If we fail to understand the cross as it relates to Israel, we will fail to understand Israel in Bible prophecy.
Before the cross, ethnic Israel’s identity as the people of God made them distinct from all other nations, because Israel was covenanted to God through physical circumcision and the Law of Moses.
Things have changed.
According to Paul, physical circumcision no longer has any value with regards to being in covenant with God, and the system of law with its commandments and regulations under which Israel was to serve God, has been abolished by the death of Christ on the cross.
Writing to the Gentile believers at Ephesus, the apostle Paul says the following:
10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called uncircumcision by that which is called the circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ. ~ Ephesians 2:10-13
Notice that Paul tells the Gentiles that they were previously called “uncircumcision” by those who were called “the circumcision in the flesh.” Paul tells them that at that time they were without Christ, and they were aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and they were strangers from the covenants of promise.
Paul then says, “But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.” ~ v.13
The Gentiles who were at one time far off, and aliens from commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, have been brought near by the blood of Christ.
The reason things have changed for Israel is because blood of Christ has united Jews and Gentiles in one body, in Christ, as the people of God. There is no longer any distinction between the two in the eyes of God.
For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. ~ 1 Corinthians 12:12-13
Many who would not dispute that Jews and Gentiles are one in Christ, would still argue that unbelieving Israel holds a distinction as a covenant nation before God. Yet Paul says otherwise. In Romans 10:11-12, Paul says, “there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek” within the context of unbelievers. In Romans 10 Paul holds the unbelieving Jews answerable to the gospel of Jesus Christ.
If God had an another alternative for the unbelieving Jew apart from the gospel revealed in the New Testament, there certainly would be difference between the Jew and the Greek. The Jew would then have a special privilege for salvation, not offered to the Gentiles, apart from the gospel. Yet Paul holds Israel accountable to the gospel of Jesus Christ, and gives them no other alternative.
If it were true that Israel maintains a covenantal relationship with God apart for Christ, the gospel would be invalidated, for the New Testament tells us, there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus… ~ 1 Timothy 2:5
Apart from Christ, no Jew or Gentile has any covenantal relationship with God!
Because of the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no longer a separating wall, as there once was between Jews and Gentiles. The division has been abolished!
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both (Jews and Gentiles) one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both (Jews and Gentiles) unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby… ~ Ephesians 2:14-16
I once watched a portion of a video by a well known Zionist minister, claiming that the wall of separation (which is taken away in Christ) will again be erected when Christ returns. Honestly, I don’t think people truly understand how egregious such teachings are in view of the gospel.
In the book of Galatians, we get a glimpse of just how egregious this was to the apostle Paul.
But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed. For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision. And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation. But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews? ~ Galatians 2:11-14
According to Paul, Peter and the other Jews with him were not walking uprightly according to the truth of the gospel when they separated themselves from the Gentile believers at Antioch.
Paul believed that God has reconciled Jews and Gentiles into one body by the death of Christ on the cross. Thus, removing the distinction which separated the Jews from the Gentiles. In Ephesians 3, Paul refers to this as “the mystery” which was hidden in previous generations.
As you read what I have written, you will understand my insight into this plan regarding Christ. God did not reveal it to previous generations, but now by his Spirit he has revealed it to his holy apostles and prophets. And this is God’s plan: Both Gentiles and Jews who believe the Good News share equally in the riches inherited by God’s children. Both are part of the same body, and both enjoy the promise of blessings because they belong to Christ Jesus. By God’s grace and mighty power, I have been given the privilege of serving him by spreading this Good News. Though I am the least deserving of all God’s people, he graciously gave me the privilege of telling the Gentiles about the endless treasures available to them in Christ. I was chosen to explain to everyone this mysterious plan that God, the Creator of all things, had kept secret from the beginning. God’s purpose in all this was to use the church to display his wisdom in its rich variety to all the unseen rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. this was his eternal plan, which he carried out through Christ Jesus our Lord. ~ Ephesians 3:4-11 TNLT
Notice that Paul says that God’s plan was to display his wisdom by the church – the union on Jews and Gentiles in Christ, and this was his eternal plan! It is through the finished work of Christ that God has accomplished this.
