Has the congregation of Jesus Christ taken the
place of Israel? / Book Gerhard Salomon 00, page 67.
Are the 144,000 the congregation of the faithful of
all time? / Book Karl Hartenstein 00, page 83.
Is the congregation co-regent in the Millennium?
/ Book Gerhard Salomon 01, page 177.
The rejection of Israel: the reconciliation of the
The acceptance of Israel: life from the dead.
The raising of the dead in Christ and their Rapture
with the living
A remnant of Israel will turn to their God.
The refusal to accept the message proclaimed by the apostles grew (sc. among
the Israelites) to hatred and enmity, even leading to bloodshed. Finally Paul was forced to
recognize that the complete breakthrough of the glorious Kingdom of God was not going to take
place at this time. When confronted with a wave of hatred and contradiction in Pisidian Antioch,
and even blasphemy, he informs the Jews that they have been set aside: (...) (Acts 13,46-47).
With that the congregation of Jesus, as the Body of Christ, takes the place of Israel as the community of the saved in God’s plan of salvation.
(Gerhard Salomon: "Was bald geschehen wird" ["What will happen soon"], Verlag der St.-Johannis-Druckerei [St.-Johannis Press Publications], Baden)
144,000 (sc. those who were sealed as described in Rev 7,4) – that is
the congregation of the faithful of all time and of all peoples, both of Israel and of the
nations, to which we all as Christians belong. God brings this great multitude through the
tribulation. He seals them, he keeps them, he makes them invincible, in spite of the great
temptations of the time.
If we are to try to sum this up, I would like to say that three important conclusions can be drawn from this image (sc. Rev 7,2-8). 1. God brings his congregation through the mighty battles of the nations and the terrible judgment of the nations. He seals them. Through his Spirit he repeatedly communicates certainty: - You belong to me, not to the world, not to contempt and doubt and temptation: you belong to me. 2. God has reckoned up this total and knows it. He will forget no one, no one, even out of twelve times 12,000! 3. This great congregation of God on earth constitutes the unity between (sc. the Christian) Israel and the Christians of all nations.
(Karl Hartenstein: "Der wiederkommende Herr" ["The Second Coming of the Lord"], Christliches Verlagshaus GMBH [Christian Publishing House plc], Stuttgart)
But the congregation is also designated as a co-regent (sc. in the
Millennium), although its name is not mentioned here (sc. Rev 20,4). Through the
Rapture (1. Thess. 4,13-18), the Lord has united himself as the head with the members of his
body to make the perfected Christ. From this point on the existence of the congregation is bound
up with Christ in the closest possible way, so that when we now have to do with it, its name no
longer needs to appear. When we are told, in Revelation 20,4, that "they reigned with Christ
for a thousand years", the term "Christ" here includes also the members.
(Gerhard Salomon: "Was bald geschehen wird" ["What will happen soon"], Verlag der St.-Johannis-Druckerei [St.-Johannis Press Publications], Baden)
Just as the Israelites of the faith of Moses believe, in accordance with the Old Testament, that they have been chosen as the "People of God" and therefore reject Christianity, so there are a great many among the Christian denominations who take the view, in accordance with the New Testament as they suppose, that the congregation of Christ exclusively constitutes the "Bride" and the People of God, and therefore sternly reject any kind of expectation of salvation on the part of the Israelites of the faith of Moses – unless the latter should convert to Christianity.
I have other sheep, which are not of this fold.
Jn 10,14 I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me,
10,15 even as the Father knows Me and I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep.
10,16 I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also, and they will hear My voice; and they will become one flock with one shepherd. Jn 10,14-16;
By these other sheep, the Gentiles (the nations) are of course to be understood.
That is to say, those of the Gentiles who were willing to be converted to faith in Christ. And this
is also repeatedly emphasized by the Christian commentators.
But the statement made here contains more than just this. When the Lord speaks here of the "other" sheep, "which are not of this fold", this does imply that there are sheep already: the original sheep, that is, those who are "of this fold". And this first and original "flock of sheep", which has already belonged to this fold for a long while, is of course the Israelites. And we, as Christians, should not overlook this fact: Israel was the first People of God – not us!
Now many interpreters of Christian teaching however suppose that Israel has been rejected and has lost all its entitlements. On the one hand because it condemned its Messiah to death, and on the other hand because they think it can be deduced from a number of passages in the New Testament that all the promises made to Israel have been transferred to the congregation – as the "true Israel". The explicit mention of the name of Israel in all these promises is understood as symbolic. In just the same way, the 144,000 who were sealed, as described in Rev 7,2-8, are understood – both in the extract from K. Hartenstein’s book quoted above, and by many other Christian commentators as well – as "the congregation of all time".
One hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
Rev 7,2 And I saw another angel ascending from the rising of the sun,
having the seal of the living God; and he cried out with a loud voice to the four angels to whom it
was granted to harm the earth and the sea, 7,3 saying, "Do not harm the earth or the sea or the
trees until we have sealed the bond-servants of our God on their foreheads."
7,4 And I heard the number of those who were sealed, one hundred and forty-four thousand sealed from every tribe of the sons of Israel:
7,5 From the tribe of Judah, twelve thousand were sealed, from the tribe of Reuben twelve thousand, from the tribe of Gad twelve thousand,
7,6 from the tribe of Asher twelve thousand, from the tribe of Naphtali twelve thousand, from the tribe of Manasseh twelve thousand,
7,7 from the tribe of Simeon twelve thousand, from the tribe of Levi twelve thousand, from the tribe of Issachar twelve thousand,
7,8 from the tribe of Zebulun twelve thousand, from the tribe of Joseph twelve thousand, from the tribe of Benjamin, twelve thousand were sealed. Rev 7, 2- 8;
We have here, first of all, a meticulously exact listing of the twelve tribes of Israel, from whom these first fruits for God and the Lamb have been taken, which is a proof that they are Israelites and not members of the congregation. In the second place, it can be seen from the statements made in Rev 9,3-4 that these 144,000 will be living in the Last Days and not before.
They were told to hurt only the men who do not have the seal of God on their foreheads.
