Israel Divided

A study of the Old Testament sanctuary service clearly shows that the religion taught by Jesus is the religion God originally gave the nation of Israel. That service pointed to Christ as the true fulfillment of the prophecies of the coming Messiah. Yet when Jesus arrived, He met in head-on collision with the Jewish leaders. Judaism and Christianity split into two distinct religions, and that separation exists today. To understand the Bible correctly, we must understand why this division took place and what it means.


How did the Jews ultimately respond to Jesus? John 19:13-16

Helps and hints: Of all the nations ruled by Rome, the nationalistic Jews were the most rebellious. But in their frenzy to destroy Christ they even shouted total allegiance to their hated overlord, CAESAR!. They rejected God's Son for a pagan ruler, then sealed that rejection on the cross at Calvary! There are some Christians who use this passage to teach that the Jews rejected Jesus as their KING, but not as their Messiah. These well-meaning people base their whole understanding of Bible prophecy on the idea that NATIONAL ISRAEL will be the focal point of the closing scenes of this earth's history. No such distinction is made in this passage! The issue, however, is a crucial one, for it affects one's whole understanding of the Bible. Who IS the subject of Bible prophecy at the end of time? This lesson will address that question.


Did the Jews actually reject Jesus as their MESSIAH? John 5:39,40

Helps and hints: "And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life." Clearly Jesus is speaking of their rejection of Him as their SAVIOR, their MESSIAH, not in some separate role as their "king." To use (as some do) the passage "We have no king but Caesar" to make such a distinction is a classic example of trying to make the Bible support a preconceived notion. Though perhaps sincere, it does not make it "truth." And in this case the whole meaning of prophetic history is changed, as we shall see.


Were only the leaders included in the decision to destroy Jesus? Matthew 27:24,25

Helps and hints: The priests and rulers were instrumental in swaying the passions of the mob against Jesus. And undoubtedly many in Jerusalem were horrified by the decision, even as it was made. But it was a representative voice of the entire nation that shouted to Pilate that they would accept the responsibility for the blood of Jesus on themselves and on their children.


How does the apostle John describe this decision? John 1:11-13

Helps and hints: Jesus was rejected by Israel as a whole. But God continues to accept those who accept Jesus as their Messiah, regardless of race, social position, sex, or place of national origin.


Would God allow the nation to bear the responsibility for rejecting their Messiah? If so, how? Matthew 23:31-36

Helps and hints: Jesus had given the Jewish nation adequate warning. In verse 34 He reviews the history of persecution of the prophets and indicates His own approaching death on the cross. He forecasts continued persecution of His followers from city to city. In verse 35, Jesus makes it clear that they WOULD be accountable for that blood. Their reward is forecast in verse 33.


Had Jesus predicted His rejection even earlier? Mark 8:31

Helps and hints: It has been argued that Jesus staged His own crucifixion. This is not the case. Jesus never sought to alienate the Jewish leaders. It was they who had alienated themselves from God. Jesus had done all in His power to save them without violating their free will. He wept over Jerusalem, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!" Matthew 23:37. They witnessed the greatest manifestation of God on earth and turned their backs on Him. Nothing more could be done. Their only hope for the future lay in turning and accepting Christ, as many did on the Day of Pentecost.
There is little question that as a nation the Jews rejected Jesus as their Messiah. Throughout the Christian centuries the Jewish people (except those who have become Christians), have continued to maintain that Jesus was not the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. The majority of Jews today have given up hope in a coming Messiah at all, believing that this hope only reflected the dreams of an ancient people.

But while the Jews may be in agreement about Jesus as the Messiah, Christians are very much divided in their ideas about the current status of the Jewish people. On one extreme are those who believe that the Jews were REJECTED by God, and as "Christ-killers" have been under the curse of God for the last 2,000 years. Therefore God CAUSES them to be persecuted from country to country as a witness of His wrath against them. Some even say Adolf Hitler was merely doing God service in trying to annihilate them. On the other hand, many say that God NEVER REJECTED the Jewish nation, but only set them aside temporarily. According to this view, the Jews will yet receive all the covenant promises that God made to Abraham, including the title to the New Earth. Still others believe that while God continues to reach out in love to the Jewish people, their salvation can only be secured through faith in the blood of Jesus Christ.

Not ALL of these ideas are correct! Yet ALL claim Bible support. The first section of this lesson considered whether or not the Jews in fact rejected Jesus as their Messiah. This section will consider whether or not God rejected THEM as His covenant people, and if so, what it means for us today.


