The Jews — Still God’s People?

Question from a Site Viewer
Why is there so much out there today about the Jewish nation and how they are “God’s People,” and all of the various things God is going to do for “His people the Jews” in the last days of which we are supposedly in right now?

I have read and studied the Old Testament prophecies and I believe all the prophecies regarding the Jews and the Jewish nation were fulfilled on the cross. After the cross, in order to be considered a child of God or a member of God’s family or be considered as God’s people, the single qualification was the acceptance of Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. Therefore, unless the Jewish nation as a whole does just that, why would God pay special attention to or give them any special privileges? Again, didn’t he fulfill ALL of His promises to the Jews on the cross? What am I missing here?

There is a lot of material out there today that reinforces the above opinion, but I have been hard pressed to find much of anything to bolster my opinion. Am I wrong?

Tim’s Answer
Thank you for your question about the Jews and the present Jewish nation. Your statement that all of the prophecies relating to the Jewish nation were fulfilled at the cross is intriguing. I am not sure what prophecies you have in mind. Paul, after the cross, continued to see the Jewish people as special in the eyes of God. In Romans 9:1-5 Paul speaks of his grief for the Israelites. He says in Romans 10:1 that he prays for their salvation. He says in Romans 11:1 that God has not rejected His people. He argues in Romans 11:7-10 that most in Israel were hardened. But he then says in Romans 11:11 that they did not stumble so as to fall. Rather, he says in Romans 11:25 that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. He then adds that all Israel will be saved, quoting one of the many Old Testament promises God had made to Israel. He then states that the Jewish people are enemies from the standpoint of the gospel but they are beloved for the sake of the fathers. Paul adds that God’s gifts and calling are irrevocable. So I take it from this passage that some 20 years after the death of Christ Paul, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, still saw Old Testament promises towards Israel that were yet to be fulfilled.

When I look at this passage, I note that “Israel” in Paul’s mind is not synonymous with the “church.” In fact, Paul saw that they were enemies of the gospel, something that Paul would not say of the church. But Paul also said that they were beloved for the Father’s sake. Further, Paul is speaking of the church as the grafted in branches and therefore we cannot understand the natural branches to also be the church. Paul sees a future for Israel.

If one goes back to the Old Testament, there are numerous promises to Israel that have not yet been fulfilled. God promises in Ezekiel 36:22-38 to return Israel from the nations and bring them into their own land, to cleanse them from their filthiness, to give them a new heart and a new spirit, to put His Spirit within them, and to cause them to live in the land that He had given their forefathers (Ezekiel 36:28). This certainly did not happen before Jesus as the Jews never had a new heart and a new spirit. Moreover, the Jews had not been cleansed from all of their iniquities, as the passage goes on to state (Ezekiel 36:33). Again, in Ezekiel 37:25, God promises Israel that they will live on the land that He gave to Jacob. In says in Ezekiel 37:26-28 that He will make a covenant of peace with them and the nations will know that God is the one who sanctifies Israel. This has not happened.

Isaiah speaks of the coming Servant in Isaiah 49:5-6 and that the Messiah would be a servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel. He also says that the Messiah would be a light of the nations so that His salvation would reach the end of the earth. At the present time, the Messiah has not raised up the tribes of Jacob or restored the preserved ones of Israel. Israel does not even recognize Jesus as their Messiah.

God says in Jeremiah that He will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, will rebuild them, will cleanse them from all their iniquity and bless them because of His covenant sake (Jeremiah 33:7-26).

Amos 9:14-15 tells us that God will restore His people Israel and they will rebuild the ruined cities and God will plant them on their land and they will never again be rooted out from their land.

Zechariah 12:10 tells us that God will pour out on the house of David the Spirit of grace and of supplications so that they will look on Him whom they have pierced and they will mourn.

Malachi 3:1-3 tells us that the day is coming when the Lord will appear and purify the sons of Levi.

These and many other prophecies about Israel remain to be fulfilled. They certainly were not fulfilled before the time of Christ, as there was no time in Israel’s history before the time of Christ that the Levites were purified, the house of David mourned for Christ, or that the fortunes of Israel were restored and they were cleansed from all of their iniquity. Further, we cannot rightly claim that these promises were forfeited by Israel. God plainly states in the Ezekiel 36 passage that the promise has nothing to do with Israel’s faithfulness or lack of faithfulness, but God will do what He has promised for His own name’s sake. He tells us in the Jeremiah 33 passage that He will do it because of the unbreakable covenant that He has made. And it is that covenant that Paul cites in Romans 11 to give Paul assurance that one day all of Israel will be saved.

Accordingly, I am quite assured, given the nature of the truthfulness of God, that God will one day yet restore Israel to its land, take away their sin, give them peace and be their God. And they will be His people. This is what He has promised.

And I might add, if God can break His promise with Israel, then He can break His promise with us. And if He can break His promise with us, then He is not the God that Scripture portrays. In fact, it is precisely because God is unchangeable that we have confidence that He is not through with Israel (Malachi 3:7). He has given His word; His name is on the line; He will perform what He has said, not because of Israel’s righteousness, but because of His name’s sake. And it is this same characteristic of God, His desire to fulfill His word and protect His name, that gives us great confidence in our salvation. He has said that Israel will yet repent and He will give them a new heart and a new spirit and take away their sins. He will do it.

I commend you for focusing on the cross as the fulfillment. I see the cross as providing the basis for the fulfillment of all good promises God has made to us and to Israel. It is only through the death of Christ that God can look with favor on sinful man and bring redemption to us. The cross then is the focal point for the fulfillment of all the great promises. But the cross provides the means—it is not the end either for us or for Israel. As Paul argues in Romans 8:32, the cross demonstrates that God will withhold no good thing from us. Because of the cross, we have an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled and that doesn’t fade away (1 Peter 1:4). But not only does the cross provide future blessings for us, but the cross also is the means to bring Israel to God (Isaiah 49:5-6). God’s ability to forgive their sins and restore them is based on the work of Messiah on the cross. Thus, I would word the premise as follows: “All prophecies of Israel’s future blessings were made possible by the cross, just as all prophecies of our future blessings were made possible by the cross.”

However, this does not mean that the present Jewish nation is the restored nation God has promised. The present nation of Israel does not recognize Christ as the Son of God, they have not turned to their Messiah whom the Father sent, they have not been healed of their waywardness, nor are they experiencing the peace that God promises to Israel in the Old Testament. Nevertheless, I believe that in Ezekiel 38-39, the passage on Gog that has many interpretations among scholars, one thing is clear. Israel will dwell in the promised land in some state of peace before being invaded by Gog (Ezekiel 38:8-12). And it is at the end of that “battle” that Israel will be restored to God (Ezekiel 38:22-29). Thus, I conclude that there was prophesied to be a time to come when Israel would live in the land but not be restored to God. It seems to me possible that the present return of the Jewish people to the land of Israel, even though they presently do not acknowledge Christ, potentially may be the hand of God. I will not say with certainty that the modern day nation of Israel is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. But I do not discount the possibility that it may be the beginning, even though they remain enemies of the gospel at the present time.

I also believe that the salvation of Israel will be a time of incredible blessing for the whole world. As Paul argues in Romans 11, if their falling away is a blessing to the Gentiles, how much more their restoration.

I hope this helps with your question.

May the Lord Jesus guide you as you seek to grow closer with Him,

a fellow servant,

tim

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