Israel’s Future among the Nations

“Arise, shine; for thy Light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee.” —Isaiah 60:1

OUT of the whirlpool of conflicting disorder which has characterized nearly all major world events beginning with that turning point in history marked by the First World War in 1914, there has emerged something as unlike the general pattern of things as day is different from night. A new nation has been born—the nation of Israel. Some refer to this as the rebirth of a nation. The new State of Israel is, however, dissimilar from the old in almost every respect, except that it is Jewish.

This new nation was born while a comparatively few of these ancient chosen people of God were desperately striving to maintain their hold on the Promised Land, and when they were ringed with hostile armies which were attacking them violently and almost constantly. Yes, out of this travail of hatred and war, with powerful nations which claimed to be friends looking passively on, the nation of Israel was born. To say that it was an outstanding and historical event is not enough. It was also a prophetic event, as are most of the unprecedented happenings in the world today.

Both Biblical and secular history furnish an interesting and colorful background for this people. It has been well said that the greatest living testimony to the inspiration of the Bible to be found in the world today is the Jew. And now that the Jewish people have been brought together into a reborn nation, that testimony has been greatly strengthened. True, the vast majority of those who make up the new nation of Israel are themselves as yet unbelievers in the Bible as the inspired Word of God. But even this substantiates the accuracy of the prophecies pertaining to their reestablishment in the land.

The Land and the Seed

Abraham is the recognized father of the Jewish people, and was the first to whom the name Hebrew was applied. To him God made wonderful promises. One of these pertained to the land of Israel. It reads, “Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: for all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed forever.” (Gen. 13:14,15) This promise in reality constitutes their title deed to the land.

In addition to this assurance concerning the land, God promised Abraham that his seed would become the blessers of all mankind—“In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed.” (Gen. 22:18) Abraham evidently understood this promise to mean that one day his descendants would become a powerful nation and would be in a position to extend blessings to all other nations of the earth. In the New Testament we are told that he looked for a city whose builder and maker would be God. (Heb. 11:10) A city, in the Bible, symbolizes a government, much as it does in our language, as for example, when we speak of Washington, London, or Moscow.

The descendants of Abraham—called in the Bible the Hebrew children—became a nation; and under the leadership of Moses, with him serving as a mediator, they entered into covenant relationship with the Lord. Subsequently God said to them, “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 mea kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.”—Exod. 19:5,6

From this divine pronouncement it is plainly evident that obedience to divine law was to be the measuring rod by which God would determine whether or not Israel would continue to be his chosen people. If they were to occupy a high position in his arrangements they must keep faith with him by a sincere and continued effort to obey his law.

The Biblical record of Israel’s unfaithfulness to the Lord throughout the centuries prior to the coming of their promised Messiah, is well known to all Bible students. In 606 B.C. they lost their national independence and were taken captive to Babylon. Concerning the overthrow of their last king we read, “Thou, profane wicked prince of Israel, whose day is come, when iniquity shall have an end. Thus saith the Lord God; Remove the diadem, and take off the crown: this shall not be the same: … I will overturn, overturn, overturn, it: and it shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him.”—Ezek. 21:25-27

After seventy years of captivity in Babylon, the people were permitted to return to their own land, but they never regained their national independence. In addition to their captivity in Babylon, they were successively subject to Medo-Persia, Greece, and then Rome. They were under their Roman taskmasters when Jesus came. They had lost their position as a sovereign nation, but God’s covenant of favor was confirmed unto them for a period of seventy symbolic weeks—four hundred and ninety years. This period included the time of Jesus’ coming and ministry, extending to three and one-half years after his death. See Daniel 9:25-27.

