“Can these bones live?”
When God turned away from the nations He shortly raised up a new nation, a vessel through which the others might be brought back to Himself. That nation was the nation Israel and whoever reads the Bible must perceive the important place of that nation in the plan of God. In fact, the entire Bible concerns this nation with the exception of two rather brief sections. Those sections are: 1) The first eleven chapters of Genesis in which God disposes of the first 2000 years of human history, and 2) the thirteen inspired letters from the pen of the Apostle Paul covering the present 2000 years of the dispensation of the grace of God during which the Jewish nation has been set aside.
It bears repeating that if one would have a correct understanding of the Scriptures it is necessary to see the place of the Jew in the plan and program of God. Napoleon is reputed to have asked his chaplain to give him, in one sentence, the greatest proof as to the authenticity of the Bible. The chaplain replied he only needed one word, and that word was the Jew. God miraculously brought that nation into being; out of the loins of Abraham, and him as good as dead, and out of the deadness of Sarah’s womb. He separated it from all the other nations, saying, “Ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine” (Exodus 19:5). He entered into a covenant relationship with them and gave them exceeding great and precious promises. They could truly say, “He hath not dealt so with any nation” (Psalm 147:20).
What was God’s purpose in raising up this nation? The following are a few of the many:
- To show the utter ruin and sin and guilt of the human race. Israel proved that man, even though highly blessed, is ever a failure, that “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God.” Whether down and out or up and out, there is no difference.
- To place in the world a depository for His truth, His Word. “Unto them were committed the oracles of God.” Every one of the sixty-six books in our Bible was written by an Israelite, a Jew.
- To provide a channel for the coming of the Redeemer. The genealogy of Christ connects Him to Abraham and when He came to earth He “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh.”
- To place in the world a people who should be a witness to Himself. We read: “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord, and my servant whom I have chosen.”
Israel was the vine of God’s planting, tended and cared for by Him, and yet they failed. He could say, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it? Wherefore when I looked that it should bring forth grapes, brought it forth wild grapes?” (Isaiah 5:4). They were indeed highly favored of God but in spite of it all, they failed every test. Note the following:
- They were tested under the covenant and they failed. This was the covenant of law and God had to say: “Which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them” (Jeremiah 31:32).
- They were tested under the commission and they failed. Like Jonah they were told to go to the nations but they refused and tried to run away from God.
- They were tested under the Christ and they failed. He came unto His own and His own received Him not. They said, “We will not have this man to reign over us.”
- They were tested under the Convictor and they failed. The Holy Spirit came on the day of Pentecost and through the apostles gave them opportunity to repent, but instead they opposed themselves and blasphemed.
The Gentiles had long since given God up. Now, with Israel’s rejection of the Christ of God, the whole world stands guilty before God. It is then that God turned away from His prophesied program having to do with Israel and the nations. Israel is then set aside for a season as God brings in this unprophesied dispensation in which He is saving sinners by grace, apart from Israel and the law, and making those saved sinners members of that Church destined some day to be manifested with Christ in the glory. But is God through with Israel as a nation? No indeed. Is there yet a most blessed and glorious future for them? Yes indeed.
In Romans 11:1 the apostle asks this question: “Hath God cast away his people?” In other words, is God irrevocably through with the once-favored nation? Some would tell us yes, but in the Book the answer comes back clear and plain: “God forbid.” It is true that for a season they have been set aside, but in this same chapter we learn it is only until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. “And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob” (vs. 26).
Israel today is dead insofar as God is concerned. They are devoid of spiritual life, but they will experience resurrection and the nation will be born anew. In Ezekiel 37 the prophet is given a vision of a valley of dry bones and the question is put to him, “Can these bones live?” His response was, “O Lord God, thou knowest.” The bones did live: they came together, flesh and skin covered them, breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. Then the Lord said, “Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel … Thus saith the Lord God; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel … And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live” (vs. 11-14). This passage of Scripture certainly indicates that Israel is eventually to be, in the hands of Jehovah, an exceeding great army to accomplish His purposes in the earth. In the light of this and similar passages it is strange how anyone could believe that God has gone back on His promises to Israel and is through with them. Dr. Barnhouse was once asked why he retained his antiquated views on biblical prophecy. His reply was, “I could never abandon the teaching of the Word that God has a future place for the Jew as a nation.”
