Gospel of the Kingdom
by Philip Mauro
THE HOPE OF ISRAEL
The answer can be given in a few words:
BUT some will ask: How about all those
promises to and concerning the people of Israel, especially the
promises of the re-possession by them of the land God gave to their
(1) That most of those promises (if not
all) were spoken before the return of the Jews from the Babylonian
captivity, and many of them, including all such as were to have a
literal accomplishment, were fulfilled in that event;
(2) That the promises concerning the
possession of the land of Canaan were conditional upon faithfulness and
obedience on the part of the people of Israel, who were repeatedly
warned that if their hearts turned away from the Lord they should be
plucked from off the land (Deut. 4:26; 8:19, 20; 30; 17, 18; Josh.
(3) Such of the promises of that sort as
were unconditional are the heritage of the true Israel, the
spiritual children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7, 29); and they have their
fulfilment in the true land of promise, which the fathers of Israel
had in view; for they were desiring--not the land of Canaan,
or any other earthly territory, but--"a better country, that is an
heavenly" (Heb. 11:16).
What then is the true "Hope of
Israel?" To this question the Scriptures give as clear an
answer as we could ask; and in order to find it we need not look beyond
the passage where that expression is found, and the immediate context.
For Paul, when taken as a prisoner to Come at the insistence of the
leaders of the Jews at Jerusalem, called the chief of the Jews to come
together, and addressed them saying:
"For this cause therefore have I called
for you, to see you and to speak with you; because that for THE
HOPE OF ISRAEL I am bound with this chain" (Acts 28:20).
Was Paul then bound with chains and sent to
come for trial because he proclaimed and taught an earthly kingdom for
the Jews? Turning back to chapter XXVI where he was answering for
himself before Herod Agrippa, we find that, as Paul interpreted the
Scriptures, the hope of the promise of God made to the fathers, "unto
which promise all the twelve tribes" (true Israelites) "HOPE
TO COME" was realized in the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the
dead (Acts 26:6-8). And in proof thereof he related how he had seen the
risen Christ outside the gates of Damascus, and had been charged by Him
to preach the gospel to Jews and Gentiles, "to open their eyes, and
to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto
God." In brief, he preached as the hope or Israel the Kingdom of
God opened by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ to believing
and repentant sinners, both JEWS AND GENTILES.
And furthermore, when those leaders of the
Jews there at Come desired to hear what his doctrine was ("what
thou thinkest; for as concerning this sect, we know that everywhere it
is spoken against"), a day was appointed, and
"there came many to him into his
lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God,
persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses and out
of the prophets from morning till evening." (Acts 28: 21-23).
There is no uncertainty therefore regarding
what Paul preached as the hope of ISRAEL.
Evidently then, the Jews of old and the
dispensationalists of today were (and are) in error in giving to the Old
Testament prophecies a literalistic interpretation.
For the language of the prophets is
figurative and symbolical. In like manner when Jesus showed Nicodemus
the true character of the Kingdom of God, asserting with the
strongest emphasis that a man must needs be born again in order to enter
it, He made use of terms which obviously were figures of speech taken
from the familiar elements of nature, water and wind (i.e.
breath, or spirit). His language, however, was utterly
incomprehensible to that learned Rabbi, "the teacher of
Israel," who accordingly manifested his astonishment thereat by
exclaiming, "How can these things be?" (John 3:1-9); whereas,
being the teacher of Israel, he should have known those things (v. 10).
It must be remembered that, to him, and
according to the settled doctrine of all Jewish teachers of that day,
the highest possible thing in the way of parentage was to be born
"of the stock of Israel" (Phil. 3:3); and we must also
remember that (to him) the essential condition for admission into the
Kingdom of God was to be a natural descendant of Abraham, Isaac and
Jacob. Hence he was quite unable to conceive how the prophecies and
promises of God concerning that Kingdom could be fulfilled otherwise
than by the national restoration of the Jews, and their exaltation to
the place of dominance over the whole Gentile world.
