The Jewish dispensation encompasses the time from Israel being delivered out of Egypt to the presentation of Messiah. It would include the giving of the law at Sinai with the priesthood, Israel being brought into the land, the judges, prophets, and kings, and their scattering into the nations or captivity in Babylon. This dispensation is physically ended by the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple by the Romans in 70 AD. Again, what remained of the nation was scattered throughout the world. This was after the presentation of Messiah to Israel and their refusal of Him as their King.
With the destruction of the temple for the second time during the same dispensation, the practice of Judaism is brought to a halt by God. Why? Because “the hour is coming and now was at hand when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for the Father presently seeks such to worship Him.” (John 4:23) Jesus prefaces this by saying, “Woman, believe Me, the hour is coming when you will neither on this mountain, nor in Jerusalem, worship the Father.” Judaism is a partial revelation of God’s truth and a limited worship of the true God from a distance and through a veil. Yet these partial truths and the Jewish system give way with the coming of God’s Son to Israel (John 1:17). The name of Father is strictly a Christian possession and represents a revelation of God in truth far beyond that of the name of Jehovah with the Jews (Ex. 6:2-3). The worship of the Father in spirit and truth is strictly a Christian position and privilege, and cannot be seen as belonging to the Jewish dispensation (John 4:19-24).
The practice of Judaism requires their temple; the Samaritans required Jacob’s mountain – both of which are fixed physical locations involving religion that was earthly, sensual, and outwardly in the flesh. This explains the immediate desire of the returning remnant from Babylon to rebuild the temple in Nehemiah’s day. Without the physical location of the temple in Jerusalem, there is no real practice of Judaism, notwithstanding they do so without God’s presence and throne. However, God destroys the temple a second time in 70 AD, effectively putting aside the religion of Judaism in dramatic fashion. The practice of Judaism, the practice of the law, and the physical location of the temple to carry out this practice for the nation, all belong to the Jewish dispensation.
Let’s talk about the physical events of destroying Jerusalem and the temple. This happened twice during the Jewish dispensation, once by Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar in the time of Jeremiah, then again with the Romans in 70 AD, after the time of Christ. It is important to understand why God would allow this. Each time it occurred it involved a great biblical principle or institution associated with the nation of Israel being set aside concerning them. The destruction resulted from Israel’s failure in responsibility concerning that particular institution, and therefore God’s judgment of them. The institution is removed from the Jews at these particular times, or we can say Israel was set aside by God concerning the nation’s association with that specific principle. The setting aside is seen in Hosea:
Then God said: “Call his name Lo-Ammi, for you are not My people, and I will not be your God.”
The latter part of this verse is the phrase that describes Israel’s setting aside by God. When Israel is again acknowledged by God and restored in their land at the beginning of the future millennium, this phrasing is reversed. Then God will say to the Jewish remnant,“You shall be My people, and I will be your God.” This phrase will only be used when God acknowledges Israel as His people again. In the end, when God turns back to deal with Israel and in faithfulness begins to fulfill all He has promised them through Abraham and David, this phrase is constantly used in the millennial prophecies referring to the nation and their restoration (Jer. 30:22; 31:1, 33; Eze. 11:20; 34:30-31; 36:28).
But God has set them aside in times past, and at this present time He does not acknowledge them as His people. As I said above, this setting aside involves the physical destruction of the city and temple paired with Israel’s responsibility in association with two great biblical principles:
first – the government of God on the earth
second – the calling of God
Before Babylon destroyed the city and temple the first time, God had removed His presence and glory from the temple. Then the throne, the ark of the covenant, was lost. Both the glory and the throne have never returned to Israel from that time. The principle of government was taken from Israel. They had the throne in their temple, Jehovah dwelling in the midst of the nation, God ruling the world from among them. However, because of Israel’s apostasy and idolatry at that time, in the kingdom of Israel first (Elijah) and later in Judah (Jeremiah), God’s presence and glory leaves the temple, the city, and the earth. The throne is gone. God gives the principle of the government of the earth to the Gentiles (the first Gentile head is Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar). Israel, the northern kingdom, was scattered by the Assyrian, while Babylon takes a remnant of Judah captive.
