ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 Corinthians 10:32
6-3-87 7:30 p.m.
And with all the prayers of my soul I pray the Lord will bless your mind, your apperception, and understanding as the pastor delivers this message tonight. It is the understanding of this subject of Israel and the Church that will color every interpretation you will ever make of the Word of God.
In 1 Corinthians 10:32, Paul divides the entire populated world into three groups: Jews, Gentiles, and the church of God. Every human being who lives falls into one of those categories. You are a Jew, you are a Gentile, or you are a believer in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, and you belong to the family of Christ in the church.
There is a distinction then in the Bible between the Jew and the church. It is so named in my text. There are Jews, there are non-Jews, and then in the church you find a congregation of everybody, in every race and tribe and tongue under the sun. That’s what you just read in the seventh chapter of the Revelation [Revelation 7:9-14]. The tremendously important distinction that has to be remembered as we study the Word of God is between Israel and the church.
Most of Christendom—the whole believing throngs of those who belong to the church—most of believing Christendom is amillennial. They do not believe in a millennium. There will be no such thing as a millennium. They are a, that is the Greek negative, a, like atheism: theos is God, a is a negative—don’t believe in God. The Greek word for gno is in our language “know,” k-n-o-w, know. Put an a in front of it, agno; agnostic; doesn’t have any knowledge. So when you put an “a” in front of millennium, amillennial, there’s no millennium; consequently, the amillennialist believes that there is no future for Israel. There’s no future for the tribes of Israel. All the promises to Israel—and they are multitudinous, the whole Old Testament is filled with them; you can’t read the Old Testament without reading them in multiplying numbers—all the promises to Israel have their fulfillment in the present day church. Israel is the church. The present day church is spiritual Israel. All believers, Jews and Gentiles, Greeks and barbarians, are the spiritual tribes of Israel. God has nothing more to do with Israel. He has nothing more to do with the Jew, and He has nothing more to do with the tribes of Israel. All of the prophetic prognostications in the Bible that pertain to Israel are to be fulfilled in the church. As for the millennium that is spoken of in the Bible, the amillennialist says, “We are in it now. We are now in the millennium. It is this period of the preaching of the gospel that is overcoming the evil of the world. There is no future kingdom.”
May I make just a little aside there? In my humble opinion, this world is no better now than it was when I was born; than it was when my father was born; than it was when his father was born; than it was in the days of the Reformation; than it was in the days of the Roman Empire. It was evil and full of violence then; it’s full of evil and violence now.
One must spiritualize the Scriptures to substantiate the view that God has nothing more to do with the Jew, and all of the prophetic Scriptures are fulfilled in the church. Words must be emptied of their meaning to make all the prophetic references to Israel, Zion, and Jerusalem refer to the church.
Now, in these days and years past, I was given a very expensive Bible. That’s about as expensive a Bible as you can buy in any bookstore. It has very large print, which in these days past before the Criswell Bible was published helped me a great deal. So I used to preach out of this kind of a Bible. I wore it out and then they gave me a new one with my name on it. When I turn to this Bible, just for example, I turn to Isaiah, and it says, “The Church Comforted”; Isaiah 43. So I look down here to read about the church being comforted. And this is what I read: “But now thus saith the Lord that created thee, O Jacob, and He that formed thee, O Israel, Fear not, for I have redeemed thee, I have called thee by thy name” [Isaiah 43:1]. Yet up here it says the words are addressed to the church. But when I read the text of God, it is addressed to Israel, to Jacob.
I turn the page and I see the headline at the top: “The Church Comforted with God’s Promises.” And I look down here to read God’s promises to the church in chapter 44: “Yet now hear, O Jacob My servant; and Israel, whom I have chosen: Thus saith the Lord that made thee, and formed thee. . .Fear not, O Jacob, My servant; and thou, Jesurun”—that’s a pet name—“whom I have chosen. I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessings upon thine offspring” [Isaiah 44:1-3]. Yet it says up here it is the church to which these beautiful words are addressed.
I turn the page over here and in chapter 52, “The Church’s Joy” I read up here. So I look down to read about the church’s joy, and it says, “Break forth into singing, ye waste places of Jerusalem: for the Lord hath comforted His people, He hath redeemed Jerusalem” [Isaiah 52:9].
I turn the page just once again, out of many of them in Jeremiah, and the headline up here is “The Stability of the Church”; “The Stability of the Church.” And I look down here in the text to read about the stability of the church. And this is what I read:
Thus saith the Lord, that gave the sun for a light by day and … the moon and the stars for a light by night …The Lord of hosts is His name:
If those ordinances depart from before Me, saith the Lord, then the seed of Israel also shall cease from being a nation before Me for ever.
