God’s Unfinished Business with Israel - Part 5
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Joseph’s Birthright: God’s Unfinished Business with Israel - Part 5
When He takes action, the result will be tremendous blessings and joy for all people.
[Darris McNeely] God said He would gather His people from the ends of the earth and restore them to the land that He gave Abraham. Did the establishment, the nation of Israel, fulfill all the promises God gave the biblical prophets?
[Narrator] Join our presenters from the United Church of God as we bring you help for today and hope for tomorrow directly from your Bible here on "Beyond Today."
[Darris McNeely] On the high hill beneath the shadow of the temple to Athena, the apostle Paul stretched out his arm and addressed the city's leading elite about the unknown God. Paul was turning their worship of what they called the unknown God, he was turning it to the known God. He explained that God made the heaven and the earth and could not be confined to temples made with hands. And then he said this: "God has made from one blood every nation of men to dwell on all the face of the earth, and has determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings." God, Paul went on to say, is the God of history. He controls, He directs history to His intended purpose. Every nation on earth has been in God's story. Whether that be the United States, Russia, China, or any past empire such as Rome, Greece, or Assyria, every nation has fulfilled a purpose, a pre-appointed time, within the plan of God. That's what Paul said.
So here's a question. What about the one nation chosen by God for a special purpose among all the nations in history to be what God called a great nation, chosen to be a wise and an understanding people? What about the nation known in history and the Bible as Israel? Now, when I use that term, Israel, I am not talking about today's State of Israel, the Jewish state in the Middle East that we hear so much about on the news. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about the nation that God brought out of Egypt in a great exodus into the land promised to their father, Abraham. This land, one that is largely occupied today by the Jewish people, a surviving remnant of that great ancient nation once known as Israel. Students of the Bible understand the story in the Old Testament scriptures about this nation, a nation that grew from the 12 sons of Jacob into a significant power under King David and under his son, Solomon, at their heights. But when Solomon died, this one nation called Israel, it split into two nations, and within a few hundred years, idolatry, incompetent kings, and ultimately the judgment of God removed the tribes from the land into captivity. Their sins brought them to ruin. But God had mercy. Because God's eternal, spiritual plan involves this people, this physical nation of Israel, He did restore the tribe of Judah, the Jews, into the land. They returned from Babylon and they rebuilt a temple and they had a political structure. So that when we open the pages of the New Testament and begin to read about the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the story of the church in the Book of Acts, we see there the birth of Jesus in the line of David, born as a Jew into that nation called Judah at that time in the 1st century.
All of this, the existence of a remnant of Israel, the tribe of Judah in the land of promise, all of that was necessary for the many prophecies from the Old Testament of Christ's birth to be fulfilled. And all of that was critical for the conditions of the beginning of the Church that Jesus said He would build when He said at one point, "I will build my church." And that Church, He said, eventually gave them the job to carry the Gospel into the world, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. All of that was done, the beginning of the Church, the work that we read about in the New Testament, in what the apostle Paul calls in the Book of Galatians, it was done "in the fullness of time," and again, according to a pre-appointed time, as Paul would later say.
So it's important to understand this, that Jesus Christ, born of the line of David, was also the Seed of Abraham. Now Abraham was the one through whom all of the promises were given initially, and his seed, Christ, fulfilled both physically and spiritually those promises. And they will be filled in all of their entirety for all people. And this is the critical key that helps us to understand God's purpose for the nations of the world today. Because this nation, Israel, whose story is told in the Bible from Revelation, all the way through to Genesis. It was as relevant today as it was during the time of ancient history.
You turn to religion and it is confused about Israel and its role in God's plan of salvation for all mankind. You'll find all kinds of ideas about Israel, even in modern theology. But the Bible shows us this, that God has not forgotten Israel nor the promises that He made to Abraham. And the fullness of those promises, both the physical and the spiritual, will be brought to all nations, to all tribes, and to all peoples. The Seed of Abraham, Jesus of Nazareth, intends to give those blessings to everyone, to all peoples. That's the great purpose conceived by God from eternity.
