This is the third in a series of writings by my dad, Joseph W. Gaut.
Truth or Tradition?
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God (Gal. 6:15-16 NIV).
Definitions are important. If through prayer, study, and fellowship we can learn precise meanings of important scriptural terms, we do well. Ultimately, words mean what the Holy Spirit says they mean. His meaning will be precise, perfect, and often full of surprise as light penetrates our heart. We may have a struggle ascertaining the full depth of meaning of a term or concept, but we can enjoy the search for the mind of God, knowing we are in the hands of a loving Father who is pleased with our quest. In fact, as believers, we are given the mind of Christ who freely shares his knowledge with us.
In considering scriptural terms, it is important that we lay aside preconceived notions. We have all been swindled a bit by our traditions. An honest, inquisitive heart need not fear that God will take offense at our quest for knowledge. We do not offend when we question tradition. Far from it! Our Master urges us to search for truth and promises that those who seek will find. Blindly accepting tradition is not seeking. Mental assent to the ideas of others is not to be confused with active faith.
One term of critical importance to us is the word Israel. There is much reward if we will spend time prayerfully considering this important key to understanding scripture. Much meaning is hidden in understanding this precious word. Is the Israel of God today, in scriptural context, a nation in the Middle East? Or is Israel a specific relationship with God? Let us examine this important matter in some detail.
Israel: One Who Walks With God
Jacob is a name that means deceiver. One night the biblical patriarch, Jacob, had a wrestling match with the angel of the Lord and, amazingly, won. This episode changed his life. Have we ever wrestled with our consciences in the middle of the night? Do we not win when we decide for righteousness?
In winning his wrestling match, the very character of Jacob was transformed. He was changed so greatly that the name deceiver no longer fit; he had become Israel, one who walks with God. From this alone, we might expect the House of Israel to be those who walk with God. With this in mind, let us more closely examine this critical term, Israel.
The Tribes of Israel
The twelve tribes of Israel are reckoned through this patriarch, Israel. These tribes grew into a large populace in Egypt and then, after escaping the bondage of Egypt, conquered the land of Canaan, the land of promise. The conquered land was divided into estates for each tribe, a confederation that regarded itself as one united people. This nation of the sons of Israel was called to be a people who honored the one true God and walked with him in loving relationship.
After several centuries of trial and tribulation, the Kingdom split into two parts, Northern and Southern, following the reign of King Solomon. The Southern Kingdom, known as Judah after the principal southern tribe, also incorporated the tribe of Benjamin. The ten tribes of the Northern Kingdom retained the name Israel and became deeply involved in the apostasy of Baal worship from which they never recovered. Many who had been called to walk with God had not lived up to the meaning of the name of Israel. Being called Israel did not make the heart regenerate any more than being called Christian places one in right relationship with our Heavenly Father. Sitting in a hen house does not make one a chicken.
Even more fascinating ancient history helps us to better understand the term Israel. Judah eventually came to be called Judea and its people referred to as Jews. Jew was not a term equivalent to Israelite. A Jew was an Israelite, but an Israelite was not necessarily a Jew. In fact, the term Jew was not found in Old Testament literature until most of the books had been written.
About 722 B.C., the Assyrians swept down and carried the Northern Kingdom, called Israel, captive. Already in apostasy, the identity of the Northern tribes faded from historical view and, yet today, these tribes are frequently referred to as the Ten Lost Tribes of Israel. Not much is known about them or their whereabouts. It is not illogical to think that any semblance of national identity dissolved in the mists of time. Some would argue this point, but the genealogical record is not critical to this discussion.