Thus saith the Lord; If heaven can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched out, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all that they have done, saith the Lord.
The whole prophetic word without exception is always, “Israel is in My heart, and the nation is ever before Me; and I will visit them, and bless them, and redeem them.” There’s no exception to that.
From these who say that God has nothing to do with the Jew, how very different is the Bible itself, and especially the apostle Paul. He will write in Romans chapters 9, 10, and 11 a whole vast section about God’s program for unbelieving Israel, the modern Jew. It is a discussion of literal Israel then, now, and forever. Listen to Romans 11:25-26: “I would not, brethren, that ye should be without knowledge of this mustērion,” a secret God kept in His heart until He revealed it through His holy apostle [Ephesians 3:1-10], “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” [Romans 11:25], until that last Gentile comes down the aisle and gives his heart to Jesus. “Then all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” [Romans 11:26]. God has a great future, and we’re going to see that in a moment, for Israel.
Now in this passage Paul speaks of the present condition of unbelieving Israel, the Jew today [Romans 11:25]. Then in the next verse he speaks of the future condition of a believing Israel [Romans 11:26]. It is impossible to wrest the words to mean the present, unbelieving Israel is the present Jewish people, and the future believing Israel is the present church. You cannot do it. According to both the Old Testament and the New Testament Scriptures, the tribes of Israel have a certain and expansive future.
Now that’s the introduction. In the little while that we have to look at it, we’re going to look at what God says about this Jew who is an unbelieving Israelite now; what God says about him in the tribulation; what He says about him at the second coming; what He says about him in the millennium; and what He says about him in the great forever and forever.
First, in the tribulation: Revelation chapters 7-19 describes the tribulation [Revelation 7-19:21]. And in that discussion in Revelation 7 is a parenthesis between the sixth and the seventh judgments [Revelation 7:1-17]. And in that seventh chapter of the Revelation are presented two large groups of people who are going to be saved during that awful period known in the Old Testament, in Jeremiah 30:7, as the “time of Jacob’s trouble.”
There are two groups described in chapter 7. You just read one of them. There are two groups. First, in Revelation 7:5-8 there are named the tribes of believing Israel, the sealed Jews who have come to faith in Christ during the great tribulation. In Revelation 14:4, those one hundred forty-four thousand, twelve thousand from each tribe, are seen again. And they are described as the firstfruits of God and of the Lamb. That is, they are the first Jews who come to Christ in faith during the tribulation [Revelation 7:13-14], and before the second coming of Christ [Revelation 19:11-16], at which time all Israel will be saved as a nation and shall receive her Son and her Lord [Romans 11:26]. Now that’s the first group in the seventh chapter, these believing Jews, twelve thousand from each tribe [Revelation 7:4-8].
The second group is described in the passage that we just read, Revelation 7:9-14. These are the non-Jewish people of all nations and kindreds and tribes and people who are saved during that awful tribulation. The greatest revival the world will ever know will be during those awful days of the tribulation. That’s one of the most astonishing revelations in the world.
May I make a postscript here? Today, do the Jews know their tribes? There are twelve thousand from each one of these tribes. Do they know their tribes? Many do not, but God knows. God has His eye upon that Jew and upon that nation. And He has a great, marvelous future for them.
Now, second: we’re going to look at the program of God in the future for the Jew in the second coming. We have just looked at the program of God for the Jew in the tribulation. There are going to be thousands and thousands of those Jews who are turning to Jesus in the Revelation [Revelation 7:3-8]. All right, second: the program of God for the Jew in the second coming.
In Isaiah 66:8 it refers to a nation, Israel, that is born in a day. In Hosea 3:4-5, and in Romans, the passage we just read in 11:25-27, they describe the national conversion of Israel [Romans 11:25-27]. How could such a thing be, that unbelieving Israel is converted to Jesus in a day? As Jesus appeared to James [1 Corinthians 15:7], and the rest of His brethren [Acts 1:14], and He won them to the Lord—to Himself, to faith in Christ; as Jesus appeared to the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:8, you have it translated in the New Testament, “He appeared unto me.” He was on the way to Damascus. “He appeared unto me”; and the translation is “as one born out of due time; as one born out of due time”; ektrōma, “before the time”; ektrōma, “before the time” [1 Corinthians 15:8]. Before the national conversion of Israel, Paul says, “Jesus personally appeared to me. Before He appeared to my people and my unbelieving kinsfolk, before He appears to the tribes of Israel [Romans 11:25-27], before the national conversion” [Romans 11:25-27], he says in 1 Corinthians 15:8 that “He appeared to me.”
