. The house of God that is Israel, as a nation, would be set in desolation. Isaiah declares the judgment eight hundred years before the coming of the Messiah to Israel. The setting aside of the vineyard is the same as the house of Israel being made desolate. It is Jesus Christ, their Messiah that speaks of this desolation. Further, He tells them their house will remain desolate until He comes to them a second time as their Messiah, and they say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.’ They have been in this state for nearly two thousand years (Matt 23:37-39, Luke 13:34-35).
The Jews, as the people of God, were given the prophecies and promises. They had the oracles of God as well as the covenants (Rom. 3:1-2, 9:3-5). The Messiah was to be presented to them. God remained patient and faithful with His people until they rejected Him. In His faithfulness God would not set Israel aside to establish anything else that denied their privileges, prophesies, and promises. He would not do this until Israel rejected the Son, and thereby rejected the promises themselves.
It is important to realize the Biblical principles involved in God’s dealings with the Jews. It is more than just prophesies and promises and the detail of words, but the principles and character of Judaism itself. God could not deny the distinction He had set up between Jew and Gentile through the law. The religion God gave Israel is what built up the wall of separation around them. God had divided them from the nations by choosing Israel and giving them His law. There couldn’t have been a greater distinction between Jew and Gentile than what Judaism established. The Jews religiously maintained this separation.
God came to the Jews in the flesh and they rejected Him. Now everything changes. With Israel set aside as the people of God, their house pronounced desolate, and their city and temple marked for destruction (Luke 19:41-44, Matt. 24:2), the counsels of God turn to something different. This turning in God’s plan is seen in the distinct and new revelation of the kingdom of heaven.
The Dispensation of the Kingdom of Heaven
With John the Baptist and Jesus Christ Himself, the preaching was always that the kingdom of heaven was at hand (Matt. 3:1-2, 4:17). It was not set up and existing as yet, but was soon in coming. The reasoning for this is simple – the kingdom of heaven would not exist until Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, had gone away, that is, back to heaven. Until then the kingdom of heaven was proclaimed as not yet, but ‘at hand.’ If we are spiritually perceptive in our study of the scriptures on this important topic, we will see certain distinct features associated with the kingdom that are valuable to point out:
- When Jesus first came to Israel there was a heightened expectation among the Jews that the Messiah would soon appear and establish a Messianic kingdom in Israel that would throw off the shackles of Gentile bondage. The Lord’s disciples had this expectation (Luke 19:11). They maintained these same thoughts even after His resurrection (Acts 1:6). But we have shown already from Scripture that the Messianic form of the ‘kingdom of God’ was taken from Israel. That specific form, which was according to the detail of prophecies and promises to Israel, would be held off or set aside at this time (Matt. 21:43).
- In the time of Jesus in the flesh on earth the kingdom of heaven was only at hand. It does not come into actual existence until the Son of Man goes away, back to heaven.
- The revelation of the kingdom of heaven is connected to the title of Jesus as the Son of Man, and is consequent to the completion of His perfect and efficacious work of redemption (Matt. 13:37, Luke 9:22, John 12:23-24). In the specific teachings concerning the kingdom this is seen as the Son of Man going away to the right hand of God in heaven. He went away as the Son of Man resurrected and glorified, which becomes a central point of understanding. The main component of the kingdom of heaven at the present time is the body of Christ being gathered on the earth. This forming of the church by the Holy Spirit come down from heaven could not happen before Jesus Christ was glorified to the right hand of the throne of God (John 7:37-39). He did not go away to heaven in the title or character of a Jewish Messiah coming to Israel according to the flesh.
- All the specific references to the kingdom of heaven are only found in Matthew’s gospel, mentioned there thirty-two times. All the specific teaching concerning the kingdom of heaven is found here, revealing what the kingdom is in mystery (Matt. 13:11). It shows the kingdom’s general progression on the earth through time, the judgments at the end of the age, and its outcomes and results in open manifestation in the age to come.
The gospel of Matthew presents us with some great biblical insights. If the kingdom of heaven is at hand, and not existing until the Son of Man was glorified, then there is a transition presented in this gospel. It is a dispensational transition – between Judaism and Christianity; between a Jewish dispensation and the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven; between the corporate entities of Israel and professing Christianity.
The Jewish dispensation encompasses the time from Israel being delivered out of Egypt to the presentation of Messiah. It would include the giving of the law at Sinai with the priesthood, Israel being brought into the land, the judges, prophets, and kings, and their scattering into the nations or captivity in Babylon. This dispensation is physically ended by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. This was after the presentation of Messiah to Israel and their refusal of Him as their King.
