The Restoration of the Kingdom of Israel: A Missing Part of the Gospel (Part 1)

DID YOU KNOW THERE ARE PARTS OF THE GOSPEL THAT MOST PEOPLE HAVE NOT HEARD, PARTS THAT FULLY INTEGRATE THE OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS? Why have these parts NOT been openly discussed and connected to the Gospel all these years?  And did you know that parts of the original gospel message were deleted to make Christians more acceptable to the emperors of Rome?   This is a presentation of that undiscussed material.  (Note: The first part of this series, I entitled: “Why Do Christians Have a Problem with the Bible?” in which we discussed three myths mainstream Christians popularly teach about God’s law and the reasons for this.)

THE GOSPEL AND THE RESTORATION OF THE KINGDOM

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus proclaims and teaches “the gospel of the Kingdom of heaven” or “the gospel of the Kingdom of God.”  For example, in Mark 1:14-15, we read,

Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the KINGDOM OF GOD is at hand: REPENT and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL (Emphasis Mine)

Notice that the content and focus of what Jesus clearly identifies as “the gospel” is “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”  The word “gospel” comes from an Old English word that means “good news.”  So this begs the question, “What is the ‘good news’ about the Kingdom of God/Heaven’?”  We will answer this question by the end of this second part of the study.  Notice in Matthew’s parallel to this verse, we read,

From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, “Repent: for the KINGDOM OF HEAVEN is at hand.” (Matthew 4:23; Emphasis Mine)

Matthew uses the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” from the Hebrew malkhut hashamayim, and Mark uses the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”  Mark understands his Roman audience and knows if he uses “heaven,” instead of “God,” they will imagine their own Roman pantheon of gods in the heavens, so Mark just comes right out and says “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”

The kingdom of God/Heaven is the heartbeat and pulse of all that Jesus did and taught during his years of ministry.  To misunderstand the centrality of this message to the life and teachings of Jesus is to misunderstand what Jesus’ life and message was really all about.  This message should be part of the basic understanding of every Christian, but it’s sadly the least understood.

Many people believe that the phrase “the kingdom of God/Heaven” originated during the time period between the Old and New Testament with the ancient sages and teachers of Israel.  I’ve heard others say that this phrase was coined by the Pharisees, but that Jesus came along and gave it His own unique “twist.”  Although who “coined the phrase” can be debated, the concept of God’s KINGDOM did not begin during this intertestamental period, but it’s seen throughout the Old Testament Scriptures.

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE KINGDOM’S EARLY HISTORY

The concept of the Kingship of God is seen throughout the Bible from beginning to end.  For example, if we were to ask the question, “What is the overall topic of the Bible?”  I would say, “It’s about the building and establishment of God’s KINGDOM here on earth.” So contrary to what many people have been taught, sin and redemption are the Bible’s secondary theme, not its primary one.

The first specific reference we have to God’s KINGDOM is found at the end of “the song of Moses” in Exodus 15: “The LORD shall reign forever and ever” (15:18). The context of this statement is a POLITICAL ONE, not a RELIGIOUS ONE.  God’s KINGDOM had just defeated the most powerful military KINGDOM of that time, the Egyptian army.  And after watching the defeat of this army by God drowning them in the Red Sea, Moses breaks out in song, which culminates in this praise of God’s KINGSHIP.

We see throughout the Exodus and the life of Joshua, God’s rule and reign as KING over Israel.  However, during the Judges, we see Israel’s rebellion against the KINGSHIP of God in their lives, for as the Bible states, “every man did WHAT WAS RIGHT IN HIS OWN EYES” (Judges 17:6; 21:25).  Then under the last judge, but the first of the prophets, Samuel, we see Israel for the most part living under God’s KINGSHIP, but near the end of his life, the people wanted a human king.  This upset Samuel, but God told him to do what the people wanted, “for they have not rejected you, but THEY HAVE REJECTED ME, that I should NOT REIGN over them” (I Samuel 8:7; Emphasis Mine).  God then instructs him to anoint Saul as King.

With the anointing of Saul, we see God continue to rule and reign over Israel, not directly as before, but through three branches of government: the King, the Prophet, and the High Priest.  In order for someone to be in one of these three governmental positions, they had to be ANOINTED WITH OLIVE OIL by either a priest or a prophet.  Samuel was both.  After which, they were an ANOINTED ONE, or “MESSIAH” (or in Greek christos or “CHRIST“).  Saul, unfortunately, did not obey God on a number of occasions, and so God tells Samuel to anoint David as king.  And it is under his rule and reign that Israel really begins to flourish.  It is also with him that God enters into covenant with David, and He promises him,

…I will raise up your seed after you, which shall be of your sons, and I will establish his KINGDOM.  He shall build Me a house, and I will establish His throne forever.  I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son: and I will not take My mercy away from Him, as I took it from him that was before you: But I will settle Him in My House and in My KINGDOM forever: and His THRONE shall be established forevermore.  (I Chronicles 17:11b-14)

This passage is extremely important in understanding aspects of the New Testament. Notice that this future “SON OF DAVID” would build God a house, and God promises that He would establish HIS THRONE forever, and that God Himself would be HIS FATHER, and that this “SON OF DAVID” would be HIS SON.  Also, that God would not take His mercy (steadfast love and grace) away from Him.  But that God would establish HIS KINGDOM FOREVERMORE. 

