We will now analyze the biblical evidence related to the subject of Israel. Are those in the Church who place a great emphasis and focus on the literal nation of Israel, biblically justified in doing so?
Our study of Israel will be based on the Bible alone, and not upon the opinions and interpretations of other religious books and authors. And, you will probably be surprised to find that so many scriptures are being completely ignored, when it comes to this topic.
It is also important to remember to distinguish between the Jewish people collectively as a nation, and individual Jewish persons. God deals with nations in certain ways, while dealing with individuals differently. God can punish a nation, while still blessing and loving various individuals within that nation. The Bible clearly states that God is no respecter of persons, so we can be sure that He loves and accepts all who come to Him in repentance through faith in Jesus Christ, whether they are Jew or gentile.
Even when God rejects or punishes a nation, individuals within that nation can still receive salvation. God loves both Jew and gentile, and desires them to repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ. Please remember this important distinction between the nation of Israel, and individual Jews, as you begin your study.
Israel is the center of attention for both the religious and secular worlds. From a secular perspective, Israel’s importance is related to political and diplomatic concerns and foreign affairs. Israel’s presence in the midst of the Arab world creates a scenario that influences the entire world.
From a religious perspective, Israel’s importance is related to spiritual concerns and biblical truth. The subject of Israel from a religious perspective influences the entire Christian Church. And, just as Israel divides the world politically, it also divides the Church spiritually and biblically.
There is a large segment of the Christian Church that still views Israel as being God’s “chosen nation” or chosen people. They believe that the nation of Israel’s significance, importance and chosen nation status, is the same in the New Testament as it was in the Old Testament. Therefore, they tend to be “pro-Israel” in most political issues as well as religious concerns. They view the Jewish people as being much “closer” to Christianity than the Islamic Arab world. They believe that Christians and Jews worship the same God, whereas Arabs worship a different god. This results in a natural alliance between pro-Israel Christians and the nation of Israel, which favors the Jewish people over the Arab world in just about everything.
There are other Christians, however, who have a different view of Israel today. They believe that the New Testament presents a change regarding the subject of Israel, which accords with Old Testament scriptures that proclaim God’s promises and covenants with Israel to be conditional, based upon their obedience and fidelity. These Christians believe that the nation of Israel no longer enjoys a “favored nation” status, and that the Jewish religion should not be exalted any more than the Islamic faith, because the Jewish religion also worships a different god than Christianity.
We shall thoroughly examine this subject of Israel from a biblical perspective, and shall also examine whether Christians should be favoring the “Jewish people” over their Arab neighbors.
So, what is the “truth” concerning Israel? Where can we go to find the truth? In John 17:17, Jesus said that “God’s word” is truth. Therefore, we shall base our decision concerning Israel, upon God’s word alone as revealed in the Bible.
We know that there are numerous blessings, covenants and promises that God gave to Israel in the Old Testament. And, we also know that there are scriptures which state that these promises and blessings are everlasting, or will continue forever. For the sake of brevity, we will simply acknowledge that these scriptures exist.
Having acknowledged the existence of these scriptures, how can some Christians still assert that Israel has changed in the New Testament, and no longer enjoys their “chosen nation” status, and has forfeited their promises and blessings from God? Do these Christians simply ignore the Bible, or do they have a biblical explanation for their position?
As we begin our study into Israel, I ask you to approach this with an “open Bible” and an open mind. Remember what Jesus said concerning God’s Word, that it is truth. What is the “truth” concerning Israel? What does the Bible say? It doesn’t matter what my opinion or your opinion is, but only what the Bible says. As we begin considering this subject matter, please pray for the Holy Spirit’s guidance and enlightenment.
To begin with, an important consideration regarding Israel and its ceremonies, covenants, promises and blessings, is that the continuation of these promises, covenants and blessings was conditional based upon Israel’s obedience and fidelity. In Jeremiah 18:5-10, God says that if a nation which He had promised to build and to do good things for, turns to disobedience, then God will not do the good things that He had promised them.
In fact, God told Israel “up front”, that if they persisted in disobedience, they would forfeit the blessings He offered them, and would receive curses instead (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). These curses included disease, drought, crop failure, hunger, thirst, nakedness, persecution, plundering and enemy invasion; even to the point of their resorting to cannibalism of their own children because of their hunger. And, within these curses, God clearly and specifically stated that Israel would not receive their promised blessings, but would receive the exact opposite, which was the curses. Instead of becoming as the “stars in multitude”, as God had promised (Genesis 15:4-5), Israel would be reduced to being “few in number” (Deuteronomy 28:62). Instead of being the “head”, and other nations being the “tail”, as promised within Israel’s “blessings” (Deuteronomy 28:13), Israel would become the “tail”, and their enemies would become the “head” (Deuteronomy 28:44). Instead of Israel receiving “continual blessings” everywhere and in every way, as also promised within Israel’s “blessings” (Deuteronomy 28:1-12), Israel would receive “continual curses” everywhere and in every way (Deuteronomy 28:15-68). Instead of God “elevating” Israel high above the other nations, as had been promised (Deuteronomy 28:1), God would rejoice in “destroying Israel” (Deuteronomy 28:63). Instead of Israel having their land “forever”, as previously promised (Genesis 13:14-15), they would be “plucked from their land” (Deuteronomy 28:63). Instead of Israel defeating their enemies and “possessing their gates”, as God had promised (Genesis 22:17; Deuteronomy 28:7), Israel would be destroyed by their enemies and would serve them, and Israel would be “brought to nothing” (Deuteronomy 28:48; Deuteronomy 28:63). Deuteronomy 28:29 states that “no one would be able to save Israel”; furthermore, all of these curses would continue upon Israel and her descendants forever (Deuteronomy 28:45-46).
As you can see, God’s “everlasting” promises, covenants and blessings upon Israel, were conditional based upon Israel’s fidelity and obedience. If Israel remained faithful and obedient, God’s promises would indeed continue forever. He would never revoke them. But, if Israel became unfaithful and disobedient, Scripture states that God would “not do” the “good things” He had promised (Jeremiah 18:5-10). And, the Bible also clearly states that Israel’s disobedience would not only negate their promises and blessings, but would also bring the curses mentioned in the previous paragraph.
What does biblical history tell us about Israel? Was Israel a faithful and obedient nation, who could expect to receive God’s promised covenants and blessings? Or, was Israel an unfaithful and disobedient nation, who forfeited its covenants and blessings, and who could expect God’s curses? Any student of biblical and secular history knows that Israel did indeed receive God’s curses instead of His blessings. Their rebellious history truly did result in them being “few in number” compared to other nations. Their continual disobedience did also result in Israel becoming the “tail”, while other nations were their “head”, ruling over them and plundering them. It is undeniable that Israel spent most of their history, not “ruling over” other nations, but being “ruled over” and destroyed by other nations. Egypt, Assyria, Babylon, Persia, Greece and Rome ruled over them for many centuries, finally resulting in the complete destruction of their nation by Roman armies in 70 AD. Even in modern times, Nazi Germany slaughtered Israel’s descendants. And, to this day, they are still harassed and attacked by radical Islamic suicide bombers. To any honest and “unbrainwashed” student of history, the past approximately 4000 years of Israel/Jewish history clearly reveals the fulfillment of God’s curses upon them, and not His blessings. In fact, throughout the Jews’ approximately 4000 years of existence, including their 400 years of captivity in Egypt, the nation of Israel spent less than 200 years “ruling over” other kingdoms. Therefore, Israel/Jews have only spent less than 5% of their history “ruling over” other nations, whereas they have spent more than 95% of their existence being “ruled over”, plundered and/or destroyed by other nations.
This is a precise fulfillment of the curses pronounced upon Israel for their rebellion. Israel rejected their God throughout the Old Testament. Israel rejected, persecuted and martyred the faithful prophets God sent to her. Finally, Israel even rejected its Messiah, Jesus Christ, declaring that His blood was upon its own hands and its children’s, and that they recognized no king but Caesar (Matthew 27:25; John 19:15). The New Testament records the continued obstinacy and rebellion of the Jewish nation, as they continued to persecute and martyr the disciples of Jesus. Paul even states in 1st Thessalonians 2:14-16, that the Jews were always filling up the measure of their sins, and that God’s wrath had come upon them to the uttermost because they did not please God, and were contrary to all men. Jesus even declared to the Jewish religious leaders that they could no longer claim God as their father, but that their father was now the devil (John 8:37-44). The apostle John even refers to Jews who blaspheme and persecute Christians, as being a “synagogue of Satan” (Rev. 2:9; Rev. 3:9). Of course, we know the New Testament historical record of the persecution of Christians and of Jesus Himself, by the Jewish nation, as well as their blasphemy of Jesus and His followers. (Mark 15:29-32; John 5:16; Acts 7:51-52; Acts 13:44-51; Acts 18:5-6; 1st Thess. 2:14-16). It is also interesting that, in Rev. 2:9 and Rev. 3:9, John states that “they say they are Jews, but are not”. Why? Because a “true Jew” in the “spiritual sense” in the New Testament, has nothing to do with physical genealogy or bloodline descent. A “true Jew” is someone who has had their heart circumcised, rather than their flesh (Romans 2:28-29; Colossians 2:11). And, when Stephen spoke to the Jewish leaders in Acts 7:51-52, and traced their history of rebellion and disobedience, he declared that their hearts were uncircumcised. In other words, they were not “true Jews” in the New Testament “spiritual sense”, which is in perfect agreement with John’s statement about those who claimed to be Jews but really weren’t, and whom he declared to be a synagogue of Satan. Please remember that we are talking about the Jewish nation here, and not individual Jewish people. The nation of Israel had been rejected and was under God’s curse, but individual Jews could still be saved by placing their faith in Jesus Christ. Jesus loves and receives individual Jew and gentile believers alike, but the Bible is clear that Israel, as a nation, had rejected God, and in the process had forfeited the blessings, covenants and “good things” that God had promised them, and instead, was heir to His curses (Jeremiah 18:5-10; Deuteronomy 28).
