An Overview of God’s Plan for Israel

December 6, 2015 | Speaker: Bro Jurem Ramos

 

Before we can understand Revelation 11:1-2 we need first to get hold of some important background regarding the nation of Israel. It was only as I continued to prepare for this study that I realized that I should have done this before. But there’s no harm in presenting this study only now, after having already looked at Rev 11:1.

  As I get more involved in the study of this book, I see why commentators say that Rev 11:1 and 2 is probably the hardest portion to interpret in the book of Revelation. It is difficult to understand this portion not only because an interpreter has to decide whether he will take the preterist, historicist, idealist or futurist view in trying to understand this book, but also because he has to decide whether he will take the details of this chapter simply as metaphorical representations of the church or literally as referring to Israel.   Another reason why this portion is difficult to understand is because to make Rev 11:1-2 make sense, it requires having some background regarding God’s plan for Israel.   You already know that I am taking the futurist approach in interpreting the book of Revelation. This means that I am treating chapters 4 to 22 as predictive prophecy about Tribulation period, and events surrounding the second coming of Christ. This includes a literal 1000 years where Jesus will physically reign here on earth.   To help us in understanding Rev 11:1-2 I will today present the big picture that pertains to God’s plan for the nation of Israel. I am going to give you an overview of God’s plan for Israel. I will do this by looking at three passages. First, we will look at book of Genesis and particularly Genesis 12 in order to see how the story of Israel began. And then we will look at Romans 11 and then Daniel 9.   These three portions of Scripture will give us an overview of God's purposes for Israel. They will also give us a very important background that will prepare us to understand Revelation 11:1-2.   Let’s first turn to the book of Genesis to discover the very beginning of Israel’s history.

Genesis 12: The very beginning of Israel's history

  In Genesis chapter 1 we read about the Almighty Creator God who made the universe out of nothing. He also created the first human beings, Adam and Eve, after His image and likeness. God’s purpose for them was to be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it. They were to harness the resources of the world and use them to bless mankind and to glorify God. But because of Adam and Eve’s fall, all people since then are born in sin that only God’s grace can redeem and heal.   Part of God’s plan was to choose for Himself a man through whom He would restore the fallen world and bring blessings to all the nations. This man was Abraham.   In Genesis 12 we read how Abraham, the father of the Hebrew nation, was called by God to leave his country and his idolatrous family in order to have a relationship with God.   1 Now the Lord said to Abram, “Go from your country and your kindred and your father's house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.”     Later this covenant was reaffirmed in Gen. 13:14-17; 15:1-7; and 17:1-8. God’s covenant with Abraham contains the following blessings:  
  • Abraham and his descendants will have their own land. “to the land I will show you.” (Gen 12:1)
 
  • Abraham will increase into a numerous people. Gen 12:2, “I will make of you a great nation.” (a) This was fulfilled in the natural descendants of Abraham, Gen 13:16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if one can count the dust of the earth, your offspring also can be counted. (b) But also in his spiritual descendants, Gal 3:7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham.
 
  • Abraham will receive material and spiritual prosperity. God said, “I will bless you” (Gen 12:2).
 
  • Abraham’s name will be great. "And make your name great" (Gen 12:2). In three great world religions-- Judaism, Islam, and Christianity-- Abraham is revered as one of the eminent men of all time.
 