Paul addresses this same truth in the book of Galatians when he says the following:
As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ. ~ Galatians 6:12
In Galatians, Paul is countering the false teachings of those who were advocating Jewish supremacy rather than glorying in the finished work of Christ.
These religious Jews (aka, Judaizers) did not simply want to bring the Gentiles under some sort of “works righteousness” but rather, they were seeking to make Jewish proselytes of the Gentiles, and this was something that Paul adamantly opposed.
It wasn’t enough to these religious Jews that the Gentiles had believed the gospel and received the Spirit. They were insisting that the Gentiles to go beyond the cross of Christ and become Jewish proselytes through circumcision and adherence to the Law.
It is this “Jewish supremacy” based on the Jew’s religion (Galatians 1:13-14) that Paul is countering so strongly in Galatians. Jewish supremacy, such as Paul is addressing in Galatians, is in opposition to the truth of the gospel and Jewish supremacy fuels a mishandling of scripture regarding Israel in Bible prophecy.
Again, If we fail to understand the cross as it relates to Israel, we will fail to understand Israel in Bible prophecy. The New Testament is the divinely inspired commentary regarding Israel’s prophetic destiny, which comes to fruition in Jesus Christ: For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth. ~ Romans 10:4
When Paul teaches that we are not under the law, or that Christ has brought an end to the law, or that the law is fulfilled in Christ, he is not addressing “legalism” per say. He is addressing ethnic Israel’s covenant with God.
Because of the cross, there is no longer any privilege for one ethnic group above another in the sight of God. In Galatians 5:11 Paul says, “And I, brethren, if I yet preach circumcision (the mark of Jewish covenantal identity) why do I yet suffer persecution? Then is the offense of the cross ceased.“
The controversy over of circumcision in the first century church wasn’t about legalistic works. It was about the superiority of Jewish identity. Because of this dispute, the apostle Paul was being persecuted by those who preached circumcision. Paul preached that the cross alone could save, and being circumcised or not being circumcised no longer had relevance with regards to being in covenant with God.
In Romans 3 the apostle Paul asks the question,“What then? are we better than they?“
This is a reference to the Jews in contrast to the Gentiles. Paul goes on to answer this question saying, “No, in no wise: for we have before proved both Jews and Gentiles, that they are all under sin.” Paul puts the Jew and the Gentile on level ground as being “all under sin.” ~ See Romans 3:9
In Galatians 6 Paul says, For neither they themselves who are circumcised keep the law; but desire to have you circumcised, that they may glory in your flesh. But God forbid that I should glory, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God. ~ Galatians 6:12-16
According to Paul, Jews and Gentiles are united in Christ and become the new creation identified by the cross of Christ, and are said to be the Israel of God!
We must understand that the gospel of Jesus Christ belongs to the long winding history of the story of Israel. The gospel is the proclamation of the redemption and salvation which God promised Israel through the scriptures and the prophets.
Hidden in a mystery was that Israel’s redeemer would also be the Savior of all who trust in him, and those who trust in him from among the Gentiles would be grafted into Israel’s family tree and become partakers of Israel’s New Covenant!
The physical preservation of a collective, outward, Jewish ethnicity was never the promise of God. A new creation was. This new creation in Christ is revealed in the New Testament as the union of Jews and Gentiles in one body, becoming one family together as the children of God.
In his conversation with Jesus, Nicodemus was quite surprised when Jesus spoke to him about the necessity of being “born again.” According to Jesus, this was something that Nicodemus, who was a ruler in Israel, should have understood.
Nicodemus answered and said unto him, How can these things be? Jesus answered and said unto him, Art thou a master of Israel, and knowest not these things? John 3:9-10
Any interpretation of Israel in Bible prophecy, which replaces Christ’s finished work on the Cross for the redemption of Israel, with a so-called unfinished work for ethnic Israel is a “a strong delusion.”
This delusion has made, of an unbelieving Israel, an icon of ‘god-sanctioned’ disregard for Jesus. It fears to name the spirit behind all unbelief, Israeli or otherwise.
And every spirit that confesses not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof you have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. ~ 1 John 4:3