Israel's Distinctive Blessedness in the Millennium.*

 

by

 

James Stephens, M.A.

 

[* Mr Stephens, was for 46 years pastor at Highgate Road Chapel, North London. This tract was published in the October/December, 1996 issue of Watching and Waiting. The message was given by Mr. Stephens at an S. G. A. T. Conference on 25th March, 1926.]

 

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While there may be a measure of blessedness in all nations during the millennial age, there will be a special and distinctive blessedness in the nation of Israel. There will be in all nations the blessedness that will result from this - that Satan, who meanwhile, with marvellous effectiveness, deceiveth the nations, shall be bound and shut up in the abyss during the thousand years; that under the direct reign of Christ peace on earth shall be established and maintained; that wickedness will be summarily dealt with, and the righteous be upheld and made to flourish; that all political and social hindrances to the proclamation and to the prevailing of the Word of the Truth of the Gospel will be taken out of the way; and that the Holy Spirit of God will be present in extraordinary fullness of energy in all the earth.

 

The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of God, the knowledge of the excellencies of Him Who is over all blessed for ever, and Who is the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Israel will participate in this blessedness, and at the same time, will have a blessedness peculiarly its own.

 

The Lord's Peculiar Treasure

 

Of the nation of Israel it will continue to be said during the whole of the thousand years, "The LORD hath chosen thee to be a peculiar people unto Himself, above all the nations that are upon the earth" (Deuteronomy 14: 2). The purpose which the Lord expressed in the day when He avouched Israel to be His peculiar people, will come to complete and abiding fulfilment, "The LORD hath avouched thee this day to be His peculiar people, as He hath promised thee, and that thou shouldest keep all His commandments; and to make thee high above all nations which He hath made, in praise, and in name, and in honour; and that thou mayest be an holy people unto the LORD thy God" (Deuteronomy 26:18-19). Israel will be not only the Lord's peculiar people, but His "peculiar treasure" (Psalm 135: 4).

 

The relationship between the Lord and His nation will be according to His Word, "I will betroth thee unto Me for ever" (Hosea 2: 19). Israel will thus be held in distinguishing favour. It is true that it will be in millennial days, even as it is now, that individuals of all nations who, through faith in Jesus, shall be brought under the cover and value of His finished work, and into experience of new life will be collectively "a peculiar people," or otherwise, a people for God's own possession; but it does not appear that any one nation besides Israel, will as a nation be the Lord's peculiar people. It may well be that the great majority of the individuals of every other nation will have saving faith in Christ, while that will be, universally, outward acknowledgement of the true God; but it is not possible to say that any one nation will be, in its entirety, as the nation of Israel will be in its entirety, a people "holy unto the LORD."

 

We read of some members of other nations who will yield feigned obedience; and at the close of the millennium, when Satan is temporarily loosed, there will be nations deceived by him as will Israel in no wise be. It is written, "All Israel shall be saved," that is, the entire nation, as it will be in the opening days of the millennium, will be converted and forgiven and made regenerate; and it would appear that this astounding work of grace will keep repeating itself in the case of each succeeding generation. Israel, in its successive generations, will continue to be the Lord's peculiar treasure in which His delight will be; and will be His betrothed. "I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me for ever, for the good of them, and of their children after them" (Jeremiah 32: 39). "In the LORD shall all the seed of Israel be justified, and shall glory" (Isaiah 45: 25). "Thy people also shall be all righteous: they shall inherit the land for ever, the branch of My planting, the work of My hands, that I may be glorified" (Isaiah 60: 21).

 

Practical Righteousness will Characterise Them

 

It will thus come to pass that practical righteousness, practical holiness, will characterise the entire national life of Israel. No other nation will be in its entirety so characterised. The keeping of the commandments of God will be the constant concern of the whole nation. In all their governmental procedure, in all their civic and social arrangements, there will be an application of the principles of God - intelligent, unhesitating, whole-hearted. "In that day shall there be upon the bells of the horses, HOLINESS UNTO THE LORD ... yea, every pot in Jerusalem shall be holiness unto the LORD of Hosts" (Zechariah 14: 20-21).

 

It is not, of course, that the nation will walk sinlessly and be without the need, all the time, of the cleansing Blood; but it is that it will be, distinctly and manifestly, a God-fearing nation, and that as compared with other nations it will be pre-eminently so. To Israel will pertain this distinctive blessedness.

 

Unparalleled Prosperity Theirs

 

God will make manifest the blessedness that will be the portion of Israel through their being His peculiar people, by bestowing on them, in a distinguishing way, temporal and material prosperity. While yet, in the far past, Israel was in Egypt, they were, we read, "fruitful, and increased abundantly, and multiplied, and waxed exceeding mighty; and the land was filled with them." This marked them as it did not mark the Egyptians, and was theirs as a distinctive favour from God. And, similarly, it will happen to Israel throughout the millennium, above and beyond (one would gather) what will happen to any other nation.

 

God will keep on fulfilling His words: "I will multiply men upon you, all the house of Israel, even all of it" (Ezekiel 36: 10). "Israel shall blossom and bud, and fill the face of the world with fruit" (Isaiah 27: 6). "Yet the number of the children of Israel shall be as the sand of the sea, which cannot be measured nor numbered" (Hosea 1: 10). The LAND of Israel also shall be made a specially delightsome land. "The LORD shall comfort Zion: He will comfort all her waste places; and He will make her wilderness like Eden, and her desert like the garden of the LORD" (Isaiah 51: 3). There shall be, and continue to be, outstanding national prosperity and glory for Israel, God's holy nation, far exceeding the prosperity and glory under Solomon's reign.