So consider this question. Why do we then see, in today's world, such a great divide between the developed world and what we call the developing world? Why such extremes of poverty and great wealth among the nations of the world today? I've had the privilege of traveling to some of the world's poorer nations. And you go to some places and you get a glimpse into real poverty. In America where we live and in the Western world, we have a high standard of living that we all enjoy a great deal, higher than the majority of the people who inhabit this planet. On one of the trips that I made into the outback of Africa, I drove by a scene that is still with me. I can see it very clearly in my mind's eye. We were driving along a road, and up ahead, I saw a woman with a child on her back. She was outside the little shack that she called her home, and literally, she was beating the ground, beating the ground with a hoe, it's the best way to put it, in a garden and she was trying to raise some food to feed her family. Now I'm passing by in nice, late-model, expensive vehicle. I'm going on my way to talk to a group of people, one of our groups. This woman stops beating the ground just long enough to look up and to stare at the vehicle I'm in and she caught my eye and I looked directly at her as we drove by. And it was just one of those moments that I remember. She had this look about her that said, "I want what you've got." She wanted what I have, what you have, what we take for granted. She wants the security of easy access to cheap and plentiful food like we have. She wants electricity to light her home and conveniently cook her food rather than her having to go out and gather wood or buy a bag of lump charcoal and squat over an open fire in the backyard to cook what she has. She wants the freedom from the fear of disease and harm for her and her children. She wants what we have, what all of us have. And in that moment, I realized that she wanted what I had and I can't give it to her, not yet, not yet.
But I know what the Bible says. I know that God intends to give that woman, and everyone like her, a share of the blessings that we have, a share of the blessings of Abraham. And I know that God will do this in His appointed time. That's exactly what Paul told the Athenians, and that is the hope that all of have. And for this world and all of those who, in a sense, live hopeless lives, it's the hope that they do have. God has a plan to bring that woman and all who she stands for, in my mind, all the have nots in the world, to a better place. Because God has faithfully fulfilled all of His promises to Abraham and to his seed, and then He will do all of that for all people in His time and in His way. That's the explanation to the why when we look at today's world and see the conditions of people. That explanation, taken from the Word of God, understanding God's promises, Bible prophecy, and the story of the scripture, that cuts through the empty promises of human religion, education, philosophy, and government.
And so I ask again, what about Israel? What about the nation God chose above all the peoples of the earth with whom He covenanted upon spiritual laws and upon enduring promises? What about Israel, that nation? It's one of the great questions, really, of the Bible. And I'll show you where that question is. That question was on the mind of the apostle Paul when he wrote of the personal grief and sorrow that he felt for the fate of his brothers, his brethren, Israel. "Countrymen," he called them, "according to the flesh, who are Israelites." He said, "to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises." He wrote that in Romans, the Book of Romans, to the church in Rome to explain this important truth of scripture.
The truth is that God has unfinished business with this nation, Israel. And when He sets His hand to finish that business, it will reap great blessings and joy for all. And that business is ultimately the salvation of the world. This is the fifth program that I have been doing on "Beyond Today" in a series where we have covered several elements of this story of Israel, beginning with God's call and promise to Abraham. And through these programs, we have shown only a part, but quite a bit when it's really considered, about how God has repeated and expanded the promises that he made to Abraham, to Abraham's son, Isaac, and to Abraham's grandson, Jacob.
In fact, as we saw in an earlier program that it is in Jacob's life that these promises come to a moment when Jacob showed his 12 sons the far-reaching implication of the hand of God upon the family of Abraham. God wove through what He told Jacob and had Jacob say, He wove a tapestry of promises and stories among a variety of people to set His purpose within the nations. And among all the peoples and nations of the earth, He determined their pre-appointed times and the boundaries of their dwellings. And so we see by prophecy that God is guiding the nations. God's plan is on target at this very moment. He knows exactly where He is, what He's going to do next, and what the end result will be and when He will bring that to pass.
God is true and faithful and His righteous promises are enduring. We've also shown in these programs that Christ will sit on the throne of His father, David, when He returns and how that promise to David that God made, that his dynasty, David's, has implications into the modern world for a throne and a stone that endures today. Key events shaping today's world occur within this great framework of God's eternal purpose. People, promises, and prophecies of the Bible point to the world upheaval that we see going on today among the nations.
