Everybody in Christianity knows that the history of the Old Testament scriptures is dominated by God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. This starts in Exodus, the second book of Scripture, although the story of the lives of the patriarchs is told in Genesis. The great body of prophetic scripture is found in the Old Testament written by Jewish prophets. They were given a measure of the Spirit from time to time in order to speak the words of God (John 3:34). We do well to note the character and nature of these types of passages.
The Nature and Character of Prophetic Scriptures
- All prophetic scripture is related to Israel. Jehovah mainly deals directly with Israel, but other times indirectly by using the Gentiles as a means of correction or judgment against them. Prophecy revolves around Israel because, in the end, as a people they become the centerpiece of the earthly glory of Jesus Christ.
- Prophecy is about the earth and God’s dealings and government of the earth (Dan 4:25, 34-37). Israel is the earthly calling of God and everything in their history and religion connects them to the world. All the promises given to them connect them to the earth and the land, and are certainly earthy in nature. Israel and Jerusalem are the central locations for the future government of God on this earth according to prophecy.
- Prophecy is about the counting of time concerning Israel (Dan. 9:24). And time being counted is only on the earth and about earthly things. Time is not counted in the heavens or with heavenly things.
The Nature and Character of the Gospels and the Book of Acts
A lot of the material in the gospels is related to Israel and God’s dealings with them as a people and nation. We see there the story of God sending the Messiah of prophecy to Israel (Matt. 1:21-23), and their rejection of Him (Matt. 27:35-37). They would not have Him as their King, but instead wanted Caesar (John 19:15). In the gospels we see God set Israel aside, their house would remain desolate. This desolation would be for a long time, until this same Jesus, their Messiah, comes to them again and they say, “Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord.” (Matt. 23:37-39) This setting aside of Israel as a people is told in the gospels and in the book of Acts, if we would have spiritual eyes to see.
(23) “So when they had appointed him a day, many came to him at his lodging, to whom he explained and solemnly testified of the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus from both the Law of Moses and the Prophets, from morning till evening. (24) And some were persuaded by the things which were spoken, and some disbelieved. (25) So when they did not agree among themselves, they departed after Paul had said one word: “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet to our fathers, (26) saying,
‘Go to this people and say:
“Hearing you will hear, and shall not understand;
And seeing you will see, and not perceive;
(27) For the hearts of this people have grown dull.
Their ears are hard of hearing,
And their eyes they have closed,
Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears,
Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn,
So that I should heal them.”’
(28) “Therefore let it be known to you that the salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will hear it!” (29) And when he had said these words, the Jews departed and had a great dispute among themselves.”
This is the end of the book of Acts and it is about the blindness of the nation of Israel. It is a definite turning away from Israel by God, and a turning to the Gentiles. My point is that there is a great part of Scripture that involves God’s dealings with the nation of Israel. More than we would probably want to admit as Christians. If Israel is involved in so much of this book we hold dear, we would do well then to understand Israel and God’s ways in dealing with them. I cannot fathom ever having a thorough comprehension of Scripture without an understanding of God’s thoughts and ways toward this people.
The Mind of God towards Israel revealed in Scripture
First we should ask this question – What makes Israel so special to God? Israel has always been a privileged nation; we can all say they are God’s chosen people. But what does this mean? Do we have a Biblical understanding of this question and related statements, and do we know God’s thoughts and mind concerning Israel?
“For you are a holy people to the Lord your God; the Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself, a special treasure above all the peoples on the face of the earth. (7) The Lord did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;”
Israel is special to God. This has to be in reference to something that isn’t as special to Jehovah. The passage reads, “…above all the peoples on the face of the earth.” There it is! Israel is special to God in comparison to all other peoples, all other nations. This is one Biblical understanding, one truth, concerning the mind of God towards Israel. But there are other truths to realize here.
- The Lord your God has chosen you to be a people for Himself. They are a chosen people, and chosen by God.
