Summary: This article was written and published July ’15; edited Aug. ’17, and again in Dec. ’20. This subject is important in order for one to have a better understanding of certain aspects of dispensationalism as a theological system. The contemporary teaching of dispensationalism all to often allows the unhealthy mixing of Israel with the church, or Judaism with Christianity. Being able to see in Scripture how and why God set Israel aside, and this in order to transition to the new Christian dispensation, is of the greatest importance for sound dispensational thinking. Not only understanding this, but then seeing the resulting consequences this setting aside has on Jewish things – the Mosaic law, the covenant ending, the practice of Judaism, the destruction of Jerusalem and its temple (70 AD), the title of Messiah set aside, the Jewish people scattered into the nations, the Jewish dispensation ending. Although this article doesn’t deal with these Jewish things in much depth, it does explain Israel set aside by God and the Jewish dispensation ending, in order for God to transition and start the new Christian dispensation. This is simply an important understanding to possess, not only for the so called theologian, but also for any true believer to be able to see and distinguish Christian things with the eye of faith.
Let us start with one of these critical understandings: When Jesus went away back to heaven it was as the glorified Man – the Son of Man glorified (John 13:31-32; 7:39). He did not go away in the title or character of the Jewish Messiah come to Israel according to the flesh. Of course He was and still is the Messiah, Son of David and King of Israel. And He did come to Israel as the Son of David in the flesh and by natural descent (Rom. 9:4-5). But we all know that the Jews refused and rejected Him. The very ones who were given all the promises associated with Messiah, promises and privileges and earthly blessings that would specifically benefit them, have now, in rejecting Him, given up any claim or right to them. When God came in human flesh to visit His own people, they cast Him out (John 1:11, Matt. 21:37-39).
The title of Messiah to Israel according to prophecy and promises is set aside as long as the house of Israel remains divided and desolate. There cannot be a Messianic kingdom over a united Israel (twelve tribes united again, that is, the two separate kingdoms, Israel and Judah, brought back together again after being split apart after the time of Solomon – something that has not been done as yet by God, though we forget or refuse to see this important truth, the two sticks are as yet still separated, Ez. 37:15-22), with her Messiah throwing off all Gentile power and rule, if the house of Israel remains divided and desolate.
Here is another critical understanding: At the present time 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 (Rom. 11:29). 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’ (Rom. 11:26-27). 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 the humility of love, goodness, and mercy. However this first coming was based on the principle of human responsibility for the Jewish people. 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. This was predicted by Isaiah in his prophecies (Isa. 5:1-7). It was declared as the time of fulfillment by Jesus quoting Isaiah (Matt. 21:18-19). When Paul shows God setting Israel aside and turning to the Gentiles at the end of the book of Acts, he quotes this prophet’s condemning prophecy (Acts 28:25-28). Jesus and John testified that Isaiah’s words were fulfilled in the Jews when they rejected Him (Matt. 13:13-15, John 12:37-41).
Israel represented the entire human race of fallen mankind (https://www.reintgenchristianbooks.com/mankinds-probation-purpose/). The Jews were the test-case when the children of Adam were placed by God on probation. As God’s chosen people, the Lord tested Israel in two significant ways. First, by the law; Israel produced no fruit acceptable to God. The presentation of Messiah to Israel was the second/last testing of responsibility in man (Matt. 21:37). 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; 31:7-14).
This future return of Jesus is all God’s sovereign choice, grace, and power, according to His faithfulness to fulfill every promise He has ever made to Israel. His second coming to this world has nothing to do with Israel being responsible as a nation and doing something to pave the way, so to speak. 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. In the end God will glorify Himself by His own faithfulness to Israel, in spite of the entire history of the Jews (Please read Ez. 36:16-38 for an abbreviated history of Israel from God’s thoughts and perspective).
Messiah coming to Israel two thousand years ago proved to be an utter failure for that nation. God judged their responsibility and moral failure according to these words by the Lord:
“Now as He drew near, He saw the city and wept over it, 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. For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 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.”
