Sunday, March 2, 2014

The Nations vs. Israel

During our Women's Bible, while we were discussing Isaiah 18 and 19, we discussed the judgment of the nations of Ethiopia and Egypt. Clearly, through these chapters we find that God judges Israel's enemies. In fact, this principle can be found throughout the Bible, in both the Old and New Testaments. One such example is found in Matthew 25.

Matthew 25:31-34 (KJV)
31 When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory:
32 And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats:
33 And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left.
34 Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world:

When Yeshua returns to earth He will bring all the holy angels with Him, and He will sit on His throne in Jerusalem (verse 31). At that time all the nations will be gathered to Him and He will separate them into two groups, the sheep and the goats (verse 32). The sheep will be on His right and the goats will be on His left (verse 33). The sheep will be called, "blessed of My Father," and they will enter into the Millennial Kingdom (verse 34).

Matthew 25:40-41 (KJV)
40 And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.
41 Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels:

In verse 40 King Yeshua explains that the sheep will be admitted into the kingdom because of the good treatment that they gave to His brethren. Their doing good to others was as if they had done the same to Yeshua, Himself. The goats, on the other hand, had neglected and treated poorly Yeshua's brethren (verses 42-45). The end result is that they are told that they are cursed and they are to depart from Yeshua into everlasting fire that has been prepared for the devil and his angels (verse 41).

There are two important elements found in this passage and I'm not talking about the sheep and the goats. Who are being judged? The nations are the ones being judged. What is the criterion for judgment? The criterion is how Yeshua's brethren are treated.

What did Matthew mean by "the nations?" Who are Yeshua's brethren? Thankfully, the book of Joel contains a companion passage that can help us answer these questions.

Joel 3:2,12 (KJV)
2 I will also gather all nations, and will bring them down into the valley of Jehoshaphat, and will plead with them there for my people and for my heritage Israel, whom they have scattered among the nations, and parted my land.
12 Let the heathen be wakened, and come up to the valley of Jehoshaphat: for there will I sit to judge all the heathen round about.

According to verse 2 the nations will be brought down into the Valley of Jehoshaphat for judgment. However, in verse 12 it is the heathen that will be judged. The Hebrew word used in both of these places is the word for Gentile. According to Joel, the Gentiles are judged. Verse 2 also specifies who are Yeshua's brethren. They are called Israel.

Together these two passages show that it is the Gentiles who will be judged based on how they treat Israel!

Although these passages seem clear, they raise some further questions. There appears to be only two groups of people, the Gentiles and Israel. What about the church, the true Christian believers, that are for the most part Gentiles? Where do they fit? And what about Jewish unbelievers? Since this is the time of Yeshua's return after the Tribulation, this is the time in which Paul indicated that all Israel would be saved (Romans 11:26). The unbelieving Jews would see Yeshua and recognize Him as their Messiah (Zechariah 12:10). As far as the church is concerned, as soon as a Gentile becomes a believer and is born again, he or she is no longer a Gentile (spiritually), but becomes a part of Israel through being grafted in (Romans 11:17).

Christianity seems to seek a severe differentiation between the church and Israel, but this is contradictory to what we see in Scripture. If we want to reap the benefits of Israel, we need, not only to stand with the nation of Israel, but we must begin to see ourselves as a part of Israel. Her history, benefits, and responsibilities (including Torah observance) are ours. After all, when it comes to the judgment of the sheep and the goats, do we really want to be on the side of the Gentiles or do we want to be a part of Yeshua's brethren, Israel?

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