Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Always Have Been, Always Will Be...

It is the Lord who provides the sun to light the day and the moon and stars to light the night, and who stirs the sea into roaring waves.
His name is the Lord of Heaven's Armies, and this is what he says:
"I am as likely to reject my people Israel as I am to abolish the laws of nature!"
This is what the Lord says:
"Just as the heavens cannot be measured and the foundations of the earth cannot be explored, I will not consider casting them away for the evil they have done. I, the Lord, have spoken!" Jeremiah 31:35-37
Much of the church today, predominantly in certain denominations, has adopted an unbiblical, false doctrine, which many refer to as "replacement theology". Some churches may teach this as an outright fact, while others may simply, though just as dangerously, allow the attitudes and ideas of it to subtly seep into their teachings and belief systems. Either way, it has permeated so deeply into the hearts and minds of a frighteningly large portion of believers today that many of us have accepted these attitudes toward Israel and the Jewish people as normal. The result is, at best, a disinterest or slight annoyance with the "problems" that Israel seems to pose to our world today geopolitically, and at worst, a disgust or even hatred for a nation that God has clearly called His own. What this theology teaches is basically that all of the promises which God made to Israel somehow transferred to Christians, or the church, because of Israel's rejection of Jesus; essentially, this means that we must discard the entire Old Testament, or at least, insert "the church" into the promises of God anytime He addresses Israel. I'll leave the doctrinal research to you, and simply say for now that this idea is completely ludicrous; God made specific promises TO Israel, and He intends to fulfill every single one of them WITH Israel.

In the last post, we took a look at what the Millennial Kingdom, the 1,000 year period following Christ's return to earth, will look like. Now, I'd like to outline for you a few highlights concerning God's special plans and promises for Israel. Remember, anyone who enters into the Millennial Kingdom, whether Jew or Gentile, HAS accepted Jesus Christ as their savior. Simply being Jewish does not entitle a person to the fulfillment of these promises; they must accept Christ, just as the church has had to do...

First of all, here's a quick outline of what the ruling structure will look like during the millennium:
  1. Jesus Christ: Jesus will rule over the entire world.
    1. The Gentiles, ruled by the church (1 Corinthians 6:2-3)
      1. "Kings" will be ruling over the individual nations of the world.
    2. The Jews, ruled by King David (Ezekiel 34:23-24)
      1. The 12 disciples (with the exception of Judas, who will be replaced by someone who has yet to be revealed) will rule over the 12 tribes of Israel (Matthew 19:27-28, Luke 22:28-30).
In Ezekiel, over the course of several chapters, as well as throughout the majority of the Old Testament, God lays out a very detailed description of the future plans for Israel. Here is one small window into those plans:
My servant David will be their king, and they will have only one shepherd. They will obey my regulations and be careful to keep my decrees. They will live in the land I gave my servant Jacob, the land where their ancestors lived. They and their children and their grandchildren after them will live there forever, generation after generation. And my servant David will be their prince forever. And I will make a covenant of peace with them, an everlasting covenant. I will give them their land and increase their numbers, and I will put my Temple among them forever. I will make my home among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And when my Temple is among them forever, the nations will know that I am the Lord, who makes Israel holy. Ezekiel 37:24-28, emphasis added
It doesn't take a bible scholar to figure out that the Israel described here has NEVER existed. This has NOT happened yet, but it will! During the 1,000 year reign of Christ, this Israel will be a reality!

It's also interesting to note that during this time, as Ezekiel 40-48 and other passages describe to us, the practices of temple worship and temple sacrifices will be reinstated. We must understand, however, that these sacrifices will NOT be atoning, as they were in their early days; these sacrifices are a symbol that point back at what Christ did on the cross, just as the original atoning sacrifices pointed toward what he would do in the future. These sacrifices will be a type of memorial of Christ's blood spilled on the cross, similar to what we practice when we take communion. We, the church, will not take part in offering these sacrifices, but we will help administer and serve during the process.

While we certainly don't need to go out and start participating in animal sacrifice, it would probably do us all a world of good to reconnect with our Jewish roots in some way. Perhaps a study about Jewish holidays and what they mean. Maybe participating in a Seder dinner. Maybe celebrating Chanukah this year. Remember that we are adopted into this Jewish family when we become a follower of Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Jewish Messiah. There is so much richness to be found in the Hebrew traditions. All of these seemingly tedious rites and rituals that God required of the Jews were each a unique, poetic foreshadowing of the beautiful relationship that we would one day have with Jesus Christ, Yeshua, the Messiah! Learning about and participating in these practices now only give us a deeper, more intimate view of the sovereignty and intricacy of an Almighty God. How can we truly understand the God we serve if we deny or simply ignore the culture through which He chose to enter this world?

Ultimately, regardless of how much we understand or participate in the traditions of the Jewish people, we MUST remember God's warning to anyone who would threaten to harm them:
I will bless those who bless you and curse those who treat you with contempt. Genesis 12:3
There I will judge them for harming my people, my special possession, for scattering my people among the nations, and for dividing up my land. Joel 3:2 
The Lord is going to judge those who seek to divide the land of Israel. Does this sound familiar right now? Where do you stand on a Palestinian state? How is that affecting your voting? your prayer? your support or lack thereof of this special nation? I have made the comparison before of a bystander who sees a bully tormenting his victim and watches idly from the background; the bystander is just as guilty as the bully himself. We have to stand visibly, vocally, prayerfully, financially, spiritually, and in every other possible way with Israel. These ARE God's people, and so are we, if we love him and obey his commands.

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