Why The Resurrection?

(From a sermon I gave at Beatty Baptist Church on April 12, 2020.)

For those of you who don’t know me, I’m the curious type. Always have been. When something interests me, I try to find out as much about it as possible. When I was young, I would satisfy my curiosity by reading National Geographic magazines and encyclopedia articles. In fact, I preferred reading to socializing. I’m still somewhat like that. Social distancing is not a problem for me.

When I find something worthy of my interest, I want to know as much about it as I can. Satisfying my curiosity begins with asking the right questions. And my favorite question to ask is “Why?”

During this coronavirus pandemic, those in authority have told us to stay put, to stay at home. The governor has ordered us to do so. Why? Because the virus is very contagious, easily spread by human contact. So we need to minimize that contact to slow the spread of the disease. A slower spread helps to “flatten the curve” so our hospitals won’t be as overwhelmed.

But some people ignore the warnings and socialize when they shouldn’t. Again, the question is why? Recently some Texas students ignored the warnings and went to Mexico for spring break. 44 of them caught the virus, and they’re not the only ones. Why would these people ignore the warnings? Why do so many people ignore the authorities? If you ask them, they’ll give you reasons, but I’m sure they’re not good ones. So, in this case I don’t think this question of why is worthy to take time to answer.

Today we celebrate the resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Three days before His resurrection, Jesus died a cruel death on a Roman cross and His body was placed in a borrowed tomb. The Jewish authorities placed a seal on the tomb with a guard. Why? The answer is in Matthew:

The next day, that is, after the day of Preparation, the chief priests and the Pharisees gathered before Pilate and said, “Sir, we remember how that impostor said, while he was still alive, ‘After three days I will rise.’ Therefore order the tomb to be made secure until the third day, lest his disciples go and steal him away and tell the people, ‘He has risen from the dead,’ and the last fraud will be worse than the first.”

Pilate said to them, “You have a guard of soldiers. Go, make it as secure as you can.” So they went and made the tomb secure by sealing the stone and setting a guard.

– Matthew 27:62-66

Our governor has ordered us to stay put at home to avoid catching and spreading a deadly disease. The Jewish authorities had basically ordered Jesus’ body to stay in the tomb put to avoid the spread of the life-giving gospel. But thankfully that didn’t stop Jesus rising from the dead, and even “socializing” with His disciples over a period of 40 days.

If you ask yourself why Jesus had to die, your Bible will show you it was to pay the penalty for your sins. Hebrews 9:22: “…without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.” So we know why Jesus had to die. But why did He have to rise from the dead? His death gave us forgiveness, but what did His resurrection do for us? Why was it necessary? Again, your Bible has the answer, or rather answers because it gives multiple reasons for the resurrection.

After the resurrection, the first time Jesus appeared to the 11 remaining disciples, He proved to them that it was really Him. He showed them the nail marks in His hands and feet, then He ate some fish so they would know they were not seeing a ghost. He said, in Luke 24, beginning in verse 44:

“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead…

– Luke 24:44-46

So one reason Jesus had to rise from the dead was to fulfill the prophecies in the Old Testament scriptures. One of those prophecies is in Isaiah 53 which speaks of a Messiah who would suffer and die, but who would also live to see the results of His sufferings. Daniel 9:26 said the Messiah would die, but Daniel 7:13-14 said the Messiah would live to reign forever. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? But the resurrection proved both were true. When Jesus died and rose again, He proved He is that foretold Messiah. He’s the only one to fulfill all of the Old Testament Messianic prophecies. The prophecies of the resurrection also proved God knew all along Jesus would have to die and rise again. It was God’s intent from the beginning. Jesus’ death and resurrection was not Plan B. It was Plan A all along.

Not only did the resurrection prove Jesus is the Messiah, it also proved He is the Son of God. Paul’s letter to the Romans begins this way…

Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord.

– Romans 1:1-4

So the resurrection also proved Jesus is the Son of God. But what does that mean? To be called the Messiah means God has chosen Him to rule over all men forever. “Messiah” is Jesus’ office, His function. He is King of kings. But when Jesus is called “the Son of God”, it means He is of the same nature as God. He is God in human flesh. God with skin on. Emmanuel: God with us.

So the resurrection shows us who Jesus is. It proves to us He is who He claimed to be. He is the Messiah and the Son of God. But you might say, “That’s all well and good, but how does the resurrection benefit me personally?”

The church at Corinth had a lot of problems: there were different factions, there was immorality, and there was selfishness. Much of Paul’s first letter to them addressed these concerns. But there was also a doctrinal problem in that church. There were some who were saying there is no resurrection. Once a body dies, it stays dead. Paul took a whole chapter to address this fallacy:

Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. For as by a man came death, by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

– 1 Corinthians 15:12-22

We know Jesus died to save us. From this passage, we also know He rose from the dead to save us too. If Jesus didn’t rise from the grave, we would still be lost in our sins. We would be living under a false hope.

Romans 4:25 says Jesus was “raised for our justification.” Justification means to be declared righteous in God’s eyes. So Jesus was raised so God would see us as righteous – without sin. How does the resurrection do this? Isn’t the blood of Jesus enough? Yes and no. Jesus Christ’ resurrection proves He is our Savior. It is the proof that God has accepted who Jesus claimed to be and has accepted His sacrifice on our behalf to pay the penalty for our sins. It is God’s way of showing us that Jesus’ work on the cross has God’s stamp of approval.

Think of it like getting a legal document notarized. If you have some legal paperwork that needs to be signed in such as way as to be proof that you have signed it and not someone else, you take that paperwork to a notary public. After you provide proof that it is really you, both you and the notary sign the document. The resurrection is like God’s signature that Jesus is who He said He is, and that what He did is accepted by God.

Or think of it as a building inspector giving approval for a new building to be inhabited. The building may have been built perfectly to code and be completely safe, but it requires the inspector to give his approval before people can live in it. The resurrection is God’s approval of Christ’s completed work in saving us.

So both Jesus’ death and resurrection work hand-in-hand to save us. You can also see the necessity of the resurrection for our salvation in these verses:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.

– Romans 5:10

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead…

1 Peter 1:3

Our hope is a living hope. It’s not dead, for Jesus is our hope and He’s alive! Peter also wrote in verse 24 that God raised Jesus “from the dead and gave him glory, so that your faith and hope are in God.”

Because Jesus lives, we will also live, as Jesus Himself said:

“… Because I live, you also will live.”

– John 14:19

So our salvation is strongly tied to Christ’s resurrection. But the resurrection also affects us in other ways…

Think of all the things Jesus promised to be and do for us. If there is no resurrection, then He can’t be or do those things:

  • If Jesus did not rise from the dead, He could not have sent the Holy Spirit to be with us and fill us.
  • If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would be sheep without a Shepherd to protect and provide for us.
  • If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would not be the Bride of Christ. You can’t have a wedding if the Groom is dead.
  • If Jesus did not rise from the dead, the Church, which is the Body of Christ, would be only a lifeless, headless corpse.
  • If Jesus did not rise from the dead, we would have no place prepared for us in heaven. And He couldn’t come back for us to bring us to our new home.
  • And if Jesus did not rise from the dead, we wouldn’t have anybody to represent us before the Father. We would not have an eternal Advocate.

