The Grace of God

That Brings Salvation Has Appeared to All Men (Titus 2:11)

Earthly Jerusalem vs. Heavenly Jerusalem

I will preface this writing with an older writing, which compares the kingdoms of men in general with the Kingdom of God. (Read it here.) In this writing, I will be making a specific contrast between the earthly kingdom of Jerusalem and the heavenly Kingdom of Jerusalem (the kingdom of God).

There is no doubt that God Himself led an earthly nation out of Egypt, through the wilderness, and into the promised land which came to be called after Jacob–”Israel.” He later established the earthly throne of Jerusalem and set David upon it, promising him that he would always have a ruling descendant on his throne even after he was gone. This earthly nation and kingdom was advanced and defended by carnal weapons, and yet God declared throughout the Old Testament writings, that victory could never be attained by mere might or power, horses or chariots, but only by His Spirit. And His Spirit would only give victory when the people obeyed His voice.

There was a special calling upon the nation of Israel, which consisted of people descended from Abraham, and all who joined them and obeyed God with them.Please note: the nation of Israel included more than “Jews,” as many erroneously believe today. “Jews” are properly of the tribe of Judah, only one of the twelve tribes of Israel. Also, Gentiles were always allowed to be called Israelites if they forsook heathen gods and worshiped the one true God. To join His people was to join Him. Examples are the Egyptians who left Egypt with the Israelites, the Ethiopian wife of Moses, Rahab–the harlot from Jericho who became the mother of Boaz, and Ruth–the Moabite who took Israel’s God as her own. Rahab, Boaz and Ruth are all in Jesus’ direct lineage, showing that God cared very little about making sure His King had a pure bloodline. Paul would later say to those who boasted of their Jewishness that a true Jew is a person who has had his heart circumcised by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ (Rom. 2:28-29). Now if it seems that we have progressed in these paragraphs from a physical nation to aspiritual nation, we have. Such is the nature of what God has done; let us go on.

Again we start with the physical man–Abraham. Abraham was promised that all nations would be blessed through him (Gen. 22:18) and through his Seed (Acts 3:25). Paul later declared that this Seed was Christ Himself, descended all the way from Abraham according to the flesh, and it was to Christ the promises were ultimately made (Gal. 3:16). The blessings of Abraham rest upon Christ and upon all who “put on Christ,” including Gentiles (Gal. 3:14, 26-29). Did not all the prophets speak of Gentiles streaming to Mount Zion, the city of the Great King?? Those who enter Christ are counted as Abraham’s seed (Gal. 3:29) and are therefore members of the spiritual Israel of God. Have you noticed again the transition from an earthly kingdom to a spiritual one?

While God began His work to establish an eternal kingdom with an earthly man and an earthly kingdom, out of that earthly thing He brought forth a spiritual thing. And out of that earthly kingdom (ancient Israel, centered in Jerusalem), He brought forth a spiritual kingdom (the Israel of God, the Jerusalem Above, the heavenly city). First came the earthly or natural, and then came the spiritual (I Cor. 15:46–a passage about the resurrection, but I refer to the spiritual principle). This principle is all throughout Scripture. In Adam’s race we die, but if we are born again in the second Adam, Jesus, we are made alive. A plant seed has one kind of body that dies, and out of it comes another body which is far better and far more fruitful. God’s kingdom was sown a natural body (in a physical location with a physical king), but out of this He raised up a spiritual body, whose King is Jesus, and whose dominion is the whole earth and heaven.

The carnal kingdom had its purpose and its progression. It had highlights, such as when the temple was built, or when David and Solomon ruled. It suffered ups and downs while apostasy and idolatry increased within it. It seemed finished when its people were vomited out of the land. It had renewals when two groups of exiles were permitted to return to Jerusalem. But it ultimately came to its end when its people rejected the spiritual King who took the spiritual throne of Israel forever. They were old wineskins who refused to hold the New Wine. They wanted a carnal king and a carnal kingdom, but God was transitioning His people and establishing a different kind of kingdom which was not of this world. Those who loved God and heard His voice were brought into that Kingdom by faith in Jesus. The law and the prophets were until John, but now the Kingdom of God was being preached, and those who had ears to hear were pressing into it (Lk. 16:16). Those who refused the King’s reign over them would be destroyed. The kingdom would be taken from them and given to a nation producing it’s fruits (Matt. 21:43). The hour had come, said Jesus, when a physical location had nothing to do with worship of God, but His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and truth (Jn. 4:21-24). I will say it again: a transition was made from the carnal to the spiritual. Every person, Jew or Gentile, must make this transition, for flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. We must be born again and become spiritual men.

This nation to whom the kingdom was given is a holy nation made of holy people, not a nation determined by the boundaries marked out by whoever has the strongest weapons. Such nations are all doomed. Those of the carnal kingdom of Israel were encouraged to enter the spiritual kingdom of Israel, which was “at hand.” “Repent and Believe,” was the invitation that rang out. Some did enter, and we are thankful for those Jewish believers–and their Gentile brothers–who went on to write the New Testament and evangelize the world. To those natural Israeliteswho did not enter the spiritual Israel, the door stood open if they would only believe (Rom. 11:23). But with or without them, the One New Man–the Church–the Kingdom of God–advanced and is still advancing.

