34 Probation Closed for Israel as a Nation
by Hubert F. Sturges, www.everlastingcovenant.com, December 2013
When Pilate saw that
he could prevail nothing, but that rather a tumult was made, he took
water, and washed his hands before the multitude, saying, I am innocent
of the blood of this just person: see ye to it. Then answered all the
people, and said, His blood be on us, and on our children. Matthew
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit originated the
everlasting covenant of God before the creation of this world. The
covenant existed in the mind of God from times eternal. God announced
the covenant to Adam and Eve after they sinned. From the beginning of
history, the covenant has formed the basis for God’s interaction with
human beings and His promises to them.
Jesus Christ confirmed the
covenant on the cross that people might receive eternal life by faith.
It reaches its completion with the close of probation and a series of
climactic events. These will conclude with an end-time judgment and the
descent of the New Jerusalem to the new earth, cleansed of the last
vestiges of sin.
Throughout history, a crucial issue has always
been whether human beings would consent to the work of grace in their
whether they would accept the gift of the new covenant law
written in their heart. When people receive God’s pardon and salvation,
God has His angel write their names in the Lamb’s book of life. There is
no further probation after a person dies. Just before Jesus returns,
probation will close for all living human beings, whether righteous or
rebellious.The Chosen People
One can see the “remnant” of
God’s chosen people from the beginning of human history. From the time
that Cain killed Abel, the distinction between the people of God and the
people of the world has been manifest. The people of God came through
the lineage of Seth and Noah. As the population sank into apostasy after
the flood, God found Abram, a man whom He could bless because He saw him
as a man who would “command his children and his household after him”
(Gen. 18:19). Abram obeyed God in faith, influencing his descendants for
God called Abram to leave Ur and go to Canaan.
Genesis describes his departure from Ur to Haran with his father Terah,
his nephew Lot (son of Haran who had died in Ur), and his wife Sarai
(Gen. 11:31). They remained in Haran until Terah died. Then Abram and
his company continued on to Canaan. God presented His covenant-the
everlasting covenant-to Abraham seven times. That covenant promised
redemption from sin, eternal life, and restoration of all that was lost
at Eden. It is through the covenant that people’s lives are changed and
that they are made fit for eternity. Additionally, God promised Abraham
the land of Canaan, a multitude of descendants, and His personal
presence with Abraham and with his descendants in perpetuity (Gen.
17:7). His descendents included Isaac, Jacob, Moses (Exod. 3:16, 17),
and the nation of Israel. When God gave the covenant at Sinai, He
promised to make of Israel a “peculiar treasure, “| a kingdom of
priests, and an holy nation” (Exod. 19:5, 6).1
That the nation of
Israel became God’s chosen or covenant people has been a focal point in
Jewish thinking for centuries. The Bible emphasizes this concept
frequently-in positive terms when the people are obedient and in
negative terms when they are disobedient.2
Talents and Blessings
Because of His plan for Israel as a nation,
God gave them unique gifts. One of these was that He entrusted them with
the “oracles of God” (Rom. 3:2; Heb. 5:12). His making Israel a “kingdom
of priests” was a mandate to represent God to other people and to
evangelize the world (Exod. 19:6; Ps. 102:15; Isa. 43:10-12; Ezek.
36:23). Israel was to represent to the world God’s excellence in every
aspect of life (Deut. 28:13). This explains why Jesus would say, -|
salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22). The Jews were not the originators
or source of salvation; they were merely the conduit through whom the
knowledge of salvation would flow.
God gave the covenant in terms
of enduring promises. The will and purposes of God cannot be broken, but
they can be modified and delayed by people’s decisions. To emphasize
this point, God called forth from Mt. Gerizim the blessings they would
receive if they obeyed and kept the covenant, and He called forth from
Mt. Ebal the curses they would receive if they should rebel or fall into
The covenants that God gave to Phinehas (Num.
25:7-13), David (2 Sam. 23:1), and Solomon
(2 Sam. 7:11-16; 1 Kings
9:4-7; 11:11), He announced in positive terms. God also promised them
blessings or curses, dependent on their obedience to His will. These
conditions played out in subsequent history when repeated apostasy
resulted in Israel’s and then Judah’s captivity.Jesus’ Rejection
When Jesus came to this earth, He came on time and to the right
place (Gal. 4:4; Matt. 2:5). At the very time prophesied (Dan. 9:25-27),
John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the Jordan. As Jesus came up out of
the water, His heavenly Father acclaimed Him “My beloved Son, in whom I
am well pleased” (Matt. 3:17), and the Holy Spirit descended upon Him as
a dove, anointing Him as the Messiah (Acts 10:38).
ministry, the Jewish leaders asked Him for a sign. Jesus told them to
look at His works of healing and His casting out of devils. Despite this
miraculous evidence of who He was, they refused to believe Him. Many
witnessed or heard how that Jesus raised Lazarus from the dead after
Lazarus had been in the grave four days. Yet, despite this public
display of miraculous power, the Jewish leaders still refused to believe
and actively sought Jesus’ arrest and execution.