  • Abraham will be a blessing to others. “You shall be a blessing … In you all the families of the earth shall be blessed" (Gen 12:2-3). Through Abraham’s descendants, light would spread to the Gentiles. This would happen through the proclamation of God’s Word, the services and sacrifices connected with the Tabernacle and the Temple. Ultimately, blessing will come to the world through Abraham’s greatest descendant, the Lord Jesus Christ. (Gal. 3:16)
  As time went by, the descendants of Abraham continually fell into idolatry and the worship of other gods; they also failed in their calling to be a light to the Gentiles.   But God, who knew this would happen, in mercy sent His Son in order to save them. Preceded by a forerunner John the Baptist, Jesus invites Israel to “repent, for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2; 4:17).   However, Jesus was rejected by His own people. John 1:11 says, “He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him.” This was exactly as Isaiah had prophesied in Isaiah 53:3, “He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not.”   But all of this was still part of God’s plan. While Israel rejected her Savior and king, God was also fulfilling His sovereign plan of offering His Son to atone for the sin of humanity and to save them. At Pentecost Peter preached a message that reveals this (Act 2:22-24, 36-39).   22 “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know— 23 this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. 24 God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. …   36 Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.”   37 Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, “Brothers, what shall we do?” 38 And Peter said to them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. 39 For the promise is for you and for your children and for all who are far off, everyone whom the Lord our God calls to himself.”   Many of those who were first saved were Jews, but most of them rejected the message of gospel. We see this, for example, in the ministry of Paul. The apostle Paul preached the gospel of the Kingdom to the Jews first but it was repeatedly rejected. We see this in Acts chapters 13 to 28. In consequence, Paul brought the good news to the Gentiles. We see this in Acts 13:46:   46 And Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, saying, “ It was necessary that the word of God be spoken first to you. Since you thrust it aside and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we are turning to the Gentiles.   We see this again in Paul’s last words in the book of Acts. Acts 28:23-28:   23 When they had appointed a day for him, they came to him at his lodging in greater numbers. From morning till evening he expounded to them, testifying to the kingdom of God and trying to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets. 24 And some were convinced by what he said, but others disbelieved. 25 And disagreeing among themselves, they departed after Paul had made one statement: “The Holy Spirit was right in saying to your fathers through Isaiah the prophet:   26 “‘Go to this people, and say, “You will indeed hear but never understand, and you will indeed see but never perceive.” 27 For this people's heart has grown dull, and with their ears they can barely hear, and their eyes they have closed; lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears and understand with their heart and turn, and I would heal them.’   28 Therefore let it be known to you that this salvation of God has been sent to the Gentiles; they will listen.”     The Gentiles who became believers, in turn became Abraham’s spiritual seed by faith and heirs of the promises to Abraham and his seed (Gal 3:7-9, 29).   7 Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. 8 And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed.” 9 So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. …   29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.     The question now is this. What happened to God’s plan for Israel, now that Gentiles are grafted in? Gentile believers might be tempted to dismiss Israel because it appeared they would never recover. Even today, there are those who advocate replacement theology, which holds that the Church has completely replaced Israel and will inherit the promises to be fulfilled only in a spiritual sense. In other words, according to this view, ethnic Israel is forever excluded from the promises—the Jews will not literally inherit the Promised Land. What then would happen to Israel? We now come to the second passage to give us an overview of God’s plan for Israel. Let us turn to Romans 11.  

Romans 11: The partial hardening of Israel

  Romans 11 shows that God is not yet “done” with Israel. In Romans 11:25-29 Paul discloses a mystery pertaining to God’s program for Israel and their relationship with the Gentiles.   25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: [The word “mystery” means that something that was previously hidden and is now revealed. What is this mystery?]    a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved,  
  • at this time in salvation history the majority of Israel has been hardened but their hardening is only partial and temporary.
  • God has put on hold his saving purposes for the nation of Israel and focused on the Gentiles instead. This is the period of history in which Gentiles are being saved, while most of Israel remains in unbelief.
  • When all of the elect Gentiles are saved, God will do a new work in the future in which he will save all “Israel” in accordance with God's electing promise given to their forefathers Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
  In order to support this, Paul quotes from Scripture, Isa 59:20-21.   as it is written,  “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; 27 “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”   Regardless of Israel’s current state of unbelief, God’s purposes for them are not yet done. In the future, “the Deliverer will come.” This refers to Jesus and His second coming. He will return and remove ungodliness from Israel and cleanse them. All of the remnant Jews will all be saved.   Paul says in Romans 11:28-29 that God is faithful to His promise to the forefathers and His calling and gifts are irrevocable.   28 As regards the gospel, they are enemies for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. 29 For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.   Many times in the OT, God reiterated His promise to save all Israel in the future in accordance with covenant with the fathers:  
  • In Jeremiah 31:33-36, “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord, ’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” 35 Thus says the Lord, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name: 36 “If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.”
  [In other words, that is God's way of saying there is nothing that is going to cause Him to turn His back ultimately on Israel. That promise is as sure as the fixed order of the universe and the earth.]  
  • Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” …  13:1-2 “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. 2 “And on that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more. And also I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness.
   