Satan offered Jesus the carnal kingdoms of this world if only He would worship him (Matt. 4:8-9). I believe Jesus could have had an earthly rule through pedigree (some Jews tried to make him an earthly king–Jn. 6:15) or some other earthly means. He said He could call down legions of angels to do His bidding, but He did not. Why? He was not establishing another earthly kingdom, but an eternal one. Through the redemption His blood provided, we can pass from the kingdoms of darkness ruled by satan–for he is the god of this world–into the kingdom of light ruled by the Bright and Morning Star.

Earthly kings generally rise by proving their pedigree or by having “friends in high places,” or by deception or murder or power through wealth. They generally have to maintain their power through the same. King Jesus rose and returned to His eternal throne by humbling Himself. He made Himself of no reputation and went to a brutal death to redeem sinners. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name. (Phil. 2:5-11) His ascendance to His throne was nothing like the usual ascendance. God’s ways are not the ways of carnal men. And while God did allow carnal weapons and warfare in the establishment of the foreshadowing earthly nation of Israel, the weapons of the spiritual nation are not carnal, says Paul. Since we are commanded to teach all nations to obey Jesus, we do not view men carnally as others do–by nationalities, races, etc. We view all people as saved or lost. If they are saved, they are our brothers, yes, even if they live in Iraq. If they are lost, they are our mission field and we want to make them our brothers. This can never be done through the carnal sword, but must be done with the Sword of God’s Word (Truth) spoken to them in love. Though the Spirit allowed the carnal sword for earthly Israel, He has given no such command to the spiritual Israel, but has armed them with weapons far superior and freed them from the fear of death. Their weapons are beaten into plowshares, and those who were once at enmity with one another now dwell in peace. True Christians, like their King, are not of this world.

Dear reader, there are no earthly kingdoms that can be considered righteous today. Though ancient Israel was blessed because of obedience for a time, apostasy and corruption soon crept in. Nevertheless, God used the natural nation of Israel and blessed it by bringing from it His eternal King and redemption for all His subjects–the people who make up His Church. Yes, the Church is the spiritual Israel of God. This is not replacement theology, but grafted-in theology, and it is 100% Biblical. The Church, built on the foundation of the prophets and apostles, has a very Hebrew foundation, but let us not think in terms of bloodlines lest we forget there is no Jew nor Greek in Christ.

Paul conceded that the Jews had many advantages, the greatest of which was that they were given the Scriptures (Rom. 3:1-2). Yet he went on to say that his people were no better than Gentiles, since all had sinned and all needed redemption. Indeed Jesus had charged certain Jews with refusing to obey the Scriptures by their refusal to come to Him. While having the Scriptures is an advantage, our very advantages can work against us if we do not use them to God’s glory.

Jesus told the Jews that the kingdom had been taken from them and given to another nation (Matt. 21:43). Peter identified this nation: But you [believers] are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people (I Pet. 2:9). This nation is none other than the Israel of God, a spiritual nation into which people from earthly nations flow. They come to Mount Zion, the city of the Great King, to worship Him. He is the King of spiritual Israel and His kingdom has no end.

A reader of this page will no doubt think, “This author is spiritualizing.” But no honest student of the Word can deny that its writers spiritualize many things. The New Testament writers “spiritualize” Old Testament writings. Paul took a writing about letting oxen eat while treading grain to mean that God wants His laborers to be taken care of while they work (Deut. 25:4; I Cor. 9:4-11). Jesus said John the Baptist was the Elijah to come mentioned in Mal. 4:5. Is this not a spiritual interpretation rather than a literal resurrection of the prophet Elijah? And there are many more examples like these.

Was Jesus speaking of physical bread when He warned His disciples to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees? He seemed surprised when they didn’t understand what He was really saying and interpreted Him in a strictly literal sense (Matt. 16:6-12). No rational person thinks that Jesus wanted His disciples to physically cannibalize Him when He said, “You must eat my flesh and drink my blood.” He confessed His words were Spirit and many would not be able to receive them. In effect, He invited us to spiritualize them, but we must let God’s Spirit lead our spiritualizing.He teaches us as we compare spiritual things with spiritual (I Cor. 2:13).

And that leads me to a particular spiritualization that Paul made, fully directed by the Holy Spirit. And it is this very passage that really opened my eyes about this subject. Please read Gal. 4:22-31. Read it carefully enough, and certainly lies you have been told about Israel and Jerusalem will begin to unravel.

Paul wrote that the two women are two covenants (spiritualizing, no?) Earthly “Jerusalem which now is” is pictured by Hagar, whose children are in bondage. But “the Jerusalem which is above”, pictured by Sarah, is the mother of those who believe in Jesus. (PLEASE note: Hagar does NOT symbolize Arab people! And Sarah does NOT symbolize ethnic Jews. This is a lie perpetuated by dispensationalists who have not read the passage carefully or honestly.)

And so, according to Paul, there are two Jerusalems, one earthly, and one spiritual. Now we see why Jesus said He was in fact the King of the Jews, but His kingdom was not of this world (Jn. 18:36-37). Hagar and her children (unbelieving Jews) have no inheritance in God’s kingdom and are cast out. Sarah and her children (believers many of which are Gentiles) inherit all things. Is it anti-semitic to say this? Well, some Jews have been enraged by this doctrine, but the Jewish Paul said it! He also affirmed that any Jew can be saved if he does not remain in unbelief (Rom. 11:23). Paul did not pander to a Jewish elitism, and neither did Jesus or John the Baptist. And neither should we. To do so is dishonest and will result in error and confusion. God is no respecter of persons, and all men everywhere are commanded to repent.

No matter what carnal kingdom we started out in, we must become citizens of the heavenly kingdom to be saved.

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