Israel’s was God’s Kingdom in the beginning. It was a Kingdom built upon the marriage of God and man, which, if it had been successful, would have produced the sons of God. Moses was the minister officiating at the wedding at the foot of Mount Sinai.
We know, however, that this first Kingdom did not survive, nor did the marriage survive. Yet at the end of that era, the Son of God was born of a woman who in turn had been born under the law (Gal. 4:4).
The first Kingdom wedding was performed under the conditions of the Old Covenant, where the Bride (Israel) vowed obedience in order to receive God’s blessing (Exodus 19:8). The Bride’s good intentions were not sufficient to make the marriage succeed, for anything based on the will and works of man will always fail in the end.
Only a New Covenant can make a successful marriage that actually brings forth the sons of God. In both cases, God is the Father. The difference is the mother, and Paul uses the “allegory” of Hagar and Sarah to show the difference between the two covenants (Gal. 4:22-26). Hagar, the Old Covenant can only bring forth children of the flesh. Sarah, the New Covenant brings forth the sons of God who are heirs according to the promise.
We learn from this that the children of God alone have the New Covenant as their mother. Though Abraham may bring forth many children of the flesh, these are not the sons of God. Those who depend upon their genealogy back to Abraham will be disappointed in the end, for they, like Ishmael and his mother, will be “cast out” (Gal. 4:30).
The Great Divorce
God brought about a breach between Judah and Israel after the death of Solomon. It was a breach that only Christ could repair (Isaiah 58:12). Yet this breach was necessary in order for God to be able to divorce Israel and not Judah (Jer. 3:8). The Israelites were divorced and sent out of God’s house to Assyria, according to the laws of divorce in Deut. 24:1-4. Judah was not divorced. If God had divorced Judah, then the Son of God could not have come through Judah, for He then would have been an illegitimate child, born out of wedlock.
Though God considered Judah’s offense to be greater than that of Israel (Jer. 3:11), Judah’s calling to bring forth the King-Messiah prevented God from divorcing her. Instead, He merely sent her away to Babylon for 70 years, and then allowed her to return. That way Jesus could be born in Bethlehem (Micah 5:2) more than 5 centuries later.
Yet Judah alone was not the New Covenant Bride. In fact, Judah as a whole opted to remain under the Old Covenant and even killed the Mediator of the New Covenant. In 70 A.D., Judah too was sent out of the house into captivity to foreign nations, much as He had done to the Israelites 700 years earlier. This suggests that God divorced Judah as well, leaving only a few disciples to carry on the name of Judah.
These disciples (believers in Christ) were the ones that Paul defined as being Judeans (or Judahites) in Rom. 2:28, 29. Those having physical circumcision (the sign of the Old Covenant) were no longer Jews (“Judeans”) as defined by God, while those with heart circumcision (the sign of the New Covenant) were allowed to carry this tribal name.
In essence, those Jews who remained under the Old Covenant had claimed Hagar as their mother and were mere children of the flesh. Their mother was from Mount Sinai in Arabia (Gal. 4:25), which was the inheritance of Ishmael.
Those who believed in Christ and adopted His New Covenant claimed a new mother (Sarah) and were then, like Isaac, the heirs of the promise (Gal. 4:28).
God Levels the Playing Field
The effect of Israel’s divorce was to put all flesh into the same category as single women. Hence, the people of Israel and Judah, being no longer married to God, lost their rights as God’s Bride. The Israelites in Assyria lost their name and were no longer called Israelites but Gamira. The Jews too lost the right to be called Judahites, as Paul makes clear in Rom. 2:28, 29.
The marital status of both Israel and Judah was no different from the rest of the nations who had never married God.
This leveled the playing field.
The relevant question, then, is how we may be included in the Sarah-Bride company. To return to a Hagar-Bride relationship is no longer an option, for God will never again be married to Hagar under an Old Covenant arrangement.
There is then only one way in which to be married to God, and this rule applies to everyone—all nations. God’s rule is that He will marry again only under a New Covenant. In other words, He will marry only a Sarah company.
Salvation requires having Abraham as one’s father and Sarah as one’s mother. One cannot claim physical descent from Abraham as proof of having a covenant relationship with God. Only those who followed Abraham’s example of faith can be called the children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7, 29).
Those who claim to be Israelites or Judahites (“Jews”), based upon their genealogy, imply that they are children of the flesh. They claim Hagar as their mother. These cannot inherit the Kingdom, because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God” (1 Cor. 15:50).
The Way of Salvation
Those who say that Jews are under an unconditional covenant with God through Abraham misunderstand the mind of God. Unbelievers are not in covenant with God. It still requires the faith of Abraham—New Covenant faith—to claim New Covenant status. One cannot make such a claim while rejecting the Mediator of the New Covenant.
