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The mystery of God which has been revealed to His saints

30 April 2018

The mystery of God which has been revealed to His saints

holy-bibleJesus Christ is an elect and precious chief cornerstone to those who believe, but a stone of stumbling to those who do not believe

God said through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded” (1 Peter 2:6; Isaiah 28:16). That chief cornerstone is Jesus Christ, as it is written: “And [ye] are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord” (Ephesians 2:20-21), and the building which has been built upon Him (who is a precious and elect chief cornerstone to all those who believe in Him) is the Church of God “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Timothy 3:15).

Now, as I said before, God predicted that whoever believes on Him (the sure foundation laid by God in Zion) will not be put to shame. However, He predicted also that the elect stone (His Anointed One) would be rejected by the builders and would become a stone of stumbling to the disobedient, for God said: “The stone which the builders rejected has become the chief cornerstone” (Psalm 118:22 – NKJV) and: “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken” (Isaiah 8:14-15). That man called Simeon, who was just and devout and was waiting for the Consolation of Israel, when he took the Child Jesus up in his arms, said to Mary, the mother of Jesus, among other things: “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel …” (Luke 2:34), and that’s exactly what happened in the days of Jesus and of the apostles, for at that time many Jews stumbled at the Word because they were not obedient to the Gospel, and bear in mind that today many Jews (most of them) still stumble at the Word for they don’t want to obey the Gospel of the grace of God. The apostle Peter says about those Jews who were and are disobedient to the Gospel that this is “what they were destined for” (1 Peter 2:8 – NIV), because their fall is part of the mystery of His will according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself before the foundation of the world and accomplished in the Lord Jesus Christ in the fullness of the time, so that salvation might come to us who are Gentiles by birth.

Through the fall of the Jews salvation has come to the Gentiles

The apostle Paul says that because of their fall “salvation has come to the Gentiles” (Romans 11:11NKJV). Therefore God’s salvation, which is in Christ Jesus, has come to every nation and people because Jesus Christ was rejected by the Jews.

God’s salvation has come to all nations so that the prophetic Scriptures might be fulfilled, for God had said that He would make His Anointed One the light for the nations and His salvation to the ends of the earth. The prophets of old foretold through the Spirit that both God’s salvation and God’s righteousness would be made known and extended to every nation; let us see in which terms they foretold these things and how the things they said were fulfilled.

God, through the prophet Isaiah, said about His Holy Servant: “Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles” (Isaiah 42:1; the last part of this passage in the NIV is translated in this way: “He will bring justice to the nations”), and that was fulfilled because Jesus Christ preached to men the righteousness of God which is by faith; He said: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that heareth my word, and believeth on him that sent me, hath everlasting life, and shall not come into condemnation; but is passed from death unto life” (John 5:24), – he will not come into condemnation or judgement because he is clothed with the righteousness of God, or rather, because he has become the righteousness of God in Christ – and these words are addressed both to Jews and Gentiles. That we also who are Gentiles by birth one day would be justified by faith, had been foretold by God to Abraham in this way: “And in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18), and that is what happened for we have been justified in Jesus Christ, who is the seed of Abraham, who of God was made unto us righteousness according to what the prophet Jeremiah had said about Him: “In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely: and this is his name whereby he shall be called, the Lord our righteousness” (Jeremiah 23:6). Paul said to the Jews in Antioch of Pisidia: “And by him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:39); these words are faithful because “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Romans 10:4), for whoever believes in Jesus Christ receives the remission of all his sins and is justified because Jesus became for us “righteousness” from God. God had said: “My righteousness will soon be revealed” (Isaiah 56:1 – NIV) and He kept His word because He revealed it in the fullness of the time and so was fulfilled the Scripture which says: “His righteousness He has revealed in the sight of the nations” (Psalm 98:2 – NKJV). With regard to His salvation, too, God promised to make it known and to extend it to all men; He said: “My salvation is about to come” (Isaiah 56:1 – NKJV) and also: “Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, and there is none else. …. and beside me there is no saviour” (Isaiah 45:22: 43:11). We know that God has revealed His salvation because Christ (of God) was made for us “redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30) and this salvation is offered to all men, both Jews and Gentiles, because it is written: “For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved” (Romans 10:13; Joel 2:32). Jesus Christ is the Lord, who still says: ‘Look unto me, and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth: for I am God, …. and beside me there is no saviour’. And we who are Gentiles have been saved by the Lord with an everlasting salvation, that is, with that salvation of which the prophets spoke in ancient times and that in the fullness of the time was proclaimed by Jesus Christ, who said: “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved” (John 10:9), and by the apostles who proclaimed this great salvation to both Jews and Gentiles.

 

God said about His Servant: “It is a light thing that thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give thee for a light to the Gentiles, that thou mayest be my salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isaiah 49:6), and that is what happened because God made Jesus the light of the nations. God had said that He would make His justice a light to the nations, and that light would shine upon those who walked in darkness and this was fulfilled because Christ – the light of the world (John 8:12) – has shone on us who are Gentiles, so we can say: “In Your light we see light” (Psalm 36:9 – NKJV). We who once were walking in darkness without knowing where we were going, now, by the grace of God, having been enlightened by Christ, we walk in the light and we know where we are going.

God said through the prophet Isaiah: “I will lift up my banner to the peoples” (Isaiah 49:22 – NIV), and also that the banner would be the Root of Jesse, as it is written: “In that day the Root of Jesse will stand as a banner for the peoples; the nations will rally to him …..” (Isaiah 11:10NIV). Who is the Root of Jesse? The Root of Jesse is Jesus Christ, for it is written: “For he shall grow up before him as a tender plant, and as a root out of a dry ground …” (Isaiah 53:2) and also: “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots” (Isaiah 11:1). and these words of Isaiah were fulfilled in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, because He descended from David whose father was Jesse (Matthew 1:5-6). Therefore, Jesus Christ is our banner, He is the banner of all those who have believed in Him, as it is written: “The LORD is my Banner” (Exodus 17:15 – NIV) and since we are soldiers of Jesus Christ we have to hold fast the Word of life in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, for it is written: “You have given a banner to those who fear You, that it may be displayed because of the truth” (Psalm 60:4 – NKJV).