Had they accepted Jesus, and thus under this final test proved faithful, the nation could have secured the position of God’s “peculiar treasure,” “above all people,” and these could have been “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exod. 19:5,6) However, the record is that Jesus came “unto his own, and his own received him not.” (John 1:11) Instead, they rejected and crucified him. Then it was, more than nineteen centuries ago, in the shadow of Golgotha, and through the tears of the noblest Israelite who ever lived, Jesus the Messiah, Jesus the promised king of Israel and the world, Jesus the great prophet of Israel and to Israel, declared to the generation which rejected him: “Your house is left unto you desolate.”—Matt. 23:38

The New Nation

The hope of being God’s city, or kingdom, which the divine promise had engendered in the heart of Abraham, and which tentatively belonged to his natural descendants, was taken from them by this final decree of rejection uttered by the Master. He explained further that the kingdom would be taken from them, and given to a nation bringing forth fruits thereof. (Matt. 21:42,43; Luke 19:42-44) The Apostle Peter identifies this new nation which inherits the kingdom promises made originally to natural Israel, showing it to be the church of this Gospel Age. (See I Peter 2:4-10.) The Apostle Paul gives us the same information when, in pointing out the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham concerning the seed which was to be the channel of blessing to all the families of the earth, he explains that Christ is this seed, and that associated with him will be those who are called of God and “baptized into Christ,” from among both Jews and Gentiles.—Gal. 3:8,16,27-29

Another very illuminating lesson on the status of the natural descendants of Abraham is the eleventh chapter of Romans. This chapter opens with the question, “Hath God cast away his people?” And the Apostle Paul’s answer is, “God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” What the apostle evidently means is that God was not discriminating against individual Israelites. This is shown by his further analysis in which he reveals that a “remnant according to the election of grace” had maintained a favored position in the Lord’s arrangements, and that the remainder were blinded. See verses two to ten.

The remnant Paul refers to is mentioned in the explanation that Jesus “came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God.” (John 1:11,12) Those who, through the power of the Holy Spirit become sons of God during this Gospel Age, will reign with Christ. Together with him, they will be the kingdom nation. God’s promises justified Israel in seeking this high position, but as Paul explains, “Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for.”—Rom. 11:7

Israel’s Blindness to Be Removed

Spiritual blindness always results from unfaithfulness to the Lord. It was so with Israel. They rejected the Messiah and whatever spiritual vision they had prior to that time was lost. This condition was to continue, Paul explains, “until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.” (Rom. 11:25) This coming in of the fullness of the Gentiles is described by the apostle as the ingrafting of wild olive branches into the original Israelitish olive tree—“contrary to nature.” In grafting which is not contrary to nature, the grafted branch retains its original identity and bears its own kind of fruit, not being changed in any way by the sap of the tree of which it becomes a part. But it is different with these Gentile branches. They are, contrary to nature, changed; for they become spiritual Israelites, and inherit the promises originally made exclusively to the natural descendants of Abraham.

When this grafting work is completed, then “all Israel shall be saved,” wrote Paul, for, “as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant with them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:26,27) The covenant here referred to is the one promised in Jeremiah 31:31-34. It is to be made with “the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah”—Israel and Judah both being mentioned because at the time this promise was made the nation was divided, ten of the tribes being identified as Israel and the other two as Judah.

Paul wrote, “There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer” of Israel. Sion, or Zion, was originally, so to speak, the Capitol Hill of Jerusalem, and the name is used in the prophecies to symbolize the messianic kingdom in the hand of Christ and his church. This is the kingdom which was taken from the natural descendants of Abraham and given to the new, spiritual nation composed of individual believers from among both Jews and Gentiles. Together with Jesus, these are shown to be on Mount Zion as “saviors” at the time when “the kingdom shall be the Lord’s.”—Obad. 21; Rev. 14:1; Isa. 55:5; Hos. 1:10

It is to this deliverance and enlightenment to natural Israel that our text refers—“Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the Lord is risen upon thee.” (Isa. 60:1) The true light of Israel—and indeed of the whole world—is Jesus. This is emphasized by Simeon’s prophecy at the time the child Jesus was dedicated in the Temple, when in a prayer to God the prophet said of him that he had come to be a “light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.”—Luke 2:32

This glory was not realized by Israel at the time of Jesus’ first advent because the nation rejected the light, and killed him. Simeon foretold that the result of this would be their fall. He said, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against.” (Luke 2:34) Only a remnant—the few Israelites who received Jesus at his first advent—experienced at that time the fulfillment of the prophecy, “Arise, shine; for thy light is come.” These few, together with believing Gentiles throughout the age, have rejoiced in the light and have let it shine out in a dark world for the blessing of others.