“But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then know that its desolation is near. 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. For these are the days of vengeance, that all things which are written may be fulfilled. 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. 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 fulfilment 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 (Matt. 24:2). 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 am not your God.”
If we are taught by the Spirit in these biblical principles we should realize that prophecy has been set aside at this present time and that God no longer is counting time on the earth. Both the subject of prophecy and the counting of time are directly related to Israel and their earthly calling from God (Dan. 9:24-27). This calling is presently set aside. It becomes an easy spiritual insight to understand that the prophetic promises in and through Messiah to Israel are set aside as well. These are all scriptural principles related to each other, which center on Israel.
The prophet Micah gives us an Old Testament prophecy that couldn’t be clearer as to Israel being set aside by God and the reason for it:
1Now gather yourself in troops, O daughter of troops; He has laid siege against us;
They will strike the judge of Israel with the rod on the cheek.
2 “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you shall come forth to Me the One to be ruler in Israel, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
3Therefore He shall give them up, until the time that she who is in labor has given birth; then the remnant of His brethren shall return to the children of Israel.
This remarkable prophecy provides both information and explanation. The Jewish people struck their Judge on the cheek — they crucified their Messiah/King. In result God gives them up — Israel, as a nation, has been set aside (there isn’t a more poignant reason why God has set Israel aside and ended the Jewish dispensation than the Jews being guilty of killing God’s Son). This condition will last until a future time when the nation will travail again (the future tribulation period preceding the millennium). Until then, all things associated with Israel are given up and set aside by God.
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 passages that did not recognize the time of its visitation by the Messiah of Israel, 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 some 1500 years previous to His speaking? (Matt. 16:18) 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, completely different and separate hopes. One (Israel) was made desolate so the other (the church) could be revealed, come into existence, and be built by God. One (Israel) is the common subject of bible prophecy, while the other (the church) is the mystery of God hidden from prophecy and the prophets (Col. 1:24-26). Israel will have earthly blessings while the church will have heavenly blessings (Eph. 1:3). Israel will be restored in the land on the earth while the church will sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus throughout the ages to come (Eph. 2:6-7). These are quite profound differences, and they only represent the tip of the iceberg, so to speak, in contrasting Israel with the church.
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 (Isa. 9:6-7). Prophecy concerns earthly things. The church has a heavenly character, a heavenly citizenship, and heavenly calling. The one (Israel), 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 (the church), 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 – man at the center, and man as the source and answer. Long ago in the garden man exalted himself in sin, believing he could be like God. The evil and violent world that God destroyed with the flood was the result of man’s arrogance and sin. What had actually happened was man became a fallen sinner and utterly depraved, the flood and destruction of mankind the proof of this permanent condition. Later we find Judaism was the pride and confidence of human righteousness (Rom. 10:3, Phil. 3:9). And Christianity and Christendom hasn’t fared any better. The church world has fallen into the corruption of this humanistic leaven, being Judaized and Arminianized (human decision and effort) in all its teachings – all three lumps being leavened. I do not doubt there is no means or power to stop its spread and influence – the leaven 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 in Christendom (II Tim. 2:19-22; 3:5).
Israel and Christendom form the two corporate bodies which were given responsibility by God in their own separate dispensations. We know Israel has been set aside by God and their dispensation ended because they were mainly responsible for rejecting God’s Son. The current dispensation is the Christian one, where the profession of faith in God’s Son raised from the dead is the central identifier. Christendom, not Israel, is responsible for the testimony of the glory of God in the earth today. If we think dispensationally, we have to conclude Israel is set aside by God and made desolate. God’s dealings in the present dispensation are all with Christendom. If Israel has been set aside, God has no direct dealings with them (God does preserve the twelve tribes of Israel in the world in order to be faithful in fulfilling all His promises to them at a future time of His choosing. But these are providential dealings, not direct)
To finish this point allow me to return to the original thought that led to the above teaching. The title of Jesus as Messiah is associated with Israel while they are desolate and set aside. Therefore this title and all associated prophetic promises have to be set aside as well. In like manner there is great 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/Messiah 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 as the Christian dispensation, do not relate to a Jesus in the flesh, but rather to a Jesus in a glorified state and position at the right hand of God. The kingdom of heaven (the Christian dispensation) and all Christian things directly associate with Jesus now being in heaven as the Son of Man exalted and glorified (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 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.