We've also shown in these programs how today's global powers, the English-speaking nations of America and Great Britain in particular, owe their place in history to these promises from God. The events that we are watching unfold today in the world, they're not disconnected from these promises, from God's eternal plan. They show that God is beginning to change, again, the times and the boundaries of power in nations. And this has and will have implications for our life, which is why that it is an important moment to awake and to understand the reality of events that are taking place in this world and understand them from God's perspective with the biblical worldview that we gain from the scriptures of God.
You see, today's war and pandemic and social upheaval that we are seeing is really a dress rehearsal for bigger times of trial that lie ahead. Bible prophecy shows God's people, Israel, in extreme trial at the time of Jesus Christ's return. There are many prophecies that speak to a time in which Jeremiah calls a "time of Jacob's trouble." Now, that's important because, remember, Jacob had his name changed to Israel by God, and then when he placed his name on the sons of Joseph, Ephraim and Manasseh, he said, "Let my name be upon them," and that has important implications in the story that God is working out among the nations. You see, it is God who is behind these large events, and He guides them to His spiritual end, which means that it's time for us to be serious about God and what we are told from His Word, the Bible.
The good news of the Bible and Bible prophecy, and there is good news when it comes to Bible prophecy. Unfortunately, too many people think that it's all bad news. The good news is that God will judge the nations in righteousness, to an end and to a purpose. He will not abandon mankind to their own devices. Jesus foretold a time of tribulation, Matthew 24, unlike any from the beginning of time, a time of world trouble. But He also said He will shorten this time to save mankind from complete destruction. He will do it, He said, for the sake of His elect, an interesting term there in Matthew 24, the elect. The elect refers to Israel, both spiritual and physical. So again, the Bible shows us that God has unfinished business with Israel and He is fulfilling His spiritual promises to this very day through Christ, so that when Christ steps into the world at His second coming, it will be to begin that next phase in God's eternal purpose to bring spiritual salvation to all nations. Israel, both the physical nation and the spiritual church, will play key roles in this according to the scriptures.
We notice a few little-understood prophecies about this time. We can see clearly what God is talking about. He speaks about a time of restoration, specifically of Israel and of the nations, and they point to what the apostle Peter called, in the Book of Acts, "the times of the restitution of all things." This restoration entails the fulfillment of some of the most exciting and encouraging prophecies in the Bible. They foretell what is called a second exodus for the nation of Israel, for the people of Israel, an exodus bigger than that under Moses.
Notice how Jeremiah puts it in the book of Jeremiah. He says, "The days are coming," says the Lord, "where it will no more be said, 'The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt.'" We all know when that was. It's told in the Book of Exodus. But Jeremiah's prophecy goes on to say, "but, The Lord lives who brought up the children of Israel from the land of the north and from the lands where He had driven them. He will bring them back into the land which I gave to their fathers. I will gather them from all the nations and from all the places where I have driven you, and I will bring you to the place which I caused you to be carried away captive."
The Exodus from Egypt was the most important event in the history of Israel. Remember the movie, "The Ten Commandments," which we've all seen how many times? It's still shown every year. At this time of the year, this Biblical fact is kept alive in the public consciousness. Yet God says there will be a second exodus in the future and it will be greater than the first. God repeated this promise as well through the prophet Isaiah, where he says that "It shall come to pass that the Lord shall set His hand again the second time to recover the remnant of His people who are left. He will set up a banner for the nations and will assemble the outcasts of Israel from the four corners of the earth."
Countless other prophecies add to this joyous chorus of prophetic voices that speak to a time when God will restore Israel in the land promised to Abraham. They will come from the four corners of the earth. They're specific prophecies that were not fulfilled at any time in the past. And an honest look at these writings brings you to an understanding that God has unfinished business with Israel, and that means for the world, all the nations. Ezekiel puts it in a unique way. He said, in one of His prophecies to Ezekiel, He said, "Son of man, take a stick for yourself and write on it: 'For Judah and for the children of Israel, his companions.' And then take another stick and write on it, 'For Joseph, the stick of Ephraim, and for the house of Israel.' And then join those two sticks together into one. I will then make one nation in the land on the mountains of Israel." He said. "And one king shall be king over them and they shall no longer be two nations, nor will they ever be divided into two kingdoms again." And He went on to show that David, King David, will be over them as with one shepherd and they will dwell in the place that was given to Jacob and to the fathers and where they all dwelt. And God says it will be forever. "My servant David will be their prince forever."