As for the principle of government of the earth, Israel has been set aside. We may look ahead in time and see by the prophecies that God will return the principle to Israel during the millennium, and they will flourish as the greatest nation on the face of the earth, the Gentile nations serving them (Isa. 60:12). This will be through Jesus Christ their Messiah, Son of David and King of the Jews, but also by Jesus as the Son of Man, King of kings and Lord of lords over all created things (Isa. 9:6-7, Dan. 7:13-14). However, in the meantime, the Gentiles still rule the earth under the providence of the Most High, the God of the heavens (Dan. 4:25-26).
God has given the principle of government over to the Gentiles and four world kingdoms were revealed to come forth on the face of the prophetic earth (Dan. 2:36-40, 7:2-7). Jesus gave a label to this age of Gentile power by calling it “the times of the Gentiles.” (Luke 21:24) This time period continues on until the end of the coming tribulation and the beginning of the millennium. In other words, we are presently living in this age.
The principle was with Israel from the time they were at the foot of Mt. Sinai to the time of the prophet Jeremiah. This was all the time in which Jehovah’s presence and throne was in the midst of Israel, give or take a few minor exceptions. And this is characteristic of how the principle is associated with Israel – Jehovah’s presence and glory will be on the earth and in Israel. It is different when the Gentiles have the principle – the Most High indirectly controls events by providential action from the heavens. And the Gentiles have been less than responsible. God sees the four empires as unruly beasts that ravish and devourer, doing their own will, failing to acknowledge the Most High God.
The principle of government was with Israel, it was then given to the Gentiles, and it will eventually return to Israel. Notice there is never any involvement of the church with this biblical principle. God never intended the church to be involved in civil authority and government. But you say the church are the Gentiles – yet this isn’t true. In Christ and in the church there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:28, Col. 3:11, Eph. 2:14-15). The church being involved in civil authority has resulted in much corruption and ruin in Christendom. This was one of the main avenues by which the world entered into the church (Rev. 17:1-4).
Israel had failed miserably in their responsibilities. They had failed under the law. Apostasy and rebellion grew and ripened in Israel beginning with the golden calf. In Elijah’s and Jeremiah’s day idolatry was rampant. Although prophets were sent to call them back to the law (II Chron. 36:15, Neh. 9, Jer. 35:14), the Jews were like straying sheep turning their own way. The law is the standard by which God will govern the earth. Israel’s failure under it is associated with their failure in government, and why the principle was removed from them. It is hard to reason how Israel continued their practice of their law and religion when there was no longer anything behind the veil in their temple.
In a similar way that God brought judgment in concerning Israel’s association with government, when the Jews were set aside concerning their calling God did the same thing – in judgment He destroys Jerusalem and the temple a second time during the same dispensation. This time He uses the Romans, and with this physical event the Jewish dispensation definitively comes to an end. The main failure of Israel this time was not the law, but rather the rejecting of their Messiah come to them in mercy and goodness (John 1:17). “Calling” was taken from the Jews, they were set aside, and their house was made desolate (Matt. 23:37-39). The principle of calling is now with the church.
The Jewish dispensation involved many different things in the ways of God toward Israel. It ranged from deliverance through judgments out of Egypt to prophets and kings. Yet the common element that defines this dispensation, running the entire time from beginning to end, is God testing man in Adam in the principle of responsibility. It is God testing man in the flesh, looking for obedience and righteousness. Israel was tested by God in two specific ways: one by the giving of the law, the other by the presentation of Messiah (John 1:17). The testing by the law basically ends with the Babylonian captivity. Israel’s apostasy and idolatry brought on these consequences – the presence and glory of God is removed from Israel and the earth, the throne of Jehovah is lost, and what remains of the people are under Gentile captivity and rule. God’s purpose for bringing a remnant out of captivity and back to Judah is for Israel’s final testing – the presentation of Messiah. “Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’” (Matt. 21:37)
However, Israel produced no fruit. There was nothing but failure. The testing of man in Adam ended when the Jewish dispensation ended, soon after the rejection of Messiah. The following two scripture passages confirm this biblical understanding – Gal. 4:4-5 and Heb. 9:26. Israel was the test case for God’s testing of man in the flesh. Israel represented all mankind. They were the most privileged people by God on the face of the earth. But man in the flesh could never please God (Rom. 8:8). The testing proved that man in Adam was lost and utterly depraved and could not produce fruit unto God (Matt. 21:19). The testing of Israel by God proved that man always fails in responsibility. This is the testimony of God concerning man in Adam and this is man’s story played out in the Scriptures.
