The Beginning and the End of Israel
February 23rd, 1986 @ 8:15 AM
THE BEGINNING AND THE END OF ISRAEL
Dr. W. A. Criswell
2-23-86 8:15 a.m.
And the Lord bless the great throngs of you who share this hour on radio with us here in the First Baptist Church of Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message. And if you would, wherever you are, turn in the Bible and read with us Jeremiah, Jeremiah chapter 30, Jeremiah chapter 30. This is one in a series of nine messages on “The Beginning and the End.” In these Sundays past, The Beginning and the End of the World; of Sorrows; of Death; of Satan; of Grace; next Sunday, of the Church; the last in the series, the following Sunday, The Beginning and the End of the Golden Millennium; and today, The Beginning and the End of Israel.
Jeremiah chapter 30; we are going to read from verses 7 to 11. Jeremiah chapter 30, verses 7 to 11, now let us read it out loud together:
Alas! for that day is great, so that none is like it: it is even the time of Jacob’s trouble; but he shall be saved out of it.
For it shall come to pass in that day, saith the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off thy neck, and will burst thy bonds, and strangers shall no more serve themselves of him:
But they shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.
Therefore fear thou not, O My servant Jacob, saith the Lord; neither be dismayed, O Israel: for, lo, I will save thee from afar, and thy seed from the land of their captivity; and Jacob shall return, and shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid.
For I am with thee, saith the Lord, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished.
All the other nations of the world may come to an end, but there will never be an end to the nation of Israel. That’s what God says. So we begin: The Beginning and the End of Israel.
In a most solemn and unusual covenant, the Lord God with Abraham divided, after sacrifice, a heifer in two, and put one of it, half of it on one side, and half of it on the other side. Then the Lord God and Abraham took a she-goat, sacrificed it, and divided it in two, and put half of it on one side and half of it on the other side. Then the Lord God and Abraham sacrificed a ram, and divided it in two, and put half of it on one side and half of it on the other side. Then the Lord God and Abraham took a turtledove and put it on one side, and took a pigeon and put it on the other side [Genesis 15:9-10]. In an ancient and solemn ritual, two men who made a blood covenant walked between those severed sacrifices. If one broke that solemn oath, his blood was shed and his limbs were dismembered.
But in the fifteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis, instead of two walking through those sacrificial animals, just one walked through, and that was the Lord God. In the form of a smoking furnace and a blazing fiery torch, God walked between those two sacrifices [Genesis 15:17]. And the covenant was: “I will bless thee and make of thee a great nation. And if the stars of the heaven can be numbered, so can be numbered the children that will be born out of thy loins” [Genesis 12:2, 7, 15:5]; the solemn oath of the Lord God, that Abraham would have a people forever and forever. And in the story, as it unfolds in the Book of Genesis, the beginning of Israel, it is Isaac who is chosen and not Ishmael [Genesis 17:18-19]. It is Jacob who is chosen and not Esau [Genesis 27]. That is, it is Israel and not Edom. The Edomites and all of those other ancient peoples have disappeared from the face of the earth thousands of years ago. I never saw an Edomite, never saw a Gergashite, never saw an Ammonite, but I have seen the children of Abraham all over this world, including our queenly city of Dallas.
For four thousand years that nation has been a distinct people, though they have been buried in every captivity, persecuted under every kind of a government. They have remained distinct, like the Gulf Stream coursing its way through the Atlantic ocean, a river fifty miles wide and one mile deep, and as distinct as if it flowed through the heart of Texas. In Jeremiah 31, the Lord God said, “As long as the ordinances of the day and of the night, as long as there is a sun to shine by day and as long as there is a moon to shine by night, just so long will there be a nation of Israel before Me” [Jeremiah 31:35-36].
Hundreds and hundreds of years before the halcyon days of Greece and of Rome, we read of the golden era of Israel under David and Solomon. And hundreds and hundreds of years before Herodotus wrote the first history do we have the story of God’s people—the beginning of Israel. And the Lord God gave to Israel a land in perpetuity and forever.
