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The Fall of Jerusalem and the future of the Jews

By Ross A. Taylor

I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation. (Mat 23:36)  Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! (Rom 11:11)

Contents:

Summary: *
Introduction: *
Jesus prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem: *
Further prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem. *
The covenant between God and his people: *
The history of Jews and Gentiles in the early Church. *
Theology of salvation for Jews and Gentiles. *
Gentiles and the early church. *
The future of the Jews: *
Conclusions: *
Appendix 1 - More theology on Gentile believers. *
Appendix II - Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies. *

Summary:

The fall of Jerusalem together with the destruction of most of the people and of the temple in AD 70 is a limited although dreadful judgement upon the people of Jerusalem. It is limited in time to the generation of Jesus day and it was limited to the area of Judea. It came because of the Jews consistent rejection of the prophets who died in Jerusalem and in particular their rejection of Jesus who was crucified just outside Jerusalem. Not only the leaders but also the people themselves called for the crucifixion of Jesus, preferring to have Caesar as their king and the murderer Barabbas released instead of Jesus. In fact both Jews and Gentiles were implicated in the death of Christ. The Jews represented by the high priest and the Gentiles represented by the Roman governor Pilate, who ordered the execution, and the Roman soldiers who carried it out. After the resurrection and Pentecost the Jews continued to persecute Christians and to reject the gospel and so in the end the gospel was preached to the Gentiles who accepted it and inherited all the benefits promised to Abraham's offspring. And God fulfilled his promise to Abraham that 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' Gen 22:18, Acts 3:25 A great persecution of Christians by Jews arose in Jerusalem so that Christians fled Jerusalem.

The destruction of Jerusalem together with the temple also served to terminate the priesthood and animal sacrifice. Thereafter the temple is the body of the believer in whom God dwells; each believer is a priest; and animal sacrifice is no longer required because it looked forward in time to the sacrifice of Jesus himself. The early church was centred on Jerusalem and the temple and was entirely composed of Jewish believers in Jesus, only later did Gentiles also became believers. Jesus himself was the bridge between the old Jewish order and the new Christian order. Jesus was a Jew who underwent the Jewish rite of circumcision and the Christian rite of baptism. Jesus abolished the dividing wall of hostility between Jew and Gentile by making them one (Eph 2:11-20). He did this not by excluding Jews but by including Gentiles and he abolished in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. Through Jesus we both, Jew and Gentile, have access to the Father by one Spirit. Thus Gentiles are now fellow citizens with God's people with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. The question for Jews now is whether or not to accept Jesus as the chief cornerstone.

Paul in Rom 9-12 asks a number of pertinent questions about the Jews. Has God's word failed? Did God reject his people? (Rom 11:1) Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? (Rom 11:11) The answer to all three is No!

Paul offers the following indicators that the Jews have not fallen beyond recovery:

(Rom 11:11 NIV) Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.

(Rom 11:12 NIV) But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

(Rom 11:15 NIV) For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

(Rom 11:23 NIV) And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

(Rom 11:24 NIV) After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. (Rom 11:26)

(2 Cor 3:15-16 NIV) Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. {16} But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

Leviticus 26:40-45 tells us that even in exile God will not destroy them completely. Rev 12:13-16 tells us that Satan will try to destroy the Jewish people who brought forth the Messiah, but that they will be miraculously preserved by God himself. Jesus himself indicates that many Jews will turn to the Lord before he returns:

(Luke 13:35 NIV) Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Introduction:

With the recent emphasis on the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 as the fulfilment of the great tribulation of Matthew 24 there is a danger of it creating anti-Semitic overtones in our thinking. I certainly got this feeling after reading Chilton's preterist commentary on Revelation (Days of Vengeance). In order to guard against this, I felt it necessary to write this short essay, which tries to offer a balanced view of the future of the Jews. While I pull no punches about the guilt of the Jews in their rejection of Jesus Christ I also endeavour to show that, according to scripture, they have not been rejected beyond recovery. In the destruction of Jerusalem it was the unbelieving Jews who were destroyed. Those believing Jews has already fled Jerusalem because of persecution by unbelieving Jews (Acts 8:1). Any who remained, fled when they saw Jerusalem surrounded by armies, at least if they took the warning by Luke seriously. Historically many Christians fled to Pella when the Roman commander unexpectedly withdrew his armies from the siege.

(Luke 21:20-24 NIV) "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. {21} Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. {22} For this is the time of punishment in fulfillment of all that has been written. {23} How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. {24} They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

Jesus prophecies about the fall of Jerusalem:

Mat 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 record a prophecy that Jesus made about the destruction of the temple which was fulfilled in AD 70. Mat 24:1-2 is typical:

(Mat 24:1-2 NIV) Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. {2} "Do you see all these things?" he asked. "I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down."

The reason for the destruction of Jerusalem is firstly because of the prophets, wise men and teachers that had been sent by God to his people and killed and persecuted by them. In Luke 11:51 Jesus says "Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all". We should notice that it is 'this generation' that is held responsible for this and not all subsequent generations.

(Mat 23:34-36 NIV) Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. {35} And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. {36} I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

In the parable of the landowner (Mat 21:33-43) the landowner plants a vineyard and rents it to some farmers and then goes away. At harvest time he sends his servants to collect his fruit, but the tenants seized them and beat one, killed another and stoned a third. The owner sends more servants and they are treated in the same way. Finally he sends his sends his Son to them saying 'they will respect my son', but they threw him out of the vineyard and killed him. Jesus asks his listeners what the owner will do when he returns to the vineyard; "He will bring those wretches to a wretched end," they replied, "and he will rent the vineyard to other tenants, who will give him his share of the crop at harvest time." Later Jesus comments: " Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit". The chief priests and the Pharisees who heard Jesus' parables knew he was talking about them.

The second reason for the destruction of Jerusalem was that the leaders rejected Jesus. Later the people confirm their leaders verdict by demanding that Jesus be crucified preferring the kingship of Caesar to that of Jesus (John 19:14-15), ironically it is Caesars armies who destroy Jerusalem. When Pilate washes his hands in front of the crowd he says "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" and the people answered "Let his blood be on us and on our children!" (Mat 27:24-25). Pilate offers to release either Jesus or Barabbas an insurrectionist and murderer and they choose to have Barabbas to be released over Jesus, they choose to have the guilty man released and the innocent man crucified. Not only was Jesus the Jewish messiah but also the Son of God. This is at the heart of Peter's indictment of the Jews in Acts 2:22-24, 36.

(John 19:14-15 NIV) It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week, about the sixth hour. "Here is your king," Pilate said to the Jews. {15} But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.

(Mat 27:24-25 NIV) When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" {25} All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

The third reason for the destruction of Jerusalem is that they did not recognise the time of God's coming to you.

(Luke 19:41-44 NIV) As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it {42} and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. {43} The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. {44} They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

They should have recognised the time because it is clearly prophesied in Dan 9:25.