During David’s reign, he wrote many of the psalms that’s in the Bible.  Many of these talk about God and His KINGDOM.  But when he was getting close to death, David gathered the people together to announce his successor, His son, Solomon.  He said,

And of all my sons, (for the LORD has given me many sons,) He has chosen Solomon my son to sit upon the throne of THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD over Israel.  And He [God] has said to me, “Solomon your son, he shall build My house and My courts: for I have chosen him to be MY SON, and I will be HIS FATHER.
(I Chronicles 28:5-6)

God’s covenant with David is crucial in understanding the Messiah as “the son of David,” as well as “God’s Son” and God being “His Father.”   Beginning with Solomon, every male descendant of David had the potential to be GOD’S SON, but they failed in this expectation, because they fell into sin.  However, with the Immaculate conception of Jesus in the New Testament, we see how God would both keep His promise to Abraham, as well as His promise here to David, in that He was, and lived up to the expectations of God in being, HIS SON.

What’s also important about this passage is the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD.”  Again, we should note that the context in which this phrase is used is POLITICAL, and not a RELIGIOUS one.  Solomon is being announced as being the next King of Israel, and his position as “king” (a POLITICAL ONE) is subordinate to “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD” (Heb. malkhut YHVH), likewise presented here as a POLITICAL ONE, which rules and reigns over the nation of Israel, as well as all other nations.

Also, after the Babylonian captivity, Jews stopped using the covenantal name of God, YHVH (translated as “THE LORD“), and started using evasive synonyms for His name, like “Power,” “Heaven,” “the Name,” or “God.”   So the phrase “THE KINGDOM OF THE LORD” (Heb. malkhut YHVH) here in I Chronicles 28:5 becomes in the New Testament “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” (Heb. malkhut hashamayim) or “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.”

After Solomon’s death, his son Rehoboam takes the throne.  However, when the people come to him and ask him to lighten the taxes off of the people, because they were being taxed to death under Solomon to pay for the building of the Temple, as well as his many other building projects, he ends up telling them, “No,” and that he was going to be even tougher than his father.  This results in the KINGDOM OF ISRAEL splitting into TWO KINGDOMSTHE KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (consisting of 10 Tribes; also called EPHRAIM), and THE KINGDOM OF JUDAH (consisting of 3 tribes).   The Kingdom of Israel was the NORTHERN KINGDOM and the Kingdom of Judah was the SOUTHERN KINGDOM.

From this moment on, both kingdoms were on and off in their obedience to God.  We read about the kings of these TWO KINGDOMS from 1 Kings 12 to the end of 2 Kings, and another presentation of this same time period is seen from I Chronicles 10 to the end of II Chronicles.  We also read about in the writings of the Prophets whom God sent to these TWO KINGDOMS to turn the people away from their lives of sin and idolatry to a renewed relationship with Him as THEIR KING.

However, the NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL is eventually attacked by Assyria in 722 B.C., and most of its people were taken into captivity.  They were scattered throughout the empire, assimilated there, and became lost to history.  They became known as “the lost 10 tribes.”  And then, 136 years later, in 586 B.C., the Babylonians invaded the SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH, destroying Jerusalem and the Temple, and taking the people captive into Babylon.  All of this history is necessary backdrop if we are to properly understand the prophecies of ISRAEL’S RESTORATION, and the gospel writings of the New Testament, including those of Paul.

THE PROBLEM CAUSED BY CHRISTIANITY’S DIVISION OF THE TWO TESTAMENTS

By Christianity dividing and separating the OLD AND NEW TESTAMENTS, and telling us that “the Old Testament is no longer relevant,” that “it has been done away with,” that “the New Testament is an entirely DIFFERENT DIVINE PROGRAM than the Old Testament,” and that “Christians should not use it for their own value system or go back to it in their understanding of God and the gospel” has clearly been detrimental. Because of this division and separation, many of us Christians have grown up with an erroneous view of “the gospel of the kingdom,” “the church,” and our role within the overall plan of God.  We have been taught to view the KINGDOM strictly as a “SPIRITUAL KINGDOM,” rather than an actual KINGDOM, that’s POLITICAL, HISTORICAL, SOCIAL, CULTURAL, and yes, SPIRITUAL.  God’s KINGDOM has its own WORLDVIEW, and it’s own VALUES AND BELIEFS.

Many of us have grown up with the idea that we are first Americans who are Christians, living the American dream until we die, and then believing we will go to heaven.  This is a very different mindset than the biblical one, which is to see ourselves as citizens of God’s KINGDOM, who happen to live in the United States (or wherever you are living), serving the needs of our KING and His KINGDOM, until the return of our KING, or until we come into His Presence at our death.

So although we may not see God’s KINGDOM in its full manifestation yet here on earth (this will happen when Jesus returns), but this does not mean that it’s NOT a PHYSICAL KINGDOM somewhere else NOW.  People who have been allowed to gain a glimpse of heaven all report that it is a PHYSICAL PLACE.  They report things they SAW, HEARD, SMELLED, TASTED, and TOUCHED.  What we call “Heaven” is in a parallel dimension that co-exists with our own (what is commonly called “the spiritual realm”), and it is a PHYSICAL KINGDOM there.  And one day soon, Jesus will return and complete the establishment of HIS KINGDOM here on earth.  He’s NOT coming back to continue a RELIGION, but to finish establishing a KINGDOM.

