The Seed—Part 8, Conclusion

Israelites Indeed

“Jesus saw Nathanael coming to him, and saith of him, Behold an Israelite indeed, in whom is no guile!” —John 1:47

JESUS’ reference to Nathanael as “an Israelite indeed” implies that at the time of our Lord’s first advent there were those who were Israelites in name only. Jesus identified some of these when he said to the Pharisees and others of the Jews: “Ye are of your father the Devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do.” (John 8:44) The Apostle Paul supported this viewpoint when, in writing to the brethren at Rome, he said, “They are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”—Rom. 9:6

A number of instances are recorded in the Bible in which God changed the names of his servants in order to teach certain lessons pertaining to the outworking of his plan of the ages. Abram’s name was changed to Abraham, Sarai’s to Sarah. (Gen. 17:5,15) Strictly speaking, the name Israel is not the family name of the descendants of Abraham, but a new name given to Jacob, the grandson of Abraham, indicating certain important characteristics he had demonstrated.

According to Professor Strong, the name Israel in the Hebrew language means, ‘He will rule as God’. Other scholars suggest the definition, ‘to prevail with God’, or, as the margin reads, ‘a prince of God’. The name Israel was given to Jacob after he had wrestled with an angel, who explained, “Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed.”—Gen. 32:28

The overall thought seems to be that the name Israel symbolically describes one who, through faithfulness, secures God’s favor and is given the honor of being associated with him in the accomplishment of his purposes. To be a true Israelite one must “prevail” with God, and all who do prevail will, in one category or another, rule with him.

Seemingly, the Lord gave this name to Jacob to further emphasize the complete and ultimate meaning of the promise to Abraham that through his seed all the families of the earth would be blessed. Actually that promise does mean that all who ultimately come within its gracious provisions will have prevailed with God by their faithfulness, and will be as princes, or kings, ruling with God.

First of all we see Jesus as the messianic seed of Abraham. (Gal. 3:16) At what great cost did he prevail with God to prove his worthiness to be King of kings and Lord of lords! (Rev. 19:16) Then there are those who, beginning with Jesus and Pentecost, likewise have proved worthy of God’s favor. In the divine arrangement, these are made “priests of God and of Christ,” and reign with Christ a thousand years.—Rev. 20:6; II Tim. 2:12,13

And then, throughout the ages preceding our Lord’s first advent, earthly princes, or rulers, as well as the common people were being tested and trained to be the human representatives of the divine Christ. These also prevailed with God by their faithfulness, in many instances even unto death. Paul mentions many of these, and informs us that they received the testimony that they pleased God. Because of their faithfulness, they were found worthy of a “better resurrection” than mankind in general, in the sense that they will be awakened to instant human perfection, and thus qualified to cope with the problems of humanity which they will immediately face.—Heb. 11:13,35,39,40

We should not suppose that this group of ancient faithful and worthy servants of God consisted merely, or even chiefly, of those named by Paul as cited above. He explains that time did not permit him to identify them all, and how right he was! (Heb. 11:32) Paul mentions many of the outstanding personalities of the Old Testament, but in Romans 11:2-4, quoting from the Old Testament, he indicates that in the generation of Elijah’s day there were more than seven thousand whom the Lord had reserved unto himself, obviously because they had prevailed with him.

Historians do not attempt to mention individually all who are involved in the events which they narrate. We have a good example of this in Acts. Comparatively speaking, only a few names are mentioned in this book, yet we know that in the Early Church there were many thousands of earnest followers of the Master.

So far as we are aware, the Scriptures do not positively indicate the exact number of those who will be “princes in all the earth.” (Ps. 45:16) We know, however, that there will be a sufficient number to properly function as the earthly ruling phase of the messianic kingdom. And, on a lower plane than the divine Christ, they will be as though ruling with God, because they will be authorized and empowered by him.

All the families of the earth are to be blessed through the seed of Abraham. God said to Abraham, “Behold, my covenant is with thee, and thou shalt be a father of many nations. Neither shall thy name any more be called Abram, but thy name shall be called Abraham; for a father of many nations have I made thee.” (Gen. 17:4,5) Paul quotes this promise, and indicates that it has a partial fulfillment in the fact that the spiritual Israelites of the Gospel Age are selected from among all nations. (Rom. 4:8-25) But we believe it has a larger fulfillment in that all the families of the earth who are blessed by the seed of Abraham also become his children, his seed.