Allow me to back up to the beginning of time and creation to show in more detail how God’s testing of man in the principle of responsibility is related to understanding the entire Old Testament history, not just Israel. This portion of writing will also show how we should comprehend the failure of Israel to receive their Messiah and kingdom as it is related in the gospels. In the following section, which is taken directly from a different writing, I discuss the principle of human responsibility as it relates to many biblical subjects, even to Christendom. However, the point for this article is to show you that Israel’s failures under this principle is the reason why God brings an end to the Jewish dispensation.
The principle of responsibility was being tested by God in man from the garden to the cross. Before the cross the testing of man by God came to an end – at this time God had proven the utter depravity of man in Adam. When you speak of the coming of Messiah to Israel and the presenting of the Messianic kingdom to Israel, all according to Jewish prophecies and promises found throughout the Old Testament scriptures, this presentation was still under God’s testing period, and fallen man in Adam still on probation. In fact it was the last test mankind would face before God would condemn the world and declare all is lost and depraved. This He does before the cross at the rejection of His Son by Israel. This nation served as the test case for mankind. Adam in innocence, man fallen in Adam without the law, man fallen in Adam with the law (Israel), and God in human flesh come in grace and goodness to His own (to Israel) – all four constitute God’s comprehensive testing of man in the flesh proving his depravity. In the last two cases Israel stood as the privileged and special people of God representing the fallen human race in Adam.
Did God know what the outcome of this testing of mankind would be? Did He know what the results would be ahead of time? Certainly! Yet He had to confirm to man what man really was as fallen, and man’s complete incapacity to save himself. This God proved, and He did so thoroughly and impeccably. But how man misses the lesson and misunderstands the consequences of the outcome. Or how he doesn’t even realize he was on probation and being proven by God. Here is a simple example of how our failure to understand this broad period of testing affects our teaching: When we teach the presentation of the Messianic kingdom to Israel in Jesus’ first coming to the Jews, we must understand it was part of the testing of man. It was doomed to failure, and God certainly understood this. He was not surprised by Israel’s rejection of their Messiah. The principle of human responsibility was still in play and being tested by God. The presentation of Messiah to Israel was the last test of mankind, and Israel served as the privileged test case for us.
If we think in terms of the kingdom of God, we are all aware that starting with Moses, progressing through David and Solomon, and continuing up to the Babylonian captivity, there existed a Theocratic kingdom in Israel. Consequent to Israel’s redemption out of Egypt, although this was only a redemption outwardly in the flesh, God came down and lived in the midst of this nation. This never had occurred previously. Not that there may not have been other theocratic kingdoms, but the gods of the Gentiles were idols which really did not exist. Jehovah, the one true God, was now living on the earth in the midst of His chosen people Israel – a true Theocratic kingdom. But because this kingdom also existed during the time when God was testing man in the principle of responsibility (now fallen man in Adam with the law), it was also doomed to failure. We view its pathetic history of idolatry, rebellion, and apostasy, with very few bright spots, in the Old Testament scriptures from Moses to Jeremiah. Continuing on in this same period of testing, eventually Messiah was presented to Israel as their King with the possibility of a Messianic kingdom. Is it any wonder that this too would fail?
When God works, or when God does a work, there is no human responsibility involved in it. God knows that in human responsibility man has been proven a complete failure, yet He knew this before the foundations of the world. God works alone, without the help of His creation or created beings. His work is eternal and cannot fail. For this very reason God’s work cannot be mixed and merged with human responsibility. If it were, it would be subject to fail, and it would fail. God’s work would no longer be eternal. Therefore God works alone. This is the reason why God alone receives all the glory and why He never allows any creature boasting. But these are also difficult lessons for man to accept and learn. Man, being full of himself and being saturated by the humanistic leaven – Judaizing and Arminianizing even his religious thoughts, doctrines, and theologies – always finds or creates his reasons to boast about his accomplishments, his intellect, and his ‘so called’ free will. Man refuses to learn what God has proven and taught concerning creature responsibility.
