FUFILLMENT OF PROPHECY TO ISRAEL DURING THE CHURCH AGE PART 1
GOD’S FULFILLMENT OF PROPHECY TO ISRAEL SINCE THE TIME OF CHRIST
Thomas S. McCall Th.D.
We often hear of Bible prophecy as it relates to the First and Second Coming of Christ, which is very important, but there is much more Bible prophecy concerning what the Lord is doing between the two Advents of Jesus during the Church Age. These prophecies specifically pertain to God’s ancient covenant people, Israel, and His new covenant people, the Church. This article explains God’s preservation of, and promises to the Jewish people throughout the Church Age, in preparation for the ultimate restoration of Israel to its own Kinsman Redeemer, the Lord Jesus Christ. The prophecies will be grouped under two headings; first, those that have already been fulfilled during the Church Age, and second, the end time prophecies yet to be fulfilled during the Church Age.
Bible Prophecies About Israel Fulfilled During The Church Age
The Nation of Israel will be preserved intact until the Second Coming of Christ and through the Millennial Kingdom.
35 Thus says the Lord, Who gives the sun for light by day And the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, Who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar; The Lord of hosts is His name: 36 “If this fixed order departs From before Me,” declares the Lord, “Then the offspring of Israel also will cease From being a nation before Me forever.”37 Thus says the Lord, “If the heavens above can be measured And the foundations of the earth searched out below, Then I will also cast off al the offspring of Israel For all that they have done,” declares the Lord (NSAB).
The Lord said to Jeremiah that He would always view the Nation of Israel as His, no matter what the circumstances on this earth are, or what they have done.
Jerusalem would be the Cradle of Christianity
8 but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth (NASB).
Christ Himself prophesied all of this, and Israel played a large role in the creation of the Church. The Church began in Jerusalem, with thousands of believers on the Jewish holiday of Pentecost, and spread from there to the ends of the earth. The invitation to become believers in Christ joins each believer to the Church, and is still developing today. Humanly speaking, if the Jewish believers had not started the Church, there would never have been a worldwide church.
The Jewish Apostles Built The Church on The Foundation of Christ
Doubting Thomas by Caravaggio Cir 1602-03
Ephesians 2:19 - 22
19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, 20 having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone, 21 in whom the whole building, being fitted together, is growing into a holy temple in the Lord, 22 in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling of God in the Spirit (NASB).
Paul explains in the book of Ephesians that the church is a bifurcated organism, composed of two parts: Jewish believers and Gentile believers. In effect, a church without Gentile believers is incomplete, and a church without Jewish believers is incomplete. They are like a bird with two wings, both wings necessary to enable the bird to fly.
The New Testament Was Written by Jews
1 Then what advantage has the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all , that they were entrusted with the oracles of God (NASB).
The Oracles of God came to Israel
Furthermore, God’s plan is that when He has a message for the human race, He has always had it written down by Jewish hands, both for the Old and New Testaments. Some say that Dr. Luke was a Gentile, but I am convinced that there are many cogent arguments to support the fact that Luke was a Jew. (A more detailed discussion regarding Luke’s Jewishness can be found on the blog article I wrote on this subject.). Throughout its 4,000-year history, Israel has frequently been a “lost” nation, just like the rest of the nations who turned away from God. However, there has always been a minority, a remnant, in Israel that has looked forward in faith to the coming Redeemer Christ, or who have looked back in faith to the first coming of their Redeemer Christ.
A Remnant in Elijah’s Time
2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 "Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have torn down your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life." 4 But what is God's response to him? "I have left for myself seven thousand men who have not knelt to Baal." (NASB)
A Remnant in The Church Age
5 In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.6 But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened (NASB).
The Bible declared that the Lord wanted the Gospel to be given to the Jews first throughout the Church Age. This was the priority of all evangelism during the Church Age, to the Jew first and then to the Gentile:
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (NASB).
The Lord’s desire prophesied in both Testaments was for the Gospel of Christ, in every generation, to be delivered to the Jews first, and then it would proceed out to the greater Gentile population. Regrettably, after the first century, this was rarely the case. The Church did not carry this out as the Lord desired.
The Synagogue Was the Natural Place For The Gospel to Be Taught
1 Now when they had traveled through Amphipolis and Apollonian, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. 2 And according to Paul's custom, he went to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and giving evidence that the Christ had to suffer and rise again from the dead, and saying, "This Jesus whom I am proclaiming to you is the Christ." 4 And some of them were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, along with a great multitude of the God-fearing Greeks and a number of the leading women (NASB).