Should the title of Messiah be associated with the church? I know many teachers and theologians who make this association without even thinking about the erroneous connection they are making. The title of Messiah is strictly a Jewish thing – according to Jewish promises and prophecy. The title itself refers to the son of David after the flesh, King of a united Israel, and the Anointed of Jehovah – all of these are strictly Jewish revelations and understandings. When teachers and theologians, and we should add to this song-writers, freely apply the title of Messiah to any church things or teachings, they are entering into a subtle form of judaizing the Christian faith. Messiah is a promise to Israel. We should not aggrandize this title, giving it an unlimited scope and range without any scriptural backing for doing this. And the Messiah title is not interchangeable with the Son of Man title. Messiah references kings David and Solomon, while Son of Man references Adam. When you mix these two titles, you are destroying all the separate and distinct associations they properly have. God never does this with the two titles in His word, and we should not take the liberty of doing such.
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 God’s earthly calling and people.
But in resurrection only, He had yet to take the heavenlies, so that the kingdom of heaven, as it is seen now in the world as the Christian dispensation, 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 God’s counsels for her, 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 (in the Christian dispensation) 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 Christian dispensation. This new dispensation 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 to the Christian (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 dispensations, and the spiritual reality of the setting aside of all things related and connected to Israel.
The vineyard of God – the house of Israel – did not produce any fruit that God was pleased with. As His vineyard they only produced wild grapes. This was not what God was looking for from the Jews. The judgment of the vineyard by God was predicted by the prophet Isaiah eight hundred some years before it was carried out (Isaiah 5:1-7). Jesus quotes Isaiah and says that his prophecies are fulfilled in the multitudes of Israel He was speaking to at that time (Matt. 13:13-15). Not only does Jesus say that Isaiah’s prophecies are fulfilled in Israel, but Paul in speaking to the Jews in Rome at the end of the book of Acts (Acts 28:23-29) essentially says the same thing – “The Holy Spirit spoke rightly through Isaiah the prophet…” This was after Jesus on the cross interceded for Israel, saying, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.” (Luke 23:34). The book of Acts, particularly the first seven chapters, represents Israel’s last chance for a Messianic kingdom under the principle of responsibility. With the stoning of Stephen there is a definite turning by God to the Gentiles in the book of Acts, and you can see the transition between dispensations for yourself in the Scriptures. Israel committed sin against the Holy Spirit, refusing and rejecting His testimony of Jesus, and it would not be forgiven them (Acts 7:51). The kingdom of God is taken from Israel (Matt. 21:43). But with Paul in Rome, this turning of God to the Gentiles and the setting aside of Israel is obvious in his words (Acts 28:28). The destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD is the obvious bringing in of physical judgment by God to end the Jewish dispensation, to end the practice of Judaism, and to set aside the Jews in a very physical way – death by the sword or scattering into the nations (Luke 21:20-24, Matt. 22:7).
