GOD'S PURPOSE TO-DAY
for those of
and His promise for
My previous letter to you was mainly a declaration and explanation of my own position and faith. As I had tried to explain, belief or faith can be recognised as being in one of three orders or categories, but here I am concerned only with that which involves mutual trust in a person and in that person's statements, an attitude which is reasonable even though not reached by reasoning. Such a faith is a reality regardless of your decision to reject it. In fact, I query whether you have thought it through, as I am sure you must know of two persons able to enjoy mutual trust deriving from experience and knowledge. If you would deny this then you are denying the faith of Abraham.
It needs to be stated that I attach no authority or importance to the Mishnah, the Talmud, or any other philosophical writings of Judaism. My only interest is in the Hebrew Scriptures, of which Jews elect to elevate that part they call the Torah, otherwise the Pentateuch.
You ask what the difference may be between myself and any other Fundamentalist. This was really indicated in my first letter: but I will again say it is because I hold absolutely the full verbal inspiration and authority of the Hebrew and Greek Scriptures it is appropriate to call myself a Fundamentalist. Others claiming to be such may possibly believe all kinds of traditional ideas they think are taught in the Bible but which are not to be found there. Always it is within your power to check them, or me, or yourself even, just by going direct to the written Word of God: and certainly you should.
The elements of what may have originally been the Truth of God have been misapplied by men and turned into lifeless systems of forms and ritual held together by tradition. Such is Judaism on one side, and such also is ritualistic formal Christianity as seen notably in the -2- Roman Catholic Church - though Protestantism too has much of it.
Judaism as a system I do condemn; but I am not condemning you as a person enslaved by it, and whom I wish to see freed from it. There is no hope for you before God on the ground of being a Jew, but there is hope for you (as also for me) as a Son of Adam, heir to a fallen nature, to whom is available a Saviour who is the Second Adam.
You have taken upon yourself to instruct me about Christian origins and its links with Jews in the first century CE. In fact it is the other way about; for it is I who can put you in the picture as to God's dealing with the genuine Israel and what He is now doing, as well as what He will yet do on this earth.
You say you want to make "the average Christian aware of the Judaic roots of Christianity". Well, I would wish to go even further and seek to make both the Jew and the "average Christian" aware of the true faith of Israel which entails Him Who is "the root and offspring of David", the one and only hope for all mankind.
There is a little ditty which goes - "How odd of God to choose the Jews". But this is just not true; for, as it states in your Torah, "Yahweh, He is Elohim - - and because He loved thy fathers, therefore He chose their seed after them" (Deut. 4:35 - 57). These were the twelve tribes of Israel, and the Jews had not then come into existence. So neither Abraham, Isaac nor Jacob, nor any of Jacob's twelve sons (not even Judah) were Jews. Nor was Moses, nor David, nor Solomon a Jew; though possibly Rehoboam, Solomon's son, could claim to be the first.
As I am sure you know, after Solomon's death the House of Israel under Jeroboam seceded from the tribe of Judah, and the latter together with such other Israelites who remained faithful maintained the Davidic dynasty in Jerusalem. The House of Israel was still such, though thereafter ruled by a series of usurpers, and identified with Ephraim, the holder of Joseph's birthright. The divinely recognised royal line of the House of David still reigned over the remnant, which thereafter was known as the House of Judah; and its constituents and affiliates, not necessarily of Judah's Tribe, came to be known as Yehudim, or Jews. Until then there had been no Jews; and the designation was first used in biblical history over two centuries later when Israel's military ally, Syria, "drove the Jews from Elath" (2 Kin. 16:6). So at that time some Israelites were Jews and some Israelites were not Jews.