Rev 9,3 Then out of the smoke came locusts upon the earth, and power
was given them, as the scorpions of the earth have power. 9,4 They were told not to hurt the grass
of the earth, nor any green thing, nor any tree, but only the men who do not have the seal of God
on their foreheads. Rev 9, 3- 4;
Here it is stated that in the plague of locusts following on the fifth trumpet only
those men who did not have the seal of God on their foreheads were harmed. But the converse of this
implies that those who did have this seal – namely the 144,000 of Israel – were expressly
excepted from this plague. Which again proves that they will not live before this future period and
so also, for this reason, cannot be the congregation of all times.
This "symbolification" of statements that are in themselves clear and unambiguous is often to be put down to the inability of the authors to arrive at a proper interpretation of such passages. They have no explanation for what is being said, and so classify the passage as "symbolic". And it is then of course an easy matter to read all kinds of possible – and impossible – connections into it. Or else, on dogmatic grounds, a point of view deviating from the statements of Scripture may be the desired outcome, which can then be accommodated by taking a detour along the path of "symbolic language". This way of proceeding, however, entails the consequence that on this principle any scriptural passage whatever – however transparent and unambiguous – may be "symbolified" and so adapted to any kind of interpretative slant that is required.
This same tendency provoked a contradiction from Erich Sauer in his book "Der Triumph des Gekreuzigten" ["The triumph of the Crucified"] (R. Brockhaus Verlag [R. Brockhaus Publishers], Wuppertal, pp. 171 ff). He writes here:
"Christ literally came from Bethlehem (Mi 5,2), literally rode into
Jerusalem on a donkey (Zech 9,9), was literally betrayed for thirty shekels of silver (Zech 11,12)
and literally had his hands and feet pierced on the cross (Ps 22,16). It is a literal fact that his
bones were not broken (Ps 34,20), and another literal fact that his side was pierced with a lance
(Zech 12,10). he literally died and was buried (Isa 53,8-9,12), and also literally rose again on the
third day (Ps 16,10; Hos 6,2) (...). – Who could give us the right simply to make the Jews into
Christians, and Jerusalem into the congregation (...)?"
So we cannot make such a simple matter of it. The early Christian congregation in Rome plainly also imagined that Israel was rejected and that they themselves were now the uniquely chosen People of God, and Paul reproaches them for this in his letter:
God has not rejected His people, has He?
Rom 11,1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it
never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. 11,2 God
has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the
passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 11,3 "Lord, they have killed Your
prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life."
11,4 But what is the divine response to him? "I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have
not bowed the knee to Baal." Rom 11, 1- 4;
If, then, we want discuss this issue on the basis of the New Testament, the passage
quoted above is one of the most important pointers offered us: it completely excludes the
possibility that God might reject his people (and here quite plainly Israel is meant).
If now we would like to claim that God’s choice of Israel has been superseded, because we now, the Christian congregation, are to be seen as the new People of God, Paul at once spells out the consequences for us:
For if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.
Rom 11,13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I
am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 11,14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my
fellow countrymen and save some of them.
11,15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 11,16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. 11,17 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, 11,18 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.
11,19 You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in." 11,20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 11,21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either. Rom 11,13-21;
To take the view that the congregation now constitutes the new People of God, while
Israel has lost its significance in the history of salvation, is just as much an expression of
conceit as is the rejection of Christianity by the orthodox Israelites.
Some of the branches of the olive tree have been broken off, so that we, the wild olives, could be grafted in. So far, so good. And yet as branches we owe our life to the root of this olive tree. For as Paul says, it is not we who support the root, but the root that supports us.
And Paul goes on directly to speak of this root, the root that is at issue here – and to which, moreover, too little attention has been paid by most commentators on this question:
From the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers.
Rom 11,22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who
fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also
will be cut off.
11,23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. 11,24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?
11,25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 11,26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, "the deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. 11,27 This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
11,28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 11,29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable. 11,30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 11,31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 11,32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all. Rom 11,22-32;
Israel, then, is a people chosen by God. And that, too, for the sake of their
fathers! And these "fathers" of Israel also make up the "root" of this olive tree. Many of
the Israelites, both of that time and of today, belong to the branches that were broken off. We, as
Christian believers, have been grafted in. But let us not fall into any illusions: it is not we who
support the root, but the root that supports us. We on our own would not be "capable of life" if
it were not for this root.
And here we now have to deal with an attitude which is mainly kept alive by the orthodox Israel. This is the view that God chose Israel as an entire people, and so – if at all – the whole people must constitute this "root" of Christianity. As Paul writes in the passage above, they are chosen, certainly, but not chosen for their sakes but for the sake of their fathers.
But these fathers were Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Who were not Israelites at all! Abraham came from Ur in Chaldea, and so was a Babylonian. Only when his grandson Jacob was given the name of Israel by God did the people of Israel begin to exist, in his twelve sons! And so they are all "branches" and not "roots" – from Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob, to those Israelites who cried out to Pilate "Crucify him" and right through to the Israelis of our own day.
But for us Christians too it is interesting to learn – as Paul tells us in the passage above, in Rom 11,17-18 – that the origins of our faith go back to those men who are generally accounted to be the fathers of Israel, and to realize that they actually were not Israelites. Here the question naturally suggests itself where now the connection should be seen which makes these men our fathers in faith as well.
And here too Paul gives us an answer, in chapter 4 of his Epistle to the Romans. The point at issue in this fourth chapter of the Epistle to the Romans is the assertion by the Jews of the faith of Moses that man can be justified only through conformity to the "Law" – that is, the commands of the Torah. And they concluded from this that all believing Christians should conform to the Law likewise, and so, for instance, submit to circumcision.
Paul’s argument here is as elegant as it is astute. He demonstrates to them that Abraham, whom they see as their forefather, was not yet circumcised at the time when God concluded a covenant with him and he became the recipient of God’s promises. Only later in his life, at the age of ninety-nine, did he submit to circumcision, when God commanded him to circumcise all male persons in his household.
It was credited to Abraham not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised.
Rom 4,7 "Blessed are those whose lawless deeds have been forgiven,
and whose sins have been covered. 4,8 Blessed is the man whose sin the Lord will not take into
4,9 Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, "faith was credited to Abraham as righteousness." 4,10 How then was it credited? While he was circumcised, or uncircumcised? Not while circumcised, but while uncircumcised; 4,11 and he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had while uncircumcised, so that he might be the father of all who believe without being circumcised, that righteousness might be credited to them, 4,12 and the father of circumcision to those who not only are of the circumcision, but who also follow in the steps of the faith of our father Abraham which he had while uncircumcised. Rom 4, 7-12;
And then Paul turns the argument around, and proves that the faith of the Christians does not require the circumcision of the Jews in order to be valid, as the Jews asserted; but that, conversely, circumcision only had its saving effect when – as was the case with Abraham – faith was present already.