And the Lord appeared unto Abraham, and said, Unto thy seed will I give this land. And the Lord said to Abraham, Lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are northward, southward, eastward, westward;
For all the land which you see, that will I give it to thy seed forever.
And I will make thy seed as the dust of the earth: and if a man can count the number of the dust of the earth, so shall thy seed be numbered.
Arise, walk through the land in the length of it and in the breadth of it; for I have given it unto thee.
And in the one hundred fifth Psalm:
God hath remembered His covenant for ever, the word which He commanded to a thousand generations.
Which covenant He made with Abraham, and His oath unto Isaac;
And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, and to Israel for an everlasting covenant:
Saying, Unto thee will I give the land of Canaan, the lot of your inheritance.
When Joseph died in Egypt, he made his brethren swear by an oath: “The Lord will one day visit you, and when He does, you are to take my embalmed body back to the Canaan Promised Land” [Genesis 50:24-25]. It belongs to them, and forever.
And the Israelite is a part of the land, and the land is a part of them. Several times I visited with David Ben-Gurion. The first time was in the King David Hotel in Jerusalem, with him and his wife. To my amazement, he was a farmer from Beersheba. And if you have been to Israel, you couldn’t look at the land without seeing the toil of those Jewish people in their kibbutzim. The finest land in South Argentina was allocated to Jewish people. They lived there for a while, but gradually immigrated to Buenos Aires and the other cities of Argentina. Everywhere in this world the Jew is in the city. He’s a merchantman, he’s a banker, he’s a corporate leader; I never saw a Jewish farmer in America. I’ve never seen a Jewish farmer anywhere else in the earth. But when I visit Israel—and I wish you’d go with me this coming June, with the choir and the orchestra—when you visit Israel, you will see the land come to life—they call it “the green line”—it comes to life under their hands. The land belongs to them, and they belong to the land.
Not only that, the beginning of the nation and the gift of the inheritance of the land, but God promised that they would have a king forever. In 2 Samuel, the Lord said to David:
When thy days be fulfilled, and thou shalt sleep with thy fathers,
I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy body, and I will establish his kingdom.
And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established for ever. Thy throne shall be established for ever.
[2 Samuel 7:12, 16]
And in Psalm 89:
My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing which is gone out of My lips.
Once have I sworn by My holiness that I will not lie unto David.
His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before Me.
It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven.
A king forever: and Pilate said to Jesus, “Art Thou a king?” [John 18:37]. And the Lord Jesus replied, “Thou sayest that I am a king,” which is the most definite affirmation in the Greek languages; to repeat it, “Thou sayest I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this purpose came I into the world” [John 18:37]. He was born a king: “And there came magi from the East, saying, Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” [Matthew 2:1-2]. A king! He died a king, and they placed over His cross the superscription in Hebrew, Greek, and Latin, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS” [Matthew 27:37]. And He entered heaven a King: in Ephesians 4, “He took captivity captive” [Ephesians 4:8]. The beginning of Israel: the nation and the land and an everlasting King.
Now the end of Israel: in that long discussion of Israel in Romans 9, 10, and 11—the Book of Romans is a theological treatise; as you pick up a book of systematic theology, a reasoned-out doctrinal dissertation. The Book of Romans is a doctrinal dissertation, and those chapters 9, 10, and 11 have to do with Israel. In that dissertation, the apostle Paul asks rhetorically, “Hath God cast away His people?” [Romans 11:1]. That’s the first verse. The second verse in chapter 11, “God hath not cast away His people whom He foreknew” [Romans 11:2]. In the twenty-fourth, in the apocalyptic chapter of Jesus’ message in the Book of Matthew, “Verily I say unto you, This genea”—your word “genealogy, generation” comes from that Greek word—”This genea, this race shall not disappear until all of God’s prophetic revelation has been fulfilled” [Matthew 24:34]. “The Jew will be here,” said Jesus, “when I come again.” He will be here as a people and as a nation. As long as the stars shine, just so long will Israel be a people before the Lord [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. And he will return to his land.
