Israel’s Ultimate Triumph
Israel’s ultimate triumph over the nations of the world is the theme not only of the Old Testament but the whole Bible. Unfortunately, many Christians believe that the church, through Christ, has permanently replaced Israel as the recipient of the promised Abrahamic blessings. This prevailing viewpoint is called Replacement or Amillennial Theology, meaning no Millennium, i.e., no future Israelite Kingdom, the Kingdom is now the church.
As if anticipating this erroneous teaching, Paul, in Romans 11, specifically warned believing Gentiles against becoming arrogant in their place of blessing in contrast to the Jewish people, whom he likened to olive branches that were broken off their own tree because of unbelief (vv. 17–20). Paul taught that Gentile believers should not consider themselves more righteous than Israel or think that Israel has been cast off permanently from God’s promises (Rom. 11:1–12). Rather, Gentiles are to see their position as one of grace based on God’s promises to Abraham. They now enjoy this position as children of Abraham through faith in Christ, as will Israel when the Lord finally brings the nation back to Himself (Rom. 11:25–32). Consequently, the church should not believe that God has abandoned the Jewish people but that He is using their current situation as a means of bringing them back to genuine faith in Him. As Paul wrote,
I say, then, Have they [Israel] stumbled that they should fall? God forbid; but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fullness [salvation]? (Rom. 11:11–12).
God’s Redemptive Plan for Israel
When God formed Israel, it was to be a “kingdom of priests” to the Lord (Ex. 19:6), declaring Him among the Gentiles (1 Ki. 8:60). Israel’s faith and obedience to the Mosaic Covenant was to bring her so much blessing that she would lead the pagan world to God.
But after the reigns of David and Solomon, the Israelites were not faithful to the covenant. Thus God was obligated to discipline them (Dt. 28—29), which resulted in their expulsion from the land via the Assyrian (722 B.C.) and Babylonian (586 B.C.) exiles. The Israelite prophets had already prophesied these events but always added that the nation will be redeemed and restored to her former glory through the coming of the Davidic Messiah (Isa. 1—12).
The prophet Daniel further indicated that a period known as the “times of the Gentiles” would intervene (Dan. 9:20–27). Thus, as part of His discipline of Israel, God placed the nation under Gentile domination until the Messiah comes.
When the Messiah came the first time, many in Israel were looking for this redemption. However, God had determined that the Messiah would be rejected and die (Acts 2:23). Thus the institution of the Israelite Kingdom and its banishment of evildoers was postponed to enable the gospel to go to the Gentiles. In the meantime, Israel would remain under Gentile domination; hence the erroneous view developed that Israel has been cast off forever. At Messiah’s Second Advent, the Israelite Kingdom will be established in Jerusalem and Messiah will rule over the whole world in righteousness.
The Future Battle in Israel
The Bible clearly teaches that the Messianic Kingdom will not come without a fight, both spiritually and literally. Satan will not relinquish his rule willingly and will fight to destroy and kill as many as possible until his end. He will also try to destroy Israel to prevent the nation from repenting. However, at the end of the Great Tribulation, when the armies of the world surround and invade Jerusalem, the Lord will return to fight for Israel.
Zechariah 12—14 vividly describes this battle. Zechariah wrote,
And in that day will I make Jerusalem a burdensome stone for all the peoples; all that burden themselves with it shall be cut in pieces, though all the nations of the earth be gathered together against it. In that day, saith the LORD, I will smite every horse with terror, and his rider with madness; and I will open mine eyes upon the house of Judah, and will smite every horse of the peoples with blindness. In that day shall the LORD defend the inhabitants of Jerusalem; and he that is feeble among them at that day shall be like David; and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the LORD before them (12:3–4, 8).
Combined with the action of the dragon and the Beast in Revelation 11—13 and 19, a picture of this end-times battle emerges: Leading Roman (Western) forces and the Antichrist (the Beast in Revelation) will invade the Middle East and Israel, where Antichrist will capture the Temple and set up his image for the world to worship. Although he intends to exterminate Israel, God will protect a remnant in the wilderness. Also, a remnant will hold out in Jerusalem. So the armies of the whole world will gather in the Valley of Armageddon, the staging area for the battle for Jerusalem.
When the situation seems most desperate, the Israeli leaders will repent and recognize Jesus as their Messiah (Zech. 12:9–14). This action will trigger the Messiah’s return (Zech. 14:4; Rev. 19) to defeat Israel’s enemies and establish His rule over the whole world from Jerusalem.