And as you know, he became the great emissary of the gospel of Christ to the Gentiles [Acts 9:15, 11:13]. So will appear the Lord Christ to the regathered nation of Israel [Matthew 23:39], just as He appeared to James [1 Corinthians 15:7], just as He appeared to His brethren who didn’t believe in Him [John 7:5], just as He appeared to the apostle Paul, who was persecuting Him [Acts 9:4]. The day is coming when Christ will appear to the nation of Israel. And that is described in the prophecy of Zechariah and beautifully described.
I’m going to read out of chapter 12, 13, and 14 of Zechariah:
I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and supplications: and they shall look on Me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for Me, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness … as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
In that day there shall be a great mourning in Jerusalem, as the mourning of Hadad Rimmon in the valley of Megiddo.
(when Josiah, good King Josiah was slain) [2 Kings 23:29-30].
And the land shall mourn, every family apart; the family of the house of David apart … the family of the house of Nathan apart … the family of the house of Levi apart … all the families that remain, every family apart…
And in that day there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness …
And one shall say: What are these wounds in thine hands?
Then shall he answer: Those with which I was wounded in the house of my friends…
And His feet shall stand in that day upon the Mount of Olives, which is before Jerusalem … and it shall be in that day that living waters shall flow from Jerusalem … and in that day, there shall be one Lord … and the Lord shall be King over all the earth.
These are prophecies in Zechariah of the time of the great national turning of the Lord God to Israel; of Israel when they accept their Savior and receive Him with the wounds in His hands and the scar in His side [Romans 11:25-27].
May I take a moment for another aside? In Revelation 19:7-9 there’s the marriage supper of the Lamb, and the bride, of course, is the church. The bride is the church, and they’re celebrating the marriage supper of the Lamb. But the verse also says that there are many, many called to that nuptial celebration [Revelation 19:9]. There are many, many friends there beside the bride of Christ, the church [Revelation 19:7-8]. And those friends are Israel. They’ll be there—Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, David and Isaiah and Jeremiah, and all of those who have accepted the Lord as their Savior, the nation born in a day—they’ll be there. They’ll be the friends invited to that marvelous, happy, incomparably beautiful occasion. The bride is the church, and the friends will be Israel [John 3:29].
Now we speak of the program of God for the Jew in the millennial reign. Following the second coming of our Lord, when the Lord comes down with His saints [Jude 1:14], the Lord Messiah will reign over a restored and converted Israel and a renewed and regenerated earth for one thousand years [Revelation 20:4-6]. That’s why it’s called the millennium. Mille means a thousand; millennium, a thousand years.
In Revelation 20:1-6, the millennium is described. In Isaiah 2:1-5, the millennium is described. In Isaiah 11:1-11, the millennium is described. Some of the most beautiful words in human speech describe this glorious millennium. In Micah, verse 4 of chapter 4, he says: “They shall sit every man under his vine and under his fig tree; and none shall make them afraid” [Micah 4:4].
There’s coming a day when they will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruninghooks. And they won’t learn war anymore [Micah 4:3], and people won’t be afraid. There’s going to be universal peace, when the lion lies down with the lamb, and a little child will be a king in our midst, and the earth filled with the knowledge of the Lord like waters cover the sea [Isaiah 11:6-9]. That day is coming, and it’s called the millennium.
Now in Matthew 19:28 the Lord Christ says to His apostles—now we’re talking about the Jew in that millennium—the Lord says to His apostles, “Ye who have followed Me in the regeneration, when the Son of Man shall sit on the throne of His glory, ye also shall sit upon twelve thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The regeneration: paliggenesia, the remaking. There’s only two times in the Bible that that word is used. In Titus 3:5: “By the washing of regeneration,” we are reborn—we are remade. We’re converted by the washing of paliggenesia.
Now the other time that one word is used is here in this passage in Matthew 19:28. It refers to the rebirth and the regeneration of the whole earth. As we individually are paliggenesia, we are regenerated by the washing of the blood of Christ [Titus 3:5], so the whole world before the millennium is going to be renovated. It’s going to be regenerated. And the twelve tribes of Israel will be presided over by the twelve apostles as viceregents of the great King [Matthew 19:28]. The Lord Christ will be the visible King of glory during that marvelous millennium, seated upon a throne in Jerusalem [Luke 1:32].
