NATURAL ISRAEL NOT HEIRS TO SPIRITUAL PROMISES
"Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the
Election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded...unto
this day."--Romans 11:7,8.
THE words of the Apostle Peter, "The Promise is unto you and to your children" (Acts 2:39), are in full harmony with all of the Lord's dealings with Israel, and with His Covenant with them as the posterity of His servant Abraham. The "Seed," promised by the Lord in His Covenant with Abraham, was for many centuries supposed to mean only the natural seed of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob--only those who were under the Law of Moses--the Jewish nation. But there was a condition attached to this promise of heirship. When God entered into the Covenant with Israel, the understanding was that if they would keep the Law they should have everlasting life and should inherit the privilege of blessing all the families of the earth--all peoples. But that if they did not keep the Law, then they would be cut off from all these favors.
God knew that not one of Israel could keep the Law; and He had no thought that any of the natural Israelites living before our Lord's day would become members of the Body of Christ spiritual. He knew that no one could come into the Body of Christ until Jesus had first come and opened the way. Nevertheless, it was not an empty offer that was made to the Jewish nation. God did not promise that all Israel might become members of the Spiritual Seed--the Church of Christ. He merely promised that on certain conditions they should bless all the nations of the earth. Since the Spiritual Seed was not mentioned, the natural seed were right in line for that which was specified--to be blessers of the world.
NO SPIRITUAL PROMISES BEFORE CHRIST
The keeping of the Law was required, however, that Israel might have a right to life everlasting and to share in any of God's promises. But they could not keep the Law; consequently none of them gained life. Yet there were some who manifested such heart loyalty to God that He declared that they were acceptable to Him. These faithful, obedient ones met the conditions by which they might, through the Redeemer whom God would in due time provide, become a part of the "Seed" who was to bless "all the families of the earth." As they had no knowledge of the purpose of God to have a Spiritual Seed, the attaining of a place in the natural seed to bless all mankind was all that they had hoped for. St. Paul points out that these Worthies of past ages will have a glorious place in the Kingdom. "These all died in faith, not having received the Promises,...God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect."--Hebrews 11:13,40.
Jesus declared to the unfaithful Jews of His day, "Ye shall see Abraham and Isaac and Jacob and all the prophets in the Kingdom of God, and ye yourselves thrust out." (Luke 13:28.) The faithful saints who lived before Christ will be the human representatives of the Kingdom. They will be "princes in all the earth," as declared by the Lord through the Prophet David. (Psalm 45:16.) Thus they will receive a great blessing.
Until Christ came God never led the Jews to understand His Plan for the Spiritual Seed. His time for bringing this feature of His Plan to light and for calling candidates for places in this Seed class, had not yet come. Those who lived prior to this Call were not deceived in any manner nor defrauded of anything. God merely told them of the possibilities which were before them of becoming blessers of the world. Such as accepted the possibilities and rendered the Lord full obedience to the best of their ability, became heirs of the earthly phase of the Kingdom and the promises belonging thereto.
When our Lord Jesus came, His ministry and that of the Apostles up to the time of the close of the "seventy weeks" (symbolic) yet remaining of Jewish favor, was, according to God's agreement with Israel, confined to the Jewish people. And as many of them as were of the right condition of heart undoubtedly received the Message. As the Jews were the chosen people of God, because of being the natural seed of Abraham, His friend, when the time came for calling out the Spiritual Seed the opportunity of becoming of this Seed must first go to Israel. Afterwards, the offer went to the Gentiles, to take out from them a sufficient number to complete the Spiritual Seed--the Gospel Church.
After the glorification of the Church, then will come the blessing of the earthly seed. As the chiefs of this earthly seed will be "princes in all the earth"--the Ancient Worthies--so later on, all who come in under the terms of the New Covenant will be joined to Israel and will also become the seed of Abraham. Eventually, the seed of Abraham, as foretold by the Lord, shall be "as the sands upon the seashore" for multitude. "In becoming Thy seed, shall all the families of the earth bless themselves," seems to be the literal rendering of one statement of God to Abraham in connection with the Covenant made with him. But the blessing of all will come through the Spiritual Seed, the glorified Church--Head and Body. So God's Plan seems to be one of giving more blessings to the Spiritual Seed, and less to the natural seed, though very great blessings will be the portion of all who will come into harmony with Him.
CALLED BY GOD TO HIGHEST PLACE
Natural Israel never were heirs unconditionally of any part of the Promise to Abraham nor heirs, as a nation, of the spiritual part of the Promise--the chief, the principal part. They were on trial before the Law of God, which was expressed in their Law Covenant, to see whether or not they would be worthy of eternal life. And so it was with our Lord Jesus when He was made flesh, born under the Law--subordinate to the Law. (Galatians 4:4.) It was only because He was perfect and kept the Law, that He was able in God's due time to present His body a living sacrifice as a Substitute for Adam. His faithful keeping of the Law proved His right to eternal life; and His sacrifice of that life as a man, under God's arrangement, raised Him to the highest place in the Universe next to Jehovah--the Divine plane--with authority to execute Jehovah's Program for the salvation of the world of mankind. He thus became the Head of the Spiritual Seed of Abraham.
