For many years I have reckoned myself to be a witness for Jehovah, as that is the name of God and I belong to Him. I am not ashamed to use that name, and have come to understand what it signifies. So long as we understand what the name means, it matters little for the meantime what the exact pronunciation is.
As Jehovah, God will always become what He needs to become. No situation can arise with which He cannot cope, and cope successfully. Were that not so, He would be no God at all.
I do not believe that in this world or age it is possible to do away with sects. Most believers belong to their own way of thinking, that is, to a sect. People all have their own mentality, and their way of thinking tends towards those teachings in the Bible which specially attract them. This is all in accord with nature, and it is more or less true of every one of us. If sects are altogether wrong, there is no apparent remedy at present. They have existed since the time of Paul, and he could not prevent them. They will continue until the Lord comes. Only then can we be presented holy and flawless and unimpeachable, without spot or wrinkle. It is not easy to see Eph. 4:13-16 in operation at present, especially verse 13.
We must not, however, be sectarian, in closely following one man, or pushing one dogma at the expense of other truths. The real heretic is he or she who picks out one special teaching and drives it so hard that it gets out of relation to truth as a whole, and becomes magnified out of all proportion. It would not be beneficial for anyone to eat at every meal nothing but potatoes. We require some mixture and variety. The same is very true as regards doctrine.
When a sect, however, claims that it is not a sect, or claims that it alone has The Truth, or most of The Truth, or when it claims that all other sects are wrong, it has become a danger. The Body of Christ cannot be built up by excluding some of the members. Paul never said, or thought, that he would become the President of the Body of Christ. He was a truly humble man. But some who have followed him are not humble, though they may feign humility. No one feels himself to be full of pride so much as the really humble person.
What would Paul say if he appeared in the world again in the flesh and observed the Church of Rome? Would he permit the idea that Peter had founded in Rome a church composed of Gentiles? Once long ago, at a "Catholic Truth" lecture, I asked the priest who gave the lecture how Peter could have done this, when the very idea of such a thing must have been most repugnant to Peter. I referred to a certain passage in the New Testament, and this well-educated priest fumbled for a long time with his testament and failed to find the place. The only other occupant of the platform then helped him and found the place. How can such a Church claim to lead the world in true religion?
The Church of Rome claims infallibility in certain things. If any other body should make the same claim, or claim that believers who do not join it are heretics, is such a body not revealing its pride and its apostacy from the truth?
The Body of Christ is one organism. Every member is needed. Any humble or uncomely members ought to be given more honour than those who seem to be superior. The Head of the Body once took the very h?est place in the universe. But that does not entitle any sect to trample on the grace which emerged from Christ's sacrifice by trampling upon other sects or treating them as inferior.
No nation on earth can claim that it will survive permanently and without a break, unless one nation, Israel. Nor can any religious body claim enduring stability, any more than sects which have become defunct.
Perhaps the world is getting back to the kind of fever which filled mankind after the Flood. Jehovah said, "Behold the people are one, and all of them have common words, and they dream of doing this, and now nothing will be restrained from them of all that they are scheming to do" (Gen. 11:6). How can this atomic and mechanical age want a God at all?
Can it be that any religious body is seeking to erect its tower, with its top in the sky, and claiming rights superior to any other religious body? Could such an edifice be indestructible and unbreakable? How could such a body be Christian at all? "Him that cometh to Me I shall in no wise cast out" said the Lord. Any religious body which excludes or looks down on one who has come to Christ is not of God, and is not discriminating the Body of Christ (1. Cor. 11:29).
Perhaps you will even go the length of informing me that your sect has taken the place which formerly belonged to the physical Israel, thus becoming special favourites of Jehovah. But if that is your claim, then I shall have to call you practically an atheist. You cannot believe in God if you insist that He has cast off His ancient Eonian Nation, because if He is so unfaithful as to repudiate for ever His own special People—His own Son's kindred too—that Race which is love able because of the fathers (Rom. 11:28), then He can be no true God at all.
Paul states most clearly that "God does NOT thrust away His People whom He foreknew" (Rom. 11:2). The verb tense is the indefinite, covering past, present and future. He not only foreknew them, but knew beforehand what they would do, and He foreknew their restoration.
If evil nations such as Ammon, and Elam, and Moab, are to be restored by God (see Ezek. chs. 25, 48, 49), and even Sodom (ch. 16), why should you object to the restoration of Israel? If God was finally finished with Israel when they rejected their Messiah, would not Paul or one of the other Apostles have said so?