The division of the 12-tribed Nation into the two kingdoms of Israel and Judah had been prophesied beforehand and was directed by God so to be, (1Kin. 11:31 & 12:24). As you are aware, I am sure, the House of Israel (as then existing) continued to turn from Yahweh to the idolatry practised by other nations, so that after some three centuries that House, as a punishment from God, was transported by Assyrians in several stages to other lands. Hence they ceased to have recognition as a people and by degrees lost their identity among the nations. This eventually too had been foretold by God's prophet, saying "I will - - - cause to cease the kingdom of the house of Israel" (Hos. 1:4), and further on, "I will no more have mercy upon the house of Israel but I will utterly take them away" (Hos. 1:6). The prophet Hosea was required to name his son LO AMMI as a sign that Israel were to become "not my people": yet even with this pronouncement of judgment there is promise of restoration, for "it shall come to pass that in the place where it was said unto them 'Ye are not my people' there it shall be said unto them, 'Ye are the sons of the living God'" (Hos. 1:10). This has yet to happen: it is still future: it does not apply to Jews.
Now if, as I hope, you have looked up these verses in your Bible (and/or that of your wife), you cannot have-missed verse 7 which says: "But I will have mercy upon the house of Judah, and will save them by the Lord (YAHWEH) their God (ELOHIM)". So, odd as it may sound to modern ears in the confusion of to-day, here were the people of Israel disowned and set aside by their God with the Jews continuing acceptable to Him as the remnant of His people - a situation also true in 30 CE.
However, within but a few years, the House of Judah had likewise turned from their God. The prophet Jeremiah voices thus the word of Jehovah: "When for all the causes whereby backsliding Israel committed adultery I had put her away and given her a bill of divorcement, yet her treacherous sister Judah feared not but went and played the harlot also" (Jer. 3:8-11). So the House of Judah, with Jerusalem, became the subject of a prophesied judgment from God as declared in Jer. 25:11, and Jer. 32:28 - 35. But at the same time is foretold the return from the Babylonian captivity (Jer. 33:10 - 13). (NB. Many of these prophesies have yet to be fulfilled as to Judah, and all as to the House of Israel.)
The l8th Jubilee Year (YOBEL) from the entry date into the land under Joshua had occurred in 513 BCE, in the l8th year of King Josiah. At the end of the fifth 7-year cycle (SHEMITTAH) following, which was the 11th year of King Zedekiah, i.e. 478 BCE, there came Nebuchadnezzar to utterly destroy the Temple and complete the carrying away of the Jews to Babylon, so initiating the 70 years Desolation of Jerusalem.
I would remind you that at the time of the Exodus Moses changed the beginning of Israel's year from Tishri to Abib, or Nisan. This applied equally .to the Shemittah, though the Yobel remained a Civil Year starting in Tishri and overlapping by six months both the preceding 49th and the following 1st years. Though Jewish observance still maintains the original sabbatic synchronism, somewhere along the line (possibly you know where and when) the Shemittah has been advanced six months earlier to conform to the Civil Year; but God has not moved the Nisan based year.
Now there was in Babylon during these 70 years a Jewish sage and elder statesman who had been a mere lad at the start of the captivity, and he read and understood the prophesies of Jeremiah. So after the end of the 10th Shemittah, no doubt in the first half of Nisan, in the year corresponding to 408 BCE, Daniel knew that the 70 Years of Desolation were completed, so he prayed to his God for the restoration. His concern was rewarded by a visitation from the angel Gabriel who told him that "seventy weeks are decreed upon thy people and upon thy holy city, to finish transgression - - - and to anoint the most holy. Know therefore and discern, that from the going forth of the commandment to restore and build Jerusalem unto the anointed/me, a prince, shall be seven weeks - - and after the three score and two weeks shall the anointed one be cut off" (Dan. 7:24 - 27).
Theologians, both Judaic and Christian, have come up with many and various interpretations of this prophetic passage. Yet Daniel was intended to readily understand its meaning, and so can we, if only we put ourselves into his position and his times. Daniel was told that "at the beginning of thy supplication the commandment went forth". So he did not try, as many have, to relate it to one of those decrees put out by Medo- Persian kings. Now in the first half of the month Nisan, to what would the term "seven weeks" mean to an observant Jew but the Feast of Weeks, or Pentecost ? Neither would he have any doubt but that "seventy weeks" and "three score and two weeks" meant weeks not of days but of years. Thus Daniel here was being told that from Pentecost of that year (i.e. 408 BCE) until the appearance of Messiah would be exactly 434 years - which means that He was to be expected in Sivan of 27 CE, a seventh Shemittah about to be followed by the 29th Jubilee, which itself extended until Tishri of 28 CE.