(Dan 9:25 NIV) "Know and understand this: From the issuing of the decree to restore and rebuild Jerusalem until the Anointed One, the ruler, comes, there will be seven 'sevens,' and sixty-two 'sevens.' It will be rebuilt with streets and a trench, but in times of trouble.

In Luke's description of the fall of Jerusalem, which parallels Mat 24:15-22, he says:

(Luke 21:20-24 NIV) "When you see Jerusalem being surrounded by armies, you will know that its desolation is near. {21} Then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains, let those in the city get out, and let those in the country not enter the city. {22} For this is the time of punishment in fulfilment of all that has been written. {23} How dreadful it will be in those days for pregnant women and nursing mothers! There will be great distress in the land and wrath against this people. {24} They will fall by the sword and will be taken as prisoners to all the nations. Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

We should note from Luke that there was a specific time of punishment upon the people (21:22). Those remaining would be exiled among the nations (21:24) and that Jerusalem would be trampled upon by the Gentiles for an unspecified but definite time. Possibly the times of the Gentiles domination of Jerusalem came to an end in 1967.

Further prophecies concerning the destruction of Jerusalem.

Jesus gave other prophecies regarding the destruction of Jerusalem, which are given below.

(Luke 19:41-44 NIV) As he approached Jerusalem and saw the city, he wept over it {42} and said, "If you, even you, had only known on this day what would bring you peace--but now it is hidden from your eyes. {43} The days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment against you and encircle you and hem you in on every side. {44} They will dash you to the ground, you and the children within your walls. They will not leave one stone on another, because you did not recognize the time of God's coming to you."

(Luke 23:28-31 NIV) Jesus turned and said to them, "Daughters of Jerusalem, do not weep for me; weep for yourselves and for your children. {29} For the time will come when you will say, 'Blessed are the barren women, the wombs that never bore and the breasts that never nursed!' {30} Then "'they will say to the mountains, "Fall on us!" and to the hills, "Cover us!"' {31} For if men do these things when the tree is green, what will happen when it is dry?"

(Mat 23:34-36 NIV) Therefore I am sending you prophets and wise men and teachers. Some of them you will kill and crucify; others you will flog in your synagogues and pursue from town to town. {35} And so upon you will come all the righteous blood that has been shed on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zechariah son of Berekiah, whom you murdered between the temple and the altar. {36} I tell you the truth, all this will come upon this generation.

(Luke 11:49-51 NIV) Because of this, God in his wisdom said, 'I will send them prophets and apostles, some of whom they will kill and others they will persecute.' {50} Therefore this generation will be held responsible for the blood of all the prophets that has been shed since the beginning of the world, {51} from the blood of Abel to the blood of Zechariah, who was killed between the altar and the sanctuary. Yes, I tell you, this generation will be held responsible for it all.

(Luke 13:33-35 NIV) In any case, I must keep going today and tomorrow and the next day--for surely no prophet can die outside Jerusalem! {34} "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing! {35} Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

There is evidence that evil spirits ran amuck during the siege of Jerusalem (see Chilton).

(Mat 12:43-45 NIV) "When an evil spirit comes out of a man, it goes through arid places seeking rest and does not find it. {44} Then it says, 'I will return to the house I left.' When it arrives, it finds the house unoccupied, swept clean and put in order. {45} Then it goes and takes with it seven other spirits more wicked than itself, and they go in and live there. And the final condition of that man is worse than the first. That is how it will be with this wicked generation."

Luke talks about wrath coming upon this people Luke 21:24. We need to understand that the Christians escaped this distress because they were scattered by persecution and fled Jerusalem (Acts 8:1). Luke's account warns any remaining Christians in Judea to escape to the mountains when they see Jerusalem surrounded by armies (see also Mat 24:16 and Mark 13:14). Also the Jews had rejected Christ in favour of Caesar (John 19:15) and were therefore under God's wrath (John 3:36). They also told Pilate "Let his blood be on us and on our children" (Mat 27:24-25).

John 19:15 But they shouted, "Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!" "Shall I crucify your king?" Pilate asked. "We have no king but Caesar," the chief priests answered.

(Mat 27:24-25 NIV) When Pilate saw that he was getting nowhere, but that instead an uproar was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd. "I am innocent of this man's blood," he said. "It is your responsibility!" {25} All the people answered, "Let his blood be on us and on our children!"

(John 3:36 NIV) Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God's wrath remains on him."

After they rejected Jesus the kingdom of God was taken from them and handed to the gentiles.

(Mat 21:42-43 NIV) Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone ; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? {43} "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit.

Paul preached the gospel to the Jews first but the Jews refused to listen to Paul's words so he turned to the Gentiles instead (Acts 13:45-48, 18:6, 26:16-18). Not only had they rejected Jesus Christ they had rejected Paul's teaching as well.

(Acts 28:26-28 NIV) "'Go to this people and say, "You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving." {27} For this people's heart has become calloused; they hardly hear with their ears, and they have closed their eyes. Otherwise they might see with their eyes, hear with their ears, understand with their hearts and turn, and I would heal them.' {28} "Therefore I want you to know that God's salvation has been sent to the Gentiles, and they will listen!"

The covenant between God and his people:

The destruction of Jerusalem should also be seen in terms of the covenant made between God and his ancient people. The full terms of the covenant is given in the book of Deuteronomy. The blessings and curses associated with obeying and disobeying the covenant are given in Deu 28. Part of the curse is described in Deu 28:49-53.

(Deu 28:49-53 NIV) The LORD will bring a nation against you from far away, from the ends of the earth, like an eagle swooping down, a nation whose language you will not understand, {50} a fierce-looking nation without respect for the old or pity for the young. {51} They will devour the young of your livestock and the crops of your land until you are destroyed. They will leave you no grain, new wine or oil, nor any calves of your herds or lambs of your flocks until you are ruined. {52} They will lay siege to all the cities throughout your land until the high fortified walls in which you trust fall down. They will besiege all the cities throughout the land the LORD your God is giving you. {53} Because of the suffering that your enemy will inflict on you during the siege, you will eat the fruit of the womb, the flesh of the sons and daughters the LORD your God has given you.

The devastation of the land is described in Deu 29:23-25 and the reason for the devastation is because 'this this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers' (Deu 29:25).

(Deu 29:23-25 NIV) The whole land will be a burning waste of salt and sulfur--nothing planted, nothing sprouting, no vegetation growing on it. It will be like the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Admah and Zeboiim, which the LORD overthrew in fierce anger. {24} All the nations will ask: "Why has the LORD done this to this land? Why this fierce, burning anger?" {25} And the answer will be: "It is because this people abandoned the covenant of the LORD, the God of their fathers, the covenant he made with them when he brought them out of Egypt.

The next consequence is that the people will be uprooted from the land and scattered among the nations (Deu 28:63-65).

