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Rainbow Divider

Chapter 6

The Judgment of the Jewish Nation

So far in our discussion of the Jews I believe we have firmly established that it is the spiritual children of Abraham alone who are heirs of God’s promises. His children include God’s elect remnant from among both Jews and Gentiles, one people, united in Christ, being made ready in Him for a glorious and eternal future.

I’d like to turn the discussion now to the things that befell the Jewish nation in the 40 years or so that followed the earthly ministry of Christ and the glorious beginning of the church. This is not simply an historical or theological issue. There are very relevant implications for us today.

In the first place the spiritual eyes of many today are glued to Israel and the things happening in Palestine. What if this is a masterpiece of satanic misdirection designed to distract people from the things that really matter, the things that are truly relevant to God’s remnant in this hour?

Another strong reason for considering things that happened so long ago is that history is repeating itself in many ways. I have long believed that there are many parallels between what happened to the Jews and the things that are happening and will happen to the world as a whole today. The principles of sin and judgment still apply as they have throughout history.

The Harvest

As we pointed out earlier, the period beginning with the ministry of Christ was God’s harvest time for the Jews. Matt. 9:37-38, Luke 10:2, John 4:35. We also quoted from Matt. 3:12 — “Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

When a man plants wheat, his objective is not to see how much straw and chaff he can produce. He is after wheat. If you were to harvest an acre of wheat, plant and all, it would make a very impressive pile. However, the true yield of an acre of wheat is measured in bushels of wheat kernels. The rest of the plant serves only a temporary purpose.

Until the harvest, the kernels of wheat, the chaff and the straw all continue together, making an impressive sight. But at the harvest a separation takes place. The plants are cut down, beaten and shaken. Then the wheat is tossed into the air repeatedly to separate the chaff, which the wind carries away.

The status quo has to be seriously disturbed before the farmer has bushel baskets containing pure wheat! Is your spiritual world being disturbed? Fear not! God will not lose one kernel of wheat!

Until Christ came, the Jewish religious system prevailed and the nation was enveloped in gross spiritual darkness. The remnant, with the true faith of Abraham in their hearts, could do nothing but wait and hope in God’s promises through the prophets.

Until light came it would have been well nigh impossible to distinguish Abraham’s true seed from the false. They worshipped side by side in the synagogues; they observed the Jewish feasts; they offered the same sacrifices.

It was much like today as true believers are a dwindling minority scattered through the religious systems of men. Although large numbers profess to be followers of Christ — just as large numbers then professed to be followers of Moses — it would likely shock us if we knew the number of true sheep left in the world. I’m glad the Lord knows them that are His!

Peace on Earth?

It is widely believed that one of the purposes of Christ’s coming was to bring “peace on earth.” This belief contributes to the expectation of a millennial reign. It is the result of a misreading of Luke 2:14 where angels announced the birth of Christ to the shepherds. Every translation other than the King James clearly indicates that the peace was only for some, men with whom God was pleased.

There will never be peace for the world as a whole because, except for God’s own, there is no true peace in the heart. Isaiah 57:20-21 says, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt. There is no peace, saith my God, to the wicked.”

The peace the angels were talking about is the peace Paul spoke of when he said, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Romans 5:1.

Men may sing with great emotion, “Let there be peace on earth,” but this is a pleasant-sounding fantasy. In fact God warns of a time, “...when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.” I Thessalonians 5:3.

The only true peace available in this sin-cursed earth comes when men from their hearts bow to the Prince of Peace and truly by faith become one with Him and His kingdom. Such men alone have access to the very peace of God in their hearts though they may at times be in the midst of outward strife and turmoil.

Most men are at war with God in their hearts. This includes most professing Christians, who have embraced religion without actually coming to know Christ.

We need to consider once again the words of Christ himself on the subject of peace: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law. And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household. He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.” Matthew 10:34-37. Sober words.

Revival?

Today, the cry of many is for “revival,” either for one they believe is going on or for one they hope to see. Grandiose pictures are painted of God sweeping down, revitalizing churches and transforming the world. “Revival” has become almost a magical word — the answer to virtually everything that ails us.

I wonder why Jesus didn’t preach revival? Had you ever thought about that? Why didn’t he go around quoting II Chronicles 7:14, stirring up people to pray for revival? Perhaps he could have gone before the Sanhedrin and encouraged them to set up round-the-clock prayer chains.