As Paul said back in 1 Corinthians, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” If that is true, we might as well close the church doors and live like the rest of the world.

But Jesus did rise from the dead. Chuck Colson, who before he was saved was involved in the Watergate scandal back in the 70’s, said, “I know the resurrection is a fact, and Watergate proved it to me. How? Because twelve men testified they had seen Jesus raised from the dead, then they proclaimed that truth for forty years, never once denying it. Every one was beaten, tortured, stoned and put in prison. They would not have endured that if it weren’t true. Watergate embroiled twelve of the most powerful men in the world – and they couldn’t keep a lie for three weeks. You’re telling me twelve apostles could keep a lie for forty years? Absolutely impossible.”

We serve a risen Savior, and on benefit we receive from that is that He always lives to intercede for us.

Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised— who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

– Romans 8:33-34

I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Jesus praying for me than the whole world praying for me! If I sin, I know only Jesus can intercede for me to the Father. If I have some need, I know His prayers always get answered “Yes!” He always seeks my own best interest.

Hebrews 7:25 also says Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”

So the resurrection of Jesus not only proves He is the Messiah and the Son of God, it’s also an essential part of our salvation and relationship with our Heavenly Father.

The Bible gives other reasons for the resurrection, but I want us to look at just one more that has important significance for you and me.

At one time, Paul was a zealous persecutor of the early Christians. But he had an eye-opening encounter with Jesus that changed him almost instantly into a defender of the faith. Paul, who was once what we might call an orthodox Jew today, became a missionary to the gentiles to tell them about Jesus. Once he was in Athens, and seeing all of the idols everywhere, he was disturbed. So every day he reasoned with the people in the Jewish synagogue and the public marketplace, speaking to them about Jesus Christ. Some of the Greek philosophers wanted to know more of what Paul was talking about, so they brought him to the Areopagus to explain himself.

So Paul, standing in the midst of the Areopagus, said: “Men of Athens, I perceive that in every way you are very religious. For as I passed along and observed the objects of your worship, I found also an altar with this inscription, ‘To the unknown god.’ What therefore you worship as unknown, this I proclaim to you.”

– Acts 17:22-23

And from there, Paul spoke to them of Yahweh, of Jehovah God, how He is not at all like the idols they worshiped. God created everything. He doesn’t live in temples. He doesn’t need anything from us (…but we’re entirely dependent on Him). God desires all men to know Him and that knowledge begins with repentance – the laying down of our animosity to God.

The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead.

– Acts 17:30-31

So here we have another reason for the resurrection – one that will eventually effect each one of us. Jesus was raised so He can judge the world in righteousness. This should concern you, because you and I must eventually appear before Him. There will be no exceptions. I will be judged and you will be judged. A description of what will happen during this judgment in Revelation chapter 20, beginning in verse 11:

Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. From his presence earth and sky fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Then another book was opened, which is the book of life. And the dead were judged by what was written in the books, according to what they had done. And the sea gave up the dead who were in it, Death and Hades gave up the dead who were in them, and they were judged, each one of them, according to what they had done. Then Death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

– Revelation 20:11-15

So your eternal destiny will be determined not by the things you did, but by the Book of Life, described elsewhere as “the book of life of the Lamb who was slain.” If your name is in that book, then it doesn’t matter how bad you were, you will not be condemned. Paul was saved, and he had previously murdered Christians. But if your name is not in that book, then you will be condemned no matter how much good you’ve done, because no amount of good works can outweigh the guilt of the sins you have committed. The question is, how do you get your name written in the Book of Life?

You can’t earn it. The only way your name will appear there will be if you trust in Jesus Christ alone to save you. He died on the cross so you would not have to pay the penalty for your sins. He took that penalty on Himself because He loves you and doesn’t want you to perish. John 3:16-18 says:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God.”

– John 3:16-18

Paul wrote in Romans 10:9 “…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”

All it takes is simple faith. You can express this faith to God in a simple prayer. It matters not the specific words of the prayer – it’s not the prayer itself that saves. It is Jesus who saves when you believe in Him. Just express your new belief and trust in Jesus to save you from your sins. You could say something like this:

God, I know I am a sinner. I’m so much a sinner that you sent your Son, Jesus Christ, to die a horrible death in my place, to take the penalty for my sin. I no longer want to live the way I’ve lived. I want to live to please You. I now put my trust completely in your Son, Jesus, knowing that by doing so, I will not be condemned, but will live and reign with Jesus forever. Thank you for saving me. Amen.

If you have put your faith in Jesus Christ, you now have eternal life, never to be separated from God. Jesus is no longer your Judge to condemn you, He ist your Advocate to intercede for you. And one day, you too will be resurrected just like Jesus to be with Him in glory.

New page: The Story Writer

I’m working on a powerful analogy to help explain many of the attributes of God’s nature in a way that can foster greater love for Him, trust in Him, and obedience to Him. It can also help us explain God to non-believers, young and old. I just finished the first part and it’s available for your perusal here. I have two more parts to organize and write, which may take some time as I don’t write fast. If this analogy has helped you, let me know!

The Gift Of Faith

He said to Jesus, “Lord, remember me when you come into your kingdom.”

– Luke 23:42

Here is a thief with great faith. This sinner admitted he deserved what he suffered. At the same time, he knew Jesus, suffering next to him, was innocent. He also recognized the Lordship of Jesus. He recognized Jesus had the compassion and authority to overlook his sins. And he knew that this death would not stop Jesus from returning in power and great glory to reward those who trust in Him.

What a contrast with the disciples, whose hope died when their Lord died (Luke 24:21). They didn’t believe when told He was risen from the dead. They didn’t remember what He had told them.

The disciples spent over three years with their Master, the thief only a few hours. Why did the thief believe when the disciples didn’t? Perhaps the disciples were too familiar with Jesus. Whatever the explanation we might have, the real reason is that God hadn’t granted that kind of faith to His disciples yet. Repentance and faith come only as a gift from God (Acts 5:31, 11:18, Ezekiel 36:26, 2 Timothy 2:25-26). Without this working of the power of God man, no one would come to salvation.

Keep praying for your lost friends and loved ones. Their best and only hope is that God would change their hearts.

Passing On God’s Mercy

And the king said, Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may shew the kindness of God to him? …

– 2 Samuel 9:3

David was a nobody, a tender of sheep, the youngest of eight children. But God raised him up to become the king of Israel. God showered grace and mercy on David throughout his life. With God’s help he defeated a lion and a bear. He gave him victory over Goliath and the Philistines. He protected him from the evil intentions of king Saul (and later his own son, Absalom). God’s presence was with David from the beginning.