God said about His Anointed One: “See, I have made him a witness to the peoples …” (Isaiah 55:4 – NIV. “Behold, I have given him for a witness to the people …” according to the KJV). Jesus is the faithful witness given to the peoples because He testified to what He had seen and heard in His Father’s presence, and His testimony has been made known to the peoples. John the Baptist said about the Christ: “And what he hath seen and heard, that he testifieth; and no man receiveth his testimony. He that hath received his testimony hath set to his seal that God is true” (John 3:32-33). Brothers, remember that Jesus said: “I am telling you what I have seen in the Father’s presence” (John 8:38NIV) and: “Whatever I speak, just as the Father has told Me, so I speak” (John 12:50NKJV), and also: “My witness is true” (John 8:14NKJV). We trust with all our heart in the words of Christ, because His words are the words of God that He delivered to men without adding anything to them and without taking anything from them; and we who are Gentiles, having received His testimony, have certified that God is true.

God said through the prophet Isaiah: “See, I have made him … a leader and commander of the peoples ” (Isaiah 55:4 – NIV). And this was fulfilled because God made Jesus Prince over us who are Gentiles; He is the One who came to rule us: He is our Ruler.

God said through the prophet Isaiah: “Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee” (Isaiah 55:5). And this Scripture also was fulfilled because we are those nations that Christ has called to His eternal glory; we are those nations that have run to the Saviour whom we did not know before and all this took place because God glorified His Holy Servant Jesus.

God said about His Anointed One: “The Lord GOD, which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him” (Isaiah 56:8). And this Scripture was fulfilled, for we who are Gentiles are the ‘others’ whom God had promised to gather to His Servant. Jesus Christ, the Son of God, did come to gather to Him not only the lost sheep of the House of Israel but also the lost sheep of the other nations: He Himself confirmed this, saying: “And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd” (John 10:16). Besides the remnant of Israel (that is, the lost sheep of the house of Israel which were predestined to believe in Jesus), Jesus gathered to Him also many other sheep which are not of that fold (that is, which are not Israelites according to the flesh). These other sheep are all those Gentiles who are in Christ, who are saved. Now, in Christ Jesus, there is one flock and one people and there are no longer two folds and two peoples, because He “has made the two one” (Ephesians 2:14NIV).

God said: “I was sought by those who did not ask for Me; I was found by those who did not seek Me” (Isaiah 65:1 – NKJV), and this is what happened, for the Lord was found by the Gentiles who were not seeking Him, and He revealed Himself to the Gentiles who did not ask for Him. Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, confirms plainly this, saying to the saints of Rome that the “Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness of faith” (Romans 9:30NKJV)

God said through the prophet Isaiah: “And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed” (Isaiah 61:9). And we who are Gentiles in Christ Jesus are that seed that is known among the nations and all those who see us acknowledge that we are the seed that the Lord has blessed. This seed which has been blessed by the Lord and is all over the world was begotten by God; it is God who created it in the midst of this dark world; those who were begotten by God were called and are still called ‘Christians’ and we are happy and we have the honour of bearing that name. When we suffer as a Christian we are not ashamed of bearing that name, rather we praise God that we bear that name and we rejoice in the sufferings we endure because of the name of Him to whom we belong.

God said to His Son: “Ask of Me, and I will give You the nations for your inheritance, and the ends of the earth for Your possession” (Psalm 2:8 – NKJV), and that was fulfilled. For we who are children of God from among the nations, are “the nations” which God gave the Son for His inheritance because Jesus says about us who believe in Him: “Here am I and the children whom God has given me” (Hebrews 2:13 – NKJV) and as you know the Scripture says that “children are a heritage from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3 – NKJV). We who are believers from among the Gentiles have been given to the Son of God for His inheritance and possession and thus was fulfilled that word concerning the Son, written in the Psalms, which says: “Yes, I have a good inheritance” (Psalm 16:6 – NKJV).

God said through the prophet Hosea: “I will call them my people, which were not my people; and her beloved, which was not beloved. And it shall come to pass, that in the place where it was said unto them, Ye are not my people; there shall they be called the children of the living God” (Romans 9:25-26; Hosea 2:23). This Scripture was fulfilled, for we are those who once were not a people but are now the people of God, we are those who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy, and we who were not the people of God are now called the children of God because this is what we became when we believed on Him, as it is written: “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” (John 1:12), and also: “Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not” (1 John 3:1) and again: “For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26).

God said through Amos the prophet: “In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this” (Amos 9:11-12; Acts 15:16-18) and these words also were fulfilled because in Christ we who are Gentiles, too, have been built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit (Ephesians 2:22). We who are Gentiles in Christ Jesus are those nations which are called by the name of God; Jesus Christ is our great God and it is His name the name by which we are called.

God said through Micah the prophet: “But in the last days it shall come to pass, that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established in the top of the mountains, and it shall be exalted above the hills; and people shall flow unto it. And many nations shall come, and say, Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, and to the house of the God of Jacob; and he will teach us of his ways, and we will walk in his paths: for the law shall go forth of Zion, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem” (Micah 4:1-2). And we are the nations which have gone up to the mountain on which the House of God was built. Joel the prophet said: “In mount Zion and in Jerusalem shall be deliverance, as the LORD hath said, and in the remnant whom the LORD shall call” (Joel 2:32), and indeed on Mount Zion and among the remnant called by the Lord there is the salvation of God, which is Christ Jesus, and we have come to Mount Zion and to Jesus, as it is written: “But you have come to Mount Zion and …. To Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant” (Hebrews 12:22,24 – NKJV). Beloved, there is salvation on Mount Zion, there is rest, much peace and joy on it, and we who once wandered over mountain and hill like sheep going astray, now we have come to Mount Zion by the grace of God.

The Gospel of the grace had to be preached to the Jews first and then to the Gentiles

When the Lord Jesus sent His twelve disciples to preach the Kingdom of God, He said to them: “Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not: But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel(Matthew 10:5-6). Why did He give them that particular order? Because the time when the Gospel had to be preached plainly to the Gentiles had not yet come; because the Gospel had to be preached to the Jews first, for the first sheep to be gathered to Christ had to be the lost sheep of the House of Israel; then God would gather to Him other sheep which did not belong to the House of Israel, that is, which were Gentiles by birth. However, it must be said that during the earthly life of Jesus there were some people not belonging to the house of Israel who believed in the Lord Jesus. For instance, the roman centurion who pleaded with Jesus to heal his paralyzed servant saying to Jesus: “Only speak a word, and my servant will be healed” and of whom Jesus said to those who followed him: “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel(Matthew 8:10NKJV). Many Samaritans also believed in the Lord (John 4:39). I have said this in order to show you that the Lord showed no partiality during the days of His flesh because He Himself had said: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37).

