Israel in Prophecy
Who is Israel?
The oracle of the word of [YHWH] concerning Israel: Thus declares the Lord, who stretched out the heavens and founded the earth and formed the spirit of man within him: "Behold, I am about to make Jerusalem a cup of staggering to all the surrounding peoples. The siege of Jerusalem will also be against Judah. On that day I will make Jerusalem a heavy stone for all the peoples. All who lift it will surely hurt themselves. And all the nations of the earth will gather against it. On that day … I will strike every horse with panic, and its rider with madness. But for the sake of the house of Judah I will keep my eyes open, when I strike every horse of the peoples with blindness. Then the clans of Judah shall say to themselves, 'The inhabitants of Jerusalem have strength through the Lord of hosts, their God.’” (Zech 12:1–5)
The prophet Zechariah begins his book with a time date: “In the eighth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of [YHWH] came to the prophet Zechariah, the son of Berechiah, son of Iddo” (Zech 12:1). Thus, the visions of Zechariah are post-Exile. These visions cannot be fulfilled by either the house of Israel being taken captive by Assyria, or by the house of Judah being taken captive by Babylon. Their fulfillment is ahead of them, just as the fulfillment of Daniel’s visions were ahead of him, a problem modern scholarship skirts by assigning the composition of these visions to dates nearer to the present era.
The siege of Jerusalem that Zechariah envisions will not be successful even though all the nations of the earth are gathered against Jerusalem; for “finally” the God of Abraham will fight for the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
Concerning Jerusalem, the prophet Zechariah also wrote,
Thus says the Lord of hosts: I am jealous for Zion with great jealousy, and I am jealous for her with great wrath … I have returned to Zion and will dwell in the midst of Jerusalem, and Jerusalem shall be a fruitful city, and the mountain of the Lord of hosts, the holy mountain. … Old men and old women shall again sit in the streets of Jerusalem, each with staff in hand because of great age. And the streets of the city shall be full of boys and girls playing in the streets. Thus says the Lord of host: If it is marvelous in the sight of the remnant of this people in those days, should it also be marvelous in my sight … behold, I will save my people from the east country and from the west country, and I will bring them to dwell in the midst of Jerusalem. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in faithfulness and in righteousness. (Zech 8:2-6 emphasis added)
The remnant who shall have old and young in the streets of Jerusalem cannot be the remnant of Israel that returned with Ezra, but the one part (from Zech 13:9) who shall have a new heart and a new spirit (Ezek 11:20). This remnant will have been refined as silver is refined and tested as gold is tested, and this will be the remnant whose recovery causes Israel to forget the exodus from Egypt (Jer 16:14-15). This is the remnant that returns after the Holy Spirit is poured out upon all flesh (Joel 2:28), the remnant that returns by a highway from Assyria (Isa 11:16), the remnant that is a third with Egypt and Assyria, south and north respectively (Isa 19:24). The nature of beasts, of the great predators, human nature will be changed when the present prince of the power of the air is bound for a thousand years in the bottomless pit. Christ Jesus will then be the prince of the air: His nature will be broadcast or transmitted to all living creatures through the Holy Spirit having been poured out on all flesh. Thus, prophecies about entering into the rest of God will be physically fulfilled during the seventh day of a spiritual creation week; during the Millennium that is a land Sabbath for all the earth; i.e., during Christ’s millennial reign.
The weekly Sabbath is a type of the land Sabbath, with this greater physical rest being, in turn, a type or foreshadowing of spiritual rest in the heavenly realm. And during the land Sabbath, there shall be no buying or selling, with the Lord during the Endurance in Jesus employing the Adversary to prevent buying and selling among the faithful. For in giving the land its sabbatical rest, there will be no Food Inc; no industrialized agribusiness, no heavy equipment ripping open the bowels of the earth to inject toxic brews of insecticides and herbicides … land fertility will come by way of resting the land, harvesting what grows of itself, with every person resting under his [or her] own vine and fig tree.. And this will require a very different human mindset than is in evidence today.
During the Millennium, all of humanity will become the spiritual nation of Israel in that all that remains of humanity will have prevailed with God.
The prophet Zechariah went on to write: “Thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Let your hands be strong, you who in these days have been hearing these words from the mouth of the prophets who were present on the day that the foundation of the house of the Lord of hosts was laid, that the temple might be built’” (Zech 8:9 emphasis added). These words of the Lord—the words delivered by Zechariah—were not for his day, but for the days when old and young were at peace in the streets of Jerusalem.
