James Patrick’s Blog

March 22, 2010

Apostasy in Light of Faith and Grace (Winds of Doctrine #11)

In the last eight posts we have seen how the Early Church that had demonstrated Jesus to be the Messiah in the 30’s AD, welcomed Gentiles in the 40’s, and reaffirmed God’s plans for the Jews in the 50’s, had to endure mighty winds of heresy and persecution in the 60’s, and then recover their ‘first love’ for each other again in the 70’s.  The 60’s had brought a widespread apostasy, or ‘falling away’, in the church, which some at the time may have interpreted as the prophesied final apostasy that would sweep through the Church before the Great Tribulation and the return of Jesus (cf. 2Thes 2:1‑12).  Clearly Paul, Peter and John all recognised that a greater one was still to come (cf. 2Tim 3:1‑9; 4:1‑4; 2Pet 3:1‑18; 1John 2:18‑19, 28; 4:1‑3), whether or not they expected the final one within decades rather than millennia.  It is vital that we consider the nature of that first great apostasy, though, that we might be prepared for the final one that will soon be upon us.

1 Timothy 4:1 makes it clear that “in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons”.  Hebrews warns believers not to “fall in the wilderness” through disobedience like the generation of Moses (Heb 3:7‑17; 4:11; 6:4‑8; cf. 1Cor 10:1-12).  Whereas Paul is referring to specific fallen individuals in his congregation, whom he has ‘handed over to Satan’ for discipline, the writer to the Hebrews is offering a more general warning from Scripture, confident that his hearers will turn back from the brink and inherit the promises after all (Heb 6:9‑12; 10:23‑39; 12:12‑13).  The reality is that there are in every generation individuals who in practice ‘fall away’ from the Christian beliefs and lifestyle they once had.  Most of those who read this will know several such people, and the issue therefore becomes one in which we have intense personal interest.  Others might be genuinely afraid that they themselves might ‘fall away’ at some future point, and the doctrine of ‘perseverance of the saints’ (“Once saved, always saved”) can sometimes be applied too quickly to dismiss people’s real concerns.  Probably the single most fundamental key to this whole topic is a correct understanding of ‘faith’, a word we looked at in detail above.

Faith in God’s Grace

‘Faith’, or ‘trust’, is the only appropriate response to the ‘grace’ of God, and these two terms sum up absolutely every element of the Christian teaching.  They are the truth that distinguishes Christianity from every other religion ever taught, because they teach that as humans we have nothing to contribute to our relationship with God, and can only trust Him to bring about in our lives what is pleasing to Him.  Jesus is the fullest expression both of the grace of God towards humanity and the world, and of the faith in God which God considers to be true ‘righteousness’.  We receive ‘salvation’ and enter into God’s family when we share the ‘faith’ of God’s unique Son Jesus, and this has two elements according to Romans 10:3‑13.  The first element is the conviction that God alone can raise the dead to bodily life, which Jesus went to the cross believing, and therefore that God did indeed raise Jesus to permanent bodily life.  The second element is the willingness to surrender one’s life completely to the direction of this God like Jesus did, which Jesus describes as ‘take up your cross and follow me’.  The writer to the Hebrews says that ‘without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who comes to God must believe that He exists and is a rewarder of those who seek Him’ (11:6).  There are many who have heard about Jesus, admired Him, and even dedicated their lives to imitating His good works, but none of this matters at all if they have not understood that the only way of pleasing God and receiving eternal life is to accept that Jesus has done everything required, and to put one’s life entirely in His hands.  Even this decision itself is a work of grace in the believer’s life.  As Luke points out in Acts 13:48, ‘as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed’.

If a person has truly understood that they can do nothing of any value without God’s gracious giving, they will be in the right place to receive His Holy Spirit, who gives us everything we need for life and godliness, empowering us to do what God has called us to do.  This is the beginning of a life of trust, or ‘faith’, in which time and again the believer comes back to God asking for grace to accomplish what he or she has been given to do.  If at any point we turn back to our own wisdom and strength, we have ‘turned away’ or ‘fallen away’ from faith, or from ‘the [life of] faith’.  ‘Whatever is not from faith is sin.’ (Rom 14:23)  Paul expresses exactly the same concept in Galatians 5:4, when he tells those trying to be righteous by keeping laws that they have ‘fallen from grace’.