Fulfillment of Prophecy
Herein is a problem for some students of Bible prophecy. There are several scriptural prophecies about these tribes found in Genesis and many other scriptures that were not fulfilled at the time of their captivity and dispersion at the hands of the Assyrians. Surely these prophecies must be fulfilled, will be fulfilled and, in fact, are being fulfilled. Such fulfillment, however, is in the sense intended by God and will never match the theological schemes devised by those having no revelation. The identity of the ten tribes has been lost and there should be no expectation that these prophecies will be fulfilled in a people having some genetic entitlement to the term Israelite. Those involved in the apostasy of Baal worship were not those who walked with God and, though called Israel, were among those who had cast aside the Covenant they had with God. The prophets told Israel that they had broken His Covenant and, yet, our loving God promised a New Covenant that would be made with the House of Israel.
It is also noted that the ancient tribes of Israel, as a sign of their covenant with God, practiced circumcision. It is a vital point of Old Testament law that if a male of Israel was not circumcised, he was regarded as cut off from his people. It is possible, and perhaps quite probable, that most members of the ten tribes, who were in apostasy before their forced exile at the hands of the Assyrians, would have in time abandoned the practice of circumcision. Even if one was circumcised in such a condition of apostasy, it would seem to be no more than an empty tradition as Baal worship precludes an active faith in God. Certainly there is no record of these people having continued in Covenant relationship with God. A people who were cut off from their source by application of divine law were, quite simply, no longer Israelites.
It is perhaps not surprising, therefore, that the many remaining prophecies concerning the Ten Tribes, sometimes collectively called Ephraim after the dominant tribe of the Northern Kingdom, require fulfillment in a manner that involves a spiritual House of Israel, and not a physical one. As we shall see, this is exactly what has happened. We should not be surprised that the fulfillment is spiritual since the Kingdom of God is a spiritual Kingdom. The Church of the Lord Jesus is such a spiritual House. It is the Israel of God, sprouting from the roots of that ancient tree. And true Israelites are still those who walk with the one true God, our Lord Jesus Christ, regardless of their ethnicity. Let us look into this further.
A Most Relevant Prophecy
About 123 years after the Northern Kingdom was carried captive, the Southern Kingdom was defeated in a war with the Babylonians. Solomon’s temple and the walls of Jerusalem were destroyed. The people were taken into Babylonian exile for a period of seventy years. A remnant of these Israelites, now called Jews, returned to Judea after their captivity. After a few more centuries, the Messiah, Jesus, came out of Judah as prophesied.
When the long-awaited Messiah appeared, He proclaimed that he came only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He also let it be known that His sheep would hear His voice. He ministered to a Greek from Syrophoenecia, defined the term neighbor by telling a story about a good Samaritan, reminded us of Namaan the Syrian general who was healed of leprosy when no one in the land of Israel was cured of the dread disease, ministered to a Samaritan woman at the well of Jacob (note the symbolism), and commended the faith of a Roman Centurion.
Jesus had no problem in extending his great mercies to those of other nations who had faith, even though the Judeans would not have regarded these particular sheep as Israelites. He even told a group of skeptical unbelieving Jews that they were of their father, the devil, and that if they had Abraham as a father, they would have the faith of Abraham. Jesus was, and is, continually showing us that it is faith, not flesh, that defines His flock named Israel. Indeed, He still comes only for the lost sheep of the House of Israel. Certainly Syrophoenecians, Syrians, Samaritans, Romans, and you and I can all be of the House of Israel if we but follow Jesus.
So who are the sheep of the House of Israel? The sheep of Jesus are those who hear His voice. If you have heard His voice, accepted His free gift of Eternal Life and chosen to walk with the Master, then you are one of His sheep. You are part of Israel.
The Kingdom of God
The land of ancient Israel was the Kingdom of God’s people for the era of the Mosaic Covenant. But when Christ came to us in the flesh and dwelt among us, he let us know that he was bringing in a Kingdom for God’s people that would be within the hearts of believers. He told us this Kingdom would come without observation and is not of this world. He told us plainly that the Kingdom of God is within.
