The Coming Kingdom 028

Andy Woods

The Coming Kingdom

11-29-17          Ephesians 1:3           Lesson 28

Let’s take our Bibles if we could and open them to the Book of Ephesians, chapter 1 and verse 3.  Just looking at my calendar, we are meeting next week, the 6th, and that is the last Bible study of 2017, at least on Wednesday night here at the church.  And then the 13th is the gingerbread houses.  And then the 20th, on the 27th I don’t think there’s any Wednesday activities, and so then we’ll reconvene on January 3rd.   So we have tonight and then we have next week and those of you that may be visiting intermittently, which is good, I just want to let you know what we’re studying on Wednesday nights. We’re in the doctrine of the kingdom and what we’ve done in the study thus far, just to kind of summarize, is we’ve traced the doctrine of the kingdom all the way through the Old Testament and right up into the life of Christ.  And so what we saw is that the kingdom was offered to first century Israel on a silver platter and they could have had the king and the kingdom had they responded nationally the right way, but they did not.  They rejected their Messiah, as we know.

So the kingdom, at that point was postponed and because God does not leave the earth without a witness of Himself what He began to do, while the kingdom is absent, is He began to disclose in the New Testament an interim period of time where the kingdom is not present but God is still at work.  And I’m hoping we’re going to finish this interim period of time tonight and next week so when we get together on January 3rd I’ll tell you the rest of the story on how the kingdom comes to the earth.

But to understand this interim age you have to understand the Matthew 13 parables (which we’ve looked at) and you also have to understand something else that’s very significant, what God is doing in and through the church.  God is doing some wonderful things today in and through the church!  But the church should not be confused with the kingdom.  So to help us understand the church we’ve looked at, for the last several weeks, the definition of the church, the church consists of all people, all nations who have trusted in the Messiah, rejected by national Israel.  We’ve looked at the beginning of the church.  When did the church start?  Acts 2 and I gave you six reasons why that’s so.  Number 3, we’ve looked at the purposes of the church, why does the church exist?  And we saw three primary purposes.  And then number 4, we spent a lot of time on this, the church is not the kingdom.  I gave you about 13 reasons why the church is not the kingdom.

So we’re here on number 5 and here I’m trying to look at the idea that the church is not Israel.  And one of the most basic things you could ever learn in the Bible concerning how to interpret the Bible is to understand that Israel is NOT the church and the church is NOT Israel.  And there’s a lot of errors that go on today because people don’t distinguish God’s program for Israel and God’s program for the church.  And the reason we’re bringing this up is when we study all of the passages we’ve looked at the kingdom of God is going to come through who?  Israel!  So if the church is not Israel then the church can’t be the kingdom.  That’s why I’m bringing all of this up.

So what we’ve been looking at are twenty-four differences between Israel and the church.  There’s the first eight we looked at.  There’s the next eight we looked at, that takes us to number 16.  And we’ve looked at number 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, we just have three more left which we’re going to try to cover tonight.  Three more differences why Israel and the church are separate programs of God.

So the 21st difference has to do with the evangelistic strategy.  God, when He created Israel, wanted to bless the world through Israel.  So Israel, from its beginning, had an evangelistic calling.  And it’s the exact same way with the church.  God wants the church to spread the gospel all over the world.  So both Israel and the church had a missional calling, BUT a key difference is God gave each different strategies to reach the world.

Israel’s strategy was a come and see strategy; the church’s strategy is a go and proclaim strategy.  Let’s see if we can flush that out.  The nation of Israel begins in which chapter of the Bible?  Genesis 12; and Genesis 12:3 is Israel’s birthday.  God called the patriarch Abraham  and He began to give to Abraham  certain promises.  And God specifically said to Abraham, “in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”  [Genesis 12:3, “And I will bless those who bless you, And the one who curses you I will curse. And in you all the families of the earth will be blessed.”]

So God’s intention for Israel from the beginning was to pour out all these blessings on Israel and yet the blessings were not for Israel alone but they were for the whole world.  So God intended to use Israel as His vessel or His vehicle to bless planet earth and to spread the message of the good news about the Messiah.  And you see that, not just at the beginning of God’s dealings with Israel, Genesis 12:3, the prophet Isaiah all the way up until almost 1500 years later says the same thing.  Notice Isaiah 42:6, “God says, “I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, And I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, As a light to the” what? “to the nations,” so God always intended that the nations would see the light of Yahweh through Israel.  So that’s sort of a reaffirmation, if you will, of what God said to Abraham 1000, 1500 years or more earlier.

