TWO THINGS I DIDN'T KNOW AN HOUR AGO:
- Why I really haven't had any ideas that "coalesced" into a whole Blog post, for a longer while than usual.
- This............... from my good friend Wade Burleson, pastor of Emmauel Baptist Church, Enid, OK.
Jesus Is the "New Israel" in God's New Agreement
Orthodox Jews and evangelical Christians have very little in common. The English usage of the adjective Judeo-Christian may make a person think that evangelicalism and orthodox Judaism are similar. We really aren't. Admittedly, Judeo-Christian sounds more pleasant to the ears than Islamic-Christian to most American Christians, but there's about as much in common between religious Muslims and evangelicals as there is between religious Jews and evangelicals. Yet, for many wrong reasons, some Christians believe it is "of God" to support Jewish attempts to extricate Muslims from Jerusalem, tear down the Dome of the Rock - a major Islamic shrine - in order to rebuild the Jewish Temple, re-institute Old Covenant blood sacrifices, and re-establish Old Covenant Festivals outlined in The Law (the five books of Moses).
I don't get it.
"Kiss the Son..." (Psalm 2:12) is the instruction of God for all peoples during these New Covenant times, both Jew and Gentile. It matters not if you are born in the land of Israel, a Muslim land, a secular land, or even a so-called "Christian" land, every single human is instructed by God to embrace Jesus Christ. To come to Christ by faith, and to declare "I have no righteousness except Him" is the essence of "good news," and it is the only way by which anyone will ever experience right standing with God and eternal blessings from God. Orthodox Jews oppose the proclamation of faith in the Person and work Jesus Christ as much as Muslims do. For evangelicals to support the re-building of a Jewish Temple, the re-instituting of Jewish institutional sacrifices, and the re-establishing of Jewish annual Festivals -- all of which Jesus Christ caused to disappear (Hebrews 8:13) -- strikes me as anti-Christ.
God established a New Covenant (agreement) with the world through the obedience of His Son. The Old Covenant was made with one nation (Israel) and is now gone (disappeared). Whereas in the Old Covenant, the nation of Israel experienced God's blessings through their obedience to the Law, as well as God's wrath for their disobedience to the Law, in the New Covenant God's blessings are only received through not being ashamed of "the Christ of God" (Luke 9:20) and putting one's trust in Him. This why our obedience to God in the New Covenant is called "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26). We believe in Jesus Christ, embrace Him, refuse to be ashamed of Him, and claim we have no righteousness of our own, but only that righteousness which is found in Him.
That's why evangelicals who spend their time attempting to explain why it's necessary for Jews to re-institute the rituals of Old Covenant, constantly promoting the religion of orthodox Judaism -- while at the same time denigrating orthodox Islam -- may have completely missed the beauty of Jesus Christ and the good news (i.e. "gospel").
Jesus Christ is the New Israel
Most evangelicals read the New Testament and come across the phrase "the last days" and think it has to do with "the last days" of this world. Not true. The New Testament writers, all of whom were Jews, wrote of "the last days" of the Old Covenant! God was bringing to an end covenant He made with Israel. Through His Son, God was launching a New Agreement (Covenant) with the world (Hebrews 8:13). The Twelve original disciples of Christ knew they were in "the last days" of the Old Covenant, and this is why the Apostle John wrote in I John 2:18 that he was indeed living in "the last hour." Peter, when preaching on the day of Pentecost, quoted the prophet Joel and said Joel's words about "the last days" were then (in Peter's day) being fulfilled (Acts 2:17). Other passages like Hebrews 1:1–2 say the early disciples were living in "the last days," and that the "consummation of the ages" was "now" (the time of the early disciples) (Hebrews 9:26). Paul said the early Jewish followers of Christ were the people "upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11). All the New Testament books were written prior to the collapse of Old Covenant Jewish worship (A.D. 70), and the early followers of Jesus - most of whom were Jewish - were prepared by Christ to anticipate the destruction of their Jewish way of worship "in the last days."
