One of the major problems most Christians have, especially when they deal with eschatological matters, is their failure to recognize who is truly the Church of God and when was it created. They begin their debates and discussions from the premise that Old Testament prophecies should be applied to ancient Israel (the physical descendants of Abraham) and that any promises that should be applied to the so-called 'church' are found primarily in the New Testament, such as those spoken of primarily in the four Gospels, 1 and 2 Thessalonians and Book of Revelation.
Many Bible expositors and most of today's 'prophecy' students begin their interpretations based on the foundation that a distinction has to be made between "Israel" and the "church" and then apply the prophecies from either the Old and New Testaments where they believe they fit best. The problem here is that eschatologists fail to correctly identify who is being spoken of in many of the prophecies in reference, such as, when the word "Israel" is mentioned.
Does it speak of the middle east state which is now called Israel, a religious group, an ethnic group (of Jews), either the tribe of Judah (consisting of Judah, Benjamin and Levites), the Lost Ten Tribes of Israel, or the spiritual body we now call The Church?
The same applies to their failure of identifying the entity we now call "church." Is it a building? Is it an organized group of individuals who chose to start a new religion apart from the one they escaped from in Western Europe over 300 years ago? Is it an organization created by King Constantine in the year 330 to bring about peace between pagans and followers of Jesus Christ, which was later hijacked by the inventors of the Catholic religion? Or is it a group of people who believe in the atoning work of Jesus Christ on the cross, who gather together to help their fellow man? Who are those the Bible speaks of when it mentions disciples, Christians, brethren, assembly, congregation, slaves, sons, the Way and sheep? Are they the Christian church or God's Children of Promise?
While some may not be familiar with the term (God's Children of Promise), it can easily be found in Romans 9:8, In other words, it is not the children by physical descent who are God's children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham's offspring, Galatians 4:28; Now you, brothers and sisters, like Isaac, are children of promise; Acts 2:39, The promise is for you and your children and for all who are far off—for all whom the Lord our God will call."
As I demonstrate in my book, The End Times Passover, once we have a clear understanding as to who are God's Children of Promise, then and only then will any particular prophecy be applicable to the entity in question.
[This can be a rather complex subject, which cannot be completely explained solely in this condensed message. The reader will be able to examine scripture that explains the subject matter in greater detail by simply downloading the 85 pages of our Chapter One, Who Are God's Children of Promise, contained in our book, The End Times Passover]
At the outset, we first see in Genesis 12 where God makes the call to a people He seeks to be His representatives on earth, His standard bearers, those who should lead and manifest themselves to the world based on the standards God has revealed and established. As the Bible will clearly show, God’s Children of Promise were called out several thousand years before The Day of Pentecost, a point in time of history where most Christians believe the Church of God was first created (more on this later).That initial call was made to Abraham, the father of our faith:
1 The LORD had said to Abram, “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household and go to the land I will show you. 2 “I will make you into a great nation and I will bless you; I will make your name great, and you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
We won’t broach one aspect of the above group of scripture, the part that says God will curse those who curse you, which premillennialists, theorists, dispensationalists and other Rapture devotees claim it is applicable to those who do not support the state of Israel or Jews in general. In another discussion, we will prove this is a most severe doctrine that has had a stranglehold on the majority of Christianity and is greatly responsible for the historical conflict that rages in the Middle East. We will however, turn to Matthew Henry, one of Christendom’s renowned scholars of antiquity, who provides greater insights than mine concerning why the call was made and what is the criteria to be listed among God’s Children of Promise in the following commentary on Genesis 12:
“We have here the call by which Abram was removed out of the land of his nativity into the land of promise, which was designed both to try his faith and obedience and also to separate him and set him apart for God, and for special services and favours which were further designed. The circumstances of this call we may be somewhat helped to the knowledge of from Stephen’s speech, Acts 7:2, where we are told, (1) that the God of glory appeared to him to give him this call, appeared in such displays of his glory as left Abram no room to doubt the divine authority of this call. God spoke to him afterwards in divers manners; but this first time, when the correspondence was to be settled, he appeared to him as the God of glory, and spoke to him. 2. That this call was given him in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran; therefore we rightly read it, The Lord had said unto Abram, namely, in Ur of the Chaldees; and, in obedience to this call, as Stephen further relates the story (Acts 7:4), he came out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran, or Haran, about five years, and thence, when his father was dead, by a fresh command, pursuant to the former, God removed him into the land of Canaan. some think that Haran was in Chaldea, and so was still a part of Abram’s country, or that Abram, having staid there five years, began to call it his country, and to take root there, till God let him know this was not the place he was intended for. Note: If God loves us, and has mercy in store for us, he will not suffer us to take up our rest any where short of Canaan, but will graciously repeat his calls, till the good work begun be performed, and our souls repose in God only. In the call itself we have a precept and a promise.