Peter testified in Acts 4:12,
12 There is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.
The unconditional nature of the New Covenant is derived from the fact that it is God’s promise to man, not man’s promise to God. When Jesus died on the cross, He secured “eternal security” and salvation for the whole world. But no one will be saved apart from faith in Christ.
Christ’s work on the cross was to fulfill God’s promise, not only to Israel and Judah but to the whole world. His death and resurrection secured the FACT of universal salvation; but the TIMING of our salvation depends upon our response to what He did.
Some will be saved in their lifetime on earth; most will be saved at the Great White Throne judgment, where every knee will bow and every tongue will confess (profess) Christ to the glory of God the Father (Phil. 2:10, 11).
Their profession of Christ, however, will not make them exempt from divine judgment, for they must experience the same baptism of fire that we (believers) experience through the feast of Pentecost. This baptism is a purifying fire, for it burns “chaff” (Matt. 3:11), which is the flesh. God’s fire is designed to bring us to spiritual maturity. Just because one has been justified by faith (Passover) does not exempt anyone from growing spiritually and learning obedience through the fire of Pentecost.
Those who become new believers at the Great White Throne will need time to grow to spiritual maturity and to learn obedience under those who reign with Christ in that final age of judgment. It is not enough to be justified by faith. One must go beyond Passover into the baptism of fire (Pentecost) to qualify for Tabernacles (full salvation).
These principles are universal. Israelites are not exempt. Jews are not exempt. The playing field has been leveled. Faith is the only currency of heaven. Only by following Abraham’s example of New Covenant faith will anyone become Abraham’s seed that is acceptable to God.
The Word of Comfort
In the ninth year of King Hoshea of Israel, the Assyrians captured Samaria and took the surviving Israelites to Assyria. 2 Kings 18:11 says,
11 Then the king of Assyria carried Israel away into exile to Assyria, and put them in Halah and on the Habor, the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes.
Eight years later, the Assyrian king “came up against all the fortified cities of Judah and seized them” (2 Kings 18:13). The Assyrian chronicles tells us specifically that 46 walled cities of Judah were taken, along with many unwalled towns and villages. King Sennacherib’s monument says that more than 200,000 captives of Judah were relocated to Assyria.
The only ones left of the nation of Judah were those who managed to crowd into the walled city of Jerusalem. The Assyrians failed to take Jerusalem, leaving a small remnant of Judah. The rest of the nation was exiled to Assyria, where they—like the other tribes of Israel—eventually forgot their origins and were called by other names.
The Judahites who survived the Assyrian assault included Isaiah the prophet. Judah remained in the land for another century until their grandchildren were taken as captives to Babylon by King Nebuchadnezzar.
Isaiah lived in the time of the Assyrian captivity of Israel. He had escaped to Jerusalem, of course, so he was not exiled to Assyria. He also gave hope to Israel in the second half of his book, speaking “comfort” to them (Isaiah 40:1). This implied that the Comforter would come to them and work to regather them into a New Covenant Kingdom.
Gathering Others Besides Israelites
Isaiah 40-66 prophesies of that coming Kingdom. It was not to be an Old Covenant Kingdom as beforetime, nor was he even speaking of a Jewish nation. The regathering of Israel was to include foreigners, as we read in Isaiah 56:7, 8,
7 … For My house will be called a house of prayer for all the peoples. 8 The Lord God, who gathers the dispersed of Israel, declares, “Yet others I will gather to them, to those already gathered.”
Hence, Isaiah is known today as the Prophet of Universal Salvation. (See my commentary on Isaiah.)
Isaiah made it clear that foreigners were to be included in this reconstituted Kingdom. This is clarified in the New Testament, where God ordained the Apostle Paul to fight for the rights of non-Jews. This is a major theme of the book of Acts—which was written by Luke, a Greek doctor, who was Paul’s companion in his journeys.
There were to be no second-class citizens in God’s Kingdom. In those days the Jews had erected a dividing wall in the outer court of the temple. It served to keep women and foreign converts from approaching God. It gave only Jewish men the right to draw near to God.
Paul opposed that dividing wall in Eph. 2:12-14, saying,
12 Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He Himself is our peace, who made both groups into one and broke down the barrier of the dividing wall [in the temple].
It was not Paul but Christ who broke down the wall that had previously excluded non-Jews from approaching God. And those who had formerly been excluded from the commonwealth of Israel can now become full citizens of Israel. Eph. 2:18, 19 continues,
18 for Through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household.