And then notice Isaiah 49:6, it says basically the same thing, He says, “It is too small a thing that You should be My Servant To raise up the tribes of Jacob” now Jacob is a synonym for Israel, “Is it too small a thing that You should be My Servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved ones of Israel; I will also make You a light” to the what? “of the nations, so that My salvation may reach” where, just the land of Israel?  No, “to the end of the earth.”  So Israel had a missional emphasis and a missional calling.

The church has a missional emphasis and a missional calling yet the strategy that God uses for the two different groups, Israel and the church is a different strategy, common goal, different strategy.  Israel’s strategy is a come and see strategy.  So God’s intention for Israel was to build a beautiful temple and the nations would flock to the temple and they would, in the process of flocking to the temple they would see in the temple the temple structure, the temple building, the temple arch­itecture.  They would see a knowledge of God.  And this is why when you study passages like           1 Chronicles 9:1-12, you learn that the Queen of Sheba, now the Queen of Sheba was 1,200 miles removed from the land of Israel.  The Queen of Sheba, before there was airplanes and helicopters    and luxury liners and things like that, cruise liners, you could how arduous such a journey would be for here, she traveled 1200 miles to go to Israel to sit at Solomon’s feet and learn of his wisdom.

So it wasn’t a strategy where the Jewish nation was to go out to the Queen of Sheba; the Queen of Sheba was to come to the land of Israel.  So it was really what we call a “come and see” strategy.  And in fact, when you go through the Old Testament and you study the prophets God never sent out a single prophet to a foreign land with the exception of which prophet?  Jonah, who was to go to preach to Nineveh and he didn’t really want to go.  Other than Jonah being sent out in that one circumstance the prophets never functioned that way; they always ministered in and around the land of Israel.  So you didn’t have in the land of Israel “mission Sunday” or “mission moment” where the missionary would come in and come back from their removed part of the world and give an update to the land of Israel concerning what their missionary activity is about because that wasn’t the strategy that God gave to the nation of Israel.  It was never a “go out” kind of strategy; it was a “come and see” strategy.

And when you understand this you start to understand why Jesus was so upset with the money-changers in the temple.  Jesus, not once but twice, drove out the money-changers out of the temple.  He did it at the beginning of His ministry and when you put all the chronological pieces of the life of Christ together you discover He did it at the end of His ministry.  You know the story, how he went in with a whip and he overturned the tables and it was like an act of almost… well, it was physical violence, I don’t know if He hurt anybody but He physically… and Mark particularly describes His emotions, He was angry at this because they had taken the temple, which was supposed to be a light to the nations, who were supposed to come and see what God was all about, they had turned it into just a money-making operation.  And so what are the nations supposed to conclude when they come and see this?  Well, God is a God of greed, all He cares about is money, and so when you understand the strategy evangelistically that God gave to the nation of Israel you begin to understand why Christ overturned the money changers in the temple, not once but twice.

And when the kingdom is going to be established one day, through which city?  The city of Jerusalem, that same strategy will be in effect during the kingdom also.  So notice Isaiah 2:1-4, it says: “The word which Isaiah the son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem.  [2] Now it will come about that in the last days the mountain of the house of the LORD will be established as the chief of the mountains,” and look at this it “will be raised above the hills;” so Jerusalem in the coming kingdom is going to be in a place of preeminence over the nations by the design of God.  And notice what it says, “And all the nations will stream to it.”  See that.  That’s the “come and see” strategy that was going on with Solomon and it’s what’s going to be happening in the thousand  year kingdom.  So you don’t have missionaries, you have people going to Israel.

Isaiah 2:3, “And many peoples will come and say, “Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that He may teach us concerning His ways and that we may walk in His paths.’  For the law will go forth from” where?  “Zion” which is a synonym for Jerusalem, “and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.”  And then it says, [4] And He will judge between the nations, and will render decisions for many peoples; and they will hammer their swords into plowshares and their spears into pruning hooks.  Nation will not lift up sword against nation, and never again will they learn war.”  Notice here in the kingdom you don’t have missionaries coming from the remote parts of the earth; you have the people all going to Jerusalem to learn of God.

The Book of Zechariah, chapter 14, verses 16-18, in the kingdom it talks again about this come and see strategy.  Zechariah 14:16-18 says, “And then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up” why is it called “up”?  Because Jerusalem is on a higher elevation, that’s why there’s a section in the Psalter, the Book of Psalms, 150 Psalms, there’s a section of them called the Psalms of Ascent.  Why are they called the Psalms of Ascent?  Because those were the psalms that were sung by the Jews when they went up to Jerusalem, a higher elevation, the celebrate various feasts.  So when you go to Jerusalem, and I say when, not if, because you’re going to get there one way or another, you’re either going to be there during the kingdom or you can go there early and get kind of the lay of the land; I recommend you do take a trip to Jerusalem.  If you’re on a good trip the bus driver will put that bus into high gear and you’ll start your ascent up to Jerusalem and the tour guides or the teachers will start making you aware of the Psalms of ascent and reading some of those psalms in the psalter.  It’s all a come and see, come and see strategy.  And this is how it is in the kingdom.

It says, “And then it will come about that any who are left of all the nations that went against Jerusalem will go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to celebrate the Feast of Booths.”  Now some people won’t want to go and that’s not a good thing, because verse 17 says, “And it will be that whichever of the families of the earth does not go up to Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, there will be no rain on them.”  So God deals with them immediately in judgment if they won’t follow the play book and go to Jerusalem to learn of God.

Verse 18, “If the family of Egypt does not go up or enter, then no rain will fall on them; it will be the plague with which the LORD smites the nations who do not go up to celebrate the Feast of Booths.”  So what am I getting at here?  I’m getting at the whole missionary mindset of Israel was a come and see strategy.  That’s how it was in the Old Testament, that explains the anger of Jesus in the temple structure and that’s how it’s going to be in the kingdom.  Israel always had that missionary calling but the strategy was come and see.

Now let’s compare that to the church, which started on the Day of Pentecost.  The church is also evangelistic; the church is also missional but the whole strategy for the church is completely different than Israel.  It’s a go and proclaim strategy.   See that?   And that’s why, remember we studied the Matthew 13 parables, that’s why there’s a great shock… see, if you’re a careful Bible student up to this point,  you read Matthew 13 where Jesus is disclosing new truths of the coming church age and He starts to say things that were completely foreign to what you find in the Old Testament.  He spoke many things to them in parables and said, ‘Behold the sower went” what? “out to sow.”  [Matthew 13:3]

Now to us in the 21st century that are used to missionary activity, we say so what?  But if you were an Old Testament Jew and all you knew was a come and see strategy this was completely radical.  I mean, Jesus radically changed the playbook right here.  So I’ve been quoting a lot from Arthur Pink and I like how he treats the Matthew 13 parables.  I don’t agree with everything Arthur Pink has said but I think he did a good job early in his ministry dealing with these Matthew 13 parables.  Remember when we were in the Matthew 13 parables I read you this citation from Arthur Pink.

Pink says, “The words ‘went forth to sow,’ or as Mark’s Gospel puts it ‘went out’ were indicative of the great dispensational change” now there’s the big scare world, “dispensational,” oooohhh, what does that mean, and it’s a big sounding scare word but it has a very easy definition; the word translated dispensation in, I think the King James Bible, from Ephesians 1:10 and Ephesians 3:2 is oikonomeo, which is a compound word, meaning two words making up a single word, oikos means house, and nomos means rules, or law.  So a dispensation is a system of house rules.  In other words, what happened in Matthew 13 is Jesus just changed the rules.  The rules used to be, under Israel, come and see to accomplish evangelism; then it became, with the parable of the sower, go and proclaim.  So there’s similarity in the sense that God always wants to reach the world but He’s given a completely different strategy to Israel than He’s given to us, the church.

So “The words ‘went forth to sow” or as Mark’s Gospel puts it ‘went out’ were indicative of the great dispensational change which was soon to be introduced.  There was no longer to be a planting of vines or fig-trees in Israel, but a going out of the mercy of God unto the Gentiles; therefore what we have here is the broadcast sowing of the Seed in the field at large, for as verse 38 tells us ‘the field is the world.’”  So now it’s go to the world; the world is not going to come to  you to see your beautiful temple; now you are the temple, your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, now  you go out.

And you see this in the great commission; right?  The great commission is Christ’s instructions to the church.  The end of the Gospels, whether it’s Matthew, Mark, Luke or John, has an accounting of the great commission, what the church is supposed to be doing in terms of evangelism and missionary work.  Matthew’s Gospel puts it this way:  [Matthew 28:18-20]  “And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.” Look at verse 19, what’s the first word, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations…. So the idea that they’re all going to come to Jerusalem in those days were over in the church age, now it’s “Go” and proclaim, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, [20]  teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

So the rules changed; that’s what Pink means by a dispensational change.  Mark’s rendition of the great commission is “Go into” where? “all the world and preach the gospel” to people that love the United States of America… NO, it doesn’t say that, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to” people that agree with you on everything?  No, it doesn’t say that either, does it?  “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.”  [Mark 16:15]   That’s the church’s function, world­wide evangelization.  That’s one of the reasons why we here at Sugar Land Bible Church, in terms of budget, I think we give 20% of our budget, if I’m not mistaken, to missionary work.  And that’s why missionaries that we support come to the church pretty frequently, and give reports on what it is they do because not all of us are called to be missionaries but all of us are called to at least financially support and pray for missionaries because that’s why God has us on the earth.

Acts 1:8, as Jesus is instructing His disciples, He says, “but you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria,” here’s Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria… I could put it this way, Jerusalem is a city, and putting this in 21at century terms, Judea and Samaria would be counties that that city is located in, so you notice how Jesus just expanded the reach there.  The strategy of come to Jerusalem and see the temple, those days are over for now; now you’ve got to get out in the surrounding counties.

And by the way, when He said Samaria that blew their minds because if you study in the Scripture the Jewish/Samaritan conflict you will discover two races of people that hated each other’s guts.  The Samaritans were a half-breed race that were put into the land of Israel by an Assyrian king after this Assyrian king kicked out the northern kingdom.  So to repopulate it he brought in this kind of Babylonian group and they intermarried with some Jews in the land and so they were a different race, a half breed race and they didn’t go to Jerusalem like they were supposed to.  They said we’re going to start our own religion on Mt. Gerizim.  Remember when Moses died, prior to entering into the land he was told about the two mountains, Ebal and Gerizim?  Ebal, where the curses of the Law would be read and Gerizim, where the blessings of the Law would be read.

So the Samaritans said we’re not going to Jerusalem, we’re going to start our own religious system on Mount Gerizim.  For over 700 years you have to understand that the Jews hated the Samaritans and the Samaritans hated the Jews, on racial grounds, on ethnic grounds and on religious grounds.  And that’s why in Luke 19, when Jesus goes into a Samaritan village that would not respond to His message the “sons of thunder,” James and John, John the love apostle, get this, he became known as the love apostles. What did they say? “Lord, shall we not call down fire from heaven and destroy these people?”  I mean, what’s the root of that… it’s I hate the Samaritans.

And this gives us hope, right, if God could change John into the love apostle from a racist He can change any of us.  Right?  Amen!  And this is why when Jesus is talking in John 4 to not just a woman but a what kind of woman?  A Samaritan woman what are His disciples saying?  What’s He talking to her for?  First of all, she’s the wrong gender.  Now the gender issue is not something that God… God does not hate women, the hatred of women is part of fallen culture.  See that?  Just like racism is not something God created; the racial issue is part of fallen culture.  So this is a woman who’s the wrong gender, the was immoral and beyond that she was the wrong race, and beyond that she was the wrong religion.

And when you study John 4 carefully what you discover is Jesus went out of His way to find where she was… the woman at the well.  So what is Jesus saying?  I’m transcending gender barriers created by man.  I’m transcending racial barriers created by man and religious barriers created by man because I have come into the world for everybody.  Right!  So when He says, “you shall be my witnesses, not just in Judea but in Samaria” that totally blew their minds.

And by the way, that’s the reason why the Holy Spirit was delayed in Acts 8, because some Samaritans got saved and the Holy Spirit didn’t come upon them right away.  What’s normative in the church age is you receive Christ and you receive the Spirit of God immediately.  So what happened in Acts 8 is the Jerusalem apostles had to travel to Samaria to lay hands on the Samaritans.  And Simon the Sorcerer saw this transfer of power and lusted after it.  Remember?  Acts chapter 8 he wanted this power for himself, he wanted to buy it.

But why did the Holy Spirit not come immediately on the Samaritans? It’s very simple; because of the 700 year hatred between the Jews and the Samaritans.  If the Holy Spirit had not been delayed in the age of the church you would have had two churches; you would have had a Samaritan church and a Jerusalem church.  But now that we’re in the age and we’re in the body of Christ, and there’s neither Jew nor Greek nor slave nor free, we all are one in Christ Jesus, the Samaritans had to understand, as the apostles from Jerusalem laid hands on them, that you belong to Jerusalem now.  And the folks at Jerusalem that hated the Samaritans had to understand through that process, through that transaction that they belong to Samaria.

We read over these words, “you’ll be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria” and we don’t really understand what we’re reading but that statement there is overcoming in a tense racial issue.  I think this is very significant because we’re living in a society that’s talking about race all the time now, racial reconciliation.  The fact of the matter, we’ve got the greatest book in the world on racial reconciliation and I think we need to get our perspective in there, that God is not the author of racial hatred at all.

So, “you’ll be my witnesses in Judea and Samaria and even to” where? “the remotest parts of the earth.”  He just changed the instruction that they all knew; it’s not a come and see strategy anymore; it’s a go and proclaim strategy.   So when we talk about the differences between Israel and the church, both are called to reach the world with the truth but Israel’s strategy was come and see, the church’s strategy is go and proclaim.

And that’s sort of important for us as a Bible church to recognize because a lot of people think that the sum total of spiritual is to come to a church like ours, Sugar Land Bible Church, and learn the Bible.  And we believe that that’s important but that’s not the end product.  The end product is to equip you so you can be a minister and a missionary in your work place, where you’re working with unbelievers. Or in your family, if you have unbelievers in your family.  So our goal here is not just to sit, soak and sour; we’re supposed to be equipped in the church to go and proclaim.  And what I’m discovering is a lot of the mega churches are confused on this because when you get into mega church literature and a mega church mentality they’re going back to the come and see strategy; we’ve got to build this beautiful edifice of some kind with this massive budget and we’ve got to have all of these attractions, almost like an amusement park situation.  Well, why are you doing that?  Well, they quote the movie, The Field of Dreams, right? “If we build it they will come.”

And you see, there is no New Testament authority for the idea that “If we build it they will come.”  That’s not the strategy God gave to the church.  I’m not against church buildings and budgets and things like that but we’ve got to understand that God gave us these things not to get all these unsaved people in here, although if an unsaved person comes here we are delighted and we share the gospel the primary focus of the New Testament church is an equipping model where the pastor-teacher equips the saints and the saints, in their spheres of influence then become minsters and missionaries.  In other words it’s not an “us four and no more” mindset.  And in Bible churches it’s easy to forget that because we think that the whole purpose of the Bible church is to come here and learn the Bible.  Well, that’s part of the process but that’s not the final product.  And it’s very easy to lose our missionary emphasis and calling.  So Israel “come and see,” church “go and proclaim.”

Let me give you another category.  That’s why I had you open up to Ephesians 1:3 and you might want to keep your finger in Ephesians 1:3 and go back to Deuteronomy 28 just for a minute.  Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, Deuteronomy 28.  Both Israel and the church are blessed but the blessings are different.  The blessings for Israel are primarily earthly material blessings.  And notice what Deuteronomy 28 says; notice how earthly these things are.

It says, “Now it shall be if you diligently,” speaking to Israel, “obey the LORD your God, being careful to do all His commandments which I command you today, the LORD, your God will set you high above all of the nations of the” what? “the earth.”  You’re going to have a place of preeminence, Israel, over the earthly nations.  “All these blessings will come upon you and overtake you if you obey the LORD your God:  [3] Blessed shall you be in the city,” that’s earthly, isn’t it, “and blessed shall you be in the country.  [4] Blessed shall be the offspring of your body and the produce of your ground and the offspring of your beasts, the increase of your herd and the young of your flock.  [5] “Blessed shall be your” see how earthly this is, and how economic this is, “Blessed shall be your basket and your kneading bowl. [6] Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out.  [7] The LORD shall cause your enemies who rise up against you to be defeated before you;” talking about earthly military victory here, “they will come out against you one way and will flee before you seven ways.”  And it talks about the barns and other things, the crops, and  you get the idea as you go through the Old Testament that Israel was blessed but it was always earthly, earthly, earthly, earthly, material, material, material, material.

Now let’s look at Ephesians 1:3, how has God blessed the church?  In a completely different way.  Ephesians 1:3 in the New Testament to the church says, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every” what’s the next word, “spiritual blessing” look at that, in the earthly places… it doesn’t say that does it, “in the heavenly places in Christ.”  So there’s some important words here.  Number 1, “blessed” is in the past tense, in other words, it’s already happened to you the moment you trusted Christ so you don’t have to go before God crawling on broken glass saying Lord, please, please bless me and grovel before God.  If we knew the Bible we’d understand we’ve already been blessed.

And by the way, when we give money, I hope when you give money to this church or any other ministry you’re not doing it to get blessed.  That is a wrong New Testament motivation.  You give because you have been blessed.  See the difference.  A lot of people are giving because they think if I just give God will bless me and that’s not the right motivation.  The motivation is  you give because you’ve already been blessed.

So you have been blessed with how many blessings? 99% blessings, “every” blessing.  There is no blessing in the heavenly places that God hasn’t already given you.  And then  you’ll notice that these blessings are spiritual; it’s very different than what I just read in Deuteronomy 28 about crops and body and wars and debt.  So you’ll notice that God has blessed both Israel and the church but Israel’s blessings are primarily earthly; the church’s blessings are primarily spiritual

By the way, I’m not against people (neither is God for that matter) people that are blessed financially in this life as a Christian.  The Bible never condemns that.  What it says is be careful who your God is, don’t let your possessions own you, you own them, don’t let them own  you because “no man can serve both God and mammon.”  Right?   [Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and wealth.”]

And it also says in 1 Timothy 6 not to put your hope in earthly blessings which are so uncertain.    [1 Timothy 6:17, “Instruct those who are rich in this present world not to be conceited or to fix their hope on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly supplies us with all things to enjoy.”]  So there is no great condemnation of a New Testament Christian that is blessed financially in this life.  What I’m saying is not guaranteed.  Do you follow that?

Because I could take you to Mexico, not just Mexico but any country that’s not as prosperous as the United States and I could show you people that are living in what we, as Americans, would be pitiful conditions and yet they’re on fire for Jesus Christ.  I saw this in the Philippines when I did a missionary trip there in 1988; it was amazing, the church there and their love for God, their love for the things of God and  yet there was no cable TV and homes and air conditioning and all the things that we’re accustomed to here.

So if God has blessed you financially praise the Lord.  There are some instructions for you in 1 Timothy 6, but material blessings are not guaranteed for the church age believer.  Spiritual blessings are guaranteed; in fact, they’ve already been accomplished for you.  That’s why when the Lord spoke to the church at Smyrna, Revelation 2:9, he says, “’I know your tribulation and your poverty” now the Greek word for “poverty” there is the lowest level financially you can descend to, there was nowhere else for these people to descend to financially in Smyrna, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), [and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan.]  Why could he say that?  Because they’ve already been what?  Blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places.  [Ephesians 1:3, “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.”]

So another key difference between Israel and the church is the Israel’s blessings are earthly, the church’s blessings are heavenly.  Now when  you turn on “Christian” television (and I put the word “Christian” in quotation marks) what you will see nine times out of ten is what is called prosperity gospel.  There will be teacher after teacher after teacher on so-called Christian television telling people that God is obligated to bless your pocketbook, to bless your wallet.  The reality of the situation is, Philippians 4:19 says, “My God shall supply my greeds according to the…” NO, “needs” that’s what’s guaranteed, is needs are met.  The so-called Christian televangelist will make it sound like God is obligated to bless you financially, materially, if you send money, interestingly enough, to that person’s ministry.  They never say help the orphanage down the street and God will bless you; it’s always send it in my direction and God will bless you.

Now why do people believe this doctrine?  Well, partly is they want to believe it but the other part of it is when the Christian TV minister preaches the doctrine he uses the Bible; they have all kinds of Bible verses that they use.  The problem is they’re getting their verses from what part of the Bible?  New Testament or Old Testament?  Old Testament!  They’re going into God’s program for Israel which was earthly and material and presenting it to people in the church age as if that’s how God is working today.

So what you have to understand about false teaching is every false teaching you run into has a veneer of truth to it.  The Mormons, not if but when they come to your door, along with the Jehovah’s Witnesses, will give you so many Bible verses and if you’re not equipped for it your head will just be swimming, and that’s why people believe the doctrines of Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses, because they use the Bible—they just rip it out of context!  So they will show up and they will talk about the two sticks in Ezekiel 37, the stick of Ephraim and the stick of Joseph, and Ezekiel 37 talks about those two sticks coming together and they will say look, right here, it’s in your own Bible, the stick of Joseph, do you know who Joseph is?  Joseph Smith!  I’m not kidding, ask them about it, they’ll tell you all about it.

Joseph Smith, as you know, is the guy that, a very young child really, that allegedly had a vision from God here in North America and Jesus made a North American visit. So they believe the Bible but they also add to the Bible The Book of Mormon and The Doctrine of Covenants and The Pearl of Great Price.  And when you question them about the closed Canon and Joseph Smith and all this stuff they’ll go right to Ezekiel 37 and they’ll talk about the stick of Joseph united with God’s revelation.  And your average person in the body of Christ has never studied the Book of Ezekiel, because most pastors won’t teach the Book of Ezekiel for whatever reason, they will be pulled in by that kind of argument.  The cults thrive on people who believe the Bible but don’t know the Bible very well.  That’s who their target audience is; that’s who they’re picking off.  That’s why they love to come to the (quote) “Bible belt” and areas like ours to do their evangelism, because they know they’re going to get some converts.

So cults use the Bible.  The prosperity gospel uses the Bible.  They will make it sound as if God has promised you material wealth but you see, they’re not respecting the Israel/church distinction; they’re going over here, they’re grabbing passages from God’s earthly program for Israel that your average Christian has never head of that because the shepherds aren’t talking to their people about these kinds of things so they’re left to their own devices.  See that.

So the prosperity gospel makes sense biblically and it appeals to greed at the same time unless you understand some of these nuances that we are going over.  And I communicate this to tell you that we’re not just going over theology just to have a theology lesson.  These things are supposed to be equipping you for what you’re being hit with outside the four walls of Sugar Land Bible Church.

Let me give you one more distinction between Israel and the church and that has to do with the composition of Israel and the church.  Israel consists of believers and unbelievers.  To be a member of Israel you had to be a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.  If a person is not a physical, in the physical lineage of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob I don’t care how many messianic congregations they go to every week they’re not Jewish.  Okay.  The only way you can be a Jew biblically is you have to be a physical descendant of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

However, within Israel, physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, you could be a believing Jew or an unbelieving Jew.  Do you see that?  So the commonwealth of Israel or the nation of Israel consisted of believing Jews who believed in Yeshua or Yahweh, or Jesus, and there were also unbelieving Jews.  So this is why Jesus makes the statement that He does in the Gospels.  Actually this is not Jesus this is John the Baptist I think.  “Do not suppose you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.”

In other words, God is unimpressed with somebody just because they’re Jewish.  God is not going to fulfill His covenants with a group of people just because they’re Jewish.  Do you follow me?  They have to be what kind of Jew?  A believing Jew!  Paul, in Romans 2:28-29 says, “For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh.  [29] But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.”

Romans 9:6, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel;” in other words, what God is impressed with is not just a Jew for the sake of being a Jew but a believing Jew.  And that’s who He’s going to fulfill His end time program through, not just the Jews, believing Jews.  And that’s why Christ, back to the church at Smyrna, we read this earlier, “Smyrna, “I know your tribulation and your poverty (but you are rich), and the blasphemy by those who say they are Jews and are not,” see that, “the blasphemy of those who say they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue” a Jewish gathering, “a synagogue of” who? “Satan.

See, if you’re just a Jew in unbelief then you are actually in Satan’s synagogue because God is not impressed with a Jew just because they’re a Jew.  What He’s impressed with is believing Jews.  And that’s why Christ was so distressed when He went to His hometown and nobody believed Him.  I mean, if Christ was impressed with people just because they were Jewish He would have said oh, you all are okay, you’re Jewish, that’s enough.  But the story of the Bible is you have to be a believing Jew.  No one gets to heaven just because they’re Jewish.  And when the kingdom comes and God fulfills His covenants to Israel it’s not going to be with a bunch of people just because they’re Jewish; it’s because they are Jews in faith.  That’s the distinction.

When you understand this then you understand what the tribulation period is for.  Why is God sending the nation of Israel through the tribulation period?  To purge off unbelieving Israel from believing Israel?  Zechariah 13:8-9, of the tribulation says, “‘It will come about in all the land,’ Declares the LORD, ‘That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; but the third will be left in it.  [9] “And I will bring the third part through the fire,” that’s the fire of the tribulation period, refine them as silver is refined, and test them as gold is tested.  They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ and they will say, ‘The LORD is my God.’”

So what is God doing in the tribulation period?  Israel is going into it.  For what purpose?  To purge off unbelieving Israel from believing Israel.  And sadly what we observe here, according to this prophecy, is two-thirds of Israel will be purged off in the tribulation.  Two-thirds of Israel will be killed in the tribulation period and God, through that, will preserve a third of Israel in faith, who say the Lord is my God and through that third He’s going to fulfill His covenants.

And you might want to jot down, we don’t have time to read it all, Ezekiel 20:33-44, it’s talking about the separation between unbelieving and believing Israel at the end of the tribulation period.  Believing Israel will go into the kingdom passing under the Shepherd’s rod; unbelieving Israel will be purged off the earth and taken to Hades.