The foundation of the house of the Lord was laid in Jerusalem by the remnant that returned with Sheshbazzar (Ezra 1:11), but the temple that was to be built wasn’t the work of their hands; for with the razing of the temple Solomon built, the earthly size of the Promised Land that was to have stretched from the Tigris-Euphrates drainage to the Nile shrank and shrank again. For even under King David, Israel never occupied all of the Promised Land, which shrank in size following the death of Solomon to merely the land held by the house of Judah (that is, Jerusalem and the cities of Judah). The size of the Promised shrank again when the King of Babylon laid siege against Jerusalem. The Promised Land shrank to the size of the city, then to the size of the temple mount, then went vertical when the glory of the Lord departed from the temple as seen in Ezekiel’s vision (specifically Ezek 11:23). The foundation for the house of the Lord that was laid in Jerusalem has as its cornerstone the glorified Christ Jesus.
But the remnant that returned from Babylon didn’t knowingly lay Christ Jesus as the cornerstone for the Second Temple … consider what the post-Exile prophet Haggai declared:
On the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month, in the second year of Darius, the word of [YHWH] came by Haggai the prophet, "Ask the priests about the law: 'If someone carries holy meat in the fold of his garment and touches with his fold bread or stew or wine or oil or any kind of food, does it become holy?'" The priests answered and said, "No." Then Haggai said, "If someone who is unclean by contact with a dead body touches any of these, does it become unclean?" The priests answered and said, "It does become unclean." Then Haggai answered and said, "So is it with this people, and with this nation before me, … and so with every work of their hands. And what they offer there is unclean. Now then, consider from this day onward. Before stone was placed upon stone in the temple of the Lord, how did you fare? When one came to a heap of twenty measures, there were but ten. When one came to the wine vat to draw fifty measures, there were but twenty. I struck you and all the products of your toil with blight and with mildew and with hail, yet you did not turn to me, declares the Lord. Consider from this day onward, from the twenty-fourth day of the ninth month. Since the day that the foundation of the Lord’s temple was laid, consider: Is the seed yet in the barn? Indeed, the vine, the fig tree, the pomegranate, and the olive tree have yielded nothing. But from this day on I will bless you." (Hag 2:10–19)
Before there was any earthly harvest of the Promised Land by the remnant that returned from Babylon, the Lord promised to bless this remnant that serves as one referent—the physical referent—for the return of Israel from earthly Babylon, also one referent for <Babylon> as a signifier.
The question Haggai posed to the priests, does the common become holy by contact with the holy, was answer in the negative … in symbolism, Christ Jesus was the holy meat concealed in the fold of a garment, and contact with Christ Jesus doesn’t make a person holy, something greater Christendom has yet to learn as it interacts with a dead body: the body of Christ on the cross.
Every work of the remnant that returned from Babylon was unclean; for this people could not lay the foundation for a heavenly temple. That foundation was laid by the Apostle Paul:
Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God's fellow workers. You [holy ones] are God's field, God's building. According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building upon it. Let each one take care how he builds upon it. For no one can lay a foundation other than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. (1 Cor 3:7–11)
Do you not know that you are God's temple and that God's spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy him. For God's temple is holy, and you are that temple. (1 Cor 3:16–17)
Disciples of Christ Jesus, born of spirit through the indwelling of Christ, are God’s temple, with God’s Spirit dwelling in them. This is the temple that is not built by human hands, nor built of dead sticks and stones, but built by the Lord from living stones (1 Pet 2:5). One temple that includes all of believing humanity. Not many temples separated by circumcision or color or ancestry. This temple is the living Son of Man. Its head is the cornerstone, chosen and precious, but rejected by builders able only to work with dead stone and mortar.
When the foundation for the rebuilt house of the Lord was laid, “many of the priests and Levites and heads of their fathers’ houses, old men who had seen the first house, wept with a loud voice … though many shouted aloud for joy, so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people weeping, for the people shouted with a great shout” (Ezra 3:12-13).
The rebuilt physical house of God would not be the physically impressive structure that Solomon built. Again, the rebuilt house [the Second temple] was a type of the spiritual house that would be built by a remnant returning to the Jerusalem above after a spiritual decree when out to reform/rebuild the house of God from the word of God.
A new subject was introduced and attention needs to be called to the subject.
No person can come to Christ Jesus unless the Father draws the person from this world and delivers the person to Christ Jesus to call, justify, and glorify. Therefore, for the Father, who permitted Roman soldiers to kill the man Jesus, to cause the the spiritual Body of Christ to die, the Father had only to not draw additional persons from this world.
As Roman soldiers razed the earthly temple [by this time, Herod’s temple] in 70 CE, the Father figuratively killed the spiritual Body of Christ and razed the spiritual temple by simply ceasing to draw additional persons from this world forty years after Calvary (ca 71 CE), with the visible Body of Christ dying when the last humanly living person born of spirit died physically, this person being John the Elder. Now, can the preceding be said with certainty? It can be through an examination of doctrines, with the harrowing of hell (appearing ca 105 CE) being a particularly egregious doctrine that was widely held by all fellowships. Certainly by the time of Simon bar Kokhba’s rebellion, followed by the anti-Jew decrees of Emperor Hadian (135 CE), the Jesus Movement had been thoroughly compromised by Greek paganism, the prima facie evidence of which is a Second Sophist Greek novel [the Book of Acts] included in the New Testament canon.