So likewise today there are teachers who
insist upon a naturalistic, or materialistic (they call it a literal)
interpretation of the prophecies concerning the Kingdom, Israel,
Jerusalem, etc. They too "cannot see" how this prophecy, or
that, can be fulfilled except "literally"--that is, by
regathering of the scattered Jewish people, their re-constitution into a
nation as of old, and their re-investiture with the proprietorship of
the land of Canaan. Thus they make their incapacity to see" the
spiritual realities that correspond to the material types and figures
used by the prophets, a rule for the interpretation of the prophecies.
It is not necessary, of course, to an
understanding of the general voice of prophecy and of the general
purport of the prophetic message, that one should know the meaning of
every symbol and figure used by the prophets. All that is needed is that
due heed be given to certain plain statements of the New Testament, and
to the way the prophecies of the Old Testament are interpreted and
For example, chapters VIII-X of Hebrews
were evidently written in order to make known--and primarily to that
saved "remnant" of Israel which had found deliverance through
accepting Jesus as their Messiah--that everything pertaining to
the old covenant (people, land, city, sanctuary, priesthood, sacrifices,
etc.) was but "a shadow of good things to come" (Heb.
10:1). This is quite enough to show that those who insist upon what they
call a "literal" fulfilment of the promised blessings that
were to come to "Israel" through Christ, have completely
missed the mark. As says Joseph Butler (Butler's Analogy) commenting
on Hebrews 8:4, 5:
"The priesthood of Christ, and the
tabernacle shown to Moses in the mount, were the originals. Of
the former of these, the Levitical priesthood was but a type; and
of the latter, the tabernacle made by Moses was a copy."
And so with everything else: The new covenant
has the eternal realities ("the originals") whereof the
old covenant had but the temporary types or shadows. This
being true (and the Epistle to the Hebrews makes the truth of it quite
plain); and it being true also that Christ, by His death and
resurrection has abolished that entire system of shadows, and has
brought to light the spiritual and eternal realities typified thereby
(Heb. 10:9), it follows that God's purposes are connected thenceforth
with a regenerated people--"born of water and the
Spirit"--a holy nation," who belong to a "heavenly
country"; and with "a spiritual house," and a
"Jerusalem which is above" (1 Pet. 1:3; 2:5, 6, 9; Heb.
12:22; Gal. 4:26, &c.). Abraham, Isaac and Jacob understood this
THE NATURAL AND THE SPIRITUAL
But it may be asked: Are there not prophecies which were to be
fulfilled here on earth, and in connection with the earthly people of
Israel, their land and their city? Such indeed there are; and hence
arises the question: How can it be known with certainty whether a
given prophecy relates to the heavenly "Israel" or the
earthly? and whether its fulfilment is to be found in the spiritual
realm or in the natural?
Most certainly there is need in many cases
for the exercise of discernment, and for the seeking of light from the
context and from other parts of Scripture. But the difficulty in such
cases is not nearly so great as might be supposed. For, in the light of
certain passages in the New Testament, it is clearly to be seen that the
prophecies as a whole fall into two great divisions, whereof the
first have their fulfilment in the sphere of the natural and the
other in the sphere of the spiritual.
Thus it clearly appears from 1 Peter
1:9-12, that the prophecies in general had to do with these two distinct
subjects, namely (1) "the sufferings of Christ," and
(2) "the glories (plural) that should follow." And
the passage also shows that the prophecies concerning "the
sufferings" were to be first fulfilled, and then those
concerning "the glories"; this being in agreement with
the very explicit statement of 1 Corinthians 15:46, "Howbeit
that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and
afterward that which is spiritual."
Now it is evident upon reflection that the
prophecies concerning Christ's "sufferings" must needs be
fulfilled in the realm of the natural. For, as says the apostle,
"Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh" (1 Pet.
4:1). Whereas His "glories" are in the realm of the
spiritual and eternal. We have His own statement to this effect
when, after His resurrection, He reproved two of His disciples for being
foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have
spoken. And He said:
"Ought not Christ to have suffered these
things, and to enter into His glory? And beginning at Moses and
all the prophets He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the
things concerning Himself" (Lu. 24:25-27).
