In this important series, we are examining the doctrine of the re-gathering of Israel, and the related doctrine of the land promises. Our Dispensational friends insist that 1948 was the “Super Sign of the End” proof positive that we are in the last days. See my book, Israel 1948, Countdown to No Where,, for a refutation of that view. Of course, the time line demanded by that claim has all but expired and their predictions, especially those of Hal Lindsey, have been shown to be false. The fact is that the NT writers affirm repeatedly and emphatically that the Old Covenant promises of the restoration of Israel were fulfilled spiritually in Christ.
We are currently examining Ezekiel 37 as developed by Paul. Here is the previous article on Ezekiel.
Paul is not through discussing the hope of Israel in 2 Corinthians 6. It should be noted at this time that in chapter 5:18f Paul discusses “the ministry of reconciliation” that had been given to him. Should we see Paul’s discussion of this topic simply within the generic context of reconciling all men to himself? Or should we see this within the framework of the restoration of Israel, that would lead to the reconciliation of man to God? It seems to me that the latter is by far the more accurate position.
We need to turn back to Isaiah 49 to properly grasp the power of Paul’s discussion in Corinthians. Remember that in that prophecy, (v. 5f), Messiah would not only save the twelve tribes of Israel, he would share that salvation with the nations! Would not the salvation of the twelve tribes be a ministry of reconciliation? And, would not the offering of salvation to the goyim (the Gentiles) on an equality with the tribes of Jacob not be an incredible ministry of reconciliation? To break down the barriers between Judah and Ephraim would itself be a remarkable reconciliation, and this is precisely what the prophets foretold: “The envy of Ephraim shall depart and the adversaries of Judah shall be cut off. Ephraim shall not envy Judah, and Judah shall not harass Ephraim” (Isaiah 11:13). Here is reconciliation! And how much more so is this true of the reconciliation of Gentiles to the twelve tribes?
(As a side bar: There is an un-Biblical view that God does not love or bless anyone but Israel. There is no salvation for anyone outside the 12 tribes. Isaiah 49 is a definitive refutation of this “godless” doctrine, for according to YHVH it was “too small a thing” for Messiah to save just the tribes of Jacob! So, those who espouse this horrible, hopeless doctrine, affirm the very thing that YHVH said was too small a thing! You cannot affirm the salvation of just the twelve tribes, without affirming the very thing that God denied! Such is the illogical, the desperation, the grossly un-scholarly nature of this new doctrine).
With this in mind, consider once again the make-up of the church at Corinth. It was established in the synagogue, so, as noted, comprised the faithful remnant of Israel. But it also included the helenas, the Greeks (Acts 18:4; cf. John 7:35). These are not simply hellenized Jews (i.e. the hellenestes, cf. Acts 6, 9). They are in the truest sense Gentiles. So, in the church at Corinth we find the very kind of “reconciliation” foretold by Isaiah 49. The “Jews” of the diaspora were being reconciled to one another in Christ, and the Gentiles were likewise being reconciled. What a powerful, wonderful picture of the grace of Christ!
But of course, all was not well in the church. The Judaizers were at work. Likewise, the Jewish attitudes toward eating of meats sacrificed to idols, practiced by the Gentile members, was causing strife and conflict. Many of the old animosities and prejudices were re-surfacing. That eclectic group needed to be reminded of the grace of Christ, the ministry of reconciliation that had brought them together. Read now Paul’s words:
“And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation; To wit, that God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself, not imputing their trespasses unto them; and hath committed unto us the word of reconciliation. Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God. For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. We then, as workers together with him, beseech you also that ye receive not the grace of God in vain. (For he saith, I have heard thee in a time accepted, and in the day of salvation have I succoured thee: behold, now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation). (2 Corinthians 5:18-6:1-2).
What an incredible text! Paul calls on them to not make light of the gospel of grace that had brought them together into one body. And how does he do this? He cites, verbatim, Isaiah 49:8!
Isaiah foretold that in the days of the Messiah, YHVH would reconcile the twelve tribes. In addition, He would reconcile the Gentiles. All of this would be in “the acceptable time, the day of salvation.” And Paul is emphatic, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” There could hardly be a more powerful expression of prophecy fulfilled than this, and the implications are profound!
The time of Israel’s re-gathering and salvation would be in the acceptable time, the day of salvation (Isaiah 49).
But, Paul said, “now is the accepted time; behold, now is the day of salvation. ” The predicted time was present in his day and in his ministry (2 Corinthians 6:1-2).
Therefore, the time of Israel’s re-gathering and salvation was present in Paul’s day and in his ministry.
(It is critical to note that the time of Israel’s salvation is also the time of the resurrection – Isaiah 25:8-9. Thus, for Paul to affirm that the day of salvation anticipated by Isaiah was present is a powerful statement that the time of the resurrection had arrived. See my We Shall Meet Him In The Air for a lengthy discussion of Isaiah 49. That book is available on this website).
So, there can be no doubt. Isaiah foretold the re-gathering of the twelve tribes and the salvation of the Gentiles in the acceptable time, the day of salvation. Paul affirmed, through inspiration of the Spirit, that the predicted time had come, and that ministry of reconciliation to bring Judah and Israel, along with the Gentiles, to YHVH was being fulfilled in the body of Christ! (See Ephesians 1:9f))