I. A trying precept: Get thee out of thy country, v. 1. Now,
1. By this precept he was tried whether he loved his native soil and dearest friends, and whether he could willingly leave all, to go along with God. His country had become idolatrous, his kindred and his father’s house were a constant temptation to him, and he could not continue with them without danger of being infected by them; therefore Get thee out, lk-lk—Vade tibi, Get thee gone, with all speed, escape for thy life, look not behind thee, ch. 19:17. Note, those that are in a sinful state are concerned to make all possible haste out of it. Get out for thyself (so some read it), that is, for thy own good. Note, those who leave their sins, and turn to God, will themselves be unspeakable gainers by the change, Prov. 9:12. This command which God gave to Abram is much the same with the gospel call by which all the spiritual seed of faithful Abram are brought into covenant with God. For, (1.) Natural affection must give way to divine grace. Our country is dear to us, our kindred dearer, and our father’s house dearest of all; and yet they must all be hated (Lu. 14:26), that is, we must love them less than Christ, hate them in comparison with him, and, whenever any of these come in competition with him, they must be postponed, and the preference given to the will and honour of the Lord Jesus. (2.) Sin, and all the occasions of it, must be forsaken, and particularly bad company; we must abandon all the idols of iniquity which have been set up in our hearts, and get out of the way of temptation, plucking out even a right eye that leads us to sin (Mt. 5:29), willingly parting with that which is dearest to us, when we cannot keep it without hazard of our integrity. Those that resolve to keep the commandments of God must quit the society of evildoers, Ps. 119:115; Acts 2:40. (3.) The world, and all our enjoyments in it, must be looked upon with a holy indifference and contempt; we must no longer look upon it as our country, or home, but as our inn, and must accordingly sit loose to it and live above it, get out of it in affection, (Matthew Henry’s Commentary of Genesis 12).”
This standard, of which God has established for His Children of Promise, is reiterated ever so clearly also in the dissertation provided to us by the Apostle Stephen in the entirety of Acts 7:1-59, which is the most profound confirmation concerning who has been the Church of God all along before the outpouring of God's Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, an event most Christians believe was the day in which the Christian church was created. The apostle Stephen clearly identifies God's Children of Promise in verses 37 and 38 when he said, This is that Moses who told the Israelites, 'God will send you a prophet like me from your own people. 38 He was in the assembly in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai, and with our fathers; and he received living words to pass on to us, (Acts 7:37-38). [see Greek definition for assembly]
The point the Apostle Stephen is trying to drive home to the Pharisees (and all who fail to understand the true Gospel of Jesus Christ) is that a promise was made to a people who would obey God and His standards. He is telling them that the Children of Promise are not based on fleshly inheritance, but rather on faith. The apostle Paul drives this point home (in Galatians 3:6-14) when he tells the church of that day, that the true Gospel of Christ was actually preached to Abraham in the book of Genesis 18:18-19 and Genesis 22:1-18:
Consider Abraham: "He believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness."7 Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. 8 The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: "All nations will be blessed through you." 9So those who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10 All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law." 11 Clearly no one is justified before God by the law, because, "The righteous will live by faith." 12 The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, "The man who does these things will live by them." 13 Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: "Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree." 14He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit, (Galatians 3:6-14)
Again, we clearly saw in Genesis 18:18 and 19, the type of people God calls out, and for what purpose, which is made perfectly clear:
18 Abraham will surely become a great and powerful nation, and all nations on earth will be blessed through him. 19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the LORD by doing what is right and just, so that the LORD will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him,"(Genesis 18:18-19).
Abraham and all of his descendants were blessed due to his obedience. As we saw in the great story in Genesis 22:11-18, where God commanded Abraham to offer his son as a sacrifice, he was not only blessed for his obedience, that obedience has blessed all of mankind:
God called out to him from heaven:
"Here I am," he replied.
12 "Do not lay a hand on the boy," he said. "Do not do anything to him. Now I know that you fear God, because you have not withheld from me your son, your only son." 13 Abraham looked up and there in a thicket he saw a ram[a] caught by its horns. He went over and took the ram and sacrificed it as a burnt offering instead of his son. 14 So Abraham called that place The LORD Will Provide. And to this day it is said, "On the mountain of the LORD it will be provided." 15 The angel of the LORD called to Abraham from heaven a second time 16 and said, "I swear by myself, declares the LORD, that because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son, 17 I will surely bless you and make your descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as the sand on the seashore. Your descendants will take possession of the cities of their enemies, 18 and through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed me," (Genesis 22:11-18)
The standards of God were clearly established within the promises He made to Abraham and to his descendants. The promises were not made concerning a specific race or ethnic group, but solely to those who believed and who follow through on that faith in obedience. The remaining notations in the Bible, where many see eternal promises that God made Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (nee Israel) were always conditional upon obedience. Eschatologists can glean selective scripture to force them into theories they conjure up or repeat from others, but nothing can replace the truthfulness in the clarity of God's words.