After Jesus was raised from the dead, before He ascended to heaven, He said to His disciples: “Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem” (Luke 24:46-47) and: “Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature” (Mark 16:15), and also: “Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you” (Matthew 28:19-20). As you can see, Jesus commanded His disciples to preach the Gospel to all nations and not only to the Jews; yet, the apostles, even though they had received those orders, at first they resisted somehow the orders of the Lord, that is, they did not want to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles because they, being Jews, did not want to associate with the Gentiles or to visit them. The Lord saw their resistance and so He showed them that He was no respecter of persons but He was the Saviour of all men, rich in mercy towards all those who call on Him in truth. Here is how the Lord showed them that He wanted the Gentiles also to be saved. In the book of Acts we read: “There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, A devout man, and one that feared God with all his house, which gave much alms to the people, and prayed to God alway. He saw in a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day an angel of God coming in to him, and saying unto him, Cornelius. And when he looked on him, he was afraid, and said, What is it, Lord? And he said unto him, Thy prayers and thine alms are come up for a memorial before God. And now send men to Joppa, and call for one Simon, whose surname is Peter: He lodgeth with one Simon a tanner, whose house is by the sea side: he shall tell thee what thou oughtest to do. And when the angel which spake unto Cornelius was departed, he called two of his household servants, and a devout soldier of them that waited on him continually; And when he had declared all these things unto them, he sent them to Joppa. On the morrow, as they went on their journey, and drew nigh unto the city, Peter went up upon the housetop to pray about the sixth hour: And he became very hungry, and would have eaten: but while they made ready, he fell into a trance, And saw heaven opened, and a certain vessel descending unto him, as it had been a great sheet knit at the four corners, and let down to the earth: Wherein were all manner of fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And there came a voice to him, Rise, Peter; kill, and eat. But Peter said, Not so, Lord; for I have never eaten any thing that is common or unclean. And the voice spake unto him again the second time, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. This was done thrice: and the vessel was received up again into heaven. Now while Peter doubted in himself what this vision which he had seen should mean, behold, the men which were sent from Cornelius had made enquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate, And called, and asked whether Simon, which was surnamed Peter, were lodged there. While Peter thought on the vision, the Spirit said unto him, Behold, three men seek thee. Arise therefore, and get thee down, and go with them, doubting nothing: for I have sent them. Then Peter went down to the men which were sent unto him from Cornelius; and said, Behold, I am he whom ye seek: what is the cause wherefore ye are come? And they said, Cornelius the centurion, a just man, and one that feareth God, and of good report among all the nation of the Jews, was warned from God by an holy angel to send for thee into his house, and to hear words of thee. Then called he them in, and lodged them. And on the morrow Peter went away with them, and certain brethren from Joppa accompanied him. And the morrow after they entered into Caesarea. And Cornelius waited for them, and had called together his kinsmen and near friends. And as Peter was coming in, Cornelius met him, and fell down at his feet, and worshipped him. But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man. And as he talked with him, he went in, and found many that were come together. And he said unto them, Ye know how that it is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company, or come unto one of another nation; but God hath shewed me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me? And Cornelius said, Four days ago I was fasting until this hour; and at the ninth hour I prayed in my house, and, behold, a man stood before me in bright clothing, And said, Cornelius, thy prayer is heard, and thine alms are had in remembrance in the sight of God. Send therefore to Joppa, and call hither Simon, whose surname is Peter; he is lodged in the house of one Simon a tanner by the sea side: who, when he cometh, shall speak unto thee. Immediately therefore I sent to thee; and thou hast well done that thou art come. Now therefore are we all here present before God, to hear all things that are commanded thee of God. Then Peter opened his mouth, and said, Of a truth I perceive that God is no respecter of persons: But in every nation he that feareth him, and worketh righteousness, is accepted with him. The word which God sent unto the children of Israel, preaching peace by Jesus Christ: (he is Lord of all:) That word, I say, ye know, which was published throughout all Judaea, and began from Galilee, after the baptism which John preached; How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power: who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him. And we are witnesses of all things which he did both in the land of the Jews, and in Jerusalem; whom they slew and hanged on a tree [whom they killed by hanging on a tree]: Him God raised up the third day, and shewed him openly; Not to all the people, but unto witnesses chosen before of God, even to us, who did eat and drink with him after he rose from the dead. And he commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead. To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins [everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name]. While Peter yet spake these words, the Holy Ghost fell on all them which heard the word. And they of the circumcision which believed were astonished, as many as came with Peter, because that on the Gentiles also was poured out the gift of the Holy Ghost. For they heard them speak with tongues, and magnify God. Then answered Peter, Can any man forbid water, that these should not be baptized, which have received the Holy Ghost as well as we? And he commanded them to be baptized in the name of the Lord. Then prayed they him to tarry certain days. And the apostles and brethren that were in Judaea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. And when Peter was come up to Jerusalem, they that were of the circumcision contended with him, Saying, Thou wentest in to men uncircumcised, and didst eat with them. But Peter rehearsed the matter from the beginning, and expounded it by order unto them, saying, I was in the city of Joppa praying: and in a trance I saw a vision, A certain vessel descend, as it had been a great sheet, let down from heaven by four corners; and it came even to me: Upon the which when I had fastened mine eyes, I considered, and saw fourfooted beasts of the earth, and wild beasts, and creeping things, and fowls of the air. And I heard a voice saying unto me, Arise, Peter; slay and eat. But I said, Not so, Lord: for nothing common or unclean hath at any time entered into my mouth. But the voice answered me again from heaven, What God hath cleansed, that call not thou common. And this was done three times: and all were drawn up again into heaven. And, behold, immediately there were three men already come unto the house where I was, sent from Caesarea unto me. And the Spirit bade me go with them, nothing doubting. Moreover these six brethren accompanied me, and we entered into the man’s house: And he shewed us how he had seen an angel in his house, which stood and said unto him, Send men to Joppa, and call for Simon, whose surname is Peter; Who shall tell thee words, whereby thou and all thy house shall be saved. And as I began to speak, the Holy Ghost fell on them, as on us at the beginning. Then remembered I the word of the Lord, how that he said, John indeed baptized with water; but ye shall be baptized with the Holy Ghost. Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as he did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God? When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, Then hath God also to the Gentiles granted repentance unto life” (Acts 10:1-48; 11:1-18).

Yes, God has granted repentance to us also, who are Gentiles, for the Gospel of our salvation was preached to us and we have accepted it. That is how God, after glorifying His Son Jesus, opened the door of faith to the Gentiles and this door has remained open until now; nobody was able to close it in the days of the apostles and nobody will ever be able to close it, because the following words of Jesus: “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a witness unto all nations …” (Matthew 24:14) are to be fulfilled, and there are still many Gentiles all over the world whom God foreordained to eternal life and thus at God’s appointed time they will believe.

