Are the Jews God's chosen people?
Many people are asking about the Jews as God's people. Are the Jews God's people today? Are there any prophecies or commands of God as to how Christians are to deal with them? Are the things happening in Palestine any indication of the coming of Jesus? What about the inheritance of the Jews and when will they receive it?
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The Bible is clear on the subject and it is important to us. We must remember that the term "Jew" as used in the gospels is predominantly used to denote the religious leaders of Jesus time. Other terms were used when speaking of the people, such as "the common people heard him gladly." Mark 12:37 we should also keep in mind that the early church was almost entirely Jews. For over three years the gospel went throughout Jerusalem and Judea before it went to the Gentiles. The three thousand added to the church on the day of Pentecost were of Jewish descent.
Rejection of Jesus:
At the trial of Jesus the Jews called for the blood of Jesus to be on them and their children. Matt. 27:25. Still Jesus sent His disciples (Jews themselves) to preach to the Jews, and they did until the Romans destroyed their nation in 70 AD. We should love them just as much as Jesus does, and many of them are accepting Jesus as their Messiah. They need Jesus just as we do: "there is none other name under heaven given among men whereby we must be saved." Acts 4:12. Paul loved his people and prayed for them. "Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved. For I bear them record that they have a zeal of God, but not according to knowledge. For they being ignorant of God's righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God. For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth." Rom. 10:1-4. Paul loved them and earnestly wanted them to be saved. We should have the same loving attitude. Jesus told us to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every kindred nation tongue and people. They, as a people, certainly fall into that broad category. Christians should seek to give the gospel to them as well as anyone else. Indeed, some of them are helping to take the gospel to their own people.
Salvation of Jews:
We need to read Romans 11. In the 2nd verse Paul says that Israel is not cast away and points to himself as evidence. He became a follower of Christ and he worked for the salvation of the Jews all through his ministry, even though he was the apostle to the Gentiles. In verse 7 he says "Israel has not obtained what it seeks." Then in verses 19-22 where he is talking about us (Gentiles) being grafted into their olive tree, he says: "Branches were broken off that I might be grafted in. Because of unbelief they were broken off, and you stand by faith. Do not be haughty, but fear. For if God did not spare the natural branches, He may not spare you either. Therefore consider the goodness and severity of God: on those who fell severity; but toward you, goodness, if you continue in His goodness. Otherwise you also will be cut off." The words "did not spare" let us know that as a nation he considered the Jews no longer God's people. As individuals they can still have salvation; as individuals they are no different from anyone else. As a nation, too, they are no different: all need Jesus. Now consider Galatians 3:29. "And if you are Christ's then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." All the promises of scripture are for God's people. Today Christians are that people if they "continue in His (God's) goodness." Rom. 11:22 .
As individuals, Jews have as much chance for salvation as any Gentile. When Paul started his ministry, the Christian church was made up largely of Jews. There were many who believed and came to Christ. Peter said to the Jewish leaders: "Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." Acts 4:12 NKJV. Jew or Gentile, it makes no difference, we are all saved through Jesus Christ. There are many Jewish Christians today.
Jews back to Israel:
Some seem to think that the Jews must go back to Israel and resume the ancient sacrifices. This simply makes no sense because it was Jews (Peter and John in Acts 4:8-13) speaking to Jews, who proclaimed Jesus the only name by which any man can be saved. It is evident that Jews were included in the "we" of "we must be saved." The Bible is clear that sacrifices stopped, as far as God is concerned, with the death of Jesus, the Lamb of God. Matthew 27:51. "And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom; and the earth did quake, and the rocks rent." When God tore that heavy veil from top to bottom, it signaled the end of the animal sacrifices. It is true that sacrifices continued for a while after the death of Jesus but they lost their significance. The true Sacrifice had been offered. They installed a new veil. But in 70 AD, Titus, the Roman commander, came against Jerusalem and destroyed it. Jesus had predicted that not one stone of the temple would be left on another. Titus gave the command to save that beautiful temple, which was built by Herod. Jewish zealots found refuge in the temple and continued shooting arrows at the Romans. The soldiers became so angry with the harassment they set the temple on fire. The heat of the raging fire melted all the gold and it ran down in the cracks of the rocks and the soldiers plundered it to get the gold.
Rebuilding the temple:
With no temple, the Jews have had no sacrifices since. Now, as if God is saying there will be no sacrifices ever, the temple mount has a Moslem mosque on it. Can one imagine the uproar if the Jews were to destroy the mosque to rebuild their temple? Sometime between 1996 and 1997 The Biblical Archeological Review ran a story on the temple mount and had pictures of the mosque. They also had a picture of a place marked in the rock that scholars believe was the place where the ark of the covenant sat in Solomon's temple.