According to the Bible, the Jewish people no longer enjoy a “chosen people” status. This is clearly demonstrated in the New Testament. 1st Corinthians 16:22 states that “anyone” who does not love Jesus Christ is accursed, not blessed. Does the Jewish nation love and esteem Jesus Christ? The Jewish religion actually holds Jesus in lower esteem than does the Islamic faith. Islam at least acknowledges Jesus as a prophet of God, whereas the Jewish religion only acknowledges Him as a good man. The Jewish nation does not love and esteem Jesus as Lord and Christ, and is therefore pronounced as accursed in the New Testament, and not blessed.
In 1st John 2:22-23 we are told that whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ, which also means Messiah, is a liar and an antichrist. The Jewish nation denies that Jesus is the Christ/Messiah. Therefore, rather than still being God’s favored chosen people, according to this passage, they are declared to be the complete opposite – antichrist! And, this text also reveals that they do not worship the God of Christianity, because it states that by rejecting Jesus, they have denied the Father as well. Therefore, the Jewish religion, which has rejected Jesus Christ, is just as distant from the God of Christianity as is the Islamic faith. Why? Because both have rejected Jesus Christ as being the divine Son of God and the Messiah, and the Bible clearly states that the only way to God is through Jesus Christ (John 14:6). Therefore, the Jewish and Islamic religions are both at an equally great distance from the God of Christianity. That distance equals acknowledging Jesus Christ as Messiah, Lord, Savior and the divine Son of God.
Some might say that Israel’s more favorable acceptance of Christianity places them on a higher moral plane than that of Islamic nations. However, Israel desperately needs the assistance and friendship of the United States in order to survive. And, it is appropriate for America to help them protect their national sovereignty. Nevertheless, because of their reliance upon the United States as their only powerful ally, perhaps Israel is motivated to be respectful of American customs and practices, which includes Christianity. I believe that “pro-Israel” Christian evangelicals overlook this fact when they contrast Islamic nations’ persecution of Christians, with the warm reception Christians receive from the Jewish nation of Israel. Perhaps these evangelicals should ponder how Christians would be received in the nation of Israel, if Israel were the superior power, and had no need of the friendship and support of the United States. What makes us think, in that scenario, that Christians would be treated much different in a non-Christian Israel, than in a non-Christian Islamic nation?
Let us remember that, to a strict orthodox Jew, a profession of faith in Jesus Christ as being God, constitutes heresy and blasphemy just as much as it does in the Islamic world. And, we also know that it is not uncommon for converts to Christianity to be “disowned” by strict orthodox Jewish families, just as they are in Islam.
The only real difference in the treatment of Christianity between Judaism and Islam is the additional “church-and-state-sponsored” persecution of Christians that occurs in many Islamic nations. That brings us back to my question of how Christians would be treated if Israel were the superior power, and had no need of America’s friendship, assistance and support. In that scenario, would a non-Christian Israel treat Christianity much different than does a non-Christian Islamic nation? Does history help answer this question?
In the days of Jesus and the apostles, the first-century Christian Church was located in a non-Christian Israel, which had a “limited” semi-autonomy. And, of course, at this point in history, Israel was not relying upon the friendship and support of a Christian nation. How were Christians treated by the “non-Christian” nation of Israel back then? Were they treated much better than they are by Islamic nations today? Not according to the historic record given in the New Testament. Homes of Christians were raided. Believers were imprisoned, beaten or put to death. The property of Christians was confiscated. This is how Christians are treated by any and every non-Christian people who have the ability to do so without fear of serious imminent repercussions.
It is time for evangelical Christianity to follow the Scriptures, and stop playing favorites. As Peter said in Acts 10:34,35: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality, but in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him.” God loves both Jew and Muslim the same, and wants both to place their faith in Jesus Christ. And, until they do so, they are equally lost, according to the Bible.
I am not attempting to establish any kind of moral equivalency regarding the Palestinian conflict. The Islamic suicide bombings in recent years are evil and reprehensible, and can never be justified. The brutality and inhumanity demonstrated by radical Islamic terrorists in the beheadings done during the Iraq conflict should be an offense to all civilized human beings. My emphasis is strictly from a biblical perspective regarding the spiritual condition of “all” who have not accepted Christ. In this regard, from a biblical standpoint, a non-Christian Jew is no better off than a non-Christian Muslim. And, a non-Christian Islamic nation that has rejected Jesus Christ, stands under no greater condemnation than the non-Christian nation of Israel, which has also rejected Jesus. In fact, the physical city of Jerusalem is actually said to represent Hagar and legalistic bondage in Galatians 4:21-31. It is interesting that Hagar is actually the “mother” of the Arab world, which has descended from Ishmael, Hagar’s son. So, according to the New Testament, literal physical Jerusalem and literal physical Jews who have not accepted Christ, are viewed the same as Hagar and her descendants. In other words, they are viewed the same as the Arab world. Not only is the physical city of Jerusalem referred to as Hagar in the New Testament, but it is also said to spiritually represent the ancient and wicked city of Sodom in Revelation 11:8. These are not complimentary terms that God has chosen to use to describe the literal city of Jerusalem in the New Testament. Sodom and Hagar are clearly used to represent the physical city of Jerusalem as a place of bondage and iniquity.
On the other hand, the Bible speaks of a Jerusalem from above, spiritual or heavenly Jerusalem, which represents the child of promise, Isaac, through whom the ultimate “Child of Promise” would come, Jesus Christ. Do you get the picture? The physical city of Jerusalem in the New Testament now represents the rejected child, bondage and iniquity, whereas this heavenly or spiritual Jerusalem now represents Isaac, the promises and freedom in Christ.
This also accords with Hebrews 12:18-24, which states that Christians’ focus and citizenship is in the heavenly Jerusalem, not the earthly Jerusalem. Also, Hebrews 13:10-14 tells us that just as Jesus suffered outside the “gate” or “camp” of Jerusalem, even so we as Christians are also to go to Him outside the camp of Jerusalem. Verse fourteen plainly states that Christians have no city here, but that we seek the one to come. The earthly city of Jerusalem is of no more spiritual significance in the New Testament than any other city. Its previous significance was forfeited.
Israel’s persistent disobedience and rebellion, culminating with their rejection and murder of their Messiah, Jesus Christ, has resulted in their rejection by God, and forfeiting the blessings, covenants and “good things” that God had promised them, and instead making them heir to God’s curses (Jeremiah 18:5-10; Deuteronomy 28).
That is why the covenant blessings promised Israel in the Old Testament regarding a temporal millennial reign, the reinstitution of temple services and festivals, and other nations coming to serve and bow before them, are not mentioned in the New Testament. All of these covenant promises and blessings could have been theirs if they had accepted their Messiah. However, they culminated their history of disobedience and rebellion with the murder of their Messiah, the Son of God; in the process they forfeited the covenant promises and blessings, and became heir to the curses. The literal physical geographical nation of Israel, with all of its feasts, ceremonies and covenants, is no longer focused upon in the New Testament. In fact, it has been replaced by a new nation, a spiritual Israel, with a “new covenant”. This is not replacement theology, as some like to call it, but is correct biblical doctrine based upon numerous New Testament scriptures, which clearly state that this is the case. We shall examine many more of these texts.
However, it is quite interesting and contradictory that the same preachers who accuse people, such as myself, of practicing replacement theology, also simultaneously justify rejecting the seventh-day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments. Why is this interesting and contradictory? Because one of their main reasons given for rejecting the seventh-day Sabbath commandment is that it is primarily mentioned in the Old Testament, and is not stressed nearly as much in the New Testament. These same preachers then turn around and rely upon the Old Testament for the vast majority of their biblical basis for their teaching about the literal nation of Israel. Is this not a blatant double standard? If the Old Testament is good enough to support their doctrine about Israel, it should also be good enough for them to obey the seventh-day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments in the Old Testament. On the other hand, if they refuse to accept and acknowledge the seventh-day Sabbath commandment, based upon its heavy reliance upon Old Testament references, then they should also abandon their emphasis on the literal nation of Israel, due to its heavy reliance upon Old Testament references. It appears that these “pro-Israel” teachers have adopted the convenient but inconsistent policy of using the Old Testament when it serves their purpose, but of rejecting it when they are not willing to do what it says.