For the promise to Abraham was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
Rom 4,13 For the promise to Abraham or to his descendants that he
would be heir of the world was not through the Law, but through the righteousness of faith.
4,14 For if those who are of the Law are heirs, faith is made void and the promise is nullified; 4,15 for the Law brings about wrath, but where there is no law, there also is no violation.
4,16 For this reason it is by faith, in order that it may be in accordance with grace, so that the promise will be guaranteed to all the descendants, not only to those who are of the Law, but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all. Rom 4,13-16;
With the last phrase quoted above, in Rom 4,16 – "Abraham, who is the father of
us all" – Paul also confirms the view that Abraham is in truth the father of all of us – Jews
(after the flesh) and Christians (by their faith).
And here we also now find an answer to the question what it is that makes Abraham and Isaac the spiritual forefathers of us Christians. As Paul writes in the passage above, Abraham was not credited with righteousness in terms of the Law, such as the Jews required, but in terms of his faith. And this is the very same faith on the basis of which we Christians hope for our righteousness and our salvation.
But Paul takes the argument a step further. In his Epistle to the Galatians, who plainly had also been intimidated by the Jews and thought that they would be compelled to return under the "Law" and accept circumcision, Paul reveals to them the significance to be attributed to the two wives of Abraham – Sarah, the free woman and mother of Isaac, and her Egyptian maid Hagar, the mother of Ishmael – in the history of God’s salvation for humanity.
And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.
Gal 4,22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the
bondwoman and one by the free woman. 4,23 But the son by the bondwoman was born according to the
flesh, and the son by the free woman through the promise. 4,24 This is allegorically
speaking, for these women are two covenants: one proceeding from Mount Sinai bearing children
who are to be slaves; she is Hagar. 4,25 Now this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to
the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. 4,26 But the Jerusalem above is
free; she is our mother. 4,27 For it is written, "rejoice, barren woman who does not bear;
break forth and shout, you who are not in labor, fore more numerous are the children of the desolate
than of the one who has a husband." 4,28 And you brethren, like Isaac, are children of promise.
4,29 But as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born
according to the Spirit, so it is now also. 4,30 But what does the Scripture say? "cast out the
bondwoman and her son, for the son of the bondwoman shall not be an heir with the son of the free
woman." 4,31 So then, brethren, we are not children of a bondwoman, but of the free woman.
Paul here makes it clear to the early congregation of the Galatians that the two
wives of Abraham stand symbolically for God’s two covenants with humanity. Hagar, Sarah’s
Egyptian maid, who at the request of Sarah, childless at that time, had been the first to bear a son
to Abraham, Ishmael, stands for the old covenant. And just as Hagar was a slave and so not free but
a bondwoman, so too the old covenant of Israel is bound to the Law and is not free either. Isaac on
the other hand, Sarah’s son, whom she bore to Abraham at the age of ninety in fulfillment of God’s
promise, is the son of the free woman, the son of promise, and so stands here for the new covenant.
And now Paul reveals to the Galatians that Ishmael, the son of the slavewoman, here stands for the earthly Israel. As Hagar was a slave, so too the Israelites are under the slavery of the Law. Isaac on the other hand, Sarah’s son, stands for the Christians. They are the spiritual children of Sarah, the free woman, and so like Isaac children of promise.
But now it is most important to indicate the background to this. The basic point at issue here is the justification of humanity. More, the justification of humanity before God. This justification is impeded by the sinfulness of humanity, which God cannot tolerate. The sinfulness of humanity is judged by the Law of Moses – the commandments of God. Any one who offends against these commandments is in sin, and so is cut off from God. He is spiritually dead.
Now in order that they might achieve justification before God, and with it salvation, God allowed the Israelites of the old covenant to practice animal sacrifice. Here the animal that suffered death symbolized the sins of humanity, so that humanity through the sacrifice again attained to spiritual life and a connection with God.
But then God sent his Son, who offered himself to God as a victim without blemish and died on the cross for the sins of the whole world. So animal sacrifice for the forgiveness of sins is now no longer required. What is required, however, is that the individual human being accept this sacrifice for his sins. Only when he consciously accepts this sacrifice of the Son of God, for the forgiveness of his sins before God, does forgiveness through grace take effect and the individual once more attains justification before God.
And here it also becomes very clear that if the Israelites at that time had not rejected the Son of God, this representative sacrifice of the Son of God for all humanity would not have taken place, and we of the nations would have only had the option of either accepting the faith of Moses or being lost eternally.
But the Israelites refused to recognize Jesus Christ as the Son of God, and so also refused forgiveness through grace. Now since animal sacrifice on the terms of the old covenant is only possible in the Temple in Jerusalem, and since that Temple was destroyed by Titus as long ago as the year 70 AD, the Israelites have for nearly two thousand years had practically no way any longer open to them of attaining forgiveness for their sins. So since that time they have been spiritually dead.
This is Paul’s view as well, when he further says in the passage quoted above, in Rom 11,17-18, that some of the natural branches (the Israelites of the faith of Moses) have been broken off, and we (the Christians) have been grafted in as wild olive branches. If we also take into account Paul’s concluding warning, when he tells us, in Rom 11,20-21, "Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either", we may then say that we, as Christians, are in a much better position than the Israelites of the faith of Moses. We have faith in the Son of God, and as a result have received forgiveness through grace. We therefore (even in accordance with Scripture) no longer need circumcision. The view of the Jews, on the other hand – "We have circumcision and so do not need to believe in any Son of God" – brings no salvation, since they have not had their sins forgiven through this belief, and so it cannot save them from the wrath of God either. According to Paul’s explanation quoted above, only faith and nothing else can be the basis for salvation.
And the critical situation in which the Jews have found themselves for almost two thousand years is the fact that they have only one alternative: either they come to believe in Jesus Christ, or they cannot be justified. But if they come to believe, this is "automatically" connected with a recognition of the Lord Jesus as the Son of God and as their Messiah. And this means that every Israelite of the faith of Moses has only the option of either becoming a Christian, or else sticking in a position where he cannot be justified.