In A.D. 70 God brought the Romans to Jerusalem to destroy the Jewish Temple, end the blood sacrifices, and scatter the Jews, similar to the way He brought the Assyrians to Israel in 722 B.C. to end the northern kingdom of Israel, destroy the false idols they'd built in the groves, and scatter the ten northern tribes. The judgment of God wrought in AD 70 was also similar to the manner in which He brought an end to Temple worship and the desolation of Jerusalem in 586 B.C. through the army of the Babylonians. Believing God ended the Old Covenant age A.D. 70 doesn't preclude a belief that Jesus Christ is returning one day to raise the dead, judge the wicked, give His followers the rewards He has earned for them (i.e. "we are co-heirs with Christ"), and usher in eternity - all of which I believe. But what a proper understanding of the New Testament "last days" will do for you is help you put more of an emphasis on the Person and work of Jesus Christ and His Kingdom now rather than a nation whose covenant with God (the Old Covenant) has disappeared.
I support "national Israel" today because they are the closest thing to a democracy in the totalitarian despotism of the Middle East. I, like you, watch the news and feel sympathy and support for Israel because of the despotic enemies that surround them. However, to support "national Israel" because of a belief that God desires the re-establishment of an Old Covenant agreement with Israel is - forgive my expression - to spit in the face of Jesus, the Christ of God.
Jesus is the new Israel in the eternal New Agreement that God has made with the world. God is now only concerned with whether or not people everywhere embrace His Son. That's why you can talk about your religion (i.e. "How you serve God, worship God, obey God, etc...") and the world will leave you alone. But the moment you begin to talk about Jesus Christ, all hell breaks loose. Jesus is the Christ of God, and even the demons of hell know you must embrace Him or face the wrath of God. When you promote national Israel over the New Israel (Jesus Christ), you are no different in your religion than any other anti-Christ religion. Faith that saves is Christo-centric. Faith that saves is "Christ centered" and not Old Covenant national Israel centered.
"This Is My Son, in Whom I Am Well Pleased"
Let me show you how Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law and the new Israel in the new, eternal agreement that God has made with the world.
After Jesus was born in Bethlehem, his parents took Him to Egypt to avoid the murderous plot of King Herod. Later, Jesus left Egypt with Joseph and Mary and settled in Nazareth. When Matthew recounts how Jesus was "called out of Egypt" (Matthew 2:15), he says that Christ coming out of Egypt fulfills the statement of Hosea 11:1 - "Out of Egypt I have called My Son."
Wait a minute! That Hosea 11:1 passage says:
"When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called my son."
But the gospel writer (Matthew) says that this statement from Hosea is fulfilled in the life of Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus becomes the new Israel in the New Covenant. Unlike Old Covenant Israel, Jesus fulfills the Law - every jot and tittle of it! There are some evangelicals who believe that "the church" has replaced Israel in the New Covenant. Not so. Jesus is the new Israel.
Notice how the life of Jesus as the new Israel parallels the life of Old Covenant national Israel.
(1). The King of Kings was born in Bethlehem, the very place where King David was crowned King of Israel during Old Covenant days.
(2). After Jesus was born, He went to Egypt, just as national Israel fled to Egypt during Old Covenant days to avoid death (see Genesis 46:8) .
(3). Both national Israel and the new Israel (Jesus Christ) were "called out of Egypt" (Hosea 11:1).
(4). God gave the Law during the Old Covenant on a mountain (Sinai) through Moses; and He gave the new Law on a mountain through His Son (i.e. "The Sermon on the Mount").
(5). God told Peter, James and John to ignore Moses and Elijah, the great Law-giver and prophet of the Old Covenant, and to listen to "My beloved Son!" (akoute auton - "Hear Him"!"). Because HE is the Christ of God. We are to listen to Him alone! (see Luke 9:28-36).
(6). National Israel has a history of disobedience to God and failure to meet the conditions of the Old Covenant. The new Israel, Jesus Christ, fulfilled every "jot and tittle" of the Law (Matthew 5:18).
(7). Since the Law promised "blessings" from God for full obedience, and punishment for disobedience to the Law, national Israel experienced punishments from God throughout the duration of the Old Covenant (ending in AD 70). However, Jesus experienced and felt the full pleasure of His father ("this is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased") because of His perfect obedience.