Even in Christendom we have not learned these lessons. We think that in the professing church things are different, that we will make good in the principle of responsibility. Yes, individual believers are redeemed and born of God. Yes, we do have Christ as our life, and have been given the divine nature. We have been sealed by God giving us the Holy Spirit, who cries out in our hearts, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit witnesses to our spirits that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:14-17). But we all remain in these bodies of flesh and none of us have been perfected yet, receiving the end of our salvation, the redemption of the body (Rom. 8:23-25). To think that we have done better in the history of Christendom is only foolish and pretentious thinking, in which man, again, has a high opinion of himself. As Israel failed in their responsibility as a nation before God, so has Christendom failed in its corporate responsibility. God’s testimony of the professing church as a whole, all of Christendom as a corporate entity together, is that it is corrupt and dead. As true believers, are we not under obligation to believe God’s testimony, and His testimony alone? Do we have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches?
One main defect of most theological systems teaching the kingdom of God is that they neglect any general understanding of God’s testing of man in the principle of responsibility. From the garden to before the cross, man was on probation. God was testing responsibility in the four specific ways mentioned above, looking for obedience. He proved man’s utter depravity. When the Messianic kingdom was presented to Israel by the Son of God coming into their midst, the kingdom would have to have been received by Israel under the principle of responsibility. When the testing was complete and Israel had failed and killed the Son, God would take the kingdom away from them (Matt. 21:33-44). At that time God took man in Adam off the probation list and declared him lost (Matt. 18:11). God condemned the world (John 12:31). But this rejection by Israel only opened out the revelation of the full fruits and wisdom of the eternal counsels of God – this involved the mystery of the church, the mystery that God kept secret from ages and generations.
Another defect of most theological teaching is the failure to understand that God’s giving of the law to Israel was simply the third part of four in His testing of mankind in His ways. God was looking for obedience with ten commandments, only now man wasn’t innocent but a fallen sinner. We must stop romanticizing the law. Before his conversion, when Paul was known as Saul, he was a Pharisee of the highest caliber, of the true stock of Israel, a Hebrew of Hebrews, concerning the law, blameless (Phil. 3:2-6). In the Jewish way he knew all there was to know about the law, and as a Pharisee taught it to the Jews, and lived it blamelessly himself. But after his conversion and having been given the Spirit who is from God, he can now know and understand the things of God, and as an apostle of God he can teach them (I Cor. 2:7-16). So after his conversion what does this former Pharisee teach concerning the law? – That it is a ministration of death and condemnation (II Cor. 3:7, 9). The law is the strength of sin, and that when the law came in, sin abounded more and more. He taught that in the flesh dwelt no good thing, and so, the confidences of the flesh, of which he had accumulated so many in Judaism, were worse than useless, but refuge and dung, and to be discarded (Phil. 3:7-9). The point being is that as a Christian, and having received the Holy Spirit, which no rabbi, scribe, lawyer, Pharisee, or Sadducee ever possessed, Paul taught what amounted to a 180 degree difference in directional understanding concerning the law. As a Christian he was now taught of God, where previously as a Pharisee of Israel he was not. Now he saw and understood the true purpose of the law – condemnation and death to man in Adam.
Yet how is it that we cannot grasp what Paul taught concerning the law, and teach it ourselves? We place the law on a pedestal as the means by which we should live under theocratic rule in a theocratic kingdom. How far from Paul’s teaching is this?!? And should we, in any way, apply these Jewish thoughts of kingdom to the church? Paul didn’t think so! When he speaks of his confidences of the flesh, which he accumulated in Judaism, he begins the passage in Philippians three with a warning concerning the Judaizers (Phil. 3:2). We do not understand the law as Paul did, nor are we able to teach what he taught, and this to the detriment of any proper Christian education or ministerial training afforded by our seminaries. Paul understood God’s purpose for the law, that it was the main way in which God proved fallen man’s utter depravity – Israel had the law and its practice for over 1500 years, and never could keep it. As a nation they lived under the curse of their own religion (Gal. 3:10-12). Yet we do not grasp the true understanding of this, and our teachers continue to teach things concerning the law without any comprehension of its true purpose. Paul knew and taught the great contrast and differences between Judaism and Christianity. In many ways, unknowingly I am sure, we do the work of the Judaizers, and end up fighting against Paul and his Spirit-inspired doctrine. We have never grasped God’s true purpose in giving the law to Israel, and as a consequence of this we cannot explain its existence as a covenant and religion (the practice of Judaism). We desire to be teachers of the law, for Israel’s sake, or for our feeble attempts at explaining the kingdom of God to Christians, yet we understand neither what we say nor the things which we affirm (I Tim. 1:7).