The Closing of the Jewish Dispensation
With the destruction of the temple for the second time during the same dispensation, the practice of Judaism is brought to a halt by God. Why? Because “the hour is coming and now was at hand when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father presently seeks such to worship Him.” (John 4:23) Jesus prefaces this by saying,“Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.”Judaism is a partial revelation of God’s truth and a limited worship of the true God from a distance and through a veil. Yet these partial truths and the Jewish system give way with the coming of God’s Son to Israel (John 1:17). The name of Father is strictly a Christian possession and represents a revelation of God in truth far beyond that of the name of Jehovah with the Jews (Ex. 6:2-3). The worship of the Father in spirit and truth is strictly a Christian position and privilege (John 4:19-24).
The practice of Judaism requires their temple, the Samaritans required Jacob’s mountain – both of which are fixed physical locations involving religion that was earthly, sensual, and outwardly in the flesh.  This explains the desire of the returning remnant from Babylon to rebuild the temple in Nehemiah’s day. Without the physical location of the temple in Jerusalem, there is no practice of Judaism, notwithstanding they do so without God’s presence and throne. However, God destroys the temple in 70 AD, effectively putting aside Judaism in dramatic fashion.
In Matthew’s gospel we have the distinct understanding of the closing of the Jewish dispensation and the declaration that the dispensation of the kingdom of heaven is ‘at hand.’ (Matt. 3:2, 4:17, 10:7) The two corporate entities involved in this transition are Israel and professing Christianity. The house of Israel was to be made desolate, and would remain that way throughout the time between the two comings of Messiah to that nation (Matt. 23:38-39). Israel had to be set aside, the Jewish dispensation closed, and the practice of Judaism ended in order for God to bring forth the beginnings and development of the kingdom of heaven. Christendom is the corporate object in the world that becomes the subject of the revelation and teachings of the kingdom of heaven. This is all of professing Christianity.
The Mystery Hidden from the Prophets
Associated with the revelation of the kingdom of heaven is a similar biblical understanding related to the true church. The body of Christ is the mystery of God kept hidden from the prophets, but now revealed by the Holy Spirit sent down consequent to the Son of Man glorified to the right hand of God (Eph. 3:1-11). What also is mystery is the revelation of the kingdom of heaven; this likewise was hidden from prophecy and the prophets. You will not find one Old Testament passage pointing to it as a kingdom or revealing the existence of professing Christianity in the world. This character of mystery concerning the kingdom is obviously directly related to the fact that the body of Christ, the true mystery of God, is a prominent component in the corporate body of professing Christianity. There is mystery, previously hidden and now revealed, associated with the kingdom of heaven. The label associated with the present dispensation would better be called ‘the kingdom of heaven in mystery’. To understand more we must look into the nature and character of the kingdom, and its teachings.
“He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given.”
Chapter 1: Endnotes
 The kingdom of God is a term in Scripture used in a broad and general way. In a sense it depicts the idea of God being present and working, or the general rule of God. When Jesus came in the flesh to Israel the kingdom of God was present among them, because Emanuel was there and working (John 5:16-19). When He cast out demons, He would say the kingdom of God has come upon you, for that particular person had experienced God’s power and authority used on their behalf (Luke 11:20, Matt. 12:28). When the sick were healed in Israel, whether by Jesus or disciples given power and authority to do so (Luke 9:1), it was generally said that the kingdom of God had come near to you (Luke 10:9). When pressed by the Pharisees as to when the kingdom of God would come, Jesus answered and said, “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20-21) So in John, Jesus says you must be born again to see or enter the kingdom of God. This is the new nature you must have to have a relationship with God. It is an inward work of the Holy Spirit (John 3:5-7). And it is without observation because the work of God in the believer is only in spirit and soul at this present time, and does not yet reach to our bodies of flesh (John 3:8).
But there is a more detailed description of kingdoms in name and associated workings found in Scripture when we consider the term ‘the kingdom of God’ as the general rule and sovereignty of God. What we find is what we may consider as the kingdom of God in its different forms and developments.
1. The kingdom of God is first offered to Israel in its Messianic form and according to promises and prophecy. Messiah is for the Jews and a Messianic kingdom would be for Israel. The covenants and the promises pertain to the Israelites. Therefore the Messiah and His kingdom needed to be presented to them (Rom. 9:4-5). Jesus came to His own, announced He was their long waited for Messiah (Luke 4:17-21), went about their towns and villages preaching the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43, 8:1, Mark 1:14-15), and did the work that the Messiah was promised to do – healing the sick, raising the dead, casting out devils, and feeding the poor with loaves and fishes (Psalm 132, Matt. 11:2-6). The kingdom could have been Israel’s if the Jews would have received Him as King. But they rejected Him, fell on the stumbling stone set by God in Zion, and had the kingdom of God withdrawn from them (Matt. 21: 33-44).