In your letter you said: "the Messiah - - will come in G-d's good time". Well, this was God's good time for one appearance of Messiah; and most Israelites, though not all, missed it ! And most of them again missed it when, within three years, He entered Jerusalem "having Salvation, lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass", (yes: both of them, the Bible is precise!) in fulfilment of the prophecy of Zechariah. See Zech. 9:9 also Matthew's Gospel ch. 21. For, as John's Gospel puts it, "He was in the world, and the world was made by Him, and the world knew Him not. He came unto His own, and His own received Him not", (Jn. 1:10). No, the Jews were not attuned to the prospect of a lowly Messiah coming to suffer and even to die, though every sacrificial victim on Israel's altars had pointed to it, and the lives of their divinely chosen leaders had exhibited the path of rejection by their brethren prior to ultimate acclaim, e.g. Joseph, Moses and David. Yet centuries earlier a prophet of Judah had foretold this rejection when he wrote: "When we shall see Him there is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men - - yet we did esteem Him stricken, smitten of Elohim, and afflicted". See Isaiah chapter 53.
Turning back now to the Babylonian Captivity, as you well know, a certain number of Jews returned to Judaea, the walls were restored and the Temple was rebuilt, but all was only a shadow of what had been in Solomon's day. This was because, since the Assyrian transportation of Israel and the carrying away of Judah in double judgment, what Luke's Gospel calls "the times of the Gentiles" had come into being. The public acts of God were no longer primarily centred in the Israel peoples, and they, from this time onward, became subsidiary to God's chief purpose in promoting Gentile dominion.
Nebuchadnezzar was the first divinely appointed imperial monarch, and his dream was revealed and interpreted by Daniel. It concerned an image with a head of gold but which deteriorated in quality through its body down to its toes of mixed iron and clay. It was symbolic of the historical sequence of world dominion from Nebuchadnezzar right on to its ultimate overthrow by a stone "cut out without hands which smote the image upon his feet", (Dan. 2:34).
Intelligent Bible readers have no problem in identifying this "stone" with the Messiah when He comes in glory and power to the mount of Olives, when He will destroy the Antichrist, who will have been at the time posing as "God" in the restored Temple in Jerusalem, (2 Thess. 2:1 - 12). This is in the last or 70th week mentioned in Daniel 9:27 but enlarged in detail by the apostle John in his Apocalypse. The Seventy Weeks apportioned upon Daniel's Holy City and upon his people were to run concurrently with the course of these times of the Gentiles; eventually all assuredly will be fulfilled, but who then could have envisaged the substantial hiatus that has intervened in both courses?
There is in Daniel a prophetic statement which Jews certainly, and regrettably the majority of present day Christians too, have so missed and/or misunderstood that they have a quite wrong view of what Jesus of Nazareth and His disciples both taught and laboured towards in their public ministry. This error of viewpoint also confuses what God is doing to-day with what He was doing^ in the 1st century CE, notably in the Acts period. The important statement is that "in the days of these kings ^ shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed", (Dan. 2:44); and here "these kings" mean the later ones in the sequence depicted by the image. So this kingdom of the God of the Heavens is to come into being sometime before the Seventy Weeks are concluded, and be in evidence while the iron and clay elements of the times of the Gentiles still dominate the world scene. But this kingdom is to be taken over and continued thereafter by Messiah when He comes to destroy the kingdoms of the Image and rule on the earth on David's throne over a re-united 12-tribed Israel in universal peace.
The last prophet after the return from Babylon had a most significant name - Malachi; this you will recognise as Hebrew for "my messenger". His notable prophecy foreshadowed John the Baptist, whose mission was to identify Messiah by the act of baptism, (Mal. 3:1» Mt. 3, Mt. 11:9).
That the Christian tradition of Jesus being born on December 25th is wrong is now coming to be admitted; for that date applied to the Annunciation or conception, and the International Christian Embassy in Jerusalem officially places His birth at Succoth. So it happened that at the Feast of Tabernacles in 4 BCE in Bethlehem the LOGOS became flesh, tabernacling among us, as Immanuel/Yeshua, (Mt. 1:20 - 25; Jn- 1:l4).