THE RESTORATION OF ISRAEL – THE COMING PROMISED RESTORATION OF THE NORTHERN AND SOUTHERN KINGDOMS

Throughout the writings of the prophets, God promises that one day that He is going to restore and reunite the NORTHERN KINGDOM and SOUTHERN KINGDOM again into ONE KINGDOM under ONE KING, MESSIAH.   In Ezekiel 37, for example, God prophecies concerning the coming RESTORATION OF ISRAEL.   Ezekiel writes,

The word of the LORD came again to me, saying, “And you, son of man, take for yourself one stick and write on it, ‘For JUDAH and for the sons of Israel, his companions’ [the Southern Kingdom] ; then take another stick and write on it, ‘For Joseph, the stick of EPHRAIM and all of the house of Israel, his companions’ [the Northern Kingdom].  Then join them for yourself to one another into ONE STICK [ONE RESTORED, REUNIFIED KINGDOM], that they may become ONE in your hand,

When the sons of your people speak to you saying, ‘Will you not declare to us what you mean by these?’  say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of EPHRAIM, and the tribes of Israel, his companions [THE NORTHERN KINGDOM]; and I will put them with it, with the stick of JUDAH [THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM; THE JEWISH PEOPLE], and make them ONE STICK [ONE RESTORED, REUNIFIED KINGDOM], and they will be ONE in My hand.  The sticks on which you write will be in your hand before their eyes.

Say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will take the sons of Israel from among the nations where they have gone, and I will gather them from every side and bring them into their own land; and I will make them ONE NATION in the land, on the mountains of Israel; and ONE KING [Jesus] will be King for all of them; and they will no longer be TWO NATIONS and no longer be divided into TWO KINGDOMS.  (Ezekiel 37:15-22; Emphasis Mine)

This is the “GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM” proclaimed by Jesus and His early disciples.  The GOSPEL (“good news”) was that with the coming of the Messiah [Jesus] that God would begin the process of restoring and reunifying His people.  In addition, the Messiah Jesus Himself was giving the invitation for people to come and to become a part of the newly RESTORED and REUNIFIED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (called “THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN” or “THE KINGDOM OF GOD“) and to join in the PROCESS of establishing His KINGDOM here on earth.

For example, although the parable of the PRODIGAL SON (Luke 15:11-32) is used to talk about people being away from God, and God’s love for us, which is a surface-level view and understanding of the parable, but we need to understand that the parable has has a much deeper meaning than this.  In telling this parable, Jesus is speaking with the Pharisees and scribes, representatives of the SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH.  [“Jew” being a shortened, abbreviated form of “Judean,” or one from the Southern Kingdom]

In the parable, a certain man [GOD] has TWO SONS [TWO KINGDOMS].  The YOUNGER SON is THE NORTHERN KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, and the ELDER SON is THE SOUTHERN KINGDOM OF JUDAH.  In the parable, the YOUNGER SON [NORTHERN KINGDOM] goes off into a far land [just as the NORTHERN KINGDOM was taken away into captivity into far and distant countries], but after awhile, he decides to return.  Jesus is saying that He is going to be bringing the NORTHERN KINGDOM back as God promised.  But in the parable, the ELDER SON [SOUTHERN KINGDOM] is upset when the father [GOD] receives the YOUNGER SON [NORTHERN KINGDOM] back, and he refuses to go into the celebration [THE RESTORED, REUNIFIED KINGDOM], so the father goes out to speak to him.  But in the parable, we never hear the response of the ELDER SON [JUDAH].  Jesus has told them through the parable what He is about to do, and He leaves it up to Israel [THE ELDER SON] to decide how they are going to respond.

This meaning of the parable is missed by Christians because of their insistence of dividing and separating the two testaments, instead of what they should be doing, which is viewing and understanding the New Testament from the framework, content, and context of the Old Testament, which is what God intended and how Jesus and His early disciples viewed it as well.

WHAT ABOUT THE CROSS?

Some may be wondering, “If the focus of the gospel preached by Jesus and His early disciples, then where does the cross fit in?”  The cross was (and continues to be) a necessary part of God’s plan too.  But we miss the KINGDOM CONNECTION by dividing the Old and New Testaments.  Jesus’ death on the cross was not only for the purpose of liberating us from the captivity of sin, as well as to pay the penalty for our sins (JUSTIFICATION), as well as provide the basis for our REGENERATION (New Birth), ADOPTION, and SANCTIFICATION, but it also provided the basis and means for God to begin the PROCESS of RESTORING and REUNIFYING the people and KINGDOMS of ISRAEL. The NATIONAL (or KINGDOM) aspect of God’s plan of SALVATION is an important, fundamental part of the gospel message that has been largely omitted by the Christian church since the mid-to-late second century, A.D.

In fact, have you ever wondered why Paul, such a highly trained Pharisee, was sent out to the nations?  Because that is where God had driven the descendants of the NORTHERN KINGDOM, as well as where the majority of the JEWISH PEOPLE were (only 2% of Jews at the time lived in Israel).  God was reaching back into the nations and calling back His people.