Faith is just as necessary for one’s beliefs as it is for one’s life, because we are unable to arrive at the truth through our own wisdom or ‘rational’ thought processes.  God has deliberately planned it this way, so that those who come to Him are forced to accept what He says without the benefit of their own five senses.  If we were able to reason our way to the ‘meaning of life’, we would have no need for grace, and we could boast in our own wisdom.  As it is, God has chosen to save people through the apparent ‘foolishness’ of what is preached, the message of a crucified Saviour (1Cor 1:17–2:5).  Of course, that is not to say that God leaves us in the darkness just for the sake of it, or that He has not revealed elements of the truth about the world around us to those who do not trust Him.  Rather, God reveals more and more to those who keep coming to Him for wisdom, and He graciously enables others who do not trust Him personally to nevertheless recognise the divine order and beauty with which He created the world.

Advertisements

‘Faith’ in 1 and 2 Timothy (Winds of Doctrine #2)

Filed under: Exegesis,Theology — alabastertheology @ 4:41 pm
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

When considering the significance of ‘fall away from the faith’ in 1 Timothy 4:1, the best place to start is to consider Paul’s use of the phrase “the faith”.  Even in Paul’s earliest letters he uses “the faith” as a summary term for the belief and practice of following Jesus as Messiah (Gal 1:23; 6:10; 1Cor 15:17; 16:13; cf. 1Thes 3:1-10; Acts 6:7; 16:5?), perhaps alongside other terms such as “the way” (Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; compare 5:14; 16:17; contrast 3:26), or “the life” (Acts 5:20; John 1:4).  Paul and others seemed to dislike the word ‘sect’ for their variety of Judaism (Acts 24:14; 28:22; compare 5:17 and 15:5), and used a variety of alternative terms.  Terms or phrases describing the new ‘religion’ of ‘Christianity’ are distinct from those that refer to the assembly of believers, “the church” (Acts 5:11; 8:1-3; 11:22-26; 12:1; Gal 1:13) or “the brethren” (Acts 1:15; 11:29; 12:17; John 21:23).

Paul used a variety of terms for the message he preached, including ‘teaching’, ‘gospel’, ‘word’, ‘truth’, ‘traditions’, etc. (see e.g. 2Thes 2:13-15), but also referred to it by summarising the whole teaching with reference to a central doctrine or response, such as ‘repentance’, ‘faith’, grace’, ‘kingdom’, ‘whole purpose of God’, ‘righteousness’, etc. (see e.g. Acts 20:21-32).  Thus there were both abstract and definitive terms for Paul’s message, and there doesn’t seem to be any one term he uses more than another; it probably depends mostly on the context, whether that be the particular emphasis he is trying to make, or the most relevant aspect for the culture of his hearers.

Of the various terms, though, ‘faith’ was a particularly useful one, since it could refer either to ‘faith’ or ‘the faith’ (the definite article is used for abstract nouns in Greek, so the distinction between the two is often unclear).  There is a debate in Pauline studies over the significance of the term ‘pistis Xristou’, because it could be translated ‘faith[fulness] of Christ’ or ‘faith [i.e. trust] in Christ’.  Perhaps this was precisely Paul’s intention – ‘faith’ is the only appropriate response to God’s ‘grace’, and just as Jesus Himself was justified [i.e. vindicated] on account of His faith [i.e. trust in resurrection], just as Abraham had been also, so we too are justified on account of our faith in His resurrection (Rom 3:24-26; 4:17-25; 5:18-19; Heb 3:1-2; 5:7-9).  In this way, ‘[the] faith’ can refer not only to the doctrinal content, but also to the practical initiation into and outworking of this relationship with the God of grace.  Paul summarised the desired response to his gospel about Jesus Christ as “obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5; 16:26).

As for particular uses of the word ‘faith’, it is best to view each occurrence of the word in its context.  Regarding 1 and 2 Timothy, therefore, we have 27 separate occurrences of ‘faith’ as a noun [in my count] – 1Tim 1:2, 4, 5, 14, 19 [x2]; 2:7, 15; 3:9, 13; 4:1, 6, 12; 5:8, 12; 6:10, 11, 12, 21; 2Tim 1:5, 13; 2:18, 22; 3:8, 10, 15; 4:7.  These can be grouped together according to their use – sometimes it is helpful to see what word or words could be substituted for the word ‘faith’ and still give the same meaning.

(1)     ‘Faith’ is used in line with other letters of Paul as a reference to the initial ‘action’ of the believer that constitutes entrance into the community of the redeemed:

–          1T 1:14 – Paul himself received unmerited mercy, grace, faith and love in Jesus.
–          2T 3:15 – Salvation results when biblical wisdom is combined with faith in Jesus.