Thus it is made clear that the death and
resurrection of Jesus Christ and the coming of the Holy Spirit mark the
dividing line where the fulfilment of prophecy, generally speaking (for
there are some exceptions to which I will refer presently, which however
do not affect the rule) passes from the natural into the spiritual
Now it is specially to be observed that the
era of our Lord's coming in the flesh was the time of the winding up
of the affairs of the Jewish nation. That nation had its predicted
part to perform in connection with "the sufferings of Christ."
For it had been distinctly foretold that within the
"determined" period of 490 years from the ending of the
Babylonian captivity, "Messiah the Prince" should come, at
which time they would "finish the transgression" (Dan. 9:24,
25). That this meant the completing of their national sin by the
rejection and murder of their Messiah, is evident from Christ's own
words, addressed to their leaders when they were plotting His death, "Fill
ye up then the measure of your fathers"--who had persecuted and
slain the prophets--"that upon you may come all the righteous blood
shed upon the earth" etc. (Mat. 23:31-36).
Then followed immediately His betrayal and
crucifixion, and the rejection by them of the gospel preached with the
Holy Spirit sent down from heaven. Their national sin culminated in the
stoning of Stephen, which marked the termination of the
"measured-off" period of seventy weeks of years. For the death
of Christ took place, as foretold "in the midst of" the
seventieth week (Dan. 9:27). From that time there remained, of all the
prophecies relating to the natural Israel, only those
foretelling the judgments of God that were to befall them, and
specifically the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple, and their
extermination as a nation, and the world-wide scattering of the
survivors thereof. This was distinctly foretold by Moses (Deut.
28:49-64); and to the same effect is the prophecy of Christ, "And
they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and be led away captive into
all nations" (Luke 21:24). For the last word of prophecy concerning
that people as a nation was fulfilled at the destruction of
Jerusalem by the Roman armies.
There is a remarkable prophecy of this from
the lips of Christ in Matthew 22:7 (a prophecy that is quite generally
overlooked, though immensely important). There, in a prophetic parable,
our Lord foretold how the Jews would treat those sent to them with the
gospel, and then said:
'But when the King heard thereof, he was
wroth: and he sent forth his armies and destroyed those murderers,
and burned up their city."
That parable was spoken to the chief priests,
Pharisees, and elders of the people (Mat. 21:23, 45; 22:1); and in the
course of that same discourse Christ said to them plainly, "The
Kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bringing
forth the fruits thereof" (21:43). That new "nation" came
into being on the day of Pentecost; and it follows from all this (and
from other scriptures that might be adduced) that all promises of
blessing yet to be fulfilled belong to that "holy nation,"
that "peculiar people" (1 Pet. 2:9). For though there were yet
a million promises of national blessing to be fulfilled, and though they
all were in terms for the "Jews," every one of them would
belong to the true "Israel of God."
From the foregoing it will be seen that
there need be no difficulty in determining whether the fulfilment of a
given prophecy is to be sought on the physical side of things (the
"natural") or on the spiritual side; notwithstanding there may
be much difficulty in construing the details of the prophecy.
SALVATION IN ZION FOR ISRAEL
It is easy, for example, upon the principles of interpreting
prophecy stated above, to understand a prediction such as the following:
"1 will place salvation in Zion for
Israel My glory."
This is the word of God through His prophet
Isaiah (Isa. 46:13).
Three questions may properly be asked
concerning this brief but vastly comprehensive promise:
(1) What is this "salvation"?
(2) Where is "Zion"?
(3) Who are "Israel?"
(I) WHAT IS SALVATION?
The word salvation is very
comprehensive. It embraces far more than we are able to conceive of; for
it includes all the blessings, joys and delights that God has prepared
for His people, both here and hereafter. All the promises and purposes
of God, whatsoever they be, are accomplished in and through Jesus Christ
(2 Cor. 1:20) ; and it is most significant that the first reference in
the New Testament to salvation is found in connection with the
record of the Saviour's birth, and the Name He was to bear in His
humanity: "Thou shalt call His name JESUS; for He shall save His
people from their sins" (Mat. 1:21).