We profit spiritually when we see that the ancient Kingdom of Israel was typological of the Kingdom of God that Jesus manifested through the power of his ministry and revealed through his teachings. The faithful are resident in this Israel of God. This should not surprise us. The author of Hebrews wrote plainly (Heb 10:1) that the law has a shadow of good things to come. In such context, the sojourn of the children of God in the physical land of Israel foreshadowed that which was to come through Christ for the Israel of God, the household of faith. Through the rich symbolism involved, the ancient Kingdom of the tribes of Israel speaks to us today of the Kingdom of God within the hearts of believers where Jesus rules supreme.
We read our Lord’s announcement of this change from the Old to the New, given in the presence of the chief priests and Pharisees, in the gospel of Matthew (21:42-45) as follows:
Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the scriptures: Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”
Let us accept Jesus’ prophecy that the Kingdom of God was to be taken from those who thought they were children of Abraham and given to those who would behave as children of Abraham, the children of faith. Nominal belief in God has never met our Creator’s standards. Claiming the name of Israel does not make one an Israelite. Citizenship in an earthly Kingdom does not make one a citizen in the Israel of God. Jesus was ushering in a new nation, a nation of those who would have faith purchased with His precious blood. He was bringing in a Nation of Righteousness that would never be seen on a map for it is a Kingdom that remains undetected by the external eye. The Kingdom of God is within. It is the new nation, the Kingdom of Jesus, which comes without observation. It comes in the hearts of men.
In Matthew’s gospel, cited previously, we see Jesus’ clear declaration that the citizenry of his Kingdom would be those of faith. No one else would have a claim. Further, the Mosaic Covenant that had been made with Israel had been broken by the people so many times in their apostasy that it was finally laid aside by God and a New Covenant given, the covenant prophesied by Jeremiah and given on the Day of Pentecost (Jer. 31:31-34):
“The time is coming,” declares the LORD,
“when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they broke my covenant,
though I was a husband to them,”
declares the LORD.
“This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time,” declares the LORD.
“I will put my law in their minds
and write it on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest,”
declares the LORD.
“For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
When Jesus said He was going to take the Kingdom away from those in Judea and give it to a people who would bring forth fruit, what people did He have in mind? To what did Jeremiah refer when he prophesied of a Covenant in which God would forgive iniquity and remember sin no more?
The Church is Born
The answers to these questions came on the Day of Pentecost when a new nation was born in a day. Several thousand souls accepted Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. The Kingdom of God was established in the hearts of men and the First Born of the New Creation, Jesus Christ, now had many brothers and sisters. Iniquity was forgiven and sin no longer remembered for those who accepted the blessed Lamb of God. The ordinances and commandments that were against us were nailed to the cross of Calvary. The believer was given a New and Living way by which he could please God and have a righteousness that came not from keeping written commandments but from having the very nature of Christ dwelling within. The Word had become flesh in the believer. God now dwelt in the human heart.
Jews and Gentiles Accept Jesus
In the forty years remaining before the destruction of the temple in 70 A.D., many thousands of Jews came to know our Lord’s salvation, both in Jerusalem and in the Diaspora. A sizable remnant of Judah made its way into the Kingdom of God. Not all are Israel who call themselves Israel, as the apostle Paul noted, but many of these first century Jews were certainly part of the our Lord’s New Creation. They were citizens of the Nation of Faith, the Israel of God, through their acceptance of Jesus.
This new Nation of Believers, this Israel of God, was not, however, restricted to geographic boundaries or genetic bloodlines. Peter wrote of this remarkable new nation (1 Pet 2:9-10):
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Peter tells us that believers are members of a very special nation. Its citizens are strangers and pilgrims in this world. Paul lets us know that the name of this new nation is Israel, not only from his statement in Galatians 6:15 about the Israel of God, but from his referral to those of us who believe as those who are grafted into Israel (Ref. Rom. 11). Put simply, Israel is the body of believers who have genuine faith and walk with God.