It is indeed ironic that the same preachers who accuse me of practicing “replacement theology”, have themselves replaced the seventh-day Sabbath of the Ten Commandments with first-day (Sunday) observance; accepting and endorsing this change with no biblical authority whatsoever. In reality, they are the ones guilty of “replacement theology”, by replacing the seventh-day with the first day.
In the Old Testament, the literal nation of Israel was God’s chosen nation. The Jewish people were favored over the gentile nations in various ways. There were promises and blessings offered to them, which were not offered to any others. However, this is not true in the New Testament era. We shall examine numerous scriptures that help us understand those texts that referred to Israel’s covenants and blessings as being everlasting or continuing forever. We shall present many scriptures which specifically state that Jews are no longer favored over gentiles, but are regarded as one and the same; that being a “true Jew” is a heart issue, not a bloodline descent issue. In fact, we shall see that the literal nation of Israel was rejected by God, and has been replaced by the Christian Church.
In Ephesians 2:11-18, the Bible states that Jew and gentile have become one new man, and that the “wall of separation” which had distinguished between them is gone. Romans 10:12 also declares that there is no more distinction between Jew and gentile. In fact, the Bible says that being a Jew or a child of Abraham, in the true sense, has nothing to do with Jewish descent, but rather is defined by a faith relationship with God through Jesus Christ. Galatians 3:7 states that only those who have faith are sons of Abraham. Galatians 3:26-29 declares that it is those who are in Christ, and who belong to Christ, who are Abraham’s Seed, and also that there is no Jew or gentile anymore. Galatians 6:15,16 states that those who have become “new creatures” in Christ, are the Israel of God. This “new” Israel of God comprised of new creatures in Christ, stands in stark contrast to literal, physical Israel which Paul refers to as Israel after the flesh in verse eighteen of 1st Corinthians chapter ten. From these two texts alone it is obvious that there is a “spiritual Israel” and a literal, physical Israel, and that they are not the same. Philippians 3:3 proclaims that those who worship God in the spirit and rejoice in Christ Jesus, are the real circumcision (Jew). Romans 2:28-29 actually specifically declares that being a Jew has nothing to do with outward fleshly things (being a physical Jew), but is defined by inward issues of the heart (being a spiritual Jew). This text makes it clear that, in the New Testament gospel era, you become a Jew by having your heart circumcised, and it has nothing to do with the flesh! Romans 9:6-8 tells us that being part of Israel is now attained by faith in God’s promise, and not by Jewish descent. Paul says that it’s not the “children of the flesh” (physical Israel), but rather “children of the promise” (spiritual Israel). In fact, he specifically states that not all the “seed of Abraham” are true children of Israel. This text makes it clear that being part of Israel, in the New Testament gospel era, has nothing to do with bloodline descent. As Paul says in verse six, they are not all Israel who are of Israel. In other words, Israel is not limited to literal physical Israel.
Why has this New Testament change in “Israel” occurred? As previously mentioned, it was because of Israel’s persistent and continual rebellion and disobedience, culminating with their rejection of Jesus Christ. The nation of Israel continued to reject God, until God ultimately respected and honored their persistent choices to reject Him, and accordingly also rejected the nation of Israel. This is not just a statement of my opinion, but rather is exactly what Jesus Christ said in Matthew 21:33-43. Jesus told the parable of the vineyard to illustrate the history of Israel’s stubborn and persistent rebellion. God had sent His servants repeatedly throughout centuries of time to try to bring Israel to repentance, and to bring forth the appropriate fruit of repentance, but Israel had responded by persecuting and murdering the prophets God sent them. Finally, God sent His Son Jesus Christ, but they also rejected and murdered Him. The parable concludes with the declaration that the vineyard would be taken from them and given to others, and that they would be destroyed. Here, in Matthew 21:43, Jesus plainly states that the kingdom of God would be taken from Israel, and given to a different nation. Who is that nation? 1st Peter 2:9 calls the Christian Church a “holy nation”, a royal priesthood and God’s own special people. These are titles that had been applied to the nation of Israel in the Old Testament, but now are transferred to the Christian Church in the New Testament. The Bible clearly teaches that the Christian Church has replaced Israel, and is a type of a spiritual Israel. This is not replacement theology. This is what the Bible says! Jesus also told Israel that their house (the temple) was now “desolate” (Matthew 23:38). Desolate, of course, means unoccupied. Israel had rejected God, and was about to publicly reject their Messiah, Jesus Christ; they would publicly proclaim His blood as being upon them and their children, and that they recognized no king but Caesar. Now, according to Jesus Himself, God was going to honor their request, and would no longer be dwelling in their temple. Their house was desolate, and unoccupied by God. It’s also interesting that Jesus had previously referred to the temple as His “Father’s House”, but now He calls it “your” house. Israel had persistently rejected and abandoned God, and now God was rejecting the nation of Israel. Of course, Jews on an individual basis could still receive personal salvation by accepting Jesus Christ, but their “chosen nation” status had been forfeited. They had exchanged the blessings for the curses in Deuteronomy 28. As Jesus also said in Luke 19:42, the things that could have been theirs, had they accepted Jesus, were now hidden from their eyes.
Another very significant biblical text is found in 2nd Corinthians 1:19-20, which states that all of God’s promises receive their “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ. In other words, they are all fulfilled in Jesus. All does not mean “some” or “most”; it means all. So, there is not a single promise in the entire Bible that can be fulfilled or received “without” or “apart from” Jesus Christ, according to this Bible passage. Therefore, from this text alone, it is obvious that Israel cannot receive their promises, because they have rejected, and continue to reject, Jesus Christ.
In an effort to give their Israel focused doctrine some appearance of New testament support, proponents of this teaching refer to Romans 11:1, where Paul asks if God has cast away His people of Israel, and then answers his own question by saying “certainly not”. They mention Romans 11:26, where Paul states that all Israel will be saved. And, they remind us that Paul’s declaration in verse twenty-six, immediately follows his statement in Romans 11:25 that “hardness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the gentiles has come in”. They also mention Paul’s statement in Romans 11:29, that “the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable or without repentance”. As always, consideration of the context of this passage in Romans chapter eleven is essential for correct understanding. Is Romans chapter eleven focusing on a nation’s exaltation as a special people, or upon the availability of acceptance and salvation to individuals within that nation? The proper context is clearly established within the text of this chapter. In the first five verses of the chapter we are reminded of the presence of 7000 faithful individuals within that nation at an earlier time in history. The emphasis here is on faithful individuals, and not on a faithful nation. In verse fourteen Paul states that he hopes to save some (individuals) from within that nation, but not the entire nation itself. In verses seventeen through twenty-four, Paul describes God’s people as an “olive tree”, and states that people, both Jew and gentile, are grafted in or broken off based on their belief or unbelief. Once again the emphasis is on individuals and their choices to believe or disbelieve, and not on the exaltation of any particular nation.
Regarding the specific verses in Romans chapter eleven that are used by those who attempt to offer some New Testament support for their pro-Israel doctrine, it is important to consider the following biblical facts. Romans 11:1 simply states that God has not cast away all of the Jewish people, so that they are hopelessly lost without having any opportunity for salvation. Salvation is still available to each and every Jew.
Paul’s statement that all Israel will be saved in Romans 11:26, is in perfect harmony with all of the New Testament evidence which I have presented concerning Israel. Remember that Israel has been redefined in the New Testament, as has been clearly demonstrated. As previously documented, Jesus told the Jewish leaders that the Kingdom of God was being taken from them and would be given to a new nation (Matthew 21:43). Paul said that Israel is bigger than literal Israel, and that bloodline descendants of Abraham are not necessarily a part of Israel, because it is a faith issue rather than a physical descent issue (Romans 9:6-7). Paul also said that being a “true Jew” has nothing to do with being a literal, physical, outward Jew, but rather is an “inward heart issue” (Romans 2:28-29). Romans chapter eleven plainly states that the “new Israel olive tree” is comprised of both Jew and gentile alike! There is only one tree now! That tree is, of course, the Christian Church. As Jesus said in Matthew 21:43, there would be a new nation replacing Israel. Peter then designates the Christian Church as being that “holy nation”, “a royal priesthood” and “new” special people of God (1st Peter 2:9). The New Testament clearly defines the Christian Church as now being God’s special people. The New Testament presents a new type of “spiritual Israel” comprised of inward, heart Jews; an olive tree comprised of Jews and gentiles alike. As Paul states in Romans 11:26, “all” of this newly redefined olive tree of spiritual Israel, consisting of both Jews and gentiles, will indeed be saved! This is, in fact, the only acceptable way to explain this passage in Romans chapter eleven, which maintains the proper context of the passage, and which also accords with the overwhelming amount of New Testament evidence already presented regarding the subject of Israel. It is also noteworthy that Paul had earlier stated in verse fourteen that he only hoped to save “some” of those who were of his flesh (physical bloodline Jews). This is another strong indication that the “all Israel being saved” in verse twenty-six, can’t be referring to literal, physical Israel, because Paul would not be contradicting his previous statement that he only hoped to save “some” of them.