The time came
when Jesus entered Jerusalem in triumph. As He looked over the city,
knowing that Jerusalem would be destroyed, He wept and declared:
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. (Luke 19:43, 44)
Jesus warned the Jewish leaders about the results of what they were
doing. He told them a parable about a householder who planted a vineyard
and rented it out to husbandmen. When the householder sent servants to
collect the rent, the husbandmen beat up and killed the servants and
eventually even killed the owner’s son. When Jesus asked His hearers
what the householder would do to these husbandmen, they responded,
will miserably destroy those wicked men, and will let out his vineyard
unto other husbandmen, which shall render him the fruits in their
seasons.” Jesus answered, “The kingdom of God shall be taken from you,
and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof” (Matt. 21:41,
Jesus exposed the hypocrisy of the Pharisees and pronounced
woes upon them. With tears, He addressed the city,
Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are
sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together,
even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!
Behold, your house is left unto you desolate” (Matt. 23:37, 38).
Jesus, in unequivocal language, warned the Jewish leaders that they
would be rejected. Nonetheless, the early Christian church was largely
Jewish. It was Jews who believed on Jesus by the thousands and strongly
supported the church.
These were the “remnant of Israel” of that day. On
the other hand, the chosen leaders of Israel, as well as the Jews who
rejected Jesus, opposed Jesus and His followers at every turn. An
understanding of these two classes is essential in order to avoid making
false interpretations in theology.Replacement Theology and
Israel’s Close of Probation
Replacement theology refers to a
close of probation for the Jewish nation. The term covers a number of
different views that range from outright anti-Semitism from non-Jews to
the bitter opposition of non-believing Jews. Between these extremes are
moderate views in which well-meaning, Bible believing people attempt to
understand the truth as revealed in the Bible. Here is a general
definition of Replacement theology:
Replacement theology is the
teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel
regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God. Therefore, many of the
promises that God made to Israel must be spiritualized. For example,
when it speaks of Israel being restored to the land, this really means
that the Christian church will be blessed. Also, covenants made with
Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church so, for example,
The Jewish people are no longer God’s chosen people. Instead, the
Christian church now makes up God’s chosen people.
2. In the New
Testament after Pentecost, the term “Israel” refers to the church.
3. Anticipating Jesus sacrifice by faith is replaced by
looking back by faith to the Cross.
circumcision is replaced by a circumcision of the heart (Rom. 2:29).4
It is difficult to see
replacement theology as a theology at all, for it is a reaction to the
persistent actions and attitudes of the Jewish leaders. Whereas the
core of the new Christian church, the remnant, were believing sons and
daughters of Israel. The work of God has always been to support and
encourage His true believing remnant. In the history of Israel, it was
always the faithful remnant who worshiped God in truth.
the remnant when the Jews brought Jesus to trial and conviction? Most of
the disciples had fled and were in hiding. Yet, John and several of the
women, including Jesus’ mother, stayed by the cross, sorrowing. Simon of
Cyrene was drafted by the Romans to carry Jesus’ cross, though he would
not become a believer until after the event. Nicodemus and Joseph of
Arimathea, at some personal risk, petitioned Pilate for the body of
Jesus, to give Him a decent burial. Many of the common people, who were
friends of Jesus, were at the Temple, looking for Him and asking
embarrassing questions. Thus, the remnant were scattered and perplexed
on that preparation day, but relief would come on “the third day”!
Fifty days after the Passover, on Pentecost, the Holy Spirit filled
the praying disciples with power to witness, and the church grew
explosively. The early church quickly
reached an estimated 20,000
believers, yet they were still a small, persecuted remnant in Jerusalem.
Who, now, were the true Israel? Who were the people specially loved and
cared for by God? They were the disciples of Jesus and the new converts.
These were the true Israel of God.Who are True “Jews” Today?
Paul’s statements in Romans 2 help answer the question of who is a
true Jew: “For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that
circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: but he is a Jew, which is
one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and
not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God” (Rom. 2:28,
The Jewish leaders, as representatives of the nation, had
rejected their Messiah. Time would show that the unthinking, unbelieving
majority of the people supported these leaders. Their 490-year probation
would end, and the covenant would pass to a believing remnant.
Remarkably, the believing remnant were, at first, all Jews! In replacing
literal Israel, the covenant did not pass over to the Gentiles, but to
believing Jews! Read carefully Romans chapters 9 to 11. Paul speaks of
“a remnant according to the election of grace,” declaring that “the
election hath obtained” what Israel looked for--salvation (Rom. 11:5, 7).
It is true that the unbelief of the nation broke Jewish branches off the
olive tree, allowing for the “wild branches” of the Gentiles to be
grafted into the trunk (Rom. 11:17). Yet, the trunk of the tree is still
Israel--the chosen covenant people of God.