2. Upon the glorifying of the Son of Man to the right hand of God and the sending down of the Holy Spirit, the kingdom of God develops as the kingdom of heaven in mystery. God had set Israel aside, took the kingdom from them, and turned His attention to the Gentiles. The kingdom develops on earth as a spoiled crop in the field of the world (Matt. 13:24-29). This is all the while the King is away and hidden from the world in heaven (Col. 3:1-3). The kingdom of heaven is what is present now, and is in mystery. The kingdom of heaven, I believe, speaks of the rule, power, and dominion of the heavens over the earth (Dan. 4:26). The end of the age brings judgments from God and the crop in the field is separated out (Matt. 13:30).
3. After the end of the age the kingdom of God in general is seen as the kingdom of the Father in the heavens (Matt. 13:43), and the kingdom of the Son of Man on the earth (Matt. 16:28, 25:31). The Messianic kingdom and the throne of David will be established in Israel by sovereign grace, and as a subset of the kingdom of the Son of Man.
All this shows the specific development through time and in Scripture of the kingdom of God. We see there are distinct kingdoms with definite understandings and revelations that come under the broad heading of the kingdom of God.
 The cross and crucifixion of Christ put an end to the middle wall of separation between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14-15) – but of greatest importance to understand is that this is only true in the body of Christ. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:26-28, Col. 3:10-11). In the body of Christ there are no nations. In contrast to this, in the world and on the earth Israel remains a nation and maintains a separation from the Gentile nations as before. Israel is not in Christ. Israel has always been in the world and very much part of the world (John 8:23). On the earth their religion was a wall of separation from the Gentiles; however, it was never a separation from the world. The body of Christ is separated from the world, which is an opposite standing and position from Israel (John 17:14, 16). This is the reason there are no nations in Christ, the body of Christ. It is also why Israel is always viewed by God as a nation on the earth, because ‘nations’ belong to the earth and are connected to the earth. The body of Christ, the true church, is the heavenly calling of God – you see, not connected to the earth. Israel is the earthly calling of God, and as such, is connected to this earth, and is part of this world.
I simply could go on and on speaking of these insights that find their source in the general biblical principles that relate to how God distinguishes Israel from the church. The understanding of them is truly spiritually profound. When you see these principles by the Spirit and divine teaching, then all of Scripture makes sense and falls into place and is easily understood. All of it! However, the pairing and distinction of Israel and the body of Christ is not the beginning of these insights. Rather, it is the two Adams, the first being a type of the second, who is Christ (Rom. 5:14). “The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is from heaven.” (I Cor. 15:47) The first man is of the world; the second Man is not (John 17:14, 16, 8:23). The first man is of the first creation; the second Man is the new creation of God, and the firstborn of it (Rev. 3:14, Col. 1:15). Which of the two Adams is Israel related to? Which of the two Adams is the church connected with? Having said all I have, the answer to these two questions is fairly easy. Yet do you realize that the answers and their associated consequences will never change throughout the entire millennium? Also, I really see no indication in Scripture that these biblical principles will ever be completely undone, even in the eternal state. Please note – all of God’s eternal counsels and plans have as a foundation the suffering and death of the Son of Man, come down from heaven (John 3:13). All God’s counsels are based on the second Adam, even the eternal state, that is, the new heavens and new earth. [The comprehension of these and other biblical principles, and the spiritual insights issuing forth from them as divine teaching and understandings, are the things so missing in theological discussions today.]
As long as Judaism was fully practiced, the wall of separation between Jew and Gentile was firmly in place. This ended in 70 AD when the temple and city was destroyed by the Roman army. God used the Romans to stop the practice of Judaism, the Law of Moses. When this event happened, God scattered the remainder of the Jews into the nations, to live there as the Gentiles and in appearance not separated from the Gentiles. Israel’s identity as ‘God’s people’ is strongly dependent on three things:
1. The nation living in the extent of the Promised Land, without strangers in the land sharing it with them. The original promises to Abraham on behalf of Israel, his physical descendants, did not include sharing the land with strangers or Gentiles.
2. The nation being able to practice their religion, Judaism. This is the wall of separation for them from the Gentiles. This is what makes them a people and a nation chosen and separated by God. They cannot properly practice their religion being scattered into the nations and out of the land. Without the temple, animal sacrifices, and their priesthood, and these things necessarily in Jerusalem, there is no separation from the Gentiles.