If we are spiritually perceptive we will see the transition between the two dispensations in many biblical passages. Examples may be seen in the Lord’s use of the two titles – Messiah for the Jewish dispensation and Son of Man for the kingdom of heaven in mystery. You see this in both the general use and specific use of the titles. Generally speaking Jesus rarely uses the Messiah title; only once with the Samaritan woman at the well, and away from Judea and Jerusalem (John 4:25-26). Otherwise, the few times it does come up it is always someone else speaking it. He never really embraces it for He knows it must be set aside. In specific instances when the title is forced into the conversation around Him, He quickly puts the title behind Him and immediately references the Son of Man title in its place. This you can see in all the following passages (John 1:48-51, Matt. 16:20-28; 26:59-64, Luke 9:20-22; 22:66-70). The proper Jewish understanding of the Messiah was when He came to Israel He would stay forever (John 12:34). But the Son of Man would be lifted up and He would go away, that is, back to heaven. This they did not understand at all. Neither did the disciples understand, even though they were closest to Him (Luke 18:31-34). The Son of Man title refers to Adam, and as the second/last Adam Jesus constantly referred to Himself as this.
There are many examples and passages in Matthews’ gospel related to the transitioning between the two dispensations – Matt. 12:43-50; 13:1-3; 13:11-17; 13:24-53; 17:1-13; 21:18-19; 21:33-44; 22:2-9; 23:13; 23:37-39; 24:1-2 are just a few. The passage in Matt. 11:7-15 is a particularly interesting one concerning the two dispensations. “For all the prophets and the law prophesied until John.” This is when the Jewish dispensation ends, with the coming of the Baptist. From the days of John the Baptist it has been the kingdom of heaven at hand (the Christian dispensation soon to begin). Then Jesus says that John is greater than all the prophets and all those born of women; yet the least one in the kingdom of heaven is greater than him. How is this? The least one in the kingdom of heaven is born of God. This will always be greater than the greatest born of women. The last point of the passage is figurative, dealing with the two kingdoms – the future Messianic kingdom for Israel and the kingdom of heaven – and how Elijah, in figure, will precede the beginning of both kingdoms in time (Mal. 4:5-6, Rev. 11:3-12, Matt. 11:14, Luke 1:17). John the Baptist is Elijah in figure, for the kingdom of heaven at hand (Matt. 3:1-2). This does not negate the one in the spirit of Elijah that is yet to come during the coming tribulation, associated with the future Messianic kingdom in Israel.
In Matthew Jesus makes this comment: “For whoever has, to him more will be given…but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him.” The Jews, in general, are proven to be the ones who do not have, and even what they have will be taken away from them (Matt. 13:12). This would be the Messianic kingdom, the promises and prophecies, the practice of their religion, and their beautiful temple and city. Israel set aside is blinded and hardened by God (Rom. 11:7-10). God’s vineyard would be laid waste and burned (Psalm 80:8-16).
Here is another way we may be able to understand God setting Israel aside. In Genesis we have the principles or institutions of God established in the written word. The history of Israel, for the most part, begins in Exodus one and the birth of Moses. But all the principles established in Genesis will have their association, one way or the other, with the Jews. There are two principles specifically, when taken away from Israel because of their general apostasy, which lead directly to their being set aside by God (Hosea 1:9). These are:
1. The government of God over the earth
2. The calling of God
The first principle started with Noah. The flood which destroyed the ancient world was the display of the government (judgment) of God (Gen. 6:5-7, II Pet. 2:5). Sin and evil had filled the entire world and God judged it by destroying it. When Noah and his family come out of the ark the sword is placed in man’s hands (Gen. 9:6). This is the principle of government of the earth. By it God restricts man from filling the earth once again with evil and violence. God would not have a repeating of what just happened which necessitated His judgment in destroying mankind. This is the beginning of civil government, and in it God is responsible for setting up all civil authority (Rom. 13:1-7). This doesn’t mean that any civil authorities have obeyed God and have always done what is right in His sight. Nevertheless, God sets up all civil authority without exception. They all will answer to Him for how they governed.
When the nation of Israel was delivered out of Egypt, the principle of God’s government of the earth was associated with them. Through the outward redemption they received, albeit in types and shadows and in the flesh, God came down to live in the midst of Israel. As a result of redemption, God comes to live with His people. He stayed behind the veil and they could not approach. Nevertheless, He lived in the midst of Israel and ruled the earth from His tabernacle. This is the principle of God’s government of the earth, now associated with Israel. And it becomes distinctive to this nation — when God directly rules in government over the entire earth, that is, governing through a manifested physical presence on the earth, He does so from the midst of Israel.