Jesus preached repentance and the kingdom of God and warned of judgment to come. He had nothing but condemnation for the religious system that prevailed. He offered no hope for it.

Had many of today’s preachers been around in Jesus’ day they would have accused him of being negative, critical and divisive. They would have instructed Jesus to seek for common ground with the Pharisees, to invite them to sit in prominent places when he preached, to reach out to them by being positive and optimistic.

That wasn’t God’s message. Coming judgment was an inescapable fact. Revival was not the answer. In order to revive something it must have been “vived” to start with. Most revivalism is nothing more than an attempt to infuse God’s life into Babylon. Worse, much that is called God’s life is not His at all but is a counterfeit from the realm of darkness. Much that we are seeing in our day is little more than the devil “reviving” his own work.

Spiritual Authority

The scribes and Pharisees may have sat in Moses’ seat but they did not have the same spirit Moses had. There are only two realms from which spiritual authority can derive: God’s kingdom and the devil’s. When the Jews ceased to let God rule over them and set up their own religious system, they fell under the dominion of demons.

Their delusion was such that they could kill God’s prophets and believe that they were faithfully serving God. That is the curse of religion. It blinds and deludes its victims.

“Babylon” is a symbolic name for the world system. It is a system of government by men and devils. It is a substitute for the rightful rule of God and of His Son. Psalm 2.

The name comes from what happened when men tried to build the tower of Babel. Genesis 11:4 reveals the motive and spirit behind their effort: “And they said, Go to, let us build us a city and a tower, whose top may reach unto heaven: and let us make us a name, lest we be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.”

It is easy to see the spirit of pride, self-seeking and self-preservation that was manifest in their words and actions. God was not a part of their plans. He didn’t tell them to build a city and a tower. Their plans reflected a spirit of rebellious independence and self-exaltation.

God intervened by confusing their language so they couldn’t understand one another. As a result they were, in fact, scattered and divided. For this reason, the word “Babylon” also conveys the idea of confusion — an apt picture of religion, especially in our day.

The Real Inspiration

It is easy, in reading Genesis 11, to see only God and the people involved. Did the people conceive the tower of Babel on their own? Was this just a human project? No. The real inspiration for the city and the tower came from the unseen realm of darkness, Lucifer and the wicked spirits who followed him in his rebellion.

In Isaiah 14 we see prophetic words directed to “the king of Babylon” (verse 4). While the prophecy certainly involved the literal city and empire known as Babylon, God inspired the prophet to address the real power behind it, Lucifer. Verses 12-14 say, “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”

See the same kind of spirit as that exhibited at Babel. This is what people fail to realize. Whenever man tries to govern his own affairs the real power and inspiration behind his efforts is the devil and his legions. There is no middle ground: if God is not ruling, the devil is!

The devil is only too glad to allow men to think they are running things. It feeds man’s pride and allows the devil freedom to pull his strings and manipulate him like a puppet. Do not be deceived. There are only two kingdoms. If men are not truly serving Christ, they are serving the devil and his world system whether they realize it or not. They may be sincere, but sincerity is no defense.

Remember what Paul said in Colossians 1:13 about true believers: “Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son.” Salvation is not a matter of persuading people to leave “neutral” territory and join Christ. It involves the rescue of people born under Satan’s dominion. He is the god of this world (II Corinthians 4:4). When Adam and Eve rebelled against the commandment of God, they ceded their God-given dominion to Satan. The ruling systems of this world flow from the evil mind of Lucifer and are designed to shut God out and to keep man in a state of rebellion and blindness.

Thus “Babylon” is a symbol for the present world order. Its spirit and principles can be seen expressed in every form of human government from nations to small local organizations. Certainly this is true of religion.

Earlier we pointed out the insidious way in which demons invade and take control of religious movements. While they are careful to preserve the outward appearance, a power structure evolves that effectively shuts out Christ and his influence.

From Such Turn Away

A true work of God can be revived but once a religious system of any kind is established and religious spirits have seized control, neither revival nor reformation is the answer. The very power structure itself stands opposed to the rule of Christ. You have the situation described by Paul in II Timothy 3:5 where he refers to those “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof ....” Note that Paul didn’t tell Timothy to try and turn the situation around by preaching revival. He added, “... from such turn away.”

Once religious men acquire power and influence they do not willingly give it up. Some people naively suppose that the ills of their religious system can be cured from within. They see sincere men in power and believe that they can be reasoned with and the system reformed and revived.