3. A temple for worship in the city of Jerusalem. This is crucial to the practice of Judaism and is central to their identity as a separated people and nation.
The failure of Israel in the above three points, only serves to blaspheme the name of Jehovah in the earth (Ez. 36:16-23). Israel’s failure was based on God’s testing of the principle of human responsibility.
There are Jews and Gentiles still on the earth, but there are no Jews or Gentiles distinguished in the body of Christ (Gal. 3:26-28). The true church is a heavenly body with no purposed connections to the earth, the world, or the original creation. If it had these earthly connections it would have nationalities in it. But such things do not exist in Christ.
The believer has been privileged by God to know what He will do for Israel in the future (John 15:15). At the time of the coming millennium God will be faithful to fulfill every promise to Israel in the form of a chosen Jewish remnant. All three points above will be meticulously fulfilled through God’s faithfulness by sovereign power and grace, and according to the literal details of prophecy. They will be restored in the land with a new and glorious temple, and they will practice Judaism by God writing His law in their minds and on their hearts (Ez. 36:24-38, Jer. 31:31-34, Heb. 8:7-13).
God cannot be unfaithful to His promises, any of them. He cannot be unfaithful in His gifts, which are His grace. He cannot be unfaithful to any of His callings. These are all without repentance (Rom. 11:28-29). He cannot go back on one jot or title of His Word. He simply cannot (Is. 55:11), for He is the Lord God. He must remain faithful. Regardless of the unfaithfulness of man, and of Israel in their history, He still will be found faithful (Rom. 3:3-4).
 The Biblical doctrine of the church, the body of Christ, is this: The church exists by the fact that there is a glorified Man exalted to the right hand of God, in heavenly glory, where He became the Head of the church as the glorified Man, and now the church as His body joined to Him. That is the Spirit revealed doctrine of the church – a doctrine and revelation that was hidden by God as His very own mystery, hidden from prophecy and the prophets, and even hidden before time began and the world was created (Eph. 3:3-5, 8-10, Rom. 16:25, Col. 1:24-27). This is the doctrine. Everything associated with the body of Christ in God’s counsels revolves around this doctrine.
This body has a heavenly calling and a heavenly position. It has a glorious inheritance, always to be found in Him and with Him sharing His glory, His inheritance, His rule and dominion. Until His exaltation, the Holy Spirit could not be sent down to the earth to gather in the church (John 7:37-39). Those who are asleep in Christ have gone on to be with the Lord in soul and spirit, while their bodies remain on earth corrupting in the grave. We that are alive and remain on the earth, where the Comforter abides, always are the redeemed that form the church. The rapture is the event that joins these two groups together, the assembling of all that are His, the body of Christ as one, by resurrection and change, in glorified bodies, to go to the Father’s house in the heavens (John 14:1-3, I Thess. 4:13-18). This event is also part of the mystery of God that is the true body of Christ (I Cor. 15:51-52). The church in the heavens is the tabernacle of the Father and the Lamb throughout the ages to come.
 The title of Messiah to Israel according to prophecy and promises is set aside as long as the house of Israel remains desolate. There cannot be a Messianic kingdom over a united Israel (twelve tribes and all, that is, the two kingdoms, Israel and Judah, brought back together and united again after being split apart after the time of Solomon), throwing off all Gentile power and rule, if the house of Israel remains desolate. Israel’s calling, as the people of God, is set aside. Now this doesn’t mean they are forsaken forever. The gifts and callings of God are without repentance. At a future point in time God will again take up Israel as His people and deal with them as a people, as a nation – the prophecies that point to the future millennium declare Israel’s restoration in the land as again recognized as ‘the people of God’. But their desolation, which has continued for nearly two thousand years, is clearly taught by Jesus in the gospels – Matt. 23:37-39 and Luke 13:34-35.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the one who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! See! Your house is left to you desolate; for I say to you, you shall see Me no more till you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ ”
We should note that Israel’s desolation is said by Jesus to be the entire time between His first coming to Israel and His second coming to them – you shall see me no more until… When Jesus came at first it was in love, goodness, and mercy. However this first coming was based on the principle of human responsibility in Israel. They were tested in this same principle for fifteen hundred years by the giving of the law at Mt. Sinai. God was looking for obedience and righteousness, but never found any fruit. The presentation of Messiah to Israel was the last testing of responsibility in man. This final testing was God Himself coming to Israel, not by law, but in goodness and grace (John 1:17). It was met with failure. Israel did not receive Him, although He had come unto His own (John 1:11). When He appears to this nation a second time, they will look on Him whom they have pierced and say to Him, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’ But this will be a Jewish remnant of God’s choosing, sealed and preserved by God through a future time of great trouble, delivered out of it (Rev. 7:1-8, Jer. 30:7-11, and Jer. 31:7-14).