David was most thankful to be a recipent of God’s mercy, and he wanted to show his appreciation to his Benefactor. David was uncomfortable living in a house of cedar while God’s dwelling was just an old tent. David decided to build a more permanent dwelling for God and he told Nathan the prophet his plan. But God wasn’t finished showing mercy to his servant. Shortly thereafter, God spoke to David through Nathan…

“… I took you from the sheep pen, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people, over Israel. I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you. I will make you a great name, like the name of the great ones who are in the earth…. I will cause you to rest from all your enemies. Moreover Yahweh tells you that Yahweh will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled, and you shall sleep with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who shall proceed out of your bowels, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men; but my loving kindness shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away before you. Your house and your kingdom shall be made sure forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”

– 2 Samuel 7:8-16

God promised even more blessings on David. He would make David’s name great and give him rest from all his enemies. And this blessing would continue on forever through his descendents that would sit on the throne after him. But God did not permit David to do the one thing he desired to show his appreciation. David would not get to build God a temple. Instead his son, Solomon, would build it, and God promised the loving kindness David had experienced would continue to be shown to his son.

How can you show your appreciation to God when He won’t permit you to show your appreciation the way you planned? David figured it out two chapters later.

When David took the throne, the house of his predecessor was no more. Saul had died in battle, and so had Jonathan his son. But remembering the favor God had shown to him, David desired to pass that undeserved favor on to a surviving member of Saul’s house.

… The king said, “Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God to him?” Ziba said to the king, “Jonathan has yet a son, who is lame of his feet.” The king said to him, “Where is he?” Ziba said to the king, “Behold, he is in the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, in Lo Debar.” Then king David sent, and fetched him out of the house of Machir the son of Ammiel, from Lo Debar.

Mephibosheth, the son of Jonathan, the son of Saul, came to David, and fell on his face, and showed respect. David said, “Mephibosheth.” He answered, “Behold, your servant!” David said to him, “Don’t be afraid; for I will surely show you kindness for Jonathan your father’s sake, and will restore to you all the land of Saul your father. You shall eat bread at my table continually.”

– 2 Samuel 9:1-7

David had found an outlet for showing his gratefulness to God. He passed on God’s mercy, His loving-kindness, to the grandson of the one who tried his hardest to kill him. (The word checed in verses 3 and 7 is the same word in 2 Samuel 7:15). David paid it forward.

What about the mercy God has shown to us through Jesus Christ? Are we passing it on?

On Being Saved

I believe God at times grants the temporal requests of unbelievers, just as Jesus healed all those who came to Him. But just because God helps unbelievers does not mean they have a close, saving relationship with God. They are still spiritually dead, lost in sin, and condemned before God. They may feel they have a spiritual connection with God, but that connection is a lie. (See Matthew 7:22-23.)

A true spiritual relationship with God requires two prerequisite things on our part, and two saving things on God’s part: Our part consists of:

* Repentance: We must repent of our sin. This is not a requirement to live a perfectly sinless life, for that is impossible. It is a heart thing: we must lay down our animosity to God as He has revealed Himself, and what He has already declared about our state of relationship with Him. (Acts 3:19)

* Faith: We must trust in Jesus Christ alone to save us, for we cannot save ourselves. (John 3:16, Acts 4:12)

In response to these two things, God does the following:

* Forgives: God forgives our sins, solely on the basis of Jesus Christ’s atoning sacrifice on the cross. Apart from what Jesus Christ did, God cannot forgive us and remain just and holy. Forgiveness always has a cost, and God paid that cost. (1 John 1:9)

* Regenerates: God grants us new life through His Holy Spirit so we are no longer spiritually dead. Apart from this, any feeling of spiritual well-being is a lie. (Titus 3:4-5)

All of this is exclusive to any other means of attaining a relationship with God. In other words, there is no alternative way to a true relationship with God (John 14:6). Guilt must be dealt with.

Guilt has an objective side and a subjective side. Subjective guilt is what we feel when we know we’ve done something wrong. Objective guilt is a legal state of being. The world is concerned with eliminating guilt feelings. This can be done through various means, including confession of past wrongs. But this does not eliminate the legal status of being guilty. I cannot go to court as a defendant and tell the judge, “But I don’t feel guilty!”. Objective (legal) guilt must be dealt with first before subjective guilt. The only way to get rid of legal guilt is through the steps shown above.

“Why did Noah curse Canaan?”

And Noah began to be a husbandman, and planted a vineyard. And he drank of the wine, and was drunken, and he uncovered himself in his tent. And Ham the father of Canaan saw the nakedness of his father, and told his two brethren outside. And Shem and Japheth took the upper garment and both laid it upon their shoulders, and went backwards, and covered the nakedness of their father. And their faces were turned away, that they saw not their father’s nakedness. And Noah awoke from his wine, and learned what his youngest son had done to him. And he said, Cursed be Canaan; Let him be a bondman of bondmen to his brethren.

– Genesis 9:20-25

On reading this passage, you may have asked yourself why one of Ham’s sons paid the price for Ham’s behavior. That doesn’t seem fair. Ham had three other sons (Genesis 10:6), and they weren’t cursed. Why curse only one of his sons? Or why not just curse Ham? To answer this question, we must look at the passage for some subtle (to us) details.

Genealogies make up a significant part of Genesis and other parts of the Bible. The main focus of the Old Testament genealogies is to trace the Messiah’s lineage through the ages. But there are details in these genealogies that provide clues for the answer to our question. The main clue is the order in which names of descendants are listed. Sons are almost always listed in birth order. Cain was born before Abel (Genesis 4:1-2), therefore we say “Cain and Abel”, not “Abel and Cain”. Judah was the tribe of the kings of Israel, but Judah was never listed first. Reuben was first because he was the first-born, followed by Simeon and Levi. The tribes of Israel are usually listed in birth order. The only significant exceptions to this are Jacob over Esau, and Ephraim over Manasseh, both of which were given the birthright. In that case, the more honored sometimes moves up in the lists.

Noah’s sons are listed in Genesis 5:32, 6:10, 7:13, 9:18, and 10:1 as “Shem, Ham, and Japheth”, which means Shem was the first-born, followed by Ham, then Japheth. 1 But Genesis 9:24 speaks of what “his youngest son” had done. Noah’s youngest son was Japheth, and he did good along with Shem. So this passage is not speaking of Noah’s youngest son.

But when Ham’s sons are listed in Genesis 10:6, Canaan is last. He was Ham’s youngest son. Therefore when we read that Noah learned what “his youngest son” had done to him, it must be read as what Ham’s youngest son had done, not Noah’s youngest son.

