Scripture provides no ambiguity about the disobedience and contrary stance of Israel. Jesus lamented the unwillingness of the cities of Chorazin and Bethsaida to come to repentance even after witnessing the performance of most of his mighty works (Matt. 11:20 – 24). He also pronounced woes upon the religious leaders of Israel, even condemning them with their own words (Matt. 23:29 – 36). He called them, “sons of those who murdered the prophets”, and he prophesied the righteous indignation of God falling upon that entire generation of ungodly men. This woe indicated their sonship was more than just a biological lineage. They would also bear the guilt and punishment for every murder committed against the prophets of God, from righteous Abel to Zechariah, son of Barachiah. Jesus continued to grieve over his regressive people with these sobering utterances,
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it! How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you were not willing! See, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.’” – Matthew 23:37 – 39
Somehow, the force of this passage has escaped the grasp of many preachers and Bible teachers in our fellowship (Churches of Christ). Jesus is first stating, with great clarity, that Israel has rejected her Messiah in great disobedience and obstinance (comp. Isa. 65:2; Lk. 19:41 – 44; Rom. 10:21). His Father’s cup of wrath was “foaming up” and all the wicked of Israel were to drain it down to the dregs (Psa. 75:8). He is warning them of what is to come as a consequence of their defiance. A great series of “desolations” are decreed as remedial judgment for their sin of unbelief (cf. Dan. 9:26).
History has shown us that the Jews were scattered by the destruction of Jerusalem in the first century, and they wandered to “the ends of the earth” in what has been called, the diaspora (cf. Isa. 43:3 – 7, Jer. 31:8). They have faced an abundance of “desolations”, including the Holocaust of the 1940’s. They are hated in nearly every country on earth. However, Scripture promises the Jewish dispersion would not be permanent. Moses prophesied that Israel would return even from “the uttermost parts of heaven” (Deut. 30:1 – 5). Upon return, God would circumcise their hearts to love the Lord and live (v. 6, 8). In that day, all the curses they endured will be brought upon the enemies of the Jewish people (the nations guilty of persecuting them during the diaspora; v. 7, comp. Jer. 25:15ff).
Isaiah also provides astounding detail concerning the Lord’s plan to restore wayward Israel to her land and, having been restored, to grant her genuine repentance therein (e.g. Isa. 10:20 – 22; 11:10 – 16; 14:1, 2; 45:17, 18). After repenting of the rejection of Jesus as her anointed King, Apostle Peter states that Israel will finally receive the promised, “times of refreshing from the presence of the Lord” (Acts 3:19 – 21). Being long forsaken by God and hated by the world, Israel will finally be elevated above the nations, and her promised exaltation will take place in the last dispensation of world history (cf. Isa. 60:1 – 22).
That dispensation is the millennial reign of Jesus Christ on earth. When the Jews are fully gathered in their land, and the full number of Gentiles have been saved, then “all Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26). As promised, penitent Israel will see her King in glory as he comes to be with her again (Matt. 23:39). For now, Israelites incrementally return to the Promised Land of Canaan from nations all over the world. At the same time, a remnant of Jewish believers embrace Jesus Christ as their promised King. Thus, not all Jews will be saved but, eventually, the remaining Jews in Canaan will seek his face, and the entire nation will ultimately find restoration in him (Zech. 12:10 – 13:1).
The fulfillment of this magnificent plan is not for the sake of stubborn and self-righteous Israel, but for the sake of God’s holy name. It is necessary that God follow through with every promise to Israel in order to demonstrate his unchanging purpose and faithfulness (Ezek. 36:19 – 38). Though Israel was faithless, God always remains faithful to his promises to the nation he loves (2 Tim. 2:13). He will never cast them off as his people, in spite of all they have done against him in sinful unbelief (Jer. 31:36, 37; 33:23 – 26). The Heavenly Father never forgets his own children:
“Can a mother forget the baby at her breast and have no compassion on the child she has borne? Though she may forget, I will not forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands; your walls are ever before me.” – Isaiah 49:15, 16
Understanding this prophetic truth has led many to also recognize the nature of the salvation we have been given in Christ. If God will remain faithful to his people whom he foreknew, in spite of generations of insubordination and wicked rejection, he will certainly be faithful to the Church, which is the virgin Bride of Christ!
As God chose Israel for his elect purposes concerning redemption, he has also chosen the Church to receive the gift of redemption through faith in Christ (Rom. 11:28 – 32). Every believer has been elected for eternal life before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:4 – 6). Christians were predestined to be saved, being appointed by God for salvation, and called out of the world to experience new birth (Rom. 8:28 – 30; 9:11). We read, “as many as were appointed to eternal life believed” (Acts 10:48).
In a chain of events from eternity past to eternity future, God foreknew us. Then, he predestined our salvation, called us to his grace, justified us by faith, and glorified us eternally. We ought to always be thankful that God has chosen each of us to be saved, through sanctification by the Spirit and belief in the truth (2 Thess. 2:13). He created the right circumstances in order to bring about our obedience to the gospel of Christ and, thereby, save us from sin (v. 14; Acts 17:26, 27). It is not that he overpowers our will, but he elevated our will to conform to his will as chosen and holy people (cf. Col. 3:12; 1 Pe. 2:9). By living sanctified lives, we make our “calling and election sure”, as he works in us both “to will and to act on behalf of his good purpose” (Phil. 2:12, 13; 2 Pe. 1:10). True believers obey, and God will bring his work to completion through them, since they are his foreknown “masterpiece” (Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6).
This great calling and justification by faith are irrevocable blessings to every member of the Body of Christ. This is the case because we do not depend on our own faithfulness, but upon the faithfulness of God, and his “guarantee to all his offspring” (Rom. 4:16; 11:29). We carry this promise of “eternal salvation” because God has “perfected (us) for all time”, and we are “being made holy” (Heb. 5:9; 10:14). Therefore, the free gift of eternal life cannot and will not be taken away, in spite of any disobedience and wayward lifestyle that may temporarily occur in the course of our journey. God will always lead us right back to repentance, though it may require much discipline (Acts 11:18; 2 Cor. 7:9 – 10; Heb. 12:5 – 11).
As he redeems Israel whom he foreknew, he restores every true believer in Christ. He will not reject Israel, neither will he give up on any one of us (Rom. 5:10; 11:1, 2). The seal of the Holy Spirit is the “guarantee” that God follows through on his wonderful promises to each of us, providing us with absolute eternal security (Eph. 1:13, 14; 4:30; 2 Cor. 1:21, 22). Israel’s sure and coming repentance affirms God will grant repentance to those predestined for eternal life, and they will never perish (cf. Jn. 3:16; 4:14; 6:39, 40; 10:28; 11:25, 26). – MAH