God governed the world as present on the earth from the time of Mt. Sinai through the existence and time of Solomon’s temple. The only change during this time was the ending of the tabernacle service and moving into a permanent temple in Jerusalem, although in many different ways and circumstances Israel tested the patience and longsuffering of Jehovah. Israel was given the law at Mt. Sinai through Moses, but they could not keep it. They broke the first commandment before the tablets ever made it down the mountain. Israel made a golden calf and worshiped a false god. Idolatry and apostasy had entered in, and this from the very beginning. The tablets were broken at the foot of the mountain, never making it into the camp (Ex. 32:19).
When we examine all the differences between Moses going up the mountain to meet with Jehovah before the golden calf incident (Ex. 24:12-18) and with him going back up a second time with stone tablets (Ex. 34:1-2), any bible student should be able to realize that Israel never existed under a covenant of pure law. They simply would not have been able to survive (Ex. 32:9-10). God had to fall back into His sovereignty, showing mercy and grace as He chose (Ex. 33:19, Rom. 9:15-16). From this point on their covenant was always a mixture of law and mercy.
The failure and misery of Israel in their responsibilities under the law, in their attempts to keep its requirements and keep the covenant they agreed to at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:8; 24:7) are well documented in Scripture. It is not just the historical account we find of their idolatry and apostasy, but that many of the passages are Jehovah’s very own words and direct testimony against them. The startling thing is that some of these passages are prophetic – God is simply predicting what Israel will do and how they will miserably fail, apostatizing and departing from Him. For example, before Joshua is inaugurated by Jehovah to bring the children of Israel into the land He says these things to both Moses and Joshua:
Deuteronomy 31:16-21 (NKJV)
And the Lord said to Moses: “Behold, you will rest with your fathers; and this people will rise and play the harlot with the gods of the foreigners of the land, where they go to be among them, and they will forsake Me and break My covenant which I have made with them. Then My anger shall be aroused against them in that day, and I will forsake them, and I will hide My face from them, and they shall be devoured. And many evils and troubles shall befall them, so that they will say in that day, ‘Have not these evils come upon us because our God is not among us?’ And I will surely hide My face in that day because of all the evil which they have done, in that they have turned to other gods.
“Now therefore, write down this song for yourselves, and teach it to the children of Israel; put it in their mouths, that this song may be a witness for Me against the children of Israel. When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat, then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant. Then it shall be, when many evils and troubles have come upon them, that this song will testify against them as a witness; for it will not be forgotten in the mouths of their descendants, for I know the inclination of their behavior today, even before I have brought them to the land of which I swore to give them.”
Right after this, Moses finishes writing the book of the law and gives it to the Levites, saying:
Deuteronomy 31:26-29 (NKJV)
“Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, that it may be there as a witness against you; for I know your rebellion and your stiff neck. If today, while I am yet alive with you, you have been rebellious against the Lord, then how much more after my death? Gather to me all the elders of your tribes, and your officers, that I may speak these words in their hearing and call heaven and earth to witness against them. For I know that after my death you will become utterly corrupt, and turn aside from the way which I have commanded you. And evil will befall you in the latter days, because you will do evil in the sight of the Lord, to provoke Him to anger through the work of your hands.”