It has been said that the prophets of Israel prophesied concerning three T’s; the Tree, the Tribulation, and the Throne. They prophesied of Christ’s first coming to die on the tree of shame, forsaken of God and of man. They prophesied of Christ’s second coming to sit on the throne of His glory and to rule and reign in righteousness. They also prophesied of a time of tribulation, a day of wrath, a day of trouble and distress, a day of clouds and thick darkness. Jeremiah referred to this when he wrote: “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” (30:7). Note, it is the time of Jacob’s trouble, though all the earth-dwellers will be troubled as well, but it is not the time of the Church’s trouble. The Church of the present dispensation, the Body of Christ, will be raptured before this Great Tribulation. We can legitimately use the illustration of Enoch and Noah as does Dr. Scofield in the following:
“Enoch, translated that he should not see death before the judgment of the flood, is a type of those saints who are to be translated before the apocalyptic judgments. Noah, left on the earth, but preserved through the judgment of the Flood, is a type of the Jewish people, who will be kept through the apocalyptic judgments and brought as an earthly people to the new heaven and new earth.”
In Matthew 24:15-26 the Lord is warning His Jewish hearers about that day of great tribulation and giving them instructions as to what they should do when that day comes. If the Church is to be here during that same period is it not strange that there are no similar warnings in any of the thirteen letters addressed to them? “For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ” (I Thessalonians 5:9). Israel will be saved out of it. The three Hebrew boys in the furnace of fire were typical of the Jewish remnant in the fires of the Great Tribulation. Just as those three came safely out of the fiery furnace the nation will come out of this last effort on the part of Satan to exterminate them. This is a time of kingdom preparation and Israel is being purged of their dross and being prepared for the place of headship they are to occupy in the kingdom. God says: “I will refine them as silver is refined, and will try them as gold is tried; they shall call on my name and I will hear them; I will say, It is my people; and they shall say, The Lord is my God” (Zechariah 13:9).
Approaching the end of His public ministry, and with the cross just ahead, our Lord is seen lamenting over Jerusalem, the city which stood for the nation. He says: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not. Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:37-39). He had come to His own people Israel, the chosen nation, and they would not receive Him. Now He is leaving them, and using these prophetic words, He says: “I will go and return to my place, till they acknowledge their offence, and seek my face; in their affliction they will seek me early” (Hosea 5:15). They will indeed seek Him early. In their great affliction, in the time of Jacob’s trouble, they will cry out, “Come, and let us return unto the Lord; for he hath torn, and he will heal us; he hath smitten, and he will bind us up” (Hosea 6:1). Then they will truly pray: “Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.” Their prayer will then be answered by the personal return of Jesus, Messiah Ben-David, who will save them from their enemies and from the hand of all that hate them. “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” (Zechariah 13:1). The prodigal nation will have come home, they will be forgiven, born again, purified and prepared for the place of leadership in the kingdom, when David’s throne will again be occupied and the word of the Lord will go forth from Jerusalem.
The reason the nations are in turmoil and faced by problems that defy human solution is that there are a number of things out of place. And things will worsen, and not improve, until all are in their proper place. Thankfully, when Christ returns at the close of the Great Tribulation and destroys His foes at Armageddon, then all will be where they belong.
- Our blessed Lord Jesus Christ is not in His rightful place today. He is an alien and outcast from earth, despised and rejected of men, but one day He will have His proper place. He will be seated on His throne of glory, crowned with many diadems, and every knee bowing before Him and every tongue confessing His lordship.
- The nation Israel is not where it belongs. The Jew has for long centuries been scattered among all the nations of earth, suffering sore at the hands of those who have sought either to annihilate or to assimilate them. But the day is coming when they will all be back in the land of promise, no longer the tail among the nations but the head, with Jerusalem the world capital and the law going forth from Zion.
- Satan is not where he belongs. He is at large deceiving the nations, stirring up war and strife, and blinding men’s minds to the truth of the gospel. Some day, though, he will be put where he belongs; first, under lock and key for a thousand years in the bottomless pit, and finally the lake of fire.
- And what about the Church which is Christ’s Body? We are not really where we belong. True, we are in the world, but this world is not our home. Our citizenship is in heaven and we are here as ambassadors to represent our absent Lord. Soon we will hear the assembling shout and will be carried away to the celestial realm to be forever with our Head in glory.
