There was another biblical institution associated with Israel during the time of the Jewish dispensation – God’s calling. In the time of Abraham this institution was given place and prominence in God’s word. Among other things, Abraham was called of God (Gen. 12:1–3). I have no doubt there were others called before him, but it is with Abraham we first see the emphasis of this principle in God’s revelation. He was called to go to a particular land God would show him. God would make him great and physically bless him. God would bless the entire world through him. The promises God made to Abraham are an integral part of his calling.
The Jews were the natural descendants of Abraham, and like him, were chosen by God. He made Israel His own special people above all others. Israel’s calling is actually the same as Abraham’s, simply because it is God’s intention to fulfill Abraham’s calling through them. Israel, as a nation on the earth and in the Promised Land, will be the instrument through which God will fulfill the promises He made to Abraham (Gen. 12:1–3). Abraham’s calling is Israel’s calling, and vice versa.
Biblical calling is a destiny. As Abraham’s natural descendants, Israel’s calling is to enter and possess the Promised Land. They will multiply there and be physically blessed by God and become the greatest nation on the earth. Their calling includes God blessing the entire world through them. I believe most of us know that the time in which God will fulfill His promises to Abraham by blessing and using Israel in this way will be in the future millennial dispensation. God will be faithful to keep every promise He made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, Israel’s forefathers. It is not possible for God to do otherwise (Rom. 3:1–4).
Israel’s calling and its connection to the promises God made to their forefathers can be seen in this remarkable passage in Exodus six – God is speaking to Moses concerning Israel, after he was sent back by God to Egypt to deliver them.
Exodus 6:2–8 (NKJV)
2 And God spoke to Moses and said to him: “I am the Lord. 3 I appeared to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, as God Almighty, but by My name Lord I was not known to them. 4 I have also established My covenant with them, to give them the land of Canaan, the land of their pilgrimage, in which they were strangers. 5 And I have also heard the groaning of the children of Israel whom the Egyptians keep in bondage, and I have remembered My covenant. 6 Therefore say to the children of Israel: ‘I am the Lord; I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, I will rescue you from their bondage, and I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. 7 I will take you as My people, and I will be your God. Then you shall know that I am the Lord your God who brings you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. 8 And I will bring you into the land which I swore to give to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and I will give it to you as a heritage: I am the Lord.’”
God says He had already established a covenant with the forefathers, which mostly involved the promise of giving them the land of Canaan and blessing them in it. But a covenant established is not a covenant fulfilled. What might we mean by this? God had yet to actually give the land as a possession to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We see this distinction made by God in His words to Moses. In the lifetimes of the forefathers, although brought into the land, they were only considered strangers on a pilgrimage in it. They never actually possessed it as their own (Heb. 11:13). And if they never possessed it, we should realize that God’s calling of the forefathers has yet to be fulfilled.
The covenant was established because it was a sure thing in the mind of God. How do we understand this? What I mean is that the actual fulfillment of the promise/covenant depended on God alone, His faithfulness. The fulfillment did not depend on anything Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob would or would not do to earn it. The promise/covenant was one sided; it is what we call unconditional – the forefathers did not have to meet any conditions in order for the promise to be fulfilled (eventually).
Let’s summarize what we have already observed and please excuse any redundancy. Abraham’s calling contained the promises God made to him, which became a covenant established with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. The three forefathers of the nation of Israel never possessed the land as their own. In their lifetimes, they were only strangers in the land in which their families lived and walked (please see Heb. 11:8–9, 13). It would be through Israel, the natural descendants of Abraham, that God would fulfill His promise/covenant to him. Since Abraham’s calling encompassed the land and God’s promises, and Israel’s calling is the same as his, then Israel’s calling is to be brought by God into the land and to have all the promises God made to Abraham fulfilled through them. Abraham’s calling is Israel’s calling; the covenant God established with Abraham would eventually be fulfilled by God through Israel; the promises God made to Abraham are the same promises God will be faithful to accomplish with Israel. Abraham was promised the land, but the forefathers never possessed it; Israel will eventually be given the land and will possess it as an eternal inheritance.