But that would bring us back to the view quoted at the beginning of this discourse, namely that an Israelite who does not convert cannot attain salvation either.
But the Lord also speaks, in Jn 10,14-16 above, of two flocks which are to become
one flock. Some think to find a confirmation here of the view that the Jews must convert to
Christianity, and so also become part of this "Christian flock".
But we can see from the words of Jn 10,16 that the conversion of the whole of Israel to the Christian faith cannot be meant here, for we are told: "And I have other sheep, which are not of this fold; I must bring them also...". If we were to try to draw a conclusion from this, then it would rather be the opposite conclusion – namely that the "other sheep", that is the Christians, are to be brought into "this fold", namely the faith of Moses, which would be equally senseless.
What then does the Lord really mean by this statement?
To answer these questions we should, in the interests of simplification, first bracket out the facts that are certain. That the one flock is Christianity, the congregation, is established beyond doubt. That the other flock is Israel is equally certain, but we have to be more specific. Those Israelites who before the Second Coming of the Lord convert to the Christian faith count thereafter as Christians. They thus also have the same expectation of salvation as the Christians, and are no longer at issue here.
So it is a question only of those Israelites who do not convert to Christianity before the Second Coming of the Lord. And Paul refers to these in 2Cor 3,14-16:
But their minds were hardened.
2Cor 3,14 But their minds were hardened; for until this very day
at the reading of the old covenant the same veil remains unlifted, because it is removed in Christ.
3,15 But to this day whenever Moses is read, a veil lies upon their heart; 3,16 But when it shall turn to the Lord, the veil is taken away. 2Cor 3,14-16;
They are hardened, then, and have a veil of incomprehension over their eyes when
they read the Scriptures. But as Paul likewise says, when they turn to the Lord, the veil is taken
away. This is of course also the case with those Israelites who convert to the Lord as individuals.
But Paul is not referring to individual conversions, for he says "But when it shall
turn to the Lord" (Darby Translation and Greek Text), and this "it" must refer to Israel,
which is to say, Israel as an entire people.
So we find here the same connection to which Paul also refers in another passage quoted earlier, in the Epistle to the Romans (Rom 11,25-26), when he writes: "A partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; and thus all Israel will be saved."
Now this formulation of Paul’s – "And thus all Israel will be saved" – has preoccupied many generations of commentators. The basic question at issue is – does he mean here only the Israelites who will be alive in the Last Days, or all Israelites who have ever lived?
The half-sentence that stands immediately before the phrase quoted – "Until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in" – is a clear reference to the end of the congregation and so to the Second Coming of the Lord and the Rapture. But in all consistency it must then also refer to the gathering together and return of Israel to its land. So it is also precisely at this point in world history that the "veil" will be taken away from the eyes of Israel, and Israel will be converted and turn to the Lord, as prophesied in 2Cor 3,16 above.
But the gathering together, the return, and also the pouring out of the Spirit of God, are events which only the generation of Israelites who are alive in the Last Days will experience. And if we look at the words of 2Cor 3,16, we are there told likewise: "But when it (Israel) turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away". By this "it" – which must stand for Israel – it is clear, then, that only that generation can be intended which will be alive on earth at the time of the Second Coming of the Lord.
But what about Rom 11,26? When Paul here speaks of "all" Israel, does he likewise mean only this generation? To clear up this question, let us look at a passage from the Old Testament:
Thus says the Lord GOD to these bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life.
Ezk 37,1 The hand of the LORD was upon me, and He brought me out by the
Spirit of the LORD and set me down in the middle of the valley; and it was full of bones. 37,2 He
caused me to pass among them round about, and behold, there were very many on the surface of the
valley; and lo, they were very dry. 37,3 He said to me, "Son of man, can these bones live?" And
I answered, "O Lord GOD, You know." 37,4 Again He said to me, "Prophesy over these bones and
say to them, ‘O dry bones, hear the word of the LORD.’ 37,5 Thus says the Lord GOD to these
bones, ‘Behold, I will cause breath to enter you that you may come to life. 37,6 ‘I will put
sinews on you, make flesh grow back on you, cover you with skin and put breath in you that you
may come alive; and you will know that I am the LORD.’"
37,7 So I prophesied as I was commanded; and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold, a rattling; and the bones came together, bone to its bone. 37,8 And I looked, and behold, sinews were on them, and flesh grew and skin covered them; but there was no breath in them.
37,9 Then He said to me, "Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they come to life."‘" 37,10 So I prophesied as He commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they came to life and stood on their feet, an exceedingly great army. Eze 37, 1-10;
Ezekiel sees in this vision a great valley full of dry human bones. And the Lord promises him that he will raise these bones again to life. In the following verses it also becomes clear what these human bones represent:
Then He said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel.
Ezk 37,11 Then He said to me, "Son of man, these bones are the
whole house of Israel; behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up and our hope has perished. We
are completely cut off.’ 37,12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, "Behold,
I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you
into the land of Israel. 37,13 Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your
graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people.37,14 I will put My Spirit within you
and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the
LORD, have spoken and done it," declares the LORD.’" Eze 37,11-14;
So these bones which the Lord intends to raise and restore to life are the "whole
house of Israel", as we are told in the verse Eze 37,11. Accordingly there is agreement between
the two passages, that from Rom 11,26 and this one, Eze 37,11, that in the Last Days the whole
(house) of Israel will be saved and restored to life.
As was fully to be expected, almost all commentators shy away from interpreting these bones of the house of Israel in a literal sense. Not so much because the passage itself will not yield this interpretation, as out of fear of what they might have to make of such a result. No separate resurrection of the people of Israel, as they suppose, is found in Scripture. In their view the Israelites of all time who adhere to the faith of Moses will only be raised at the end of the world, at the General Resurrection of all the human race from their graves.
(See also Chapter 12: "The Resurrection.")
But we should not throw in the towel so quickly – when there is, moreover, a possible reference in the New Testament as well to such an event. And that is to be found precisely in this section of the Epistle to the Romans which we are considering here. In Rom 11,15 Paul speaks too of "life from the dead":
What will their acceptance be but life from the dead?
