“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the Lord their God, and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and his goodness in the latter days.” (Hosea 3:4–5)
This text was chosen out of many passages because this one is one in which all camps of eschatology will agree that verse 4 was literally fulfilled in the past. The trouble and disagreement comes when there are some who do not take the Scriptures literally…they will spiritualize where there is no indication that they shouldn’t.
We begin in this passage with something literal. Ever since the Babylonian captivity in 586 AD, Israel has been without a king or prince. Furthermore, they have been without a sacrifice since the destruction of the temple in AD 70 when Titus the Roman general destroyed Jerusalem. They have also been without idols. That was one of the purposes of the Babylonian captivity. God was curing Israel of her affinity for heathen idols.
History, reason, faith, and a straightforward reading of God’s Word all come together to confirm what is said in verse 4 is true. That’s why whether you are a dispensational premillennial or not, you’d agree with the interpretation of verse 4.
The controversy arises in verse 5. There is no indication anywhere to say that we are to now switch gears and consider verse 5 in any other way but the literal. This verse is to be understood as having a literal fulfillment sometime in the future.
As Tom Ross wrote when commenting on this verse, “Sound Bible exegesis and honesty require the Bible student to interpret both verses in a literal manner.” (Elementary Eschatology, p. 120)
When we speak of Israel and God’s plan for her in the future, we mean national Israel, the ethnic descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We reject any form of replacement theology, whether it says that the church or the elect have replaced, superseded or fulfilled Israel to such an extent that the nation Israel has no significance in God’s plan.
Charles Spurgeon said it this way in a sermon he preached in 1855:
“I think we do not attach sufficient importance to the restoration of the Jews. We do not think enough of it. But certainly, if there is anything promised in the Bible it is this. I imagine that you cannot read the Bible without seeing clearly that there is to be an actual restoration of the children of Israel. “Thither they shall go up; they shall come with weeping unto Zion, and with supplications unto Jerusalem.” May that happy day soon come! For when the Jews are restored, then the fulness of the Gentiles shall be gathered in; and as soon as they return, then Jesus will come upon Mount Zion to reign with his ancients gloriously, and the halcyon days of the Millennium shall then dawn; we shall then know every man to be a brother and a friend; Christ shall rule with universal sway.”
(C. H. Spurgeon, “The Church of Christ,” in The New Park Street Pulpit Sermons, vol. 1 (London: Passmore & Alabaster, 1855), 214.)
Some deny that God has any plan for Israel, and within that group, there are those who would say that people today have inherited all the blessings promised to Israel. Who those people are, depends on who you talk to. The universal church camps will say it is “the church” that has inherited all these blessings, but the local church groups will say it is the elect. Neither is correct because as you read through the Scriptures, you will see that God indeed has a chosen nation of Israel…not the whole entire nation….not everyone who is born a Jew is automatically saved, but by the authority of the Scriptures I can safely speak of the elect nation of Israel.
What we read here in our text became more apparent in 1948 when the nation of Israel was formally recognized as a Jewish state. Since then multitudes of Jews have returned to the homeland promised to them when God made a covenant with Abraham thousands of years ago. (More on that another time, but if you’d like a sneak peak, go to Sermon Audio and look for my sermon from 2007 when I preached at King’s Addition Baptist Church Bible Conference on my assigned subject of “Israel’s Future.” I haven’t changed my position on this in those 15 years of Bible study except I have grown in my preaching and maturity.)
Some will say this is a new position, but the Baptist preacher John Gill (who lived in the 1700s) would differ with them. In commenting on Hosea 9:
“The ten tribes of Israel, and also the two tribes of Judah and Benjamin, which are included in the name of Israel, as Aben Ezra interprets it; and these are joined together in parallel places; see Jer. 30:3, 9 and 50:4, 5. for though they did not go into captivity together, yet their return and conversion will be at the same time; and they are all spoken of under the name of Israel by the Apostle Paul, when he foretels their conversion and salvation, Rom. 11:26. The return of them, here prophesied of, does not barely mean their return to their own land, which will be at this time; see Jer. 30:3; Ezek. 37:21, 22; Amos 9:15. but their return to the Lord by repentance; when they shall repent of, and turn from, their sinful course of life, and particularly of their unbelief and rejection of the true Messiah, and embrace him; and of their traditions and false ways of worship, which they shall discard; and of their own righteousness they shall now renounce; and shall turn to the Lord Jesus Christ, and believe in him for righteousness, life, and salvation…”
(John Gill, An Exposition of the Old Testament, vol. 6, The Baptist Commentary Series (London: Mathews and Leigh, 1810), 392.)