(Deu 28:63-65 NIV) Just as it pleased the LORD to make you prosper and increase in number, so it will please him to ruin and destroy you. You will be uprooted from the land you are entering to possess. {64} Then the LORD will scatter you among all nations, from one end of the earth to the other. There you will worship other gods--gods of wood and stone, which neither you nor your fathers have known. {65} Among those nations you will find no repose, no resting place for the sole of your foot. There the LORD will give you an anxious mind, eyes weary with longing, and a despairing heart.

One of the keys in understanding the prophets is that they waned God's people of the consequences of disobeying the terms of the covenant:

(Jer 11:7-8 NIV) From the time I brought your forefathers up from Egypt until today, I warned them again and again, saying, "Obey me." {8} But they did not listen or pay attention; instead, they followed the stubbornness of their evil hearts. So I brought on them all the curses of the covenant I had commanded them to follow but that they did not keep.'"

However Deu 30:1-8 shows that there is still hope for God's dispersed people.

(Deu 30:1-8 NIV) When all these blessings and curses I have set before you come upon you and you take them to heart wherever the LORD your God disperses you among the nations, {2} and when you and your children return to the LORD your God and obey him with all your heart and with all your soul according to everything I command you today, {3} then the LORD your God will restore your fortunes and have compassion on you and gather you again from all the nations where he scattered you. {4} Even if you have been banished to the most distant land under the heavens, from there the LORD your God will gather you and bring you back. {5} He will bring you to the land that belonged to your fathers, and you will take possession of it. He will make you more prosperous and numerous than your fathers. {6} The LORD your God will circumcise your hearts and the hearts of your descendants, so that you may love him with all your heart and with all your soul, and live. {7} The LORD your God will put all these curses on your enemies who hate and persecute you. {8} You will again obey the LORD and follow all his commands I am giving you today.

The blessings of obeying Gods decrees and commands are also spelt out in Lev 26:4-13. The consequences of breaking the terms of the covenant by not obeying the decrees and laws are spelt out in Lev 26:16-39. Much of which was fulfilled by the destruction of Jerusalem and the dispersal of those few remaining amongst the nations.

those who hate you will rule over you, Lev 26:17
(Lev 26:25 NIV) And I will bring the sword upon you to avenge the breaking of the covenant. When you withdraw into your cities, I will send a plague among you, and you will be given into enemy hands.
(Lev 26:29 NIV) You will eat the flesh of your sons and the flesh of your daughters.
(Lev 26:30 NIV) I will destroy your high places, cut down your incense altars and pile your dead bodies on the lifeless forms of your idols, and I will abhor you.
(Lev 26:31-32 NIV) I will turn your cities into ruins and lay waste your sanctuaries, and I will take no delight in the pleasing aroma of your offerings. {32} I will lay waste the land, so that your enemies who live there will be appalled.
(Lev 26:33 NIV) I will scatter you among the nations and will draw out my sword and pursue you. Your land will be laid waste, and your cities will lie in ruins.

Yet despite all this there is still hope, see Lev 26:40-45.

(Lev 26:40-45 NIV) "'But if they will confess their sins and the sins of their fathers--their treachery against me and their hostility toward me, {41} which made me hostile toward them so that I sent them into the land of their enemies--then when their uncircumcised hearts are humbled and they pay for their sin, {42} I will remember my covenant with Jacob and my covenant with Isaac and my covenant with Abraham, and I will remember the land. {43} For the land will be deserted by them and will enjoy its sabbaths while it lies desolate without them. They will pay for their sins because they rejected my laws and abhorred my decrees. {44} Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them or abhor them so as to destroy them completely, breaking my covenant with them. I am the LORD their God. {45} But for their sake I will remember the covenant with their ancestors whom I brought out of Egypt in the sight of the nations to be their God. I am the LORD.'"

In Jer 33:25-26 there is a prophecy about Israel in which God says that one of the descendants of David will rule over the descendants of the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This descendent of David is Jesus Christ who was descended from David after the flesh (Mat 1:17).

(Jer 33:25-26 NIV) This is what the LORD says: 'If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, {26} then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.'"

The history of Jews and Gentiles in the early Church.

Jesus was a Jew, he was descended from the tribe of Judah (Luke 3:33) and from David (Luke 3:31). He was circumcised on the eighth day (Luke 2:21). It needs to be firmly stated that Jesus came to his own people the Jews first. The disciples were sent out to the cities of Israel (Mat 10:5). Almost the entire earthly ministry of Jesus was to the Jews. When a Canaanite woman comes to Jesus for help to heal her daughter he answered "I was sent only to the lost sheep of Israel." (Mat 15:24). Only after Christ had died and rose again did the emphasis shift to include all nations (Acts 26:23, Luke 24:46-48, Acts 1:8).

(Acts 1:8 NIV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

The twelve apostles who were leaders of the early church were Jews. Paul who wrote much of the New Testament was a Jew of the sect of the Pharisees (Phil 3:5), apart from Luke and Acts the entire New Testament was written by Jews. The early church first met in the temple and Synagogues (Acts 2:46, 9:20, 13:5, and 14:1). The first sermon after Pentecost was preached to Jews (Acts 2:5, 14, 22).

(Acts 2:36-39 NIV) "Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ." {37} When the people heard this, they were cut to the heart and said to Peter and the other apostles, "Brothers, what shall we do?" {38} Peter replied, "Repent and be baptised, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. {39} The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off--for all whom the Lord our God will call."

We should note that the promise of the Holy Spirit is ' is for you and your children and for all who are far off', it is for the Jews and those who are far off, the Gentiles.

The first miracle after Pentecost occurred at the temple gate when a man crippled from birth was healed by Peter in the name of Jesus Christ and was seen, walking and jumping, and praising God, by the people (Acts 3:1-8). Peter then spoke to the men of Israel to explain the healing of the crippled man (Acts 3:12-26).

(Acts 3:12-26 NIV) When Peter saw this, he said to them: "Men of Israel, why does this surprise you? Why do you stare at us as if by our own power or godliness we had made this man walk? {13} The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of our fathers, has glorified his servant Jesus. You handed him over to be killed, and you disowned him before Pilate, though he had decided to let him go. {14} You disowned the Holy and Righteous One and asked that a murderer be released to you. {15} You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. {16} By faith in the name of Jesus, this man whom you see and know was made strong. It is Jesus' name and the faith that comes through him that has given this complete healing to him, as you can all see. {17} "Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. {18} But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer. {19} Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, {20} and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. {21} He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. {22} For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. {23} Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.' {24} "Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. {25} And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' {26} When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

After this the rulers, elders and teachers of the law tried to stop Peter and John from speaking about Jesus Christ (Acts 4 ff., Acts 5:17 ff.). After this Acts 5:42 tells us that "Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Christ". In those days the church consisted of Grecian and Hebraic Jews (Acts 6:1), the disciples were still based in Jerusalem and even some of the priests became obedient to the faith (Acts 6:7). Acts 6:8 - 7:60 tells how members of the Synagogue of the Freedmen opposed Stephen and his subsequent speech before the high priest (7:1), followed by the people stoning Stephen to death. On that day a great persecution broke out against the church at Jerusalem, and all except the apostles were scattered throughout Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1). However those who had been scattered preached the word wherever they went (8:4) and Samaria received the word of God (8:14). Acts 8:26 - 39 tell the story of the conversion of the Ethiopian Eunuch. Meanwhile the Pharisee Saul was persecuting the church and Acts 9:1-30 tells of Saul's conversion. In 9:15 we are told that Saul 'is my chosen instrument to carry my name before the Gentiles and their kings and before the people of Israel'. At this time the church was centred on Judea, Galilee and Samaria (Acts 9:31). Acts 10 tells the story of the first Gentile convert Cornelius and how he and his household received the Holy Spirit and was baptised. Acts 11:19-20 tells how those scattered by the persecution in connection with Stephen travelled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, telling the message only to Jews. However, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus. For a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church at Antioch and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch. At this time King Herod had James the brother of John put to death with the sword (Acts 12:1-2).