Jews in Bible prophecy:
We should pray for the Jewish people today that they might individually come to Jesus. This is all consistent with God's instructions to Israel. "But if ye shall at all turn from following me, ye or your children, and will not keep my commandments and my statutes which I have set before you, but go and serve other gods, and worship them: then will I cut off Israel out of the land which I have given them; and this house, which I have hallowed for my name, will I cast out of my sight; and Israel shall be a proverb and a byword among all people: And at this house, which is high, every one that passeth by it shall be astonished, and shall hiss; and they shall say, Why hath the LORD done thus unto this land, and to this house?" I Kings 9:6-8. In Romans 11, Paul says the same thing can happen to Christians. We must continue our heart-felt relationship with Jesus or lose our way. Also notice the condition given in the promise to Solomon. "If you search for Him, He will let you find Him, but if you forsake Him, He will cast you off forever." 1 Chronicles 28:9 TEB. See also Deut. 8:20. This is a warning to Christians just as much as it was to Israel of old.
God promised Abraham that He would give him and his descendants the land of Canaan. Gen. 12:7. It took many years for that to be fulfilled, as God had to give Abraham's descendants time to multiply into a nation. The book of Joshua is the story of Israel receiving the inheritance. First with the help of the Lord they overthrew the inhabitants of the land and then Joshua apportioned it out to the various tribes under God's direction. Joshua, in chapters 13 thru 22, tells of the division of the land to the 12 tribes of Israel. Galatians 3:29 tells us: "And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise." All real Christians will be heirs of the heavenly Canaan, heirs of the promise given to Abraham. Even Abraham himself "waited for a city which has foundations, whose builder and maker is God." Heb. 11:10. This makes it clear the real promise was of the heavenly kingdom.
That is the real fulfillment, the one that will be eternal. Through Jesus we can obtain title to a kingdom that will never pass away. "And the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdom under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people of the saints of the most High, whose kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey him." Dan. 7:27. What a glorious promise we have in Jesus our Lord.
The nation's corporate rejection of Jesus caused them, as a nation, to lose out on the final inheritance. That inheritance has passed on to all who accept their Messiah (Jesus) as their personal Savior from sin. But as Christians we have been grafted into their olive tree, and we can be cut off as surely as their nation was. Rom. 11:21, 22.
Had the Jews, as a nation, accepted their Messiah, they would have been the church through whom God would work to bring the gospel to all the world. It was their gospel, but they refused to carry it. Thus was born the Christian church and we haven't done too well either. Consider this sad but insightful passage: "He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. John 1:10-12. John, (a Jew himself) must have mourned as he wrote this sad passage. Yet write it he must, for he did it by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. See 2 Pet. 1:19, 20.
The throne of David:
In Matthew 1:1-17 the author goes to great lengths to show that Jesus was of the line of David, moving from Abraham to Joseph the earthly Father of Jesus. Luke 3:23-38 does the same thing backwards. He starts with Jesus and works back in time all the way back to Adam. Both genealogies agree and pass through David and Solomon. The throne was promised to David forever by God. "And king Solomon shall be blessed, and the throne of David shall be established before the LORD for ever." I Kings 2:45. Then in 1 Chronicles 28:9, quoted above, Solomon was warned the promise was conditional. Zedekiah was the last king of Israel. After the Babylonian captivity, the Jews never had a king, only governors, as they were under the dominion of other kings. The Herod kings of Jesus' time were not of the line of David and were appointed by the Roman Caesar. Israel had lost their kingdom and have never regained it. Yet rest assured the promise of God about the kingdom and the throne are still valid though circumstances have change as to how they are still valid. Daniel makes it clear that the kingdom will be given to the "people of the saints of the Most High.." Dan. 7:27. Galatians 3:29, quoted above makes it clear that ALL who make Jesus king of their lives will inherit the promises to Abraham as they will be counted the seed of Abraham. Just as important as this promise is the promise of the royal throne of David. Two of the gospel writers have taken the time to give us the royal lineage of Jesus. Why? Just for interesting information? Not at all. Jesus is of the royal line as a fulfillment of the promise to David.
Isaiah made it clear that the Messiah was to come in the lineage of David. "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 for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this." Isaiah 9:6, 7. The kingdom that God sets up is forever. Daniel makes that clear in Daniel 2:44. Then in 7:13, 14 we find "one like the Son of Man" being brought "in the clouds of heaven" before the judgment throne of God (verses 9, 10) and dominion and a kingdom being given to Him. His dominion and kingdom are both everlasting even using the words "shall not pass away." Jesus is to be crowned king of our lives today. Someday when He comes again, He will come as King of kings and Lord of lords. Rev. 19:16. This makes the throne of David eternal. Some claim that Jesus is not in the Old Testament. Paul is not in agreement with that stand and neither is Jesus. Paul, speaking of the Israelites of Moses day said: "And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ." 1 Corinthians 10:4. Jesus said: "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me." John 5:39. When one stops to realize that the Old Testament Scriptures were the only Scriptures available when Jesus said that, one realizes that Jesus is all through the Old Testament.
Paul, raised a Pharisee, said: "Where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcision nor uncircumcision, Barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free: but Christ is all, and in all." Colossians 3:11. In Christ Old and New Testaments are bound together and all the promises are now to be fulfilled in Spiritual Israel.
Unless otherwise specified, all Scripture is taken from the King James Version.