The Messianic Kingdom
Almost every Old Testament prophet revealed something about the Messianic Kingdom and the restoration of Israel. The major prophets, especially Isaiah, Jeremiah, and Ezekiel, wrote extensively about the blessings that one day will come to Israel. They include:
- A righteous Israel under the New Covenant (Jer. 31; Ezek. 36).
- A forgiven Israel due to the atonement of the suffering Servant of the Lord (Isa. 42; 49—50; 52—53).
- A regathering of scattered Israel from around the world to the land (Isa. 25—27; Ezek. 37; Zech. 8).
- Resurrection of Old Testament saints to enjoy the Kingdom (Isa. 25—26; Dan. 12; Ezek. 37).
- Uniting of Israel and Judah (Ezek. 37).
- Rule from Jerusalem of a Messianic Davidic descendant (Ezek. 37; Isa. 2; 9; 11; 24; Zech. 14).
- A new Temple in Jerusalem, where the world will come to worship (Ezek. 40—48; Hag. 2).
- Protection from enemies and invaders (Ezek. 38—39).
- Gentiles’ honoring Israelites as God’s people (Isa. 49; 60).
- Rule of the Messiah over the whole world (Ps. 2).
- Defeat of Satan and his demons, so his rule over the people of the earth is broken (Isa. 24; 27).
- A time of joy and feasting (Isa. 25). As the prophet Micah aptly summarized,
He [God] will turn again; he will have compassion upon us; he will subdue our iniquities; and thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea. Thou wilt perform the truth to Jacob, and the mercy to Abraham, which thou hast sworn unto our fathers from the days of old (7:19–20).
How do these promises of God’s correlate with the New Testament? How do we reconcile (1) that believers are “co-heirs” with Christ (Gal. 4:7), (2) the New Covenant concept of all being equal in Christ (Eph. 2), and (3) the Old Covenant being done away (Heb. 7—10)? Has not Israel’s rejection of the Messiah and the progress of revelation in the New Testament shown that we should understand the promised blessings of the Old Testament as now being fulfilled figuratively in the church?
As Paul would say, “God forbid” (Rom. 11:1, 11). God’s plan is to bring both together. As Jesus said when He saw a centurion’s faith, “Many shall come from the east and west [Gentile believers], and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven” (Mt. 8:11).
Adding New Testament revelation, a fuller picture based on the above twelve points reveals the following facts:
The Gentiles spoken of in the Old Testament who worship at Jerusalem in the Kingdom will be New Covenant saints.
As Jewish people live under the Messianic King in the land of Israel, church saints will inhabit and rule over the rest of the world under their King in Jerusalem.
While all believers are equal in the New Covenant, Israel will have a special place as a fulfillment of God’s promises to it.
The presence of a literal Temple will not be an anachronism. Rather, it will be the physical locality of the Lord’s rule on the earth from Jerusalem, as God promised (Ps. 132).
This Messianic Kingdom is not the end of the story. After Messiah’s thousand-year reign (Rev. 20), God will create new heavens and a new Earth and will build a New Jerusalem, where all the saints, both Jew and Gentile, will live together equally for eternity (Isa. 65—66; Rev. 21—22).
So, are the Jews God’s people or not? Based on the teaching of the Bible, the answer is unequivocally yes.
Does this mean every Jewish person currently has a spiritual relationship with God through Jesus Christ and can be considered a “child of God”? Even Paul would say no because God is calling out only a remnant of Jews into the church (Rom. 11:1–6).
This dual aspect of God’s relationship with His people is what makes a clear understanding of God’s will so crucial. On the one hand, Jewish people need to hear that Jesus is their Messiah so they can join the remnant of Jewish believers. On the other hand, much tribulation is going to come through the Gentiles to drive the nation of Israel to repentance, so that all Jewish people become God’s people in their hearts through the New Covenant relationship with Christ. Therefore, Paul’s warning to us as a church made up predominantly of Gentiles is still apt:
Boast not against the branches [fallen Israel]. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say, then, The branches were broken off, that I might be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not high-minded, but fear; For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee (Rom. 11:18–21).
As our world moves politically toward a final Roman Empire, one can already see how the existence of the State of Israel will be the obstacle to world peace. How long will the West back Israel if it perceives her as the stumbling block of the world? We don’t know.
But we do know that this situation is the Lord’s doing (Zech. 12:2).
Eventually, He will bring Israel back to her land and enable her ultimate triumph. As Ezekiel stated,
My tabernacle also shall be with them [Israel]; yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And the nations shall know that I, the LORD, do sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in the midst of them for evermore (37:27–28).
In the meantime, let’s pray that we will be able not only to stand with the Jewish people in their time of need but also speak to them of their Messiah, who will one day demonstrate to the world His everlasting love for them.