Rom 11,15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what
will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 11,16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the
lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too. Rom 11,15-16;
He is plainly speaking here of the Israelites, and says that if their rejection is
the reconciliation of the world – that is to say, after the Israelites refused to accept the Lord
Jesus, they were rejected and salvation was offered to us "Gentiles" – then their acceptance
must be life from the dead: that is, a resurrection. The commentators point out here, correctly,
that this is of course a reference to the resurrection of the dead in Christ and their Rapture along
with the believing Christians who are alive (as described in 1The 4,15-17 and 1Cor 15,50-53). This
is incidentally an indication that the gathering together, return and conversion of the people of
Israel to its God coincides in time with the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus and the Rapture of the
congregation of the Last Days, and so cannot have already taken place in the year 1948 as many
interpreters suppose, at the foundation of the state of Israel.
And yet – is this really an adequate explanation of Paul’s phrase, when he speaks of "life from the dead"? In all objectivity, can we really assume that if Paul speaks here of the acceptance of the Israelites, when he goes on to speak of "life from the dead" he is referring only to the Christians? Or is this "life from the dead" not rather a more comprehensive term, which possibly should be applied to all those dead human beings whose life the Lord at this time means to restore? And that God means to restore life to the Israelites has been quite plainly expressed in the passage (Eze 37,11-12) quoted above.
In the conventional interpretation of the verses from Ezekiel, however, the usual connection that is made is with the gathering together of Israel in our own time. Gerhard Salomon writes in his book "Was bald geschehen wird" ["What will happen soon"] (p. 76):
"What is meant by the coming together of the bones of the dead is
nothing other than the return of Israel from the diaspora to the land of their fathers. We have to
do here, admittedly, with the bones of the dead. In the language of the Bible any one who has not
been reborn is spiritually dead. (...) Ezekiel now sees how the bones of the dead are covered with
veins, flesh and skin. But they do not yet have life. This second phase is fulfilled through Israel
creating a state for itself and bringing about all the conditions needed to ensure its continued
existence. Today we are in the middle of this development."
If it is really true, then, that we are in the middle of this development, that of
Israel’s being accepted by its God, the resurrection of the dead – of the Christian dead, at
least – prophesied by Paul in Rom 11,15 should likewise be in full swing. And is that the case?
And are we really told in these prophecies that "Israel will create a state for itself and bring about all the conditions needed to ensure its continued existence", or is it not just stated in the passage quoted above (Eze 37,12) that God the Lord speaks and says, "Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel"?
Irrespective of the way in which one chooses to see this connection, the question remains open whether this passage from Ezekiel does not actually also prophesy a resurrection of the Israelites – seeing that to interpret it only with reference to the gathering together of Israel leaves a number of important statements out of account.
Leaving aside this talk of graves, the dead, dry bones, which in case of need can be understood through the application of the "symbolical approach" (see above) as referring to the foundation of the state of Israel, we are told in Eze 37,9: "Thus says the Lord GOD, ‘Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe on these slain, that they may come to life.’" So they are not just people who have died, but ones who have been "slain" who here are being raised by God. This term cannot comprehend either the Israelis of our own time and their return to Israel, or the Israelites of all time lumped together.
And it now also becomes clear at this point why it is written, "This is the whole house of Israel". The "house" of Israel consists not of all the Israelites, but just of those who have been killed because of their unshakable adherence to their God. The range of these extends from the prophets of the Old Testament, who were executed by the kings of Israel on political grounds, to the Jews of the faith of Moses who because of this faith of theirs were murdered by the Nazis in the concentration camps.
So it is the martyrs of the people of Israel to whom God here refers as the "house" of Israel. And with this we find a connection to the New Testament, and to what we are told in Rev 20,4:
The martyrs will come to life in the first resurrection.
Rev 20,4 Then I saw thrones, and they sat on them, and judgment was
given to them. And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony
of Jesus and because of the word of God, and those who had not worshiped the beast or his image, and
had not received the mark on their forehead and on their hand; and they came to life and
reigned with Christ for a thousand years. 20,5 The rest of the dead did not come to life until the
thousand years were completed. This is the first resurrection. Rev 20, 4- 5;
In the First Resurrection, according to this text, the martyrs – and only the
martyrs, as the passage states – will come to life. These are the martyrs of all time, both those
of the Old Testament ("because of the Word of God") and those of the New Testament ("because
of their testimony of Jesus"), and also those of the faithful who in the Last Days have been
killed under the kingdom of Antichrist ("those who had not worshiped the beast or his image").
And with that we also have a confirmation, derived from the New Testament, of this passage in Ezekiel. At the Second Coming of the Lord, these slain martyrs of Israel, the "house of Israel" – just like the Christian martyrs – will indeed be raised, come forth from their graves and be resurrected in the body, to rule with Christ in his kingdom for a thousand years.
But then there are still those Israelites who have been "left over", who are still alive at the coming of the Lord. It is to them that these promises of the gathering together, return, forgiveness of sins and outpouring of the Holy Spirit apply. These are the "people of God" of the Millennium, and they are also the ones meant by Paul in Rom 11,26 when he says that "all Israel" will then be saved.
And so all Israel will be saved.
Rom 11,25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this
mystery – so that you will not be wise in your own estimation – that a partial hardening has
happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in;11,26 and so all Israel
will be saved; just as it is written, "the deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove
ungodliness from Jacob. 11,27 This is My covenant with them, when I take away their sins."
The one who is to gather Israel together and bring it back is the "deliverer" mentioned in Rom 11,26 above, who will come from Zion and remove ungodliness from Jacob (= Israel). This is of course – as confirmed by numerous scriptural passages, both from the Old and from the New Testament – the Lord Jesus. One such promise is found in Isa 49,1-6:
Christ will bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him
Isa 49,1 Listen to Me, O islands, And pay attention, you peoples from
afar. The LORD called Me from the womb; From the body of My mother He named Me. 49,2 He has made
My mouth like a sharp sword, In the shadow of His hand He has concealed Me; And He has also made
Me a select arrow, He has hidden Me in His quiver. 49,3 He said to Me, "You are My Servant,
Israel, In Whom I will show My glory." 49,4 But I said, "I have toiled in vain, I have spent My
strength for nothing and vanity; Yet surely the justice due to Me is with the LORD, And My reward
with My God."