One day all will be in their proper place and there will be a smooth and serene world order. The nation Israel, long a people scattered and peeled, will be back in their homeland and dwelling safely. Many Scriptures could be given that state this, but one or two should suffice.Ezekiel 36:24-28 says: “For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land. Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean; from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you … 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.” Also in Isaiah 43:5-6 God says, “Fear not; for I am with thee; I will bring thy seed from the east, and gather them from the west; I will say to the north, Give up; and to the south, Keep not back; bring my sons from far, and my daughters from the ends of the earth.” The same Lord who scattered them among the nations will regather them, and as surely as the scattering was literal so will the regathering be. Some would try to spiritualize these promises to Israel but when they spiritualize, they are telling “spiritual lies.”
When Israel has been regathered and is back where they belong it will not just be to occupy the little sliver of land now held by the Israeli. In Genesis 15:18 is the land grant: “In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates.” This was repeated in the commission to Joshua: “Every place whereon the soles of your feet shall tread shall be yours; from the wilderness and Lebanon, from the river, the river Euphrates, even unto the uttermost sea shall your coast be” (Deuteronomy 11:24). This land was never fully occupied, even in the reigns of David and Solomon, but it will be in the future. Much of that land has long been barren, but in the Millennium the curse will be removed and there will be streams in the desert and the wilderness will blossom as the rose. In the Olivet discourse our Lord foretold earthquakes in the end-time and they are described in the book of Revelation. Great physical changes will have been wrought in the Mideast area, which Israel is to occupy, and Jerusalem will have become a seaport with an immense harbor connecting it to the Mediterranean Sea. All this, with its strategic location, will enable the nation to fulfill its mission and to be exercising rulership over all the world (See Romans 4:13).
With the Millennium ended, there is the Great White Throne judgment, where sentence is passed on all the unsaved dead. The Judge who sits upon that throne is so august and holy that the earth and the heavens flee away. Following this the Apostle John writes: “And I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth were passed away” (Revelation 21:1). Here we enter the eternal state and the description is given of that city for which Abraham looked, whose builder and maker is God. Many make this city, the New Jerusalem, to be heaven. John saw “that great city, the holy Jerusalem, descending out of heaven from God” (Revelation 21:10). If it descends out of heaven it certainly cannot be heaven. Further, many think this city to be the eternal abode of members of the Church, the Body of Christ, of this dispensation. This is not so. This is the city for which Abraham looked and all his seed likewise, and it has Israel written all over it. It has twelve gates and on them the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel. It has twelve foundations and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. Paul is the apostle of the Gentiles and his name does not appear there, and our hope as members of the Body of Christ goes far beyond the new earth and even beyond the heavenly city.
It would be foolish to speculate concerning the new heaven and the new earth for we have the testimony of an eyewitness. In the opening verses of Revelation 21 the Apostle John says, “And I saw.” However, he is rather brief in his description of what he saw, save in the description of the New Jerusalem. One point that stands out is that God Himself will be tabernacling among men, holding sweet communion with His creatures as He did prior to the entrance of sin in the Garden of Eden. We love the “much mores” in the fifth chapter of Romans but here John gives us some wonderful “no mores.” There will be no more death, no more sorrow, no more crying, no more pain, and blessed be His name, no more sin. Also, in reference to the new earth we have it stated “no more sea.” The sea was a remainder and reminder of the judgment that was visited on the pre-Adamite rebellion. That judgment was the saline sea, nothing but sea. “And the earth became without form and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Genesis 1:2). The ruin was absolute. All forms of life were gone and nothing but a shoreless sea enshrouded in darkness. Even the restoration of the earth for the abode of man was only partial, for the sea still covers seven-eighths of the earth. But when the present earth has its fire bath, as noted by Peter, it will emerge renovated and purged with no more sea, no reminder of sin and judgment past. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17). In Ezekiel 28:13 is a description of that Eden in the original creation and may also be descriptive of the restored Eden, for the new earth will be a veritable paradise. It will be as marvelous and majestic, as brilliant and beautiful, as it was originally in Genesis 1:1.
Here we have the eternal abode, not only of the nations, but of that nation which God referred to as “Israel my glory” (Isaiah 46:13). There is the promise that Israel’s seed would ever remain, for Isaiah 66:22 reads: “For as the new heavens and the new earth, which I will make, shall remain before me, saith the Lord, so shall your seed and your name remain.” Doubtless Israel will have a prominent place in the new earth, bringing untold blessing to others, but they will be most prominent in the heavenly city where the leaves of the tree of life are for the health of the nations, and where the nations will walk in the light of that city, where is the throne of God and of the Lamb. This is the bridal city where Abraham and all his faithful followers will have the promises fulfilled. “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth … But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly; wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God; for he hath prepared for them a city” (Hebrews 11:13,16).