- The Lord did not choose them because they were more in number. They actually were the least of all peoples. The reason for God choosing Israel was not found in Israel – anything they were, anything they would do, or anything they had done. They were not a great people, but the least of all peoples. God’s choice of Israel had nothing to do with Israel, in and of themselves.
- The reason God chose them is not given. He set His love on them, but His reasons for doing so are hidden within Himself. One revealed spiritual truth in Scripture concerning the choices God makes is that they all serve to glorify Him, always (Rom. 9:17). But even here we must have a certain understanding. God will be glorified in Israel, not by anything they will do, but by what God does for them in sovereign power and grace (Ez. 36:16-38, 37:21-28).
The Separation of Israel by God
Israel has been a privileged nation. They were a chosen people. They were separated from the Gentiles, God built a wall around them in their religion. But this is what it means, nothing more than this. They were a holy people unto the Lord because they were separated from the Gentiles. But it is important to note in scripture what it was they were not separated from:
- Israel was not separated from the world. They remained very much a part of this world.
- Israel was not separated from the flesh. They were never in the Spirit, but rather remained a people in the flesh (John 4:21-23, Rom. 8:8-9). Their unity as a nation was in the flesh – by birth as the physical descendants of Abraham with the sign of circumcision in the flesh. Israel never had a walk of faith, but one by sight and senses. Their religion was given to them by God, but it was geared to the flesh. It separated them from the other Gentile gods and false worship, but did not separate them from the flesh.
- Israel was not separated in position from the first Adam. Israel always remained in Adam and eventually refused a new position in the second Adam. They refused the second Adam altogether. By rejecting Jesus Christ they are rejecting the Father (John 15:21-25) and actually rejecting the God they say they worship (John 8:54-55).
I said all this to show that Israel was a very privileged people. They had the oracles of God (Rom. 3:1-2). They had the promises, the covenants, the law, the tabernacle service, the patriarchs, and Christ coming to them in the flesh (Rom. 9:4-5). The Gentiles had none of this. When we say these things we must maintain the proper scriptural understanding concerning them. This separation is obviously all God, in what He thinks, what He decides, and what He does. It is nothing in Israel and it is everything in God. We must think as God thinks concerning them.
Israel’s Future according to the Faithfulness of God
There is coming a future time when God will recognize Israel as His people again. When He does, it will be according to His own faithfulness (Rom. 3:1-4). God will choose a remnant that He will seal and preserve. He will save and form a nation this way, all by His own work. At that time He will fulfill every promise He has ever made to this people, by sovereign power and grace. It will no longer be a testing of the principle of responsibility in Israel. They will produce fruit unto God, but it will be by the principle of divine sovereign power and grace.
The Believer/Church is privileged of God
The believer/church is also in a privileged position, except a much higher one than that of Israel. We have been brought to this by God through faith in the shed blood of Jesus Christ (Rom. 3:25). It is similar to Israel in that it is all by the sovereign choice and grace of God. It was nothing in us, nothing we had done or would do. God will never allow any boasting, not in Israel and not in the church. It is all God’s work. We are God’s workmanship, created by Him, created in Christ Jesus (Eph. 2:10).
“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”
These verses should suffice to show conclusively that the believer is in his new position by the sovereign work of God. We are born of God. Children of God are not born of blood – that would be natural birth and in Adam. Children of God are not born by the will of the flesh or by the will of man – this would be man’s decisions and choices. Similar to God’s choice of Israel, the believer is chosen by God in sovereign grace.
The Believer’s Position in Christ
That seems to be where the similarities between God’s choice of Israel and His choice of the believer end. The position we have been given as believers is greater than that of Israel in every way. We have an association with Jesus Christ, the very Son of the living God. We are not of this world. We have no relationship with the world and have been set apart from it. Our relationships are all new. They are with Christ and with the Father God. Our associations, relationships, and position are all different now. These things are present realities of the believer’s placement ‘in Christ.’ And in these truths we have been privileged with brighter and more blessed purposes in Christ. What is this new position for the believer/church?
