The New Covenant with Israel, Part I

Another Mystery

In reading and discovering the “mysteries” revealed in the Scriptures, we are finding that they must be understood with insight and spiritual revelation from the Holy Spirit. Too often supposed revelations about the End Times come from Bible teachers who reject much of the ministry of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Believers.  

The Holy Spirit was given to be our Teacher, yet so many are finding prophetic revelations in historical events rather than the guidance of the Holy Spirit, leading to many false teachings.  

The mysteries of God are revealed truths, secrets that God has kept hidden, yet He desires to reveal them to His saints, the true believers found in the Body of Christ.  The following mystery, for example, cannot be grasped without seeking wisdom from the Holy Spirit.  

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; and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, / He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. / This is My covenant with them, / When I take away their sins.”  (Romans 11:25-27)

Read this passage again if you need to.  To understand it, we must define a few terms, particularly “Israel” and “the fullness of the Gentiles.”

God is Timeless

To understand God’s will, we must first seek to view the Scriptures from His perspective.  This approach is encouraged by the Apostle Paul, who tells the believers in Corinth to be spiritual in their thinking, comparing them not to grownups who eat meat but to infants who subsist only on milk:

And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual men, but as to men of flesh, as to infants in Christ. I gave you milk to drink, not solid food; for you were not yet able to receive it. Indeed, even now you are not yet able.  (I Corinthians 3:1-2)

See also this passage:

Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.  (I Corinthians 14:1)

In fact, the Apostle Paul at times has to resort to making literal statements to ensure that he was understood.  Paul takes this approach with the Galatian church since they have succumbed to the false teachings of those claiming that these gentile believers needed to follow the laws handed to the Israelites by Moses, including male circumcision.

After explaining to them again how he received the teachings of the Gospel through “a revelation of Jesus Christ” (1:12), Paul makes clear the approach that comes from false teachers.  “Who has bewitched you,” he writes in both righteous anger and frustration.  

Paul then continues to exhort them:

This is the only thing I want to find out from you: did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?  

Thus, the statements of Paul show that following a legalistic system of laws and regulations is ultimately fruitless.  It was only introduced by Moses because the original heirs of the Covenant God made with Abraham were disobedient.

Subsequently, the Law of Moses was essentially given to show that, aside from Jesus Christ the perfect Son of God, no one can possibly keep all of the provisions required perfectly; the Law was given to show that we need grace since we cannot obtain righteousness on our own:

Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:24-26)

Living in such legalism is not what God desires for neither Jews nor Gentiles who comprise His Church under a New Covenant that had both fulfilled the promises made to Abraham and replaced the Old Covenant made with Israel through Moses.  

All of our own righteousness is only filthy rags, even though in our blindness we are deluded into thinking that we are good people. Thanks be to God, Who has made it possible to come into His presence in spite of our sin through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and High Priest.  

 

A Partial Blindness

Paul is qualified to speak to the “blindness” of the Jews, for he himself was a model Pharisee, a keeper of the Law and a strident persecutor of those who believed otherwise, even witnessing the stoning of Stephen.  

He relates in his Letter to the Romans that he grieves over the Jews’ unbelief, saying that if possible he would give up his own life if doing so would open their eyes to the truth.  

Indeed, the hardness of their hearts was prophesied by the prophet Jeremiah.  However, due to their unbelief and disobedience, God declares through His prophet that He is divorcing national Israel and making a New Covenant:  

“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them,” declares the Lord, “for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”  (Jeremiah 31:31-34)

This “New Covenant” sounds surprisingly like the covenant Christ promised during His first coming and instituted at the Last Supper, for it indeed puts the law of the Lord into the hearts of the people.  The Holy Spirit is poured out under this New Covenant, and their sins and iniquities are no longer merely be covered over with the blood of bulls and goats but cleansed with the blood of Jesus Christ Himself, who becomes the sacrificial Lamb.

This partial hardening of many Jewish hearts continued from Jeremiah’s time through the trial and execution of Jesus and on through the persecutions against the early Church.  Paul is clear, however, in saying that this unbelief does not include all Jewish people, for a remnant will be saved.  In fact, Paul declares that “all Israel will be saved,” most likely at the time of Christ’s Second Coming when the “times of the Gentiles has come in.”

 

Learning the Truth

The final authority must be Jesus Himself, and He was clear with Nicodemus that interpreting literally is not always the wisest choice.  Being “born again” does not mean entering again into the mother’s womb, as Nicodemus thought Jesus was saying. 

And Jesus certainly spoke figuratively when He gave to His disciples the bread and the wine during the Last Supper, though not all interpret Christ’s words figuratively. Unfortunately, some still insist on believing that the communion elements are the actual flesh and blood of Jesus that they are receiving, yet many teachers today who insist on interpreting the Bible literally would disagree with those who see the communion elements as being “transubstantiated.”

We must realize also, therefore, that God’s timeless perspective is not like our own.  In the flesh, we must perceive with our physical senses, senses that are subject to time.  We can only understand the past and the future in our minds, yet God sees and knows all things.  Therefore, we must continue in the Spirit what we have begun in the Spirit.

Those who teach that the Scriptures must only be interpreted “literally” must surely realize that Christ’s disciples were given the “mystery of the Kingdom of God,” a mystery which could only be interpreted figuratively.   Jesus even chided them for not understanding His figurative stories, or parables.  