Then Paul and Barnabas went to Pisidian Antioch and on the Sabbath they entered the synagogue and were invited to speak by the synagogue rulers. They addresses the "Men of Israel and you Gentiles who worship God" Acts 13:16. On the next Sabbath almost the whole city gathered to hear the word of the Lord.

(Acts 13:45-49 NIV) When the Jews saw the crowds, they were filled with jealousy and talked abusively against what Paul was saying. {46} Then Paul and Barnabas answered them boldly: "We had to speak the word of God to you first. Since you reject it and do not consider yourselves worthy of eternal life, we now turn to the Gentiles. {47} For this is what the Lord has commanded us: "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" {48} When the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and honored the word of the Lord; and all who were appointed for eternal life believed. {49} The word of the Lord spread through the whole region.

Then Paul went to Lystra and Derbe and other regions preaching to Gentiles and Paul returned to Antioch (Acts 14:26). He explained how God had opened the door of faith to the Gentiles and Paul stayed a long time at Antioch.

At this stage it is likely that more Gentiles were coming into the church than Jews. Some men from Judea came to Antioch and said "Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved." (Acts 15:1). This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. So Paul and Barnabas were appointed, along with some other believers, to go up to Jerusalem to see the apostles and elders about this question (15:2). On arriving in Jerusalem some of the believers who belonged to the party of the Pharisees stood up and said, "The Gentiles must be circumcised and required to obey the law of Moses." {6} The apostles and elders met to consider this question. (Acts 15:5-6) The crucial issues were whether the Gentiles must be circumcised and be required to obey the law of Moses in order to be saved. Peter gives the following response:

(Acts 15:7-11 NIV) After much discussion, Peter got up and addressed them: "Brothers, you know that some time ago God made a choice among you that the Gentiles might hear from my lips the message of the gospel and believe. {8} God, who knows the heart, showed that he accepted them by giving the Holy Spirit to them, just as he did to us. {9} He made no distinction between us and them, for he purified their hearts by faith. {10} Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? {11} No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are."

James then summarised the decision

(Acts 15:19-20 NIV) "It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. {20} Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.

Peters argument is that God accepted the Gentiles believers just as he accepted the Jewish believers and this was evidenced because the Gentiles received the Holy Spirit just as the Jewish believers had. God made no distinction between the Jewish and Gentile believers and purified their hearts by faith. Peter goes on to point out that the yoke of the law is one that neither the Jewish believers nor their fathers have been able to bear and therefore the yoke (of having to obey the law in order to be saved) should not be put on the Gentiles. He sums up by saying that it is through grace (rather than by law) that Jewish and Gentile believers are saved. James then gives a minimal list of things that Gentiles should abstain from. Paul goes into much more of the theology lying behind these decisions in his letters to the Romans and to the Galatians.

Theology of salvation for Jews and Gentiles.

The purpose of this section is to show that God's means of salvation is the same whether for Jew or Gentile. Whether we know the law or not both Jew and Gentile fail to keep it and are equally in need of a saviour. The law cannot save us, it can only condemn us because we fail to keep it. If we could be saved by keeping the law then Christ died to no purpose.

Paul's letter to the Romans is his great theological treatise. A large amount of it deals with Jews and Gentiles, in chapters 1-4 and 9-11. His own love for his race, the people of Israel, is shown in Rom 9:1-5 in which he says 'I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, those of my own race, the people of Israel' (Rom 9:2-4).

First in his introduction he says that 'the gospel is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile' (Rom 1:16). Thus the gospel is for everyone whether Jew or Gentile. It comes to the Jew first historically and then the Gentile. Then he goes on to say that in the gospel a righteousness from God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith from first to last (Rom 1:17). The righteousness from God does not come by law but by faith.

Starting in Rom 1:18 Paul builds the case against mankind in general starting with the Gentiles. He says that that 'wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of men who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them' Rom 1:18-19. Men are without excuse about God's nature because 'God's invisible qualities--his eternal power and divine nature--have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made' (Rom 1:20). Although they knew God, they neither glorified him as God nor gave thanks to him, but their thinking became futile and exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served created things rather than the Creator. Therefore God gave them over in the sinful desires of their hearts, to shameful lusts. Because they rejected God as creator he gave them over to unnatural acts such as homosexual relationships instead of the created heterosexual relationships. They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity (Rom 1:21-29). Paul ends this section by saying 'although they know God's righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practice them (Rom 1:30).

If we pass judgement on another, we condemn ourselves because we do the very same thing, God will judge us ourselves (Rom 2:1-3). The riches of God's kindness, tolerance and patience towards us in our sinful state is meant to lead us to repentance. But because of our stubbornness and unrepentant heart, we are storing up wrath against ourselves for the day of God's wrath, when his righteous judgement will be revealed (Rom 2:4-5)

Next Paul discusses fairness in God's judgement, he will judge impartially according to what each person has done, whether Jew or Gentile, God does not show favouritism. There will be trouble for those who do evil, and glory and honour for those who do good, first for the Jew and then for the Gentile. Those who sin, without knowing the law (the Gentiles), will perish and those who know the law (the Jews) and sin will be judged by the law. It is not those who hear the law who are declared righteous but those who obey the law. (Rom 2:6-13). This declaration of who is righteous will happen on the day of judgement. Paul then shows that the requirements of the law are written on the hearts or consciences of the Gentiles, so that he is also without excuse.

Now what about those who call themselves Jews, those who are circumcised and have the knowledge of the law and consider themselves God's people. Do you then dishonour God by breaking the law?

(Rom 2:25-29 NIV) Circumcision has value if you observe the law, but if you break the law, you have become as though you had not been circumcised. {26} If those who are not circumcised keep the law's requirements, will they not be regarded as though they were circumcised? {27} The one who is not circumcised physically and yet obeys the law will condemn you who, even though you have the written code and circumcision, are a lawbreaker. {28} A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. {29} No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man's praise is not from men, but from God.