Daniel 9:24-27: The “seventy weeks” decreed for Israel and Jerusalem

(Ideas from MacArthur Study Bible, New American Commentary, and gotquestions.org)   The third passage we need to look at as a background to understand Rev 11:1-2 is Daniel 9:24-27. This tells us about the 70 weeks decreed by God for Israel and Jerusalem.   The “seventy weeks” prophecy is one of the most significant and detailed Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. In Daniel chapter 9 we see that while Daniel was reading the book of Jeremiah and realizing that the “seventy years” of captivity for Israel are about to end, Daniel turns to God in prayer, seeking mercy for Jerusalem. The angel Gabriel (v. 21) appears to him and explains that another period of 70 weeks is at hand for God's people.   The Divisions of the 70 Weeks   In verse 24, Gabriel says, “Seventy weeks are decreed about your people and your holy city.” Almost all commentators agree that the seventy weeks should be understood as seventy sets of seven years or 490 years.   The prophecy goes on to divide the 490 years into three smaller time periods: 49 years, 434 years, and 7 years. The final 7 years is further divided in half. “These verses provide a sort of clock that gives an idea of when the Messiah would come and some of the events that would accompany His appearance.”   The Purpose of the 70 Weeks   The prophecy contains a statement concerning God’s six-fold purpose in bringing the total eradication of sin and the establishing of righteousness (Dan 9:24).   First, the purposes related to sin:
  • To finish the transgression,e., restrain sin and Israel’s in particular in its long trend of apostasy.
  • To put an end to sin,e., to judge it with finality
  • To atone for iniquity, This was accomplished when Jesus died on the cross.
  Second, the purposes related to righteousness:
  • To bring in everlasting righteousness, the eternal righteousness of Daniel’s people in their great change from centuries of apostasy;
  • To seal up vision and prophet e., no more revelation is needed because God will fulfill all prophecy.
  • To anoint the most holy place, The millennial Temple is going to be consecrated and become the center of worship in the millennial kingdom (cf. Ezek. 40–48).
  All these are fulfilled in the first and the second comings of Christ.   The Fulfillment of the 70 Weeks   Gabriel said the prophetic clock would start at the time that a command is given to rebuild Jerusalem. He said that from the date of that command to the time of the Messiah would be 7 weeks and 62 weeks. Daniel 9:25 says,   25 Know therefore and understand that from the going out of the word to restore and build Jerusalem to the coming of an anointed one, a prince, there shall be seven weeks. Then for sixty-two weeks it shall be built again with squares and moat, but in a troubled time.   What this means is that from the time that a command is given to rebuild Jerusalem to the first coming of the Messiah is 483 years. 49 years plus 434 years equals 483 years.   We know from history that the decree to “restore and rebuild Jerusalem” was given by King Artaxerxes of Persia c. 445 B.C. (see Neh 2:1-8).   The first unit of 49 years (“seven weeks”) covers the time that it took to rebuild Jerusalem (Dan 9:25). This rebuilding is chronicled in the book of Nehemiah.   Using the Jewish custom of a 360-day year, 483 years after 445 B.C. places us at A.D. 30, which would coincide with the public ministry of Jesus.   Take note. At this point 69 weeks have already been fulfilled. Now we need one more week to complete the purpose of God for Israel. As we read Dan 9:26 remember that this is not yet the 70th week.   Dan 9:26 specifies that after the completion of the 69 weeks (or 483 years) some things will happen.  
  • 26a “And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing.” This was fulfilled when Jesus was crucified in A.D. 30 or 33. The word translated "cut off" is used of executing the death penalty on a criminal. Thus the prophecy clearly points to the crucifixion of Christ. At His crucifixion Jesus would "have nothing" in the sense that Israel had rejected Him and the kingdom could not be instituted at that time.
 