We know that Israel’s prophetic Scriptures declare that God will be faithful to do for Israel all He has promised the forefathers, despite all their previous failures in their history. Because God cannot be anything other than faithful, He will perform all in redeeming Israel, bringing them back into the land to restore them and making of them a great nation. God will do so in sovereign grace, for the honor and glory of His own name (Ez. 36:16–38). This is Israel’s calling, but it is God who will do the work and receive all the glory for it. And these events must wait for a future dispensation – the millennium. It is then God will turn back and specifically deal with Israel’s calling again. In the millennium God will bring back into the land a faithful Jewish remnant. He will say to them, “You will be My people, and I will be your God,” – the prophetic language depicting Israel’s calling (Jer. 30:22, 31:1, 31:33, Ez. 11:20, 34:30–31, 36:28, Heb. 8:10).
However, we also realize that in Israel’s past God did bring the Jews into the land. Why wasn’t this the fulfillment of their calling? The critical understanding is that just as with the principle of government, the institution of calling could not be made good solely by Israel’s responsibility. The entire Jewish dispensation fell in the period of time when God had placed the children of Adam on probation, and He specifically tested Israel concerning their responsibility (appendix A). The Babylonian captivity may have severed the institution of government from Israel, but God continued to acknowledge the calling of His people until they had crucified His Son. After the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD, God no longer recognized the Jews as His people. What remained of Israel in the land at that time were scattered by God into the Gentile nations (Luke 21:20–24). It easily could be said of the Jews, ‘These are the people of the Lord, and yet they have gone out of His land.’ (Ez. 36:20)
The success of Israel’s first entrance into the land under Joshua depended strictly on Israel’s performance. Would they keep God’s covenant of law, and when they didn’t, would they receive the Messiah when He came? The first destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians was God’s judgment of the Jews for their corporate failures with law and government. The second destruction by the Romans was God fully setting Israel aside and no longer acknowledging them as His people. This involved the institution of calling. How can we be so sure? When Israel was set aside concerning government, the principle was given by God to the Gentiles (Babylon was the first world empire). When Israel was set aside concerning God’s calling, the Jewish dispensation ended and the principle of calling was given to the church (howbeit, a very different calling than that of Israel).162
162 [The callings of God are irrevocable (Rom. 11:29). The church’s existence follows after Israel being set aside by God. But God does not take Israel’s calling away from them. They have a national calling, which is unchangeable and irrevocable. Therefore, the church cannot have the same calling as Israel, and God can only recognize her calling at completely separate times (different dispensations)]
In summary, the Jewish dispensation falls in the period of time when God had placed fallen man on probation (appendix B). At the time Israel was delivered from Egypt (the beginning of the Jewish dispensation), there were two great biblical institutions intimately associated with the Jews: government and calling. However, because of mankind’s probation, the maintaining of these institutions in Israel depended solely on the corporate responsibility of the nation. The growth and ripening of Israel’s idolatry in the times of Elijah and Jeremiah ended God’s long-suffering with the Jews in reference to His law and government. The theocratic kingdom ends in Israel when God removes His glory and presence from the temple back to heaven. The principle of government of the earth was given to the Gentiles, and “the times of the Gentiles” begin (Luke 21:24).
However, to a certain extent, God still recognized Israel’s calling as His own people. He brought a remnant back into the land from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem’s walls and temple. When God came into the world in the form of the Son, Scripture tells us He came to His own people (John 1:11). God still was acknowledging Israel’s calling. But the Jews crucified and killed the Son, and God’s long-suffering with Israel came to an end. God sets Israel aside and no longer recognizes them as His people. The Jewish dispensation ends by the setting aside of Israel’s calling. The Christian dispensation has replaced the Jewish one. The principle of God’s calling is no longer with Israel. Now God acknowledges only the calling of the church.
Rom. 11:29 (NKJV)
“For the gifts and the callings of God are irrevocable.”