Yet, those whom Jesus referred to as “those on the outside” were taught only in the form of parables so that they would not understand (Mark 4:11-12).  Presumably, if Jesus had taught them literally, not figuratively, then those who were skeptics or unbelievers would be able to understand the meanings for which they would ultimately be held accountable for, even in their unbelief.  

 

Interpreting End Times Prophecies Literally

The prophecies and dreams that reveal God’s plans for the future were delivered and written in the form of symbolic language, hence the strange “beasts” of Daniel’s and John’s dreams and visions, for example.  Yet so many Bible teachers today want to take these symbolic and metaphorical revelations and place them in a literal box, even though doing so makes the results nonsensical or unsound.  

For example, do those who seek a rebuilt Temple in Jerusalem, built for the purpose of reintroducing sacrifices, actually believe that God wants the Jews to return to the laws and practices of the Old Covenant, especially when the revelations given to Paul have declared them to be mere copies of the one true sacrifice already made by Jesus?  Don’t they realize that the temple destroyed in 70 A.D. was only a copy of the true Temple in Heaven, where Christ today sits on His throne as Prophet, Priest, and King?  And this was the Temple that would soon be destroyed in 70 A.D. because it was no longer to be the focus of the New Covenant?

This is what the writer of the Book of Hebrews declares: 

Now if He were on earth, He would not be a priest at all, since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle; for, “See,” He says, “that you make all things according to the pattern which was shown you on the mountain.” But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. . . .Therefore it was necessary for the copies of the things in the heavens to be cleansed with these, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ did not enter a holy place made with hands, a mere copy of the true one, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us; nor was it that He would offer Himself often, as the high priest enters the holy place year by year with blood that is not his own. (Hebrews 8:5, 9:23-25)

Since Jesus Christ came to do away with these “copies,” why would God want to have another mere copy made today, especially after Christ Jesus wept over Jerusalem and not one stone of the Temple would be left on another?  

Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling. Behold, your house is being left to you desolate!  (Matthew 23:37-38)

 

 

The Promises Fulfilled

The justification for this conclusion, that the Temple will supposedly be rebuilt and sacrifices re-established, is that God’s promises made to Israel under the Old Covenant were never actually fulfilled.  However, a true reading of the Scriptures reveals otherwise:

 

  1.  God has indeed fulfilled the promises given to Israel concerning the land:  

So the Lord gave Israel all the land which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they possessed it and lived in it. And the Lord gave them rest on every side, according to all that He had sworn to their fathers, and no one of all their enemies stood before them; the Lord gave all their enemies into their hand. Not one of the good promises which the Lord had made to the house of Israel failed; all came to pass. (Joshua 21:43-45)

  1.  The idea that God has not fulfilled the promises made to Israel concerning earthly rule and governance, specifically the promises made to King David, were fulfilled through Jesus Christ. He said He came to fulfill the Law and be the One to receive the fulfillment of the promises of God (Matthew 5:17-20).  Christ’s New Covenant is based not on an earthly rule but on a kingdom not of this world: His Kingdom is a whole new nation, with the Gentiles joined together with the Jews and constituting a direct descent from the Covenant God made with Abraham:  “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise” (Galatians 3:28-29).

 

Christ’s Kingdom Is Not of This World 

How does this method of interpretation relate to what the Scriptures tell us about Israel?  First, we must realize that even under the Old Covenant, it was never God’s will that the Israelites adopt the governing practices of the neighboring heathens.  He wanted His chosen people to be ruled by judges, not kings, in a form of “theocracy.”  

Second, the Apostle Paul does not refer to Israel according to contemporary terminology, as “national Israel.”  Instead, he likens the inheritors of the promises made to Abraham to a figurative “olive tree,” relating that a “partial hardening” has happened to Israel and that the unbelieving branches have unfortunately been broken off (see Romans 11).  Meanwhile, new branches have been grafted in, and these include all of the gentile believers from all over the world, a result of Christ’s Great Commission:  “For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?” (Romans 11:15)

Thus, the promise made to Abraham is fulfilled, that all may receive the blessings of the Covenant made with Abraham:

“By Myself I have sworn, declares the Lord, because you have done this thing and have not withheld your son [Isaac], your only son, indeed I will greatly bless you, and I will greatly multiply your seed as the stars of the heavens and as the sand which is on the seashore; and your seed shall possess the gate of their enemies. In your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed, because you have obeyed My voice.”  (Genesis 22:16-18)

Paul is clear, however, that unbelieving Jews, the branches that have been broken off, may one day be grafted again, making them a part of the entire Olive Tree, or the Body of Christ, which makes up the New Covenant analogy.  

Paul makes this point clear to the Galatians in the following passage:

But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.  (Galatians 3:23-29)

 

Conclusion

I’m confident that Paul would be just as frustrated with those teachers in the contemporary Church for seeking to return the Jews to the laws of the Old Covenant as he was with the Judaizers who were infiltrating the Galatian Church and telling them to be circumcised to follow the old Mosaic Law.  It’s time for us to follow Paul’s wisdom:  

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; and so all Israel will be saved. . . .Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly. Do not be wise in your own estimation.  (NASB Romans 11:25-26; Romans 12:6)

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Other Links to this Post

  1. Biblical Mysteries Revealed » The Kingdom of God: Revelation Part II — June 7, 2015 @ 2:45 pm

  2. Biblical Mysteries Revealed » Kingdom of God: Revelation, Part IV — June 24, 2015 @ 3:50 pm

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