Jesus spoke about the law in Matt. 22:35-40. If you read this passage you will see that Jesus condenses the ten commands into two. These happen to be the two areas of human responsibility for man in Adam – love God with all your heart and love your fellow man as yourself. There are no other relationships, there is no other responsibility. The founding principle of the law is the principle of responsibility – do this and live (Lev. 18:5, Neh. 9:29, Rom. 10:5, Gal. 3:12). Jesus simplifies things by turning ten commands into two, and yet nothing is missing. All the responsibility is still there in the two areas of relationship. But the thing we miss and fail to comprehend is what He says at the end of the passage, almost as an afterthought – “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” The entire Old Testament has as its basis and determining thought, the principle of responsibility in the two areas of man’s relationships, and man in Adam being tested by God in it. This is the crucial understanding about all of the Old Testament – it simply must be comprehended. This is the indispensable understanding concerning God’s ways with man, from Adam in the garden to the time Jesus was rejected as Messiah for Israel before the cross. God was testing responsibility in the creature, and He found man wanting. All the understanding of the Old Testament hangs on this principle of responsibility, and it being tested by God. Knowing this, was there much chance of a Messianic kingdom being received and flourishing under the principle of responsibility in Israel, even though the son of David actually appeared and came to His own?
If our understanding of the kingdom of God is simply and only an earthly Messianic kingdom in Israel, then we have greatly narrowed our focus and have essentially placed blinders on – all we see and can conceive of is a Jewish kingdom from Jewish prophecies. It denies the place of the body of Christ as the mystery of God hidden from prophecy, or, at the very least, misappropriates any proper understanding or application of this mystery in the counsels of God. It is the same gross mistake made in Elva McClain’s book on the “Greatness of the Kingdom” – his requisite is that all Jesus and the disciples taught was exactly in line with what the Old Testament prophets declared. Of course we understand that O. T. prophecy speaks of a Messianic kingdom for Israel. But it speaks of this as a kingdom of outward manifestation, one of power and glory, where evil and iniquity will be crushed on the earth, where a King will rule and reign in Zion through judgments of righteousness bringing in peace. It will be a time different on the earth from the present time of the profession of faith (true faith itself being part of the mystery) – it will be a time in which every eye will see. But a Messianic kingdom is all outward in manifestation, and physical, and earthly, and one in which the whole earth and world will see – not a kingdom in mystery or faith, which is by definition, “the evidence of things not seen.”
The mysteries of the kingdom of heaven – the change in dispensations, a new planting by God in the world different from the nation of Israel, the mystery of God that is the church, the body of Christ, the profession of faith by wheat and tares alike, the work of God and the work of the devil mixed together forming Christendom in the world, the absence of the King returned to heaven, Judaism ending and Christianity beginning, the heavenly calling for a time replacing the earthly calling, and so many more matters of faith unseen – are all part of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven not revealed previously in the Old Testament. It is in the understanding of these mysteries as well as understanding the different form the kingdom of God takes at this present time which lead one to a sound understanding and explanation of two statements made by our Lord concerning the kingdom:
1.) John 18:36 – “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”
2.) Luke 17:20-21 – “The kingdom of God does not come with observation; nor will they say, ‘See here!’ or ‘See there!’ For indeed, the kingdom of God is within you.”
These statements simply make no sense when one tries to apply them to a Messianic kingdom in Israel and in the world – that which is clearly foretold in the prophecies of the Old Testament. A Messianic kingdom has the character of being of the world and in the world, and will completely change the world when it is outwardly manifested in observation by the world. There is no Old Testament prophecy that says otherwise – a Messianic kingdom in Israel would be readily observable by the world. Again, every eye will see it. And it will be a physical kingdom of this world. For Jesus to say that His kingdom is not of this world would mean that He is not speaking of a Messianic kingdom as revealed in prophecy. But He certainly is referring to a present kingdom, yet something especially different from a Messianic kingdom on the earth. If His kingdom is not of this world, then it is not presently on the earth. It is painful to hear the strained explanations of those who attempt to reconcile the Lord’s statements above with Old Testament prophecy. McClain’s premise is proved wrong by these statements of our Lord. When Jesus was rejected by Israel, He teaches that one must be born again to see or even enter the kingdom of God. We enter by faith in the death and shed blood of Jesus Christ. But is this entering a kingdom that is of outward observation? Being born again is by the water and the Spirit, by the word of God and the sovereign operation of the Holy Spirit. Jesus teaches that which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. If being born again was of the flesh it would be readily observable, as any physical birth is (John 3:6-8). Again He says, “The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit.” This is not entrance into a Messianic kingdom of prophecy or outward observation. Again after believing, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit. Is this outwardly observable? Paul never thought it was (Rom. 8:10-11).