The Lord Jesus taught in the synagogues (Luke 4:15, 13:10; Matthew 4:23,13:10). The synagogue was an institution that developed during the Babylonian exile, and was a place where Jews gathered for worship, study, and prayer. For the exiles in Babylon it served as a replacement for the Temple. It grew in importance over the years, and by the time of Paul’s missionary journeys they populated the entire Roman Empire.
Judgment on Israel, Jerusalem and The Temple in 70 A.D.
Jerusalem under attack by Titus Vespasian Artist Poussin 1623
33 "You serpents, you brood of vipers, how shall you escape the sentence of hell ? 34 "Therefore, behold, I am sending you prophets and wise men and scribes; some of them you will kill and crucify, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues, and persecute from city to city, 35 that upon you may fall the guilt of al the righteous blood shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. 36 "Truly I say to you, al these things shall come upon this generation. 37 "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. 38 "Behold, your house is being left to you desolate! 39 "For I say to you, from now on you shall not see Me until you say, 'Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!'" (NASB)
There is no question that a terrible judgment fell upon Israel for not recognizing and accepting the Lord Jesus Christ as Messiah and Redeemer. The Temple was destroyed and as a result the Jewish people have been scattered over the entire earth for hundreds and hundreds of years. Nevertheless, as the Bible tells us this judgment will not last forever. The end to the judgment will come when all Israel as a nation recognizes that the Jesus they despised has always been their true Messiah. They are not corporately ready to do that today. One must ask the question, what will cause them to do this? Sadly, it appears that the only thing that will accomplish this will be the awful experience with the future Antichrist and the Old Testament designation of the Time of Jacob’s Trouble, known in the New Testament as the Great Tribulation. Then, and only then, will Israel be eager, willing, and able to receive Jesus, and welcome Him as the one whom the Bible says will come in the Name of the Lord.
Persecution of Israel Throughout The World
Jesus further prophesied the following:
The results of what would happen to Jerusalem and Israel as a consequence of their rejecting His Messiahship as well as His redemptive kingdom.
Within 40 years the Romans would surround the capital, destroy the Temple.
The Jewish people would be scattered in captivity throughout the Gentile world.
20 "But when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies, then recognize that her desolation is at hand. 21 "Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, and let those who are in the midst of the city depart, and let not those who are in the country enter the city; 22 because these are days of vengeance, in order that al things which are written may be fulfilled. 23 "Woe to those who are with child and to those who nurse babes in those days; for there will be great distress upon the land, and wrath to this people,24and they will fall by the edge of the sword, and will be led captive into all the nations; and Jerusalem will be trampled under foot by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled (NASB).
The Church Turns Against Israel With Replacement Theology
After the First Century, John Chrysostom, one of the early anti-Semitic Church fathers (349 - 407 A.D.), developed the theology that the Church has replaced Israel, and there is no future for Israel in God’s plan and purpose, resulting in the church turning against the Jewish people and becoming anti-Semitic. This is in direct opposition to Paul’s prophetic warned using imagery of the Olive Tree as God’s blessing, and telling the Gentile believers not to become conceited and boast against the “natural branches”, since the natural branches are Israel who were chosen first to receive God’ divine blessing. Paul warned what would happen if they pursued such an erroneous doctrine:
17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in."20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you (NASB).
Abandonment of Jewish Evangelism by the Church
11 I say then, they [the Jews] did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous (NASB, clarification added).
The purpose of salvation coming to the Gentiles during the Church Age was not to obliterate Israel. Rather, it was meant to cause the Jewish people to be amazed that Gentiles were coming to faith in the God of Abraham, that they believed the Jewish Bible, and were drawn to knowing the Jewish Messiah in order to receive eternal life through Him. This was to cause the Jews to want all these things themselves. But the Church turned its back on the Jew, and was even instrumental in the persecution of the Jews through much of Church history.
The Church rejected the Biblical teaching of the future of Israel by 500 A.D.
Saint Augustine in His Study by Sandro Boticelli 1840
The Carthaginian theologian Augustine at first was a Chiliast (premillennialist), but was converted to amillennialism, and by the time he visited Rome no longer believed in the future of Israel. He then popularized Replacement Theology, which replaces the Jews with the Church as God’s chosen people, and made it the dominant doctrine of Christianity to this day. This was in direct contradiction to the admonition to the Church about Israel by the Apostle Paul:
25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery, lest you be wise in your own estimation, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and thus all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob." 27 "And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins" (NASB).