  • The prophecy continues with a description of the judgment that would come on the generation that rejected the Messiah 26b “And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. This refers to the armies of Rome that destroyed Jerusalem in A.D. 70 and killed a million Jews. Its end shall come with a flood… In this context "its end" refers to the end of the city, that is, its destruction. "Flood" is a figure emphasizing the magnitude of the devastation. The Roman destruction of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 did indeed come like a great "flood" that swept over the city and destroyed it.
 
  • But that invasion, awesome as it was, did not end the nation's sufferings. Gabriel said, “and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed.” As a judgment upon Israel, Jerusalem will experience a period of conflict that will include a series of desolations. This war and the desolations brought about by it will continue until the end, that is, until the completion of God’s plan for Israel.
  Let me remind you that all these events: the curcifixion of Christ, the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, and the desolations did not happen in the 70th week. (Dan 9:26 says, “And after the 62 weeks…”)   The 70th Week   The 70th week or the final week will happen just prior to the Lord’s second coming. This final seven years of Daniel is usually called the tribulation period. This period will begin when the Antichrist will make a covenant with the Jews. Daniel 9:27 says,     27 And he (i.e., prince who is to come of v. 26) shall make a strong covenant with many for one week,   But in the middle of the seven years the Antichrist will stop the sacrifices and offerings and begin his terrible deeds. Dan 9:27 continues:    and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate,   After the Antichrist breaks the covenant with Israel, a time of “great tribulation” begins. Jesus warned of this event in Mt 24:15-21 (ESV):   15 “ So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place ( let the reader understand), 16 then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. … 21 For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be.   The apostle Paul also talked about this period. In 2Th 2:3-5 he says,   3 Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, 4 who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 5 Do you not remember that when I was still with you I told you these things?   The angel Gabriel also predicts that the Antichrist will face judgment. He only rules “until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator” (Daniel 9:27). God will only allow evil to go so far, and the judgment the Antichrist will face has already been planned out.     Most scholars believe that we are now living in a huge gap between the 69th week and the 70th week. The prophetic clock has been paused, as it were.  

Summary

  In order to better understand Rev 11:1-2 we need to have an idea of God’s plan for Israel. We need to understand how their history began. This we have seen in Genesis 12. God called Abraham and God made a covenant with him with unconditional promises that included having their own land, becoming a great nation with numerous people, receiving material and spiritual prosperity, and begin a blessing to others by being a light to the Gentiles. God knows that Israel will fail in accomplishing that last purpose and instead they will fall into idolatry and so God sends His Son to save them and to call them to repentance and to accept Jesus as their Savior and King. They however reject Jesus and kill Jesus. after Jesus rose from the grave He called His disciples and commanded them to continue to call the Jews to repent and to believe in Him but they continue to reject this message of salvation. as a consequence the focus shifts from the Jews to the Gentiles. The question now is what happens next? Is God done with the nation? What happens to all of God’s promises to the fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob?   These questions are answered in Romans 11. God is not done with the nation. But what happened is that there is a partial hardening of Israel. This is why at this present time in the history of salvation few Jews are getting saved. Now God is saving mostly the Gentiles. And until the full number of saved Gentiles is complete, God’s plan for saving all of the remnant Jews is put on hold.   When we come to the last passage, Daniel 9:24-27, we see some of the details of what will happen to the nation before Jesus returns. The focus is on the 70 weeks or 490 years in the history of Israel. In great detail God reveals that Israel will kill their Messiah, and God is going to destroy their city. But in the last 7 years before the second coming, the antichrist will come, he will make a covenant with the Jews, he will help rebuild their temple but in the middle of the seven years, he will stop all sacrifices, and desecrate the temple and set himself up as God to be worshiped  by all. Then Jesus will return and destroy him.   Now with that background we are ready to interpret Revelation 11:1-2. Lord willing, we’ll look into this in our next time.