What did Canaan do to Noah? The scriptures do not say. Perhaps it was too shameful to mention. But knowing the moral character of the descendants of Canaan (especially seen in the stories of Sodom and Gomorrah), we can assume it was much worse than what Ham did. Ham only looked, then told his brothers what he had seen. Canaan likely heard about Noah from his father, and then did something to abuse his grandfather before he sobered up.

One more point: If Ham really were Noah’s youngest son, why was he moved ahead of Japheth in the lists of Noah’s sons. I can see him being moved to the least honorable position at the end of the list, but not into a more honorable position ahead of Japheth.


  1. Some translations of Genesis 10:21 say that Japheth was the oldest, but I believe this to be a mistranslation. The translator notes for the NET Bible say: “Some translations render Japheth as the older brother, understanding the adjective haggadol (“older”) as modifying Japheth. However, in Hebrew when a masculine singular definite attributive adjective follows the sequence masculine singular construct noun plus proper name, the adjective invariably modifies the noun in construct, not the proper name. Such is the case here. See Deut 11:7; Judg 1:13; 2:7; 3:9; 9:5; 2 Kgs 15:35; 2 Chr 27:3; Neh 3:30; Jer 13:9; 36:10; Ezek 10:19; 11:1.” Those who believe Japheth was the oldest say that Shem was listed first because he was in the line of the Messiah. But if that were the case, why wasn’t Judah also listed first in the genealogies of the tribes of Israel?

Who Is The Israel Of God? – Part 5

So why all the fuss over who Israel is today? Isn’t this just quibbling over a minor doctrinal understanding? Does it really make any difference what position you take?

I said at the beginning that the doctrine of supersessionism has profoundly affected much of the church’s view of the Jews, end-times prophecy, and theology. Here are some of the effects of the Church taking on itself the role of the new Israel:

  • When the Church called itself the new Israel, it started following the patterns of Israel’s worship in the Old Testament. Israel was divided into twelve tribes, of which only one had rights to temple service, of which only a part had the priesthood, of which only one was the high priest. Therefore the Church was also separated into clergy and laity, with the clergy divided into a hierarchy as well. Instead of the priesthood of all believers, only a few were declared priests, and the laity had to go through them to get to God. The clergy became the mediator instead of Jesus Christ 1. But the Church was never intended to be composed of a hierarchy of believers. Every one of us is a priest (1 Peter 2:5-9, Revelation 1:6, 5:10). Every one of use has direct access to God through One Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5). Every one of us has the Holy Spirit to guide and teach us.
  • The early church had two ‘rituals’: water baptism, and the Lord’s Supper. But later the Church added a lot more trappings to its worship, again modeled after the temple service. The Old Covenant priests had special clothing, so the clergy took on special clothing. Incense was used in the temple, so incense was used in the Church. The temple and it’s furnishing were sanctified as holy, so Church buildings and their contents were considered holy.
  • In the early church, all believers were equal, even though they had different roles. The leaders humbly served the church (Matthew 20:25-28, 23:8-12, Mark 9:35, 2 Corinthians 1:24, 1 Peter 5:3). And all believers were to submit to the secular authorities (Romans 13:1-7, 1 Peter 2:13-17). But just as the Old Covenant high priest (and later the king) was the highest human authority in Israel, so the Church took on itself authority, leading to magisterial religion (the joining of church and state), and the rule of might.
  • The apostles taught believers are not of this world. We are strangers and pilgrims, living in a foreign land, waiting for a heavenly city (1 Peter 2:11, Hebrews 11:13). But as the Church gained power, it started to treat this world as its own. It sought political conquests and ruled by force. (Perhaps it applied the prophecy of Micah 4:13 to itself.) This led to the Crusades, forced conversions, persecution of Jews, Christians, and other peoples, and other ills that run completely against the teaching of Jesus and the apostles, and the practice of the early church.

An auto-de-fé in Plaza Mayor, Madrid, 1680.

These are just some of the effects of replacement theology over the ages. If there is one thing we should learn from this, it is this: Never underestimate the influence of a small doctrinal deviation. I believe most of the blame for the evils done by the established Church can be traced back to replacement theology.

Another effect of replacement theology is the interpretation of most of the events of Revelation as past history. Revelation 7:4ff and 14:1,3 say the twelve tribes of Israel will be present during the time of the “Great Tribulation”. This was interpreted by supercessionists to mean Christians will be present during that time. Replacement theology argues that since Christians are appointed to suffer much tribulation, and Revelation has a lot of suffering in it, Christians are the ones doing the suffering in that book. But those who hold this view ignore the distinction between the suffering of satanic persecution and the suffering of the wrath of God.

In the book of Revelation, “tribulation” is only used to describe Christian sufferings. It is never used of the suffering of mankind in general during the time of the seal, trumpet, and bowl judgments. During that time a different word is used: wrath. Christians are appointed to suffer the tribulation of satanic persecution, but we are not appointed to suffer the wrath of God:

Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we will be saved from God’s wrath through him.

– Romans 5:9

…and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who delivers us from the wrath to come.

– 1 Thessalonians 1:10

For if God didn’t spare angels when they sinned, but cast them down to Tartarus, and committed them to pits of darkness, to be reserved for judgment; and didn’t spare the ancient world, but preserved Noah with seven others, a preacher of righteousness, when he brought a flood on the world of the ungodly; and turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah into ashes, condemned them to destruction, having made them an example to those who would live ungodly; and delivered righteous Lot, who was very distressed by the lustful life of the wicked (for that righteous man dwelling among them, was tormented in his righteous soul from day to day with seeing and hearing lawless deeds): the Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment;

– 2 Peter 2:4-9

I don’t believe Christians will be present during the time of God’s wrath on earth 2. Before the trumpet and bowl judgments, we see all Christians present in heaven (Revelation 7:9). They come from every nation, tribe, people, and language. 3 Just as God rescued Noah and Lot from the coming wrath, He will rescue us.

For most of church history, end-times prophecy was almost universally interpreted from a historist viewpoint, meaning the majority of prophesies were interpreted to be about various events that had already happened in Church history. If you read commentaries on Revelation from more than 100 years ago, such as that of Albert Barnes or John Gill, you’ll see they view much of the book of Revelation as symbolically describing events in the past, such as events in Roman history, the rise and influence of Roman Catholicism and Islam, and the Reformation. For example, here is Albert Barnes’ take on the command to measure the temple of God in Revelation 11:1:

“This, we have seen, was a direction to take an estimate of what constituted the true church; the very work which it was necessary to do in the Reformation, for this was the first point which was to be settled, whether the papacy was the true church or was the antichrist.”