This may be the equivalent of the ‘pledge’ of celibacy made by Christian widows:

–          1T 5:12 – Wanting to get married incurs condemnation for rejecting one’s ‘faith’.

(2)     ‘Faith’ (i.e. trusting God and His message) is one among many practical effects of salvation in the believer, something to actively develop:

–          1T 1:5 – One goal of Christian instruction is [love from] a sincere faith.
–          1T 2:15 – Wives will survive childbearing if they continue in faith, love, etc.
–          1T 4:12 – Timothy should set an example in speech, conduct, love, faith, etc.
–          1T 6:11 – The ‘man of God’ should pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, etc.
–          2T 1:5 – Timothy shares the ‘sincere faith’ of his grandmother and mother.
–          2T 2:18 – Teaching a present resurrection has upset the ‘faith’ of some believers.
–          2T 2:22 – Timothy ought to flee lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love, etc.
–          2T 3:10 – Timothy has followed Paul’s teaching, conduct, purpose, faith, etc.

(3)     ‘Faith’ is the necessary approach to receiving all the teaching about Jesus:

–          1T 1:4 – Doctrine is not speculation, but rather having faith in God’s provision.
–          1T 6:21 – Some go astray from ‘faith’ by preferring arguments over ‘knowledge’.
–          2T 1:13 – One should retain sound teaching by faith and love in Christ Jesus.
–          2T 3:15 – Biblical wisdom combined with faith results in salvation [see (1) above].

(4)     ‘The faith’ can actually be used as a substitute for ‘the truth’, which is the object of faith.

–          1T 1:19 – Rejecting upright living leads to ‘shipwreck’ in regard to ‘the faith’.
–          1T 2:7 – Paul was appointed a teacher of faith and truth to the Gentiles.
–          1T 3:9 – Deacons should be holding to the mystery of the faith with clear conscience.
–          1T 3:16 – Deacons serving well obtain great confidence in ‘the faith’ in Christ Jesus.
–          1T 4:1 – Some fall away from ‘the faith’ by turning instead to doctrines of demons.
–          1T 4:6 – Preaching truth nourishes us on the words of faith and sound doctrine.
–          1T 6:21 – Professing ‘knowledge’ leads one astray from ‘the faith’ [see (3) above].
–          2T 3:8 – False teachers who oppose the truth are ‘rejected in regard to the faith’.

It is significant also that Hymenaeus, whom Paul described as having suffered ‘shipwreck’ in regard to ‘the faith’ in 1Tim 1:19-20, is similarly described in 2Tim 2:18‑19 as having ‘gone astray from the truth’.

(5)     Finally, ‘the faith’ can be used as a generic term for effective Christian living, particularly with a view to consistent trust in God and His truth to the end of one’s life [which explains why some of these references may also be understood in terms of (4)]:

–          1T 1:2 – Timothy is Paul’s ‘true child in [the] faith’ [this could be (1) or (2) also].
–          1T 1:18-19 – Timothy is instructed to ‘fight the good fight, keeping faith…’
–          1T 1:19 – Rejecting the faithful life causes shipwreck regarding ‘the faith’.
–          1T 4:1 – Falling away from ‘the faith’ results also in ‘seared consciences’.
–          1T 5:8 – Not providing for one’s own family is equivalent to ‘denying the faith’.
–          1T 6:10 – Love of money leads to wandering away from the faith into ‘many griefs’.
–          1T 6:12 – Timothy is urged to ‘fight the good fight of faith’, fulfilling his calling.
–          1T 6:21 – Those who profess ‘knowledge’ tend to go astray from ‘the faith’.
–          2T 2:18 – Some who are taught of a present resurrection have their ‘faith’ disturbed.
–          2T 3:8 – The false teachers have ‘depraved minds’, rejected in regard to ‘the faith’.
–          2T 4:7 – Paul himself has ‘fought the good fight’, ‘finished’, and ‘kept the faith’.

It seems, therefore, that Paul is using ‘faith’ as reference to both ‘trusting God’s truth’ and ‘living a faithful life’, and would see these as inextricably linked.  In Romans and Galatians Paul was trying to demonstrate to his Jewish hearers that neither Jew nor Gentile can gain any good standing with God by simply observing the Law of Moses; the way of entering the newly constructed ‘community / church of God’ is the same for both, and involves nothing else apart from trusting that God raised Jesus from the dead.  1Tim 1:14 shows that Paul has not shifted from this conviction by the time he writes his epistles to Timothy.  However, in these letters, he is writing nearer the end of his life, and has unfortunately witnessed the doctrinal and moral failure of some who had apparently been members of his churches in Ephesus and Asia Minor.  His focus here is therefore not so much on the way in which one enters the life of faith, but how one can endure faithfully to the end, and he is concerned that Timothy remain strong and set the example for other believers in Paul’s absence.