“Jesus said to her, “Do not cling to Me, for I have not yet ascended to My Father; but go to My brethren and say to them, ‘I am ascending to My Father and your Father, and to My God and your God.’”
The Believer’s position is the Son of Man’s position
There should be no doubt in the believer’s mind that this passage describes his new position in Christ Jesus. The association with Him is contained in His language. The new relationships are clearly defined by His words. The new position for the believer is the same position that the Son of God has as the Son of Man raised from the dead. His Father, as the Son of God, is our Father, as the sons of God in Him (Gal. 3:26). His God, as the Son of Man, is our God – this is established by our being crucified with Christ (Gal. 2:20, Rom. 6:6), dying with Him (Rom. 6:8, Col. 2:20, 3:3), buried with Him (Rom. 6:4, Col. 2:12), and then being raised from the dead with Him (Col. 2:12, Col. 3:1, Eph. 1:19-20, 2:5). Further, Christ calls us brethren. We are brothers together, and sons with Him. This is our new position. This is the privileged position of the believer.
1.) The believer is born of God (John 1:13), and therefore we are the new creation of God in Christ (II Cor. 5:17, Col. 3:10, Eph. 4:24). It is Christ living in us; the life we have is Christ (Gal. 2:20, Col. 3:3-4). We are partakers of the divine nature – a nature necessary to even have a relationship with God, and to enjoy that relationship in fellowship and communion with Him.
2 Peter 1:2-4
“Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, (3) as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, (4) by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.”
Is this not a privileged position? We partake of the nature of God. The life in us is Jesus Christ, and that life is the resurrected life of the Son of Man raised from the dead. God has given to us all things concerning this divine life and nature (godliness). Our calling is to glory. The privilege and promises are exceedingly great and precious!
2.) As the Son of Man raised up and exalted on high, Christ re-enters the glory of God. All the glory He receives as the Son of Man He shares with the believer (John 17:22). Then He says this:
“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.”
The Believer’s Association with Christ – wonderful privilege
His fervent desire is not to be alone. Do we remember what He said earlier in this gospel? “The hour has come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Most assuredly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the ground and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it produces much grain.” (John 12:23-24) The Son of Man will not be alone. Christ’s desire is for the believer/church to be with Him where He is, to behold His glory and to share in it with Him. We know this will be by the rapture of the church. Our bodies will be glorified and we will be caught up into the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and thus, we will always be with the Lord.
Beyond this, when the Scriptures speak of Christ being manifested (appearing) to the world, we know it is for the judgment of the world. But His appearing is with glory, and the church will appear (manifested) to the world with Him, in this glory (Col. 3:4). This is the earthly glory of Jesus Christ, the Son of Man. We easily see then, from the Scriptures, that we share in the heavenly glory of Christ having been physically taken to the Father’s house, and also rule and reign in the earthly glory of Christ, being manifested with Him to the world.
Our associations with Christ have brought us into wonderful privilege. We are blessed by the Father with every spiritual blessing in the heavens (Eph. 1:3). The Father Himself chose us (Eph. 1:4). The Father Himself predestined us in His love (Eph. 1:5), and enabled us as acceptable to Him in His beloved Son (Eph. 1:6). Being placed in Christ, we have obtained an inheritance. It is the same inheritance the Father gives to His Son (Heb. 1:2), for we are brethren together with Him, all the sons of the Father (Eph. 1:11, Gal. 4:6-7, Rom. 8:14-17, Col. 1:12).
The Rapture – the Believer’s Privilege in Christ
These Biblical truths show us the reality of our associations, relationships, and new position. There is profound spiritual privilege connected to these things. It is in accordance with our spiritual privilege that the Lord will come for us. We will be gathered together to Him, and the church will physically depart this world (I Thess. 4:13-18, II Thess. 2:1). To deny the doctrine of the rapture of the church is to deny the existence of all this spiritual privilege. It is also to deny our proper relationship and association with Him.