The Mother of Us All
Now surely, if the true Church is Israel, its capital must be Jerusalem. But which Jerusalem? The scripture speaks of two Jerusalems: an earthly place of bondage and a Jerusalem which is above that abounds in freedom. Paul makes it clear that the City of God, the Jerusalem which is above, is our capital, as followers of Christ (Gal 4:22-26). He calls this wonderful place the mother of us all.
For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the slave woman and the other by the free woman. His son by the slave woman was born in the ordinary way; but his son by the free woman was born as the result of a promise.
These things may be taken figuratively, for the women represent two covenants. One covenant is from Mount Sinai and bears children who are to be slaves: This is Hagar. Now Hagar stands for Mount Sinai in Arabia and corresponds to the present city of Jerusalem, because she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem that is above is free, and she is our mother.
Jerusalem is the City of God and is for those who have been born free. It is for those who have the New Covenant relationship with Jesus. It is from above, spiritual. The spiritual nation, Israel, has a spiritual capital, Jerusalem. This is a consistency which should not surprise us and is an affirmation that we are to regard Israel in a spiritual sense.
In 70 A.D., the old nation of Judea was destroyed. Jerusalem was decimated by the Roman general Titus. In fulfillment of Christ’s prophecy, found in Matthew 24, not one stone of the second temple was left upon another. Believers had been warned to flee when they saw the surrounding armies. Many Jews were killed or sold into slavery throughout the Roman Empire.
What about the city of Jerusalem in the Middle East today? And what about the nation that calls itself Israel where this Jerusalem is located? Is it a land that fulfills God’s promise of regathering his people? No, not at all! Calling a nation Israel does not make it Israel in any meaningful scriptural sense. In the context of scripture and the teachings of our Lord given while among us on earth, coupled with the inspired teachings of the apostles, we know that the Israel of God is the Household of the Faithful, those who believe in the Lord Jesus.
Peter, as we have seen, comments succinctly on this nation of God’s people while Paul refers directly to the Israel of God in such manner as to make it crystal clear that citizenship in God’s nation of believers is not dependent on genetic or cultural background. He tells us (Gal 6:15-16):
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation. Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God.
The Regathering of the Israel of God
As promised, the Lord Jesus has been taking a people unto himself out of every nation, and tribe, and clan and tongue on earth. He is the author and finisher of his new nation. Jesus is regathering the Israel of God, scattered through the world. All believers are now one people. Our Master forever broke asunder the wall of partition separating us. As Paul tells us in Galatians 3:28:
There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
The people of God are being regathered today. The lost sheep of the House of Israel are scattered throughout the earth. But when one of these sheep hears the voice of the Master and accepts Jesus as Lord and Savior, then that blessed sheep has been regathered out of the Land of Unbelief and placed into the Land of Milk and Honey, the Kingdom of God, the Land of Israel. Such an Israelite may remain physically in Argentina, Nigeria, Iceland, or the furthermost reaches of the globe, but citizenship is now in the true Nation of Israel, united by the blood of Jesus. The color of skin, language spoken, or religion practiced before meeting Jesus no longer matters – they who were not a people in times past are now the people of God, as the apostle Peter so eloquently told us. His sheep hear His voice and follow him. Another they will not follow. Those who follow not the Lord Jesus are not His sheep. They are not of Israel.
As sheep of His pasture, we have received a portion of the Land in inheritance. We are joint-heirs with Christ and, as part of the House of Israel, surely have membership in one of His twelve tribes. We have an inheritance, a portion of the Land, which the natural eye cannot see. And we have the promise that all of Israel will be saved. Surely all of the lost sheep will be found by the Good Shepherd and brought back to the mountains of Israel, a beautiful place in the Spirit of God.
Israel is a pace, not a place. It is a walk with God. Citizenship comes through personal relationship with Jesus Christ. What is happening today with our blessed Israel? Consider the passage in Ezekiel (37:1-14) where Ezekiel is told to prophecy to the whole House of Israel which was nothing more than a collection of dead, dried bones. He obeys God and, with subsequent prophecy, the bones come together step by step and flesh out until they finally become a mighty army. They come up out of their graves to do this.