IS THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM ONLY FOR ISRAEL – NO!

Does this mean that the Gospel and the Kingdom are only from those who made (and continue to make) up the tribes and Kingdoms of Israel?  God’s covenants have NEVER EXCLUDED those from the nations (non-Jews) from becoming a part of God’s people.  In fact, from the time of Abraham on, God’s plan has included both Jews and non-Jews.  The non-Jews in the Old Testament are called “strangers” or “foreigners” or “gentiles,” who attached themselves to Israel, and then became a part of the Kingdom of Israel.

For example, there were the non-Jews that came out with Abraham (Genesis 12:5), there was the “mixed multitude” that came out with the children of Israel from their slavery in Egypt (Exodus 12:38), and there were other non-Jews, like Rahab, Ruth, and even Doeg, a soldier in King Saul’s army, who became an intricate part of the people and KINGDOM of Israel.

And by the time of the New Testament, there were many non-Jews or “gentiles” who had attached themselves to the Jewish people, attending synagogue, obeying many of the commandments, including following the dietary laws, the times of prayer, etc.  Many of them, though, had NOT gone to the extent of completely converting and getting circumcised.  These non-Jews were called “God-fearers,” or what is translated in our New Testament as “those who fear God.”  For example, consider the following references:

Then Paul stood up, and beckoning with his hand said, “Men of Israel, and YOU THAT FEAR GOD, give audience.” (Acts 13:16)

Men and brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and WHOSOEVER AMONG YOU FEARS GOD, to you is the word of this salvation sent.  (Acts 13:26)

As we can see, the “God-fearers” were a normal part of the synagogue life and worship during the time period of the first century, A.D., the time period of the New Testament.  And a more popular “God-fearer” known to most Christians was Cornelius, the Roman centurion.  In Acts 10:1-3a, we learn the following about him.

There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of the band called the Italian band, a devout man, and ONE THAT FEARED GOD with all his house, which gave alms to the [Jewish] people and prayed to God always.  He saw a vision evidently about the ninth hour of the day...

Cornelius is identified as a “God-fearer” or translated here as “one that fears God with all his house,” and he maintained a certain level of obedience to God’s laws.  We learn here that he “gave alms to the people,” most likely the Jewish people, and we learn that he was in prayer during the “ninth hour of the day” (3 pm).  This was one of the three times a day that most Orthodox Jews spent in prayer.  For example, in Acts 3:1, it says,

Now Peter and John went up together into the temple at the HOUR OF PRAYER, being THE NINTH HOUR.

Cornelius maintained many of the same beliefs and practices of the Jews, including what times of the day he spent in prayer; however, he was NOT considered “a convert” to Judaism, since he had not been circumcised, even though he did follow many of the same laws and practices of the Jewish people.  Therefore, Cornelius was NOT a pagan or someone who had no knowledge or understanding of the Scriptures, particularly God’s law, contrary to how he is often presented within the church.

Consequently, the idea that the Old Testament is about the Jews, and the New Testament is about Jews and non-Jews is NOT TRUE.  Although the gentiles (or non-Jews) are not part of the dominant discussion in the Old Testament does NOT mean that they were NOT there.  Also, just because THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM includes Gentiles (or non-Jews), we also need to remember that it is an intricate part of God’s promises to ISRAEL and the JEWISH PEOPLE.  And by dividing and separating the two testaments, we are omitting a part of the gospel that Jesus intended His people to hear and to understand.  Consequently, as Paul writes, “it is to the JEW first, and also to the GREEK (or non-Jew)” (Romans 1:16c)

THE RESTORED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL IN PAUL’S WRITINGS

Paul, in his epistles, needs to distinguish two groups within the nation of Israel: those who were not part of the RESTORED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, which alludes to simply as “ISRAEL” and those who are part of the RESTORED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL (that would be made up of people from three groups of people:

  • the NORTHERN KINGDOM,
  • the SOUTHERN KINGDOM, and
  • GENTILES (NON-JEWS)

And most of the time, Paul did not use the term “KINGDOM,” like Jesus did, I believe because he did not want people to think that they were to have the same type of relationship with MESSIAH (CHRIST) as people had with the emperor of Rome.  So he used many other titles, such as ‘EKKLESIA [“church”], BODY OF CHRIST, the BRIDE OF CHRIST, IN CHRIST and ONE NEW MAN to indicate the intimacy that we are to have with our KING.

To be part of the RESTORED and REUNIFIED KINGDOM OF ISRAEL, both Jews and non-Jews must accept the Messiah Yeshua/ Jesus Christ, the One chosen and anointed by God by a priest and prophet, John the Baptist, to be His KING, PROPHET, and HIGH PRIEST over the RESTORED KINGDOM.  [Note: the term “Messiah” from the Hebrew or “Christ” from the Greek, again refers to the “son (or descendant) of David” who would be chosen by God and given the anointing, not of ONE governmental office, but He, and He alone, would walk in ALL THREE governmental offices: Prophet, Priest and King at the same time; thereby, constituting Him as “THE MESSIAH” or “THE CHRIST”]. 