This (the forgiveness of sins) is therefore
the first blessing of God's great Salvation. It has the place of
prominence among the "better promises" of the New Covenant
(Heb. 8:6, 10-12), whereof Jesus is "the Mediator"; and it was
prominently in view at His birth.
It is also recorded that, before His birth,
Zacharias, who was filled with the Holy Spirit, prophesied concerning
Him, saying: "Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for He hath
visited and redeemed His people; and hath raised up an horn of
salvation for us in the house of His servant David." And
Zacharias goes on to declare that this was the fulfilment of what God
had spoken by the mouth of His prophets from the very beginning, namely,
"that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand
of all that hate us (Luke 1:68-71).
This, be it noted, was a prophecy; for
the record declares of Zacharias that, in so speaking, "he prophesied."
(v. 67). That is to say, being "filled with the Holy
Ghost" he spoke of God's salvation for His people as if the death
and resurrection of Christ had already taken place, and as if
redemption were already an accomplished fact. His words were: "God
. . . hath visited and redeemed His people; and hath raised up
an horn of salvation for us." For it is the customary manner of
the prophets of God to speak of events yet in the future as having
already taken place. For the prophets in their visions see events
entirely detached from the sequence of other events to which they stand
related in the course of time. It is exceedingly important to bear this
in mind when studying prophecy.
To the same effect is Simeon's prophecy in
the next chapter, who spoke to God of the infant Jesus as "Thy
salvation, which Thou hast prepared before the face of all people; a
light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of Thy people
Israel" (Luke 2:28-32).
And to this agree the words of Paul, who,
speaking in a Jewish synagogue (after the death and resurrection
of Christ) referred to David and said: "Of this man's seed hath
God, according to His promise, raised up into Israel a Saviour,
JESUS" (Acts 13:22, 23). And further, on the same occasion he
said: "And we declare unto you glad tidings (the gospel), how
that the promise, which was made unto the fathers, God hath
fulfilled the same unto us their children, in that he hath raised
up Jesus again" (22, 32, 33).
The foregoing passages, and there are many
like them, give an idea of what is meant in the prophetic scriptures by
"salvation"; for they show that gospel salvation is
what was intended. Further they make it clear that the time of
the promised salvation for Israel is now, and not in some future
era. And for further confirmation, I quote the words of Peter and the
other apostles, spoken to the high priest and temple authorities at
Jerusalem: "The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye
slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to
be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and
forgiveness of sins" (Acts 5:30, 31).
(II) WHERE IS "ZION"?
Isaiah also uttered a surpassingly beautiful prophecy concerning
the days of Christ, which begins, "The wilderness and the solitary
place shall be glad; and the desert shall rejoice and blossom as the
rose" (Isa. 35:1), and which contains the express promise, "He
will come and save you" (v. 4). Our Lord Himself fixed the time
of the fulfilment of this particular prophecy by using its words in His
message of assurance to His downcast forerunner (Mat. 11:1-1). In that
passage the prophet foretells a "way of holiness," which was
to be so plainly revealed that "the wayfaring men, though fools,
should not err" in regard thereto; and in that connection says:
"The redeemed shall walk there; and the ransomed of the Lord
shall return (to Him), and come to Zion" (vv. 8-10).
The New Testament scriptures make clear in
what sense the ransomed of the Lord return to Him and come to
Zion." For the Holy Spirit speaks to those who look to Jesus as the
Author and Finisher of their faith, and whom God owns as His children,
saying: "For ye are not come unto the mount that might be touched,
and that burned with fire"--Mount Sinai --"But, ye are come
unto Mount Sion . . . and unto Jesus" (Heb. 12:1-24).