There are many different terms people use for their version of replacement theology in Biblical prophecy I am not going to take time to name them now. My interest is what does the Word of God say and how do we answer those who say we are wrong?
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (Romans 11:1)
Paul had written some tough things about Israel in chapter 10 and now as inspired by the Holy Spirit he asks the question, “Hath God cast away His people?” HAS GOD CAST AWAY ISRAEL? HAS GOD REPROBATED THE NATION OF ISRAEL? That is the question. The replacement theology (the idea that the church has replaced Israel) crowd – those who subscribe to the amill (no millennium) idea – they answer it the question in a way that God does not.
Milburn Cockrell, commenting on this passage says this:
“The scripture nowhere teaches that God has reprobated national Israel forever. We must not teach the promises made to the patriarchs and to Israel must now be altered. We must not spiritualize away the plain meaning of the prophetic word to suit those who are “slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken.” (Luke 24:25). If God’s promises in the Old Testament to Israel were not literally fulfilled are we to assume His promises in the New Testament are going to be fulfilled in the same way? Are we to take those promises in the New Testament addressed to the gospel church and spiritualize them away and apply them to the Jews? God forbid. The mighty God of Jacob has not forgotten His unfilled promises made to Israel through His holy prophets.” (The Second Coming of Christ, page 195)
Notice there in Romans 11:1 Paul is careful to make sure we know he is talking about the physical not the spiritual. He gives his own lineage (physical) as proof that the Jewish people are not cast away. Mark it down, had he been talking about His identity spiritually here, he would have mentioned none of this, but rather his relationship with Christ!
“God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying, Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life. But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal. Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace. And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work. What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day. And David saith, Let their table be made a snare, and a trap, and a stumblingblock, and a recompence unto them: Let their eyes be darkened, that they may not see, and bow down their back alway. I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness? For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office: If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them. For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead? For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches. And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again. For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree? For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob: For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins. As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers’ sakes. For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance. For as ye in times past have not believed God, yet have now obtained mercy through their unbelief: Even so have these also now not believed, that through your mercy they also may obtain mercy. For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.” (Romans 11:2–32)
No! God is NOT finished with the nation of Israel and I would say be careful to you who would boast because we live in the time we do. The Holy Spirit here in this text warns us about that. It ought to encourage us that God would have such care to remember the promises He gave to Abraham and David….to Israel and not break them. YOUR God may be a promise-breaker, but NOT my God for I serve the God of Abraham and Isaac and Jacob….the God of the Bible!
SOME OF THE REPLACEMENT PROOF TEXTS USED
“Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.” (Galatians 3:7)
Here, we are told that all those who are of faith are the children of Abraham. And that is true, we are. However, this does not mean that the church is the new Israel in all senses. There are physical promises made to a physical nation as we see answered in Romans 11 and like we saw in Hosea too. Not all of the promises given to Israel could possibly be fulfilled in the Lord’s church.
“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15–16)
Paul doesn’t say anything here about Christians being the “NEW ISRAEL.” In this epistle, he has just attacked Jewish legalists so the comparison is between true believers and legalistic Jews. Context means something folks.
“For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.” (Philippians 3:3)
The comparison here is not between the church and Israel but between legalistic Jews and the church at Philippi.
“Jesus answered, My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” (John 18:36)
Christ is not commenting here on the place of His kingdom, but He is speaking of the source of it. Nowhere does He say anything about never establishing His kingdom on earth. In fact, the Scriptures are plain about that.
“Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, That I will make a new covenant With the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers In the day that I took them by the hand To bring them out of the land of Egypt; Which my covenant they brake, Although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, And write it in their hearts; And will be their God, And they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: For they shall all know me, From the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: For I will forgive their iniquity, And I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31–34)
“I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.” (Romans 11:1)
I trust that we can see in all this that God has not cast away Israel. When we speak of Israel in Bible prophecy we mean the physical descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. We do not mean all descendants of Abraham, nor do we mean the church or all the elect. God is very clear about this topic!