And so when we fail to look at the New Testament from the framework, content and context of the Old Testament, then “THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM” preached by Jesus and His early disciples is not properly understood.  And the cross, as I said earlier, was a NECESSARY PART of this process, for it dealt not only with humanity’s sin issues, but it also has become the doorway into the KINGDOM and has provided the basis and means for God to begin this RESTORATION PROCESS (or what Christians have traditionally called “the Church Age” is, in fact, God continuing to build and extend the KINGDOM, He began with ABRAHAM, ISAAC, and JACOB).  Thereby, keeping His promise to Abraham: “In you shall ALL the families of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).  So has God changed His program in the New Testament?  Not at all.

In this next article, we will look at what happened to the Gospel message between the 2nd – 4th centuries, AD.

 

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WHAT IS CHRISTIANITY’S PROBLEM WITH THE BIBLE? (Part 1/3)

Even though this study is a bit long, it is well worth your time and study.  It will deepen your knowledge of the Bible and the plan of God among His people and the world.

MANY PEOPLE MAY NOT BE AWARE THAT CHRISTIANITY HAS A LONG, CONTINUING PROBLEM IN HOW TO LOOK AT AND UNDERSTAND THE BIBLE, BUT THEY DO.   I should say right up front that I believe that Christianity has it RIGHT about the basics of JESUS’ life: He was born of a virgin, He lived a sinless life, He proclaimed the Gospel and taught His disciples to do the same, and then He was crucified under Pontious Pilate, rose again on the third day, ascended up into heaven, and then sent back the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost, and as a result, the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit are for all believers today.

Those things we have RIGHT, but the problem comes with our mainstream view of the Bible as a whole, the relationship between the Old and New Testament, and even about the relationship between the Law and the Gospel.  Different denominations have their own views and ideas about each of these, but how many of these “views” actually reflect the Bible as a whole?  How many of these “views” are man-made, and how many can actually be found in the Bible?

I can remember listening to a well-known, popular TV minister 40+ years ago as he talked about God’s law as being “legalism,” “bondage,” and as a “curse.”  He even thanked God for delivering us from the law.  But at that moment, God checked my spirit, and told me that what I had heard was wrong.  I then asked myself the question, “What’s his hang up with God’s law?”  Since then, this erroneous attitude of his and other ministers (in churches and on TV) and evangelists in regard to God’s Word has flooded the mainstream American church, and we are now feeling the results of what has been reaped in American society (Did you actually believe the world wasn’t also listening?).

For those who don’t know me, I grew up in a small Pentecostal Church of God congregation until I was twelve, and then my parents changed over to the Assemblies of God.  I have literally heard thousands upon thousands of sermons during my lifetime, but when it comes to God’s laws, and the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament, the evidence of Scripture does not support the traditional Christian view.  In fact, when hearing someone speaking against God’s Law, or the Old Testament as a whole, I really wonder if they’ve ever taken the time to actually read it.

CHRISTIANITY’S FALSE PRESS

There’s many things that Christians claim about God’s law and commandments, as well as the Old Testament, which I find no evidence to support.  In fact, there are many traditions taught in the church which have no biblical basis.  For example, that the fruit Adam and Eve ate which caused their fall was an apple (even though the fruit is never identified in the Bible), or that only two kinds of every animal went into the ark (actually two pairs of the unclean animals went into the ark, but seven pairs of the clean animals went into it), or that there were three kings who came to see Jesus as an infant at His birth in the manger (even though the New Testament calls them “wisemen,” not kings, and they came to the “house,” not the manger, to see the “young child,” not the infant).

This is why Christians need to start studying the Scriptures for themselves, instead of only relying on someone else to tell you what it says.  How else are we to know when we are being taught “a man-made tradition,” as opposed to what is actually taught in the Bible.  And after studying the Law and the Old Testament now for several years, and also listening to many ministers and TV evangelists, I often wonder, “What Law are you reading?”

For example, they say that God gave the Law to prove what horrible sinners we are, but I don’t see that in the Old Testament at all.  What I do see is God wanting to bless us, but our desire to rebel keeps getting in the way.  For example, check out this passage in Deuteronomy:

O that there were such an HEART in them, that they would fear Me, and keep all My commandments ALWAYS, that it might be WELL with them, and with their children FOREVER!  (Deuteronomy 5:29)

Can you hear God’s broken heart here?  Why is it breaking?  Because He wants to bless us, He wants things to go well for us, but the thing that keeps getting in the way of us being blessed by Him is the condition of our hearts.  Our HEARTS – that’s the problem – NOT the commandments!

Where does it say in here that God gave us these commandments to show us what miserable, horrible sinners we are?  Where does it say that the ONLY way we can keep these commandments is if we are “PERFECT“?  Again, when one reads through God’s law, as well as the whole Old Testament, you will not find these attitudes anywhere.  And so many of the problems we Christians have regarding God’s law really comes down to what people have taught us about it and how we’ve been taught to interpret and understand our own Bible.