What they don’t understand is that the real power behind any religious system is devils and you can’t reason with a devil. Church systems today are full of men who possess power and influence that are not the result of the gifts and callings of God. They plan and build impressive religious works — impressive to the eyes of men, but not to God who looks past the outward appearance.

Impressive religious “houses” have been built by unqualified builders on the wrong foundation, with the wrong blueprint and the wrong materials. Trying to revive and reform such a “house” is like saying, “Let’s remodel!” Remodeling is not the answer. “Except the Lord build the house, they labour in vain that build it ....” Psalms 127:1.

In Jesus’ lament over Jerusalem, he said, “Behold your house is left unto you desolate.” Matthew 23:38. Notice that Jesus called it, “your house.” It wasn’t his house; it was theirs and they weren’t about to let him mess it up.

Jesus saw clearly the true condition of those who occupied Moses’ seat and fancied themselves guardians of divine truth. Read for yourself what Jesus said about them in Matthew 23. He did not offer any hope for them or their religion. He foresaw only judgment.

Cumulative Judgment

In fact, Jesus set forth a principle of judgment in Matthew 23 that needs to be understood. I call it cumulative judgment. In verses 29-35 we read, “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! because ye build the tombs of the prophets, and garnish the sepulchres of the righteous, and say, If we had been in the days of our fathers, we would not have been partakers with them in the blood of the prophets. Wherefore ye be witnesses unto yourselves, that ye are the children of them which killed the prophets. Fill ye up then the measure of your fathers. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Wherefore, behold, I send unto you prophets, and wise men, and scribes: and some of them ye shall kill and crucify; and some of them shall ye scourge in your synagogues, and persecute them from city to city: That upon you may come all the righteous blood shed upon the earth from the blood of righteous Abel unto the blood of Zacharias son of Barachias, whom ye slew between the temple and the altar.”

Remember how earlier we pointed out the principle of sin gradually building until it reached a point where God poured out judgment? The religious fathers of those in that generation had been guilty of great offenses against God, including killing those that God had sent to them. What earlier generations had done was bad enough but what the present generation did was much worse.

It was as though each generation had received a “cup” that contained the evil deeds of all of the preceding generations. By embracing the spirit and religious traditions that had gone before they became custodians of the “cup.” Through continuing in those traditions they added their own evil deeds to the contents of the cup and handed it down to the succeeding generation. Thus did every generation become guilty of every sin that had gone before.

In Jesus’ day the cup was just about full and judgment lay close at hand. That generation was charged with the guilt of the murder of every righteous person going all the way back to Abel. Though they had cloaked themselves with robes of self-righteous religion their true spirit was that of their father, the devil (John 8:44), a liar and murderer from the beginning.

In fact, God specifically intervened to bring their condition to a conclusion. Conceivably, in an absence of light, they could have continued on in their blindness for some time, relatively unchallenged. But God had His own timetable and was determined to expose and judge their condition. To accomplish this He continued right down to their final end to send them “prophets and apostles” to bear witness to their wickedness and to stir them up to exercise it that they might be judged. Luke 11:49-51.

Is it any wonder that John the Baptist said to them, “O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?” Matthew 3:7. And Jesus said in Luke 21:23, “... there shall be great distress in the land and wrath upon this people.”

Save Yourselves

On the day of Pentecost, Peter warned the people, “Save yourselves from this untoward generation.” Acts 2:40. Other translators used words like “crooked,” “perverse,” and “wicked” generation. It was clearly a generation that was headed in the wrong direction, away from God, toward judgment. With the fresh anointing of Pentecost upon him, Peter preached separation, not revival.

People need to be saved from their sins, to be sure, yet Peter, in his first epistle, said, “Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” I Peter 1:18-19.

Saving people from their sins is easy compared with saving them from their religion. Why do you suppose Jesus said to the chief priests and elders, “... the publicans and harlots go into the kingdom of God before you”? Matthew 21:31.

Let’s take another look at Matthew 23:38. “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.” Another key word is “left.” It indicates an abandonment by God.

Up until this time, the nation as a whole had, for the sake of the small preserved remnant, enjoyed a measure of divine favor and protection. When they sinned, they were judged, but when they called on God, deliverance was available. An example was the Babylonian captivity which was God’s judgment on centuries of wickedness. Yet there was a restoration and a rebuilding of the temple and the city of Jerusalem.