We who are Gentiles by birth became partakers of the root and fatness of the cultivated olive tree; but let us not boast against those natural branches which were broken off

The Scripture teaches that in the days of the apostles God began to manifest His great mercy towards the Gentiles by birth, and that He chose Saul of Tarsus to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, so that they also might believe and become members of God’s household. So, from those days on, God’s salvation have been sent by God to the Gentiles, and God has opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Word of His grace and thus was fulfilled the word which says: “And those who have not heard shall understand” (Romans 15:21 – NKJV; cf. Isaiah 52:15). Now, therefore, we who are Gentiles by birth and believe the Gospel of grace are no longer strangers, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God by the grace of God. And for this we are bound to thank God continually.

However, Paul wrote to us that we must remember certain things, here are his words: “Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:11-12). The reason why we who are Gentiles were formerly without Christ and God, therefore, was that we were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise. For God in ancient times chose the Israelites as His people and committed His oracles to them alone, as it is written in the Psalms: “He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel. He hath not dealt so with any nation: and as for his judgments, they have not known them” (Psalm 147:19-20; see also Romans 3:2). That’s why Paul says that the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God and the promises pertain to the Israelites (Romans 9:4). We who are Gentiles were foreigners to all these things, because we were not Israelites. We were far from God “but now in Christ Jesus – Paul says – ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit” (Ephesians 2:13-22). Therefore, brethren, Jesus Christ, through His death on the cross, has made the two peoples one because through the cross He put to death the enmity which existed between Jews and Gentiles; He has broken down the middle wall of separation, which separated us from the Jews, that is, the law of commandments contained in ordinances, by abolishing it in His flesh. And so through His death He reconciled us to the Jews and in one body He reconciled both us and the Jews to God. If now we are members of the household of God and we are being built together to become a dwelling (that is, the Church) in which God lives by His Spirit, we owe all this to the mercy of Christ, the Son of God, who has qualified us to enter the Kingdom of God and has reconciled us to the Jews and brought us near to God. Paul wrote to the Galatians: “For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:27-28). Brothers, we are Christ’s, we belong to Him, and together with the Jews who believe we are one people and one flock and we have one Head and one Shepherd, which is Christ Jesus. What I have just explained to you is “the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him” (Ephesians 1:9-10). And we from among the Gentiles, who have believed in the Lord, thank God for He willed to make known to us what are the riches of the glory of this mystery (Colossians 1:26). This mystery – Paul says – “in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit” (Ephesians 3:5), for it was kept secret for long ages past in order to be revealed in the fulness of the time. God has made known to us this mystery – that we who are Gentiles are fellow heirs with those Jews who believe that Jesus is the Christ, and members of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ through the Gospel – “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the church the manifold wisdom of God” (Ephesians 3:10); and besides, this mystery, by the prophetic Scriptures, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, is “made known to all nations for the obedience of faith” (Romans 16:26).

Brethren in the Lord, we recognize that God had mercy on us in Christ Jesus, therefore we are bound to glorify God for His mercy, as it is written: “Praise the Lord, all ye Gentiles; and laud him, all ye people” (Romans 15:11; Psalm 117:1). Let us rejoice in the Lord, let us praise Him with songs because He has saved us, but let us not boast against those Jews who don’t believe in Christ. Here is what Paul says to us, who are Gentiles, about the fact that we were grafted into a cultivated olive tree: “For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear” (Romans 11:16-20). Let me explain to you what Paul meant by these words. We who are Gentiles by birth were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and were grafted into a cultivated olive tree through our faith. Many natural branches of the cultivated olive tree were broken off because of their unbelief and we were grafted in among the others and so now we enjoy the blessings and consolations of Christ, having become partakers of the spiritual things which belong to the Jews, but we must not boast against the Jews who are disobedient, knowing that the root of the cultivated olive tree in which we were grafted is Jewish according to the flesh; besides, we don’t support the root but the root supports us.

What shall we say then about those Jews who do not obey the Gospel? We shall say that on the one hand they are enemies of God on our account, but on the other hand they are beloved by God on account of the fathers (the patriarchs), as it is written: “As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance” (Romans 11:28-29). Therefore that means that even though many Jews reject the Gospel and don’t please God because of their unbelief and hardness of heart, God has not rejected Israel: “God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew” (Romans 11:2 – NKJV) says Paul to the Romans.

Therefore let us see to it that we don’t consider Israel a people rejected by God, for it is written: “Thus saith the LORD; If heaven above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the LORD” (Jeremiah 31:37) and again: “Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them” (Jeremiah 33:25-26). Of course, whereas on the one hand we see the goodness of God towards those who believe (that is, us), on the other hand we see also the severity of God towards those who fell, that is, the Jews who stumbled at the stone of stumbling; yet Paul says about these Jews who don’t believe: “And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again” (Romans 11:23), which means that if the natural branches which were cut out of the cultivated olive tree don’t continue in their hardness of heart they will be grafted into their own olive tree. However, let it be known to you also that if we who believe don’t continue in the faith and the good works till the end we will be cut out of the cultivated tree; so let us fear God.

The apostle Paul says: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. ….. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all” (Romans 11:25-27, 30-32). Therefore, when the fullness of the Gentiles has come, God will save all the Israelites and will have mercy on them all. Then the veil that lies on their heart when the Old Testament is read by them, will be taken away, because the veil is taken away in Christ. Knowing all this, therefore, let us not be haughty because God is faithful and at His appointed time He will fulfil the good word He spoke to the people whom He foreknew.

The Jews who are disobedient were appointed to stumble for the salvation of the Gentiles

At this point, you may ask me the following questions about the hardening in part which has happened to Israel: “Who hardened (or blinded) the disobedient Jews?’ Why were they hardened?’ The answers to these questions are in the Bible. So let’s look closely at what the Bible says.

Now, first of all, let me say that the fact that many Jews don’t obey the Gospel of Christ does not mean that the Word of God has failed, for Paul says to the Romans: “Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed. For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son” (Romans 9:6-9). Let me explain to you these words of Paul. Abraham had two sons: the one (Ishmael) by a bondwoman named Hagar, the other (Isaac) by a freewoman named Sarah. Both of them were begotten by Abraham, but the son whom God had promised to Abraham was Isaac and not Ishmael; furthermore, it was Isaac the son of Abraham with whom – God had promised Abraham – God would establish His covenant, as it is written: “Sarah thy wife shall bear thee a son indeed; and thou shalt call his name Isaac: and I will establish my covenant with him for an everlasting covenant, and with his seed after him” (Genesis 17:19), and in fact God established His covenant with the descendants of Isaac (the Israelites) and not with the descendants of Ishmael (the Arab tribes). As you know, that happened at Mount Sinai, after the Israelites had come out of Egypt, where God established His covenant with the people of Israel. In addition to this, it must be said that God had promised Abraham that He would give the promised land to his seed, that is, to Isaac, and not to Ishmael the son of the bondwoman; and in fact when the fullness of the time came God gave the land of Canaan to the Israelites and not to the descendants of Ishmael.