MYTH #1:  YOU HAVE TO BE PERFECT TO OBEY THE LAW

The first myth that Christians teach about God’s Law is that you have to be morally perfect to keep it, but this isn’t true; you just have to be obedient.  For example, did you know that in the Law itself, there is evidence that God DID NOT INTEND for people to be morally perfect to obey His commandments?  I mean, think about this, if we have to be morally perfect to keep God’s law, then why does He allow for divorce (Deuteronomy 24:1-4)?  If we have to be morally perfect to keep His commandments, then why does God set up the cities of refuge where people can go if they accidentally kill someone, and not suffer any retribution for what they have done (Numbers 35:6-34; Deuteronomy 4:41-43; 19:1-13)?  If we have to be morally perfect to keep His laws, then why does God give the children of Israel “a make-up day” 30 days after Passover, if they can’t observe it on time (Numbers 9:6-14)?  And, of course, the biggest clue that God did not intend for people to be morally perfect to keep His commandments is the whole sacrificial system.  It’s very existence is textual proof that God was fully aware that the people He was giving these commands to were NOT morally perfect people, and the inclusion of these elements only prove that He made allowances for their moral imperfections.  In fact, NO WHERE in the law or, even, the whole Old Testament does God EVER SAY that obedience to these commandments would make one perfect, NO WHERE! 

Keeping the commandments, in fact, does NOT make us perfect – just OBEDIENT!  And OBEDIENCE to the commandments does NOT result in us dying and going to heaven (another myth), but in being BLESSED here on earth by God! (check out Deuteronomy 28:1-14 for a sample of the promised blessings for obedience.)   I am not saying that heaven is a myth, only the idea that keeping the commandments will result in God having to take people to heaven.  None of the blessings of God deal with what happens to us after we die; they only deal with what happens to us here on earth during our lifetime.

And, of course, OBEDIENCE to anything doesn’t just happen.  It must be LEARNED and PRACTICED, and when we fall, we get up and continue to LEARN and to PRACTICE it.  This is true of ANYTHING that one sets out to learn.  MASTERY OF ANYTHING takes time learning it, practicing it, and patience as we continue to learn and to practice it.  So why do we view our obedience to God’s laws and commandments differently than we do anything else?  Because that’s how we’ve been taught to view them in the church.  But unfortunately how we’ve been taught to view them is NOT what we see taught in the Old Testament ANYWHERE!   So ask yourself, on what are people basing this erroneous view that we have been taught regarding God’s Law?

Also, God’s desire here is that His people would “keep ALL [His] commandments ALWAYS,” so ask yourself, “Why would He send Jesus to earth to do away with the very thing He wants His people to keep ‘ALWAYS’?”  Why would Jesus die to do away with the Word of God?”  Again, this idea just doesn’t make any sense when we actually spend time reading and studying the Law and the rest of the Old Testament.

MYTH #2:  IN THE OLD TESTAMENT PEOPLE WERE SAVED BY THE LAW.

Another common myth that Christians teach is that in the Old Testament, people were saved by the Law.  This is also not true.  If God’s purpose in giving the law was for the purpose of salvation, He would have given it to them while they were still slaves in Egypt, and told them, that if they could keep these commandments, then He would deliver them from slavery, BUT that is NOT what He did. Instead, He delivered (or “saved”) His people from slavery FIRST, and THEN He led them to Mt. Sinai where He gave them His commandments. In the footnote of Exodus 20:1-17 of the Apologetics Study Bible, it states the following:

God and Moses perceived obedience to the laws, NOT AS A WAY OR PRECONDITION TO SALVATION, but as a GRATEFUL RESPONSE of those who had ALREADY BEEN SAVED.  God did not reveal the law to the Israelites in Egypt and then tell them that as soon as they had measured up to this standard He would rescue them.  On the contrary, BY GRACE ALONE, THROUGH FAITH they crossed the Red Sea to freedom.  All that was required was belief in God’s promise that He would hold up the walls of water on either side and see them safely through to the other shore.

The Decalogue (10 Commandments) begins, not with the first commandment, but with a preamble: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the place of slavery” (v.2; Dt. 5:6).  Obedience to the Decalogue or any other law has NEVER BEEN INTENDED AS A WAY OF SALVATION BUT AS THE APPROPRIATE RESPONSE TO SALVATION ALREADY RECEIVED.  (115; Emphasis Mine)

So as we can see, people in the Old Testament WERE NOT SAVED by the keeping of the law (contrary to what the majority of Christians often say or teach), but the Law was their God-given RESPONSE to His salvation.  Consequently, the mainstream Christian belief that the law was used for salvation purposes in the Old Testament is not at all true.

MYTH #3:  YOU HAVE TO OBEY ALL OF THE LAW, BECAUSE IF YOU GET ONE WRONG, THEN YOU’VE BROKEN THEM ALL.

This third myth about the Law is based on an erroneous understanding and misapplication of James 2:10: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.”  On the surface, this seems to support what traditional, mainstream Christianity teaches, but when you place the quote back into its original context, we discover a very different story.

James wrote this statement to ENCOURAGE MORE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, NOT LESS, AND DEFINITELY NOT TO PROVE THAT THE LAW COULD NOT BE KEPT.  James here is arguing that the PREFERENCE that these Jewish believers are showing to the rich believers over that of the POOR believers is a VIOLATION OF THE LAW; therefore, in order to KEEP THE LAW, they need to treat ALL people EQUALLY in their meetings (James 2:1-9).  Obviously, if James was trying to get them to OBEY GOD’S LAW, then he isn’t using it to say that the Law can’t be kept; however, this statement of James 2:10, along with what he is trying to accomplish by using it, also proves that James did NOT believe that the Law ended at the cross, nor did he believe that God’s Law could NOT be kept.