As a Christian believer the Old Testament isn’t to be a focusing on a Theocratic kingdom set up in Israel, and the law given as the governing moral principles and ordinances of life in an earthly kingdom. This would be what the Jews would think about and hold on to as their focus. But the Christian is very different. We have received the Spirit that comes from God, so we may know the things of God, yea, the deep things of God. The Spirit enables us to speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained for our glory. I want you to notice that Paul does not say hidden wisdom which God ordained for Israel’s glory. There is nothing hidden about a Messianic kingdom and Israel’s future millennial glory. It is all clearly revealed by God in prophecy. There is no wisdom of God in a mystery about anything found in O.T. prophecy. Then Paul tells us that we, as Christians, have the mind of Christ so that we may know the thoughts of God (I Cor. 2:6-16).
If the focus of the Christian’s attention in studying the Old Testament was to be the Theocratic kingdom and the given law as its means, why did both of these come to an end with the destruction of Jerusalem by the Babylonians? In the greatest sense they both cease to exist. At that time there no longer was a city and temple. These however, would be rebuilt. But gone permanently were the Presence, the glory, the throne, and the mercy seat. Where would the high priest sprinkle the blood on the Day of Atonement when he went behind the veil? Would they need to burn incense to cover the Presence, if the Presence was no longer there? For the Christian we understand that these things could not be maintained in Israel under the principle of responsibility. Israel’s idolatry and apostasy – their failures in responsibility – are the reason why the Theocratic kingdom and true practice of the law came to an end. So what is the focus to be for the Christian concerning Old Testament scripture? It was always God testing human responsibility in the Adam man. And what are the outcomes we should have learned? Man fails under every form and epoch of God’s testing. What was proven? Man’s utter depravity. This is God’s purpose as taught by the Holy Spirit to the Christian in reading Old Testament history, as well as the rejection of Messiah by Israel in the gospels, when He came to His own.
Before Christ came God was proving in every form and in different ways the first man: since Christ’s rejection and the accomplishment of redemption on the cross, the Holy Spirit is revealing the mystery hidden from ages to the church, as well as publishing the gospel to every creature. This represents a major change in the ways of God! It is not the repeating of Old Testament revelation concerning a Theocratic kingdom, or even a mediatorial kingdom on earth (according to Dr. Alva McClain), or the “sticking to” only what was revealed previously in the prophets.
If we only see and depend on, exclusively, Old Testament prophecies and revelation for understanding, we are strictly depending on earthly things. The Old Testament teachings and writings are Jewish teachings and writings – they are only about earthly things. As Christians we should be aware that Judaism, the law, is God’s earthly religion, given to fallen man in Adam who was already a sinner (Israel). It was a walk by sight and senses, a walk in the flesh. When Paul teaches that we, Christians, walk by faith, he is making a direct contrast between Christianity and Judaism. It is why the Jews depend on signs and omens – their character, inherently acquired from their practice of their religion, which God adapted to the sinful flesh of man.
The law is Judaism. The practice of the law, at least originally, was the practice of Judaism. The religion may have morphed over time into something different though the hands of Pharisees and scribes, but originally the law and the religion were the same, and the practice was one and the same. It took a long time before Israel’s teachers, sitting in Moses seat, became brazen enough to add their own traditions and teachings to what God had said. But ask yourself this question: What was the law in its essence? Many want to say it was the means of living under theocratic rule in a theocratic kingdom. This is true as far as it may go, but if no man could do the law, how far does it go? What was the law really? It was the perfect measure of human righteousness in the Adam man. It was the perfect standard of human responsibility – of human thinking and human behavior – as man had relationship with a holy God. It was the perfect rule by which God would test the principle of responsibility in man, looking for the fruit of obedience. So we see then, Judaism, as a religion, in a great sense, was simply God testing Israel, and thereby proving fallen and sinful man.