This second coming of Messiah is all sovereign choice, grace, and power, according to the faithfulness of God to fulfill all and every promise He made to Israel. This second coming has nothing to do with Israel being responsible. What God does in the end for the Jewish remnant, exalting them as the greatest nation on the face of the earth during the millennium, is not conditional – it is not dependent on Israel meeting certain conditions of obedience in human responsibility. In this way, God alone receives the credit and man will have absolutely no reason to boast. It is simply all for the glory of God and for His glory alone.
Messiah coming to Israel two thousand years ago proved to be an utter failure for that nation. God judged their responsibility as a failure according to these words by the Lord:
(41) “Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, (42) saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. (43) For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, (44) and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.”
(20) “But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. (21) Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those who are in the midst of her depart, and let not those who are in the country enter her. (22) For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. (23) But woe to those who are pregnant and to those who are nursing babies in those days! For there will be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people. (24) And they will fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into all nations. And Jerusalem will be trampled by Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.”
In the first passage it is Israel as a nation that did not recognize the time of their visitation. It is this nation that specially failed in their day, when they could have seen the fulfillment of prophecy and promises in their Messiah. In the second passage it is the pronounced judgment of God through the Roman army bringing great wrath upon this people Israel. This all came to pass in 70 AD. It was Israel’s capital city that would have no stone left upon another. It would be the people of Israel that would either fall by the edge of the sword or be scattered into the nations. It is Israel, as the house of God, that was made desolate. God Himself tore down the hedge of protection around His own vineyard (Isaiah 5:5-6).
Israel, as the people of God and a nation, has been set aside by God Himself. At this present time God does not recognize them as His people, saying to them, “For you are not My people, and I will not be your God.” (Hosea 1:9) If we are taught by the Spirit in these biblical principles we will realize that biblical prophecy is set aside at this present time and the counting of time on the earth has stopped. Both the subject of prophecy and the counting of time on the earth are directly related to Israel and their earthly calling from God (Dan. 9:24-27). This earthly calling is set aside presently. It becomes an easy spiritual insight to understand that the prophetic promises in and through Messiah to Israel are all set aside as well. These are all scriptural principles related to each other, centering on Israel.
One more important point needs to be made as relating to these very principles – it was not the church that was made desolate. It was not the church in the above passage that did not recognize the time of its visitation by Messiah, not knowing ‘its day.’ The body of Christ (the church) did not exist at the time the Lord was speaking. He had said, “I will build My church…” Unless we are willing to accuse the Lord of misspeaking, the church was not wandering around in the wilderness for forty years as the nation of Israel. If Israel is the church in the wilderness, then Israel is still the church at the time of His speaking on which desolation has been pronounced, and has continued in desolation for some two thousand years between the two comings of Messiah. Why would Jesus say ‘I will build My church’ if it was already built and wandering around? When God says, “For you are not My people…” is He speaking to the church? (Hosea 1:9) Is He setting aside the church before He ever builds it? He is speaking to somebody and they were His people, but not anymore? It is Israel, as a people and a nation, which is set aside.
The point of great importance is this – Israel and the body of Christ (the church) are always completely separate and distinct corporate entities. God sees them as such and the Scriptures treat them as such, as I have shown you with just a few passages above, a few among many readily available to press this scriptural truth. The two entities have completely different callings, completely distinct destinies. One was made desolate so the other could be revealed, come into existence, and be built by God. One is the common subject of biblical prophecy, while the other is the mystery of God hidden from prophecy and the prophets.
The body of Christ has a heavenly calling (Heb. 3:1), and this is, in part, the reason it is hidden from prophecy. The proper subject of biblical prophecy is the earth and God’s government of it. This government will be centered in Israel during the millennium. Prophecy concerns earthly things. The church has a heavenly character, a heavenly citizenship, and heavenly calling. The one, according to prophecy, will be restored in the Promised Land and become the greatest nation on the earth during the coming millennium, the Gentiles gathered to them for blessing. The other, hidden from prophecy, will be removed from the earth to the heavens, and will become the tabernacle of the Father over the earth during the coming millennium. The church will sit in heavenly places in Christ, the seat of God’s government over the millennial earth, showing forth how the heavens will rule the kingdoms of men (Dan. 4:25-26), and there as kings and priests to His God and Father (Eph. 2:6, Rev. 1:6). The church in the heavens will be the means and vessel by which God will bless the millennial earth. The differences between the two entities are as different as night and day, as separate as the earth from the heavens.