Christians have traditionally used this same statement in James 2:10 to say the EXACT OPPOSITE of what James is saying.  He used it to ENCOURAGE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, but Christianity has turned it around and uses it to DISCOURAGE OBEDIENCE TO THE LAW, and even use it to try and argue that IT’S IMPOSSIBLE TO KEEP GOD’S COMMANDMENTS.  This clearly demonstrates the habit of many people (Christians and non-Christians alike) – and this is one of many examples – of people taking things out of CONTEXT in order to back up and support their own denominational beliefs or personal views, such as, in this case, that CHRISTIANS ARE NOT REQUIRED TO OBEY GOD’S LAW, which was clearly NOT the point that James was making here.  

Furthermore, I would argue that many Christians and TV ministers VIOLATE this same teaching of James by themselves showing PREFERENCE to the rich evangelists and TV ministers who they support and invite to their churches, as well as to those within their congregations who give more in their tithing, than they do to those poor ministers, evangelists and believers within their congregations.  I have even heard more than one TV minister/evangelist say that “unless you have money, a lot of money, you cannot help anyone.” How sad!

PROBLEMS THAT CAUSE THESE MYTHS AND MISINTERPRETATIONS

The following are three of the main problems that lie at the root of these continuing myths, misinterpretations and misunderstandings of God’s Word.

ONE MAIN PROBLEM – THE REMOVAL OF THE NEW TESTAMENT FROM ITS INTENDED CONTEXT

One main reason for Christianity’s traditional misinterpretation, misunderstanding, and misapplication of the Bible is because they remove the New Testament from its intended context, the Old Testament.  It is quite clear from the numerous quotes, references, and allusions to the Old Testament Scriptures found in the New Testament that the foundation, framework and context of properly understanding it [the New Testament] is the Old Testament.  But rather than viewing and understanding the New Testament from the perspective of the Old Testament, Christianity divides and separates the two Testaments, and erroneously teaches that the New Testament, in fact,  REPLACES the Old Testament.

And not only has the New Testament REPLACED the Old Testament, they say, but they teach that the two Testaments are, in fact, “two entirely different Divine Programs,” none of which is true.   The New Testament further molds, shapes, modifies and develops parts of things in the Old Testament, but IT DOES NOT REPLACE the Old Testament.  Nor has all of the Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament been fulfilled.  There are 800 Messianic prophecies in the Old Testament.  Jesus fulfilled 300 of them in His first coming, and He will fulfill the other 500 prophecies in His second coming and during His 1,000 year reign on earth (called “the Millennial reign”).  So how can Christians say that the Old Testament, or even the Law, has been fulfilled when, in fact, there’s a great deal yet that has NOT been fulfilled?

ANOTHER MAIN PROBLEM:  VIEWING THE BIBLE THROUGH THE LENS OF RELIGION, RATHER THAN THE LENS OF A KINGDOM

Traditionally, another problem within Christianity has been their continual view of God, the Bible, the Gospel, and the Church through the lens of RELIGION and not through the lens God intended – a KINGDOM.  For example, throughout the Scriptures, from Genesis to Revelation, we see the foundation and development of God’s Kingdom here on earth.  The giving of the law was part of God establishing His Kingdom within the lives of the people He had “saved” and “redeemed” from their slavery in Egypt.  They were supposed to be His “role model nation,” so that other nations around them would see the great blessing and intimacy they enjoyed with God, and that they too would want to become part of God’s Kingdom (Deuteronomy 4:5-8).

Obviously, then, God’s laws and commandments were NOT intended ONLY for the Jewish people, but for all of humanity.  Of course, the problem we see in the Old Testament is that the sin nature took control of what was to be God’s “role model KINGDOM” and made it into a RELIGION, where people could take control and decide for themselves what was right and wrong, believing, in fact, that they could mix their RELIGION with the things the other RELIGIONS around them believed and practiced.  This mixture of RELIGIONS, of course, led to the continuing battle against idolatry, violence and sexual practices that were clearly forbidden by God.

And even during the Babylonian captivity when Israel began to be obedient to the commandments, and NOT engage in these same vile practices, the belief and view of the Law as a RELIGION continued, so that by the first century, A.D., the Pharisees, Sadducees, Essenes, etc., had fully developed their RELIGIOUS view of what God, the Torah, Israel and the land was all about.  However, Jesus was not about endorsing this RELIGIOUS view of God and His KINGDOM.  Instead, He wanted to return people back to a KINGDOM view of things, rather than a RELIGIOUS view.  For example, Jesus proclaimed NOT the “RELIGION OF GOD,” but “THE KINGDOM OF GOD.” For example, in Mark 1:14-15,

Now after that John was put into prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM OF GOD, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the KINGDOM OF GOD is at hand: REPENT ye, and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.