In Acts 3:21, Peter says the heavens must receive the Lord Jesus until the restitution of all things—a restitution which God hath spoken by the mouth of all of His holy prophets since the world began. In Ezekiel 43:1-5, he sees the glorious Lord Christ returning to His forsaken temple, and as in the same way as he had sadly seen Him depart in chapters 9 and 11 [Ezekiel 9:3, 11:23]. If you remember my preaching through the Book of Ezekiel, one of those tragic, traumatic descriptions of the prophet was when he saw the Lord God forsake His temple and forsake His people and forsake the tribes, and He left [Ezekiel 10:18, 11:23]. That’s in Ezekiel. But in the same glorious book he sees the Lord return and reigning in the same temple where He had forsaken [Ezekiel 43:2-5].
And in Ezekiel 48, which is the last chapter of the prophecy, Ezekiel describes the boundaries of the twelve tribes in their homeland of Israel. And between the territories of Judah and of Benjamin, in the center of the Promised Land, is the exceedingly large temple area, described in chapter 48. That temple area is eight and one half miles long, by six and two-thirds miles wide. It is a vast area for worship [Ezekiel 48:9-12]. We think we have a big area here in our First Baptist Church with five blocks downtown. Think of that millennial temple with its area of eight and a half miles one way and six and two-thirds miles the other way [Ezekiel 48:9-12]. And the tribes of the world and the people of the world will come to bow before our visible and living Lord, in the millennium [Isaiah 60:11-12].
Now, I close. Last of all, the program for Israel in the new heaven and the new earth and the New Jerusalem [Revelation 21:1-2]. In Revelation 21:12 it says the holy city has twelve gates, and they represent the twelve tribes of Israel. In Revelation 21:14 it says the city has twelve foundations, and those foundations are named after the twelve apostles, and that represents all of us who have found refuge and comfort and salvation and assurance in our blessed Lord Jesus.
That is the final eternity and the city in which we shall live [Hebrews 11:10]. And throughout that eternity the New Testament people of the church are there. And the Old Testament people of Israel are there, and they rejoice together in the love and praise and adoration and worship of the Lord.
That’s God’s Word. And we look forward to the day when unbelieving Israel accepts her Son and her Savior and is one with us in the worship and adoration of the Lord Christ, our hope now and forever [Romans 11:25-27]. This is the Word of God.
In this moment now that we sing a hymn of appeal, a family you to put your life with us in our dear church; a one somebody you to give himself to the Lord Jesus [Romans 10:9-13]; come in confession of faith [Ephesians 2:8], and somebody to be baptized according to the commandment [Matthew 28:19], and example of our Lord [Matthew 3:13-17]; or to answer some call of the Spirit in your heart, “I want to come for a prayer of dedication and consecration.” As the Lord shall press the appeal to your heart make the decision now. In this moment when we sing our song, welcome, a thousand times welcome, while we stand and while we sing.
AND THE CHURCH
of Christendom is a-millennial – there is no millennium
No future for the tribes of Israel
a. All promises to
Israel have their fulfillment in present day church
b. We are in the
millennium now – there is no future kingdom
One must spiritualize the Scriptures to substantiate such a view
Headlines of this expensive Bible(Isaiah 44:1-3,
52:9, Jeremiah 31:35-37)
How very different is the Bible itself, and especially the apostle Paul
Discussion of literal Israel then, now, forever(Romans
9, 10, 11, 11:25-26)
tribes of Israel have a certain and expansive future
II. In the tribulation(Revelation 7-19)
7 is a parenthesis between the sixth and seventh judgments
1. Tribes of believing
Israel, the sealed Jews (Revelation 7:4-8, 14:4)
2. Believers of
non-Jewish races(Revelation 7:9-14)
III. In the second coming
nation born in a day – the national conversion of Israel (Isaiah 66:8, Hosea 3:4-5, Romans 11:25-27)
As Jesus appeared to James, to His family, to Paul, so will He appear to the re-gathered
nation (1 Corinthians 15:8, Zechariah 12, 13,
marriage supper of the Lamb – the bride is the church; the friends of the bride
will be Israel(Revelation 19:7, 9)
IV. In the millennial reign
the second coming, the Lord Messiah Christ will reign over a restored,
converted Israel and a renewed, regenerated earth for 1000 years(Revelation 20:1-6, Isaiah 2:1-5, 11:1-11, Micah 4:4)
– “the remaking” (Titus 3:5, Matthew 19:28)
1. Twelve tribes of
Israel will be presided over by twelve apostles
2. The Lord Christ the
visible King during millennium
returning to His forsaken temple(Acts 3:21,
Ezekiel 9, 11, 43:1-5)
V. In the new heaven, the new earth and the
New Jerusalem(Revelation 21:12, 14)
eternity in that city the New Testament people of the church and Old Testament
people of Israel will rejoice together (Revelation