Now, the son of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, while the son of the freewoman was born through promise, or, as Paul says “according to the Spirit” (Galatians 4:29 – NKJV). That means that even though Ishmael was Abraham’s seed, he was not the seed that God had promised to Abraham, that is to say, Ishmael was not the child of promise.

So not all the Jews are children of Abraham (even though all of them are Abraham’s descendants) because among them there are Jews who were born according to the flesh like Ishmael, who are slaves of sin because they have stumbled at the stone of stumbling and thus are not born of God. The children of Abraham from among the Jews, instead, are all those Jews who, having believed that Jesus is the Christ, are born of God and have been set free from their sin through their faith in Jesus; they are blessed with believing Abraham and heirs of the Kingdom of God because they are children of the freewoman, as Isaac was. On the contrary, the children of the bondwoman, that is, the disobedient Jews, are not heirs of the Kingdom because they are not born of God. What did God say to Abraham concerning Hagar and her son Ishmael? “Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman” (Galatians 4:30; Genesis 21:10), and in fact Abraham cast out Hagar and Ishmael and “gave all that he had unto Isaac” (Genesis 25:5) the son of the freewoman, and not to Ishmael the son of the bondwoman. So, among the Jews by birth, those who are born according to the flesh and not according to the Spirit (because they don’t believe the Gospel), are not heirs of eternal life (that is to say, they will not inherit eternal life) with those Jews who obey the Gospel of the grace of God. I would like you to notice that it was God who appointed Isaac heir of Abraham and that He acted according to His good pleasure. With regard to Isaac and Ishmael, therefore, we can say that God appointed beforehand Isaac and not Ishmael to be the son of promise and heir of Abraham. The fact that it was Isaac who became heir of Abraham depended on God’s will and not on Isaac’s will.

Paul continues by saying: “And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac; (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;) It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger. As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated” (Romans 9:10-13; cf. Genesis 25:23; Malachi 1:2-3). Now, when Rebecca, Isaac’s wife, became pregnant she conceived two children, and “the children struggled together within her; and she said, If it be so, why am I thus? And she went to enquire of the LORD. And the LORD said unto her, Two nations are in thy womb, and two manner of people shall be separated from thy bowels; and the one people shall be stronger than the other people; and the elder shall serve the younger” (Genesis 25:22-23). Then, why did God – while the children were still in her womb and they had not yet done any good or evil – say to Rebecca “the elder shall serve the younger”? The reason is this: “That the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth” (Romans 9:11-12). So God acted in that way in order to show that He works all things according to the counsel of His will. And in fact, with regard to our salvation, God begot us through His Word, not by works of righteousness which we had done or by the will of man, but, as James said, “of His own will” (James 1:18 – NKJV). We did not choose the Lord, but the Lord did choose us, as Jesus said to His disciples: “Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you” (John 15:16). During the ages many have tried to break down the purpose of God according to election, but it did not fall to the ground, it still stands and all the efforts made by the fearless persons have been vain, because the words which God spoke to Rebecca show that God chooses for salvation whom He wills. It was neither Jacob nor Esau who decided which people between the two would be stronger than the other one; it was neither Jacob nor Esau who decided whom God would establish His Covenant with; and pay attention also to this, neither their parents decided or determined those things. Furthermore, it must be said that Jacob did not deserve to be served by his elder brother Esau because when God said: “The older shall serve the younger” he was still in his mother’s womb and he had not yet done any good or evil. At this point, Paul says to the Romans: “What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth’. Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Romans 9:14-18 – NKJV). Therefore, God did not act unjustly towards Esau by rejecting him even before he was born, because He has mercy on whom He wills, and He hardens whom He wills. Do you remember the Pharaoh? Isn’t true that God hardened his heart so that he might refuse to allow the people of Israel to leave the land of Egypt, and thus He might strike the Egyptians with terrible judgements in order to gain glory through Pharaoh and all the Egyptians? Therefore, if God hardened the heart of Pharaoh He did not commit any injustice; He hardened his heart according to the counsel of His will so that both the Israelites and all those who would hear of his terrible judgements against the Egyptians might glorify His holy name. And just as the Pharaoh was hardened by God, so many Jews were hardened by God while Jesus was on the earth (in the days of His flesh) lest they should believe in His Son, for this is what John says: “But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him: That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them” (John 12:37-40). Therefore, the reason why many Jews refused to believe in Jesus was that God had appointed them to reject the Gospel, that is to say, to stumble at the Word of God, as Isaiah the prophet had said: “And he shall be for a sanctuary; but for a stone of stumbling and for a rock of offence to both the houses of Israel, for a gin and for a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem. And many among them shall stumble, and fall, and be broken, and be snared, and be taken” (Isaiah 8:14-15). That’s why John says that those Jews “could not believe”, for the words of Isaiah the prophet had to be fulfilled, and not only the words of Isaiah but also the following words of Moses: “Yet the LORD hath not given you an heart to perceive, and eyes to see, and ears to hear, unto this day.” (Deuteronomy 29:4), as well as these words of David: “Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back always” (Romans 11:9-10; Psalm 69:22-23). Let it be known to you, therefore, that God is not to be blamed for His behaviour, rather, let God be true but every man a liar. If God said to Moses: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Exodus 33:19), why should He be blamed? Is He not the One who does whatever He pleases in heaven, and in earth, in the seas and in all deep places (Psalm 135:6)? Is He not the One who said: “My counsel shall stand, and I will do all my pleasure …. I will work, and who shall let it?” (Isaiah 46:10; 43:13)? But who will dare to say to Him: “What have you done?’ Should God act like men in order not to be criticized by them? Know this, that God will always be found blameless when He judges.