When the apostle said this by the Spirit of God, he was specifically referring to the nation of Israel and their calling. It is sure, unchanging, eternal, and irrevocable, because it comes from God and can only be fulfilled by God. This may strike you as odd, but calling may only be accomplished by God – it is fulfilled through His own workmanship. God’s work in accomplishing His counsels has the character of being eternal. This is why callings are irrevocable – they represent what God will eventually do in the future for the particular group being called. Paul is saying that although Israel has been cut off and hardened by God and are enemies of the gospel of Christ, still they are beloved by God for the sake of the fathers (Rom. 11:25–29). God will eventually turn back to Israel’s calling to perfectly fulfill it, for the sake of the forefathers and the promises He made to them.
The survival of the Jews to this very day is because God made unconditional promises to Abraham in His calling of him. We see this reality after the nation was birthed out of Egypt and brought before Jehovah at Mt. Sinai. When they made and worshiped the golden calf, God wanted to destroy the whole nation (Ex. 32:1–10, Deut. 9:8–14). Only by the intercession of Moses did Jehovah relent. And what did Moses appeal to, in order for God to turn away His wrath from Israel?
Exodus 32:13–14 (NKJV)
13 Remember Abraham, Isaac, and Israel, Your servants, to whom You swore by Your own self, and said to them, ‘I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven; and all this land that I have spoken of I give to your descendants, and they shall inherit it forever.’” 14 So the Lord relented from the harm which He said He would do to His people.
Moses appeals to the promises God made to Abraham when He called him. God couldn’t destroy this nation, the actual physical descendants of Abraham, if He was to remain faithful to the forefathers in keeping the unconditional covenant He had established with them (Gen. 12:1–3, 7, 13:15). Moses always asks Jehovah to remember Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Deut. 9:27). Because God made promises to these three, and because He is a faithful God, He must make sure that a portion of all twelve tribes of Israel continues to survive through history.163
163 [After God takes the true church from the earth, fulfilling its heavenly calling, the Christian dispensation will transition to a close in the seven-year tribulation. The removal of the church completes God’s heavenly calling, and allows Him to turn back to Israel and once again acknowledge the earthly calling of the Jews. At the beginning of the tribulation God seals a numbered Jewish remnant – 144,000 consisting of 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes (Rev. 7:1–8). Although, in their past, God had to set Israel aside and no longer acknowledge their calling, still He watched over His people to preserve them (please see Ez. 11:16-17)]
If the covenant God established with Abraham was unconditional, then Abraham’s calling to inherit the land was also unconditional. It was this covenant with Abraham that God acted on to deliver the nation of Israel out of Egypt (Ex. 2:23–25, 6:2–8). When God explains His choice of Israel, making them a special treasure unto Himself above all the other nations, the only reason He gives is His own faithfulness to the promises He made to the forefathers, and the fact the Jews are their physical descendants.
Deuteronomy 7:6–8 (NKJV)
6 “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; 8 but because the Lord loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers, the Lord has brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you from the house of bondage, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
It should be obvious that God’s counsels are to fulfill the calling and promises He made to Abraham through Israel, his natural descendants. Therefore, like Abraham, Israel’s calling has to be unconditional as well. Their calling is to be brought into the land by God, and to be physically blessed beyond measure. In God’s counsels, Israel is to remain in the land and possess it forever.
But God did bring Israel into the land under Joshua. Why wasn’t this the fulfillment of their calling? Why couldn’t Joshua give them rest? (Heb. 4:8) How did the Jews go from an unconditional calling to one that, at the time, was something different? These are all good questions, and we will find the word of God sufficient to answer them.
The answer: No one doubts that God redeemed Israel out of Egypt through mighty demonstrations of His awesome power (Deut. 4:32–35, 26:8). But Israel’s redemption was also the display of God’s sovereign grace shown to this nation. His judgment passed over Israel, even though they were just as guilty as the Egyptians. When in slavery, many in Israel embraced the idols of Egypt. When God brought them out and they passed through the Red Sea on dry land, many brought Egypt’s idols with them (Ez. 20:5–10). God had to overlook this and show mercy to them. And not one individual of Israel was left behind. The entire nation was brought out by God. His own testimony concerning Israel’s deliverance was this,
“You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to Myself.” (Ex. 19:4)
It was all the grand display of God’s sovereign power and grace – judgment of the Egyptians and deliverance for Israel. This was the sovereign work of God which began the Jewish dispensation.
