May 24, 2004

May Long Weekend Sermon Threefer: From Abraham to the Millennium

[Since it was related to the ongoing series on Romans, I present last night's evening sermon. Again, as a non-Dispensationalist, I disclaim some of the pastor's particular conclusions, but for the sake of a fair and accurate synopsis present the full outline here without comment.]

From Abraham to the Millennium: Israel's Past, Present, and Future

Frederick the Great once asked his chaplain for the greatest evidence of the truth of Christianity. The answer was, "The Jews." They are a small, persecuted group that has alwasy managed to retain its identity throughout all these centuries. Their perseverence is evidence that there is a God in heaven and validity to the Bible.

This is a panoramic view of Jewish history as seen in the Bible. Since Christianity is Jewish, this is our spiritual history as well.

  1. Abraham to Moses

    2000 years before Christ, Abraham had an encounter with God. Promises were made to him, specifically that he would be given a land, that his descendants would become a great nation, and they would be a worldwide blessing. God confirmed these promises with a covenant (Genesis 15), which was made unilaterally by God himself.

    Compare Hebrews 11:8-9,11-13: Abraham and his descendants through to Joseph live in Canaan as strangers. Jacob and Joseph die in Egypt, but Joseph, who dies after a stellar career in the civil service, requests that his remains be returned to Canaan to be buried. The patriarchs believed God's promises, though they didn't live to see them carried out.

    Then a pharaoh arose who "knew not Joseph." He saw the Israelites as an asset rather than a nation.

  2. Moses to David

    C. 1400 B.C., God raised up a leader, Moses, to deliver the children of Israel from slavery. It is at this time that Israel is galvanized as a nation. God gives them the Law at Mt. Sinai, but because of their disobedience, what should have been a short trip into the Promised Land becomes a 40-year waste in the wilderness.

    Moses dies and is succeeded by Joshua, who conquers the land of Canaan and divides it according to the 12 tribes - who, at this time, are still a loose confederation more than a cohesive nation. They are ruled by a series of "judges" and for the next few centuries, Israel experiences cycles of disobedience, followed by distress from neighbouring enemies, followed by deliverance. The people clamour for a king.

  3. David to Jesus

    In approximately 1000 B.C., Israel is ruled by a succession of three kings: Saul, David, and Solomon. David is the high water mark of the Israelite monarchy; though often a moral failure, he is nonetheless a "man after God's own heart." God makes a covenant with David that one of his descendants will perpetually be on the throne.

    Following the rule of Solomon is a civil war, the division of Israel into northern and southern kingdoms, and a downward spiral of evil kings. In 722 B.C., God permits the Assyrians to conquer the northern kingdom of Israel. In 586 B.C., the southern kingdom of Judah follows suit when the Babylonians take over. The land remains depopulated and desolate until about 500, at which time some Jews begin returning. But it isn't the same as it used to be, nor does it appear to be what God had promised to Abraham.

  4. Jesus to the Present

    When Jesus appeared on the scene in the early first century, the people held high hopes that he was the Messiah who would overthrow Roman rule. Then they realized that political power wasn't what he was all about. They had him crucified, calling judgment upon themselves for the act. The consequence: in AD 70, Rome overran Jerusalem and crushed it. It ceased to be the centre of the Jewish religion, and the Jews were scattered across the world for centuries, hunted and haunted for the remainder of their history.

    Then in 1948, the modern state of Israel was created in Palestine. Surrounded on all sides by enemies that desire to push the Israelis into the sea, it is a miracle that the nation has survived. This is proof that God is not finished yet with the Israelites.

  5. Daniel's 70th Week

    During the exile, the prophet Daniel had a vision of the future of Israel in 70 "weeks," or sevens, or years. The 70th "week" is apparently yet future, a time during which someone will draft an apparently workable covenant of peace between Israel and its enemies. But this covenant will be broken in 3 1/2 years by the Antichrist, and it will be followed by another 3 1/2 years of tribulation that will be difficult not only for Israel, but the rest of the world.

    Zechariah 13:8ff describes a time at which 2/3 of the living Jews are to be slaughtered; the remaining third call upon God in repentance. This is the point where "all Israel shall be saved" and the New Covenant is fulfilled.

  6. Millennium

    At Jesus' return, he rules the world from Jerusalem for 1000 years (Rev. 20). It is during this time that the blessings promised to Abraham - land, a great nation, worldwide blessing - are finally realized. God will have kept his promises.

Two "takeaway" applications from all this:

  • It is a great privilege to be in on the blessings promised to Abraham (Gal 3:14,26-29).
  • God is in control of history. He was in control back then, and he remains in control until the end of time.