This theme of ‘falling away’, or ‘apostasy’ (this word may carry unhelpful connotations of permanence, which must instead be shown or otherwise with reference to these Scriptures), is the clear background that significantly shapes both epistles to Timothy, and was even the direct motivation behind the writing of one of them.  Although on a superficial reading one may miss the references, it is remarkable how often Paul speaks of ‘falling away’ (e.g. 1Tim 1:6, 19; 2:14; 3:6-7; 4:1; 5:8, 11-15, 19-22; 6:10, 20-21; 2Tim 1:15; 2:14-18, 26; 3:6-9; 4:3-4, 10, 16; and often implied elsewhere).  On the basis of these passages it is possible to assemble a general picture of the situation into which Paul was writing, as we will see in the following posts.

October 27, 2009

Promised Land in the New Testament – summary [I&NC #14]

One of the possible ways of reading the numerous Old Testament prophecies about a Jewish return from exile is to see it all as having happened already in the return from exile in Babylon [see  the first post in this series].  Jesus arrived over five hundred years after that return, so His teaching and the teaching of His apostles, contained in the New Testament, should reveal to us whether or not they considered those prophecies of return to have already been fulfilled.  As will be clear below, they actually not only believed the nation of Israel to be still in a condition of spiritual ‘exile’ that denied them secure and permanent dwelling in the land, but they also knew that the Jewish people would again be cast into exile.  This exile to all nations (not just Assyria, or Babylon) would be a far greater exile than the first one, but even this one would eventually be finished.  To fulfil His promises to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, God would finally bring the Jewish people back to the land of promise very shortly before the return of Jesus.

1.  The conquest of the land under Joshua was not the ultimate fulfilment of the inheritance promised to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Paul clearly taught that the Law of Moses had actually made the Jewish people ‘slaves’ to sin, and as slaves rather than sons they were not permitted to inherit (Rom 7:1‑25; Gal 3:23–4:7; 4:21‑31).  Hebrews taught further that if Joshua had given the Israelites ‘rest’ in their land, David would hardly have written to a later generation warning them that rebellion would disqualify them from entering God’s ‘rest’ (Heb 4:1‑11).

2.  Even in Jesus’ generation the nation was considered to be in an ongoing condition of exile.

Jesus taught His people using parables in order to fulfil the prophecy of Isaiah that the nation would “keep on hearing and will not understand… keep on seeing and will not perceive” (Mat 13:13‑15; cf. 11:5).  Isaiah was told that his prophetic task was to harden the eyes, ears and hearts of the Jewish nation until the fulfilment of the curse of exile (Isa 6:9‑13; cf. 32:1‑4; 34:16–35:6).

3.  Jesus decreed another greater exile on the Jewish nation, a final one that would complete God’s judgement against the sins of all previous generations of Israel.

In fulfilment of Malachi’s prophecy to the Levites of his generation after the Babylonian Exile (Mal 3:1‑6), Jesus arrived four hundred years later as the appointed judge of the nation.  In response to their sin and hard-heartedness He delivered the verdict that the nation was unforgivable (Mat 12:31‑45; 23:1‑28).  To prove that they were more wicked than any previous generation, He would send them further messengers whom they would persecute, and therefore God would be justified in bringing on that generation the complete punishment for the sins of both them and all their fathers (Mat 23:29‑36; Luke 11:49‑51; cf. Isa 65:1‑7; Jer 16:10‑18; Rom 10:20-21).  When there is a complete judgement visited on the nation for all the blood of the prophets shed from the foundation of the world, there can never be another such punishment meted out again (Isa 51:17‑22).