Here is John Gill on the locusts of Revelation 9:

“… The western locusts are the clergy of the church of Rome, cardinals, bishops, priests, monks, and friars, of every order; these were not instituted by Christ, but rose out of the bottomless pit … The eastern locusts are the Saracens [Arabs and Muslims], and who are chiefly designed; and who were to harass and distress the eastern empire, and prepare for its ruin, which is brought on under the next trumpet by the Turks…”

Prophetic numbers were interpreted inexactly. Here is Gill on on the “five months” of Revelation 9:5:

“The time that the locusts should torment men, which is “five months”, seems not to design any determinate time; but only that seeing five months is the time that locusts live, and are in their strength and power, even the five, hottest months in the year, from April to September…”

And here is Barnes again on the number 144,000 mentioned in Revelation 7:4:

“If literal, it is necessary to suppose that this refers to the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. But on every supposition this is absurd. Ten of their tribes had been long before carried away, and the distinction of the tribes was lost, no more to be recovered, and the Hebrew people never have been, since the time of John, in circumstances to which the description here could be applicable. These considerations make it clear that the description here is symbolical.”

If the ten tribes have really been lost, his argument may be valid. But we’ve seen that they haven’t been lost. They are mixed together within today’s Jews, and even if the Jews of today can’t tell which tribe they belong to, God knows. Perhaps through future genetic research, we’ll be able to distinguish between the tribes. Albert’s argument that the Jews have never been in such circumstances is only a problem if you view Revelation as past history.

Barnes and Gill go into great detail to convince their readers that much of Revelation has already happened. But even though many or most of these prophesies have supposedly been fulfilled long ago, there is little agreement among commentators on how they were fulfilled. For example, the two witnesses of Revelation 11:3 have been said to be Zerubbabel and Joshua (Zechariah 4:3,11,14), the churches at Smyrna and Philadelphia (Revelation 2:8-11, 3:7-13), Elijah and Moses, Enoch and Elijah, Peter and Paul, or just the gospel churches in general. All of these interpretations are very subjective, which makes it very difficult to convince someone, especially a non-believer, that the prophecy has been fulfilled. Adam Clarke wrote of this lack of agreement:

“This is extremely obscure; the conjectures of interpreters are as unsatisfactory as they are endless on this point. … Those who wish to be amused or bewildered, may have recourse both to ancients and moderns on this subject.”

Contrast this with fulfillments recorded in the Bible. We are all agreed that when Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, it was a fulfillment of Isaiah 7:14. We are all agreed that when Jesus was born in Bethlehem, it was a fulfillment of Micah 5:2. We all believe when Jesus suffered for us to save us from our sins, it was a fulfillment of Isaiah 53. We are also agreed about the fulfillments of many non-messianic prophesies. For example, when God delivered Israel from Egypt, we know it was a fulfillment of Genesis 15:13-16. This shows that literal fulfillment of biblical prophecy is the norm. The subjective interpretation of the historists does not fit the pattern.

Where the Bible records the primary fulfillment of a prophecy, that fulfillment was literal. There may have been earlier symbolic fulfillment, but eventually it happened in history exactly as described. And just like today, people in Bible times usually did not expect there to be a literal fulfillment…

  • In 2 Kings 7, Samaria was suffering in a great famine because it was beseiged by the Syrian army. Elisha said the next day food would be available in plenty, but a Samaritan captain disbelieved it. Yet it literally happened when God caused the Syrians to flee, leaving their provisions for some lepers to find. The captain was trampled to death by the starving people as they rushed out the gate to get to the food.
  • Daniel 9:25-26 describes the time of the first coming of the Messiah, and it happened literally as foretold. Sixty-nine “sevens” (483 years) after the decree to rebuild Jerusalem, Jesus publicly declared His Messiahship by entering the city, riding on a the foal of a donkey. But the majority of the people did not believe.
  • Isaiah 7:14 had a partial symbolic fulfillment that Ahaz could see when the name ‘Emmanuel’ was given to newborns. Because there was a symbolic fulfillment, nobody expected a literal virgin to conceive and give birth to a son who was God with us.
  • Jesus predicted His death and resurrection many times (such as in Mark 8:31). But His disciples did not believe it would literally happen. If they had believed, would have stationed themselves by the tomb, waiting for their Savior to rise from the dead. It took the appearance of the resurrected Christ for them to believe.
  • God told Noah He would destroy the earth with a flood, and it literally happened. Perhaps before it did, those who heard the prophecy thought it would be a symbolic fulfillment, if they believed it at all.
  • For hundreds of years, many Christians did not expect Israel to be literally restored to her homeland. But it happened in 1948.

God is glorified when He fulfills His promises literally. When these and other prophesies were fulfilled, even non-believers could witness and recognize their fulfillments. If the fulfillments are not meant to be literal, the prophesies could have any number of interpretations. And if Christians cannot agree on how a prophecy was fulfilled, how could non-believers recognize the fulfillment?

The historist view of interpreting prophecy in the book of Revelation doesn’t hold water. It doesn’t match the character of fulfillments in the Bible. If prophecy was fulfilled literally back then, it will be in the future. If the first 69 “weeks” of Daniel 9 were precisely fulfilled, the last week will be as well. Yes, prophecy contains symbolism, and there have been events in recorded history that are similar to and foreshadow those prophesied, but I believe Revelation describes (primarily) future events on earth as they will literally happen.

Here are some other problems with the historist approach:

  1. It doesn’t take into account events that happen throughout the whole world, but only those events in the regions the interpreter is familiar with. Historists tend to interpret the stage of events to take place in areas of the old Roman Empire. But the Bible speaks of end-times events that affect the whole globe.
  2. It turns the wrath of God on all of mankind into the wrath of God on only some of mankind (and many times that on the Church). The locusts of Revelation 9 are interpreted to be a human army (the Muslims and Arabs). But Revelation says God’s wrath will be on all men (including the Muslims and Arabs), not just some.
  3. It interprets prophesies in a way similar to the cults. The Watchtower organization said Jesus returned in 1914, but it was not a literal (i.e. visible) return.
  4. It confuses the meaning of the word “Israel”. In any given instance, how do you know it it means the descendants of Jacob or the Church? Does the word mean two different things in Romans 11:25-26? The interpreter can select the meaning based on what conveniently fits his presuppositions.
  5. It ignores scripture that says God has a plan for national Israel in the last days.

The effects of non-literal prophecy fulfillment goes beyond the area of prophecy. It affects doctrinal understanding in multiple areas of scripture. If you don’t interpret the prophesies literally, you end up guessing their meanings. Those guesses (that are likely wrong) then affect your understanding of other parts of the Bible as well. It also affects your actions. For example, believing they were a part of the new Israel, the Puritans tried to set up a New Zion in America.

With the restoration of national Israel in 1948, more people have seen the problems with replacement theology. God still does exactly what He said He was going to do. We should take Him at His word.

Some benefits of abandoning Replacement Theology:

  1. Prophecy becomes much easier to understand. The timeline of events is not so mixed up. There’s no need to rely on the spiritual equivalent of ‘epicycles’.
  2. No confusion in trying to identify whether “Israel” means Israel or the Church.
  3. Interpretations of prophesies no longer subjective that can’t be proved when they occur.
  4. Avoids the contradiction in Revelation of saying the Church is subject to God’s wrath when it says elsewhere we are not.