This second exodus, a regathering of Israel, is the physical aspect of what, again, is called by Peter "the restitution of all things." Let's pause for moment, explain a very important point again. The present-day State of Israel, the Jewish state established in 1948, is not the fulfillment of these prophecies I just read. What is that state? Well, it is a promise of a larger time of the same restoration I've just read to you. That's not to say that there is no purpose for the State of Israel in the fulfillment of Bible prophecy. There indeed is. Many prophecies involving end time events and Christ's second coming must be in a Jewish state, in Jerusalem and that land. Christ spoke, as a sign of His coming, of a coming abomination of desolation that'd stand in the holy place. Many factors relating to a temple, an altar, and sacrifices have to yet occur. But those events are a prelude to Christ's intervention at the end of the age, during a time of great world upheaval. Once Christ returns, a new age will be inaugurated, a time spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, a time when all nations will go up to the top of the mountains, where God's house will be established. Nations will flow to Jerusalem. They will go there "to the house of the God of Jacob," it is said in Isaiah, and they will learn of His ways and walk in His ways in Jerusalem. And the Word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem at that item as God judges among the nations, and a very famous scene of swords being beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and nation not lifting up sword against nation and learning war will finally be a reality. It's told in Isaiah 2.
Now, let me pause briefly and we can catch our breath for a moment, because this is a mind-boggling concept. The physical, logistical implications of a regathering of people identified with the Israel of scripture from around the world are breathtaking. Is God big enough to make it happen? Well Christ did say that "with God, all things are possible." If God can resurrect a human body, which is essential to our Christian life, He can also regather His physical people from anywhere to accomplish His eternal spiritual purpose. God's purpose, to restore Israel, predates the time when they were actually scattered.
Jesus even spoke to that when He taught His disciples during His earthly ministry and they asked, "Will you at this time restore the Kingdom to Israel?" They believed the prophecies of Ezekiel at that time. And He said, "It's not going to happen at this point in time." So what is the purpose for all of this? Is this a narrow, nationalistic view of one nation over another? A feature of a misguided religious view of the Bible? No. This will happen as God foretold through His prophets so that all nations will know that He alone is God.
Mainstream religion and Christian teaching today dismiss this question about Israel's identity as irrelevant to the Gospel message. Nothing could be further from the truth. It is salvation through Christ that is available to all people, regardless of race. Salvation is open to all who believe on Christ and will bring themselves under His rule in their lives. But there does remain a material, national aspect of God's covenant with Abraham. An awareness of this critical prophecy is key to understanding prophecy in the end time. Christ is the center piece of that Gospel. His life, death, and resurrection are so very important.
This critical topic we have been covering in these series is told in further detail in the booklet that we have, "The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy." You can get a free copy of it by going online, to the number that is on your screen, and will tell in far greater detail the story of what we've been talking about on these series of "Beyond Today" programs about Israel and what God is bringing to pass. It is a moment and it is a time to gain that understanding, and to awake to what is happening as God prepares to set His hand to save the nations and to fulfill ultimately all the promises of Abraham to all peoples and all nations.
[Narrator] Call now to receive the free booklet, "The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy." The truth about the identity of the United States of America and Britain is one of the most fascinating and inspiring stories in the bible. Order now. Call toll-free, 1-888-886-8632 or write to the address shown on your screen. When you order this free study aid, we'll also send you a complimentary one-year subscription to "Beyond Today" magazine. "Beyond Today" brings you understanding of today's world and hope for the future. Six times a year, you'll read about current world events in the light of Bible prophecy as well as practical knowledge to improve your marriage and family, and godly principles to guide you toward a life that leads to peace. Call today to receive your free booklet, "The United States and Britain in Bible Prophecy," and your free one-year subscription to "Beyond Today" magazine. Call 1-888-886-8632 or go online to beyondtoday.tv.