But this is where things change for Israel. Up to this point God was responsible for doing everything. Now He makes the request that they obey His voice and keep His covenant. If they would be responsible to do so, God would bless them and they would be special to Him (Ex. 19:5). Israel promises Jehovah they will do all the Lord has spoken (Ex. 19:8). Now Israel has agreed to place themselves under a covenant of law, and the promises and blessings of God (unconditionally promised to Abraham) are now conditioned on their obedience. From this point forward, everything associated with Israel, including the institutions of government and calling, now depended on the obedience and performance of the nation before God.
Jeremiah 7:21–28 (NKJV)
21 “Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. 22 For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’ 24 Yet they did not obey or incline their ear, but followed the counsels and the dictates of their evil hearts, and went backward and not forward. 25 Since the day that your fathers came out of the land of Egypt until this day, I have even sent to you all My servants the prophets, daily rising up early and sending them. 26 Yet they did not obey Me or incline their ear, but stiffened their neck. They did worse than their fathers.
27 “Therefore you shall speak all these words to them, but they will not obey you. You shall also call to them, but they will not answer you.
28 “So you shall say to them, ‘This is a nation that does not obey the voice of the Lord their God nor receive correction. Truth has perished and has been cut off from their mouth.”
Through the prophet Jeremiah the Lord makes known the truth of the history of the nation of Israel, from their birth as a nation delivered out of Egypt to the Babylonian captivity. It is obvious that from Mt. Sinai on, Israel was under responsibility to obey what God had commanded them in order to be blessed. In the Jewish dispensation, the biblical institutions of calling and government given to Israel depended on their obedience to God. In the above passage we see reference to their calling as God’s chosen people – “obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people.” But the passage shows from God’s perspective Israel’s utter failure to obey Him in their history.164
164 [Note that in the passage the responsibility on which the blessing of the dispensation hung was Israel’s obedience to God’s law and commands. When He at first brought them out of Egypt, He did not command them concerning sacrifices and burnt offerings. The testing concerned their obedience, not in how many sacrifices they would ritually make. The sacrifices only preserved Israel in the long-suffering of God. They truly failed at the beginning of the dispensation with the golden calf, and from that point all depended on the mercy and grace of God. The reality is that obedience is far better than sacrifice (I Sam. 15:22, Isa. 1:11–15, Heb. 10:8). See also Jer. 11:3–5 for a similar passage]
It is vital for the proper understanding of Scripture that we see the big pictures that biblical principles provide for us. An important one to keep in focus is that the entire Jewish dispensation involved God’s testing the responsibility of fallen man under the best of circumstances. The results and outcomes of the Jewish dispensation were completely dependent on the principle of human responsibility. A bigger picture than this is that man in Adam was put on probation by God from the time he was chased out of the garden. God was looking for obedience from the creature and judging it. However, even bigger is the reality that from the time God created Adam and placed him in the garden, He was proving man’s responsibility – God gave Adam one command to obey. The severity of Adam’s disobedience was greater than any other man (Rom. 5:14, 18); in paradise, Adam was in a different state/condition than when he was chased out. In the garden, Adam was innocent – without the knowledge of good and evil. Chased out of the garden, he was fallen – utterly depraved and unable to maintain obedience to God.
The period of man’s probation starts with his eviction from paradise and lasts until the cross of Christ (appendix B). God fully understood fallen man’s depravity. He simply needed time to thoroughly prove to mankind the severity of man’s condition brought about by Adam’s disobedience. Although the Jewish dispensation lasted a long time, from Moses to Jesus Christ, still its entire expanse fits into the period of man’s probation. God used the Jewish dispensation to further test fallen man by giving the Jews ten commands to obey. When the Jews proved incapable of this, God asked them to receive their Messiah/King when sent to them. They had been given the prophecies and Davidic promises. But fallen man also proved incapable of receiving Him. They crucified their promised King.