The one great accomplishment for good found in God giving the law to Israel was that it established the worship of the one true God in the world and on the earth, different and separate from all the Gentile idols and false religions. Israel was given by God the worship of the one true God. But even here, in this one good outcome of Judaism as a religion, what was Israel’s history in its responsibility to God as the one nation given this truth? In Egypt they shared the idols of the Egyptians. At Sinai they agreed to obey all that Jehovah commanded them to do, but before the stone tablets made it down the mountain from the presence of Jehovah they had fashioned a golden calf to worship. Israel’s history from Sinai to Babylon is filled with their idols and apostasy. Israel had failed miserably to keep the covenant Jehovah had given them. They failed in keeping and following this religion of the flesh, of sight and senses, this religion of the earth and world – the religion of earthly things.
As Christians we should be aware of Israel’s calling. All Christians who are taught by the Spirit of God from God’s word know that Israel’s calling is earthly. They have been promised the land, and this through Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, their forefathers. They have been promised the throne of David, and One sitting on this throne eternally as a descendant of David after the flesh, ruling over them. This throne will be in earthly Jerusalem, which will be the capital city of God’s government of the earth, the city of the great King. They have been promised full restoration in the land, the rebuilding of their cities and desolate places, the land yielding and multiplying an abundance and prosperity, both in vineyards and livestock, the people themselves multiplying into a great and large nation, as many as the sand of the seas. They have been promised the forgiveness of all their sins, the healing of all their diseases. Can we not see the physical nature of all this restoration and blessing? Israel’s calling is earthly. Their religion is earthly and sensual. Their destiny is the land. When these promises are fulfilled, they will be the greatest nation on the face of the millennial earth, with the remaining Gentile nations serving them (Deut. 28:1-14, Isa. 60; 61; 62). (This ends the inserted portion taken from a different article)
The realization and comprehension of this principle of responsibility is important. God’s distinct testing of mankind by His privileging of Israel, using them as the test case, is the understanding that is paramount to the sound doctrine of theological systems. Above all, these systems should be skillful and masterful at rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). However, if you cannot see and understand the principle of responsibility being tested by God, if you don’t comprehend what God was doing, what God was proving, then you cannot possibly understand the Old Testament or even the New. Can you explain why God only gave the law to Israel, and kept it there for fifteen hundred years? Can you explain why the Spirit of God calls that which was written and engraved on stones a ministry of death and condemnation? (II Cor. 3:7-9) Why would God send the Messiah to Israel, if He knew beforehand, before the foundations of the world, they would reject Him? What would have happened if Israel would have received Jesus as their King at His first coming? When God was testing and the testing was over, what did He prove? How did He test man and when did the testing end? Has man been convinced of the results? How did the cross deal with the responsibilities of the believer? If you can’t answer these questions properly, then you shouldn’t be devising theological systems and presenting them as divine teaching. The ending of the testing by God and the coming in of the work of the cross is the hinging point of human history and the Scriptures.
Man’s responsibility is his works. When any man is judged by God, he is judged concerning his works, which were to be done in obedience to God. Man in Adam was required to manifest a perfect human righteousness before Him. What was demanded was a righteousness of the law that would be particular to the individual (Phil. 3:9). However, all men are sinners in Adam. Man in the flesh could not obey. Israel produces no fruit. The parable in Matthew 21:33-40 depicts God’s testing of Israel when they represented all mankind in the first Adam. The coming of Messiah to Israel was the last and final testing of man in the flesh, as this parable points out. Finding no fruit on the fig tree represents the results of the testing (Matt. 21:19). Man in the flesh could not produce fruit; Israel could not produce fruit. Then the judgment comes. God sets Israel aside and He condemns the entire world (John 12:31, Rom. 3:19). It is man in Adam, man in the flesh, that is condemned, and this is what the world is (Rom. 8:3).
The Jewish dispensation ended because Israel miserably failed under God’s testing. As I said before, the Jewish dispensation was completely dependent on the principle of human responsibility – could Israel produce the fruit of obedience and human righteousness through the law? Could they recognize and receive their Messiah as their King when God sent Him to them? These were the two specific ways in which God tested Israel’s responsibility – in both, Israel represented all mankind as the test-case. God has proven man in Adam to be totally lost and a miserable sinner. He has proven man’s utter depravity. He did this by testing Israel. God came to the fig tree and found no fruit. He cursed the tree. The Jewish dispensation is officially over. God’s testing of man has been completed. Man is no longer on probation, but God declares him to be entirely lost. The cross of Jesus Christ was the foundational work by which God acts through an entirely different principle – it is called election through sovereign grace, God justifying freely as He wills (Rom. 3:23-26). God begins a new dispensation.