But for the people of Israel as a whole the time is still future when the light will be recognized by them. And then they, as the first to receive the kingdom blessings of the new age, will become a shining example of God’s saving power as It will be manifested on their behalf in the final phase of the great time of trouble when their own eyes are opened to recognize their Messiah. It will be then that all Israel shall be saved from spiritual blindness.

Light Out of Darkness

Following the assurance of our text, the next verse reads, “For, behold, the darkness shall cover the earth, and gross darkness the people: but the Lord shall rise upon thee, and his glory shall be seen upon thee. And the Gentiles shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising.” This indicated that just prior to the removal of Israel’s blindness there would be a very dark period in human experience, a time when both Jews and Gentiles would be without spiritual vision. How true this is of the present time!

Never was true faith in God at a lower ebb than it is today. Truly gross darkness does cover the people; and this is no less true of Israel than it is of other nations. While the Lord’s hand has been in the affairs of the Jews, shaping circumstances to induce large numbers of them to return to the Promised Land, very few among the hundreds who pour into the country are going there because of their faith in God’s promises. The motives with nearly all of them are economic and national.

So far as their belief in God is concerned, and their heart devotion to him, the Jews in Israel today are no more ready to be used by him than are the Gentile nations. In fact, they have identified themselves with the kingdoms of this world, becoming one with them by joining the United Nations. They are not looking to God for help, but to the power of munitions and gold. While they have the pioneer spirit of enthusiasm, they, like the other nations, have no solution for their problems. The inflation rate is near one hundred percent; their government is strife-ridden by contending political and religious factions; their relationship with the Arab world is becoming more precarious, and the complex problems before them are rapidly multiplying.

They hope, of course, that eventually they will find a solution for their problems and that the government will finally become prosperous and economically strong. And the prophecies indicate that before their final trouble they will enjoy a brief period of relative peace and prosperity. (Ezek. 38:8,11,12) Meanwhile, the Lord’s hand in the affairs of men is directing the final issue, and in due time the light will come, first to Israel, and then to the whole world.

That light is already present in the world, but Jews and Gentiles alike are blind to it, even as Israel did not recognize their Messiah at the first advent. However, divine providence is already shaping the affairs of Israel, particularly with respect to their going to Israel. The prophecies indicate that the beginning of their national resurrection is prior to the time when their spiritual blindness is removed. This is shown especially in Ezekiel 37:1-14, where the whole house of Israel is likened to a valley of dry bones.

In the resurrection of these bones, a three-phase action is indicated. First, the bones come together—“bone to his bone.” Then they are covered with sinews and flesh. And finally they are given breath, life. Accompanying these developments there is a noise, a shaking, and then the blowing of four winds. It is out of the four winds that life comes to what is said to be the whole house of Israel.

In a general way, these three phases of revival seem to coincide with the three major spasms of the time of trouble with which the present evil world comes to an end. The first of these spasms was the World War which started in 1914. As a result of this there came a rustling, as it were, of Israel’s bones. Palestine was partly opened up to them, many returned, and the reclaiming of the land began. Out of the second global struggle came the sinews and the flesh—the new State of Israel was formed.