For in short, Zion is where the Lord
Jesus is; and God's salvation is there, because He is there;
and therefore those who came to Him come to Zion. Thus we have
the accomplishment of what David longed for when he said, "Oh that
the salvation of Israel were come out of Zion" (Ps. 14:7,
The apostle Peter likewise clearly locates
for us the Zion of prophecy; for he says that those who come to Jesus
Christ, raised from the dead, become living stones in that
"spiritual house" which God is now building on Jesus Christ;
and that this is the fulfilment of the prophecy of Isaiah which begins;
"Behold, I lay in Sian a chief corner stone" etc. (1
Pet. 2:4-7, quoting Isa. 28:16).
Paul also makes it plain that the
"Zion" whereof Isaiah prophesied is a heavenly locality. For
he too quotes the words, "Behold, I lay in Zion," as
being fulfilled in this present era (Rom. 9:33).
(III) WHO ARE "ISRAEL"?
In the light of the foregoing Scriptures it is plainly to be seen that
the God of Jacob, in providing His great salvation at infinite cost, in
placing it in Zion, and in calling "all Israel" (Acts
2:36) to come "to Mount Zion, and to the city of the living God,
the heavenly Jerusalem" (Heb. 12:22), has grandly fulfilled, and in
a manner and measure far beyond anything the mind of man could have
conceived, all His gracious promises concerning Israel.
"But they have not all obeyed the
gospel" (Rom. 10:16). They have not all responded to God's call
to repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. True enough. And that is
precisely what was foretold by Isaiah, whose words to that effect are
quoted by Paul in Romans 9:27; namely, that only a small remnant of
the natural descendants of Jacob would obtain the salvation of God.
Hence the apostle says, "Israel hath not obtained that which he
seeketh for; but the remnant hath btained it, and the rest were
blinded" (Rom. 11:7). Here is a plain declaration that what had
been promised to Israel had been obtained in Paul's day by the
remnant, that is, the believing part of the people; whereas
the mass of the nation had missed it because of the blindness of their
hearts. Moreover, the context makes it clear beyond a doubt that what
the apostle is speaking of is gospel salvation (10:1-3, 9-13).
Therefore, what God had specially promised to Israel and what believing
Jews (Paul among them) were receiving in those days was gospel
salvation. But lest there should seem to be a discrepancy between
the promise and the fulfilment, in that a small part only of the nation
was being saved, Paul is at pains to explain that not all the
natural descendants of Jacob were embraced in the "Israel" of
prophecy; for that "they are not all Israel, which are of
Israel" (Rom. 9:6). As he had already declared in an earlier
chapter: "He is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; . . . but
he is a Jew, which is one inwardly" (2:28, 29). And
furthermore, as stated in Chapter 4:11-16, the children of Abraham, as
God reckons them, are those who have the faith of Abraham, whether by
their natural birth they were Jews or Gentiles. And this truth is
unfolded in detail in Galatians, Chapters 3 and 4; where, addressing
Gentile believers, the apostle says: "And if ye be Christ's
then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the
promise" (Gal. 3:29)--that is, heirs of salvation in its
ISRAEL HATH NOT OBTAINED: THE ELECTION
The verse cited above (Rom. 11:7) dispels all uncertainty as to how
God fulfils His promises concerning Israel; so let us dwell a little
further upon that verse:
What then? Israel hath not obtained that
which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest
What Israel was seeking for was, of course,
the fulfilment of God's wondrous promises of blessing and glory for His
people; all of which had been summed up in the current phrase, "The
Kingdom of God." Here then is the two-fold statement: (1) that Israel
had not (up to that time) obtained the Kingdom, which
statement, if it stood alone, would leave the possibility of their
obtaining it in the future; and (2) that the election had obtained
it, which leaves nothing of the unfulfilled promises of God for
"Israel after the flesh." The "election," that is,
as Paul carefully explains in the context, the believing
"remnant" of Israel (the as many as received Him" of John
1:12) with believing Gentiles "grafted in," as
represented by the "good olive tree" (v. 24), are the true Israel;
and God had them in view all along as the inheritors of His
Kingdom (1 Cor. 6:9, 10; 15:50; Eph. 5:5).