4.  Evangelism amongst Jewish communities will not be completed until Jesus’ return.

Although seventy disciples were sent out in pairs to prepare for Jesus’ arrival in a town during His ministry (Luke 10:1‑17), Jesus also sent out the Twelve with a specific commission to the Jews (Luke 9:1‑10; Mat 10:11‑42), because they will be given authority over the twelve tribes of Israel when Jesus returns (Luke 22:28‑30).  Their commission, therefore, while similar to that of the seventy, concerned specifically Jewish communities (Mat 10:5‑6, 23), within and presumably beyond the land of Israel also.  They were told that this specific focus for preaching the Gospel would not finish “until the Son of Man comes”, a phrase Matthew linked closely to the Second Coming (24:3, 27‑44; 25:31‑46).  This was also explained as being the result of Jewish hard-heartedness and persecution in city after city of Israel, and Jesus’ intention was to clarify to His followers that the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” in exile (cf. Eze 34:11‑16) would not all be ‘found’ until the time of His own return.

5.  Gentile control over Jerusalem will come to an end when the “times of the Gentiles” are fulfilled.

Whereas Matthew recorded Jesus’ teachings about the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70 and the Second Coming without differentiating them (Matthew 24:1–25:46; esp. 24:3), Luke recorded them separately, the Second Coming in 17:20‑37, and the imminent destruction of Jerusalem and exile in 21:5‑36.  Therefore Jesus’ prophecy about the destruction of Jerusalem and captivity and exile of the Jewish people (Luke 21:20‑24) has already happened and evidently continued until modern times.  Despite the obvious severity of the judgement Jesus decreed, He did explicitly declare that at a certain point Gentiles would no longer ‘trample under foot’ the city of Jerusalem (21:24; cf. Isa 63:17‑19), which must indicate that Jews will eventually regain control over Jerusalem.  The “times of the Gentiles” may be a reference to that period during which Gentiles control Jerusalem, but it would be better to understand it as the times in which Gentiles are the focus of God’s commission to His Church, which is suggested by the word “fulfilled”.  In the latter case, Jesus would be teaching that Jewish repossession of Jerusalem will coincide with the culmination of mission to the Gentiles.

6.  Israel’s national repentance will be prompted specifically by the reception of the gospel by all other nations.

Jesus taught that “the end will come” at the point when His witnesses have brought “this gospel of the kingdom” throughout “the whole inhabited earth” and “to all the nations” (Mat 24:14), which could be said to be the ‘fulfilment’ of the “times of the Gentiles” (Luke 21:24).  He then instructed His witnesses to go from Jerusalem “even to the remotest part of the earth”, making “disciples of all the nations… even to the end of the age”, and in the context He was implying that only then would the kingdom be restored to Israel (Acts 1:6‑8; Mat 28:19‑20).  Paul explained this further, writing that Israel has been hardened temporarily “until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in”; then because of jealousy at the mercy shown to all nations, Israel would soften and “thus all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:11‑15, 25‑27, 30‑31).  Jesus indicated that this would be brought about particularly through the ministry of another prophet like Elijah at whose word the nation would turn back to God, ‘restoring all things’ (Mat 17:10‑11; cf. Mal 4:5‑6).  It is unlikely that this prophet is described in Revelation 11, where the two witnesses prophesy judgement against the nations, not salvation to Israel.  Although imagery is used from the ministries of Elijah and Moses, both prophets of judgement against unbelieving Gentiles and Jews, it is more likely that these two prophetic ‘olive branches’ are the Jewish and Gentile portions of the Church who are then resurrected as Jesus returns (Rev 11:4, 11‑13; cf. 13:7; Rom 11:17; Zec 3:8–4:6).

7.  Israel will be living in Judaea and Jerusalem when as a nation they welcome Jesus’ return as their Messiah.

Jesus regularly used the ‘fig tree’ as an image of the nation of Israel (represented by its leadership), to describe its fruitlessness (Luke 13:6‑9), its withering (Mark 11:12‑27), its destruction when dry (Luke 23:27‑31), and finally its softening and fresh leaves indicating His imminent return (Mat 24:32‑33).  ‘Sitting under one’s own fig tree’ was a common metaphor for being permanently at ‘rest’ in the land, particularly after exile (Mic 4:1‑4; Zec 3:8‑10; John 1:47‑51), so the images of softening and leaves coming out imply the beginnings of repentance and dwelling in the land respectively.  However Jesus also prophesied this explicitly:  In the ‘great tribulation’ immediately before His return, Jesus said that the believers living in Judaea would find travel on the Sabbath particularly difficult (Mat 24:15‑20, 29‑30).  Not only that, but He prophesied to ‘Jerusalem’ (both the city and symbol for the nation) at the very end of His public ministry that “from now on you will not see me until you say, ‘Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord!’” (Mat 23:39; cf. Luke 13:33-35).  Following the exile of the Jewish nation, the ‘desolation’ of Jerusalem’s ‘house’ (Mat 23:38; cf. Lev 26:31‑35; Isa 49:14‑21; 62:4), the nation would again see Jesus when as a nation they could welcome Him as their Messiah (cf. Mat 21:9).  In fact, for the sake of these ‘elect’, He will shorten the days of their ‘great tribulation’ (Mark 13:14‑20).  Peter also taught that national repentance was a condition for Jesus’ return (Acts 3:19‑21).