Whereas on the one hand God hardened the heart of many Jews, on the other hand He had mercy on a remnant of Jews according to the election of grace, for it is written: “Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. …. Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it….” (Romans 11:5,7). That only a remnant of Jews would turn to the Lord, had been foretold by the prophets. Isaiah said: “The remnant shall return, even the remnant of Jacob, unto the mighty God. For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness” (Isaiah 10:21-22; Romans 9:27) and again: “Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah” (Isaiah 1:9; Romans 9:29), and again: “And it shall come to pass, that he that is left in Zion, and he that remaineth in Jerusalem, shall be called holy ….. For out of Jerusalem shall go forth a remnant, and they that escape out of mount Zion: the zeal of the LORD of hosts shall do this” (Isaiah 4:3; 37:32). Micah the prophet said: “I will surely assemble, O Jacob, all of thee; I will surely gather the remnant of Israel; I will put them together as the sheep of Bozrah, as the flock in the midst of their fold …..” (Micah 2:12) and again: “And the remnant of Jacob shall be in the midst of many people as a dew from the LORD, as the showers upon the grass, that tarrieth not for man, nor waiteth for the sons of men” (Micah 5:7). And God through Zephaniah the prophet said about the remnant of Israel: “The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity …” (Zephaniah 3:13) which accords with what John says about those who are born of God: “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God” (1 John 3:9).

Jesus knew that only a remnant would believe on Him, that only those whom God gave to Him would come to Him, that only those on whom God had determined to have mercy would come to Him; that’s why one day He said to the Jews: “No man can come unto me, except it were given unto him of my Father” (John 6:65) and: “All that the Father giveth me shall come to me; and him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out” (John 6:37). Paul confirmed the words of Christ by saying that God has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy (Romans 9:18).

Brothers, as you can see, it was because of the fall of the Jews that the Gospel has come to us who are Gentiles, as it is written: “Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles” (Romans 11:11). But do you know why salvation has come to us? “To provoke them to jealousy” (Romans 11:11), says Paul, so that it might be fulfilled what God had said through Moses: “I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people” (Deuteronomy 32:21). Let me explain to you why God said that He would provoke the Jews to jealousy with the Gentiles. Before the people of Israel entered the promised land, God said about the Israelites: “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities” (Deuteronomy 32:21), and in fact in the wilderness Israel had provoked God to jealousy by taking up the tabernacle of Moloch and the star of their god Remphan, images which they made to worship, and so God, in order to take vengeance on them and to repay them for the sins they had committed against Him, said: “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities: and I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation. For a fire is kindled in mine anger …” (Deuteronomy 32:21-22). And this is what happened and still happens, for the disobedient Jews are provoked to jealousy with us, who are Gentiles and who believe in the Gospel that God promised through the Jewish prophets in the Holy Scriptures, and they are angry with us because of the Gospel. That’s why Paul said about the Jews: “Are contrary to all men, forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they may be saved” (1 Thessalonians 2:15-16 – NKJV). Have you ever wondered why the Jews persecuted Paul, who was a Jew? They persecuted him because Paul, by speaking to the Gentiles about Jesus (showing from the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ), provoked them to jealously and made them angry. To confirm this, I remind you of what happened at Antioch in Pisidia where Paul and Barnabas preached the Gospel both to Jews and Gentiles. It is written: “But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spake against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming” (Acts 13:45). Therefore, whereas the Israelites provoked God to jealousy by what was not God, God now provokes them to jealousy by us who are Gentiles by birth and ‘who are not a nation’ in their sight, yet we are ‘God’s people’ in the sight of God. Therefore, it was fulfilled what God had said. So, know this, that God works all things according to the purpose of His will, and that the hardening in part experienced by Israel is part of God’s plan of salvation, which He made before the beginning of time.

Thou wilt say then unto me, Why doth he yet find fault? For who hath resisted his will? Nay but, O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, Why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to shew his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: And that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory, Even us, whom he hath called, not of the Jews only, but also of the Gentiles?” (Romans 9:19-24). Brothers, I speak to you with boldness. God, in acting in the above mentioned way in order to accomplish His wonderful purposes, has acted correctly. We don’t dare to reply against Him. Many believers don’t like these words of Paul, when they read or hear them they feel disturbed and get angry and try to nullify them with all kinds of vain words. To these believers who dare to reply against God I want to say: ‘When will you cease to rebuke God? When will you cease to judge the ways of God unjustly? God is greater than man and every man who has hardened his heart against God has not prospered and has been rebuked by God. The truth is that all men who live on the earth are like clay in His hands, He made them and from the same lump He makes some vessels for honour and some others for dishonour. He has the power to do this, and He does it because He is the Potter.

To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

Again about the hardening in part happened to Israel

Jesus was rejected by the people of Israel, for the Jews, the descendants of Abraham according to the flesh, condemned Him to death and delivered Him to Pontius Pilate the governor of Judea so that He might be crucified. According to the Jews, Jesus deserved to be put to death because He declared that He was the Son of God. What happened to Jesus was nothing but the fulfilment of these words spoken by the Holy Spirit through David: “Why did the heathen rage, and the people imagine vain things? The kings of the earth stood up, and the rulers were gathered together against the Lord, and against his Christ” (Acts 4:25-26; Psalm 2:1-2). The heathen are the Gentiles, and the people is the people of Israel, while the kings of the earth and the rulers are Herod, who at the time was king of Galilee, and Pontius Pilate who was governor of Judea (Herod and Pilate became friends the day on which Jesus was put to death).

Therefore, Jesus, the Messiah whom God had promised through His holy prophets, was rejected by Israel. Yet not by all Israel, because a remnant of Israelites accepted Jesus as the Messiah of God. Now, as far as the Jews’ position on Jesus is concerned, we have to say that after about two thousand years it is the same position, because only a little number of the Jews who live all over the world believe that Jesus is the Messiah: while most of the Jews reject the Messiahship of Jesus of Nazareth. There are some Orthodox Jews who hate so much the name of Jesus of Nazareth that they dare not to mention it. However, the fact that most of the Jews reject Jesus does not mean that the Word of God failed, for Paul says: “But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but ‘In Isaac your seed shall be called’. That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. For this is the word of promise: ‘At this time I will come and Sarah shall have a son’. And not only this, but when Rebecca also had conceived by one man, even by our father Isaac (for the children not yet being born, nor having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works but of Him who calls), it was said to her, ‘The older shall serve the younger’. As it is written, ‘Jacob I have loved, but Esau I have hated’. What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? Certainly not! For He says to Moses, ‘I will have mercy on whomever I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whomever I will have compassion’. So then it is not of him who wills, nor of him who runs, but of God who shows mercy. For the Scripture says to the Pharaoh, ‘For this very purpose I have raised you up, that I may show My power in you, and that My name may be declared in all the earth’ Therefore He has mercy on whom He wills, and whom He wills He hardens” (Romans 9:6-18 – NKJV). These words of Paul show that both the fact that a few Jews accepted Christ and the fact that most of the Jews rejected Him, depend on God because He has mercy on whom He wants to have mercy, and He hardens whom He wants to harden. In other words, they depend on the purpose of God according to election, which is not by works but by Him who calls. That’s why, therefore, most of the Jews reject Christ and only a little number of them accept Him, because God hardened the former and had mercy on the latter, even though all of them are descendants of Abraham and Isaac. On the other hand – Paul explains – the fact that all the Jews are descendants of Abraham doesn’t mean that all of them are children of Abraham. Why? Because Abraham had two sons: one (Ishmael) by a bondwoman and the other (Isaac) by a freewoman, yet the son of the promise was Isaac and not Ishmael. For Isaac, and not Ishmael, was the son whom God had promised to give to Abraham by his wife, and God had determined to establish His covenant with Isaac, the son of the freewoman, and not with Ishmael the son of the bondwoman. And in fact after Ishmael and Isaac were born, God said to Abraham: “In Isaac your seed shall be called” (Genesis 21:12NKJV). Ishmael was surely seed of Abraham, yet he was not appointed heir with Isaac; God blessed Ishmael, but He did not establish His covenant with him. To Isaac happened a similar thing, for his wife Rebecca gave birth to two children begotten by Isaac, but once again, before they were born, God chose Jacob, the younger; but rejected Esau the older, because He said to Rebecca that the older would serve the younger. And in fact God established His covenant with Jacob and not with Esau. All this happened – as Paul says – so that the purpose of God according to election might stand.