THE RIGHTEOUS NATION INHERITS THE
The Jewish rabbis understood from
Isaiah 26:2, and accordingly they taught, that the promises of God were
for "the righteous nation which keepeth truth." But they took
for granted that the natural Israel was that "righteous
nation"; and it was of the essence of their doctrine that the
Mosaic law had been given as the sufficient means for making Israel
righteous. But the contrary truth, for which Paul mightily contended and
which aroused their furious animosity against him, was that the
righteousness that God demanded as the pre-requisite for inheriting His
promises was--not the righteousness of the law, but--that of faith; even
as it is written, "Abraham believed God, and IT was counted to him
for righteousness" (Rom. 4:3).
And thus it was that "Israel, which
followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained unto the law
of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by
faith" (Rom. 9:30-32). They missed everything; but in so doing
they fulfilled the Word of God: "For they stumbled at that
stumbling-stone; as it is written, Behold, I lay in Zion a
stumbling-stone and rock of offence; and whosoever believeth in Him
shall not be ashamed" (Rom. 9:33, quoting Isa. 28:16).
WHAT THEN? HATH GOD CAST AWAY HIS
The apostle himself asks this question, and answers it. The answer
is an emphatic NO. But does not this answer contradict the apostle's
interpretation of the "allegory" of the two wives and two sons
of Abraham; namely, that the bondwoman and her son should be "cast
out," and that "the son of the bondwoman" (natural
Israel) "shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman" (spiritual
Israel)? Not at all.
The simple explanation is that God's
"people," are those whom He foreknew, in other words,
the believing remnant; and those He has not "cast
away." The rest--the unbelieving mass--are not His people, and
NEVER WERE. For though they were "of Israel" by natural
descent, they were "not Israel"; which name properly belonged
only to the spiritual seed of Abraham. "God hath not cast away His
people which He foreknew"; and as to those "whom He did
foreknow," Paul had already said (Rom. 8:28-30) that they are
"those that love God, who are the called according to fits
From the foregoing it follows that, of all
the as yet unfulfilled promises of God, whatsoever and how many soever
they be, nothing remains for the natural Israel. All are for the
true children of Abraham; even for them that are "of the faith of
Abraham, who is the father of us all" (Rom. 4:16).
In bringing to a close this chapter on the Hope of Israel it is
appropriate to make a brief reference to the recent political movement
known as Zionism, which has for its object the making of
Palestine a homeland for the Jews. Concerning that movement a great deal
of misinformation has been disseminated during the past twenty years in
the interest of dispensationalism. For dispensationalist writers and
speakers have painted wonderful word-pictures portraying the multitudes
of Jews said to be flocking to their ancient homeland; the miraculously
renewed fertility of the soil; the return of the early and latter rain
etc. etc.; and it has been made to appear that the re-constitution of
the Jewish State and the rebuilding of the Temple were matters of
tomorrow or the day after. All these supposed happenings were presented
to eager readers and hearers as a marvellous fulfilment of prophecy
taking place before our very eyes, and as giving assurance that the time
of the end had come.
But the sober facts are that Zionism has
been a pitiful failure almost from the beginning; and that in the period
of its greatest success the volume of immigrants constituted but a
trickling stream, and they were of the most undesirable sort. The
movement reached its peak in 1926; and from that time to the present Zionism
has been palpably a dying enterprise. A reliable magazine, Current
History (April, 1927) gave from "a recent official report on
trade conditions," an estimate of the population of Palestine for
April 30, 1926; by which it appears that, after all the efforts of
Zionism and the influence of the Balfour Declaration for ten years, and
the help of other contributing causes (e.g. Russian persecutions) the
total number of Jews in all Palestine was only 139,645; and they
were outnumbered by Moslems more than three to one. The entire
population was only 752,268; and the article states that "The
country is under-populated and under-cultivated"; also that,
"The season of 1925 was bad agriculturally owing to drought";
that various conditions "led to a shortage of capital and a
depression which continued through 1926"; and that "the
balance of trade was distinctly adverse."
Subsequent reports show that conditions
have not improved; that the state of the Jews in Palestine is wretched
in the extreme, and that the attitude of the great mass of Jews
throughout the world towards the Zionistic project is that of complete
apathy and indifference.