In Amos chapter 9, the last chapter:
I will bring again the captivity of My people Israel, they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards, and drink the fruit thereof; they shall make gardens, and eat of them.
I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of the land which I have given them, saith the Lord.
Then in the [thirty-first] chapter of Jeremiah, He says that this Hebrew language will be spoken once again in the land of Israel [Jeremiah 31:23].
When Jeremiah said that, a few years after the prophecy they were utterly destroyed as a nation. In 587 BC they were carried captive into Babylon [Jeremiah 39:1-10, 52:4-30; 2 Chronicles 36:17-21], and in that Babylonian captivity, they no longer spoke Hebrew; they spoke Aramaic. When they came back to their land after the captivity of seventy years they spoke Aramaic. When Jesus walked in the land of Israel, He spoke Aramaic. From 587 BC, 587, 587 before Christ, until this day, Hebrew was a dead language. But Jeremiah said, “This language will be spoken in Israel,” and if you go to Israel today—and I pray you will—you will hear them speak the language of the Bible. It’s Hebrew. For the first time in thousands of years, this language is being spoken: what God said to His prophet Jeremiah [Jeremiah 31:23].
They will return in unbelief. In the Book of Ezekiel, in chapter 36, they come back to the land in unbelief [Ezekiel 36:24-28]. That’s the most astonishing of all the prophecies that I’ve ever read in the Bible. When you go to Israel today, the Israelite is an atheist. Of all of the phenomena that you could ever witness, the Jew in Israel is an atheist. A few little groups are orthodox, and they have a tremendous influence upon the government, but outside of that small, infinitesimal minority, the Jew in Israel is an atheist—the most astonishing of all the phenomena I have ever witnessed in my life! But, that’s in keeping with the prophecy of God. They will return in unbelief. And in the land, in the land, they are going to be converted.
I will take you from among the nations, and gather you out of all the countries, and bring you into your own land. Then,
after they have returned:
then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness.
A new heart will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments, and do them.
And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be My people, and I will be your God.
What an amazing transformation! And how does it come to pass? In the Book of Zechariah, chapters 12 and 13 [and 14]:
I will pour out upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look upon Me, whom they have pierced.
In that day shall there be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness. And one shall say unto Him, What are these wounds in Thy hands? And He shall answer, These are the wounds that I receive in the house of My people.
[Zechariah 13:1, 6]
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem on the east, and the Mount of Olives shall cleave in the midst thereof toward the east and the west; there will be a great valley.
And the Lord shall be King over all the earth: and in that day there shall be one Lord, and His name one.
[Zechariah 14:4, 9]
Just reading from the New Testament, in the eleventh of Romans:
I would not have you without knowledge, my brethren, this mystery, this secret hid in the heart of God, that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in, to the last number who are written in God’s Book of Life come down that aisle, until the plērōma, the full number be come in.
Then all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and [He] 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 the calling of God are without repentance, without change, without turning.
God has made a covenant; isn’t that the way we started? When they went through those sacrifices [Genesis 15:9-10], God went through alone [Genesis 15:17]. His covenant does not depend upon humanity. It does not depend upon nations. It does not depend upon the Israelite himself. It depends upon God, and God’s promises and God’s covenant and God’s oath are without changing [Psalm 89:30-34]. This is the covenant of God, “They shall be a people and a nation before Me forever” [Jeremiah 31:35-36]. I must hasten.
In the passage that we read as our background text, “after the time of Jacob’s trouble” [Jeremiah 30:7]: that refers to the tribulation, when our people are raptured away, when the church is caught up to Christ in heaven [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. Then in that dispensation, God deals with Israel in a great tribulation [Matthew 24:21]. It’s a strange thing, how God works. In that seventieth week of Daniel, in the middle of the week, Antichrist breaks his covenant with Israel [Daniel 9:27], and there are three and one-half years of terrible tribulation [Revelation 11:2-3].