Does God use metaphor and symbol? Yes. We see this great event progressing by stages with the requirement of further prophecy at each stage. The grave speaks of our spiritual condition before knowing Christ. We were dead in trespasses and sins. There are many lost sheep of the House of Israel wandering about in strange places that simply need to hear the voice of their Master. They are in the grave, Sheol (Hebrew). They are not physically dead but they only have biological life, not spiritual life. Without Jesus, they are in a place of spiritual death with lives that are empty and meaningless. Dead, dried bones! Jesus wants to see them raised from the dead. He wants to see these walking dead come out of their graves. Ultimately spiritual life is the only kind of life that counts. Without it, man is just a useless carcass. But Ezekiel prophecies and there is movement, a shaking and rattling, among these dead, dried bones.
Then, Ezekiel prophesies yet again and there is further motion as these once lost sheep start realizing they have been found and have great purpose in their lives. The Word of God imparts Life. They start fleshing out, becoming more like Jesus until, finally, the power of God greatly transforms them and they have life like they never known before. They band together and, with great unity of purpose, form a mighty and magnificent army for God. The enemies of God stand no chance when the Israel of God, energized by the Holy Spirit, rises up against them.
The Army of God
God is raising up his Army today. He is calling his people together in great unity of the Spirit. He is breathing Life into His people, imparting strength and understanding they never possessed before. He is calling multitudes to enlist in this great undertaking as all enemies are put under the feet of Jesus. He is regathering His people to that spiritual place called the Israel of God. He is placing them in their own land and giving them power from on high.
He has given His Church authority over all the power of the enemy. He wants his people, those who are called by his Name, to rise up and exercise the authority he has given them over the Enemy of our Souls. His Army is marching on to Victory. His invitation is to you to join if you but hear his voice. Many are called but few are chosen. The chosen ones are those who answer the call. They are the chosen people. And these people, the Israel of God, will prevail. The weapons of our army are not carnal, but spiritual, and effectual for the pulling down of the enemy’s strongholds.
The Temple of Eternal Israel
The martyr, Stephen (Acts 7:48-50), unwavering in his testimony of Jesus Christ, reminded those who were fixing to stone him to death that God did not live in a house built of human hands. In passionate language he told his persecutors of God’s true dwelling place. He let them know that the Most High does not live in houses made by men and quoted from the Prophet Isaiah, telling them:
Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me? says the Lord.
Or where will my resting place be?
Has not my hand made all these things?
With his dying breath, Stephen tried to show his accusers that Almighty God was too great to be confined to a structure of wood and stone, however wondrous it might be.
Stephen knew that God had made his presence known in the physical temples and the tabernacle of Israel over the centuries. But now he understood a truth of great significance, one that caused men to gnash their teeth in anger and stone him. Through faith in Christ Jesus, Stephen had come to realize that God’s desire was to dwell in the hearts of men and that the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon those who believed in Jesus had made this reality. Stephen grasped that the tabernacle and temples of the past had given way to a great revelation of truth. He understood that the physical structures were but a type and shadow of the reality that found fulfillment in Christ Jesus. There would never again be any need for a physical structure to foreshadow the revelation of Christ. Jesus had come and now dwelt in the hearts of men.
Stephen was hardly alone in his revelation. The early Church left us clear record of its deep insight into this matter. Paul reminded the Corinthians that they were God’s temple (1 Cor. 2:16-17) with God’s Spirit living in them. He told them that if anyone destroys that temple, God will destroy him and emphasized that they were that temple. We are that temple today if Christ Jesus lives in us. God has a temple more real than any ever built by human hands. It is built with living stones and Jesus is the chief corner stone whom the builders rejected.