But the judgment Jesus predicted was not like what had happened previously. The divine protection was being removed and the devil was going to
have a free rein. The whole nation was being turned over to the power of Satan. That is why Jesus wept.

There is a time to preach and pray and there is a time to leave.

I remind you again of the city of Bethsaida. In Mark 8:22-26 we find the account of a blind man being brought to Jesus for healing. Jesus first led him out of the town, had to pray for him twice, and then told him not to go back into the town or even to tell anyone who was going there! Each fact points to the spiritual state of that city. Despite its outward piety, in God’s eyes Bethsaida was more wicked than the ancient cities of Tyre and Sidon, cities God had judged. The city of Capernaum was ranked below Sodom! Matthew 11:20-24. Man looks on the outward appearance, but God looks on the heart. I Samuel 16:7.

The severest judgment will fall upon those who have had the greatest light. The greatest darkness lies in the hearts of those who have had light and turned away from it, choosing rather their own way. Remember, Jesus said, “Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you ....” John 12:35. A great factor in this present darkness is the rejection of light.

Hebrews 10:26-27 describes the consequences of deliberately rejecting the grace of God: “For if we sin wilfully after that we have received the knowledge of the truth, there remaineth no more sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful looking for of judgment and fiery indignation, which shall devour the adversaries.”

Judgment on the Jewish Nation

When the Jewish nation as a whole rejected God’s overture to them through His Son and through the church after Pentecost, they embarked on a rapid descent into total darkness. After instigating the murder of God’s own Son, they persecuted the church without mercy, killing Stephen and James and scattering the church. The saints left in Jerusalem were a beleaguered few living in poverty amidst enemies. Romans 15:25-26.

Some of the things that happened in Jerusalem are recorded in the Bible and others in the 4th century book by Eusebius entitled, “The History of the Church.” Eusebius gathered up the early church writings together with the writings of the Jewish historian, Josephus to paint a chilling portrait of a city and nation abandoned by God.

James, the brother of Jesus and author of the Book of James, became the leader of the Jerusalem church and was considered, even by most of the Jews, to be the most righteous man in Jerusalem. Yet, to still his witness, they threw him off a parapet of the temple and clubbed him to death in the temple courtyard. As James was being murdered, he was observed even by some of the Jews to be praying for his murderers.

In Luke 19:41-44 we find the account of Jesus’ words, precisely predicting the fate of Jerusalem: “And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! but now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation.”

About forty years later the Romans, tiring of the rebellious Jews, sent Titus and his legions to put an end to their rebellion. As the war progressed and Jews began to be slaughtered throughout the land some three million fled to the city of Jerusalem for safety. Jerusalem was a walled fortress that in fact became a walled prison as the Roman armies surrounded them. With great irony it was during the Passover feast that they fled to Jerusalem for refuge. Some 40 years previously it was during the Passover feast that Christ had been crucified.

There was no refuge in Jerusalem but only unspeakable horrors as the Roman siege continued for months and then years. Whereas God’s judgment on Sodom and Gomorrah had been fiery and quick, the judgment on Jerusalem was agonizingly slow. If you want to read the gory details, read from the writings of Josephus and Eusebius.

Perhaps the most famous incident concerned a young mother of noble birth who, as the terrible famine wore on, killed her infant son and roasted his flesh for food. There were armed gangs roving the city who would kill without mercy for the slightest morsel of food. When they, smelling the roasting meat, burst in on her, even they were taken aback at the horror of what she had done.

In the end, the city was destroyed and not one stone of the temple was left upon another as Jesus had foretold. Of those who survived the siege many were sent into exile and slavery and many others were sent to fight and perish in the Roman arenas.

Listen to the words of Paul in I Thessalonians 2:14-16: “For ye, brethren, became followers of the churches of God which in Judaea are in Christ Jesus: for ye also have suffered like things of your own countrymen, even as they have of the Jews: who both killed the Lord Jesus, and their own prophets, and have persecuted us; and they please not God, and are contrary to all men: forbidding us to speak to the Gentiles that they might be saved, to fill up their sins alway: for the wrath is come upon them to the uttermost.”

Do you wonder why I don’t get excited by events in the Middle East? God’s purpose for the rebellious Jewish nation was fulfilled in the coming of Christ and the launching of His Kingdom. The righteous seed was preserved and the inspired words of the prophets laid the foundation for the Kingdom, a Kingdom that was established almost two thousand years ago. Ephesians 2:19-22.