Isn’t it strange, I say? Three and one-half years our Lord was in this earth [preaching the kingdom to Israel]; and for every day that they rejected their King and their Lord, for every day they rejected our Lord and Savior, for every day they will be in tribulation: three and one-half years [Daniel 7:25]. And at the end of that three and one-half years, coming now to the nineteenth chapter of the Book of the Revelation, at the end of that tribulation, “the time of Jacob’s trouble” [Jeremiah 30:7], as Jeremiah describes it, the Lord comes, and His feet shall touch the Mount of Olives [Zechariah 14:4], and they shall look on Him whom they pierced [Zechariah 12:10]. And as Isaiah 66 says, “A nation shall be born in a day” [Isaiah 66:8]. Israel will receive their King, and the glory of God shall cover the whole earth [Habakkuk 2:14]. Think of that day:
I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and He that sat upon it was Faithful and True . . .
His eyes were as a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns . . .
He was dressed in a vesture dipped in blood: and His name is called The Word of God . . .
And on His vesture and on His thigh was a name written, KING OF KINGS, AND LORD OF LORDS.
Oh, what a day, when the King comes, and when Israel looks upon Him whom they have pierced [Zechariah 12:10], and they are converted [Romans 11:25-26], and we with them are caught up to be with our Lord forever and ever in a new heaven and in a new earth! [1 Thessalonians 4:16-17; Revelation 21:1-3]
In these years gone by, I was a guest in the home of a godly deacon in our Baptist church in Oslo, Norway, and he described to me the days of the German occupation of his city and his country. Their King Haakon, Prince Charles of Denmark, their king from 1940 to 1945, was in exile. And he said, “Often a plane would fly over from England and drop pamphlets down on the city.” On pain of death they were interdicted by the Nazi government from picking them up. “But surreptitiously,” he said, “we would pick up those pamphlets that fell from the sky, and at night,” he said, “pulling all the shades down, we would gather our family around, and we would read those pamphlets that fell from the sky. They were from our exiled king who lived in England, and he would say in those words of encouragement, ‘I’ll be back. I’m coming back. Don’t be discouraged. Don’t lose heart. I will be back.’”
Down there at the waterfront, in the city of Oslo where the contour of the land comes down to the harbor and the water of the bay comes up to the wharf, we were down there with him. And he said, “There, that place,” he said, “in 1945 there was a ship that came into Oslo, and it docked there, and out of that ship came our King Haakon, and he stepped on the pavement right there.” And the good deacon said, “When our king stepped on our ground, I could not describe to you,” he said, “what I felt and what I saw. We were there to greet him by the thousands.” And he said, “When the king came, we clapped our hands, we shouted, we threw up our hats in the air, we cried, we wept, we hugged one another. It was the most ecstatic day of our lives.” And as I listened to him describe the return of their exiled king, I could not help but think, “What a day it will be, what a sight, what an indescribable ecstasy, beyond anything we could ever imagine, when King Jesus comes back from the sky!”
All hail the power of Jesus’ name!
Let angels prostrate fall;
Let every tribe and nation on earth
Crown Him Lord of all.
Ye chosen seed of Israel’s race,
Ye ransomed from the fall,
Hail Him who saves you by His grace,
And crown Him Lord of all.
[“All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name,” Edward Perronet]
When He is King and Lord over all the earth [Revelation 11:15], and Israel accepts her Son [Romans 11:26-27], what a glorious beginning in Abraham [Genesis 13:14-17]—what a marvelous ending in King Jesus [Revelation 19:11-16].
We’re going to sing us an invitation hymn, and as we sing the song, to give your heart to the Lord, to come into the fellowship of our dear church, to answer any call of the Spirit in your heart—in the balcony round, there’s time and to spare, down one of these stairways; in the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles: “Pastor, this is God’s day for me, and I’m on the way.” A thousand times welcome. Angels attend you while you come, as we stand and as we sing.