The Scriptures reveal clearly that the blessing provided for all the families of the earth is restoration to life, and to the dominion forfeited through the sin of our first parents. Man was created in the image of God, and given dominion over the earth. He was made king of earth, and therefore, a part of the royal, or ruling, family of God.—Gen. 1:27,28

But when our first parents transgressed God’s law, they lost both dominion and life. In the parable of the sheep and goats, Jesus assures us that the people of all nations are to come into judgment during the time of his reign, and that they will be divided as a shepherd “divideth his sheep from the goats.” (Matt. 25:31-46) This is not an arbitrary division, but is based on qualification. Those who prevail by their faithfulness to the divine principles of righteousness then in force throughout the earth become the sheep of the parable.

To these sheep, or worthy ones, the glorious pronouncement is made, “Come ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.” (vs. 34) These also re-inherit the life which was lost by sin, and purchased for them by the blood of Christ. As restored humans, enjoying perfection of life, they will be kings of earth, and on the human plane will be ruling with God, as members of his royal family, even as Adam did before he sinned.

Thus we see that the name Israel, as given to Jacob, comprehensively suggests the complete outworking of the divine purpose as set forth in the promise made to Abraham. It reminds us also that the blessing mentioned in the Abrahamic Covenant is obtained only by those who prevail with God by proving their faithfulness to him. This is true both of the earthly and spiritual ruling seeds, as well as the larger seed—the many nations who will, as subjects of the messianic kingdom, be restored to human perfection and ultimately inherit the lost dominion of earth.

In Genesis 4:26 we read: “Then began men to call themselves by the name of the Lord.” (Marginal translation) Man was endowed with the desire to worship his Creator and, despite the fact that he was now alienated from God because of sin, he wanted to be associated with him. This was true of at least some in those early days of the antediluvian world.

This desire to worship a higher power has manifested itself throughout all the ages since. Satan has taken advantage of human weakness and lack of judgment, and has led men and women into worshiping all sorts of false gods. In most instances these false gods have been pictured as vindictive and cruel, hence fear and dread have been powerful motivating influences in the religious concepts of the people.

But nevertheless God has inclined toward many who have earnestly sought him and desired to please him. This was true of some in the antediluvian world. Enoch, for example, “walked with God,” and he was used by God to prophesy concerning the coming of the Lord with “ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment.”—Gen. 5:24; Heb. 11:5; Jude 14,15

And, of course, there were Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Moses—in fact all the Ancient Worthies. Beginning with the death of Jacob, God began to deal with his twelve sons and their families as a nation. These were his people—his nation. At Mt. Sinai God entered into a covenant with this nation, Moses serving as mediator. Thus Israel became God’s covenant people, or nation.

The Law, as epitomized in the Ten Commandments, was the basis of this covenant. En masse the people agreed to abide by the terms of the covenant, and God promised to bless them as a people in proportion to their faithfulness. The ultimate blessing promised for obedience to the Law was life. But to obtain life under the Law required perfect obedience, and no member of the fallen race was capable of rendering full obedience to God’s perfect Law, so none gained life.

Concerning the Law, Paul wrote, “It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” (Gal. 3:19) As we have seen, the seed envisioned in the promise to Abraham was Christ, and associated with him his body members. (Gal. 3:16,26-29) It was God’s design that Jesus, the head of the Christ company, should be of the natural seed of Abraham, that he should come from the nation of Israel.

But sin and selfishness, unbridled, would have disrupted the Israelites as a nation long before it was due time for the Messiah to come, so, as Paul explains, one of the purposes of the Law was to serve as a deterrent to sin. While the record of the nation from the giving of the Law to the birth of Jesus is not by any means an enviable one, it certainly would have been much worse had it not been for the restraining influences of God’s Law, which as a nation the people had agreed to keep.

Paul also referred to the Law as a “schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ.” (Gal. 3:24) The thought here seems to be that the inability of fallen man to keep God’s perfect Law taught the necessity of a Redeemer from sin. The Jewish nation was the first to have the opportunity of learning this lesson, but it will not be until they are raised from the dead that they will really benefit from their failure. Then they will learn that only through the redemptive work of Jesus is everlasting life available. Through the failure of the nation of Israel to gain life under the Law, Gentile nations also will have the necessity of the shed blood of Jesus Christ emphasized to them.

However, as we have seen, beginning with righteous Abel and continuing to John the Baptist, there were those who enjoyed the smile of God’s favor upon the basis of their faith and heart loyalty to him. This was true during the time when the Law Covenant was operative with the nation of Israel. Except during a few short periods, the majority of the nation paid little attention to the Law, and from time to time were enticed into idolatry and other gross sins.