Obviously someone may think that this way of acting is unfair (or unjust), therefore, that God is unjust, but this is to be categorically denied because God said to Moses: “I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy” (Exodus 33:19). That God had decided to have mercy only on a remnant of Jews, that is, the fact that God had decided to save only a little number of Jews, had been foretold by God through Isaiah with the following words: “For though thy people Israel be as the sand of the sea, yet a remnant of them shall return: the consumption decreed shall overflow with righteousness …. Except the LORD of hosts had left unto us a very small remnant, we should have been as Sodom, and we should have been like unto Gomorrah(Isaiah 10:22; 1:9; cf. Romans 9:27,29). Therefore, the remnant of Israel is the remnant according to the election of grace. This remnant and those Gentiles who have accepted Christ form the Church of God, that is, the Assembly of the redeemed, the assembly of those who were delivered from this present evil age, because in Christ the middle wall of separation was broken down, and through His death He made the two peoples one. And what about the other Jews, that is, the disobedient Jews? They were hardened, as it is written: “God has given them a spirit of stupor, eyes that they should not see and ears that they should not hear, to this very day” (Romans 11:8 – NKJV). This hardening worked in them by God, which caused them to fall (or to stumble at the Word), was necessary in order to provoke the Israelites to jealousy and to move them to anger. For through their fall salvation has come to the Gentiles, and the disobedient Jews, seeing that the Gentiles have been qualified to be partakers of the root and fatness of their own olive tree (the cultivated olive tree), are provoked to jealousy and moved to anger towards the Gentiles. This is exactly what God had said to Moses He would do: “I will move them to jealousy with those which are not a people; I will provoke them to anger with a foolish nation” (Deuteronomy 32:21). So now we can see the fulfilment of those words. Why did God say those words against Israel? In order to punish the Israelites for their rebellious and obstinate behaviour during their journey in the wilderness, for God said: “They have moved me to jealousy with that which is not God; they have provoked me to anger with their vanities” (Deuteronomy 32:21). This reminds us that God is an avenging God, and how true is that word which says: “As you have done, it shall be done to you” (Obadiah 15 – NKJV). Therefore, we can say that the hardening of the Jews is nothing but the fulfilment of the promise of vengeance made by God to Moses toward His rebellious people, because by hardening most of them God has caused salvation to come to the Gentiles provoking the Jews to jealousy towards the Gentiles. The two things, therefore, are strictly linked together.

The hardening in part happened to Israel one day will cease

However, according to the purpose of God, the hardening in part which has happened to Israel, one day will cease. Here is what Paul says: “For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy” (Romans 11:25-31). Now, as you can see, Paul tells us something so that we may not be conceited, that is, an hardening in part happened to Israel and it will last until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. Then all Israel will be saved because God will turn away ungodliness from Jacob and will take away their sins. That here Paul speaks of all the people of Israel (that is, the Jews according to the flesh) is evident because a short time before he speaks of the hardening (or blindness) in part which has happened to Israel. Therefore, we cannot say that the words of Paul “all Israel shall be saved” refer to the Church of God. It is clear, however, that when all Israelites are saved, they will become members of the Church of God, because Christ made both peoples one, and in Him there is neither Jew nor Greek. Paul explains why God one day will save all Israel; the reason is this: because whereas on the one hand concerning the Gospel the Jews are enemies for our sake, on the other hand concerning the election they are beloved for the sake of the fathers because the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance.