8.  Nevertheless, secure and permanent inheritance of the land for Israel will not be possible until Jesus returns, initiating the resurrection and restoration of all things.

Using a parable, Jesus taught His disciples that only on His return as King would He distribute territories within His kingdom to them in reward for faithful service (Luke 19:11‑28; cf. 22:28‑30).  When asked about the timing of the kingdom being restored to Israel, He acknowledged His Father’s plan to do this, but instructed His disciples to focus first on mission to all nations (Acts 1:6‑8).  Jews in the Early Church, including Barnabas, Stephen and the writer to the Hebrews, modelled and taught that in this age they must not expect to be able to hold on to their property within the land of Israel (Acts 4:32‑37; 7:4‑6; Heb 4:1‑11; 10:34).  Rather, they were to live by faith, whether they left their land to bring the good news of salvation inheritance to other nations also, or whether they chose to remain in their ‘promised land’ but live as if they were foreigners, ‘strangers and exiles’.  Choosing to return to other countries for the sake of security was not a valid option (Heb 11:15), but rather they needed to persevere by looking forward to their ‘better, permanent possession’ in that very land, in the form of a city and country being prepared by God and soon to be delivered from heaven (Heb 11:8‑16; Rev 21:10, 24‑27).  Paul associated the fulfilment of Israel’s promised gift of land with the salvation of all nations (Rom 9:4; 11:26‑29; cf. Zec 2:6-12).  He therefore recognised that Jewish and Gentile believers, as both natural and adopted ‘sons of God’, would inherit their apportioned lands at the same time, freeing all of creation from its slavery to corruption (Gal 3:23–4:8; Rom 4:11‑17; 8:14‑22).  This inheritance by every nation of lands bestowed from heaven by God is a large-scale fulfilment of what will happen at the same time on a small scale with each of us inheriting ‘heavenly’ resurrection bodies (Acts 17:26 with Deut 32:8‑9; Rom 8:18‑25; 1 Cor 15:42‑49; 2 Cor 5:1‑5). Thus ‘all things’ will be restored (Acts 3:21; Mat 17:11).

In summary of New Testament teaching, the promise of land inheritance made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and spoken about by the prophets has not yet ever been properly fulfilled.  This was because God chose to use the Law of Moses to harden the Israelites in their sin, making them unable with uncircumcised hearts to inherit as ‘sons of Abraham’.  Moses taught that God would personally atone for Israel, and reconcile them to Himself by making them jealous of His favour on the nations.  Jesus then came as the ‘seed of Abraham’ bringing blessing: fulfilling the powerless Law by becoming a curse for Israel, and dying to atone for the sin of Jew and Gentile alike, reversing the disobedience and death of Adam.  His resurrection is both the object of faith, by which all can be declared righteous, and the content of our hope.  Jesus declared the Jewish nation of His own generation to be unforgivable, decreeing that within a generation they would enter into an exile that would complete God’s punishment for all previous rejection of His messengers.  Witness to scattered Jews must continue, but their full repentance and inheritance would not happen before every nation on earth had also received the good news of salvation (resurrection, deliverance and inheritance).  At the end of the age God will begin restoring Israel to her land and softening her heart towards Him, using a prophet like Elijah, and even more importantly the jealousy provoked by seeing all nations accept her Messiah.  In the midst of the ‘great tribulation’ that follows the fulfilment of the times of the Gentiles, Jewish believers in the land will undergo persecution, but will be delivered by their returning King whom they will welcome as a whole nation.  The faithful from previous generations will return with Jesus, met by surviving believers joining them from the earth in a visible imitation of Jesus’ own ascension, and all will receive their resurrection bodies with Jesus.  After destroying the enemies of His people, Jesus will establish His kingdom on earth from Jerusalem.  Within this worldwide kingdom, the Twelve disciples will rule over Israel in their land, and Gentile believers will rule over every nation across the earth, each in its own territory as apportioned by Jesus [the new ‘Joshua’].  In this way all creation will be released into the glorious freedom of the ‘sons of God’.

Blog at WordPress.com.