Thus we have no need to look forward to any other temple. Yet some still do not like to hear that God will not make His dwelling place in an edifice constructed by human hands. After all, scripture speaks clearly and in great detail of a temple that some claim has never been built and that is of great importance to God’s people, Israel. Was Stephen wrong? Did Paul lead us astray? Inconceivable! Then what about the description of the temple we find in Ezekiel, beginning with chapter 40?
This magnificent structure, described in meticulous detail, is, quite simply, not one that is built by human hands. Nor is it even a physical structure in any sense commonly understood. By the grace of God, the believer who seeks divine wisdom in searching out the passages relevant to Ezekiel’s temple will find passages deep in metaphor and symbol. Once this is grasped, the connection between the temple of living stones portrayed by Stephen and Paul becomes apparent.
Consider certain passages of scripture, beginning with Ezekiel 43:04-07, by which we know that God Himself, who does not dwell in buildings made of stone, will dwell in this temple forever and forever and forever:
The glory of the LORD entered the temple through the gate facing east. Then the Spirit lifted me up and brought me into the inner court, and the glory of the LORD filled the temple.
While the man was standing beside me, I heard someone speaking to me from inside the temple. He said: “Son of man, this is the place of my throne and the place for the soles of my feet. This is where I will live among the Israelites forever. The house of Israel will never again defile my holy name …
Ezekiel prophesies of a dwelling place that Israel will no more defile. The structures of ancient Israel were defiled many times in various ways. The Messiah had not yet come and man, burdened with a sin nature, brought defilement with him. We are cautioned not to defile the temple of the living God by Paul who told us that we are to flee from unrighteousness because we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. In Christ, the believer is cleansed of all unrighteousness by the power of the blood of Jesus.
The Throne of God
In the passage in Ezekiel, the Lord refers to the place of his throne. Where is God’s throne but in the human heart? This is where God wants to take up residency for all eternity. He is not about to limit himself to man-made projects of sticks and stones. Ezekiel makes it clear that residency in this temple is eternal. No earthly stone work, however sound, lasts forever. The Temple described by Ezekiel does last forever.
The Kingdom of God is within, the King dwells within, and the throne of God is within. Heaven is His throne as the prophet Isaiah tells us.
The River of Life
A stream flows from the temple portrayed in Ezekiel and becomes a great river, too great to pass over. This river has a most unusual characteristic, unlike any river ever seen on earth. This river has healing power. It is living water, a River of Life described in Ezekiel 47:01-12. This scarcely suggests visible temple architecture. It does represent the Kingdom that comes without observation, the Kingdom preached by Jesus.
What a strange sight this would be to the natural eye! A river flows from a temple and becomes so great that no man can pass over it! Yet that is what we have. But when we consider the greatness of God, the unfathomable height and breadth and depth of him, and understand that we can never place God in our understanding — that he will not fit — then perhaps we can glimpse why we cannot pass over this great River.
This same Jesus is the River of Life. All may come and drink freely of this water. All may be healed. There is a River of Life that flows from the throne of God.
Jesus is the architect and builder of this temple. It is no coincidence that he was a carpenter by natural trade; he is still in the construction business. He identified this temple not built by hands when He identified himself as the most significant stone of this majestic building when he revealed (Luke 20:17-18) that he is the stone the builders rejected, the very capstone of this great structure.
Completion of the Temple Approaches
So what temple did Ezekiel see? He saw a temple not built by human hands. He saw a temple that has been under construction for the last two thousand years as God has been fashioning living stones into the building blocks of this majestic structure. This temple is nearing completion. Jesus said that the gospel of the Kingdom and his righteousness will be preached in all of the world and that then the end will come. Soon the last stone will be fitted into place. Soon the Temple will be complete.
But what about the throne within this temple? We are told that Jesus would sit upon the throne of David. Is this the throne from which Christ rules today? Let us examine this matter further.
The Throne of David
Speaking of the Messiah, Isaiah prophesied:
Behold, the Lord GOD will come with strong hand, and his arm shall rule for him: behold, his reward is with him, and his work before him.