God’s faithfulness toward the Israelites despite their unbelief

Therefore, God did not reject Israel as a nation; He did not reject Israel either in the wilderness when the Israelites rebelled against His commandments, or after they entered the land of Canaan and they mingled with the nations prostituting themselves by their deaf idols, or (after the Kingdom of Israel was divided into two kingdoms) when the people gave themselves to all kinds of iniquities in the days of the prophets. The prophets were reviled, killed, yet God after He punished the Israelites by sending them into captivity had mercy on His people and He made them to be pitied by those who had carried them away captive and made them return to the land He had given to their fathers. For in the days of Cyrus king of Persia (538-529 before Christ) thousands of Jews returned from the captivity to the land of Israel and they rebuilt the temple (they laid the foundation of the temple in the second year after their arrival at the house of God in Jerusalem, and completed it in the sixth year of the reign of King Darius (521-485) – cf. Ezra chapters 1-6); and afterwards, during the reign of Artaxerses I (465-424 before Christ), they rebuilt the walls of the city of Jerusalem (under the direction of Nehemiah). Jesus came a few centuries later, but He was rejected and killed by the Jews, as many prophets of God had been rejected and killed by the Jews before Him. God’s vengeance came in 70 after Christ, for in that year God sent against Jerusalem the roman army whose commander in chief was Titus and God caused that army to kill hundreds of thousands of Jews and to destroy the temple of Jerusalem, and to carry many Jews away captive. In that year there was great distress in the land of Israel and wrath upon the people of Israel. Surely in those days many thought that God had rejected Israel as a nation, there is no doubt about it. For every time God has punished severely the Jewish people, the nations have said that God rejected His people. And not only in those days, but also in the following centuries, during which the Jews were all over the world without an earthly homeland. All over the world they were mocked by all, they were without a homeland, without a country that represented them. But in the second half of the nineteenth century some Jews began to think that it was time to return to the land given to their fathers by God. Some welcomed this idea with much joy, some were sceptical about it, and some others opposed it violently. Little by little the number of those who believed that a Jewish State had to be founded upon the land of their fathers increased. In 1897 Theodore Herzl founded the Zionist Movement whose aim was the foundation of the State of Israel. The Zionist Movement urged and encouraged many Jews to go to live in the land of Israel and so in the space of about fifty years there were about 500.000 Jews in the land of Israel. In 1948, after many events that I don’t want to tell on this occasion because it would take me too much time to write them, the State of Israel was founded. Therefore, God, by causing many Jews to return to Israel and to refound the Jewish State, showed all the world that He had not forgotten the nation of Israel. Nevertheless, there are many who don’t believe that all these events happened to the Jews were brought to pass by God to fulfil His word. Thus we would like to ask these persons who say that both the return of many Jews to the land that God gave to their fathers and the foundation of the State of Israel after so many centuries don’t come from God: ‘How can you say such things when it is sufficient to read the Old Testament to understand how many times God had mercy on the Israelites even after they had rebelled against Him?’ Let’s look for instance at the rebellion of Israel in the wilderness; the Israelites did not observe the law of God in the wilderness, many times they violated the law of God and they were punished by God, and when God commanded them to possess the land of Canaan they did not believe God and God, because of their unbelief, punished them by not permitting them to enter the promised land. Yet, He allowed the next generation to enter the promised land because God is faithful and He keeps His promises. Is it not written that if we are unfaithful (or faithless) He remains faithful? (2 Timothy 2:13) Why shouldn’t this be valid toward the Jews also, that is, the people whom God foreknew? God is no respecter of persons, isn’t He? If when we, who are His people, are unfaithful we can always rely upon the faithfulness of God, why shouldn’t the Jews also, despite their unfaithfulness, and even though they rejected Christ, rely upon the faithfulness of God? Obviously, we are speaking only of the return of many Jews to the land given to Abraham, and the refoundation of the State of Israel, yet the fact still remains that these two events are a manifestation of the faithfulness of God. If once many could say to the Jews: ‘You are a people without a homeland, you are represented by no State on the earth’, now these things cannot be said to them any longer, because they have a State that represents them, and even though they are citizens of another nation they can always return to this State and become citizens of it. For sure, to the enemies of Israel, and I do not refer only to the Arabs, the foundation of the State of Israel was an humiliation. But on the other hand we know that whenever the Israelites have exalted themselves God has humbled them, and that God has humbled the enemies of Israel as well, because God is righteous. Those who exalt themselves will be humbled by God, and God silences those who open their mouth to revile. And after many centuries, during which the enemies of Israel had reviled and mocked the Israelites not considering them a nation any longer, God, at His appointed time, silenced them by restoring the State of Israel upon the land given to Abraham and his seed. Therefore, concerning the return of a part of the Jews to the land of Israel, we proclaim: ‘God has done this!’. And how could we affirm the contrary, when we know that not one sparrow falls to the ground apart from God’s will and that the king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord like the rivers of water, He turns it wherever He wishes? But let us see now the passages of the Scriptures which were fulfilled through that return of the Jews and the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948.

Isaiah the prophet said: “For the LORD will have mercy on Jacob, and will yet choose Israel, and set them in their own land …” (Isaiah 14:1). Ezekiel the prophet said: “Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not this for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name’s sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I am the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land …. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all” (Ezekiel 36:22-24; 37:21-22). The prophet Zechariah said: “I will bring them again also out of the land of Egypt, and gather them out of Assyria.” (Zechariah 10:10). These are just some of the Scriptures which predicted the return of the Jews to their land.

What shall we say then about the temple which was destroyed in 70 after Christ and has not yet been rebuilt? It must be said that according to some words written in the New Testament it should be rebuilt before the coming of Christ from heaven. Here are these words: “Now we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, That ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by letter as from us, as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thessalonians 2:1-4), and: “And there was given me a reed like unto a rod: and the angel stood, saying, Rise, and measure the temple of God, and the altar, and them that worship therein. But the court which is without the temple leave out, and measure it not; for it is given unto the Gentiles: and the holy city shall they tread under foot forty and two months” (Rev. 11:1-2) – and bear in mind that when John had that vision the temple of Jerusalem had already been destroyed -. As you can see, the temple about which Paul and John wrote is the temple of Jerusalem, the city of the great King. However, pay attention to what I am going to tell you. Even though the rebuilding of this temple will occur before the return of Christ, this rebuilding will not nullify either the fact that with the coming of Christ (the first coming) all those who have been saved have become part of the spiritual building which is a dwelling place of God in the Spirit, that is, His temple; or the fact that the earthly temple is a shadow of the heavenly things. In other words, to us who believe in the Lord, even when the temple of Jerusalem is rebuilt, the temple of God will continue to be the Church of God and the earthly temple will continue to be a shadow of heavenly things.

Obviously, to the Jews according to the flesh, the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem will be a very important event, while to us the importance of the event will not be the same. For sure, when the temple is rebuilt, knowing that the man of sin will sit as God in it showing himself that he is God, we will know that the coming of the man of sin will be nearer, as well as the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, who will consume the man of sin with the breath of His mouth and destroy with the brightness of His coming (2 Thessalonians 2:8).

At the moment, the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem on the spot where it stood in ancient times seems to be impossible, because, as you know, on the place where the old temple was in ancient times, at the moment there is an Arab Mosque and if the Jewish Government decides to destroy it all the Arab countries will immediately make war against Israel. However, the removal of the Arab Mosque is not a problem to God, because in His own time He will do what He has said and He will do it in the way He wills. Do the Jews desire to rebuild the temple of Jerusalem? Yes, for many Jews want to rebuild it on the spot where the old temple was. I remember that several years ago a brother in the Lord told me that he had heard that the rebuilding of the temple of Jerusalem was imminent; having doubts about that piece of news, I decided to make a telephone call to the Jewish Embassy which is here in Rome to know from them whether the news was true. The first answer they gave to me was: “If only it were true!’, and then my interlocutor denied that piece of news. However, there are some Orthodox Jewish groups which are ready to destroy the Arab mosque to rebuilt the temple. But these groups don’t please many Jews because they know that if that Arab mosque were destroyed there would be a big war against Israel, a war that would have no precedent in the history of Israel. Yet this war doesn’t frighten these groups at all, because they believe that when this war breaks out the Messiah will come and fight against the enemies of Israel!

From: The New Way

 

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