All four gospels are unique in that each has a distinct character. One of the characters of John’s gospel is that Israel was set aside and rejected by God from the first chapter on (John 1:11). The tone of Christ’s interactions and dealings with the Jews in this gospel is one of conflict and rejection (John 8:23-24). Israel is often seen in it as unbelieving and growing in their hatred of their Messiah (John 12:37; 15:22-25). The Holy Spirit giving John this distinct character affords the opportunity for many passages in this gospel to serve as a transition of sorts between the two dispensations – the Jewish dispensation ending, and the Christian dispensation replacing it (a.k.a. “the kingdom of heaven”).
This transition may be viewed in a number of different ways in scripture. For example the two corporate entities being dealt with by God, each in its distinct dispensation, are Israel and Christendom. Notice that I did not say the body of Christ, which is the true church. No, Christendom is the corporate body under the eye of God during this present dispensation. And this was never the same as the true church. Christendom is a much larger body of good and bad, of wheat and tares, of vessels of honor and dishonor. It is the large mass of all that ever nominally professed Christ and have been water baptized. But how important it becomes to be able to recognize the existence of this larger body that contains and hides the true church. Why is this? Because God recognizes it and speaks of it and deals with it in His word.
For the purpose of this article we will discuss the transition of the two dispensations in reference to the two religions – the ending of Judaism and the establishing of Christianity. Hopefully you will easily make this association, that is, the two separate and distinct religions each having their own connection to their own dispensation. There are quite a few passages that contrast the two religions with each other, and therefore serve to show the new Christian dispensation (the kingdom of heaven) replacing the old (the Jewish dispensation).
John 4:1-24 (NKJV)
“Therefore, when the Lord knew that the Pharisees had heard that Jesus made and baptized more disciples than John 2 (though Jesus Himself did not baptize, but His disciples), 3 He left Judea and departed again to Galilee. 4 But He needed to go through Samaria.
5 So He came to a city of Samaria which is called Sychar, near the plot of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph. 6 Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.
7 A woman of Samaria came to draw water. Jesus said to her, “Give Me a drink.” 8 For His disciples had gone away into the city to buy food.
9 Then the woman of Samaria said to Him, “How is it that You, being a Jew, ask a drink from me, a Samaritan woman?” For Jews have no dealings with Samaritans.
10 Jesus answered and said to her, “If you knew the gift of God, and who it is who says to you, ‘Give Me a drink,’ you would have asked Him, and He would have given you living water.”
11 The woman said to Him, “Sir, You have nothing to draw with, and the well is deep. Where then do You get that living water? 12 Are You greater than our father Jacob, who gave us the well, and drank from it himself, as well as his sons and his livestock?”
13 Jesus answered and said to her, “Whoever drinks of this water will thirst again, 14 but whoever drinks of the water that I shall give him will never thirst. But the water that I shall give him will become in him a fountain of water springing up into everlasting life.”
15 The woman said to Him, “Sir, give me this water, that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw.”
16 Jesus said to her, “Go, call your husband, and come here.”
17 The woman answered and said, “I have no husband.”
Jesus said to her, “You have well said, ‘I have no husband,’ 18 for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly.”
19 The woman said to Him, “Sir, I perceive that You are a prophet. 20 Our fathers worshiped on this mountain, and you Jews say that in Jerusalem is the place where one ought to worship.”
21 Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father. 22 You worship what you do not know; we know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews. 23 But the hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father is seeking such to worship Him. 24 God is Spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”
Judaism is a worldly religion, a religion of the world. It isn’t that God wasn’t the source of it, for He certainly was the Giver of the Law at Mt. Sinai and His fingers wrote on the tablets of stone. But this description of Judaism as of the world is a matter of who God gave the religion to, rather than a matter of who did the giving. What I mean by this is that God gave Judaism to man in Adam, man in the flesh, and man of the world. This describes Israel, the nation God gave the law to, the people Jehovah made His covenant of law with. Even though Israel was God’s chosen people, the entire human race that continued from fallen Adam were only sinners, fallen men in the flesh and of the world. This always included Israel. Therefore the Jews are rightly described from scripture as sinners, descendants of Adam, man in the flesh, and not just in the world, but of the world. Although they were chosen and privileged of God (Deut. 7:6-9), still as to their existing “state” before God they were just like everybody else of the human race. They were just like the Gentiles. As chosen by God and special to Him, they were only separated by God from the Gentiles. This separation was never from the world. Israel always remained very much part of the world.
Judaism, their religion, served this purpose for Israel – it was the wall of division that God built up around the Jews, separating them from the Gentiles, and separating them to the worship of the one true God (Eph. 2:14-15). Because Judaism was the worship of Jehovah, it was the one true religion in the world, among all the false religions and idols of the Gentiles. But certainly you can see that Judaism was adapted to the flesh and world, to man in the flesh – because it was given to Israel. Judaism was adapted to the physical senses of man. It truly was a walk by sight. It had fleshly ordinances and rituals, outward washings to cleanse the flesh, repeated and continuous animal sacrifices, ornate clothing, ritualistic ceremonies, the blowing of trumpets and horns, golden covered instruments, vessels, and furniture. Then there is what solidifies Judaism as a religion of the world – its beautiful temple as a permanent place of worship in Jerusalem.