In the time period of Israel’s hardening, and after the completion of the foundational work of the cross, there is the opportunity for God to bring forth the fruit of His eternal counsels. As a consequence to Israel being set aside, there would need to be an entirely new and distinct planting from God – the sower went out to sow (Matt. 13:3-9). This prophetic chapter and new planting by God follows after the two chapters in Matthew by which the Spirit of God documents Israel’s rejection of their Messiah and in consequence, God’s rejection of Israel (Matt. 11 and Matt. 12). The dispensation of the kingdom of heaven replaces the Jewish dispensation now set aside by God. With the going away of the Son of Man to the right hand of God, the kingdom of heaven is no longer at hand, but presently exists, in whatever form it may take in the world. The kingdom would contain the new planting of God, a sovereign work in planting the wheat, after He had made the house of Israel desolate (Matt. 23:37-39).
The most important parable describing the new dispensation is the wheat and tares (Matt. 13:24-30). Its interpretation was given to the disciples by Jesus in private (Matt. 13:36-43). In sovereign grace the Son of Man plants the wheat. God both preserves the wheat and gathers it into His barn at the end of the age – this is sovereign grace as well, for it is God’s work. But as we all should know, soon at the beginning, through human failure in responsibility, the enemy came in and planted tares. This is the work of Satan, and his children are now mixed into the overall crop. This corrupting mixture continues on together unchanged until the end of the age. God does nothing about it and forbids his servants to do anything as well. Basically the crop is a mess, the corporate structure corrupted, although God knows those that are His, and He will gather only His at the end of the age, removing them from the field (world).
So the question begs to be asked: What is the corporate entity represented by the crop in the field? Is it Israel or is it Christendom? The correct answer here is key to properly understanding all the parables about the kingdom of heaven. Is this a Messianic kingdom in Israel, or is it Christendom developing in the world with many mysteries associated with it (Matt. 13:11) ? Has Israel been set aside for this present age?
To summarize our thoughts we would have to say that Israel, as a people and a nation, are emphatically set aside by God. He does not presently acknowledge them. The Jewish dispensation has ended. The new dispensation is called the kingdom of heaven, and it is far from being a Messianic kingdom over Israel according to prophecy. The Messianic kingdom in Israel is yet to come – during the coming millennium. Israel has been set aside by God, and their house has been made desolate. In God’s eyes they became a divided kingdom – Judah and Israel. But now, all they are is a scattered people. Yes, we can see the providence of God at work – many of the Jews returning to the land. But this isn’t the fulfilling of prophecy. The U.N. giving land to a new Jewish state in 1948 is not God birthing a nation in the end times. When God restores Israel, does He only give them one-fifth of the land promised to Abraham? No, they will have all that God promised to both Abraham and David when God actually does the work.
Presently what we see on the earth is the kingdom of heaven as it exists and has developed in the world. This is the present form and state of the general subject known as “the kingdom of God”, but in Matthew, specifically known as the “kingdom of heaven”. The picture drawn by the parable of the wheat and tares is Christendom as a spoiled crop in the field of the world during the time of its own dispensation. For that matter, all seven parables of Matthew thirteen draw a complete prophetic picture and understanding of the new Christian dispensation. But to properly see this dispensational transition, the believer must clearly see Israel set aside by God. These are important recognitions to make. Even more so is the value of the Christian developing the ability to see with the eye of faith what God’s counsels are concerning what has developed in the world during this age or dispensation. God’s counsels, those that He made before the foundations of the world, concern the true church, the body of Christ. These counsels are never about the larger corporate body of Christendom, a mixture of both God’s and Satan’s work. What is ultimately happening on the earth is the Holy Spirit continuing to gather a heavenly body, known as the church. God’s purpose is to eventually take this body to the heavens to reside there, out of the field (world). God’s counsels for the church is this destiny. The eye of faith of the believer should be able to see this purpose and comprehend it. It is one of the mysteries of “the kingdom of heaven.”
How critical is it that you should be thinking of Christendom instead of Israel as the identity of this crop? Is the present dispensation the Jewish one? Is it Israel that is removed from out of the world towards the end of the age? It isn’t. Rather, it is Israel that will be exalted in the world and among the nations after their time of trouble in the future tribulation. But what is removed from the world is the wheat, the true church contained within Christendom, the tares being bundled together and left behind.