(8). Before Jesus entered into His public ministry of mercy and grace, He endured 40 days in the wilderness; so too, before national Israel entered into Canaan, they spent 40 years in the wilderness.
(9). Jesus Christ was baptized at the very location (Betharaba) national Israel crossed the Jordan to enter Canaan.
(10). Jesus is the fulfillment of the Law's Festivals (born at Tabernacles, died at Passover, in the tomb during Unleavened Bread, raised on the Feast of Firstfruits, and sending the Comforter at Pentecost, etc...).
Because Jesus perfectly fulfilled the Law in His perfect obedience, and passively fulfilled the Law in His substitutionary death (i.e. He paid the Law's penalty for sin), the good news is that whoever forsakes trust in their personal obedience and places their faith in the performance and work of Jesus Christ, the gift given to them is life -- real life that lasts forever -- which includes God's forgiveness of every sin, the crediting of Christ's perfect righteousness to my account (i.e. "God sees no sin in His people"), and eternal rewards for Christ's performance ("the meek will inherit the earth when the curse is fully reversed").
In this New Covenant time period, we are fully blessed by God, totally pleasing to God, and the eternally loved, adopted, and rewarded sons of God (by adoption) because of the obedience of Jesus Christ (not our own) and our faith in Him! As it is written:
But whatever was to my profit (as an orthodox, religious Jew) I now consider loss for the sake of Christ. What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ--the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. I want to know Christ. (Philippians 3:7-11)
In Jesus Christ we have true Rest.
So, before you get all caught up in the questions of what how a person should treat modern, national Israel, may I suggest that God is only interested in how you treat the new Israel - His Son, the "Christ of God"? Christ fulfilled the Law whereas national Israel failed the Law, Christ is pleasing to God for His perfect obedience whereas national Israel experienced punishment from God for their persistent disobedience; Christ is "the Way, the Truth and the Life" for all those who put their faith in Him (i.e. "the obedience of faith," Romans 16:26), whereas national Israel has gone down a path "that seemed right to man, but the end thereof is the way of death" (Proverbs 14:12).
I believe any evangelical more concerned with one's treatment of national Israel than one's trust in the new Israel, Jesus Christ, is doing a disservice to the Kingdom of God and missing the Gospel itself by mixing and confusing an Old Covenant, replaced by a New Covenant inaugurated by the performance of the New Israel (Jesus Christ). I close with the words of the brilliant John Owen on why an understanding of the New Covenant and its corresponding freedom to those who embrace the New Israel (Jesus Christ) will revolutionize one's life and worship:
For “where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty;” namely, to serve God, “not in the oldness of the letter, but in the newness of the Spirit.”…And we may briefly consider wherein this deliverance and liberty by the New Covenant does consist, which it does in the following things:—
(1.) In our freedom from the commanding power of the law, as to sinless, perfect obedience, in order to obtain righteousness and justification before God…
(2.) In our freedom from the condemning power of the law, and the sanction of it in the curse. This being undergone and answered by Him who was “made a curse for us,” we are freed from it, Rom. 7:6; Gal. 3:13, 14.
(3.) In our freedom from conscience of sin, Heb. 10:2,—that is, conscience disquieting, perplexing, and condemning our persons; the hearts of all that believe being “sprinkled from an evil conscience” by the blood of Jesus Christ.
(4.) In our freedom from the whole system of Mosaical worship, in all the rites, and ceremonies, and ordinances of it; which what a burden it was the apostles do declare…
(5.) From all the laws of men in things appertaining unto the worship of God, 1 Cor. 7:23.
And by all these, and the like instances of spiritual liberty, does the gospel free believers from that “spirit of bondage unto fear,” which was administered under the Old Covenant.
Next time you experience a "spirit of fear" about the world's future, your personal failures, or the possibility of the loss of God's favor, you might check upon which Israel you are relying - the Old Israel which induces "a bondage unto fear" or the New Israel which brings life, liberty, and real happiness.