It is this last point that serves as the contrast between the two religions in the above passage we quoted – the temple, the settled mandatory place of worship in Judaism. Can we not see how such a requirement simply adds to the worldly and earthly character of this religion? Is it not a walk by sight if you had to go up to the temple in order to worship Jehovah? Or as Daniel did when in Babylon, away from Jerusalem and the temple – as an Israelite, he would kneel and bow, pointing himself in the physical direction of the temple. Again this is a sensual and sight-worthy ritual. But what does Jesus say to the woman at the well? “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.”
Judaism is the worship of Jehovah centered in the temple in Jerusalem. The hour was coming when God would put a stop to this worship. God would bring in something progressively different from what was known as the true worship of Jehovah in the Jewish temple. God would put an end to Judaism. Actually a little further on Jesus says, “But the hour is coming, and now is…” The transition was already beginning with Jesus coming into the world. Judaism would end and Christianity would be established in a new revelation and understanding of God. So many things would be changing.
One of the lessons this passage from John teaches is the truth that God has progressively revealed Himself in greater and more intimate relationships over time. The Samaritans worshiped God on Jacob’s mountain – a place where Jacob built an altar and worshiped. This was all well and good except for the fact that God had moved on from that to something better. To the forefathers, He was revealed as God Almighty. But to Moses and Israel God reveals Himself as Jehovah:
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.’”
This entire passage is the revelation to the Jews of what Jehovah (Lord) is to them – He is the Lord, the covenant keeping God. As God Almighty He made promises by covenant to the forefathers, but as Jehovah He would fulfill those promises by keeping covenant to the nation. The covenants God has made all concern the Jews and their earthly calling and blessings. It is to Israelites that the covenants of God pertain (Rom. 9:4). Eventually God will be found faithful in keeping every promise He ever made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, as well as those He made to David. In the future millennium Israel will be restored in their land and they will have a new covenant for their worship of Jehovah and their physical prosperity. Abraham’s and David’s covenants will also be made good by the Lord to them. This will all come to pass in the future because God revealed Himself to Israel as Jehovah.
There are certain revelations, principles, and characteristics associated with the religion of Judaism. All that is associated with the nation of Israel will be found to be the same things associated with their religion. This would include the revelation of God as Jehovah and the character and meaning of this revealed name. It becomes characteristic of Judaism; it becomes characteristic of the Jews. It is how Israel knows God in relationship, and what He is specifically for them. The same may be said of covenants. They all pertain to or specifically reference Israel. Judaism is the religion through which God has a relationship with man by assorted and different covenants. The law, which was Israel’s first covenant, was the religion known as Judaism. This religion was both the Mosaic law and a covenant. And that covenant, by which Israel had a relationship with Jehovah, has now passed away (please read Heb. 8:1-13). Therefore in this sense, Judaism has passed away.
With the woman at the well Jesus doesn’t speak of God by using the name which is associated with Judaism. He uses a different and new name – that of Father. This is a new revelation (Matt. 11:25-27). Father is the name of God now in relationship with Christians who by faith in Christ are sons of God (Rom. 8:15-16, Gal. 3:26; 4:5-7). This new relationship for believers is made clear later in John’s gospel after the resurrection of Christ:
John 20:17 (NKJV)
“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 name of Father is the revelation of God connected to Christianity; it is how God has revealed Himself through Jesus Christ, who was sent from heaven to reveal God as Father to those who believe on Him (John 1:12-13, 18, Matt. 11:27). It is a distinct Christian understanding associated with the Christian dispensation. Only Christians worship the Father; only Christians worship in spirit and truth. And God now as the Father has been seeking such. However, the Jews worship Jehovah from a fixed location in Jerusalem. This is not worship of God as Father, nor is it the far more intimate relationship which Christians enjoy with God. It is earthly and senual and worldly worship. The Jews do not worship in spirit and truth; Judaism was never the fullness of God’s grace and truth in its revelation (John 1:17). Their worship has passed away, and God has made the nation desolate. The Jewish dispensation has ended. God made certain of this when He used the Romans to destroy the temple and city in 70 AD (Luke 19:41-44; 21:24). With this the religion of Judaism was ended, making way for Christianity to be established. The new dispensation is the Christian dispensation, the kingdom of heaven in mystery. Christendom is the new corporate entity now under the eye of God.
There is another more technical reason for Judaism ending and Christianity being established. Actually, we can say this has to do with the biblical principle of calling – God will only deal with one calling at any one time. If you think about this for awhile, it will make plenty of sense. God cannot be calling some people to heaven, and at the same time calling others to the Promised Land. This confusion would have to be true if Israel was not set aside by God, along with their earthly calling and promises, along with the ending of their dispensation and the practice of their religion. Having two callings active at the same time would be impossible, even for God. But God has ended the Jewish dispensation in judgment – the Romans destroyed Jerusalem and the temple in 70 AD and scattered what remained of the Jews into the nations. He stopped the practice of Judaism by allowing this temple to be destroyed. Now calling is with the Christian church. In the favor and blessings of God, Christianity replaced Judaism.