49,5 And now says the LORD, who formed Me from the womb to be His Servant, To bring Jacob back to Him, so that Israel might be gathered to Him (For I am honored in the sight of the LORD, And My God is My strength), 49,6 He says, "It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light of the nations So that My salvation may reach to the end of the earth." Isa 49, 1- 6;
Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is not only the light of the nations and the salvation
of God reaching to the ends of the earth, he is also Israel’s Messiah, who will come to raise up
the tribes of Jacob and to bring back the dispersed sons of Israel.
But it is just this that Israel was unwilling to accept, and it remains unwilling to this day. This is true of the religious leaders of Israel in the time of Jesus, who thought they were fulfilling God’s commandments by delivering the "blasphemer" from Nazareth to death on the cross, and equally true of Theodor Herzl's Zionists, who thought it incumbent on them not to "hold fast in hope until the end" (Heb 3,6) but rather to help God’s promises along, by prematurely initiating the gathering together of Israel without waiting for him who their God had promised to them would gather them together and bring them back – Jesus Christ, their Messiah.
Israel in the light of the Bible.
Based on the Old Testament
God has completely taken away his compassion from the house of
Israel (Hos 1:6). They are no longer his people (Hos 1:9). Only the house
of Judah will be saved by the Lord. Not by war, however, but by his Spirit
(Hos 1:7). And only in the Millennium, when the Son of God has entered on
his thousand years rule on earth (Hos 1:10; 2,18 Eze 34:25; Isa 2:4), will
the Lord once more accept Israel as his people (Hos 2:23; Jer 31:27-28).
Based on the New Testament
It is God’s will that we should listen to his Son (Mt 17:5). This same Son
of God has told us that anyone who rejects him rejects God as well (1Jn
2:23; Lk 10:16; Jn 5:22-23. 15:23). The people of Israel today deny the
Son of God and abuse him as an impostor and blasphemer. As a result of
this denial of the Son, Israel has also rejected the Father and so is a
God-less people. (Jn 8:24)
And just as the crucifixion of their Messiah set the people of Israel back by
thousands of years in its path towards salvation, so also the willful and premature return of the
Israelites has brought about much unnecessary suffering, and thousands of deaths, in their struggle
with the Palestinians.
But even as in the past Caiaphas and the Sanhedrin were able admittedly to hold up the unfolding of God’s plan of salvation for Israel, bringing thousands of years of persecution, contempt and dispersion on their own people, and yet were nonetheless unable to prevent the final deliverance of Israel by its Messiah, so also this premature gathering together in our own time may be able to hold Israel back on the path it walks with God but will not on any account finally prevent it. For God will not repent of the promises he has made to Israel, and they will all, even to the least of them, find fulfillment in the millennial kingdom of peace of their Messiah.
In this kingdom, the Millennium, there will no longer be any more "believers". The time of faith, of belief and believers, is now, and until such time as the Son of God shall reveal himself. Here humanity has the chance of bringing about its salvation through the conscious confession of Jesus Christ in faith, as we are told in Jn 20,29: ""Blessed are they who did not see, and yet believed".
>But when the Lord shows himself in glory to the people of this world, the time of faith will be over. All those who then acknowledge the visible Son of God – whether they are of Israel or of other nations – will be the people of God. All those who resist him will have to take the consequences.
It is now perfectly clear from this that the congregation and Israel do not need to dispute their position the one with the other. Christian believers – that is to say, the congregation – and the people of God in Israel have two quite different paths of salvation, completely separate from one another. While the congregation has its basis in faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and faith, of course, can only be valid as such so long as there is no revelation, the people of God in Israel waits precisely for this revelation of their Messiah, so that it may then be converted and saved.
(See also Table 08: "The way of salvation.")
Although now the final goal of both "flocks" of the Lord is the same – they will both be united in the heavenly Jerusalem of the New Creation – the way that leads there is also different. As Paul tells us in 1The 4,15-18 and 1Cor 15,50-53, the "dead in Christ" – that is to say, the Christian believers who have died – will be raised on the Second Coming of the Lord and will be caught up together with the living believers to meet the Lord in the air, and so will always be with the Lord.
We will be caught up in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
1The 4,15 For this we say to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive and remain until the coming of the Lord, will not precede those who have fallen asleep. 4,16 For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 4,17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord. 4,18 Therefore comfort one another with these words. 1The 4,15-18;
The dead will be raised imperishable, and we who are alive will be changed.
1Cor 15,50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot
inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 15,51 Behold, I tell
you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 15,52 in a moment, in the
twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be
raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 15,53 For this perishable must put on the
imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 1Cor 15,30-53;
The Lord himself likewise foretells this event in Mt 24,29:
He will send forth His angels and they will gather together His elect.
Mt 24,29 But immediately after the tribulation of those days the sun
will be darkened, and the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and
the powers of the heavens will be shaken. 24,30 And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in
the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the Son of Man coming
on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory.24,3 And He will send forth His angels with
a great trumpet and they will gather together His elect from the four winds, from one end of the
sky to the other. Mt 24,29-31;
The Lord will come on the clouds of the sky with power and great glory, and all men
will see him. Then he will send forth his angels and they will gather together the faithful who are
still alive from the whole world, and these – together with the faithful who have been raised from
the dead – will be caught up to meet the Lord in the air.
The gathering together of the elect will in reality happen in the shortest space of time throughout the world, in a matter of minutes. But an important aspect of this gathering together is accorded special emphasis by the Lord:
Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it.
Lk 17,30 It will be just the same on the day that the Son of Man is
revealed. 17,31 On that day, the one who is on the housetop and whose goods are in the house must
not go down to take them out; and likewise the one who is in the field must not turn back. 17,32
Remember Lot’s wife. 17,33 Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his
life will preserve it. 17,34 I tell you, on that night there will be two in one bed; one will be
taken and the other will be left. 17,35 There will be two women grinding at the same place; one will
be taken and the other will be left. Lk 17,30-35;
Here, in Lk 17,30-35, the Lord is making two points. On the one hand, no one should
look back, in these decisive minutes – not even in thought, indeed especially not in thought –
or try in haste to snatch up his possessions. He will not be able to take worldly goods to the place
where he is going now, nor will he any longer have need of them.