We human beings often regret wrong things we have done, and sometimes good things we have done also. But Paul has told us that "The grace-gifts and the calling (process) of God are unregrettable" (Rom. 11:29). The Greek word means that God is incapable of regretting these. And note, also, that this is stated in connection with the physical Israel, the "Very people who had become quite apostate.
How could that physical Israel, which had become insensitive to God until the fulness of the Gentiles comes in, be replaced by some sort of Gentile-Israel, whose sins would thereupon require to be wiped out (Rom. 11:27), so that all of them might be saved?
Professor Edouard Naville was an illustrious member of the Body of Christ, who in the year 1913 published a fine book on the "Archaeology of the Old Testament." He forestalled in part what P. J. Wiseman wrote later on the Eleven Generations of Genesis, and explained how the various tablets forming these historical records shewed a great lack of proportion, because they were apparently written by various men, and at different times (compare the first verse of Hebrews). Naville shews how the tablets were not connected together like a book, yet nevertheless, "they are connected by one thought, and one purpose, the fixed intention of showing how Israel was set apart as the people of God. The book is not the book of the annals of Israel, it is not the complete and continuous narrative of what happened to the people from the beginning, it is the series of documents, if I may so express it, of title deeds, establishing Israel's special character and the mission which Israel had to fulfil."
As for the rest of the Old Testament, it is superfluous to say that it is chiefly concerned with the physical nation of Israel and its future.
Now I must maintain that most of the Old Testament is a sheer waste of labour, time, tablets and manuscripts, if it is virtually out of date to a large extent. The many prophecies which concerned only the physical descendants of the Hebrew people cannot be made applicable to a people who are not of the same kin and race, or who belong to countries different from the Holy Land.
Just make an examination of the ninety-seven verses which make up chapters 24 and 25 of Matthew. Can you discover but one statement to the effect that God was about to give up the Hebrew nation finally as His People? Is there any hint that when all the Gentiles are gathered in front of the Son of Mankind (Matt. 25:32), some of these will really be of a hybrid Hebrew-Gentile type, who are to displace those whom the Lord calls His "brethren"? Is there any hint that some of these Gentiles, who are to pass away into eonian chastening, who failed to aid the Lord's physical brethren in their time of agony, may possibly be Witnesses for Jehovah, who claim to be the new "Israel of God," even though they are Gentiles? As tall claims are now being made that about half of the Gentile races in the world are really Israelites in disguise, sheltered by the New Covenant, it is almost certain that many of them will swell the ranks of the "goats" or "kids," and be banished into age-lasting corrective punishment.
What would have been the feelings of the Disciples on the Mount of Olives had the Lord told them that Israel was about to be superseded it some time in the future by others who would witness for their God Jehovah, others in the flesh, who laid claim to be the true Israel? There is not the remotest sign that the Lord told His Disciples anything of the sort. What He did tell them was that His own physical nation would go on being hated or disliked by all the Gentiles because of His name (Matt. 24:9). No other kind of Israelites is visualized in these two chapters but the physical Israel. When the sign of the Son of Mankind appears in the sky (24:30), it is "all the Tribes of the Land" who will shew great grief, and it is they who will observe His coming on the clouds. As it is to the same Mount of Olives that the Son of Mankind will return, it must be obvious that these Tribes will then be in the Land.
If indeed there are really zealous Witnesses for Jehovah who wish to be among the blest when the Lord does come, as Jehovah (Isa. 25:9; Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him. . . . This is Jehovah), why do they not assemble in the Land? I shall tell you why. It is because they are too comfortable where they are, and because they are not the subjects of prophecies such as Jeremiah 16:14-16, from which I quote Rotherham: "By the life of Yahweh, who hath brought up the sons of Israel out of the land of the North, and out of all the lands, whither he hath driven them,—So will I bring them back upon their own soil, which I gave to their fathers. Behold me! sending for many fishers, declareth Yahweh, and they shall catch them, and thereafter will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from off every mountain, and from off every hill, and out of the clefts of the crags." See also Ezek. 20:34-38. No fewer than twenty-seven times does Ezekiel refer to Israel returning to or again dwelling on its own soil or ground (Heb. adamah). This cannot mean aught else than the geographical country of Palestine.
It should not be necessary to inform anyone that ancient Bible prophecies do not become obsolete merely because we may ignore them or find them awkward. Every prophecy not so far fulfilled must yet be fulfilled. 2. Peter 1:20-21 tells us that no single Scripture prophecy comes to be of private interpretation, because prophecy of old was not borne along by any human wish; it was the direct effect of Holy Spirit upon the prophets. Such being the case, what human being has the right, through his wishful thinking, to thrust aside as obsolete, the expressed intentions of God's Spirit? To do so is nothing less than mutiny and treachery against God.