But still there is no life. Breath has not yet been given to Israel. In keeping with the sequence of events as outlined in verses thirteen and fourteen, we could say that the Lord has now opened their national graves (event one), has brought them up out of their graves (event two), but has not yet poured his Spirit upon them, so as yet they do not have life. And it is not until all three of these steps in their revival have been accomplished that they will know the Lord, and will recognize Jesus as their Messiah, their light. A detailed description of the last phase of the great time of trouble is presented in chapters thirty-eight and thirty-nine of the same prophecy, and here also we find that not until this final phase occurs, and in it the Lord delivers his people from their enemies, will their spiritual eyes be opened to know him—“So the house of Israel shall know that I am the Lord their God from that day and forward.”—Ezek. 39:22

And because the Lord, in that day, will fight for the Israelites who have returned to their land, the eyes of many nations also will be opened, and as the Lord declares, “They shall know that I am the Lord.” (Ezek. 38:23) Thus we have the assurance that the time for the blessing of all nations will then begin, with the Jews living in Israel being the first to have blessings offered to them. “You … have been the very symbol of a curse to all the nations; … and you shall become the symbol of a blessing.”—Zech. 8:13, NEB

This does not mean, however, that the State of Israel will be transformed into the earthly phase of Christ’s kingdom. As a government, it will collapse together with all the kingdoms of this world. It will be as individuals that they will be delivered from their enemies and have their eyes opened to behold the glory of the Lord and to recognize the great light which shall then come to them. By acceptance of their Messiah, and obedience to the laws of his kingdom, the glory of God’s favor will rest upon them. Thus will be fulfilled the other part of Simeon’s prophecy, that Christ was set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel. The fall came when they rejected the light, and their rising will be the result of their accepting him.

Princes in All the Earth

While Jewish people in various stages of unbelief are now being gathered to Israel in keeping with the divine plan in order that they might be the first to whom kingdom blessings will be offered, none are to be considered by God as a part of, or even supporters of, or associated with, the earthly phase of the kingdom except as they shall first recognize Christ Jesus as the Son of God, their only redeemer and deliverer. The human representatives of the spiritual kingdom of the Lord will be the resurrected Ancient Worthies, whom the Scriptures declare will be made princes in all the earth. (Ps. 45:16) See also Matthew 11:11; Luke 13:28; Hebrews 11:39,40; and Isaiah 1:25-27.

These Ancient Worthies will have neither part nor lot in the spiritual phase of the kingdom—the personnel of which will be Jesus and his church—yet they will occupy a position of preferment above the world, having attested their faith and love during the reign of evil, in a manner approved by God. Thus they were prepared and proved worthy to be the earthly ministers and representatives of the spiritual kingdom. It will very likely be in conjunction with the miraculous protection afforded the regathered Jews in Israel, when they are attacked by the forces of “Gog” and “Magog,” that these Ancient Worthies will be awakened from the sleep of death, and will present themselves to Israel.—Ezek. 38:14

As individually the Israelites recognize and accept the leadership of these resurrected ones as representatives of their Messiah, they too will have the opportunity of cooperating in the work of the kingdom. So also will believing Gentiles, although the Jews will be given the first opportunity. Thus the new earth will increase and spread its influence over the whole world, under the direction of the new heavens. “Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end,” the Scriptures declare; that is, it will ultimately embrace all nations, with even the dead being awakened to have an opportunity to share in its blessings.—Isa. 9:6,7

Just as the spiritual seed of Abraham, gathered from both the Jews and Gentiles during the Gospel Age, are considered by God as Israelites, so it will be in the case of those who participate in the human phase of the kingdom, beginning with the Ancient Worthies. From this constantly enlarging new earth the light will shine forth until the knowledge of the glory of God shall fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. (Isa. 11:9; Hab. 2:14) It is a glorious prospect, and what a blessing it is to stand at the very threshold of this millennial day, and to see the early beginnings of the fulfillment of the promises of God. May we, as spiritual Israelites, “arise and shine,” and tell the whole world these blessed tidings!

Dawn Bible Students Association
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