God chose a people to bear His banner of righteousness. Grace does not provide us with the right nor the folly to insert assumptions based on the popular and soothing Gospel that prevails in these tumultuous times we live in. Jesus Christ has fulfilled the law and all prophecy. He ever so clearly reminds us what the law and the prophets stated and claimed were all revealed and fulfilled in Him. He also clearly told God's Children of Promise what was expected of them. He reminded them daily about His standards and precepts. He has been with His Children of Promise from the very beginning, from the time God first spoke to Abram near the great trees of Mamre to his final days in Beersheba, up through the over some 400 hundred years of Israel's captivity in Egypt, Christ has been with them and is constantly reminding them who He is and what His expectations are. Christ did not just first appear sometime in 10 BC as Jesus did, Christ was actually with His assembly (Greek, ecclesia=called out ones) during those lost 40 years of wandering in the desert after being freed from Egyptian bondage, as is clearly stated in 1 Corinthians 10:1-5:
1 For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert, (1 Corinthians 10:1-5).
Sadly, even though Christ was amongst them, as He was among the unbelieving Pharisees during His earthly sojourn in Rome and Judeah, and sometimes even among some doubtful apostles (such as Peter and Thomas), they all lacked the faith and realization that God
(Immanuel) has been with us all along. But, equally important, in the following verses, He tells us, that the Old Testament was not written for us to selectively pull out certain prophecies and apply them to our esoteric eschatological notions, as if we have been blessed with the ability to foresee or predict the future. No, these were recorded as warnings not to commit the same sins that kept them from reaching The Promised Land:
6 Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did. 7 Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written: "The people sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in pagan revelry. 8 We should not commit sexual immorality, as some of them did—and in one day twenty-three thousand of them died. 9 We should not test the Lord, as some of them did—and were killed by snakes. 10 And do not grumble, as some of them did—and were killed by the destroying angel, 11 These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the fulfillment of the ages has come, (1 Corinthians 10:6-10).
It's plain and simple. God's Children of Promise are those who have been called out (the ecclesia) to serve Him. This can only be accomplished by faith that leads to obedience. Abraham believed God could raise the dead and he commenced to perform a murderous act in killing his own son. God stopped him because he saw that Abraham believed and obeyed and it was credited to him as righteousness. Henceforth he is known as the Father of Faith and those who believe and who have faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith. These are God's Children of Promise, who existed before the Day of Pentecost!
As the reader examines the attached chapter, the author goes into great detail to explain what actually happened on The Day of Pentecost. It was during that great event that God poured out the gift of His Holy Spirit, providing His Children of Promise (those who believe by faith) the power to discern His proverbial message and to broadcast the Gospel of Jesus Christ to a lost and dying world. The Christian church was not formed on that day (as theorists have posited for centuries); that event merely provided the non-believing nations the opportunity to be united with God's Children of Promise, as we can plainly see in Ephesians 2:1-22, the Christian church was not created on that day; rather, unbelievers were afforded the opportunity to become members of God's Children of Promise, who existed back in the days of Abraham, our Father of Faith:
Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, 20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone. 21 In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. 22 And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit, (Ephesians 2:19-22).
When Jesus told Peter in Matthew 16:18 that upon this rock (meaning Himself) He would build His church, He was not telling him that He was going to create the Christian church, he was telling him that the already existing church, comprised of the faith-believing Children of Promise, would be 'emboldened" by the power of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost, which is exactly what happened. The word for "build" in this verse is the Greek word oikodomeo, which means to edify, strengthen, to embolden. If Jesus wanted to reveal to us that he meant build, as in to create something new, we would have seen the Greek word ktisis, to create, in that verse. How does someone strengthen something that doesn't already exist?
Finally, there are many who try to separate Old Testament saints from the New (who, supposedly will be the only ones who get Raptured to Heaven and participate in a big wedding banquet), and that Old Testament saints have to wait 1000 years before they can participate in God's Kingdom. However in Matthew 8:5-11, we read the story about the centurion who came to Jesus and asked Him to heal his slave, and, in humble faith, told Jesus he was not worthy to have the Lord come to his house, but just merely speak and his slave will be healed. Jesus responded by saying, "Verily I say unto you, I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel. 11 And I say unto you, That many shall come from the east and west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob, in the kingdom of heaven." In these two verses, Jesus tells us that faith is still the main criteria for salvation; plus, we also see that the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob will be amongst God's Children of Promise in the Kingdom of God!
You can call God's Children of Promise (collectively) the Church, Christians, Israel, Disciples, The Way, whatever; but recognize that those who believe (as did the great cloud of witnesses spoken of in Hebrews 11:1-39, which included Abel, Enoch, Noah and all the patriarchs and Old Testament saints, thereafter, are all that needs to be included among God's Children of Promise. These are they who were people of faith, who suffered greatly and even slain at the hands of unbelievers, who walked with Him hundreds of years before the Day of Pentecost, as well as those of us who today believe in and will hopefully continue to serve our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, regardless of the costs, are God's Children of Promise!
[For an in depth study of this topic please click on Who Are God's Children of Promise to download this first Chapter of The End Times Passover. To access the author's web sites, blogs and other information, please click on Joe Ortiz]