Regarding the argument that Paul’s declaration, that all Israel would be saved, immediately follows his statement in Romans 11:25 that “blindness in part happened to Israel until the fullness of the gentiles has come in”, the following important biblical facts need to be remembered. Romans 11:25 is essentially a summarized restatement of the points that Paul previously made in verses eleven through fifteen. In Romans 11:11-15, Paul gives a somewhat more detailed description of how God sovereignly used the nation of Israel’s rejection of the gospel, in order to bring the gospel to the gentiles. And, it is important to remember that, as Paul is writing verses eleven through fifteen, he is preparing to present the New Testament Church as an “olive tree” comprised of both Jews and gentiles in the verses that immediately follow. Furthermore, he is about to present God’s olive tree (the Church) as being accessed only by faith on an individual basis for both Jew and gentile. People are grafted into this tree as branches through belief in the gospel, and they are broken off as branches through disbelief in the gospel.
In the process of studying Romans 11:11-15, it becomes readily apparent that Paul is demonstrating a characteristic of God that he has pointed out earlier in the book of Romans. In Romans 8:28 Paul previously stated that God works all things together for the good. We see a demonstration of this principle in the eleventh chapter of Romans. As Paul is preparing to discuss God’s “olive tree” (the New Testament Church), which is clearly comprised of both Jews and gentiles, he begins by showing how God is sovereignly working all things together for the good, for Jew and gentile alike. In Romans 11:11-15, Paul plainly implies that God’s sovereign purpose in the Jews’ initial choice to reject the gospel, was to sovereignly use their “bad decision” to bring about the good result of the conversion of the gentiles; furthermore, that God was also using the gentiles’ conversion to cause the Jews to be jealous of the gentiles’ good fortune, which God would also sovereignly use to cause some of the Jews to make the “good decision” of accepting the gospel. This principle of God’s ability to work all things together for the good, in order to bring about the salvation of both Jews and gentiles, introduces Paul’s presentation of God’s “olive tree” (the New Testament Church), in the verses that immediately follow in Romans 11:16-24.
After Paul has carefully and specifically discussed how Jews and gentiles are grafted in or broken off of God’s “olive tree” in the same manner, without partiality or favoritism to either group; Paul concludes his olive tree presentation by restating the points he made in his introduction of the “olive tree passage” in Romans 11:11-15. Unquestionably for the purpose of emphasis, Romans 11:25’s statement that God used Israel’s blindness to “bring in” the gentiles, basically conveys the same message as Romans 11:11-15; that God is working all things together for the good for Jews and gentiles, in order to bring them to salvation.
A thorough analytical study of Romans chapter eleven reveals that Romans 11:25 is the culmination and conclusion of the preceding olive tree verses, rather than the introduction of the verses which follow, beginning with verse twenty-six. Romans 11:25 clearly concludes Paul’s “olive tree teaching” by restating the points made by Paul in the introduction of his olive tree message in Romans 11:11-15.
It is also noteworthy that Paul’s message is not only clear, but also encouraging! God is on our side! He is working to bring salvation to everyone, Jew and gentile alike. And, He offers this salvation to everyone in the same manner, through faith. Regardless of ethnicity, if you believe, you are grafted in to His olive tree (the New Testament Church). Likewise, regardless of ethnicity, if you disbelieve, you are rejected and broken off from His olive tree. However, in Romans 11:25 Paul chooses to conclude by briefly restating the “positive side” of the message that he began with in Romans 11:11-15. He chooses to focus on the “God is on our side” part of the message, in which God is working to get us into His olive tree, not to remove us from it. For both Jew and gentile, God is sovereignly using everything, even our bad decisions, to bring about the good result of our salvation. He is working all things together for the ultimate good of including us in His olive tree (His New Testament Church, “Spiritual Israel”).
Then, after this powerful presentation of God’s olive tree, comes Romans 11:26, where Paul states, “And so all Israel will be saved”. This is a very appropriate statement after delivering the message contained in Romans 11:11-25. It seems that Paul is basically saying that: “In view of the fact that God is on our side; in view of the fact that He is working all things together for the good of everyone, Jew and gentile; in view of the fact that He allows both Jews and gentiles to become part of His olive tree; moreover, in view of the fact that He is sovereignly using all things, even our bad decisions, to get us grafted into that tree; therefore, Paul confidently states in Romans 11:26 that all of this olive tree (the New Testament Church, “Spiritual Israel”), now comprised of both Jews and gentiles, will be saved! It is reminiscent of Paul’s earlier statement in Romans 8:31 that, “if God be for us, who can be against us?”
Regarding Romans 11:29, which is translated in many Bible versions as follows: “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable“; it must be remembered that the original language in which the New Testament was written, was Greek. The original inspired Bible writers did not use English words. They used Greek words. Then, hundreds of years later, those Greek words were translated into our English vernacular by modern translators. Although the original Bible writers themselves were certainly inspired, as were the Greek words that God impressed them to use; notwithstanding, it would be a “stretch” to claim a similar and equivalent inspiration for modern translators who are responsible for the exact wording chosen for usage in the many versions of the Bible available today. Modern translations often choose different English words when translating the same Greek word. God does not have a “split personality” that causes Him to inspire different translators to use different English words while translating the same Greek word. The truth of the matter is that translating from one language to another is often an imprecise science. It is common for one Greek word to be able to be translated into several different English words. It then becomes up to the translators to decide which word to choose. These modern translators don’t always agree on which word is the best choice, and that is why various versions of the Bible often render the same passage of Scripture differently. The human agent involved in the translation process is certainly a factor, and, unfortunately, these human agents are sometimes inconsistent and inaccurate. It is almost certain that we have such a case of inconsistency and inaccuracy in the translation of Romans 11:29.
As previously mentioned, many modern translations have rendered Romans 11:29 to state that God’s gifts and calling are “irrevocable”. The original King James Version, which is usually quite accurate and consistent, has rendered this passage to state that God’s gifts are “without repentance”. The Greek word used by the Apostle Paul in Romans 11:29, that is being translated as irrevocable or “without repentance”, is ametameletos. This Greek term is only used one other time in the entire New Testament, in 2nd Corinthians 7:10. How do modern translators render the Greek word ametameletos in 2nd Corinthians 7:10? They translate it as “not to be regretted”, “never regret”, “leaves no regret” or “never brings regret”. These are the same translators who render that same Greek term as irrevocable in Romans 11:29! It is obvious, from their unanimous agreement in their translation of 2nd Corinthians 7:10, that ametameletos can be accurately rendered as “without regret”. If these translators were consistent in their translation of this Greek word, by also translating it as “without regret” in Romans 11:29, the meaning conveyed in this passage would be dramatically changed, and would be in accordance with the rest of Scripture! Romans 11:29 would simply state that God’s gifts and calling are “without regret”, not irrevocable.
God does not make mistakes, and He is working all things together for the good. God knows the end from the beginning. He knows beforehand who will accept or reject His salvation and His callings. Yet, He offers them to everyone, because He loves everyone. He gives everyone a chance, and He has no regrets for having called them. Does any good earthly parent have any regrets for having offered and given good things to their children, although some of them may have rejected them? Even so, God has no regrets for having extended His good gifts and calling. As the original King James Version rendered this particular passage, God does not “repent” of having made these gracious offers. After thorough study of Romans chapter eleven, it is apparent that this chapter offers no true New Testament support for the pro-Israel doctrine being espoused by so many today.
Another significant consideration involves the New Testament book of “Hebrews”. Hebrews is written specifically to Hebrew Christians. If the literal nation of Israel is to regain its Old Testament prominence, and to have its temple, sacrifices, temple services and other Old Testament rituals reinstated, then isn’t it strange that there is no mention whatsoever in this letter to Hebrew Christians concerning these momentous events? In fact, anyone who has studied the book of “Hebrews” is certainly aware that no such restoration to prominence, or reestablishment of their services and rituals is promised to Jewish believers. Actually the complete opposite is the case. “Hebrews” warns Jewish Christians to stop focusing on the earthly temple and its services, and to fix their eyes on the heavenly. There is no exaltation of literal, physical Israel or Jerusalem whatsoever. In fact, Hebrews 13:12-14 reminds Hebrew Christians that Jesus suffered outside the gate of Jerusalem, and that Jewish believers should also go outside the camp of Jerusalem to meet Him. Verse fourteen then reminds the Hebrews that they have no continuing city here. Instead, it says to seek the one to come, which has already been identified as the “heavenly Jerusalem” in Hebrews 12:22. In other words, stop focusing on literal, physical Israel and Jerusalem, and focus on heavenly, spiritual realities instead. It would be wise for today’s preachers and teachers to remember and heed this biblical counsel in the book of “Hebrews”.
What about those Old Testament scriptures which state that Israel’s covenants, promises, blessings and ceremonies were to be everlasting, and continuing forever? First, we need to remember that all of these things were conditional, based upon Israel’s obedience and fidelity, as was previously proven from Scripture (Jeremiah 18:5-10; Deuteronomy 28).