Paul’s statement in
Galatians makes the point clearer, “Know ye therefore that they which
are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.”If ye be Christ’s,
then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal.
3:7, 29). People of all nations, who believe in Christ, are now under
the covenant of Abraham!
Jesus came to break down all the walls of
separation. Christ’s church, based on the true message of God to Israel,
is Christ’s bride. Christ welcomes into the church all races, including
the Jews. Yet, God still has a special regard for the people whom He
first called (Rom. 11:25).The Chosen Nation Rejected
gave Israel 490 years after the restoration from captivity to fulfill
their divine purpose (Dan. 9:24). During this time, they were to put
away sin and prepare to receive their Messiah. The Jews had learned to
avoid worship of images, but their concept of the covenant was not much
better than idolatry. They forgot their Messiah and looked to the
keeping of the law, the performance of rituals and sacrifices, and their
relation to Abraham as the basis for their assurance of salvation.
Throughout Jesus’ mission to planet earth, He was met with
opposition at every step. It began when the leaders in Jerusalem ignored
the news of His birth. During His popular ministry, spies followed Him
constantly, seeking to find something for which they could indict Him.
The Sanhedrin, the ruling body of the nation rejected Him, put Him on
trial, and had Him crucified. Yet, Jesus rose again on the third day and
gave the church a commission to go into all the world and make
For three and a half years after His death and
resurrection, the disciples preached, healed, and taught in Jerusalem.
When one of these, Stephen, gained an audience
with the Sanhedrin and
presented the Christ of prophecy, they became enraged, dragged him out
of the city, and stoned him to death. This event marked the exact ending
point of the 490-year probation. The Jewish nation had finally and
irrevocably rejected their Messiah, who was their only hope.
Rise of the Remnant
God’s people have been separate from the
world ever since Eden. Very quickly, God’s people became a minority,
described as a “remnant.” Even within Israel and Judah, this was true.
What a tragedy! At Sinai, after Moses interrupted the heathen festival
at the base of the mountain, he asked, “Who is on the Lord’s side?”
Immediately all the sons of Levi stood by him, but they were just one
tribe out of twelve!
When twelve spies searched out the land,
only Caleb and Joshua urged the people to have faith in God and proceed
to take the land-only two out of the twelve-and the people almost stoned
them to death (Num. 14:10)! When Gideon called for volunteers from
Israel to fight the enemy, only 300 showed courage and determination to
drive out the Midianites. Each of these groups were the “remnant” in
Other examples could be listed. Sometimes the remnant
was just one person, as with Samson, David, and others. On Mt. Carmel,
Elijah discredited the prophets of Baal and then slew them all. When
Jezebel threatened him, he fled to Mt. Horeb, complaining that he was
the only one who still believed in the Lord. God responded that He had
7,000 who had not bowed the knee to Baal (1 Kings 19:8, 9, 18). Elijah
was not alone, but visible people of faith have a big influence.
The history of Judah is instructive. Under good kings, the people
rallied to true worship. When a good king was followed by a bad one,
there was almost universal apostasy into idolatry, showing where the
people’s true interest was. Yet, the story of Daniel and his three
companions reveals the existence of a small, believing remnant even in
those desperate times.
When Jesus came to this earth, there was a
believing remnant who quickly followed Him and believed in Him. These
formed the core of the Christian church after Jesus’ resurrection. Among
these were the shepherds, Simeon and Anna in the Temple, Zacharias and
his family, Jesus’ immediate family and relatives, the chosen twelve
disciples minus one, the pious women who supported Him, and at least 500
Revelation speaks of an end-time remnant church, which
will again be a small group compared to world population (Rev. 12:17).
God gave the Abrahamic covenant to Moses and to
Israel just before the exodus was to begin (Exod. 2:24; 3:6, 15, 16;
4:5, 30, 31; 6:3, 6-8), and then He affirmed it once they were free
The concept of a chosen people of God is found
in the following passages: God chose Abraham to be the father of the
covenant people (Gen. 17). God said: “And I will take you to me for a
people, and I will be to you a God” (Exod. 6:7). Balaam said: “The
people shall dwell alone, and shall not be reckoned among the nations”
(Num. 23:9). Moses said: “The LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a
special people unto himself “ (Deut. 7:6); “He chose their seed after
them [the fathers], even you above all people” (Deut. 10:15); “You are a
holy people to the Lord your God Out of all the people on the face of
the earth, the Lord has chosen you to be his treasured possession”
(Deut. 14:2, NIV). David said: “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto
himself, and Israel for his peculiar treasure” (Ps. 135:4).
The blessings for obedience are enumerated in Deuteronomy 7:1-26;
8:1-10; 11:10-15; and 28:1-14. The curses for apostasy are enumerated in
Deuteronomy 27:15-26; 28:15-68; and 29:18-29.4.
“What is replacement theology?” available at
http://carm.org/questions-replacement-theology, accessed 3/7/13.