by L. R. Shelton
It was revealed unto the apostle Paul by the Holy Spirit that God's purpose from eternity was to have a chosen people upon this earth at all times until the Lord's return, and that this would be both Jews and Gentiles brought into one body, the church, of which Christ was the head: "Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself that in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth, even in him" (Eph 1:9-10). He continues to show that the middle wall of partition had been broken down between Jew and Gentile, the enmity between them abolished and that they had, by the grace of God through the atoning work of Christ, been made one in Him, and thereby make up the true Israel of God (2:14-15). He adds that God's purpose "that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (3:5,6,10) the same as the Jews, thus making the true Israel of God those who had been made new creatures in Christ Jesus by the new birth and who were now spiritual Israel.
Now turning to the fourth chapter of Galatians, verses 21-31 bring before us Abraham's two sons. The one was by the bondwoman, Hagar, born after the flesh; the other by a free woman, Sarah, born by promise. The story shows in an allegory the difference between unbelieving "Israel after the flesh," and those of all nations who know Christ, have yielded to His claims, and thereby been made free. The apostle shows that the son of the bondwoman pictures the children of "Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children," while the son of the free woman pictures the church: "Jerusalem which is above," which is free and "is the mother of us all."
Thus Paul teaches that believers, as Isaac was, are the children of promise; but with respect to the unbelieving children of the flesh, the Scriptures say: "Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman" (Gal 4:30). In other words, as far as God's eternal purpose is concerned, cast out, remove from consideration the physical, political nation of Israel and her unsaved citizens; for the inheritance belongs to spiritual Israel and not to natural Israel. Paul closes that 4th chapter with these gracious words: "So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman," for the flesh profiteth nothing, "but of the free," because Christ has made us free in Him.
So we see then that now and forever it is only of believers that it can be said: "As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God" (Rom 8:14), and "the Spirit himself beareth witness with our spirit that we are the children of God: and if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ" (Rom 8:16-17). "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. As many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God" (Gal 6:15-16). To be a child of God, and of the true Israel of God, we can be so only by being a new creation in Christ.
After Paul spent one whole letter showing that Israel after the flesh is nothing, that only new creations in Christ avail, that these Judaizers profit nothing, that God now deals with His true Israel, the spiritual seed of Abraham ~then he says: "From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus" (6:17). He is saying: I bear in my heart the mark of circumcision by the Spirit, and in my body the marks of the sufferings for the cause of Christ, as I have been persecuted by the Jews, the children of Abraham born after the flesh; so never speak to me again that Israel after the flesh is God's chosen people, for they are not.
Now in the Book of Hebrews we see this same truth illustrated over and over again: the truth that God has done away with the types and the shadows, also the physical things of Israel, which stood for a time, but have now given way to the spiritual realities as found in Christ. Since this has been accomplished by God in Christ, then to go back to an earthly temple, an earthly altar, an earthly priesthood, an earthly tabernacle, earthly animal sacrifices, an earthly covenant, an earthly throne and an earthly king in a so-called 1000 years of Jewish prosperity with Christ sitting upon an earthly throne in present Jerusalem would be "to turn again to the weak and beggarly elements" (Gal 4:9). It would mean to put to naught this great Book of Hebrews and all its teaching that God in His eternal purpose has a better country, a heavenly, awaiting His people; in fact, better things than all the physical things of this life.
The book of Hebrews, perhaps more than any of the books of the Bible, stands as a source of frustration and embarrassment to those who teach that God plans to return one day to the natural trappings of the old Jewish economy, to the natural land and city, the natural law and ordinances, the natural kingdom and throne, and the natural temple and sacrifices.
The Holy Spirit through the writer of Hebrews shows the over-whelming superiority of the new and better age that dawned at Calvary. He shows that after Calvary the natural types and figures had served their purpose and were vanishing away, having been replaced forever by the eternal and spiritual realities (Heb 8:13).
Note the word "better" as used in Hebrews. Did the Israelites' fathers hear the voice of the prophets? We, the true, spiritual Israel hear the "better" voice of God's Son (1:1,2). Did the Israelites have a high priest after the Levitical order? We have a"better" One after the "better" and undying order of Melchisedec (6:20-7:28). Did they seek, unsuccessfully, for perfection through the law? We have a "better" hope through the grace of God in Christ Jesus our Lord (7:19). Did they have an earthly sanctuary with a candlestick, table and shewbread, and a tabernacle with the golden censer, the ark, and the mercyseat (9:1-5)? We have Christ: "a greater and more perfect tabernacle" (9:11). Did they have the blood of bulls and goats that could not take away sins (10:4)? We have the incomparably "better" "blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God" (9:14). Did the Israelites receive an earthly land?