With the Council of Nicea (ca 325 CE), three hundred bishops (about a sixth of Christendom’s bishops) came together with Emperor Constantine to bury the spiritual Body of Christ, dead since the death of John but still visibly hanging around as the earthly body of Christ hung on the cross from the 9th hour [3:00 pm] to just before sunset, the 12th hour [6:00 pm]. … Twelve hundred years later (1525 CE), the Radical Reformers separated themselves from the Protestant Reformers by rebaptizing themselves in what they called the Believers’ Baptism. These Radical Reformers were dubbed Anabaptists by their detractors. And whereas the majority of Reformers sought to reform the Old Church, the Roman Church, by going back to the perceived purity of the Council of Nicea, which Catholicism had left behind centuries earlier, the Radical Reformers sought to get behind the Nicene Council and to return to the theological purity of the Jesus Movement after the 1st-Century Roman sacking of earthly Jerusalem.
But theological purity was in short supply after 71 CE.
Reformers and soon-to-be Radical Reformers figuratively shouted for joy when their protests brought change to the Old Church. These Radicals sought to reform the Christian Church from the Bible, thereby ignoring the intervening centuries. And many of these Radicals were martyred, dying as Zechariah died, murdered between the altar and the sanctuary (Luke 11:51). Their weeping was lost amidst the shouts of joy—the majority of the Protestant Reformers were as the circumcised nation was in the 1st-Century CE. They had the Law, but they didn’t keep it. Tradition prevailed over text, for most Reformers resisted being baptized as adults. As a result, they never crossed over to the Land Beyond the River. They never crossed the Jordan; they never returned to the Jerusalem above; rather, they remained in spiritual Babylon, building there spiritual houses for themselves. Unfortunately, in the Land Beyond the River the Radicals left off building the temple and also built houses for themselves. Completion of the temple waited the restoration of all things.
The prophet Zechariah wrote,
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
behold your king is coming to you;
righteous and having salvation is He,
humble and mounted on a donkey,
on a colt, the foal of a donkey. (Zech 9:9).
Indented lines are spiritual portions of couplets.
In Hebraic poetry, concepts are coupled together, with the first presentation of the concept (Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!) being farther away or darker than its paired couplet (Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!). The poetry uses as its central metaphor the relationship between night & day, darkness & light, death & life, visible & invisible, physical & spiritual. Thus, in the above poetic lines, two poems are simultaneously present: the first is physical and pertains to the physical referent.
Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion!
behold your king is coming to you;
humble and mounted on a donkey.
The second is spiritual, pertaining to the spiritual referent in Paul’s dual referent theology:
Shout aloud, O daughter of Jerusalem!
righteous and having salvation is He
on a colt, the foal of a donkey.
Zion represents that which is farther away or visible when presented with its thought-couplet mate, Jerusalem. Their king is coming to both Zion and Jerusalem. In the presentation of their king, He is first king (in the sense of being their sovereign), then is He is their Savior. As their Savior, He [the king of Zion] comes riding on a donkey as the High Priest does, but in the thought-couplet’s mate, He [the king of Jerusalem] rides on the unbroken descendant of an animal that might have carried the High Priest; He rides an animal that has never carried another. So the movement of the passage is from nation to city, or from physical to spiritual, followed by from Sovereign [physical rule] to High Priest [spiritual rule], then from physical High Priest to a High Priest unlike any other [or from other passages, a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek].
Jesus of Nazareth entered Jerusalem as the paschal Lamb of God on the 10th day of the first month on the colt of a donkey (John 12:1, 12, 14–15). He is the king of Israel (v. 13) that has come and still is to come. He is both Sovereign and High Priest, but His kingdom and priesthood are not of this world.
Again, the future king of Israel reigns over a kingdom that is not of this world (John 18:36). The Church Universal is not an organization of this world. It is not the old church that Protestant Reformers reworked in the 16th-Century to maintain continued political, and by extension, secular stability. It is, rather, a spiritual organization that is the Body of the Son of Man, and as such, it is mostly invisible at this time. What’s visible is the modified and reworked, recalibrated and modernized old church that remains headquartered in spiritual Babylon.