What is the big deal and why is this so important? The mixing of the two corporate entities, with their callings and all associated principles and teachings, is the means by which Satan corrupts professing Christianity. The Judaizing of the Christian faith, by all its multifaceted forms and ways, is the ruin of Christendom on the earth. By Judaism, Israel exalted itself in pride and self-righteousness. Paul describes it as the confidences of man in the flesh – all that man can glory in by birth and natural descent, and an erroneous thought of working out, by human endeavor and accomplishment, one’s own righteousness from the law (Phil. 3:2-9). The Judaizing of the Christian faith is an insidious leaven of false teaching and understanding that has already saturated the three measures of meal representing the Christian world (Matt. 13:33). The Judaizing continues on in all Arminian thoughts which are now firmly entrenched in the teachings of Christianity today. It is not sound doctrine (II Tim. 4:3-4). At its root and source is the pride of human accomplishment and boasting. It is humanism. I do not doubt there is no means or power to stop its spread and influence. It will penetrate the whole unto the end, until it is all leavened. This is the clear teaching of Scripture and the testimony of God. But, at the same time, what is also the clear teaching of Scripture is that the true believer has the responsibility to recognize corruption and evil, and to turn from it (II Tim. 2:19-22, 3:5).
To finish this endnote allow me to return to the original thought that lead to the above teaching. The title of Jesus as Messiah is associated with Israel, and Israel now is desolate and set aside. Therefore the title of Messiah and all associated prophetic promises are set aside. In like manner there is an association of the title of the Son of Man with all the revelation and workings of the kingdom of heaven. But it remains an association with a Son of Man who has gone away – He is the Son of Man resurrected and glorified to the right hand of God. This is not a Christ in the flesh, nor is it knowing Him in that way any longer (Rom. 9:5, II Cor. 5:16). All the principles concerning the kingdom of heaven, as it is known presently, do not relate to a Jesus in the flesh, but rather to a Jesus in a glorified state and position. The kingdom relates to Him in heaven, as the Son of Man exalted and glorified there (Luke 22:69, Mark 14:62, Matt. 26:64, John 6:62), and as sitting down on His Father’s throne, hidden from the world (Col. 3:1-3).
This is not a Messiah in the flesh come to Israel, the physical descendant of David as such, nor is it the Davidic throne He presently sits on. He sits at the right hand of God, as the Son of Man on God’s throne. The throne of David is not God’s throne (Jer. 33:14-17). The throne of David is for the son of David, a human descendant of David’s according to the flesh. Yes, it will be the Son of God, the One in whom all the fullness of the Godhead dwells bodily. But this is the key point – the fullness dwells bodily, in human form. By physical descent and physical birth and according to the flesh, He is associated with David, the tribe of Judah, and the nation of Israel. This is His connection to the Davidic throne, as in the flesh and not as God. He will sit eternally on the Davidic throne as the Messiah of Israel and the son of David after the flesh. But presently He sits on His Father’s throne (Rev. 3:21). When He said that He ascends to His Father and our Father, to His God and our God, He was not ascending to David, nor to David’s throne(John 20:17). David is a human being, he is not God.
To complete the original thought, the kingdom of heaven is not a Messianic kingdom over Israel according to prophecy. The Messianic kingdom in Israel is yet to come – during the coming millennium. Presently what we see on the earth is the kingdom of heaven as it exists and is being developed in the world. This is the present form and state of the general subject known as ‘the kingdom of God’.
 The Jewish dispensation involved many different things in the ways of God toward Israel. It ranged from deliverance through judgments out of Egypt to prophets and kings. Yet the common element that defines this dispensation, running the entire time from beginning to end, is God testing man in Adam in the principle of responsibility. It is God testing man in the flesh, looking for obedience and righteousness. Israel was tested by God in two specific ways: one by the giving of the law, the other by the presentation of Messiah (John 1:17). The testing by the law basically ends with the Babylonian captivity. Israel’s apostasy and idolatry brought on these consequences – the presence and glory of God is removed from Israel and the earth, the throne of Jehovah is lost, and what remains of the people are under Gentile captivity and rule. God’s purpose for bringing a remnant out of captivity and back to Judah is for Israel’s final testing – the presentation of Messiah. “Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” (Matt. 21:37)
However, Israel produced no fruit. There was nothing but failure. The testing of man in Adam ended when the Jewish dispensation ended, soon after the rejection of Messiah. The following two scripture passages confirm this biblical understanding – Gal. 4:4-5 and Heb. 9:26. Israel was the test case for God’s testing of man in the flesh. Israel represented all mankind. They were the most privileged people by God on the face of the earth. But man in the flesh could never please God (Rom. 8:8). The testing proved that man in Adam was lost and utterly depraved and could not produce fruit unto God (Matt. 21:19). The testing of Israel by God proved that man always fails in responsibility. This is the testimony of God concerning man in Adam and this is man’s story played out in the Scriptures.