Now John the Baptiser was just six months older than Jesus, his cousin. He came of a priestly family, and so when he reached thirty years of age it was appropriate to take up that service for which he was destined. Thus it was that in the 15th year of the rule of Tiberius, in Nisan of 27 CE, at the start of the 7th Shemittah (even though the Jews hole. it to have begun six months before this), John the son of Zechariah began "in the region about the Jordan, preaching a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins", (Lk. 3:1 - 4).
That it was at Pentecost when "John saw Jesus coming unto him and saith 'Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world'" is not actually stated in the Scriptures, yet all the recorded events are compatible with it being so, (Jn. 1:29). John had to confess, "I knew Him not, but that He should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptising with water", (Jn. 1:31). "And when Jesus was baptised, He went up immediately from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and alighting on Him; and lo, a voice from heaven saying 'This is my beloved Son with whom I am well pleased'", (Mt. 3:1o, 17, RSV).
Daniel's Sixty-Two Weeks were thus fulfilled; and Jesus, a Prince indeed of the royal line of ^Solomon, was by the anointing of the Holy Spirit designated the Christ, the Messiah. The Jews, in general, were too occupied in religious formalism and the minutiae of Sabbath observance to be looking out for this messianic manifestation. But a few who were so seeking did recognise it; namely Andrew, who told Peter, his brother, "We have found the Messiah"; also Philip, who said to Nathaniel, "We have found him of whom Moses in the law and also the prophets wrote", (Jn. 1:4l - 45). -8- Now with the onset of Tishri, being a Jubilee Year. it says of Jesus that "He came to Nazareth where he had been brought up", and in the synagogue there He read out from the prophet Isaiah, "The Spirit of Adonai Yahweh is upon me, because Yahweh has anointed me to bring good tidings to the afflicted - - to proclaim liberty to captives - - - to proclaim the year of Yahweh's favour". (Isa. 61:1, 2). In this manner was the 29th Yobel announced in Galilee in 27 CE, (Lk. 4:16 - 22).
Jesus had not appeared on the world scene to found something called the Christian Church, or to promulgate Christianity as a new style of religion. No, He came in pursuance of the mainstream of the faith of Abraham. Isaac and Jacob, entirely based on Moses and the prophets. -If the Judaic establishment failed to see this fact. it is because they were the deviants and they who were out of step. Thus we find that first, John came "preaching in the wilderness of Judaea -Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand'", (Mt. 3:2); then Jesus too "from that time began to preach, saying. -Repent, for the kingdom is at hand-. (Mt. 4:17). The moment was approaching for the God of the heavens to begin to set up that kingdom which the prophet Daniel had foretold. Matthew's Gospel mentions "the kingdom of heaven" some thirty-four times; but Mark, Luke and the other Greek Scriptures refer to it more usually as "the kingdom of God".
The Sermon on the Mount concerned this Kingdom of Heaven, and was intended for the House of Judah; it was never meant as teaching for Christian believers to-day. The Lord's Prayer prescribed for His Jewish disciples was not enjoined upon anyone living under present-day conditions, as it looked on to the time when God's direct rule will be imminent, hence the invocation, "Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven". Those twelve disciples whom Jesus appointed as apostles were chosen as future judges of the tribes of all Israel (not merely of Judah - Mt. 19:28; Lk. 22:28). So how preposterous it is for professing Christians to name days or churches after apostles !
The parables of Jesus were not employed to clarify His teaching but were means to disguise a hidden message about the Kingdom of Heaven, (Mt 13:10, 11). For instance, the parable of Luke 15 about the two sons embodies an allusion to the beginning of Israel's restoration. The elder son. as Judah. had not deserted the father's house, but the younger son, "Ephraim", went away to the far country and became "lost" and "dead". Of course, the return of the younger son is still in the future: the lost House of Israel has yet to be "found", and the "dead" Ephraim thus become "alive again". Read and consider Ezekiel 37.
At the Passover of 30 CE the "Lamb of God" was slain in fulfilment of the types depicted by the Passover Lamb, the Sin Offering and the Burnt Offering. He, too, became "dead", but He is "alive again". It is only because He is now alive that I can write this letter. It is only because Jesus now lives, having been exalted by God and made both Lord and Christ, that there is any future for a national Israel (not used in the modern sense), and a present hope for mankind - even you and me.
At Pentecost in 30 CE the Holy Spirit descended in power upon the followers of Jesus, just as three years before the Holy Spirit had come down upon Him. This occasion was not, as many misinformed persons claim, "the birthday of the Church". It was the first stage in the setting up of the Kingdom of Heaven, a stage occupying the middle of the 1st century and recounted in the history of the book of the Acts.
The Acts Period was a time of witness to Israelites, significantly by Jews to sign seeking Jews; for the spiritual gifts of healing and speaking in tongues were intended to convince the Jews. The discourse of the Apostle Peter at the Feast of Weeks was to Jews only, of whom some three thousand embraced the faith that day, not thereby ceasing to be Jews but relinquishing Judaism for the faith of the Patriarchs.
On that Day of Pentecost Peter's telling message was: "Let every household of Israel know assuredly that God has made that same Yeshua - - - both Adonai and Messiah"; (see Acts 2:36, but note that most versions say "the whole house of Israel"; this is wrong, for then, and still now, the House of Israel was non-existent). Later in his lifetime Peter wrote his two epistles to the Diaspora, who were Jews of the Circumcision distinguished from ex-covenant Israelitish people termed the Uncircumcision, (Gk. akrobustia) by some and called Greeks by others. Peter reminded them they were "a chosen nation, a royal priesthood (or kingdom of priests), a holy nation"; terms relating to Israel's heritage, (Ex. 19:6; 1Pet. 2:9). Yet you will come across theologians using this text wrongly to teach that present day Christian believers are constituted "priests"; just as you -10- find Christians misappropriating the Mosaic Decalogue, which, did they but read it, is for those covered by its preface: "I am Yahweh thy Elohim which brought thee out of the land of Egypt", (Ex. 20:2). Likewise, the contemporary Charismatic and Pentecostal Movements are presumptive in seeking the spiritual gifts belonging to the Acts Period and which were given with respect to Jews at that time. Certain it is that they, and all Christians, need to return to first principles; yet not to Israel's Feast 'of Weeks, but to that part of the Bible applying specially to us to-day.
More than nineteen centuries have elapsed since the Acts Period closed It is therefore in order to enquire why it ended and whatever became of the Kingdom of Heaven which began at that Pentecost with so much promise. But first there are some further aspects of what took place during the Acts Period to be considered.
Some few years after the twelve apostles began their testimony to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus Christ, another Jew, a Benjaminite, v/as rescued from the bondage of Judaism and introduced to the light of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. Saul of Tarsus, who so easily might have become a leading rabbi of his time, was more highly honoured as Christ's bondslave and a special apostle to the nations.
Apart from testifying to Messiah's resurrection did not then assume their full administrative role - that is yet future. But one, namely Peter, did have a special function as Apostle to the Circumcision, i.e. the Jews; this complemented that of Paul as Apostle to the akrobustia (not "uncircumcision", since this Greek word means Prepuce, used derogatively - Gal. 2:7-8). The Acts of the Apostles concerns the witness of these two Apostles, not that of the twelve. '
Though his commission was not to the House of Judah, Paul, more than most, recognised the favoured position then of the Jew over the Greek; for the former had adhered to the covenant of circumcision and, however superficially, the Jews did uphold the Law of Moses and maintain the Temple worship, (Rom. 1:l6; 2:9-11; RSV). Wherever he went in his early travels he never failed to visit the synagogue and speak to the local Jews, though his message embraced the Greek. It was not at that time to Gentiles at large but to persons "of the nations" who had Israelite lineage, having lost national identity and who during the Acts Period were termed "Greeks", (John. 7:35 RSV).
As an entity the House of Israel was dead and lost among the nations, but individuals from that disowned people were enabled to participate in messianic blessing through Paul's gospel message. In those days the Divine Purpose behind the Pauline commission was to provoke Judah to jealousy by grace being shown to those who were "not a people", an allusion to Ephraim, (Isa. 7:8; Deut. 32:21; Rom. 10:19).
Two of the disciples of Jesus, namely Peter and John, and two of His brothers, James and Jude, between them wrote the seven epistles which contain the ministry to the "circumcision" during the Acts Period. Relating to these same times Paul also produced seven letters, mainly addressed to the akrobustia, the uncircumcised, called from "among the nations" and standing relative to the anticipated national repentance of Judah and the emergent Kingdom of the Heavens. These Pauline Epistles comprise 1 & 2 Thessalonians, Galatians, 1 8c 2 Corinthians, Romans and Hebrews - which is not necessarily only for Jews.
But the House of Judah remained obdurate. The Jews closed their minds and hearts to the entreaty of their God through the witness of His servants, and He had to set that generation aside. It devolved upon the Apostle Paul, being a prisoner at Rome, to pronounce finally upon the Jewish Diaspora in that city the prophetic foreboding of the prophet Isaiah, which I cite here from Rotherham's Version:
"Well did the Holy Spirit speak through Isaiah the prophet, unto your fathers, saying: 'Go thy way unto this people, and say - Ye shall surely hear and yet will in nowise understand: and surely see and yet will in nowise perceive: for the heart of this people hath become dense, and with their ears heavily have they heard, and their eyes have they closed - lest once they should see with their eyes, and with their ears should hear, and with their hearts should understand and return - when I would certainly heal them.' Be it known unto you therefore, that unto the nations hath been sent forth this salvation of God; they will also hear." (Acts 28:25 - 28; Isa. 6:9, 10.) -12-
Because this passage is of greater import than it might at first appear, I have here quoted it in full. It is the answer to why the Kingdom of Heaven did not (then) proceed on to its promised fulfilment, and to why the Seventy Weeks of Daniel have been interrupted; for the House of Judah was relegated to a condition of LO AMMI, just as the (House of Israel had earlier been, only while the latter is in a state of being "lost" and "dead", the House of Judah is in a state of being "blind" and "deaf".
The passage quoted is the climax of the Acts Period (even though an anticlimax), and it is the key to understanding the Greek Scriptures, otherwise called the New Testament, for all Christians. Those who do not grasp its import will be in confusion as to the teaching of the Gospels and of the Epistles of the Acts Period. Yet happily, I know many who do recognise its significance, including two Jews. Here I should say the Rotherham Version is quoted because it uses "nations" rather than "gentiles", which the AV and others have. When this "salvation" is sent to "the nations" outside of any mediatorial place for Israel or Judah it is not meant to exclude any Jewish individual, only such cannot now claim racial privilege. The situation is well expressed in Titus 2:11: - - "For the grace of God that bringeth salvation hath appeared to all men" (= mankind).
This abrupt stoppage of the course of the Times of the Gentiles was quite unforeseen by any of the apostles, for no prophets had given any indications. The quoting of Isaiah was not specific to this occasion, and was just one application. But God was not taken unawares, and we might reverently say "He had something up His sleeve" with which to meet the eventuality. Up until this time everything that God had planned to do was known to some men (even if they could not tell its timing), and the angelic beings, good or evil, also were aware of the prophetic plan. But what God was about to do from this point onward (and what He has now been doing for 19 centuries) was a secret purpose "hidden away from the aeons in God" and committed uniquely to Paul to reveal, (Col. 1:25, 26; Eph. 3:9).
The Apostle's post Acts 28:28 ministry is embodied in his second septet of epistles written in the years 62 to 68 CE, namely 1Timothy, Titus, Philippians, Colossians, Ephesians, Philemon, and 2Timothy. This is "that part of the Bible applying specially to us to-day", and all people of goodwill who wish to learn just what God is now doing should read, understand and believe these writings.
God's present purpose is a kind of Sabbath during which He has halted the mainstream programme to interpose a parenthetical dispensation, or administration, so as to demonstrate the exceeding riches of His grace. The Times oŁ the Gentiles now being in abeyance, the gap is filled by this administration of the grace of God while Messiah has been made supreme Head of the universe, (Eph. 1:10; 3:2).
But nothing pertaining to Israel's hope during the Acts was passed on to Christians of the present dispensation: miraculous gifts of the Spirit; the baptism of repentance; the New Covenant; none of these are for believers to-day. However, the promise of eternal life always had been a messianic hope for all mankind; for Messiah is not Israel's monopoly. He is the Christ of God, the answer to the fall of both man and Satan, (Eph. 3:.6; 2 Tim. 1:1).
In the entire history of man no event was more momentous than the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. From that point onwards the good news of God's grace and the forgiveness of sins through faith in Christ was available to all; but the message had to be heralded by those sent by God. At first only Jews were so commissioned - for they were of those called to be "a priestly nation". But when the House of Judah was set aside judicially at Acts 28:28, the authority to proclaim the gospel of salvation was given to believers from the nations - hence Paul could enrol the gentile Titus to minister in Crete, (Acts 10:36 - 43).
At no time have Christians been required to join a Church. In the Acts Period all believers in a city constituted "the assembly of God" in that city. They did not join it; they were that by virtue of the links each one had with Christ. An assembly (Gk. ekklesia; Heb. QAHAL; meaning: a called out company) was God's representative body, just as the Sanhedrin should have been. The only ekklesia was that local to a city; there was no universal Divine Assembly, visible or otherwise, in those days.
Some Christians in modern times have tried to form local assemblies on the Acts pattern, with disastrous results. In this dispensation there -14- is one universal Assembly, the Body of Christ, but no local assemblies. This ekklesia is unseen by human eyes as its witness is for angelic beings, the Principalities and Powers, (Eph. 3:10). Apart from the testimony of Christian households there is no collective witness to mankind. God's ecclesiastic model for to-day is set out in Ephesians and Colossians.
Someday, when the dispensation ends, the course of the 70 Weeks and the Times of the Gentiles will be resumed. Two Shemittahs have to run with respect to the Holy City, Jerusalem having fallen in 69/70 CE. But as Daniel's "people" were cut off a full Shemittah before this, there will be two weeks to run before that last week dealt with in John's Apocalypse, the climax being Messiah's return in glory. After God owns His people as AMMI there will thus be seven years for restoring the temple.
It is a fallacy that Israel comprises today's Jews only. They are not the House of Israel; they are not even wholly of, nor the whole of, Judah's tribe. To those Jews who did return from Babylon to Judea were afterwards added the Edomite race (providing the infamous Herods), and they later were augmented by other ethnic groups. So the racial strain was corrupted to produce the Ashkenazi type of Jew. The Sephardic claim to pure descent from Judah could be valid but has no significance to-day.
Some from the Ten Tribes became Jews, who as a group are designated on Ezekiel's Stick as "Judah and the children of Israel his companions", (Ezek. 37:16). . Those arguing that a restored Israel can emerge from the Jews alone are in conflict with God's promise. He has said He will unite the two Stick; yet Ephraim is still "lost" and must be found, is "dead" and must be made alive again.
Well-meaning folk may seek to locate Ephraim on one hand, and attempt to repatriate Jews on the other; but God will fulfil His promise at the exact time, when the right response will be repentance and a return to Him. The return to the land He will effect, (Hos. 5:15). The land will not need re-possession by force; as God has declared: "I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it", (Jer. 23:7, 8; 30:3; Ezek. 36:24 - 28). But only believing Israelites will enter, unbelievers being eliminated in the "Wilderness of the people", (Ezek. 20:3). So Zionism is both futile and doomed I -15-
What then can a God-fearing Jew do ? He can take a leaf from Daniel's book, study the prophetic writings, and so discern and under- stand the timing of God's purposes. But his repentance and faith must relate to what God is doing at the time; and to-day He is presenting His ' salvation bringing One, His Anointed, to peoples of all nations, so that he who believes in Him may receive life in His name, (Jn. 20:31; Titus 2:11).
May you and your wife both be blessed in searching out and studying the Sacred Scriptures to verify that these things are so.
Shalom ! And may the God of peace be with you. Philippians 4:9
Return to contents<>