Again, the prophet Zechariah writes after a remnant of Israel had returned from Babylon to rebuild the house of God. He writes at a time when many shouted for joy, but what he writes is not a cause for joy:
Thus said the Lord my God: “Become shepherd of the flock doomed to slaughter. Those who buy them slaughter them and go unpunished, and those who sell them say, ‘Blessed be the Lord, I have become rich,’ and their own shepherds have no pity on them. For I will no longer have pity on the inhabitants of this land … behold, I will cause each of them to fall into the hand of his neighbor, and each into the hand of his king, and they shall crush the land, and I will deliver none from their hand.” So I became the shepherd of the flock doomed to be slaughtered by the sheep traders. And I took two staffs, one I named Favor, the other I named Union. And I tended the sheep. In one month I destroyed three shepherds. But I became impatient with them, and they also detested me. So I said, “I will not be your shepherd. What is to die, let it die. What is to be destroyed, let it be destroyed. And those who are left devour the flesh of one another.” And I took my staff Favor, and I broke it, annulling the covenant that I had made with all peoples. So it was annulled on that day, and the sheep traders, who were watching me, knew that it was the word of the Lord. Then I said to them, “If it seems good to you, give me my wages; but if not, keep them.” And they weighed out as my wages thirty pieces of silver. Then the Lord said to me, “Throw it to the potter”—the lordly price at which I was priced by them. So I took the thirty pieces of silver and threw them into the house of the Lord, to the potter. Then I broke my second staff Union, annulling the brotherhood between Judah and Israel. Then the Lord said to me, “Take once more the equipment of a foolish shepherd. For behold, I am raising up in the land a shepherd who does not care for those being destroyed, or seek the young or heal the maimed or nourish the healthy, but devours the flesh of the fat ones, tearing off even their hoofs. (Zech 11:4-16 emphasis added)
A fulfillment of this prophecy occurred when Judas Iscariot betrayed Christ Jesus for thirty pieces of silver, so a first fulfillment can be dated.
All peoples lost favor with God prior to the Logos being born as the man Jesus. The remnant that had returned from Babylon was no exception; for none kept the Law (John 7:19). All despised the covenant—as a second-generation nation (meaning that the generation then alive had not returned to the Lord from a far country), no one kept the Law by faith. They kept the Law as a social expectation; the nation sought righteousness through works. Thus, the sheep that had been sold for slaughter when the nation crossed the Jordan on the 10th day of the first month (Josh 4:19) and were penned in the Promised Land were now given over to die or be destroyed or to devour each other, as the case might be. They were condemned to death under the Law … when the Lamb of God was sacrificed as Israel’s Passover offering, the nation as the firstborn son of God (Exod 4:22) was also sacrificed. The brotherhood between Judah and Israel ended. From henceforth, Judah pertained to the flesh, and the covenant made in the flesh (Gen 17:9-14). Israel was the nation that prevailed with God, the chosen race, the royal priesthood, the holy nation, the people of God’s own possession (1 Pet 2:9). Israel is the Church. And into the Church will come the remnant of Israel when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Rom 11:25-26).
The naming confusion is intentional.
Returning to the head citation (Zech 12:1–5), the Jerusalem that is a cup of staggering is the Jerusalem above, and not yet the geographical city. The inhabitants of this Jerusalem above have recognizable strength through the Lord, their God. The passage indicates that this Jerusalem above doesn’t share the same God that the clans of Judah have.
On that day I will make the clans of Judah like a blazing pot in the midst of wood, like a flaming torch among sheaves. And they shall devour to the right and to the left all surrounding peoples, while Jerusalem shall again be inhabited in its place, in Jerusalem. (Zech 12:6 emphasis added)
Two Jerusalems are present, one the place where Jerusalem is, the other is the one that will relocate there. One Jerusalem is the Jerusalem below, the other is the Jerusalem above. And this Jerusalem above will again be inhabited in the Jerusalem below—all Israel will then be born of spirit.
And the Lord will give salvation to the tents of Judah first, that the glory of the house of David and the glory of the inhabitants of Jerusalem may not surpass that of Judah. On that day the Lord will protect the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the feeblest among them on that day shall be like David, and the house of David shall be like God, like the angel of the Lord, going before them. And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem. And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me [the Lord], on Him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. (Zech 12:7-10 emphasis added)
This day, when the Jerusalem above relocates to the Jerusalem below, will come after the Thousand Years; will come a millennium after the resurrection of the saints. Yet the entirety of the passage pertains to the Church, beginning with when Christ Jesus returns as Lord of lords and King of kings. Until then there shall be enmity between the inhabitants of the Jerusalem above and the clans of Judah, for the bond of brotherhood has been broken—was broken at Calvary.
The Jerusalem of prophecy is the Jerusalem above. The Israel of prophecy is, first, the Church, the inhabitants of the Jerusalem above. But the “Israel” of prophecy also includes the clans of Judah and Benjamin, that portion of Israel the Lord left as an inheritance to King David. The Apostle Paul was of these clans.
(to be continued)
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"Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved."