Art Braidic (a minister of the Sabbath keeping Church of God) and I have enjoyed a biblical discussion about whether or not God's covenant with Judah is still active. I trust others may glean something profitable from our fellowship. I start with his intial response and add my comments:
My conclusion is that God brought the Jews back to fulfill prophecy, not to re-establish them as a nation permanently.
Thank you, Art, for prayerfully considering all this about Judah's return under Ezra and Nehemiah and taking the time to respond. May God bless our fellowship and inspire us all to a better understanding of this holy subject. Such discussions prove true that "iron sharpens iron."
God did indeed bring Judah back (but not all were willing to return just like today) to fulfill prophecy, but I must question if that was the only reason why did God not only send a scion of David (Zerubbabel), and a governor (Nehemiah), but a PRIEST to instruct the People in the Torah? Ezra had his Work cut out for him and did a marvelous job (Ezra 7:10).
His NATIONAL CONGREGATION repented of their Sabbath breaking (Nehemiah 13:17-22) and mixed marriages and entered into a COVENANT WITH GOD. We have no record of the Gentilized Israelites ever repenting, even in part, or returning and submitting to any biblical instruction (Ezra 10:1-3).
Judah had sinned worse than Israel originally, but THEY REPENTED and were brought back. Israel never repented and was never brought back. Some of Judah remained repentant from THE RETURN to the time of Yeshua, the New Testament bearing them record:
The priestly parents of John the Baptist (Luke 1:6), Simon and Anna - two holy and elderly witnesses and the Torah-observant Yosef and Miriam (Luke 2:25, 36-39).
And Yeshua said of the Gentiles and testified about the Jews:
22 You [Gentiles] worship what you do not know; we [Jews] know what we worship, for salvation is of the Jews.
He couldn't say that about the Gentilized Israelites who had lost it all!
The Old Testament was to have seven eras.
I know the Church of God teaches this and I have shared it with others, but the Church of God isn't consistent when they reject the God-given authority of the scribes and the Pharisees that Christ acknowledged on the matters of the sacred calendar and responsibility to properly proclaim the holy days.
Christ was to come from Judah. All this was fulfilled and then, God destroyed the nation and scattered them exactly like He did their sister Israel.
God had already destroyed the former Judah and Jerusalem and scattered the Jews, but many of them repented and returned (part of true national repentance is to return to the Land, not just the Law). Those faithful Jews, the parents of John, the parents of Yeshua, Simon, Anna, and others like them remained faithful and accepted the Light that God had sent Judah and when the others rejected Him they were rejected.
But the physical and spiritual foundation of converted Jews continued without fail! The early Church of God was entirely Jewish, as you know. That Jewish/biblical foundation was most instrumental in the construction of the spiritual Temple that includes Gentile converts into that holy Branch. Most of Judah were temporarily cut off, just like the Gentilized Israelites, but SOME of them never were and continued right on as pioneers of faith towards the "New Jerusalem!"
Antiocus went through the land devastating it it and putting the abomination in the temple. I submit that if these people were God's people, in a covenant with them, then they would have not suffered so.
Isn't that a gospel of peace and prosperity? Don't true believers suffer persecution? If God wasn't in covenant with Judah, why did Yeshua call the defiled and CLEANSED Temple "My Father's House?" God sent Judah - still His covenant people at that point - the Macabbees as in the days of the Judges, just as the Church also teaches that Daniel prophesied of them as the "people who know their God and do (military) exploits," and they formed part of the seven eras of the Old Testament. Another traditional inconsistency!
To me, after Christ's death, any relationship was completely over.
Yes, I agree that after the unwarranted hatred Yeshua experienced at the hands of His brethren, like our father Joseph did earlier as a type, the Anointed One who came to purify Judah's religion and correct their misunderstandings and rebuke idolatrous traditions (which is why He spent so much time with the God-ordained Pharisees). He warned Judah of the Temple's imminent destruction and their dispersion and they rejected Him and His warning message and many of them paid for it with their lives, God was through - for the most part - with collective Judah. However, as stated above, God kept His Word to be the God of our fathers and our God to a remnant, folks like the righteous I've mentioned whose kind made up the early Church.
As Paul writes... Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.
I do know your point, but to be technical, it's speaking of US being dead to sin (and its penalty) and resurrected in Christ, able to now marry Righteousness - it doesn't state that about Christ.
So, in the marriage to Israel, God was married to Judah. Once He died, He was able to remarry. He now is espoused to those He has called, and He will marry them at His return.
I know and have also shared this Church of God teaching, but the Scriptures reveal God saying to physical Israelites in these last days, God pleading with us to return to Him as our Husband, that He never divorced us! Judah and Israel are still married to God even if we've broken our part of the covenant relationship and God has "SEPARATED" us from Him due to our unrepentant sins. But He wants us back! (Isaiah 50:1, Jeremiah 3:14).
The Church of God, like the Prophets, ought to call our people back to the Law and the Covenant that God made with our Fathers Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (and confirmed with our fathers at Mount Sinai) and wants to RENEW with us and improve upon it by writing His Torah upon the tablets of our converted hearts and minds, so help us God!
I actually do not know what replacement theology is.
It is denying the spiritual importance of physical Israel to God forever, regardless of our present sins that will soon be history.
Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel, Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.
All this is saying is that race alone isn't sufficient. That a physical Israelite must also have a spiritual Israelite identity or they're nothing more than physically circumcised spiritual Gentiles! And that physical Gentiles can be spiritual Israelites and join the Body of converted Israelite believers: the remnant of physical Israel who isn't blinded!
I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid.
Replacement theology would say it doesn't matter because spiritual Israel has replaced any need for physical Israelites to be in a covenant relationship with God and such a damnable heresy is dead wrong! Paul then stresses his PHYSICAL TRIBAL IDENTITY - he didn't dismiss it as unimportant. God must always have at least a chosen few physical Israelites to keep His Promise to our Fathers to be their God and the God of their literal descendants.
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.
So, there is a remnant according to grace, not race. Who is that remnant comprised of?
Not so! The very example Paul used were ALL ISRAELITE. Why speak of a remnant except to refer to the relatively chosen few ISRAELITES who have not gone astray or been blinded? The remnant pertains to physical Israelites who are converted Israelites!
What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded
The election or remnant of physical ISRAELITES! Just like the vast majority of Jews rejected Jesus but a remnant of physical Jews remained faithful and formed the foundational Church of God in Jerusalem!
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
While not the firstfruits, they are still holy because they are God's people.
It is converted physical Israelites who are the firstfruits, converted physical Israelites who are the roots, a converted physical Israelite olive tree that converted Gentiles can be grafted into! We are the Israelite Church of God, as Herbert W. Armstrong taught, and it is counterfeit Christianity that is a Gentile Church that seeks to replace physical Israelites in every way, physically and spiritually.
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.
Blindness IN PART, a partial blindness among Jews and Israelites. I really don't understand why God had to blind any of our people, maybe you know? Why couldn't He just work with Gentiles and Israelites at the same time like He does in the Church? Ancient Israel always accepted Gentile converts and they weren't at the expense of any Israelites. I really don't understand this part of the mystery and pray to grasp it better!
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.
Back to physical Israel, showing their physical descent from Jacob-Israel remains important to God despite "spiritual Israel." Again, it's because of the covenant that God made with our Fathers. That's why the "Time of Jacob's Trouble" will be cut short - mainly for the ethnic election, the physical Israelites' sakes! not the spiritual Church of God alone.
22 And unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be saved; but for the elect's sake those days will be shortened.
9 Unless the LORD of hosts
Had left to us a very small remnant,
We would have become like Sodom,
We would have been made like Gomorrah.
44 Yet for all that, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, nor shall I abhor them, to utterly destroy them and break My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God.
45 But for their sake I will remember the covenant of their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt in the sight of the nations, that I might be their God: I am the LORD.'"
This GOOD NEWS is why the first chapter of Beyond Babylon: Europe's Rise and Fall is gladly called "Survival Guaranteed!"
As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
Just like Elijah was opposed by most of his nation of Gentilized Israelites, and the 7,000 were the chosen few (COG - Cave of God), all physical Israelites, so most of the nation of Judah rejected My God Yah in the flesh except for the chosen few physical Israelites who became converted and were the Church of God in Judea! The election, the ethnic elect, the Chosen People, will finally respond to our calling to become a Kingdom of Priests, a Light to all Nations, so help us God! Hosanna in the Highest!
Rom 11: 30
For God hath concluded them all in unbelief, that he might have mercy upon all.
This is the mystery I wrote of above that I would like to understand better.
As you stated, their time will come again, but I believe it is not now.
I agree that the vast majority of Joes and Jews are presently blinded, but I believe there are individuals with whom God is working, His Holy Spirit is WITH THEM (not yet in them, like with His disciples originally), as part of the process of national redemption, laying the groundwork, preparing the way, for when God chooses to call us all again into a COVENANT RELATIONSHIP with Him, like Gershon Salomon of the Temple Mount Faithful and other faithful Jews, exceptions, just like Simon and Anna.
Even as Herbert W. Armstrong taught the children of Worldwide Church of God members are SANCTIFIED (I Corinthians 7:14), so too are the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Ezra 9:2). I believe this revelation needs to be better understood and taught in the congregations.
I love the Jewish people. I find them among the most bright, professional, and talented people in the world.
I know you do. I never doubted it. I also know that Judah offers the best and the worst in this world! We can either become "stars" (as the descendants of Abraham) or so much "dirt" (grains of sand).
May God bless klal Yisrael (all Israel/12 Tribes) to fulfill our incredible NATIONAL potential! (Isaiah 62:1-2, 6-7).