He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young. (Isaiah 40:10-11)
Jesus is identified as the Shepherd of Israel. He told us clearly that He came only to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. He is the great Pastor of this flock, the Good Shepherd. He is the One who seeks out the lamb that has gone astray. Israel has no other shepherd. Today Jesus comforts his flock by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus is also the King of Israel. Kingdoms have but one King and Jesus is our King. King Jesus. What music to our ears! We see mention of our eternal King in Isaiah (44:6):
Thus saith the LORD the King of Israel, and his redeemer the LORD of hosts; I am the first, and I am the last; and beside me there is no God.
He is the alpha and omega, the beginning and the end. He is the Redeemer of Israel. By the blood of the Lamb of God, Israel receives its redemption. Besides Jesus, there is no God, as Isaiah clearly tells us.
Jesus spoke plainly of His Kingdom. Pontius Pilate inquired as to the Kingship of the Lord Jesus and Jesus told him, “My kingdom is not of this world….” My Kingdom! Jesus identified the Kingdom as belonging to Him. He is the King of Israel. This same Jesus, the Prince of Peace, was crucified with a sign mockingly but truly proclaiming Him King of the Jews.
JESUS! Both King and Shepherd of Israel! One Kingdom and one King.
The prophet Ezekiel (34:23-24) also speaks of one shepherd, a prince, who would rule over Israel. The writings of Ezekiel are replete with metaphor and symbol, not unlike the book of Revelation. Ezekiel refers to the one shepherd of Israel as follows:
And I will set up one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them, even my servant David; he shall feed them, and he shall be their shepherd. And I the LORD will be their God, and my servant David a prince among them; I the LORD have spoken it.
Ezekiel calls this shepherd David. Who is this servant David of whom the prophet speaks? Is this the beloved King of ancient Israel, David the son of Jesse, who established an earthly Kingdom so many centuries ago? Or is this David but a type and shadow of the David of whom Ezekiel speaks? Should we examine only the apparent surface meaning and look no deeper, or can we recognize the beautiful symbol and metaphor in which scripture is written and respect the poetry of the Master? Hopefully we can clearly see the typology involved here. Let us recall that the author of Hebrews reminds us that the law casts a shadow of good things to come and is not the very image of those things.
Plainly speaking, the term David refers directly to Jesus. It was the Holy Spirit upon David that enabled him to slay the bear, the lion, and Goliath. It was the Spirit of the living Christ that made David ancient Israel’s greatest King. Everything of value accomplished by David was done by the anointing of the Holy Spirit. His obedience to the Spirit of God is what made David a man after God’s own heart. So when we talk about a future rule of David, we are talking about one who rules in the Spirit of David, the Spirit that made David beloved of God. It is the Christ, the very Spirit of Jesus, that made David a righteous ruler. So when scripture speaks of David ruling in the Kingdom, it is talking of a reign by the Spirit that made David the great King he was. It is talking about the King of Israel, the Lord Jesus.
Pertaining to this matter, we find, in the book of Samuel II, the following passage which is of critical importance to our understanding: The prophet Samuel spoke of one who would be of the House of David and who would have a kingdom that would last forever. Obviously no earthly kingdom lasts forever. Yet Samuel prophesied of David (2 Sam 7:12-13):
When your days are over and you rest with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring to succeed you, who will come from your own body, and I will establish his kingdom. He is the one who will build a house for my Name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever.
And again the prophet said (2 Sam 7:16):
Your house and your kingdom will endure forever before me; your throne will be established forever.
Now the earthly kingdom over which David reigned was eventually split and finally destroyed. It was not an eternal kingdom. But the new nation, the Israel of God, purchased by the blood of Jesus of the lineage of David, is an everlasting Kingdom. Its throne is established forever. Samuel told David that the one who would occupy this eternal throne would be of his lineage. By this we know that it cannot be David himself, the ancient king of Israel, who sits on the everlasting throne foretold by the prophets. We must look for another and we find that other in the person of Jesus Christ himself! Considering such matters, we can better see that mention of David by Ezekiel (chapters 34 and 37) is typological reference to Jesus.