The real problem is that the Jews who have the law do not keep it. The Gentiles who do not have the law fail to keep it as well, so that both Jew and Gentile are both under sin (3:9). The fact is that man cannot keep the law and is therefore accountable to God. Paul ends by saying 'therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin' (Rom 3:20). As James says, 'For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it ' (James 2:10). Paul in Galatians says 'for if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law'. (Gal 3:21) and 'if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing! (Gal 2:21). The law made nothing perfect (Heb 7:19). The law reveals God's standards to us, but it also shows us our sin and our inability to keep the law. If we could gain eternal life by keeping the law then there would be no need of a saviour. As Paul says in Rom 11:32 'For God has bound all men over to disobedience so that he may have mercy on them all'. The purpose of the law is show us our sin and therefore to show our need of a saviour.

Having demonstrated that both Gentiles and Jews are both under sin and accountable to God. Paul now introduces God's great provision for us in one of the great "But's" of scripture (Rom 3:21). Paul now introduces a righteousness that does not come by obeying the law and achieving our own righteousness, we have already failed to do that. Those who try to justify themselves before God by keeping the law will be judged by the law and will be condemned because they cannot keep the law fully. Keeping the law 99% is not sufficient, because the pass mark is a 100%, not 50% as many people presume.

(Rom 3:21-31 NIV) But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. {22} This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, {23} for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, {24} and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. {25} God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished-- {26} he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus. {27} Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. On what principle? On that of observing the law? No, but on that of faith. {28} For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from observing the law. {29} Is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles too? Yes, of Gentiles too, {30} since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. {31} Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.

There is now a righteousness that does not come by obeying the law, it is made known now but also the Law (Pentateuch) and the Prophets testify to it. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all, whether Jew or Gentile, who believe. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile because they have both sinned and fall short of the glory of God. To sin means to miss the mark, to fall short of the 100%. Both Jew and Gentile are justified freely by God's grace through the redemption that came by Jesus Christ. God will justify both the Jew and the Gentile through the same faith in Jesus Christ. The word 'justify' is a legal term meaning to be declared 'not guilty' or as some have put it 'just as if I had never sinned'.

The question we should ask at this stage is how can a just God acquit a guilty sinner? It is not an easy thing for God to do and still maintain his own perfect righteousness. After all justice has to be seen to be done. God cannot just overlook sin, if he could then there would be no need of hell. The key phrase is 'through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement (propitiation), through faith in his blood' Rom 3:24-25.

Redemption means to ransom ie. buy back and atonement or propitiation means that there is an atoning victim who pays the price of sin and satisfies God's anger because of sin. The one who buys us back and pays the price of our sin and who satisfies God's anger because of sin is Jesus Christ. He is our substitute, Jesus the sinless one died on the cross to pay the price of our sin. Our sin was laid on him and the punishment that belongs to us was given to him. Not only that but his righteousness became our righteousness. Thus our sins are cancelled out and we are called righteous. What does the scripture say?

Without doubt the clearest Old Testament description comes from Isaiah 53.

(Isa 53:3-12 NIV) He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. {4} Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. {5} But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. {6} We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. {7} He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. {8} By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken. {9} He was assigned a grave with the wicked, and with the rich in his death, though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth. {10} Yet it was the Lord's will to crush him and cause him to suffer, and though the LORD makes his life a guilt offering, he will see his offspring and prolong his days, and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand. {11} After the suffering of his soul, he will see the light of life and be satisfied ; by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many, and he will bear their iniquities. {12} Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, and he will divide the spoils with the strong, because he poured out his life unto death, and was numbered with the transgressors. For he bore the sin of many, and made intercession for the transgressors.

(1 Pet 2:21-25 NIV) To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps. {22} "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." {23} When they hurled their insults at him, he did not retaliate; when he suffered, he made no threats. Instead, he entrusted himself to him who judges justly. {24} He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. {25} For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

(2 Cor 5:21 NIV) God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

Of course the idea of a substitute for sin is no stranger to the Jew. In the Old Testament they offered animal sacrifice for sin. There is the scapegoat of Lev 16:8. The idea of blood averting judgement is found in the passover lamb Exo 12:3-13. In fact Christ is called our Passover Lamb (1 Cor 5:7). It was the day of Preparation of Passover Week when Christ was crucified (John 19:14). When God saw the blood he passed over his people and struck down the firstborn of the Egyptians instead.

(Exo 12:12-13 NIV) "On that same night I will pass through Egypt and strike down every firstborn--both men and animals--and I will bring judgment on all the gods of Egypt. I am the LORD. {13} The blood will be a sign for you on the houses where you are; and when I see the blood, I will pass over you. No destructive plague will touch you when I strike Egypt.

In the same way when God sees the blood of his Son he will not pass judgement on his people, those who have faith in Jesus.

There is another example where God provides a substitute when God commands Abraham to sacrifice Isaac Gen 22:1-14. Now of course Isaac is the son of promise through whom Abraham offspring were to be as numerous as the stars or the sand on the seashore. And yet here is God commanding Abraham to sacrifice his only son Isaac, whom you love, as a burnt offering (Gen 22:2). Isaac carried the wood for the burnt offering just as Jesus had to carry his cross to his place of execution. As Abraham and Isaac went to the place of sacrifice Isaac asks his father where the lamb for the burnt offering was, not knowing that he was the lamb, and Abraham answers "God himself will provide the lamb for the burnt offering, my son." (Gen 22:8). When Abraham reaches the place of sacrifice, he builds an altar, arranges wood on it and bound his son Isaac and laid him on the altar on top of the wood. Then Abraham took the knife to slay his son, but an angel tells Abraham not to slay his son. Then Abraham sees a ram caught by his horns in a thicket and he sacrifices the ram instead of his son. God had provided a substitute. What is the point of this story? Why did God command Abraham to sacrifice his son? Firstly because it tests the obedience of Abraham, his faith was tested and found to be true faith - his faith was made complete by what he did. Faith is not merely intellectual ascent, but if it is true faith it is accompanied by action. Secondly it is a picture of how God felt when he sacrificed his one and only son, the son whom he loved. Our salvation was not cheap to God it involved the costly sacrifice of the son, his only son, whom he loved.

Now for the Jew who must be wondering about whether this is true, Paul gives the example of Abraham in Rom 4. Was Abraham justified by works (by keeping the law) or by faith? What does the Scripture say? "Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." (Gen 15:6) Under what circumstances was it credited? Was it after he was circumcised, or before? It was not after, but before! Abraham was circumcised in Gen 17:10. And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them (Rom 4:11). And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised. (Rom 4:12). In Abraham's case he believed God when God said that he would have a son and have as many offspring as the stars in the heavens (Gen 15:4-5)

But for us the 'words "it was credited to him" were written not for him alone, but also for us, to whom God will credit righteousness--for us who believe in him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification' (Rom 4:23-25)

Gentiles and the early church.

It is clear from the great commission that the gospel was to start with the Jews in Jerusalem and then be spread among the Gentiles.

(Acts 1:8 NIV) But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth."