But there were always the few who, like David, were at heart loyal to God. These were hindered from perfect obedience to the Law only by their inherited imperfections. These did not gain life under the Law, but they did receive the testimony that because of their faith and obedience they were pleasing to God. These were “Israelites indeed.”

Through Moses, God said to the people of Israel, “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation.” (Exod. 19:5,6) While, as we shall see, there is to be a spiritual “holy nation,” yet this promise of God had vital meaning to fleshly Israel, for there is also to be an earthly phase of the kingdom, a visible “holy nation.”

The Lord knew that no single generation of the Israelites would qualify to be his holy nation on earth. But he also knew that there would be a remnant of the Israelites in each generation who, through faith and heart obedience, would obtain a good report, and that in due time he would raise these up in the better resurrection to be the visible holy nation of promise.

At the close of the Jewish Age, when the Israelites as a nation proved unworthy of the kingdom blessings offered by the Lord, Jesus said to them, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matt. 21:43) The head of this new nation to whom the kingdom was given is Jesus, and Peter identified the other members. He wrote, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people, … which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God.”—I Pet. 2:9,10

Not all the members of this new, spiritual nation were living in Peter’s day. It requires the entire Gospel Age to select these from the world. Even as with the Ancient Worthy class, who will be the visible part of this holy nation, it will be made up of a few from many generations who proved their worthiness of this exalted position in the plan of God by being faithful unto death.

How important it is to take into consideration the resurrection feature of the divine plan if we are to comprehend the full meaning of the promises of God! God makes his promises and carries forward his plan for the recovery of the human race from sin and death, knowing that the death of his people in no way interferes. It is as though they merely fall asleep at night and awaken in the morning to enter into the rewards which our loving Heavenly Father promised to the faithful.

The Scriptures clearly establish the fact that many of the natural descendants of Abraham, who later were given the name Israelites, held this status only by reason of birth, that they were not “Israelites indeed” in whom there was no guile. There are also many wonderful promises made to these, promises which give assurance that they, too, are to be awakened from the sleep of death and given an opportunity to participate in the joys of the messianic kingdom, not as its rulers and princes, but as its subjects.

Moses said to the Israelites of his day, “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken.” (Deut. 18:15) Peter quoted this prophecy and explained that it would have its fulfillment following the second coming of Christ and during the “times of restitution of all things.” (Acts 3:19-23) Peter proffered this as a hope to the unbelieving Jews of his day, a hope that would be translated into reality upon the basis of their repentance and the blotting out of their sins.

Here, then, is a promise to those of Israel who did not obtain a good report through faith, and therefore did not qualify for the better resurrection. This promise also depends for fulfillment upon the resurrection feature of the divine plan. How meaningless would be many of God’s promises if we attempted to limit their application to the generation living at the time they were made!

In the Apostle Paul’s speech before Felix, he indicated that the Law and the prophets gave assurance of a resurrection of the dead, “both of the just and unjust.” (Acts 24:14,15) The resurrection of the just of those ages preceding the first advent of Christ will be the better resurrection mentioned by Paul. (Heb. 11:35) The resurrection of the unjust is also clearly pointed out in the Scriptures. In Daniel 12:1,2, where Daniel is assured of the deliverance of his people, we read: “Many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.” The just come forth to life, the unjust to “contempt.”

The resurrection of the unjust is also foretold in Ezekiel 16:55-63. Here the assurance of the resurrection is extended to the Gentiles also—even such wicked Gentiles as the Sodomites. The Israelites referred to in this promise are those who “despised the oath in breaking the covenant.” (vs. 59) In other words, here is another of God’s promises to nominal Israelites, those who did not receive the testimony that they pleased God. There were many of these in each generation of Israel.

As already noted, God dealt with the descendants of Jacob as a nation. This meant that both the just and the unjust shared in whatever experiences God permitted to come upon the nation. At times, when the leaders of the people were God-fearing, and did all in their power to direct them in paths of righteousness, the nation was blessed, and the just as well as the unjust enjoyed these blessings.

The reverse was also true. Note the time when the nation was taken into captivity in Babylon because of her sins. Not all in the nation at that time were of the unjust class. There were, for example, Daniel and his three young friends who demonstrated their loyalty to the true God of Israel even at the risk of their lives. Nevertheless, they were among the captives. There were many others among the captives who likewise were loyal to Jehovah.

Probably one of the divine purposes in this dealing with Israel as a nation was to demonstrate that no people could be expected en masse to be faithful and loyal to God. The test could have been made with any other nation, or people, and the result would have been the same. From this demonstration we learn that qualification for a position, either in the earthly or the spiritual ruling phase of the kingdom, must be on an individual basis. A nation was called—the nation of Israel; but, as a nation, Israel failed to make her calling and election sure.