Additionally, there are numerous references to other things, practices, events and requirements in Scripture, which are also stated to be everlasting, eternal or continuing forever; notwithstanding, they have been terminated or eliminated.
Consider the following examples:
Jeremiah 17:4 states that God’s anger against Judah will burn forever. Is He still angry now? Will He still be angry when all of the redeemed are at home in heaven?
Deuteronomy 15:17 declares that, if an Israelite has a servant who wants to stay with him, he can pierce his ear, and then he will be his servant forever. However, it is obvious that the servant would die at some point, and therefore his service to his master would come to an end.
Leviticus 6:13 states that the fire on the altar in the Old Testament tabernacle of Israel would “ever” burn, but it is not burning now. And, Leviticus 24:1-4 declares that the lamp in the tabernacle would burn continually, with Aaron in charge of it forever, but that lamp has been extinguished for thousands of years, and Aaron and his descendants have not been in charge of that lamp for thousands of years.
According to Leviticus 7:34 and Leviticus 10:14-15, the priests would continue to receive and eat the breast and thigh of the “wave” and “heave” offerings from the animal sacrifices forever, but that has not happened for thousands of years either. Numbers 18:8-11 also says that the priests would eat the animal offerings forever, which of course, terminated long ago as already mentioned.
Leviticus 16:29-34 declares that the animal sacrifices on the “Day of Atonement” would continue forever and were everlasting. However, we know that they also were discontinued thousands of years ago. And, we know that they were terminated because they were only symbols of the real sacrifice, the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. Hebrews 10:1-10 clearly states that these animal sacrifices could not take away our sins, but were only a reminder to us of our sins; therefore, a reminder of our need of a Savior from sin. Hebrews declares that God did not desire animal sacrifices and offerings, and had no pleasure in them. It then records Jesus’ wonderful statement: “Behold, I have come”. Hebrews 10:9-10 specifically states that God took away the “first” (the system of animal sacrifices), and established the “second” (the offering of the body of Jesus Christ).
In the case of most of these scriptures that declare certain things to continue forever or to be everlasting, you may have noticed that they refer to things that are symbolic of Jesus’ coming, His ministry and atonement. The animal sacrifices, which the priests ate, were symbolic of the Lamb of God, Jesus Christ. The lamp in the tabernacle was symbolic of the Light of the World, Jesus Christ. The animal sacrifice on the “Day of Atonement” was symbolic of the true atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Consider three more examples. In Exodus 40:12-15, the Bible states that Aaron’s priesthood was to be “everlasting” throughout his generations; yet, we’re told in Hebrews 7:11-19 that this was changed, and that the former commandment concerning Aaron’s priesthood descendants was annulled or cancelled. Why? Because Jesus Himself was the true High Priest, and the perfect fulfillment of the high priestly office, of which Aaron’s priesthood had only been a symbol.
In Genesis 17:13 the Bible speaks of circumcision as being an “everlasting” covenant, which not only applied to Abraham’s descendants, but also to all others who wished to join them and become part of God’s people. This everlasting covenant was a strict requirement for everyone, and anyone who was not circumcised was “cut off” from God’s people (Genesis 17:14). Circumcision was absolutely required as an everlasting covenant. However, in Acts chapter fifteen the apostles’ council officially proclaims that the gentiles are not required to be circumcised when joining the New Testament Christian Church. And, in Galatians 5:1-4, Paul says that, if you become circumcised in order to become part of God’s Church, you have become estranged or separated from Christ, you have fallen from grace, and Christ profits you nothing. Why? Because, once again, circumcision of the flesh was only a symbol of the spiritual circumcision of the heart, which Jesus performs when we accept Him into our hearts. Jesus is the perfect fulfillment of the true spiritual meaning of circumcision. Just as Jesus is the true High Priest, He also performs the “true circumcision” of the heart (Romans 2:26-29).
Another example is found in Jude verse 7. The Bible calls the fire that destroyed Sodom and Gomorrah an eternal fire. However, the fire is not still burning today. The fire went out after destroying the cities.
So, what does this tell us about the usage of the terms forever, eternal or everlasting in the Bible? Obviously, from all of these examples, and others that could be given, when the Bible uses the terms forever, everlasting or eternal, it does not necessarily mean continuing forever and ever, and never coming to an end. Otherwise the “eternal” fire that destroyed Sodom would still be burning; Aaron’s “everlasting” priesthood would not have been annulled; the “everlasting” covenant of circumcision, strictly required in the Old Testament for acceptance among God’s people, would not have been eliminated as a requirement for believers in the New Testament in Acts 15, and would not have been discouraged and spoken against by the Apostle Paul in Galatians; and the animal sacrifices and the burning of the lamp in the tabernacle, which were all to continue “forever”, would not have come to an end thousands of years ago.
It is clear that, in the Bible, the words everlasting or eternal can simply mean that it will continue until it has accomplished or fulfilled its purpose. The eternal fire that destroyed Sodom, continued until it had fulfilled its purpose of destroying the wicked city. Aaron’s “everlasting” priesthood continued until it had fulfilled its purpose, when the real High Priest, Jesus Christ came. The everlasting covenant of circumcision continued as a spiritual requirement until it had fulfilled its purpose, when the new covenant was instituted by Jesus Christ, where the real circumcision of the heart occurs when Jesus comes into our hearts. The animal sacrifices, which were to last forever, continued until they had fulfilled their purpose, when the true atoning sacrifice of the “Divine Lamb of God” was offered on the cross. From all of these examples of things that were stated to be everlasting or eternal, yet have been terminated and ceased long ago, it is obvious that the Bible’s usage of these terms does not necessarily convey the meaning of perpetual continuance forever and ever without end. In the numerous examples that I’ve presented, we see that “ongoing continuance” can be conditional, based upon obedience and fidelity, or upon “fulfillment of original purpose”. Therefore, there is no scriptural contradiction for the nation of Israel’s everlasting promises to have been terminated and/or forfeited based upon “fulfillment of their original purpose”, or based upon Israel’s infidelity and disobedience, as well as its being replaced by a “new nation” (Spiritual Israel/The Christian Church), which God is now using to fulfill the original purpose of Israel.
In addition to the termination of Israel’s “chosen nation” status in the New Testament, we also find that the religious feasts and ceremonies associated with Israel were fulfilled and terminated as well. This is an important issue due to recent trends by some pro-Judaism church leaders, to implement the ceremonies and feasts of Judaism within Christianity. They seem to intentionally forget, however, that the offering of animal sacrifices was an integral part of all of these ceremonies and feasts. If they are right in saying that we need to be keeping these “old covenant” events, then we also need to be offering the animal sacrifices that were at the very heart of these ceremonies and feasts. Of course, contemporary pro-Judaism teachers realize that such a notion would be totally rejected, because all Christians know that Christ’s sacrifice replaced the offering of animals. Therefore, they conveniently refrain from mentioning one of the primary focuses of these feasts, the animal sacrifices, when they endorse their observance. The bottom line is that these teachers are not even truly keeping the feasts themselves, because you cannot do so without the animal sacrifices. There is no place in all of Scripture where God has ever endorsed a “partial feast” observance, where you keep certain parts of the feast, but not others. This is a man-made concoction of modern day, pro-Judaism advocates. You either keep the feasts in the way that God ordained, and offer the animal sacrifices that He ordained, or you don’t keep them at all, because you realize that they have been fulfilled by Jesus.
We will now examine many scriptures that reveal the fulfillment and termination of these Old Testament religious events. Ephesians 2:11-16 states that Jesus abolished a law of commandments with “ordinances”, which separated Jew and gentile. Colossians 2:13-17 states that Jesus wiped out some handwritings of ordinances or requirements, and nailed them to the cross; and, because He did this, no one should be judged concerning food, drink, new moons, special sabbaths or “feasts”, because they are only a “shadow” of things to come. The original Greek word, heorte, that is translated as feasts, holy days or festivals in this text, is translated as feasts all 26 times it is used elsewhere in the New Testament, so, “feasts” is the correct word.
What law of ordinances or requirements, which was full of shadows or symbols of things to come, is the Apostle Paul declaring to have been abolished and nailed to the cross? What law contained requirements concerning food, drink, feasts new moons and sabbaths?
We know that Paul is not referring to the Ten Commandments Moral Law, because the Ten Commandments make no mention of food, drink, new moon or feast requirements, and also because the original Greek word used by Paul in both Ephesians and Colossians is “dogma”, which is never translated as law or commandments one single time in the New Testament. Any good Bible student knows that the only possible and logical biblical answer is the various Old Testament ceremonial laws and ordinances regarding the feasts and other special days, which did indeed have requirements and instructions concerning food, drink, new moons, “special sabbaths”, etc. Additionally, all of these things were indeed shadows or symbols of the things to come concerning the coming Messiah, His ministry and His atonement. Therefore, the ceremonial laws and ordinances containing these feasts, new moons, food and drink requirements, and the “special sabbaths” of the Old Testament, are obviously what Paul states that Jesus has abolished and nailed to the cross. Why would He do that? Because they were only symbols of Him, His ministry and atonement that He had fulfilled, so there was no need of the symbols anymore. In 2nd Corinthians 1:19-20, we’re told that “all” of the promises of God receive their “Yes” and “Amen” in Jesus Christ. In other words, Jesus is the fulfillment of them all.