While the early church was Jewish it was only a matter of time before Gentiles started coming in and would eventually become a majority. This caused some problems as are recorded in Acts and in an earlier part of this essay. The Jews were used to being God's special people who had been descended from Abraham, had been circumcised then rescued out of Egypt and given the Law, and now these uncircumcised heathen were entering the church.

Peter had a vision to show him that he should not call any (Gentile) man impure or unclean for it is unlawful for a Jew to associate with a Gentile or visit him (Acts 10).

When Gentiles started to believe the gospel the Jews were surprised. When Cornelius and his household started speaking in tongues the circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Acts 10:45-6. Others said "So then, God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life." Acts 11:18.

When the Jews in Pisidian Antioch rejected Paul's words about Jesus he went to the Gentiles instead and quoted the OT to justify their action "'I have made you a light for the Gentiles, that you may bring salvation to the ends of the earth.'" Acts 13:47 quoting Isa 49:6.

At the council in Jerusalem, which had to decide whether Gentiles had to be circumcised and required to obey the Law of Moses, James quotes the Old Testament regarding the Gentiles. "'After this I will return and rebuild David's fallen tent. Its ruins I will rebuild, and I will restore it, that the remnant of men may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who bear my name, says the Lord, who does these things' Acts 15:16-17 quoting Amos 9:11-12

In Rom 9:25-26 Paul quotes Hosea: "I will call them 'my people' who are not my people; and I will call her 'my loved one' who is not my loved one," and, "It will happen that in the very place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' they will be called 'sons of the living God.'" See Hosea 1:10, 2:23.

In Rom 10:12-13 Paul says - For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile--the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him, {13} for, "Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved." Quoting Joel 2:32.

Paul dealt with the theological position of Gentiles in several of his letters. In one outstanding example in his letter to the (Gentile) Ephesians (2:11-22), after he had described all the spiritual blessings that were theirs in Christ, he then contrasts their position before their salvation with that afterwards.

(Eph 2:11-22 NIV) Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men)-- {12} remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. {13} But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. {14} For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility, {15} by abolishing in his flesh the law with its commandments and regulations. His purpose was to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace, {16} and in this one body to reconcile both of them to God through the cross, by which he put to death their hostility. {17} He came and preached peace to you who were far away and peace to those who were near. {18} For through him we both have access to the Father by one Spirit. {19} Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, {20} built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. {21} In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. {22} And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit.

Before they you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. They were far away, foreigners and aliens, hostile to Jews. But now in Christ Jesus they have been brought near through the blood of Christ. Christ Jesus has made Jews and Gentiles one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility… his purpose was to create in himself one new man out of two. Through Jesus both and Gentile have access to the Father by one Spirit. Gentiles are no longer foreigners and aliens but fellow citizens with God's people (the Jews) and members of God's household. Built on the foundation of the apostles (NT) and prophets (OT), with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.

He summarises the position of Gentiles and Jews in the church beautifully in Eph 3:6, in which a mystery formerly hidden is now made plain.

(Eph 3:6 NIV) This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.

He gives a similar summary in Gal 3:26-29, note verse 28; there is neither Jew nor Greek… for you are all one in Christ.

(Gal 3:26-29 NIV) You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, {27} for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. {28} There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. {29} If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

We should note that there can be no unity between Jews and Gentiles without Christ being the chief cornerstone. It was this cornerstone that many of the Jews of Jesus day rejected.

(Mat 21:42-45 NIV) Jesus said to them, "Have you never read in the Scriptures: "'The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone ; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes'? {43} "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit. {44} He who falls on this stone will be broken to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed." {45} When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard Jesus' parables, they knew he was talking about them.

See (Psa 118:22 NIV) The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone;

In his trial before the elders and leaders of Jerusalem Peter also refers to the capstone which they had rejected. Peter calls them 'you builders'.

(Acts 4:11-12 NIV) He is "'the stone you builders rejected, which has become the capstone.' {12} Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved."

Peter again refers to the capstone in his first letter:

(1 Pet 2:6-10 NIV) For in Scripture it says: "See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." {7} Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, "The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone," {8} and, "A stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the message--which is also what they were destined for. {9} But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. {10} Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

Again here Peter contrasts the position of the gentiles before their conversion with that after. 'Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy' (1 Pet 2:10). He calls the believing Gentiles a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God (2:9). All of these were designations of God's Old Testament people many of whom had now forfeited their status before God because they rejected the capstone, that is, Christ. Thus many Gentiles were getting much of the Old Testament privileges and more besides. The tragedy is that the Jews continue to pursue a righteousness that is by law not submitting to the righteousness that is by faith in Christ.

(Rom 9:30-10:4 NIV) What then shall we say? That the Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, have obtained it, a righteousness that is by faith; {31} but Israel, who pursued a law of righteousness, has not attained it. {32} Why not? Because they pursued it not by faith but as if it were by works. They stumbled over the "stumbling stone." {33} As it is written: "See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes men to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame." Brothers, my heart's desire and prayer to God for the Israelites is that they may be saved. {2} For I can testify about them that they are zealous for God, but their zeal is not based on knowledge. {3} Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God's righteousness. {4} Christ is the end of the law so that there may be righteousness for everyone who believes.

We can see a picture of the Jews and Gentiles in the woman of Rev 12. She is clearly Old Testament Israel who gives birth to the Christ. She is pursued (or persecuted) by Satan and she escapes to the desert where she is cared for by God. Satan then makes war on the rest of her offspring, namely those who obey God's commandments and hold to the testimony of Jesus, the rest of her offspring can be none other than the church. Thus her firstborn is Christ and the rest of her offspring is the church.

The future of the Jews:

Despite the fact that Jesus came to his own people they rejected him (John 1:11). Despite 3,000 Jews becoming Christians on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:41) and growing to five thousand shortly after (Acts 4:4). Most Jews rejected the message. This posed the Jewish problem in the early church, which was what will happen to God's own people the Jews now that they had rejected the promised Messiah.

Paul spends three chapters in Romans chapters 9 to 11 in which he discusses the Jewish problem. Paul asks three questions:

  1. Did God's word fail? (Rom 9:6)
  2. Did God reject his people? (Rom 11:1)
  3. Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? (Rom 11:11)

The answer to all three is No!

Paul offers a number of reasons why God has not finally reject his ancient people.

(Rom 11:25 NIV) I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in.

(2 Cor 3:15-16 NIV) Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. {16} But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.

(Rom 11:11 NIV) Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.

(Rom 11:12 NIV) But if their transgression means riches for the world, and their loss means riches for the Gentiles, how much greater riches will their fullness bring!

(Rom 11:15 NIV) For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?

(Rom 11:23 NIV) And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

(Rom 11:31 NIV) so they too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God's mercy to you.

We Gentiles should not be arrogant:

(Rom 11:11 NIV) Again I ask: Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery? Not at all! Rather, because of their transgression, salvation has come to the Gentiles to make Israel envious.