This principle will carry over into the Millennial Age, and will apply to those who become loyal subjects of the kingdom and thereby qualify for everlasting life on the earth. Each, individually, will need to hear and obey “that prophet,” or else be destroyed from among the people. No one will obtain everlasting life simply on the basis of being a natural descendant of Abraham, or of any other ancient servant of God.

The Scriptures clearly establish the fact that throughout the Gospel Age there have been many people of God in name only. And, as in past ages, these have been identified with the “Israelites indeed.” The wheat and the tares have grown together. (Matt. 13:24-30; 36-43) A separation takes place at the end of the age, when the true people of God are called to “come out of her [Babylon], my people, that ye be not partakers of her sins, and that ye receive not of her plagues.”—Rev. 18:4

Just as in the Old Testament concerning fleshly Israel there are warnings of impending punishments upon nominal Israelites, and also precious promises of rewards for the faithful, so the Scriptures contain both warnings and promises for the two classes of spiritual Israelites. A good example of this is found in the messages to the seven churches, recorded in Revelation, chapters two and three. Concerning the church at Pergamos we read, “Thou hast there them that hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balac to cast a stumbling-block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit fornication.”—Rev. 2:14

We read again, “Thou hast a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments.” (Rev. 3:4) The implication here is that there were many in this stage of the church who were not faithful. To the faithful, in all seven churches, wonderful promises are made; and to the unfaithful, warnings of dire punishments and the withdrawal of divine favor unless there would come a genuine repentance.

But just as God’s mercy will, in the resurrection, be extended to the unjust of Israel, so also nominal spiritual Israelites will have the blessings of everlasting human life offered to them. In Acts 15:17 coming kingdom blessings are assured to both of these classes who failed to qualify either as ‘princes’ or as ‘kings’ in the messianic kingdom. Here we are assured that through the ruling agencies of the kingdom, the residue of men and all Gentiles who call upon God’s name will be given an opportunity to seek after the Lord. The Gentiles upon whom the Lord’s name has been called are undoubtedly those who have composed the nominal Christian church.

The expression, ‘residue of men’, is a paraphrased quotation from Amos 9:12, where the prophet spoke of “the remnant of Edom.” The Edomites were the descendants of Esau, who sold his birthright for inheriting the Abrahamic promise. Paul explains in Romans that “they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.” (Rom. 9:6) He used the case of Jacob and Esau to illustrate his point. In this instance he is discussing the case of the unbelieving Israelites who stumbled at the first presence of Jesus, indicating, apparently, that they would be fittingly represented by Esau.

It is true that there were unbelieving Israelites of every generation who failed to prove worthy of the chief blessing envisioned in the Abrahamic promise. The ‘kingdom’ was taken away from this class by Jesus, thus forfeiting this aspect of their inheritance, selling their birthright to be a part of the ruling seed, either in the spiritual phase of the messianic kingdom, or the earthly.

But thank God, these have not forfeited the blessings of life which will be made available to them through God’s mercy for, with the kingdom established, they will be the first to be given an opportunity to seek after the Lord. Amos states that these, the remnant of Edom, will be “possessed,” or ruled over, by the restored “tabernacle of David” over which Christ will be the spiritual ruling head. (Isa. 9:6,7) Upon their belief and obedience, they will become honored subjects of the new kingdom. Because of their past association with God, his laws, and his people, these will have much to contribute to the general work of blessing all the families of the earth which will then be in progress.

By way of summing up, it seems evident from the Scriptures that in every preparatory age of the divine plan there have been the true and faithful people of God, the “Israelites indeed,” and also those who have been associated with these but actually the Lord’s people in name only. While the promises and callings of God have gone out to all who have professed to be his people, only those who have been truly faithful and loyal to the conditions attached to them have made their calling and election sure.

The faithful ones alone will comprise the heavenly and earthly ruling phases of Messiah’s kingdom. With the close of the Gospel Age, when the door to the high calling is closed and the last of the spiritual Israelites indeed have passed beyond the veil, the preparatory features of the divine plan will end. No more rulers for the kingdom, either ‘princes’ or ‘kings’, will then be developed.

But, thank God, this does not mean the end of divine grace! In reality, it will mark the beginning of the outpouring of divine blessings of happiness and life upon all mankind, beginning with the remnant of Edom. These will be the first to be gathered as happy and blessed subjects of the kingdom. But of the increase of that government and peace, there shall be no end, for it will continue to reach out and control throughout all the earth, to the joy of all mankind.

Dawn Bible Students Association
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