Although it is already obvious from these scriptures that the ceremonial requirements have been terminated, we will examine additional scriptures to even more conclusively prove that these Old Testament ceremonies, ordinances, feasts and rituals were indeed fulfilled and terminated by Jesus. The totality of evidence is overwhelming.
The book of Hebrews contrasts the differences between the “first” or “old” covenant of the Old Testament, with the “second” or “new” covenant that Jesus established in the New Testament. Hebrews specifically states that the old covenant was only symbolic of the new covenant that was to come, and that the old covenant is now obsolete and was taken away by Jesus! Hebrews also clearly defines that old covenant as representing the Old Testament earthly tabernacle and its services and sacrifices. It refers to them as being only a “shadow of good things to come”. That is the same wording used by Paul in Colossians to describe what had been “wiped out” and nailed to the cross, and which included feasts and new moons. The New Testament leaves no doubt that the various ceremonies, ordinances and feasts of the Old Testament have been fulfilled and terminated in Jesus Christ. The specific texts from Hebrews that I have referred to are as follows.
Hebrews 9:1-5 tells us that the first covenant had an earthly sanctuary with ordinances of service. Hebrews 8:1-5 says that this earthly tabernacle with its priests, sacrifices and services, was only a shadow of the heavenly reality, and that Jesus is the true High Priest, who ministers in the true tabernacle in heaven.
Hebrews 8:6-8 states that the first covenant proved faulty, so, a new and better covenant was established related to Jesus’ more excellent ministry. Hebrews 10:1-8 proclaims that the old covenant with all of its sacrifices, was only a shadow of good things to come, and could not make people perfect. It is also significant that this old covenant and its sacrifices were referred to as a “type of law” in Hebrews 10:1 and 10:8. Remember that the New Testament book of Ephesians said that a “law” containing ordinances had been abolished by Jesus Christ.
Hebrews 9:9-10 declares that the earthly sanctuary and its ordinances of service were only symbolic or figurative; only being imposed until the time of reformation, because these earthly services could not change the conscience. Hebrews 9:11-15 states that Christ came to mediate a “new covenant”, which would accomplish what the first covenant could not, which is the cleansing of the conscience. Hebrews 10:9 then tells us that when Jesus established the second covenant, He took away the first! Hebrews 8:13 additionally states that this new covenant made the first covenant obsolete, and caused it to be vanishing away.
The New Testament makes it “crystal clear” that the first covenant in the Old Testament, with all of its ceremonies, ordinances, feasts and services, was fulfilled and terminated by Jesus Christ, and is no longer binding upon Christians. That is probably why the Bible uses different terminology when mentioning the feasts in the New Testament, than it does in the Old Testament. On numerous occasions in the Old Testament, the feasts are referred to as the Lord’s feasts or as feasts of the Lord. For example, the Passover was called the “Lord’s Passover” (Exodus 12:11; Exodus 12:27; Leviticus 23:5). The Feast of Tabernacles was called a “feast of the Lord” (Leviticus 23:34; Leviticus 23:39). They were the “Lord’s feasts” because He had established them, and also because they were reminding people of the coming Messiah, His ministry and atonement. However, once Jesus had come and completed His mission, in fulfillment of these Old Testament ceremonies, feasts and rituals, they were unnecessary and irrelevant. That is probably why the New Testament never refers to them as the Lord’s feasts. Once Jesus had fulfilled His mission, these Old Testament feasts and ceremonies were nothing more than unnecessary rituals. In fact, in the gospel of John, which was one of the last New Testament books written, probably at least twenty years after the destruction of Jerusalem in fulfillment of Jesus’ prophecy; John repeatedly refers to these feasts as Jewish feasts, rather than the Lord’s feasts. Instead of the Lord’s Passover, he calls it the “Passover of the Jews” (John 2:13; John 6:4; John 11:55). Instead of calling the Feast of Tabernacles a feast of the Lord, he calls it the “Jews’ feast of tabernacles” (John 7:2). Additionally, in John 5:1, he refers to another “feast of the Jews”. This is also why you do not find any references to gentile converts to Christianity in the New Testament, being required to keep the “feasts” of the old covenant. In fact, when the apostles held their official meeting to discuss the requirements for gentile believers in Acts chapter 15, the only additional Old Testament ceremonial requirements they placed upon them, were to abstain from blood, from things strangled, from fornication and from foods offered to idols. There were no required feasts or new moons, because these things had been fulfilled and terminated by Jesus, as has been thoroughly documented. It is noteworthy that, in response to the Pharisees’ assertion that gentiles needed to be circumcised and keep the “law of Moses” (Acts 15:5), Peter said: “Why do you test God by putting a “yoke” on the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear (Acts 15:10)?” According to this scripture, those who attempt to enforce the ceremonial laws of Moses in the New Testament “gospel era”, with the exception of the four ceremonial items that the apostles specifically mentioned as still being required, are testing God and “placing yokes” on people. We do not want to be found guilty of such a serious charge. It is also significant that, as Paul and his companions went through the gentile cities declaring the apostles decision (Acts 16:4), the original Greek word used for the apostles’ decree is “dogma”. Why is that significant? It is the same word used in Colossians 2:14 to describe the Jews’ ceremonial laws or ordinances that included the food, drink, new moons, special sabbath days and “feasts” mentioned in Colossians 2:16. In other words, the apostles’ “dogma/decree” in Acts 16:4 dealt with the same subject discussed in Colossians 2:14-17; that is, once again, those foods, drinks, new moons, special sabbath days and feasts of the whole Jewish ceremonial system. And, out of all of that Jewish ceremonial “dogma”, what did the apostles declare to still be relevant in the New Testament Church? Just the four things previously mentioned, which did not include any “feasts or new moons” etc. (It should be mentioned that the Ten Commandments moral law was obviously still assumed to be binding upon the gentiles. Why? Because the apostles certainly would not be telling the gentiles that they could not eat food offered to idols, but that it was ok to worship idols. They would not be saying that the gentiles could not commit fornication, but that it was ok to commit adultery. They would not be saying that the gentiles could not eat things with blood in it, but that it was ok to murder and shed blood. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that the Ten Commandments moral law was unquestionably assumed to still be binding, and that the apostles were simply listing the only four items from the ceremonial laws that were required over and above God’s Ten Commandment Law in the New Testament era.)
In addition to all of the clear specific biblical evidence we’ve examined concerning the fulfillment and termination of the Old Testament ceremonies and feasts, the New Testament also issues stern warnings against those who try to require obedience to these old covenant ordinances. Paul warns us not to be brought into “bondage”, by observing days, months, seasons and years in Galatians 4:9-10. Furthermore, in Galatians 4:11, he tells those who have begun to observe these things, that he is “afraid” for them, because he is concerned that his gospel labors on their behalf may have been in vain. It is also significant, that those who teach people to observe circumcision and these extra “old covenant special days”, are denounced in the Bible. They are called false brethren and spies in Galatians 2:4. They are accused of “bewitching” people (Galatians 3:1), and of “perverting” the gospel of Christ by preaching a different gospel (Galatians 1:6-7). They are called “accursed” (Galatians 1:8-9), and are said to be under a curse in Galatians 3:10. They are accused of bringing people into “bondage” (Galatians 2:4; Galatians 5:1), and of causing people to become “estranged” or separated from Christ, and thus to fall from grace (Galatians 5:4). Finally, the Bible declares that these false legalistic teachers will “bear their judgment” (Galatians 5:10).
This is serious business! God obviously does not tolerate people adding onto the gospel. He plainly states that all who do so will bear their judgment. Why? The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus has fulfilled all of the Old Testament ceremonies, ordinances and feasts. He was the “perfect fulfillment” of every single one of them. That is why Paul even stated that Christ Himself is our Passover (1st Corinthians 5:7), which was one of the most esteemed Jewish feasts. The Passover and every other feast were only symbols of the coming Messiah, His ministry and atonement. Jesus Christ is the reality and fulfillment. Therefore, we do not need the symbols anymore. We now celebrate a “spiritual” Passover in Christ, rather than a physical Passover. In 1st Corinthians 5:8, Paul continues with his spiritual Passover theme, by saying that his feast is one which has “sincerity and truth” as its unleavened bread; once again, a “spiritual” unleavened bread, rather than physical unleavened bread.