“I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.”
We are privileged to depart this world under the same principles and in the same manner in which Christ departed this world. The believer is not of it, just as He is not of it. Our place is not in this world, but we are already seated in heavenly places in Him (Eph. 2:6). By principle and privilege we will be brought there in physical presence. Before He departed He said He was going away to prepare a place for us in the Father’s house (John 14:2-3). These are the places He prepares – they are in the heavens. So then the church is not expecting Christ’s appearing to this world in judgment, as if we will still be here just like this evil world. No! We are expecting His coming for us, and our gathering together unto Him.
The True Church is not of the Earth
The denial of this doctrine serves to bring the church’s hopes and affections from the heavens down to this earth. She (the church, the bride of Christ) will not be seeking those things above, where Christ is, sitting at the right hand of God (Col. 3:1-2). Rather she will set her mind on things on the earth and her affections and life will be found here. She will become part of the world. This is the moral decline and decay of the professing church. To the degree the church world has lost sight of His coming, its earnest expectation, and the teaching of the rapture, is the extent to which she has grown apostate. The true holding of the doctrine in earnest is what keeps the believer/church separated from the world.
Christ is Head, Firstborn, Firstfruits, and Forerunner for the True Church
Our association with Christ is that He is the firstborn among many brethren (Rom. 8:29). He is the forerunner for us, entering in behind the veil in the heavens (Heb. 6:19-20). Jesus Christ is the one who will bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). We are the body of Christ of which He is the Head. We are the bride and He is the Bridegroom. The church is the fullness of the One who fills all things (Eph. 1:22-23, 4:10). The Son of Man risen from the dead is the firstfruits of our brethren who have fallen asleep (I Cor. 15:20). So then:
1 Corinthians 15:23
“But each one in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, afterward those who are Christ’s at His coming.”
He is coming for the church. It is the privilege of our association and relationship with Him. He is coming for those who are His. This is the rapture of the church. This is the believer’s proper hope and constant expectation.
Chapter 9: Endnotes
 The sovereign choice of God in Israel, the physical descendants of Abraham, can easily be traced in the Scriptures. “For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called.’ That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed.” (Rom. 9:6-8) There are actually two types of seed in Abraham being spoken of here, the physical line and the spiritual line. Both center on God’s choice of Isaac. The physical line of the true Israel would be called through Isaac instead of Ishmael, the other son.“For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son.” (Rom. 9:9) For the spiritual line – the children of God – Isaac serves as a type prefiguring Abraham’s one true Seed, who is Christ (Gal. 3:16, Heb. 11:17-19). For the spiritual line, this is where the tracing stops – in Christ – and goes no farther. The believer/church is the spiritual seed. The believer/church is ‘in Christ.’ (Gal. 3:26-29) It was in the one Seed of Abraham that the covenant of promise was confirmed.
God’s choice in the physical line is highlighted again by His choice of Jacob over Esau in the third generation. The explanation is stated, “…that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him (God) who calls…” (Rom. 9:10-14) This is simply the sovereign will of God shown in His choice of Jacob over Esau, without allowance for any Arminian explanation to the contrary. As God, He has the right to make choices in His will. And when He does make any choice, He remains absolutely righteous in doing so – What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? (Rom. 9:14) The Biblical answer to this accusation is ‘certainly not’; there is no unrighteousness in God. But what is the Biblical explanation?
First, all should realize that unrighteousness in God is an impossibility. God could not be God or remain God if unrighteousness could ever be found in Him. It is foreign to the entire nature and character of God. We’re speaking of the one true God here, not some Greek or Roman mythology. If you can conceive of the possibility of some measure of unrighteousness in God, then you simply, like the Jews, do not know the God you say you worship (John 8:54-55). But the explanation must go farther than this.