Does God still love the Jews? Jeremiah 31:3

Helps and hints: God's love is an everlasting love. He does not punish or destroy any of His creation because He ceases to love it, but only because His creatures have allowed themselves to be controlled by sin to the point of no repair. God will destroy the devil to provide safety for His loyal children, but nowhere does the Bible say that God has ceased to LOVE him. God still remembers him as Lucifer, a faithful subject of His kingdom. It is not without pain that God is separated from His creatures. God hates only the sin, not the sinner. But eventually His wrath must fall on those who are determined to choose sin rather than righteousness. If it were not so, there would never be peace in the universe!


Has God withheld from Jews the opportunity for salvation? Romans 1:16

Helps and hints: Clearly not. The gospel is for both Jews and Gentiles. The issue considered here is the covenant promises. God made a covenant with the nation of Israel that they should be witnesses of His love to the entire world. They were to bear the message of divine truth to the nations. This they failed to do, even to the point of rejecting the ultimate truth (Jesus Christ) themselves. Without the message of the Savior, they cannot bear witness of God's love to the world. God's covenant people are those who bear this message of truth. The question then is this. Do the Jews still qualify as God's COVENANT PEOPLE, or has God chosen someone else to take their place?
Some say that God made promises to national Israel that He can never retract. These promises would be called "unconditional." Is this accurate? Does the Bible teaches that God COULD have cut off the Jewish nation from the covenant promises, if He so desired.


What does the prophet Jeremiah tell us about God's relationship to Israel? Jeremiah 18:6-10

Helps and hints: God always reserves the right to deal with His subjects as He sees fit. Israel's blessings did not rest on unconditional promises that God was chained to. It was FAITHFULNESS, not FAVORITISM, that was to determine whether they would continue as God's covenant people.


What similar message did Jeremiah also bring to God's people? Jeremiah 26:4-6

Helps and hints: When Jeremiah said their house would be like Shiloh, he meant it would be DESTROYED! When the Jews first entered Palestine, their sanctuary was kept in the city of Shiloh. As a result of disobedience, God allowed the Philistines to capture the "ark of the covenant," and the city itself was eventually destroyed. Notice how Jeremiah's message is fulfilled in the statement of Jesus in Matthew 23:37,38.
Jeremiah 26:4-6
"If you will not hearken to me, to walk in my law, which I have set before you, to hearken to the words of my servants the prophets, whom I sent unto you, . . . then will I make this house like Shiloh, and will make this city a curse to all nations of the earth."
Matthew 23:37,3
"O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."


At the moment of Jesus' death on the cross, what indication did God give that the Jewish temple was left "desolate?" Mark 15:38

Helps and hints: The temple was God's house. It was holy BECAUSE the presence of God dwelt there, at the ark of the covenant. The curtain concealing the holy things was torn from the TOP DOWN by an unseen hand. God let all see for themselves that His glory was no longer there. It had departed from among them. Their house was left DESOLATE. Forty years later the Romans destroyed the temple completely. As Jesus had prophesied (Matthew 24:1,2), not one stone was left on top of another.

Notice also that Jesus said "your house." Shortly before, when He turned over the tables of the money changers, Jesus had said "My house shall be called the house of prayer." Matthew 21:13. Now He calls it "YOUR HOUSE," indicating that He no longer claimed it as His own.


How did Jesus indicate that the Jews would lose their standing as the overseers of God's kingdom? Matthew 21:42,43

Helps and hints: This passage shows that because the Jews rejected Jesus as the cornerstone of their religious system, He would reject them as His covenant people in favor of a nation that would bear fruit for Him. God would not be left without a covenant people, but they would be a people who would bear the TRUE message of salvation to the world, in fulfillment of the covenant PROMISE, "in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed." Genesis 12:3.


Does the Bible say which nation would become God's covenant people? 1 Peter 2:9,10

Helps and hints: Some Christians have tried to say that this letter was written only to Jews. But Gentiles are specifically included among those who "were not a people, but are now the people of God." (see Romans 9:24,25) This letter is addressed to the entire Christian Church, both Jews and Gentiles who have accepted the Lord Jesus Christ! Compare the language with Exodus 19:5,6.
1 Peter 2:9,10
"But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a peculiar people."
Exodus 19:5,6
"Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation."
When God announced His choice of Israel as His covenant people at Mount Sinai, He instructed Moses, "These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel." Exodus 19:6. Peter applies these very expressions to the New Testament CHURCH! Who is the nation that received the kingdom? It could be none other than those who now bear God's covenant message to the world, The Christian Church! The number 12 is used in the Bible to symbolize the covenant relationship. It is no coincidence that Jesus chose 12 apostles. He indicated that He was continuing the covenant that He had made with the 12 tribes of Israel. But He was continuing it with a special REMNANT called out of that original group. the disciples indicated that they recognized the significance by filling the place of Judah after his suicide. (see Acts 1:15-26