We are to trust that Jesus fulfilled everything completely and perfectly. For someone to require our continued performance of these Old Testament symbols, in addition to Jesus’ fulfillment of them, is to imply that He didn’t perfectly fulfill them. It is going back to a “Jesus Plus” system, which contradicts the Bible, perverts the gospel, and indirectly insults Jesus by implying that He did not perfectly and completely fulfill and finish His mission. It is no coincidence that, as Jesus was proclaiming “it is finished”, while on the cross, simultaneously the veil which separated the Holy and Most Holy places in the temple was being torn apart. (The Most Holy Place was only visible and accessible to the High Priest, and only once each year on the Day of Atonement, which was probably the most sacred of all the holy days and festivals). The tearing of the veil, exposing the Most Holy Place to the open view of all as Jesus was proclaiming “it is finished,” testified to the conclusion of the “old covenant” ceremonies, rituals and feasts; it revealed that even the Most Holy Place of the temple, which was entered only during the most sacred “Day of Atonement” festival, had reached its ultimate fulfillment at the cross, and had truly finished its course, even as Jesus proclaimed “it is finished.” What Jesus had finished and completed, man should not attempt to continue. Of course, Jesus’ proclamation of “it is finished,” also encompassed more than what I’ve presented in this paragraph. I am only dealing with its application to our current discussion.
Contemporary pro-Judaism teachers also claim that the New Testament reveals that the Apostle Paul, who wrote many of these scriptures we’ve examined, still regularly attended the Old Covenant feasts himself. However, a thorough biblical study of Paul’s writings and journeys reveals that these teachers are either dishonest or are ignorant of the biblical record of Paul’s life. Paul did not regularly attend these feasts.
There were three main feasts each year that truly religious Jews would unwaveringly attend. All Jewish men who sincerely believed and practiced the religion of Judaism would be sure to be present at these feasts. Paul’s life as a Christian spanned approximately thirty years, from the “mid-thirties” to the “mid-sixties” AD. That means that Paul would have had the opportunity to attend about ninety of these major feasts during his life as a Christian. However, the Bible reveals that Paul only attended, at most, four or five of those ninety feasts!
Galatians 1:18 explains that Paul did not even visit Jerusalem for over three years after his conversion, and that he only stayed for fifteen days. Galatians 2:1 states that he did not return to Jerusalem again for fourteen years. Acts chapters thirteen and fourteen cover Paul’s first missionary journey through the cities of the gentiles. It is commonly agreed by most theological historians that this journey must have encompassed ar least two years. Acts 15:40 through Acts 18:18 reveals that, during his second missionary journey, Paul spent at least three years traveling through numerous gentile cities. Acts 18:23 through Acts 21:15 reveals that Paul’s third missionary journey among the gentiles also spanned a period of at least three years. Acts 24:27 states that Paul spent two years in “house arrest” under a Roman governor named Felix in Ceasarea. And, Acts 28:30 tells us that he spent an additional two years under house arrest in Rome. Furthermore, there were additional time periods of house arrest under the Roman governor Festus in Acts chapters twenty-five and twenty-six; of being shipwrecked and stranded on the island of Malta in Acts chapters twenty-seven and twenty-eight; of being imprisoned a second time in Rome before his eventual execution according to 2nd Timothy and early church historians; and of the time period spent evangelizing among the gentiles between Paul’s fist and second imprisonments in Rome. When Paul’s life is carefully charted out in the Bible, it is clear that, with the exception of “at most” four or five brief visits to Jerusalem, he spent his entire Christian life away from Jerusalem. The Apostle Paul only attended, at most, four or five Jewish feasts in his thirty years of being a Christian! It is obvious that these feasts were not religiously significant to Paul.
It is also noteworthy that Paul explains the motivation which probably prompted his participation in the few feasts that he did attend. In 1st Corinthians 9:19-22 he basically states that he would meet people wherever they were at, in order to win them to Christ. He says that he became all things to all men, so that he might save them. He specifically states that to those who were “Jews” or under the law, he also conducted himself as under the law. In fact, he even clearly states that he did so in order to win the Jews and those who were under the law. Paul occasionally practiced and adhered to some of the old covenant ceremonies and ordinances as an “inroad” to evangelize the Jews. He, in fact, only rarely participated in them himself, and never encouraged others to do so. The assertion by contemporary, pro-Judaism teachers that Paul regularly attended these Jewish feasts is blatantly in error.
Although it has already been conclusively proved that keeping the feasts, new moons and other ceremonial rituals is not required or endorsed in the New Testament; moreover, that those who endorse these practices are denounced with the strongest of language; notwithstanding, one additional false claim by contemporary pro-Judaism teachers probably should be addressed.
What is that claim? These teachers say that, even if Jesus has fulfilled the “Spring Feasts”, such as the Passover and Pentecost Feasts, yet, the three “Fall Feasts” or festivals: The Feast of Trumpets on the first day of the seventh month of the Jewish calendar, The Day of Atonement on the tenth day of the seventh month, and The Feast of Tabernacles beginning on the fifteenth day of the seventh month; they say that these “Fall Feasts” have not been fulfilled, and, therefore, should be kept by Christians. It is suggested that the Feast of Trumpets represents the rapture of the Church, and that Jesus will indeed rapture His Church away on the literal day of the Feast of Trumpets. Likewise, it is suggested that the Day of Atonement represents the day that Jesus will return as Lord and King to judge the earth, and that, once again, Jesus will indeed return to do this on the literal Day of Atonement, after having spent seven years with the raptured saints in heaven. Furthermore, it is suggested that the Feast of Tabernacles represents Jesus’ millennial reign on earth, and that Jesus will begin His millennial reign on the first day of the literal Feast of Tabernacles.
What about it? Do these “Fall Feast” claims have any biblical support? None whatsoever! In my article titled “The Secret Rapture”, I have already overwhelmingly proved that the contemporary “rapture doctrine” is contradicted by dozens of scriptures. Therefore, the Feast of Trumpets would be representing a rapture that does not exist in Scripture. Also, this “Fall Feasts” doctrine teaches that there will be two more returns of Jesus; one to rapture the saints on the Feast of Trumpets, and one to reign and judge the earth on the Day of Atonement. Of course, this also contradicts many scriptures, as also documented in my “Secret Rapture” article. The Bible teaches that there is one return of Jesus before the millennial reign, not two. And, to begin with, the entire concept of predicting the day of Jesus’ return is a direct contradiction of Jesus’ statement that no one knows the day of His return (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:32). This fact alone, that these pro-Judaism teachers are blatantly contradicting the words of Jesus, should be enough to make all sincere Christians distance themselves from these Judaistic teachings. Also, the Day of Atonement did not point forward to Jesus’ second coming to reign as Lord and King; it pointed forward to His first coming as Savior, the sacrificial divine Lamb of God. As it says in Hebrews 9:7-26, whereas earthly high priests entered the Most Holy Place once each year with the “blood of animals”; Jesus, following His sacrifice on the cross, entered the Most Holy Place in heaven with His own blood. This text states that He did this once for all, and contrasts Jesus Christ’s one-time sacrifice of Himself with the earthly high priests’ animal sacrifices that needed to be offered every year. Hebrews 9:26 sums up what the Day of Atonement was all about when it states that Jesus appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself. In fact, the Old Testament book of Leviticus, when describing the ceremonies conducted on The Day of Atonement, also sums up its meaning and focus in Leviticus 16:29-30, when it states that it was the day when the atonement was made to cleanse the people from their sins. All mature and biblically informed Christians know that this was fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice of Himself on the cross. It is also noteworthy that the ritual of the “Lord’s goat” and the scapegoat, described in Leviticus chapter sixteen, received perfect fulfillment in the Lord’s triumphant death on the cross, and in its portending doom for the devil. The “Lord’s goat” was sacrificed, and its blood was taken into the sanctuary to be presented before God for the forgiveness and remission of the people’s sins, which was symbolic of Jesus’ shed blood for the forgiveness and remission of our sins. And, just as the scapegoat, the antithesis of the Lord’s goat, was held responsible for the sins of the people, and was cast out or taken away into the wilderness; we see this fulfilled in Jesus’ statement that, when He was lifted up on the cross, the “ruler of this world” (Satan) would also be cast out (John 12:31-32). In other words, Satan’s fate was sealed. He would also be held responsible for all of the sin, misery and death that he had caused. In summation, the Day of Atonement was perfectly fulfilled by Jesus Christ’s sacrifice on the cross “once for all”, as stated in Hebrews chapter nine. For these pro-Judaism teachers to assert that the Day of Atonement has not yet been fulfilled is an attack on the finished work of Jesus Christ on the cross.