An important part of the bigger picture is understanding that the Jewish dispensation wasn’t just about Israel. Even though there are many things associated with Israel that exclusively belong to them (such as their calling, Messiah, the Promised Land, etc.), still there was a greater scope of importance and implications with the Jewish dispensation than we see with these. All mankind in Adam were fallen and depraved. God was testing and proving this state of man. In the Jewish dispensation, the Jews not only represented themselves as a nation, but also represented all the children of Adam. In the later part of man’s probation, Israel served as the privileged and ideal test-case, representing fallen man. This is what the Jews were – man in Adam, in the flesh, fallen and depraved. Their redemption out of Egypt did nothing to change this condition. When they crucified and killed Jesus Christ, concurrently man’s probation period and the Jewish dispensation ended. At that time, God condemned the entire world (John 12:31). He declared mankind lost and guilty before Him (Rom. 3:19).
Israel couldn’t produce any good fruit (Isa. 5:1–7). There was nothing but failure. God’s testing of mankind ended when the Jewish dispensation ended, soon after the rejection of Messiah. The following two Scripture passages confirm this biblical understanding: Galatians. 4:4-5 and Hebrews. 9:26. In God’s mind it was the end of the world, because the time had come for condemning it (John 12:31).
Israel was the test case for God’s testing of man in the flesh. They represented all mankind. The Jews were the most privileged people on the face of the earth. But man in the flesh could never please God (Rom. 8:8). The testing of the Jews 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 natural man always fails in responsibility. This is the testimony of God concerning man in Adam and this is man’s story played out in Scripture.
Knowing these truths and principles, and seeing the bigger picture involving Israel and the Jewish dispensation, it is easier to see that Israel’s calling has been set aside by God. With the end of their dispensation, the institution of calling is no longer recognized in Israel. God no longer acknowledges it. If it depended on Israel’s obedience to God to maintain their calling, this institution’s association with Israel was in trouble from the beginning of the dispensation. Even though God brought Israel into the land under Joshua, He simply could not keep them there (Ez. 36:20). The long-suffering of God to maintain the dispensation runs out with the crucifixion of Christ. “Calling” was no longer recognized. The Jews were set aside, and their house was made desolate (Matt. 23:37–39). The institution of God’s calling is now with the church.
By now the reader may have come to an important realization – the dispensational system presented in this book is one that is based on the principle of God’s calling.
- The Jewish Dispensation: We readily see that as long as God continued to acknowledge the Jews as His chosen people, the Jewish dispensation continued. However, the long-suffering of God towards Israel ended when they crucified His Son. He set the Jews aside and ended their dispensation. God was saying to them, “I will not be your God and you will not be My people.” (Hos. 1:9) He was no longer acknowledging the calling of the Jewish people. Israel’s calling – their destiny to inherit the land and be blessed in it – remains unfulfilled.
- The Christian dispensation: This took the place of the Jewish dispensation. God’s calling was now with the believer/church (Heb. 3:1). They are chosen by God out of the nations. Their inheritance is in heaven. The rapture takes the church to heaven, fulfilling her calling. After this, the Christian dispensation will soon end.
- The millennium: During the future tribulation, God will again recognize the calling of Israel. When Jesus returns to the earth and during the millennial dispensation, God will again say to Israel, “You are My people, and I am your God.” The Jews will be restored in their land and live there forever. This will fulfill God’s calling of Israel.
This is the biblical principle of God’s calling. There are only two corporate bodies to receive God’s irrevocable calling – Israel and the church. The three dispensations are based on whether God is acknowledging the earthly calling of the Jews or the heavenly calling of the believer/church (appendix A). He never recognizes two callings at the same time. Therefore there are only three Bible dispensations and one dispensation must end so another may come into being.165
165 [These dispensational principles are straight-forward and simple. The theological system presented in this book is readily seen in Scripture. There also is a dispensational system based on the biblical principle of God’s government of the earth (appendix E). We’ll briefly speak of this system later in this book. It is only a slight variation from a dispensational system based on God’s calling (appendix A)]