When Jesus made His consecration, He was begotten of the Spirit. He was born of the Spirit, completed of the Spirit, in His resurrection, and He was the First born to this condition. Afterward, those Jews who were in the right condition of heart were accepted on the same terms. But instead of God's making those called to be of the Spiritual Seed actually just, perfect--as our Lord Jesus was--He justifies them by faith. Jesus was absolutely without imperfection--the Apostle Paul speaks of Him as being "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners." (Hebrews 7:26.) God imputes to the followers of Jesus a sufficiency of His merit that they may be reckoned just--counted as perfect. [R5837 : page 25]
The whole object of this reckoning is to give us the privilege of becoming Spiritual Israelites by sacrificing. So the Father's arrangement is that if we desire to be the disciples of Jesus we must take up our cross and follow Him, becoming dead to the flesh, dead to self, dead to everything worldly. Then Christ becomes our Advocate. The Father accepts all such as His sons. The Apostle Paul exhorts all who have accepted the redemption that is in Christ, saying, "I beseech you, therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."--Romans 12:1.
ONE HUNDRED AND FORTY-FOUR THOUSAND CALLED
The holiness of our offering is not of ourselves, but is ours only through the imputed virtue of the sacrifice of our Savior. All our imperfection is set aside, nullified, by His merit. And those only can become members of Spiritual Israel who offer themselves as sacrifices. As for others, if the whole world were to keep the Law they would not belong to the Spiritual Seed, for God wants only 144,000. (Revelation 14:1,3.) So this privilege of becoming one of the Spiritual Seed was not a thing that the Jew inherited as heir to the Promise. St. Paul said that the offer was "to the Jew first." We think the Apostle meant that the Gospel Call for Spiritual Israelites was sent to the Jew first--not a command that he keep the Law, but a proclamation of the Gospel and an invitation to follow in the footsteps of Jesus. The offer was first made to the Jews who were living when the Gospel privileges were opened up. If any of these were willing to enter into a Covenant of Sacrifice with Christ, He would accept them as His disciples.
The picture that God gives through the Apostle Paul in the 11th chapter of Romans represents Israel as the trunk and the branches of the olive tree, and the root of the tree as the Promise which God made to Abraham, which was to bless the world. God had not explained His Plan to them, but had merely said: "Do you wish to enter into a Covenant with Me--to be My peculiar people?" "Yes," was the answer. "When will you be ready?" "We are ready now," they replied. And so this Covenant was made, which constituted them the nation, or tree, growing out of the root of Promise. The Promise was primarily spiritual, though this fact was long kept hidden.
God never purposes to do anything except through the Spiritual Seed, but Natural Israel did not know this. They declared that they would be all that God wished them to be, if only they might have the Promise made to Abraham their Father. What it was they did not know, although they thought they knew. They were anxious to have the best at any rate. And they still had this thought and this hope in Jesus' day; as St. Paul said: "Unto which Promise our twelve tribes, instantly serving God day and night, hope to come." (Acts 26:7.) And again the Apostle says: "Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for, but the Election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded"; that is, those of the Jews who came into Christ became of the Elect.--Rom. 11:7.
ISRAEL'S FAILURE IN THEIR TESTING TIME
What was the condition on which the Jews might inherit that blessing? It was that they would lay down their lives sacrificially. And they would be tested as to their sincerity in claiming that they would obey God in order that they might win that Promise. But the Message came to them, and they were called upon to answer the question, Will you accept Jesus of Nazareth as your Messiah, and take up your cross and follow Him? Then the test was upon them. They were brought face to face with the proposition which would prove how much they meant in their professions of loyalty to God as His special people. But the great majority failed in the testing. "They all with one consent began to make excuse." (Luke 14:18.) When the point was reached of making a positive decision as to whether they would accept God's conditions and His way of accomplishing His Plan, but few were ready. They listened and then went, one to his farm, another to his merchandise. The cost was too much!
Those who were found in that condition of mind were none of them living up to their profession. But God did not make that Promise for nothing. When the Israelites were proven unworthy of becoming heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant, they were broken off and Gentiles were grafted in to take their places and become partakers of "the root and fatness of the olive tree." (Romans 11:17.) Only those Jews who were desirous of doing God's will in the fullest sense of the word were allowed to remain as branches of the olive tree. Only those who accepted Christ were made heirs of the Promise, as members of the Spiritual Seed. After all the "Israelites indeed" of the natural seed were gathered in, the Message went to the Gentiles, that the full number of the Elect might be found. But the Lord tells us through the Apostle Paul, in Romans 11, that God's ancient people may yet be grafted into the olive tree from which they were broken off, "if they abide not still in unbelief." "And so all Israel shall be saved," after "the fulness of the Gentiles be come in." O the riches of the love and goodness of God!
TAKEN LONG TIME TO DEVELOP 144,000
If all the Jews living in Jesus' day had loved God with all their heart, with all their being, with all their strength, and had made a full consecration, we understand that God would have accepted that sacrifice on their part. We do not know how many there would have been in the Body of Christ in that event. God might have increased the number of the Elect. But as it is, it has taken a long time--nearly nineteen hundred years--to find a sufficient number to complete that Body. The Lord has limited the number of these to 144,000.
"AND SITTING DOWN, THEY WATCHED HIM THERE"
Sitting down, they watched Him there, Watched Him, fairest of the fair, Gazed with cold, unpitying eye, While the jeering crowd passed by; For His vesture cast a lot (Seamless robe, without a spot); Watched the "Man of Sorrows" there, Who the world's great sin must bear; Watched while darkness veiled the sun, Watched until He cried, "'Tis done!"
God of Heaven! forbid that I Thus should gaze with pitiless eye On a suffering child of Thine, Watch him while his foes malign, Watch him while his life-blood flows, Watch until the dark day's close; Grant me, Lord, a heart of love, Make me like a tender dove; Let me bring him strength and peace, Until death shall send release!
G. W. SEIBERT.