  1. This happened in the 3rd century. See http://www.auburn.edu/~allenkc/openhse/clergy.html
  2. I think the Great Tribulation would better be called the Great Wrath to avoid confusion with Christian tribulation.
  3. There are still at least 100 unreached people groups in the world, so this is still in the future.

Who Is The Israel Of God? – Part 4

We’ve seen the evidence to know God is not done with Israel. Now let’s look at the scriptures used to promote replacement theology to see how they’ve been misinterpreted.

I saw, when, for this very cause that backsliding Israel had committed adultery, I had put her away and given her a bill of divorce, …

– Jeremiah 3:8

Taken by itself, this verse appears to say that God was done with the northern ten tribes of Israel. Once you’re divorced, you’ve cut all ties with your spouse. However, God did not cut all ties…

“They say, ‘If a man puts away his wife, and she goes from him, and become another man’s, will he return to her again?’ Wouldn’t that land be greatly polluted? But you have played the prostitute with many lovers; yet return again to me,” says Yahweh.

– Jeremiah 3:1

Yahweh said to me, “Backsliding Israel has shown herself more righteous than treacherous Judah. Go, and proclaim these words toward the north, and say, ‘Return, you backsliding Israel,’ says Yahweh; ‘I will not look in anger on you; for I am merciful,’ says Yahweh. ‘I will not keep anger forever. Only acknowledge your iniquity, that you have transgressed against Yahweh your God, and have scattered your ways to the strangers under every green tree, and you have not obeyed my voice,’ says Yahweh.” “Return, backsliding children,” says Yahweh; “for I am a husband to you. …

– Jeremiah 3:11-14

Notice even though God had given a certificate of divorce, He still called Himself a husband to Israel. This was an entirely one-sided divorce. Israel was the one who wanted a divorce, not God.

But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. Neither, because they are Abraham’s seed, are they all children. But, “In Isaac will your seed be called.” That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as a seed.

– Romans 9:6-8

Replacement theologians see this passage as speaking of Gentile believers. But the key to this and some of the other passages that follow is to understand Paul is speaking of a subset, a remnant, of the descendents of Jacob, not a superset where Gentiles are added to Israel. The word “of” in this context means those who are descended from. Those who are “of Israel” is another way of refering to those who are descended from Jacob.

Just as not all are Israel who are physically descended from Abraham, so not all are Israel who are physically descended from Jacob. The children of the flesh are the natural offspring of Jacob, and the children of the promise are a subset of the children of Jacob. 1

Gentile believers are grafted into God’s people through Christ, not Jacob. Jesus, who is the Vine (John 15:1), who is the true Israel (Isaiah 49:3), who existed before Abraham and Jacob (John 8:58), is the root (Revelation 5:5), and we partake of the promises through Him. The only patriarch we have ties to is Abraham, the father of faith (Romans 4:16, Galatians 3:7-8, 14, 29). The blessings on the nations come through him. 2

Peter said in Acts 15, Gentile believers don’t have to become Jews (Israelites) to be saved, therefore Gentile believers are not part of Israel.

For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; but he is a Jew who is one inwardly, and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit not in the letter; whose praise is not from men, but from God.

– Romans 2:28-29

Again, Paul is speaking of the righteous subset of national Israel, the children of the promise. A true Jew is one who is not merely physically circumcised, but is circumcised in heart (Deuteronomy 10:16, 30:6, Jeremiah 4:4). Nathanael, for example, was a true Israelite who received praise from God (John 1:47).

As many as walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on God’s Israel.

– Galatians 6:16

To understand this verse, you must know to whom Paul is speaking. The letter to the Galatians was written to the believing Gentiles of that church who were under pressure from the legalists to observe Jewish customs. In the immediate context, the rule he refers to is his instruction not to be circumcised (Galatians 6:11-15, 5:2). On those who walk by this rule, he wishes peace and mercy.

“God’s Israel” is a separate group of people within the Galatian church. They are not the Gentiles. They are the saved Jews of the Galatian church who, like Paul himself, were already circumcised, and therefore had no need to walk by that rule.

While there is no spiritual difference between believing Jews and Gentiles, there still remains earthly distinctions. Otherwise Paul would not have called Peter a Jew (Galatians 2:14), nor would he have declared himself to be of the tribe of Benjamin (Romans 11:1).

Ruins of the synagogue courtyard at Sardis

“I know … the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. … Behold, I give of the synagogue of Satan, of those who say they are Jews, and they are not, but lie. …

– Revelation 2:9, 3:9

These verses are used to teach that the Jews are the “synagogue of Satan”, but they really speak of the other subset of Israel: those who don’t believe. Jesus said those who didn’t believe in Him had Satan as father (John 8:44-45). 3 But there were some Jews who did believe, such as the disciples. They were not of the synagogue of Satan. This is not a blanket statement about all Jews. And even if it was, it has nothing to do with their status before God as His chosen people.

As he says also in Hosea, “I will call them ‘my people,’ which were not my people; and her ‘beloved,’ who was not beloved.”

– Romans 9:25

This is another verse that supersessionists only see as a clear proof of their theology. The Gentile believers were not God’s people, and now they are. But if you read Hosea along with this section of Romans, you will see it has nothing to do with Gentiles. God told Hosea to marry a prostitute to show in a symbolic way God’s relationship with His adulterous people. His wife bore some children. In the first chapter, God told Hosea to give a name to one of his children:

He said, “Call his name Lo-Ammi; for you are not my people, and I will not be yours…

– Hosea 1:9

This child symbolized God’s rejection of His people. But this rejection would not be permanent, for immediately after God said:

…Yet the number of the children of Israel will be as the sand of the sea, which can’t be measured nor numbered; and it will come to pass that, in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’

– Hosea 1:10

This must apply to Israel, the same people God declared were “not my people” in the previous verse. (See also Zechariah 10:6.) While it is true that the Gentiles were not God’s people, this was spoken to Israel, so these promises of restoration must apply to them. Paul gets his quote from a verse in the next chapter:

…and I will have mercy on her who had not obtained mercy; and I will tell those who were not my people, ‘You are my people;’ and they will say, ‘My God!'”

– Hosea 2:23

Again, this must refer to the same people spoken about in Hosea 1:9-11. It must refer to national Israel. Therefore, Paul’s quote in Romans 9:25 is about the descendents of Jacob, not the Gentiles. Yes, a remnant of both the Gentiles and the Jews are vessels of mercy (verse 24), but Paul’s focus in chapters 9 through 11 is national Israel. Those who were “Not My People” would be restored, not replaced. 4

Next, we will look at the effects of Replacement Theology on the Church.