On the other hand, these believers should remain just wherever they happen to be at this moment. Whether they are on the housetop, in the house, in bed or in the field. Right where they are, the angels will fetch them and transform them, or "clothe" them, as Paul also puts it in 2Cor 5,4, and take them to meet the Lord in the clouds.
This "clothing" will take place "in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye", and as a result "this perishable" will "put on the imperishable", as Paul writes in the passage quoted above (1Cor 15,52-53). But this means that these believers will physically die at this point. They will not drop down dead, but they will undergo this phase of biological death – in a moment, admittedly, but as a real experience just the same – and subsequently find themselves reclothed with an imperishable spiritual body. This confirm also the following texts:
It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment.
Hbr 9,27 And inasmuch as it is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment. Heb 9,27;
That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Hbr 3,6 "That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which
is born of the Spirit is spirit. Jn 3,6;
These believers of the end time at the Rapture have to be "born of the spirit"
and therefor they have to die in the flesh. Any one, however, who tries to escape from dying, who
seeks to keep his life, will lose his biological body all the same, but will not be able to receive
a spiritual body and so will be actually physically dead. And this is just what the Lord warns us of
in Lk 17,33 when he says, "Whoever seeks to keep his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life
will preserve it".
We can see then that the Christians will also experience a gathering together on the Second Coming of the Lord: a gathering into life with the Lord in heaven.
(See also Chapter 062: The return of the Lord – part 2: "The
But the Israelites too will be gathered together on the Second Coming of their
Messiah – on earth. First of all, though, the earthly promises that have been made to them will be
Then the remainder of His (Jesus Christ's) brethren Will return with the sons of Israel.
Mic 5,2 "But as for you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Too little to be among
the clans of Judah, From you One will go forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His goings forth are
from long ago, From the days of eternity." 5,3 Therefore He will give them up until the time When
she who is in labor has borne a child. Then the remainder of His brethren Will return
home (in the Millennium) with the
sons of Israel. (Buber) 5,4 And He will arise and shepherd His flock In the strength of the
LORD, In the majesty of the name of the LORD His God. And they will remain, Because at that time He
will be great To the ends of the earth. Mic 5, 2- 4;
The LORD will restore the captivity of Israel and will plant them on their land.
Amos 9,14 "Also I will restore the captivity of My people Israel, And
they will rebuild the ruined cities and live in them; They will also plant vineyards and drink
their wine, And make gardens and eat their fruit. 9,15 I will also plant them on their land, And
they will not again be rooted out from their land Which I have given them," Says the LORD your God.
For behold, days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will restore the fortunes of My people.
Jer 30,3 ‘For behold, days are coming,’ declares the LORD, ‘when
I will restore the fortunes of My people Israel and Judah.’ The LORD says, ‘I will also
bring them back to the land that I gave to their forefathers and they shall possess it.’ Jer 30,
In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David.
Amos 9,11 "In that day I will raise up the fallen booth of David,
And wall up its breaches; I will also raise up its ruins And rebuild it as in the days of old; 9,12
That they may possess the remnant of Edom And all the nations who are called by My name," Declares
the LORD who does this. Amos 9,11-12;
The remnant of Israel will do no wrong and tell no lies.
Zeph 3,11 "In that day you will feel no shame Because of all your deeds By which you have rebelled against Me; For then I will remove from your midst Your proud, exulting ones, And you will never again be haughty On My holy mountain. 3,12 But I will leave among you A humble and lowly people, And they will take refuge in the name of the LORD. 3,13 The remnant of Israel will do no wrong And tell no lies, Nor will a deceitful tongue Be found in their mouths; For they will feed and lie down With no one to make them tremble." Zeph 3,11-13;
The LORD will gather the outcast and give them praise among all the peoples
of the earth.
Zeph 3,19 "Behold, I am going to deal at that time With all your oppressors, I will save the lame And gather the outcast, And I will turn their shame into praise and renown In all the earth. 3,20 At that time I will bring you in, Even at the time when I gather you together; Indeed, I will give you renown and praise among all the peoples of the earth, When I restore your fortunes before your eyes," Says the LORD. Zeph 3,19-20;
I will not hide My face from them any longer.
Eze 39,26 "They will forget their disgrace and all their treachery
which they perpetrated against Me, when they live securely on their own land with no one to make
them afraid. 39,27 When I bring them back from the peoples and gather them from the lands of their
enemies, then I shall be sanctified through them in the sight of the many nations. 39,28 Then they
will know that I am the LORD their God because I made them go into exile among the nations, and then
gathered them again to their own land; and I will leave none of them there any longer. 39,29 I
will not hide My face from them any longer, for I will have poured out My Spirit on the house of
Israel," declares the Lord GOD. Eze 39,26-29;
In the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice.
Deut 4,27 The LORD will scatter you among the peoples, and you will
be left few in number among the nations where the LORD drives you. 4,28 There you will serve
gods, the work of man’s hands, wood and stone, which neither see nor hear nor eat nor smell.
4,29 But from there you will seek the LORD your God, and you will find Him if you search for Him with all your heart and all your soul. 4,30 When you are in distress and all these things have come upon you, in the latter days you will return to the LORD your God and listen to His voice.
4,31 For the LORD your God is a compassionate God; He will not fail you nor destroy you nor forget the covenant with your fathers which He swore to them. Deut 4,27-31;
A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.
Isa 10,20 Now in that day the remnant of Israel, and those of the
house of Jacob who have escaped, will never again rely on the one who struck them, but will
truly rely on the LORD, the Holy One of Israel. 10,21 A remnant will return, the remnant of
Jacob, to the mighty God. Isa 10,20-21;
The sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king.
Hos 3,4 For the sons of Israel will remain for many days without king
or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar and without ephod or household idols. 3,5 Afterward
the sons of Israel will return and seek the LORD their God and David their king; and they will
come trembling to the LORD and to His goodness in the last days. Hos 3, 4- 5;
They will live on it forever; and David My servant will be their prince forever.
Eze 37,25 They will live on the land that I gave to Jacob My servant,
in which your fathers lived; and they will live on it, they, and their sons and their sons’ sons, forever;
and David My servant will be their prince forever. Eze 37,25;
My servant David will be prince among them.
