Israel in the Millenium
E. J. Strange, Bridgwater
No series of papers on the Millenium would be complete without special reference to the position of Israel. It was to an Israel restored and rejoicing in God that all the prophets looked forward. Even to Jeremiah, ' the weeping prophet,' there was granted the vision of future glory. Even as at the end of a dark and stormy day the sun gleams momentarily through, even so to Jeremiah there was given the token that, in spite of the darkness of the time of judgment, God is still faithful, and after the night there will be a cloudless morning.
Israel's history has been one of great privilege, but, alas, one of great failure and tragedy. The figures of three trees are used to illustrate the sad story. In Isaiah (5) the Lord expresses His disappointment in the parable of the vine. " Wherefore, when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?" God looked for the ' grapes ' of justice and of righteousness, but He found instead the ' wild grapes ' of oppression and a ' cry.' The fig tree is also used as a figure, both in the Old and New Testaments. Jeremiah (24) had a vision of two baskets of figs and in the basket of bad figs, God depicted the moral rottenness of the king and his court and the residue in the land of Judah. In the figure of the olive tree we discern the sovereign dealings of God in mercy and in judgment. Jeremiah wrote, " The Lord called thy name, A green olive tree, fair and of goodly fruit : with the noise of great tumult He hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken" (Jeremiah 11. 16). The Apostle Paul also used the figure in his letter to the Romans (chap. 11). " Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God."
The supreme test for Israel came in the sending of God's Son. " But last of all He sent unto them His Son " (Matt. 21. 37). The leaders of the people set themselves against Christ. " This is the heir ; come, let us kill Him." (Matt. 21. 38). When His hour was come they accomplished their fell purposes and, though the heathen Pilate was determined to let Him go, they demanded His death : " Let Him be crucified"! The witness of the Son had been rejected and when Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, bore witness to the glorified Son of Man, they gnashed on him with their teeth, hurried him out of the city, and stoned him. What a dark moment in their history. The Son of God had been crucified and now the Spirit's testimony is rejected. Not many years after, in A.D. 70, Jerusalem was laid waste and the land was desolated. From that time until the present century, the Jews have been strangers in strange lands, at times tolerated, usually hated, and often fiercely persecuted. Over them hangs the curse they themselves pronounced, " His blood be on us, and on our children " (Matt. 27. 25). For nearly two thousand years God has set aside His ancient people as the special vehicle for the carrying out of His purposes. The branches have been broken off. The stump of the tree, however, remains. " God hath not cast away His people which He foreknew " (Rom. 11. 2). We shall now endeavour to see the steps by which Israel shall once more become the ' head of the nations ' and not the ' tail.'
Their Return to the Land. The most striking feature of the present century to the believer must surely be the return of so many Jews to the land of Palestine and the foundation of the State of Israel. We must, however, be careful to note that it is a political movement and they are returning in unbelief. There is as yet no evidence of that godly remnant who shall say, " Come, let us return unto the Lord." In this paper it is possible only to indicate that the godly Jewish remnant will be the special object of the oppression of the Anti-Christ. (See previous papers on the Anti-Christ and the Great Tribulation).
Their Repentance. There will he national repentance on a scale hitherto unknown. God's dealings in grace with men always begin by producing repentance. The preaching of the gospel is to lead men to repentance toward God, and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ. What will cause this national repentance ? It will be the sight of their Messiah .come to their aid in the hour of their great peril. " They shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourneth for his only son" (Zech. 12. 10). The story of Joseph is a beautiful figure of what will happen in that great day. To use the words of Joseph in relation to Christ, He will say to His brethren according to the flesh, ' I am Jesus—ye sold Me, but Cod sent Me—ye meant it for evil, but God meant it for good.' The knowledge that they had indeed crucified their Messiah will break their hearts and " In that day shall there be a great mourning in Jerusalem "(Zech. 12.11). The tears of true repentance bring joy to heaven, and if there is joy over one sinner that repenteth, what shall be the joy of heaven when a nation repents ? " Blessed are they that mourn for they shall be comforted."
The Remission of Their Sins. How full the prophets are about God's forgiveness of His people ! " Our God . . . will abundantly pardon " (Isa. 55. 7). " I will pardon all their iniquities whereby they have sinned, and whereby they have transgressed against Me " (Jer. 33. 8). " I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely " (Hosea 14. 4). " Thou wilt cast all their sins into the depths of the sea " (Micah 7. 19). " There shall be a fountain opened . . . for sin and for uncleanness " (Zech. 13. 1). Many more examples could, of course, be quoted and the reader is advised to search out all relevant passages, that God may be glorified for His great mercy. On what ground will this forgiveness be granted? There is One Ground of Forgiveness only for all times and for all people, and that is the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus upon the Cross. In the day of Israel's forgiveness, Isaiah's song shall have its primary fulfilment, " We did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted ; but He was wounded for our transgressions. He was bruised for our iniquities, the chastisement of our peace was upon Him. and with His stripes we are healed."
Their Restoration. God will not only forgive but will also restore Israel to the position of privilege and special blessing in the millenial earth. The nation that has been a byword and a reproach will be a praise and a nation of renown through all the earth. " Ten men . .. shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, ' We will go with you : for we have heard that God is with you' " (Zech. 8.23). Their capital city, Jerusalem, shall be called the city of truth, the faithful city, the holy mountain. Her inhabitants shall be called " The Priests of the Lord ... The Ministers of our God " : everlasting joy shall be unto them ; they shall be clothed with the garments of salvation and covered with the robe of righteousness (see Isaiah 61). A restored and renewed Israel shall not only be blessed but be made a blessing. " Their special capacity for propaganda, their gift of learning languages ... All this Israel will only comprehend when it comes to understand it has a natural talent for its mission to the nations in the Kingdom of Messiah." (Triumphs of the Crucified—Sauer). " Out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem " (Micah 4. 2 and Isa. 2. 3).
" If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead ? . . . Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God ! . . . For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things ; to whom be glory for ever. Amen " (Rom. 11).