The realization and comprehension of this principle of responsibility is important. God’s distinct testing of mankind by His privileging of Israel, using them as the test case, is the understanding that is paramount to the sound doctrine of theological systems. Above all, these systems should be skillful and masterful at rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). However, if you cannot see and understand the principle of responsibility being tested by God, if you don’t understand what God was doing, what God was proving, then you cannot possibly understand the Old Testament or even the New. Can you explain why God only gave the law to Israel, and kept it there for fifteen hundred years? Can you explain why the Spirit of God calls that which was written and engraved on stones a ministry of death and condemnation? (II Cor. 3:7-9) When God was testing and the testing was over, what did He prove? How did He test man and when did the testing end? Has man been convinced of the results? If you can’t answer these questions properly, then you shouldn’t be devising theological systems and presenting them as divine teaching. The ending of the testing by God is the hinging point of human history and the Scriptures.
Man’s responsibility is his works. When any man is judged by God, he is judged concerning his works, which were to be done in obedience to God. Man in Adam was required to manifest a perfect human righteousness before Him. What was demanded was a righteous of the law that would be particular to the individual (Phil. 3:9). However, all men are sinners in Adam. Man in the flesh could not obey. Israel produces no fruit. The parable in Matthew 21:33-40 depicts God’s testing of Israel when they represented all mankind in the first Adam. The coming of Messiah to Israel was the last and final testing of man in the flesh, as this parable points out. Finding no fruit on the fig tree represents the results of the testing (Matt. 21:19). Man in the flesh could not produce fruit; Israel could not produce fruit. Then the judgment comes. God sets Israel aside and He condemns the entire world (John 12:31, Rom. 3:19). It is man in Adam, man in the flesh, that is condemned, and this is what the world is (Rom. 8:3).
 Even though the true believer worships the Father in spirit and truth according to the revelation of God to us as our Father in His Word, we are still hindered by sin in the flesh and our physical separation from Him. The ultimate realization of our Christian position and privilege will be after the rapture of the church and in the presence of the Father. We will have been conformed by God into the image of His Son, our bodies being glorified (Rom. 8:29-30, Heb. 6:18-20, Eph. 1:3-4). It will be without the presence of sin in us (for sin in the presence of God is an impossibility), away from this world, and out of the reach of Satan. It will be all the sons of God with the Father, in the Father’s house. This is our proper biblical standing. This is our privileged position. This is our calling. The revelation of the Father is only to the sons by Christ Himself (please read Matt. 11:25-27). The house of the Father is only for the sons, to be brought there by Christ Himself (Gal. 3:26, John 14:1-3). The name of God as Father is the name by which God has been revealed to the church. The relationship with the Father is solely and distinctly for the Christian believer (please see I John 2:23, II John 1:9). In order to have the Father you have to have the Son. Israel never had the Son. The revelation of God as the Father is strictly a Christian privilege and relationship.
Please bear with me here as I emphasize again the understanding of one of the above statements. God has promised that all true believers will eventually enter into His rest (Heb. 4:1, 3, 6, 9-11). The rest of God is the glory of God, and how believers, and the church for that matter, no longer fall short of that glory (Rom. 3:23). The rest of God is the Father’s house, to which Jesus went away to prepare a place there for us. When we are there, we are apart from sin in the flesh, apart from the world, and apart from Satan. These three things encompass all the present struggles and conflicts of the believer in his walk of faith. What an eternal difference the rapture will make! Oh, blessed day that will be!
 The Samaritan woman at the well says this to Jesus, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.” (John 4:20). This statement and the Lord’s response afford us an insightful understanding of human nature, involving the progressive revelation of truth from God. The Samaritans stubbornly held on to an ancient yet revealed truth from God concerning their father Jacob. This turns out to be to their detriment. The Samaritans held so tightly to what truth they knew they had, that they couldn’t and wouldn’t progress spiritually when God provided greater revelation – the tabernacle with the nation of Israel that becomes distinct to Israel as the fixed location of the temple in Jerusalem. This is how worship of the true God progressed in its level of revealed truth. By Jesus responding to her by saying what He did (John 4:21), He was announcing how the revealed truth concerning worship of the true God is now progressing beyond the truth that the Jews embraced. The obvious question is whether the Jews would stubbornly and blindly hold on to their ancient truth, and refuse to spiritually progress when God provides greater revelation? And we easily see it is greater revelation of the truth in that Jesus speaks of God as the Father, and not of the Jewish ‘Jehovah’.