Finally, regarding the Feast of Tabernacles, all of the scriptures that mention the Feast of Tabernacles follow: 2nd Chronicles 5:3; 2nd Chronicles 7:8-10; 2nd Chronicles 8:13; Zechariah 14:16-19; Ezra 3:4; Deuteronomy 31:10; Deuteronomy 16:13-16; Leviticus 23:34-44; Nehemiah 8:14-18; Exodus 23:14-17; Exodus 34:22; Numbers 29:12-38; John 7:2. Do any of these passages speak of looking “forward” to a temporal millennial reign of the Messiah? Not one of them! In fact, in Leviticus 23:34-44, this feast looks “backward” to the Israelites’ time of sojourning in the wilderness. And, in Deuteronomy 16:13-16, once again we find this feast looking backward in thanksgiving for the fall harvest that God has blessed them to reap. Moreover, the passage in Numbers 29:12-38, which is the longest and most detailed reference to the Feast of Tabernacles in the Bible, is focused almost entirely on animal sacrifices; thus clearly revealing, as I’ve previously mentioned, that the sacrificing of animals was at the heart of this Feast also, and thereby conclusively demonstrating that you cannot keep this feast without the offering of animal sacrifices. So, you either keep the Feast, and offer the sacrificial animals that God commanded, or you don’t keep it at all because you recognize that Jesus perfectly fulfilled it. Once again, God has not authorized a “partial” feast observance anywhere in Scripture, where you pick and choose parts of the feast that you will or will not obey. It is also noteworthy, as documented earlier, that the only New Testament reference that mentions the Feast of Tabernacles by name, in John 7:2, now refers to this feast as the Jews’ Feast of Tabernacles, not as the Lord’s feast or as a Christian feast. This is because Jesus has fulfilled this feast also. You see, we all, before accepting Jesus as our Savior and Lord, were wandering and abiding in a dry and barren “spiritual wilderness”. Yet, God has also lovingly and faithfully provided for and protected us while in our past spiritual, wilderness wanderings, just as He did for the Jews in their wandering and dwelling in the literal, physical wilderness. And, now, because of Jesus Christ, we no longer abide in a spiritual wilderness; we now abide in Jesus Christ, as the branch abides in the vine (John 15:1-8). And, we no longer celebrate a literal, physical harvest of fruit, as the Jews did in the Old Covenant, but we celebrate a spiritual harvest of bearing spiritual fruit that results from our abiding in Christ; that is, the “fruit of the spirit” and the fruit of saved souls resulting from our personal relationship with Jesus. In the Old Covenant, the Jews kept and celebrated “types and symbols”. In the New Covenant, we celebrate the perfect reality and fulfillment found in the gospel of Jesus Christ. What mature and sound-minded Christian would want to return to celebrating Old Covenant meager types and symbols, when we have the glorious New Covenant gospel of Jesus Christ? In fact, that is exactly what Paul asks the Christian church in Galatia, which had been invaded by similar pro-Judaism teachers (Galatians 4:9-11).
In conclusion, there is no biblical support whatsoever for the New Testament observance of this Judaistic “Fall Feasts” doctrine. In fact, as I’ve demonstrated, this doctrine contradicts numerous scriptures.
You have read the biblical evidence concerning the religious rituals of Judaism. God has clearly stated that the Old Testament ceremonies and festivals have been fulfilled and terminated in Jesus Christ. He has issued strong warnings and rebukes against those who try to require their observance in the New Testament gospel era. The Bible has plainly revealed that all of God’s covenants, promises and blessings upon Israel were conditional, based upon their obedience. In fact, God’s word clearly stated that if Israel persisted in disobedience, they would receive God’s curses, instead of His blessings. The Bible also revealed that Israel’s history of rebellion and disobedience culminating with their rejection of their Messiah, Jesus Christ, had resulted in their rejection by God, and in being replaced by a new nation, the Christian Church. It is unwise for Christians to attempt to revive the old ceremonies, festivals and practices of the Jewish nation. God declared that the old covenant has been taken away or removed, and is now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13; Hebrews 10:9). Therefore, Christians should come into agreement with God’s Word. When Jesus said, “it is finished,” it was finished! As the apostle Paul said: “Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1).
Another related “Judaistic issue” concerns the additional requirement that many “old covenant” teachers are attempting to impose upon Christians, by stressing the great importance of stating our Savior’s name as “Yahshua”, instead of Jesus. These teachers point out that Mary and Joseph would have spoken Hebrew, and that the angel Gabriel, therefore, would also have spoken Jesus’ name to them in Hebrew. This may be true, but the fact of the matter is, that in the original language of Scripture, Jesus is not called by the Hebrew word Yahshua one single time in the entire Bible!
The Old Testament, which was written in Hebrew, never speaks the actual name of the coming Messiah. Therefore, Jesus is not called Yahshua in all of the Old Testament. Yahshua is used numerous times for Joshua in the Old Testament, but never for Jesus.
The New Testament, which was written in Greek, speaks Jesus’ name hundreds of times, and every single time it is written in Greek as “Iesous” (ee-ay-sooce). The original Hebrew word of Yahshua is not used one single time for Jesus in all of the New Testament either. Therefore, as previously stated, Jesus Christ is never referred to as Yahshua in the entire Bible!
It is noteworthy, that the Bible states that all of Scripture is inspired by God, and that holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit (2nd Timothy 3:16; 2nd Peter 1:21). Therefore, we also know that God used the original wording that He wanted when the Scriptures were written. If it were so important for Christians to be speaking our Savior’s name as Yahshua, certainly God would have made sure to include the original Hebrew word Yahshua for Jesus’ name someplace in the Bible, but it never appears in the original language as our Savior’s name in all of Scripture.
It is also interesting that Mark’s gospel uses at least six original Hebrew or Aramaic words (henceforth simply cited as Hebrew for the sake of brevity), mixed in with his gospel written in Greek. He uses the Hebrew word “ephphatha” in Mark 7:34, also the Hebrew words “talitha” and “cumi” in Mark 5:41, as well as the Hebrew words “Eloi”, “lama” and “sabachthani” in Mark 15:34. However, Mark never uses the original Hebrew word Yahshua to refer to Jesus. Mark refers to Jesus by the Greek word “Iesous” 96 times, but not once does he call Him Yahshua. Why not? Mark uses at least six other original Hebrew words in his gospel account.
In the gospel of John we also find the same scenario. John uses a Hebrew derivative for “Messiah” in John 1:41 and John 4:25. He also uses a Hebrew derivative for “rabbi” or “rabboni” six times (John 1:38; John 1:49; John 3:2; John 3:26; John 6:25; John 20:16). John chooses to use Hebrew derivatives several times in the midst of his letter written in Greek. However, John never uses the Hebrew word Yahshua to refer to Jesus. John refers to Jesus over 250 times, and uses the Greek word “Iesous” every time. If saying Yahshua is as important as these modern-day old covenant teachers claim, certainly Mark or John would have used Yahshua at least once, for they used other Hebrew words and derivatives. Why don’t they? The answer is obvious. This modern-day “Yahshua doctrine” is nothing more than a new form of legalism, with absolutely no foundation in Scripture. God meets us all wherever we are. He communicates with the Chinese in the Chinese language. He communicates with the French in the French language. He communicates with the Greeks in the Greek language. And, He communicates with the English-speaking world, in the English language. Our Savior is known to us as Jesus.
Remember the words of the Apostle Paul, and “do not be entangled in a yoke of bondage.” There is a modern-day “pharisaism” gaining popularity in some circles, requiring adherence to the “old covenant” and using the name Yahshua. Do not be deceived into this system of bondage. Remember that Jesus was harder on the legalistic Pharisees than He was on the prostitutes and publicans. Jesus declared that the “harlots” would enter heaven before these legalistic teachers (Matthew 21:31).
New Testament Christians should not be attempting to “reconstruct” the Old Testament nation of Israel and its related practices. And, we should also be careful to not repeat the mistakes of the past, regarding the Church’s focus concerning Israel.
It seems that history has a tendency to repeat itself. As Solomon stated in the Bible: “There is nothing new under the sun.” We tend to repeat the same mistakes over and over again. This is also true concerning Israel. The Church in Jesus’ day was not prepared to receive Him because they were focused on the wrong things. Their focus was on the literal nation of Israel, and their expectation of its forthcoming exaltation to political and military supremacy, because of the anticipated arrival of a conquering military Messiah. Due to this improper focus on the literal physical nation of Israel, and upon expected political and military events, the church leaders of Jesus’ day were not prepared for His first coming. Jesus came to offer spiritual blessings and deliverance, but their focus was on physical worldly blessings and deliverance. Of course, we know the end of the story. The church leaders’ incorrect teaching caused many to reject Jesus Christ.
Many church leaders today are making the same mistake. Once again, they are focused on the literal physical nation of Israel, and on expected political and military events, just as the church leaders did in Jesus’ day. Will this improper focus by many of today’s church leaders also cause them to be unprepared for Jesus’ second coming, just as the Jewish church leaders were for His first coming?
It almost seems as though the Church tends to forget what the central and primary focus of the Bible is. It is not Israel. It is Jesus Christ! The Bible is Christ-centered, not Israel-centered. Jesus said that the Scriptures testify of Him, not of Israel (John 5:39). We’re told in 2nd Corinthians 1:19-20, that all the promises of God are fulfilled in Jesus, not in Israel. It’s time for today’s “pro-Israel” teachers to take their eyes off of Israel, and to fix them upon Jesus. Our hope is in Jesus, not in Israel.
In conclusion, I want to repeat that I am not attempting to establish any moral equivalency regarding current events in the Middle East. I am neither pro-Israel nor pro-Palestinian. I am pro-Jesus, and pro-Bible. I again plainly state that the suicide bombings that have been inflicted upon innocent Jewish civilians in recent years are evil deeds that can never be justified. My emphasis is strictly from a spiritual and biblical perspective. God loves Jew and gentile alike, and He desires both to place their faith in Jesus Christ. It is time for the Christian Church to adopt the same perspective, and to stop favoring one side over the other based upon the Church’s bias.