Foreigners have always had the lawful right to join the commonwealth of Israel. There were many Egyptians and other foreigners who left Egypt with the Israelites and were soon integrated among the tribes (Exodus 12:38). The law itself commanded equal citizenship rights for all. Num. 15:16 says,
15 As for the assembly, there shall be one statute for you and for the alien who sojourns with you, a perpetual statute throughout your generations; as you are, so shall the alien be before the Lord.
The problem came later, when the rabbis interpreted the law as applying exclusively to genealogical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Such traditions of men caused them to build a dividing wall in the outer court of the temple, a wall which Jesus tore down as an unlawful fixture.
The Long Captivity
The captivity of Israel properly began with the fall of Samaria in 721 B.C. The law of tribulation specified that the captivity would be “seven times” in length (Lev. 26:18). Daniel clarified this time slightly (Dan. 7:25) by making it an undefined length of time. John later showed that a “time” was 360 days/years and 3½ times was 42 months (Rev. 13:5). A full “seven times” was thus 2,520 years (7 x 360).
The Israelites never returned to the old land, for God had built a hedge and a wall to ensure that they would not find their way back (Hos. 2:6). The law of divorce also prevented their return (Deut. 24:3, 4), for it was unlawful for a man to reclaim his divorced wife and bring her back to his house.
So when the Assyrian empire fell, the captive Israelites (Ghomri, or Gimirra) were free to emigrate from the land of Gamir where they had been living. In the third century A.D. the New Persian Empire rose up and pushed these Israelites into the mountains of Armenia. The mountainous terrain could not support such numbers, so huge waves of Israelites immigrated north and west across the Caucasus Mountains into Europe.
Historians later called them Caucasians on account of their immigration through the Caucasus Mountains. But each new wave of Israelites were called by specific names derived from their Assyrian name. The Assyrians had called Israel the house of Omri, which was pronounced Ghomri.
Gomri was also Gomer, the prophetic name for Israel in the prophecy of Hosea. This was how God stripped Israel of its married name, replacing it with other names. Gomer was her primary name as a divorced woman.
After the fall of Assyria, the Babylonian Empire rose to power, followed later by the Persian Empire. When King Darius the Great of Persia died in 486 B.C., he was buried in a tomb on the side of a mountain called Behistun.
The inscription lists in 3 languages all the nations that Persia ruled at the time. In one language the list includes Matu Gimiri (“land of Gamiri”). Its Persian language equivalent is Saka, and the Susian language column reads Sakka.
The Roman historians later called them Saxons. These were the ex-Israelites of the dispersion, prophetically called Gomer after the harlot wife of the prophet Hosea.
(This Gomer should be distinguished from the man by that name in Gen. 10:3. His descendants were of an entirely different family that has prophecies of its own to fulfill.)
The Returning Remnant
The prophets speak of the returning remnant at the end of the long captivity of Israel. This is especially the theme of Isaiah, whose two sons were named prophetically. His oldest son was named Shear-jashub, “The Remnant Will Return” (Isaiah 6:3). This is explained in Isaiah 10:21, 22,
21 A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God. 22 For though your people O Israel, may be like the sand of the sea, only a remnant within them will return…
In other words, though the promise was to multiply them as the sand of the sea, only a remnant would actually “return” to God in genuine repentance. This is not speaking of a physical return to the old land but of a return to God.
Paul expounds on this in Rom. 11, where he asks if the casting off of Israel means that promise of God has failed. He goes on to explain that the promise of God applies to the remnant, not to the whole nation of Israel. That remnant numbered just 7,000 men in the time of Elijah (Rom. 11:4).
This remnant of grace, Paul says, is the small group who are chosen by God from among the idolaters in Israel. Grace is a sovereign act of God, where He reveals His word to the few who are called to bless the many. Rom. 11:7 concludes,
7 What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened [or “blinded” KJV].
The Israelites as a whole were blinded and therefore not “chosen” by God to receive the revelation of truth. Hence, only the remnant were actually “chosen,” and these were the only ones who would return to God (in the present age). It is inaccurate, then, to say that “the Jews are God’s chosen people,” or even to say that the Israelites are chosen on the basis of their genealogy. What distinguished the remnant was their faith, not their genealogy.
The Chosen are Israelites
The faithful remnant in Elijah’s day consisted of 7,000 Israelites. But the returning remnant in Isaiah’s prophecy includes “others” (Isaiah 56:8), that is, foreigners who would also return to God by faith in Jesus Christ. In this way, God’s house could become a house of prayer for all.
Because these foreigners are no longer outside of the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:12, 19), but are fellow-citizens, it is clear that the term Israel has to do with national citizenship. It is not to be viewed as a racial term but as a nationality, so to speak, that includes people “from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9).
Jacob was not born an Israelite. His genetics did not change when he received the name Israel. In the end, all must become fellow citizens of Israel, and they must do so by following Jacob’s example.