Clearly here, Jesus identifies the Gospel message as about “the KINGDOM OF GOD,” and our response to this message is that we are to REPENT and BELIEVE THE GOSPEL.  This message stirred up the people of Israel and put Jesus into direct conflict numerous times with both the RELIGIOUS and POLITICAL leaders of His day.  Why?  Because the concept of KINGDOM and RELIGION are in direct opposition to one another, and the preaching of any other KINGDOM than the KINGDOM (or EMPIRE) of ROME was considered by ROME to be an act of treason.

Although Jesus and His early disciples preached the KINGDOM message, in spite of the persecution, historical Christianity though, from the 2nd century, A.D. onward, began to move away from KINGDOM and back into RELIGION, and since the mid-to-late 2nd century, A.D., it has continued to view Jesus, the Gospel, the Church, and the New Testament as a RELIGION, which came to be called “Christianity,” and NOT from the perspective of an actual KINGDOM.

For example, in a RELIGION, people choose what they want to believe and what they don’t want to believe, what is right and what is wrong.  We see in the various denominations them deciding what parts of the Bible is for today and what parts aren’t, what they believe is appropriate worship, attire, instruments, etc., in the church, and what’s NOT.  However, in contrast to this, in a KINGDOM, the one who decides what is right and wrong, what is appropriate or not appropriate, or what parts of the Bible is for today and what isn’t is NOT the people, but the KING (God).  The people in the KINGDOM are to do what the KING says to do, NOT create their own version of what they feel is more comfortable for them to do.  And according to Jesus, what part of the Law or the Prophets has God, in fact,  “annulled” or “done away with”?  NOTHING.

Think NOT that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy but to fulfill.  For verily I say unto you, Till HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS [AWAY], one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:17-18)

When will any part of the law or the prophets, i.e., the Old Testament, pass away or be deleted?  Not until HEAVEN AND EARTH PASS AWAY.  Why?  Because these were the two witnesses who God called to witness His covenant with Israel at Mt. Sinai, and until these two witnesses pass away, God CANNOT REMOVE OR DELETE any part of His covenant.  Consequently, when Christians teach that the Law is not for today, they are in direct contradiction to what the Bible actually teaches, since it was not God’s law, but our sins, the penalty of our sins, and the law of sin and death that was nailed to the cross of Christ, NOT God’s law and commandments.

ANOTHER MAIN PROBLEM: CHRISTIANS IGNORING THE PROPHECIES CONCERNING THE COMING KINGDOM

A third problem with the way Christians view the Bible, specifically God’s law, is that they look back to the cross, which THEY SHOULD DO, but they FAIL TO LOOK AHEAD to the coming Millennial reign of Christ, and to adopt doctrines repeatedly taught in the Bible that are CONSISTENT between these two points in time.  If they would study the Old Testament, they would discover that it actually has more to say about the coming rule and reign of Christ than the New Testament.

For example, they would learn that the New Testament is NOT the last or final covenant that God is planning on making with humanity.  There’s at least one, maybe two, more covenants prophesied by God that He is going to make with Israel and, of course, with each covenant, there comes more Bible.  Consequently, the Bible is done as far as we’ve received from God so far, but in reference to God’s word for humanity over all, that is up until the time of the New Heavens and the New Earth (Isaiah 66:22; Matthew 5:18; Revelation 21-22), there’s more Bible yet to come.  For example, the next covenant will be made with Israel when Jesus returns and establishes His kingdom here on earth for 1,000 years.

CORRECTIONS CHRISTIANITY NEEDS TO MAKE

So based on this first part of the study, then, there are certain changes and corrections that Christianity needs to make in order to begin to properly understand and view the Bible as a whole.  For example, we need to —

  • STOP taking verses and passages out of CONTEXT, simply to satisfy our own denominational views and to begin to consistently follow the RULES AND GUIDELINES OF HERMENEUTICS on how the Bible should be interpreted and understood;
  • STOP viewing the Old Testament and New Testament as separate “Divine Programs,” but to view the New Testament from the foundation, framework, and context of the Old Testament as God intended, since after all, He gave us the Old Testament BEFORE He gave us the New Testament; and
  • STOP viewing God, Jesus, the Gospel, the Church and the Bible as a whole through the lens of RELIGION, and begin to look at things through the lens and perspective of a KINGDOM, which is an entity that’s political, social, cultural, historical, and spiritual with its own worldview and values and belief system that’s been given to us by God Himself.  We are NOT to adopt the world’s system, but God’s.

Now if we could begin to do these three things, it would greatly help to reduce the amount of division, misinterpretation, misunderstanding, myths, and error that we see within the Christian church.  For example, when the United States is under attack, the conflicts and divisions among Americans fall to the wayside and we join together in unity to fight our “common enemy.”  In the same line of thinking, Christians are divided by their church and denominational doctrines and practices, but imagine what would happen if we began to focus on us being part of God’s KINGDOM, and what teachings and practices of God’s Kingdom that we see REPEATEDLY TAUGHT from Genesis to Revelation.  Many of our so-called divisions and disagreements would likewise fall to the wayside.  After all, “out of the mouth of two or three witnesses, a thing shall be established.”

Now in the second part of this three-part series, I want to look at the restoration of Israel and the coming covenant that God is going to make with the people and nation of Israel during Christ’s (or Messiah’s) Millennial reign, and how all of this fits together with the gospel of the Kingdom taught by Jesus and His early disciples.

 

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