Ezekiel prophesies in chapters 35 to 48 a great many events which are still to happen. It would be an act of supreme folly for anyone to think he or she could upset God's scheme merely by ignoring what God has foretold. Nay; it would be very childish. It would be an act of faith in yourself, not faith in God.
Ezek. 36 tells how He who once scattered Israel shall yet gather that same nation, and take away their stony heart, giving them a heart of flesh. They will dwell in the land which was given to their fathers, not in Russia, or Britain, or the United States. Chapter 37 describes a physical resurrect ion of "the whole house of Israel," who are to be brought back to the soil of Israel. Judah and Israel will be finally united. King David, in resurrection, will be King over them all. It is impossible to take this chapter figuratively.
Ezek. 38-39 finds the physical nation of Israel dwelling safely in their own land, apparently during the Thousand Years, devoid of any defences against enemies. An enormous host comes out of the North country, and is joined by various other powers. Cavalry has again come into fashion, also swords, shields, bows and arrows. The atomic age and night mare are past. It would seem that Messiah is absent from the Land at the time, otherwise the enemies would have avoided His rod of iron.
But what we fail to observe in Ezekiel's prophecy is any sign of a Gentile nation or sect which has ousted the physical race of Israel, or which is likely to spend seven months burying the dead invaders, and spend seven long years burning the weapons these invaders brought with them.
The final section of Ezekiel covers chs. 40 to 48. Ezekiel has written over 4,000 words in Hebrew concerning the temple. The description is most elaborate and exact. He details the portions of the Land for each of the twelve Tribes. It is inconceivable that all these words have been written and preserved in vain, or that they concern any race but the physical Israel. It is inconceivable that Ezekiel invented such an elaborate "blue-print" himself.
To a great extent it is the three great prophetical books of Isaiah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel which have been responsible for many thousands of genuine Israelites returning to their ancient Land. The world has recognized them as a Nation. Many of them speak the Hebrew tongue. Their religious characteristics correspond closely with those of their fore fathers of nineteen hundred years ago. If these people are not the physical kin of the Messiah, then where is the nation on earth which is His kin?
Nothing more clearly proves the veracity of the Hebrew Scriptures and the fact of God's existence and reality than the survival of the Jewish Nation to-day—without any real consciousness of God and yet clinging firmly to their ancient Scriptures, yet painfully conscious of the fact that they are unable to fulfil their own writings or understand them fully, and of the fact that they have long since lost touch with Jehovah.
Perhaps it is your habit to accept only those pieces of God's revelation which please you or appeal to your vanity. If so, then you are really compiling your own Bible, in defiance of Matt. 4:4, which shews that humanity cannot live upon bread alone, but on every pronouncement which goes out through God's mouth.
Years ago in a large city in the United States, there lived a man who believed enthusiastically that his country and Britain were The Israel of God; that the end of the age was. drawing near, when the Divine Laws would be put into operation in the two countries; and then all debts would be cancelled. So deluded was he that he advised his sons to buy up valuable property in his city, putting down a small payment, so that when God's Laws came into force and mortgages were cancelled, the sons would possess the property for next to, nothing.
But why did not Paul simply write, "peace be upon them, the Israel of God"? Because he refers to two distinct parties. First he wishes peace upon those among the Galatians to whom circumcision and uncircumcision mean nothing, to whom New Creation means much. But he cannot avoid still thinking of his own unfortunate nation, so he brings into mind genuine Jewish believers whom he knows, and wishes peace upon them also, "The Israel of God." By adding the word and, and doubling the word upon, Paul necessarily implies two parties, not one only.
That this is the explanation of the statement can be easily verified. Search through the New Testament and see whether you can find one single case where the word Israel or Israelite signifies Gentiles. The word Israel occurs over seventy times, while Israelite occurs nine times. Paul had just been proving that the Galatians were all sons of God through the faith in Christ Jesus; that there was no Jew or even Greek, no male or female, for they were all one in Christ Jesus (ch. 3:26-28). The Jew had no privilege above the Gentile. Both were on the same level. How then could he term Gentiles "The Israel of God"?
Finally I would say: How can anyone wish to be a Witness for Jehovah if God is going to break His prophetic promises as easily as most human beings break their promises? It does not make sense.
A.T. Last updated 8.2.2006