We should pause and point out that none of these truths can in any way be used as a basis for any form of hatred or prejudice against Jews. We need to ever remember the Spirit of Jesus who wept over Jerusalem, and that of Paul who expressed a willingness to go to hell in their place if that were possible. Romans 9:3. Jews should not see anything in true Christians but the love and compassion of Christ. Judgment is God’s business. And there still is a remnant among the Jews
who by the election of God are our brothers and sisters in Christ.

Escape!

There is one key fact in our account of the destruction of Jerusalem that we have not yet pointed out. Immediately prior to the war there was a church at Jerusalem. When judgment fell, they were not there! Why not? Eusebius tells us that they were specifically warned of God as the time drew near and every single Christian moved to the city of Pella and escaped. Wouldn’t it be a good thing to be in a place where you could hear God’s voice at such a time? Noah was. So was the Jerusalem church.

Suppose they had been like the churches of our day, divided into many denominations and sects, each walking in their own traditions, listening to ministers trained by man to uphold those traditions instead of their being called and taught by God? Would they have known what was going on? Tradition is tradition whether it is labeled Jewish or Christian.

So God saw to it that His sheep were separated from a people about to be judged. However, the real separation had taken place long before: it was a spiritual separation of heart and mind. It caused believers to be joined in fellowship with other believers under the leadership of Christ, they having left behind the vain traditions of their fathers.

Their faith was such that they were willing to endure whatever it cost to be a part of Christ’s kingdom. For many it meant leaving behind family and natural friends; some no doubt gave up position and prestige; they were willing to endure poverty and all manner of persecution and even to risk death for Christ.

Today we see literally thousands of religious systems that use Christ’s name to give them credibility, yet are just as deadly as the Jewish system that killed the Christ they profess. They give people the illusion of serving Christ while trapping them in Babylon. These are not good places for God’s sheep to be.

A Time of Proving

God uses times of great darkness to prove what is in people’s hearts. There is something in the heart of a sheep that can never truly agree on the inside with that darkness. I often think of a scripture found in the Book of Malachi. Malachi prophesied, as did so many others, in a time of great apostasy. Read for yourself his description of how God saw the people in general.

However, in Malachi 3:16-18, we see a different kind of people: “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another: and the Lord hearkened, and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name. And they shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels; and I will spare them, as a man spareth his own son that serveth him. Then shall ye return, and discern between the righteous and the wicked, between him that serveth God and him that serveth him not.”

As religious unbelievers gave vent to their unbelief (3:14) and believers sought out fellow believers and communicated with them, God was listening. The very darkness itself helped to make the difference manifest. God had a book of remembrance in which He made note of those “that feared the Lord, and that thought upon his name.” That would be a good book to be in! Let the people of the world seek to be in “Who’s Who” and be considered “somebody” by the world. It’s what God thinks that matters.

God saw the judgment that was coming and during the gathering darkness that came before He made note of those who would be spared. Malachi 4:1-3.

Jesus warned of a time when “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” Matthew 24:12. Does your faith depend on external conditions or does it come from within and motivate you to serve God regardless of conditions?

The Israelites who escaped Egypt were quite ready to dance and praise God after He brought them through the Red Sea. However, most of those same Israelites perished in unbelief as a result of the trials of the wilderness.

God is using this present darkness to help bring about a spiritual separation between His sheep and those headed for destruction. The need is not for the excitement of “revival” but for genuine faith in the heart that will cause men to stand fast when there is no excitement. True faith will anchor us when all others are swept away by the tide of the moment. True faith will cause us to stand in this present darkness even when it appears that the devil is winning. Faith rests its hope solely in the faithfulness of a Sovereign God.

Notice something else about the people of whom Malachi spoke. It doesn’t say that they prayed to God about the deteriorating spiritual conditions, although I’m sure they did. It says that they spoke often one to another. Relationships were established among believers who felt the need of fellowship and strength. Their communication was not random or occasional but was said to be “often.”

God never meant for His children to be spiritual islands in this world, disconnected from one another. His plan for us includes regular spiritual fellowship and mutual care with those of like mind and spirit.

The religious systems that bear Christ’s name today are headed down one road and God’s remnant are headed down another. The professing church is ripe for judgment and one by one the true sheep are waking up and realizing the dry and desolate place they are in.

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