How else does Jesus indicate that the Jews would be cut off as God's covenant people? Matthew 21:18-20; Mark 11:12-14,20-22

Helps and hints: The fig tree is a primary biblical symbol for the Jewish nation. Jesus used the fig tree as an object lesson. The leaves indicated a healthy condition, but there was no fruit on it. The Jews made a show of righteousness, but they bore no fruit spiritually. As Jesus cursed the fig tree and it withered, so He cursed the Jewish nation; not so that those like Adolf Hitler could justify killing Jews, but to show that no man would ever again FIND SALVATION in the context of the Jewish system of worship.

Notice that Mark 11:20 says the tree was "dried up from the roots." John the Baptist had warned the Pharisees, "And now also the ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." Matthew 3:10. When the roots are dead, no new shoots appear.


How does a similar parable in Luke teach the same lesson? Luke 13:6-9

Helps and hints: Jesus had been working three years for the Jews. In the fourth year He also found no fruit. In fact, they crucified Him.


What other image did Jesus use to teach the same message? John 15:1-5

Helps and hints: Jesus said the unfruitful branches are cut off the vine. "Without me ye can do nothing" was especially meaningful for the Jewish nation. Without Jesus Christ, all of their ceremonies and rituals were meaningless, powerless to provide salvation. These things were only SYMBOLS of Christ. To reject Him was to reject the entire purpose of their formal religious system. Only the shell of tradition remained.

In chapter 11 of the book of Romans, the apostle Paul sees the symbol of the olive tree as representing God's covenant family. Some of the "natural" branches (Jews) were broken off, and other "wild" branches (Gentiles) grafted in. Paul warns these Gentiles not to fall into the same trap as the Jews had in feeling as though salvation automatically belonged to them and them alone. Rather he appealed to them to extend the offer of salvation through Christ to the Jews, and fulfill their calling as the instruments of God's mercy.


Israel did not make a covenant with God. God made a covenant with Israel. That covenant was made possible only be God's grace, and validated by the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The promise of that sacrifice was unconditional, but God never promised to UNCONDITIONALLY ACCEPT a people who REJECTED HIM. When the nation of Israel voluntarily broke God's covenant, God was no longer bound to it either. It is only a testimony to God's MERCY that He gave them as many chances as He did! As a NATION they forfeited their position as God's chosen people when they rejected their Messiah, separating themselves from the true religion of God. As INDIVIDUALS they can regain that privilege when they accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, just like anyone else. As the apostle Peter said,
"For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved." Romans 10:12,13
Is God Faithful ?

Many have pointed to the reorganization of the Jewish state (1948), and the reclaiming of Jerusalem (1967), as signs that God is now demonstrating His faithfulness to Israel. Popular books beginning with The Late Great Planet Earth have capitalized on these 20th Century political events to build their whole theory of Bible prophecy. This theory is strongly advertised on radio, television, and across the bookstands. It is very appealing to those who have a limited understanding of the Bible, because it appears to square with current events. But don't forget, many thought Adolf Hitler to be the much publicized "Antichrist." At the time it appeared plausible. Conscientious Bible students knew better, even when Hitler was at his peak.

Is God returning the covenant promises to the Jewish people today? Consider these summary points:

  1. Israel lost their standing with God because of their rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
  2. The Jews today have not accepted Jesus as Messiah. (Only a small percentage of the population of the nation of Israel are religious at all!) Their position has not changed since the days of Jesus.
  3. Does it not seem strange that God would ACCEPT the Jewish nation as the bearer of His covenant under the same conditions for which He REJECTED it in that capacity nearly 20 centuries ago?

GOD IS FAITHFUL! In fact, God has been faithful to His covenant promises to the Jewish nation throughout the Christian centuries. Elaborating on the covenant conditions in the 28th chapter of the book of Deuteronomy, Moses instructed the people regarding the blessings and curses. Four times the word IF was used in relating the covenant blessings. Twice the word IF was used to warn of the covenant curses. Israel chose the curse through their unfaithfulness to God. And God has only been faithful to His promise in allowing them to suffer the consequences. A true understanding of Bible prophecy reveals how the covenant BLESSING is being fulfilled for God's true covenant people!

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