We have "a better country, that is, an heavenly" (11:16). Did they come to a mount that could be touched (12:18)? We have come to the "better" Mount Zion (12:22). Did they have the natural city of Jerusalem? We have the incomparably "better" "city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem" (12:22). To go further, we as spiritual Israel have a "better" covenant, the New Covenant, that was foretold by the Prophets, and since Calvary, has forever replaced the old and faulty covenant (8:1) that existed between God and Israel. The New Covenant is the covenant of which Jeremiah prophesied, and that was fulfilled once for all, for both Jews and Gentiles, at the first coming of Christ. The New Covenant that God has made with the new Israel is "not according to the covenant" that he made with natural Israel, which "covenant they broke" (Jer 31:32). "But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel ... I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people ... they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest" (vv 33,34).
The prophet Ezekiel expressed it in these words: "I will make a covenant of peace with them: it shall be an everlasting covenant with them: and I will place them, and multiply them, and will set my sanctuary in the midst of them for evermore. My tabernacle also shall be with them: Yea, I will be their God, and they shall be my people" Ezek 37:26-27).
In two places in Hebrews (8:6-13; 10:16-17 these prophesies are quoted as referring to the new spiritual Israel, the true Israel of God. These verses show this "better" covenant was already established in the first century, and that the old one even then was decaying and getting old, and was ready to vanish away. Not long after the writing of Hebrews, the temple rituals and sacrifices, the proudest features of the old covenant relationship, vanished completely as the city of Jerusalem and the temple were destroyed by the Romans.
In II Corinthians, the old covenant made with the Jews, which they did not keep, is called: "The ministration of death, written and engraven in stones ... the ministration of condemnation" (3:7,9); but the new covenant is: "The ministration of the spirit" (3:6). The glory of the old covenant, as once reflected in the face of Moses "was to be done away" (3:7) and was to be replaced by the new covenant that will "exceed in glory" (3:9). We draw this conclusion: the New Covenant had forever replaced the old covenant in these words: "For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious" (3:11).
Since Calvary, and forever, the new covenant is God's only covenant with man, and it is based upon the "better" promises of the crucified, buried, risen, exalted Lord Jesus Christ. Its inauguration was announced by Christ on the night in which He was betrayed when, "he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them saying, Drink ye all of it; for this is my blood of the new testament [covenant], which is shed for many for the remission of sins" (Mat 26:27-28). This covenant relationship with God, through the blood of Christ, is offered to as many as receive Him (John 1:1-2) prior to His second coming. There will be no opportunity after His coming; for then comes the White Throne Judgment of Rev 20.
This covenant is the covenant of grace and therefore is based upon the operation of our Triune God by His Spirit working in the hearts of both Jew and Gentile, to call out a bride for Christ who is the Head of the spiritual race called the true Israel of God.
One other thought on the book of Hebrews: it was written to show that Christ our Lord, God manifested in the flesh, is far greater and "better" than all creatures and things. In chapter one He is spoken of as being "better, than the angels; in chapter two He is shown to be greater and "better" than man; in chapter three He is spoken of as "better" and greater than Moses; in chapter four, "better" and greater than Joshua; in chapters 5, 6, & 7, He is shown as the Great High Priest, "better" than the priesthood of Aaron; in chapter 8, He is as the One who "obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." In chapter 9, our Lord Jesus is shown to be greater than all the sacrifices, greater than the tabernacle and its ministry, and that He is the one great offering made for His people, the true Israel of God.
"But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: how much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God?" (Heb 9:11-14). We see then that Christ the Mediator of the New Covenant is "better" and far greater than all, and therefore He has a name which is above every name. Also His work is complete: "For by one offering he hath perfected forever them that are sanctified ... We are sanctified through the offering of the body of Christ once for all" (10: 10,14).
This shows us that in Christ Jesus, the true Israel of God, made up of believers, born again by His Spirit, need no future earthy altar, temple, sacrifice or throne because we are forever complete in Christ by His "once for all" salvation which He finished at Calvary.
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