  1. If Paul intended to say Gentiles were added to Israel, he would have written, “Not all are of Israel that are Israel.
  2. Although God did speak of the blessing He would bring on the nations, He did not make promises to the Gentiles. He made them to Israel, and they are theirs (Romans 9:3-5).
  3. Before he was a believer, Paul was of the synagogue of Satan.
  4. Where the Gentiles are mentioned in this section, there is no statement that they are part of Israel. Gentile believers share in the promises, but are nowhere called a part of Israel.

Who Is The Israel Of God? – Part 3

Fig tree

Now let’s see what the New Testament says about the people of Israel. All of the epistles were written after Jesus was rejected by His people. Yet, even that was not enough for God to reject them. Paul writes in his epistle to the Romans:

I ask then, did God reject his people? May it never be! For I also am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God didn’t reject his people, which he foreknew. … Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. … I ask then, did they stumble that they might fall? May it never be! But by their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, to provoke them to jealousy. Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? … For if the rejection of them is the reconciling of the world, what would their acceptance be, but life from the dead? .. . For I don’t desire you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you won’t be wise in your own conceits, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, and so all Israel will be saved. Even as it is written, “There will come out of Zion the Deliverer, and he will turn away ungodliness from Jacob.

– Romans 11:1-2, 5, 11-12, 15, 25-26

Paul confidently says God did not reject His people which He foreknew. God knew from the beginning they would reject Him. But Paul looked forward to the day when all of Israel would repent and turn back to God. This will not happen until after the last Gentile is saved (when the “fullness of the Gentiles” comes in), and then they will come to faith. In the meantime, Israel is experiencing a temporary ‘partial hardening’ that makes them enemies of the gospel to this day… yet they are still beloved of God:

Concerning the Good News, they are enemies for your sake. But concerning the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sake. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

– Romans 11:28-29

Just as God loved us while we were still His enemies, God loves Israel while they are His enemies. And because God does not revoke His calling, He will fulfill His promises to the seed of Jacob.

We can see Paul had great hope for his people. His desire and prayer for all of Israel was that they would be saved (Romans 10:1). If Paul believed God had abandoned Israel, he would not have said this.

What about the other disciples? What did they believe?

Therefore, when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, are you now restoring the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them, “It isn’t for you to know times or seasons which the Father has set within his own authority.

– Acts 1:6-7

The early disciples also believed God had not abandoned His people. They expected their earthly kingdom to be restored in their lifetime. Jesus did not respond to their question, “No, you misunderstand. Israel shall never be restored.” Instead He said, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” Israel would be restored… eventually.

Nathanael called Jesus the King of Israel (John 1:49), not just the king of Judah. The people who welcomed Jesus into Jerusalem also called Jesus the King of Israel (John 12:13). These people were recalling what the Old Testament prophesies said about the Messiah: how He would rule over all of Israel, not just one tribe.

…Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his companions; and I will put them with it, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in my hand. … Say to them, Thus says the Lord Yahweh: Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the nations, where they are gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: and I will make them one nation in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all; and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all; … My servant David shall be king over them; and they all shall have one shepherd: they shall also walk in my ordinances, and observe my statutes, and do them…. and David my servant shall be their prince for ever.

– Ezekiel 37:15-26

Behold, the days come, says Yahweh, that I will raise to David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name by which he shall be called: Yahweh our righteousness.

– Jeremiah 23:6

The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah 31 in foretelling of a new covenant God would make with Israel and Judah (Hebrews 8:7-13). God would bring all of Israel (some of every tribe) into this covenant. God can only fulfill this promise to the same people to whom it was made.

If, as supersessionism says, the Church has replaced Israel, what then has happened to the original Israel? Supposedly, they have been abandoned by God. This is where we get the myth of the ten lost tribes: After the Assyrians conquered them, the tribes of Reuben, Simeon, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, Asher, Issachar, Zebulun, Manasseh and Ephraim were cast out of the land and scattered throughout the world. But we can see from the New Testament that this is not so. Jesus told His disciples to go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 10:6). Jesus was not speaking of one tribe, but all of them. The priests in New Testament times were of the tribe of Levi. Anna the prophetess (Luke 2:36) was of the tribe of Asher. If her tribe was not lost, there is no need to believe the others were either. 1

One more thing to think about: During the census in Luke 2:1ff, everyone had to go to their city to be registered. Joseph travelled from Nazareth to Bethlehem because he was of the tribe of Judah through David. If the ten tribes were gone, did all of the Jews living in the northern lands travel south to Judah and Benjamin, leaving their property unprotected?

I think it quite possible that most of the 12 disciples, having lived in the area of Galilee, were descendants of one or more of the northern ten tribes. The prophecy in Isaiah 9:1-2 speaks of Jesus’ ministry in the land of Zebulun and Naphtali, implying that would still be their tribal lands when the prophecy was fulfilled.

So, both the old and new testaments declare God has not abandoned Israel. He still has a plan for His chosen people. But it is not enough to have clear proof-texts for this. We must also look at the scriptures supercessionist claim say otherwise. Do they really say God is done with Israel? Do they contradict what we’ve already seen? This is what we will look at next.


  1. Remember when Elijah complained to God that he was the only one who had remained faithful to God? But God told him there was still a remnant of 7000 men in the northern kingdom that had not bent the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:18). This remnant was also present during king Asa’s reign (2 Chronicles 15:9), and during king Hezekiah’s reign (2 Chronicles 30). God has always preserved a remnant.

Who Is The Israel Of God? – Part 2

One of the most important foundations of Bible interpretation is: No scripture contradicts other scripture. If it’s all inspired by God, it must all agree with itself. This means you cannot set one set of verses against another set of verses to see which wins out because all of the Bible agrees with itself. If one passage seems to contradict another passage, you can be sure you have a wrong understanding of one or both passages. If something does not make sense, you must be open to the possibility that a doctrine you believe in may be wrong. It’s not enough to have select proof-texts to support what you believe. You must look at all of scripture to determine if the interpretation of the proof-texts is correct. If one text appears to teach the opposite view of another, then a deeper study is in order to resolve the apparent conflict. With that in mind, lets see what the Bible says about the nation of Israel in relation to this topic.

I believe the key to identifying who Israel is in the end-times can be found in the book of Deuteronomy. While this is not a prophetic book, it contains the Bible’s most complete prophetic summary of the history of Israel up to modern times.

Deuteronomy 28 begins with what God would do to Israel if they obeyed Him. He said He would bless them greatly. He would prosper them and give them victory against their enemies. This was a conditional promise, and it seemed for a while that it would never be fulfilled. But God fulfilled it all by Solomon’s time (1 Kings 8:56). (By the way, I have a theory that all of God’s promises, even the conditional ones, will eventually be fulfilled at some point in time to prove God is willing and able to perform them—to prove they are not just empty promises.)

But Israel’s history was one primarily marked by disobedience, and the remainder of this chapter describes what God would do to them if they disobeyed Him and refused to repent. Things would get bad, then go to worse.