Isaiah told us that the Messiah would sit upon the throne of David as ruler in an everlasting Kingdom which would ever increase (Isaiah 9:6-7).
For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.
The angel Gabriel confirmed that it was Jesus who would sit on the throne of David in a Kingdom without end (Luke 1:32-33):
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
In his first sermon in Acts, Peter makes it abundantly clear that Christ was raised up to sit on the throne of David at his Resurrection and Ascension (Acts 2:29-35):
Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried and his tomb is here to this day. But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay. God has raised this Jesus to life, and we are all witnesses of the fact. Exalted to the right hand of God, he has received from the Father the promised Holy Spirit and has poured out what you now see and hear. For David did not ascend to heaven, and yet he said,
The Lord said to my Lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”
It is while David was in the grave, as Peter emphasized above, that Christ was exalted to the throne of David, the everlasting throne. Jesus ascended to the throne while David was still asleep. The everlasting Kingdom began with the Resurrection of Jesus and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost. The Kingdom came without observation. It came in men’s hearts. We pray today for this kingdom to come and should realize it still comes in men’s hearts. We pray that men will receive the Holy Spirit of Grace and be partakers of this great and everlasting Kingdom. We do not await a future kingdom. The Christian will not see death. We will simply shuffle off this mortal coil and enter into greater glory with our fellow believers. Death has been overcome through Christ Jesus. Today we enjoy the Kingdom of God. We enjoy the fruits of His Victory!
The Kingdom Described
Paul told us that the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. This is the everlasting Kingdom. The Prince of Peace rules from the throne of David in our regenerate hearts. We do not await another Prince, another Kingdom, or another Covenant. The Everlasting Covenant has been given and the administrator of that Covenant, the Holy Spirit, dwells within our hearts. The Kingdom of God is within and the throne of that Kingdom, the Throne of David, is within.
Jesus Ministers Through Parables
In Christ Jesus, we are Kings and Priests. It is our honor to investigate the questions we have explored together. What a great privilege we have in meditating on His parables! In reading scripture, we hopefully become aware that the same God who gave us the writings of the Old Testament also spoke to us on the shores of Galilee. And He so very often spoke in parable. But if we have wondered why God sometimes uses deep symbol, we are not alone. His early disciples had the same question. They came to him and asked why he spoke to the crowd in parable. He told them that it was given to them to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but made it clear it was not given to everyone. Hardness of heart can block the message so often given in metaphor and parable.
This shows us something important about the teaching method of our God. He frequently speaks in parable. We should not be surprised to find the Old Testament overflowing with parable, metaphor, type, and shadow. In truth, it is rich in parable. It is erroneous teaching that we should always adapt the literal meaning of a passage unless we know beyond any doubt a metaphor is implied. All too often, literal is used in the sense of surface meaning. What we should have in all instances is the mind of God on a matter, the teaching of the Holy Spirit, not a man-made rule for interpreting scripture.
Jesus, Our Teacher
Jesus promised to teach us and to lead us into all truth. We should not rely on man-made methods when we have such a great promise made to us, but should instead prayerfully seek understanding from God as we study scripture and meditate. If we have the mind of Christ on any subject, then we have the true and literal meaning. Good news! Believers are given the mind of Christ!
Some are a bit shy about seeking God as their teacher, just as the children of Israel in Moses’ day were hesitant to approach the quaking mountain in fear of God. Yet in Christ we have a God of pure Love who seeks nothing but our well-being. If we ask a fish of our Father, will He give us a serpent? No. But if we ask anything from a regenerate heart, such as understanding what he means in certain passages of scripture, he hears us. And if he hears us, he performs what we ask as we know from 1 John. He wants our understanding to be enlightened. And surely His teachings will always in be accord with the true word that has preceded it.
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