Eze 34,23 Then I will set over them one shepherd, My servant
David, and he will feed them; he will feed them himself and be their shepherd. 34,24 And I, the
LORD, will be their God, and My servant David will be prince among them; I the LORD have
spoken. Eze 34,23-24;
They shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.
Jer 30,8 ‘It shall come about on that day,’ declares the LORD of hosts, ‘that I will break his yoke from off their neck and will tear off their bonds; and strangers will no longer make them their slaves. 30,9 ‘But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. Jer 30, 8- 9;
Then the nations will know that I am the LORD.
Eze 38,22 Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord
GOD, "It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for My holy name,
which you have profaned among the nations where you went. 36,23 I will vindicate the holiness of My
great name which has been profaned among the nations, which you have profaned in their midst. Then
the nations will know that I am the LORD," declares the Lord GOD, "when I prove Myself holy
among you in their sight. 36,24 For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the
lands and bring you into your own land. 36,25 Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will
be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols." Eze 36,22-25;
I will restore the fortunes of Judah and Israel and will rebuild them as they were at first.
Jer 33,7 I
will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel and will rebuild
them as they were at first. 33,8 I will cleanse them from all their
iniquity by which they have sinned against Me, and I will pardon all their
iniquities by which they have sinned against Me and by which they have
transgressed against Me. 33,9 It will be to Me a name of joy, praise and glory
before all the nations of the earth which will hear of all the good that I do
for them, and they will fear and tremble because of all the good and all the
peace that I make for it.
33,10 "Thus says the LORD, Yet again there will be heard in this place, of which you say, "It is a waste, without man and without beast," that is, in the cities of Judah and in the streets of Jerusalem that are desolate, without man and without inhabitant and without beast, 33,11 the voice of joy and the voice of gladness, the voice of the bridegroom and the voice of the bride, the voice of those who say, "Give thanks to the LORD of hosts, For the LORD is good, For His lovingkindness is everlasting"; and of those who bring a thank offering into the house of the LORD. For I will restore the fortunes of the land as they were at first, says the LORD.
33,12 "Thus says the LORD of hosts, There will again be in this place which is waste, without man or beast, and in all its cities, a habitation of shepherds who rest their flocks. 33,13 In the cities of the hill country, in the cities of the lowland, in the cities of the Negev, in the land of Benjamin, in the environs of Jerusalem and in the cities of Judah, the flocks will again pass under the hands of the one who numbers them, says the LORD. Jer 33, 713;
The Second Coming of the Lord will therefore bring about both the resurrection and
Rapture into the heavens and with that the end of the congregation on earth, and some years later
the conversion and gathering together of the people of Israel in their own land. The Christian
faithful will then be in heaven with the Lord, while the people of God who are of Israel, those of
them who are living at that time, along with the converted of all nations, will for the following
thousand years, with their Messiah and their King David, now raised from the dead, be the "chief
of nations" on earth.
So although Israel was the first people of God, through the hardening of its heart it has lost this entitlement. The Christian faithful will be the first to enter the kingdom of heaven before the Millennium. In this way the prophecy of the Lord in Mt 19,30 will also be fulfilled:
But many who are first will be last; and the last, first.
Mt 19,29 And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or
father or mother or children or farms for My name’s sake, will receive many times as much, and
will inherit eternal life. 19,30 But many who are first will be last; and the last, first. Mt
The Israelites who live in the Millennium, and those of all nations who have been
converted, will then only receive eternal life at the end of the world, after the Last Judgment. And
with them will be likewise all those Israelites who have died since the time of Abraham who held
fast to faith in their God even unto death. As only dead Christians or slain martyrs – these,
however, from Israel as well as from the congregation – will be involved in the raising from the
dead, the Rapture and the First Resurrection, these other Old Testament believers likewise of the
people of Israel, having died in the "normal" way, must wait till the Last Judgment.
And in this way Paul’s prophecy in Rom 11,26 will also then be fulfilled – namely, that through God’s taking away their sins, finally the entire believing people of Israel will be saved.
In the thousand years of the Millennium, however, Israel will live on earth in that peace that was promised to it by God from the beginning. The reality of this time of peace which the people of Israel can expect was admirably demonstrated by the author of the Epistle to the Israelites (Hebrews) in the light of the Scriptures:
So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God.
Hbr 4 8 For if Joshua had given them rest, He would not have spoken of
another day after that. 4,9 So there remains a Sabbath rest for the people of God. Heb 4, 8;
(See also Chapter 10: "The Millennium.")
After these thousand years, at the end of the world, after the Universal
Resurrection and the Last Judgment, the entire faithful people of God, of Israel and of the nations,
together with the Christian believers who have already been raised before the Millennium, will leave
the old earth and the old heaven of the first creation, which will pass away, to enter the eternal
New Creation of God and the heavenly Jerusalem.
As so often in the history of humanity, here too it can be seen that God metes out a just measure to each, but human beings leave the ways of God, out of lack of faith or overestimation of their own powers, and go their own way instead. But here they only succeed in damaging themselves repeatedly, and quarreling, enmity and even hatred are the result.
And so we should not try to interpret the promises that apply to Israel as referring to the congregation. We would gain nothing thereby, but we would stand to lose much: namely, the promise made to us that during the Millennium we will be with the Lord in heaven, and not, like Israel, on earth.
And if some commentators now think that this would deprive the congregation of the promise made to it that it would rule on earth in the Millennium with the Lord, as described in Rev 20,4, they fail to take into account, on the one hand, that in the same sentence of this verse this task is awarded only to those who have been "beheaded" – that is, to the martyrs of Israel and of the congregation – and not to the congregation as a whole.
And on the other hand one has to ask where the main emphasis lies, in terms of this expectation: to be with the Lord in the Millennium, or to rule in the Millennium. If they want to be with the Lord, then this promise of Paul in 1The 4,17, that we will always be with the Lord in heaven, should be the fulfillment of all their hopes. But if they only want to rule on earth, then for that very reason they are disqualified for this task.
The congregation and Israel have the same shepherd, it is true, and will be a single flock in the New Creation. But on the way thither there are constant aberrations and entanglements on both sides. If now the godless world tries repeatedly, and with success, to combat the people of God in Israel and the people of God among the nations – the congregation, that is to say – and to involve them in quarreling and dissension, we should not add to this by disputing one with the other our belonging to the one and only God, the Almighty, and to his Son Jesus Christ.