  • Verse 25 predicted Israel’s repeated defeats before their enemies in the book of Judges.
  • Verses 21, 22, 27-29, and 35 predicted the later environmental disasters and deadly diseases (as fulfilled in 2 Samuel 24:15 for example).
  • Verse 53 predicted the cannibalism of 2 Kings 6:24-29 and Lamentations 4:10.
  • Even the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities were foretold in verses 48 to 52.

And if, after all these calamities, Israel continued to resist God, God promised in verses 63 to 67 to scatter His people among the nations:

It shall happen that as Yahweh rejoiced over you to do you good, and to multiply you, so Yahweh will rejoice over you to cause you to perish, and to destroy you; and you shall be plucked from off the land where you go in to possess it. Yahweh will scatter you among all peoples, from the one end of the earth even to the other end of the earth; …

– Deuteronomy 28:63-64

This happened immediately after Titus conquered Jerusalem in 70 A.D, which led to the Jews being scattered around the world.

The Siege and Destruction of Jerusalem, by David Roberts (1850).

It is very important to recognize that Israel’s stubborn refusal to submit to God was not a surprise to Him. He knew it would happen and told them in advance what He would do. He even said in verse 68 He would bring His people back into Egypt to be sold as slaves, yet no one would buy them. This was also fulfilled after the fall of Jerusalem. Titus deported the surviving Jews to Egypt for slaves, but people didn’t buy them because they already had too many 1.

It seems by this point God was done with Israel, and many theologians have taught that as fact. But two chapters later Israel’s prophetic history continues:

It shall happen, when all these things have come on you, the blessing and the curse, which I have set before you, and you shall call them to mind among all the nations, where Yahweh your God has driven you, and shall return to Yahweh your God, and shall obey his voice according to all that I command you this day, you and your children, with all your heart, and with all your soul; that then Yahweh your God will turn your captivity, and have compassion on you, and will return and gather you from all the peoples, where Yahweh your God has scattered you. If your outcasts are in the uttermost parts of the heavens, from there will Yahweh your God gather you, and from there he will bring you back: and Yahweh your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed, and you shall possess it; and he will do you good, and multiply you above your fathers. Yahweh your God will circumcise your heart, and the heart of your seed, to love Yahweh your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, that you may live.

– Deuteronomy 30:1-6

Notice who this prophecy was given to:

  • …when all these things have come on you.” The promise will happen to the same people who experienced the blessing and curse of chapter 28.
  • …according to all that I command you this day…” The promise will happen to the same people God had commanded through Moses that day.
  • … and gather you from all the peoples, where Yahweh your God has scattered you…” The promise will happen to the same people God had driven out of the land and scattered among all the nations. This must be Israel, for it makes no sense to say the Gentiles were scattered among the Gentiles, or God will restore the Gentiles to their land.
  • …your God will bring you into the land which your fathers possessed…” This promise will happen to a particular group of people whose ancestors had possessed a particular land. This cannot refer to the Church which never had a land to be scattered from. The church consists of believers who live as strangers and pilgrims on earth.

So this passage can only apply to the descendents of Jacob, and it must occur after all of the blessings and curses of chapter 28 were completed. Even though Israel was scattered to the four winds, God would remember them and eventually bring them back to live in the land He gave them.

This promised regathering of Israel is repeated throughout the Old Testament…

He will set up a banner for the nations, and will assemble the outcasts of Israel, and gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth.

– Isaiah 11:12

Just as in the Deuteronomy 30 prophecy, Israel is regathered from all around the world. This is not a return from a regional Assyrian or Babylonian captivity. It is a global return. This prophecy was never fulfilled in Bible times, but it has happened and is happening in our time.

Yet the number of the children of Israel will be as the sand of the sea, which can’t be measured nor numbered; and it will come to pass that, in the place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ they will be called ‘sons of the living God.’ The children of Judah and the children of Israel will be gathered together, and they will appoint themselves one head, and will go up from the land; …

– Hosea 1:10-11

Here God informs us of His plan to bring, not only the descendants of the tribe of Judah back together, but also the other tribes of Israel. In verse 9, God called Israel “not my people.” But at some point in the future, the same people God said this to will be called “sons of the living God.” They will unite under one ruler that they themselves have appointed. This is also a prophecy never fulfilled in Bible times.

and I will multiply men on you, all the house of Israel, even all of it; and the cities shall be inhabited, and the waste places shall be built; and I will multiply on you man and animal; and they shall increase and be fruitful; and I will cause you to be inhabited after your former estate, and will do better [to you] than at your beginnings: and you shall know that I am Yahweh. Yes, I will cause men to walk on you, even my people Israel; and they shall possess you, and you shall be their inheritance, and you shall no more henceforth bereave them of children.

– Ezekiel 36:10-12

This prophecy, spoken in a symbolic way to the holy land, says the people of Israel will never again be scattered once God brings them back into the land. We know this didn’t happen in Bible times because Israel departed from the land in 70 A.D.. Therefore this prophecy must be for a later time, and it must occur to the people to whom it was written: the whole house of Israel.

There are many other scriptures that show God is not done with the descendants of Jacob. If you think these promises now apply to the church, you must ask yourself if God reneges on His promises. If I promise to give you $1000, but I give the money to someone else instead, have I kept my promise? Of course not! In the same way, God also does not make promises to one person or group of people, then fulfill it to a different person or group of people. God made many promises to Israel, and He will fulfill them to the same Israel. God always means what He says! 2

Supersessionists believe God abandoned the descendants of Jacob because they rejected their Messiah. Israel blew their last chance to be reconciled to God. But we can see from Deuteronomy 28 and other passages that God knew they would reject Him. And this divine knowledge was part of His plan to save us:

He was despised, and rejected by men; a man of suffering, and acquainted with disease. He was despised as one from whom men hide their face; and we didn’t respect him.

– Isaiah 53:5

How could Christ have died for the sins of mankind if the Jews 3 as a whole accepted Jesus as their Messiah right away? No, it had to happen the way it did.

God still has a plan for national Israel. At a minimum, this plan is an earthly plan, with earthly promises. But for the faithful remnant, His plan is eternal, for the remnant will be saved. This salvation will happen the same way a Gentile is saved (Acts 15:11): by grace through faith in Jesus.

Next, we’ll look at what the New Testament says about Israel.


  1. Josephus, De Bello Jud. l. 6. c. 9. sect. 2., and Hegesippus, De excidio Urb. Hieros. l. 5. c. 47. p. 645
  2. If God can renege on His promises to the seed of Jacob, He can renege on His promises to us. The apostles will then have been deceived in believing and teaching that we can have assurance of our salvation.
  3. One point of confusion is the meaning of the word ‘Jew’. This word originally meant a descendant of the tribe of Judah, but by New Testament times this had changed to apply to descendants of all twelve tribes (John 2:13, 5:1). Paul repeatedly speaks of Jews and Gentiles as if these are the only two groups of people in the world. There is no hint of a third ‘lost’ group of people.