If you hold the Arminian leaven this passage of Scripture becomes difficult to accept. It goes against the foundational elements of what you believe as realities in Christianity. This entire passage is against the Arminian thought that the ‘free will’ of man is the all-powerful determining factor of destiny, that the will of the creature trumps the will of God, and that by reasoning, seeking, calculating, and weighing out all options, by the use of his intellect and faculties, man makes his decisions out of his own will that God then is forced to honor. Yet the very next verse in Romans says this, “For He says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion.” (Rom. 9:15) It is the sovereign God’s choice. It is His decision. He doesn’t abdicate it to man.
Why is there no unrighteousness in God? Because all mankind is utterly depraved and totally lost. And this again is another issue in the Arminian leaven. To believe as they do this cannot be the true state and condition of man. They want to reason, “There is good in man and I have seen it. He cannot be that bad, he is not totally lost. He can seek God, and under the right conditions and circumstances, He does seek after God. He is not a total slave to sin, not totally, just partially. He has a free will and He can decide. He can made good decisions.” Yet man in Adam is a slave to sin. I do not doubt that he continues to make decisions, and he thinks he does so freely, but if he is a slave, how is he free? If he is a slave to sin, how can he be seeking God? Is sin and God the same thing? If sin is man’s master, it will not allow him to seek a new one. There is none that seek after God, no, not one. (Rom. 3)
If man is utterly depraved as the Scriptures conclusively teach, then all men are guilty and under the sentence of death, condemnation, and wrath from God (Rom. 3:19, 5:18). How then is God unrighteous for entering into this situation and acting by His own will and purposes? On top of this, His choice to enter in is motivated by His love (Rom. 5:8). How is this unrighteousness? If God did not act, all is lost! How can there be an accusation against God? Is it because it is not universal salvation? The next verse in Romans reads, “So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy.” (Rom. 9:16)
 The principle of the calling of God in Israel as a people and a nation, as the chosen people of God, is presently set aside by God. If God said, “You are not my people, and I am not your God,” the principle of God’s calling of them is set aside (Hosea 1:9). In 70 AD the city and temple were destroyed and the Jews that survived were scattered into the nations, not recognized by God as His people, but to live there as the unbelieving Gentiles. Not to worry – the gifts and callings of God are without repentance (Rom. 11:29). In the end He takes earthly Israel again as His people, pouring His Spirit out on a remnant, and forming a nation from them. On the earth, in the millennium, they will be God’s people again. The principle of the calling of God will return again to Israel at that time. God will again acknowledge Israel as His people.
The principle of calling is presently in the forming of the body of Christ by the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. It is not another earthly calling of a different nation by earthly promises, but a heavenly calling of individuals out of this world, and seated in heavenly places in Christ. For God to turn back to Israel, the earthly calling, He will have to remove the true church from the earth. God does not deal with two different callings at the same time. That is why Israel was set aside when they rejected their Messiah. God would reveal His mystery, send down the Holy Spirit to gather the body, and by the rapture of the church take her into the heavens. He then can and will turn His attention back to Israel and the judging of this world.
 The elect of Jesus’ prophecies is the Jewish remnant in the end, not the church (Matt 24:22-24, 31, Luke 18:7, Mark 13:20, 22, 27). I cannot stress this point enough. When teachers make the elect in these prophetic passages to be the church, it violates scriptural principles in a serious way. The difference between the two carries all the weight of the scriptural differences between the earthly calling and the heavenly calling. Jesus is speaking prophetically, standing as a Jewish prophet, an Old Testament prophet if you will. Nothing He says disagrees with Old Testament prophecy, nor does it reveal anything different from Old Testament writings, other than a greater progression of understanding of the prophecies themselves. He cannot be referencing the church at all. This would violate the scriptural principle that surrounds prophecy – it is always about Israel, the earth, and God’s government of the earth in view of how the Gentiles nations treat Israel. Prophecy is about Israel and the earth. The body of Christ is Christ, and of the heavens alone. In Christ there are no nations – that is a principle of the earth and of prophecy.