This holding on to previous truths, allowing them to blind you to greater and further revelations, is seen in many situations.
· Israel belittles and holds blasphemous the Christian truth of the trinity of the Godhead. Israel’s ancient truth is, “Hear, Oh Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.” (Deut. 6:4) This is why Jesus is accused of blasphemy at His trial and why the high priest tore his clothes. Jesus doesn’t really ever respond to the question of whether He is the Messiah, but when directly asked if He is the Son of God, He never remains silent. Son of God is who He is intrinsically, and never can be denied. But even though the Messiah title is His alone to possess, He knows it is presently set aside in the counsels of God.
· Paul was given great revelations and consequently, great responsibility for them. He was the minister for the body of Christ, the church, and the steward of the mystery of it. He was also given to complete the revelation of the word of God (Col. 1:24-26). Yet the early history of the church in the first few centuries is a disappointment to all this revealed truth which was given to her by God to possess (I Tim. 3:15). The so-called ‘church fathers’ were often seen as regressive concerning the Christian truth they taught. By the sixth century, Romanism can be seen as the great Judaizing of the Christian faith – the holding to the ancient Jewish system in forms, carnal ordinances, and such. This was systematically done in the face of the revealed truth of God in true Christianity – that which Paul delivered to us.
· Many ministers today, in an unhealthy way, point to the so-called ‘fathers’ or the Reformers in what they taught, as the basis and determining factor of God’s truth. Judgments are made as to which ‘fathers’ they can find that first taught this particular doctrine and mark the amount of elapsed time between then and now. The greater amount of time elapsed, the greater the validity of truth assigned to the doctrine. The different theological camps beat each other up with these silly searches and claims.
The Reformation was not greater truth revealed by God, progressing past what previously had been given. Rather it was a re-discovery of certain truths that were long lost by Christendom. And the Reformers did not rediscover all the truth of God, which had been lost by man’s failures in the history of the church. If we want the whole revealed truth of God, what should we do? Go to the fathers or the Reformers? No! We go to Paul, Peter, and John – the Spirit inspired writers of New Testament Scripture. And ask God to teach you the things of God by the Spirit He sealed you with (I Cor. 2:7-16).
 God raising Jesus from the dead was the accomplishment of the redemption of the believer/church (Eph. 1:18-23, Rom. 4:25). At the same time it also was the placing of Jesus in a personal position by which He establishes ‘the sure mercies of David’ (Acts 13:34). He establishes in His Person, by His resurrection, all the promises and future blessings to Israel, who are the earthly calling.
But in resurrection only, He had yet to take the heavenlies, so that the kingdom of heaven might begin and be established. Being raised, He had as yet to fill all things, and to associate the church in this new and heavenly glory (Eph. 4:8-10). The church in heavenly glory is the counsel of God, determined and prepared before the foundations of the world (Eph. 1:3-11). Yet she is hidden from preceding ages and generations as the mystery of God, now revealed by the Holy Spirit sent down (Eph. 3:1-11). The rejection of Jesus by His people as the Jewish Messiah, in the wisdom of God’s plan, brings an end to the Jewish dispensation, and makes the way for the bringing forth of the kingdom of heaven. The kingdom of heaven is based on the glorified Son of Man, not a rejected Jewish Messiah who came according to the flesh and natural descent.
Also we should note that this transition between the two dispensations – the Jewish dispensation to that of the kingdom of heaven in mystery – is particularly seen in Matthew’s gospel. The reason for this has to do with the specific character of Matthew’s gospel given to it by the Spirit of God. If the term ‘the kingdom of heaven’ is exclusive to this gospel, then it certainly forms part of its specific character. Matthew’s gospel is said to be the gospel of Messiah – it has the character of Jesus coming to Israel to fulfill promises and prophecy according to what was written in the law and prophets (Matt. 1:22, 2:5, 15, etc.). The Messianic theme of Matthew’s gospel is also established in its very first verse – “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the Son of David, the Son of Abraham.” (Matt. 1:1) So then, the term ‘the kingdom of heaven’ is distinctly used by the Spirit to show this transition of dispensation, and the spiritual reality of the setting aside of all things related and connected to Israel.