(Rom 11:19-23 NIV) You will say then, "Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in." {20} Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. {21} For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. {22} Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. {23} And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

(Rom 11:24 NIV) After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree!

It is precisely because of God's mercy shown to the Gentiles as described in Rom 9-11 that Paul starts Rom 12 with the words … in view of God's mercy…

(Rom 12:1 NIV) Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God's mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God--this is your spiritual act of worship.

In Rev 12:13-16 we see that the woman who gave birth to the Messiah was also miraculously protected from the dragon who is Satan. God will preserve his ancient people.

(Rev 12:13-16 NIV) When the dragon saw that he had been hurled to the earth, he pursued the woman who had given birth to the male child. {14} The woman was given the two wings of a great eagle, so that she might fly to the place prepared for her in the desert, where she would be taken care of for a time, times and half a time, out of the serpent's reach. {15} Then from his mouth the serpent spewed water like a river, to overtake the woman and sweep her away with the torrent. {16} But the earth helped the woman by opening its mouth and swallowing the river that the dragon had spewed out of his mouth.

At this point we should also note that there is significant evidence that many Jews will turn to Christ before the Second Coming. Jesus himself indicates this in Mat 23:39 and Luke 13:35.

(Luke 13:35 NIV) Look, your house is left to you desolate. I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'"

Conclusions:

The judgement and destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 was for that particular generation of Jews. In answer to the question - "Did they stumble so as to fall beyond recovery?" Paul answers "Not at all!" (Rom 11:11). Lev 26:40 indicates that even in exile, if they turn to the Lord and confess their sins and those of their fathers that God will forgive them. The scriptures indicate that Satan will try to destroy them but that they will be preserved. Despite many attempts to eradicate the Jews from the face of the earth, as a recognisable people the Jews are still here. Jesus hints that before he returns the Jews will acknowledge him as Lord.

For those believing Jews and Gentiles, they are one new man and not two. God's method of salvation is the same for Jews and Gentiles, for everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved. Jesus was a Jew and he underwent both the Jewish and Christian initiation rites of circumcision and baptism. The early church was predominantly Jewish, but as it spread it became more and more Gentile. While the church is now almost all Gentile because the number of Gentiles exceeds the umber of Jews, Jews can be part of the church by recognising Jesus as the cornerstone. Theologically the church is composed of believing Jews and Gentiles, there is no difference. Jesus Christ has made the two into one new man. There is no distinction between believing Israel and the church.

Appendix 1 - More theology on Gentile believers.

(Rom 4:11-12 NIV) And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness that he had by faith while he was still uncircumcised. So then, he is the father of all who believe but have not been circumcised, in order that righteousness might be credited to them. {12} And he is also the father of the circumcised who not only are circumcised but who also walk in the footsteps of the faith that our father Abraham had before he was circumcised.

(Rom 4:16-18 NIV) Therefore, the promise comes by faith, so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring--not only to those who are of the law but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham. He is the father of us all. {17} As it is written: "I have made you a father of many nations." He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed--the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were. {18} Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations, just as it had been said to him, "So shall your offspring be."

(Gal 3:6-9 NIV) Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness." {7} Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. {8} The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." {9} So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.

(Gal 3:14 NIV) He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.

(Gal 3:26-29 NIV) You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus, {27} for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. {28} There is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. {29} If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.

Appendix II - Jesus fulfilled the OT prophecies.

One of the puzzling features about the OT prophecies about the messiah is that they speak of the suffering servant as in Isa 53 and of a great king. In fact the people were looking for a political leader and would have tried to make Jesus king (John 6:15, John 12:13).

(Mat 21:5 NIV) "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'"

(Mat 27:11 NIV) Meanwhile Jesus stood before the governor, and the governor asked him, "Are you the king of the Jews?" "Yes, it is as you say," Jesus replied.

The fact is that at his first coming he came as the suffering servant in all humility to give his life for many (Isa 53) but when he returns he will come as king in great glory.

Here are the passages in the NT that indicate that Jesus was the fulfilment of OT prophecies concerning the Messiah.

(Mat 1:22-23 NIV) All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: {23} "The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel" --which means, "God with us."

(Mat 2:19-23 NIV) After Herod died, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt {20} and said, "Get up, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who were trying to take the child's life are dead." {21} So he got up, took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning in Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. Having been warned in a dream, he withdrew to the district of Galilee, {23} and he went and lived in a town called Nazareth. So was fulfilled what was said through the prophets: "He will be called a Nazarene."

(Mat 4:13-16 NIV) Leaving Nazareth, he went and lived in Capernaum, which was by the lake in the area of Zebulun and Naphtali-- {14} to fulfill what was said through the prophet Isaiah: {15} "Land of Zebulun and land of Naphtali, the way to the sea, along the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles-- {16} the people living in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned."

(Mat 8:16-17 NIV) When evening came, many who were demon-possessed were brought to him, and he drove out the spirits with a word and healed all the sick. {17} This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: "He took up our infirmities and carried our diseases."

(Mat 12:9-21 NIV) Going on from that place, he went into their synagogue, {10} and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, they asked him, "Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?" {11} He said to them, "If any of you has a sheep and it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will you not take hold of it and lift it out? {12} How much more valuable is a man than a sheep! Therefore it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath." {13} Then he said to the man, "Stretch out your hand." So he stretched it out and it was completely restored, just as sound as the other. {14} But the Pharisees went out and plotted how they might kill Jesus. {15} Aware of this, Jesus withdrew from that place. Many followed him, and he healed all their sick, {16} warning them not to tell who he was. {17} This was to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet Isaiah: {18} "Here is my servant whom I have chosen, the one I love, in whom I delight; I will put my Spirit on him, and he will proclaim justice to the nations. {19} He will not quarrel or cry out; no one will hear his voice in the streets. {20} A bruised reed he will not break, and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory. {21} In his name the nations will put their hope."

(Mat 21:1-5 NIV) As they approached Jerusalem and came to Bethphage on the Mount of Olives, Jesus sent two disciples, {2} saying to them, "Go to the village ahead of you, and at once you will find a donkey tied there, with her colt by her. Untie them and bring them to me. {3} If anyone says anything to you, tell him that the Lord needs them, and he will send them right away." {4} This took place to fulfill what was spoken through the prophet: {5} "Say to the Daughter of Zion, 'See, your king comes to you, gentle and riding on a donkey, on a colt, the foal of a donkey.'"

(Luke 4:16-21 NIV) He went to Nazareth, where he had been brought up, and on the Sabbath day he went into the synagogue, as was his custom. And he stood up to read. {17} The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written: {18} "The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, {19} to proclaim the year of the Lord's favor." {20} Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant and sat down. The eyes of everyone in the synagogue were fastened on him, {21} and he began by saying to them, "Today this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing."

(Luke 18:31-33 NIV) Jesus took the Twelve aside and told them, "We are going up to Jerusalem, and everything that is written by the prophets about the Son of Man will be fulfilled. {32} He will be handed over to the Gentiles. They will mock him, insult him, spit on him, flog him and kill him. {33} On the third day he will rise again."