So do you see what’s going on here with Israel.  You can be within Israel, believing Israel and unbelieving Israel.  Now is that true with the church.  Can you be an unbelieving member of Christ’s universal church. You can’t. If you’re a believer in Jesus Christ you’re part of His universal church; if you’re not a believer in Jesus Christ you’re not a member of His church.  I’m not talking about local gatherings, I’m talking about His universal church.

1 Corinthians 12:13 says, “For by one Spirit we were” what” two-thirds of us?  NO! One-third of us?  NO!  “… all baptized into one body, whether it Jews or Greeks or slaves or free, we were all made to drink of one spirit.”  If a person is not a believer in Jesus Christ it doesn’t matter how denominational they may be, they’re not part of His universal church.  It doesn’t matter how pious they are.  It doesn’t matter where they live.  If they’re not “in Christ” by faith they’re not part of the church.  Now that’s totally different than Israel, as I just tried to explain.  Israel could have believing and unbelieving.

So then what’s the main distinction in the church?  It’s not like Israel where you had believer and unbelieving Jews.  The main distinction within the church is not believer versus unbeliever; it’s levels of maturity.  See that?  This is why Paul says, 1 Corinthians 3:1,  “And I, brethren,” speaking to Christians, “could not speak to you as spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ.”  So you can be a carnal Christian in Christ and a babe in Christ.  [2] “I fed you with milk, but not with solid food for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able, [3] for you are still carnal.  For where there is envy, strife and divisions among you,” boy, I’m glad we don’t have those problems in the 21st century church… I’m being a little facetious, “For where there is envy, strife and divisions among you are you not carnal, are you not behaving like mere men.”

What is Paul doing here with the church?  He’s not doing a distinction between believing church and unbelieving church, the way God deals with Israel.  He’s dealing with the distinctions between babes, carnal, infants and spiritual within his church, all believers!  Are you with me on this?  So Paul divides humanity into two groups; unbelievers and believers, but within believers you have three groups, the spiritual, that’s the growing Christian, the infant Christian, that’s the new Christian, and they’re kind of doing things that are age appropriate so it’s cute to watch a two year old or less suck their thumb, right?  That’s cute, but when the child is sixteen and sucking his thumb that’s not cute any more.  So the carnal are people that should have grown up a long time ago but have stayed in a state of carnality, living constantly for the sin nature.

So you see the distinction here?  Within the church world there’s no distinction between believers and unbelievers.  That’s all Israel.  The main distinction within the church is different levels of growth and different levels of maturity.  Now when you understand this you understand why the church cannot be in the tribulation.  Why is that?  Because the tribulation period, and I showed you the passages, is designed to separate believing Israel from unbelieving Israel.  Right?  That was Zechariah’s prophecy about the two-thirds cut off and the one-third preserved.

That can’t work for the church because within the church there is no difference between believer and  unbeliever.  Do you follow?  So God’s whole program for Israel is to separate belief from unbelief within Israel.  That doesn’t work for the church because if you’re not a believer in Christ you’re not a part of the church.  As J. Vernon McGee said, “You’re either a saint or you’re an ain’t.  Right?  Are you with me on this?  Because what you believe about the rapture and the end times and is the church going into the tribulation period, there’s a lot of people out there promoting that idea, it’s related to your understanding of the nature of the church.  The more you understand the nature of the church the more you start understanding why the church can’t be in the tribulation period.

So I hope that helps a little bit.  I just wanted to go over the final three differences between Israel and the church; the evangelistic strategy is different, Israel come and see, church go and proclaim, the blessings are different, Israel’s blessings are earthly, the church’s are heavenly.  And the composition is different; within Israel you can have believers and unbelievers but within the church you only have believers.  The distinction is related to maturity levels that Paul draws.

So the next time we come together, in our final Bible study Wednesday night for the year 2017, I’ll briefly review all twenty-four and then, oh my goodness, ready for this: we’re going to spend our time looking at Galatians 6:16.  Have  you read that lately.  That calls the church, at least the way it reads, “the Israel of God.  [Galatians 6:16, “And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”]  And people that believe in replacement theology, that the church has taken over Israel’s place, will quote that verse, Galatians 6:16. So we’ll conclude Wednesday night, 2017, by talking about how to rightly understand Galatians 6:16.  Watch this now, even Muslims who don’t like the belief that we have, that God has a future for Israel and God has cut off Israel, when you get into a discussion with well-informed Muslims and you start explaining our pro-Israel mindset do you know what they’re going to quote?  Galatians 6:16. The Muslims know the Bible better than most Christians do and your average Christian is caught totally flatfooted by that. So we’ll do that next time.  All right, I’m finished talking.