[continued from previous post, "The Demise of Bible Prophecy"]
Many point to Luke 21:23,24 as proof that Israel will indeed play a role at the end of time, citing the text as having a future literal fulfilment. To do so however, I believe is to grossly strip the passage of its context. The chapter, Luke 21 (and the sister text in Matthew 24), begins with Jesus prophesying the destruction of Jerusalem.
Matthew 24, as well as Mark 13 adds a few details that Luke does not, and so it is important we note those texts also. In Mark 13, we find that it was Peter, James, John and Andrew who, after hearing Him speak earlier, made their questions known to Him in private. To the Jew, Jerusalem was the city of God. They were expecting an earthly king sent by God, to throw off the yoke of their Roman oppressors and usher in an eternal age of prosperity, sovereignty and unrequited Divine favour. Their view of Jerusalem was that it was the diadem of humanity, and so the idea of Jerusalem being destroyed would have been indicative of a much larger global destruction in the mindset they had. Thus, instead of responding to Jesus’ assertion that the temple would be destroyed, they inquired about the signs leading to the destruction of the world (Matt. 24:3).
What Jesus then does next, I find interesting. First He warns against deception (Matt. 24:4,5; Luke 21:8), then He answers their question about the world’s destruction (Matt. 24:6-14; Luke 21:10-19). Jesus then reverts to His original assertion, and describes the “literal” destruction of Jerusalem (Like 21:20-24; Matt. 24:15-28).
Now students of history will know that Jerusalem was indeed destroyed in the lifetime of those hearing Christ’s words (Luke 21:32) in 70 A.D. by the Roman army. The city was besieged, sacked and the temple broken in pieces. Remarkably, as Christ had said would happen, every stone was uprooted by the soldiers in their search for gold which had melted and solidified in the cracks after it was set alight in the raid. Due to Jesus’ warning in this passage, the Christians residing in Jerusalem fled the city and did not suffer the subsequent atrocities to take place.
There is no doubt that the Jews have since scattered across all of Europe, and suffered various forms of persecution since; expulsion and exile from various countries and cities, confiscation of goods, and most recently, the holocaust.
History will show that the scenes described in Luke 21:23,24, has indeed already occurred in a very literal sense. Now I do believe that Bible prophecy has dual application (literal and spiritual fulfilments), and for that matter, we must understand that even the idea of what constitutes a ‘Jew’ does not escape this principle.
Names in the Bible are used not only to identify an individual, but to represent some fundamental element of their character. We see in the story of Jacob (Gen. 32:28,29), God changed his name to something more befitting of his new character. Israel. This was not the same lying, scheming individual who had run away from home many years earlier. Through his experiences and trials, Jacob was now a God fearing, and faithful man.
Thus, the name Israel was given to Jacob upon gaining the victory over his old self. His new name now represented His character which reflected Christ, and therefore served to identify him as a servant of God.
Paul picks up on this in Romans 2:17-29. He states that a real Jew is one who practices an inward religion, regardless of lineage. A real Jew is one whose character reflects Christ, evidenced by his life’s actions as one who keeps law of God. Jesus Himself challenged this idea, referring to the Jews of His day (see John 8:31-47) not as Israelites, but children of bondage, slaves to sin, and of their father the devil.
“For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.” Galatians 3:27-29.
Therefore, as Christians (individuals who believe in Christ’s saving grace), we are spiritual Jews, and Bible prophecy becomes applicable to the Christian church in a spiritual sense as it was to the Jewish church in a literal sense 2000 years ago. The nation of Israel rejected Christ and His messengers. They rejected cup of responsibility presented to them through the beautiful messages of redemption that God had sought to impart for over a millennia, and so we find the beginnings of the Christian church in the New Testament inheriting that responsibility.
In short, the nation of Israel plays no part whatsoever in end-time Bible prophecy, and any assertions to the contrary do not concur with the Biblical account and principles laid out for us. In this context, it is clear to see that while Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21 does indeed have an end-time prophetic fulfilment, it is not in reference to the literal nation of Israel, but in relation to the spiritual nation of Israel. The Christian church; more accurately, those who seek to worship Christ in spirit and in truth.
[continued in following post, "The Fulfilment of Time"]