(Luke 22:37 NIV) It is written: 'And he was numbered with the transgressors' ; and I tell you that this must be fulfilled in me. Yes, what is written about me is reaching its fulfillment."

(Luke 24:25-27 NIV) He said to them, "How foolish you are, and how slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! {26} Did not the Christ have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?" {27} And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

(Luke 24:44-49 NIV) He said to them, "This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms." {45} Then he opened their minds so they could understand the Scriptures. {46} He told them, "This is what is written: The Christ will suffer and rise from the dead on the third day, {47} and repentance and forgiveness of sins will be preached in his name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem. {48} You are witnesses of these things. {49} I am going to send you what my Father has promised; but stay in the city until you have been clothed with power from on high."

(John 12:37-43 NIV) Even after Jesus had done all these miraculous signs in their presence, they still would not believe in him. {38} This was to fulfill the word of Isaiah the prophet: "Lord, who has believed our message and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?" {39} For this reason they could not believe, because, as Isaiah says elsewhere: {40} "He has blinded their eyes and deadened their hearts, so they can neither see with their eyes, nor understand with their hearts, nor turn--and I would heal them." {41} Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus' glory and spoke about him. {42} Yet at the same time many even among the leaders believed in him. But because of the Pharisees they would not confess their faith for fear they would be put out of the synagogue; {43} for they loved praise from men more than praise from God.

(John 13:18 NIV) "I am not referring to all of you; I know those I have chosen. But this is to fulfill the scripture: 'He who shares my bread has lifted up his heel against me.'

(John 15:24-25 NIV) If I had not done among them what no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin. But now they have seen these miracles, and yet they have hated both me and my Father. {25} But this is to fulfill what is written in their Law: 'They hated me without reason.'

(John 18:3-9 NIV) So Judas came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers and some officials from the chief priests and Pharisees. They were carrying torches, lanterns and weapons. {4} Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, "Who is it you want?" {5} "Jesus of Nazareth," they replied. "I am he," Jesus said. (And Judas the traitor was standing there with them.) {6} When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground. {7} Again he asked them, "Who is it you want?" And they said, "Jesus of Nazareth." {8} "I told you that I am he," Jesus answered. "If you are looking for me, then let these men go." {9} This happened so that the words he had spoken would be fulfilled: "I have not lost one of those you gave me."

(John 19:23-24 NIV) When the soldiers crucified Jesus, they took his clothes, dividing them into four shares, one for each of them, with the undergarment remaining. This garment was seamless, woven in one piece from top to bottom. {24} "Let's not tear it," they said to one another. "Let's decide by lot who will get it." This happened that the scripture might be fulfilled which said, "They divided my garments among them and cast lots for my clothing." So this is what the soldiers did.

(John 19:28-30 NIV) Later, knowing that all was now completed, and so that the Scripture would be fulfilled, Jesus said, "I am thirsty." {29} A jar of wine vinegar was there, so they soaked a sponge in it, put the sponge on a stalk of the hyssop plant, and lifted it to Jesus' lips. {30} When he had received the drink, Jesus said, "It is finished." With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit.

(John 19:33-37 NIV) But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. {34} Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus' side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. {35} The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe. {36} These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: "Not one of his bones will be broken," {37} and, as another scripture says, "They will look on the one they have pierced."

(John 20:30-31 NIV) Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. {31} But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.

(Acts 1:15-17 NIV) In those days Peter stood up among the believers (a group numbering about a hundred and twenty) {16} and said, "Brothers, the Scripture had to be fulfilled which the Holy Spirit spoke long ago through the mouth of David concerning Judas, who served as guide for those who arrested Jesus-- {17} he was one of our number and shared in this ministry."

(Acts 2:22-31 NIV) "Men of Israel, listen to this: Jesus of Nazareth was a man accredited by God to you by miracles, wonders and signs, which God did among you through him, as you yourselves know. {23} This man was handed over to you by God's set purpose and foreknowledge; and you, with the help of wicked men, put him to death by nailing him to the cross. {24} But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him. {25} David said about him: "'I saw the Lord always before me. Because he is at my right hand, I will not be shaken. {26} Therefore my heart is glad and my tongue rejoices; my body also will live in hope, {27} because you will not abandon me to the grave, nor will you let your Holy One see decay. {28} You have made known to me the paths of life; you will fill me with joy in your presence.' {29} "Brothers, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day. {30} But he was a prophet and knew that God had promised him on oath that he would place one of his descendants on his throne. {31} Seeing what was ahead, he spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to the grave, nor did his body see decay.

(Acts 3:17-18 NIV) "Now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders. {18} But this is how God fulfilled what he had foretold through all the prophets, saying that his Christ would suffer.

(Acts 3:19-26 NIV) Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, {20} and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you--even Jesus. {21} He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets. {22} For Moses said, 'The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among your own people; you must listen to everything he tells you. {23} Anyone who does not listen to him will be completely cut off from among his people.' {24} "Indeed, all the prophets from Samuel on, as many as have spoken, have foretold these days. {25} And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, 'Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.' {26} When God raised up his servant, he sent him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways."

(Acts 13:26-41 NIV) "Brothers, children of Abraham, and you God-fearing Gentiles, it is to us that this message of salvation has been sent. {27} The people of Jerusalem and their rulers did not recognize Jesus, yet in condemning him they fulfilled the words of the prophets that are read every Sabbath. {28} Though they found no proper ground for a death sentence, they asked Pilate to have him executed. {29} When they had carried out all that was written about him, they took him down from the tree and laid him in a tomb. {30} But God raised him from the dead, {31} and for many days he was seen by those who had traveled with him from Galilee to Jerusalem. They are now his witnesses to our people. {32} "We tell you the good news: What God promised our fathers {33} he has fulfilled for us, their children, by raising up Jesus. As it is written in the second Psalm: "'You are my Son; today I have become your Father.' {34} The fact that God raised him from the dead, never to decay, is stated in these words: "'I will give you the holy and sure blessings promised to David.' {35} So it is stated elsewhere: "'You will not let your Holy One see decay.' {36} "For when David had served God's purpose in his own generation, he fell asleep; he was buried with his fathers and his body decayed. {37} But the one whom God raised from the dead did not see decay. {38} "Therefore, my brothers, I want you to know that through Jesus the forgiveness of sins is proclaimed to you. {39} Through him everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. {40} Take care that what the prophets have said does not happen to you: {41} "'Look, you scoffers, wonder and perish, for I am going to do something in your days that you would never believe, even if someone told you.'"

(Acts 17:2-3 NIV) As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, {3} explaining and proving that the Christ had to suffer and rise from the dead. "This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Christ, " he said.

(Acts 17:10-12 NIV) As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. {11} Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. {12} Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men.

(1 Cor 15:3-4 NIV) For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, {4} that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures,

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