 

The Lord's Presence

 

God will own Israel as His Own peculiar people by giving them to have throughout the millennium, in Jerusalem their capital, a supernatural manifestation indicative or expressive of His Own presence in their midst. "The LORD will create upon every dwelling place (over the whole habitation) of Mount Zion, and upon (over) her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day, and the shining of a flaming fire by night; for upon (over) all the glory shall be a defence (spread a canopy). And there shall be a tabernacle (pavilion) for a shadow in the daytime from the heat, and for a (place of) refuge, and for a covert from storm and from rain" (Isaiah 4: 5-6).

 

It will be similar to what it was with Israel in the wilderness, on the coming out of Egypt: "The LORD went before them by day in a pillar of a cloud, to lead them the way; and by night in a pillar of fire, to give them light; to go by day and night: He took not away the pillar of the cloud by day, nor the pillar of fire by night" (Exodus 13: 21-22). In this it will be manifest to the world that "the LORD hath chosen Zion, He hath desired it for His habitation;" and that He hath said of it, "This is My rest for ever; here will I dwell; for I have desired it" (Psalm 132: 13-14). God's dwelling in Zion will constitute for Israel distinctive blessedness.

 

No doubt, it will be in millennial days as it is in the present time, wherever, among all nations, believers will be gathered together in the Name of Christ He will be present in their midst - present spiritually. Saints will then, as now, be "builded together for an habitation of God by the Spirit." But it will not be true of any nation as nation that God is among them in continuous manifest supernatural working. The Lord Jesus Christ will not personally manifest Himself in the capital city of any nation as He will in the capital of Israel - at least from time to time.

 

Jerusalem, the Centre of Teaching

 

In consequence of this distinguishing favour to Jerusalem, distinctive blessedness of various kinds will be the portion of the nation of Israel. (1) "Many peoples shall go and say, Come ye, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob, for He will teach us of His ways, and we will walk in His paths; for out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem" (Isaiah 2: 3). This will take place while yet "the Scripture of Truth" as we have it will abound in every land.

 

May not this mean that in Jerusalem, as in a Seat of Heavenly learning, there will be opening up of the spiritual import of Levitical law such as at present obtains but little among Gentile teachers; there will be an unfolding and explaining of the ways of God, especially as these ways have been, and will be expressed in His manifold and wonderful dealings with Israel; there will be taught in great wisdom the application of the laws and principles of God to actual, practical life in the multitudinous phases. If it should be so, or if anything like this should be the case, then to Israel will pertain the blessedness of being made a blessing to other peoples. The God Who said to Abraham, "I will bless thee," and added, "I will make thee a blessing,"* is the God of Israel, Whom we expect to show the like distinguishing favour to His nation in the millennium.

 

[* This prophesy awaits its literal fulfilment, after the time of Abrahamís Resurrection and his bodily presence upon this earth at that time.]

 

In that day it will be said, "Arise, shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of the LORD is risen upon thee; and nations shall come to thy light, and kings to the brightness of thy rising" (Isaiah 60: 1, 3). Kings and nations shall appreciate and seek the light that will be shining in Zion. And thus to Israel will belong the special happiness of being a benefit and a blessing to other nations, above what any other nation is to its fellow-nations.

 

Christ Will be King

 

(2) When Christ comes again it will be found to be, as God has predictively said: "I have set My King upon My holy hill of Zion" (Psalm 16). Christ will be King of Israel, sitting on the throne of His father David. But "the Lord," the King of Israel, "shall be King over all the earth" (Zechariah 14:9). The centre and seat of government for Israel will be the centre and seat of government for the whole earth.

 

This will mean distinguishing honour for Israel above all nations, and honour that will have in it a distinctive blessedness for Israel. "The LORD of hosts shall reign in Mount Zion, and in Jerusalem, and before His ancients gloriously" (Isaiah 24: 23). From thence, "He shall judge among the nations, and shall rebuke many peoples" (Isaiah 2: 4). From thence, "He shall speak peace unto the nations" (Zechariah 9: 10).

 

While Christ will be present bodily, according as "His feet shall stand upon the Mount of Olives," it is not to be understood that He will be present bodily all the time, or be bodily occupying a dwelling-house in Jerusalem. The saints who shall have been raised at His coming, and who shall be ever with the Lord, shall be with Him in the new Jerusalem, the heavenly city, let down from God out of heaven, not onto the earth, but unto a certain proximity to it, and so as to be just over the earthly Jerusalem. Between the heavenly Jerusalem and the earthly Jerusalem, there shall be for Christ and His risen saints very close and intimate connection, and there shall be on their part much coming and going.*

 

[* Hence the fulfilment and reality of Jacobís dream at Bethel: "I will give you ... the land on which you are lying ... All peoples ON EARTH will be blessed through YOU ... I [the Lord] will bring you BACK TO THIS LAND ..." (Gen. 28: 13-15).]

 

In this way - [after the "first resurrection", when "blessed and holy" believers (Rev. 20: 6) will be "like the angels" (Luke 20: 36)- Ed.] it will be possible for the risen saints of the heavenly city to reign with Christ over [and upon - Ed.] the earth: at the same time it will remain that the earthly centre and seat of Christ's government over the earth will be Jerusalem, the capital of the nation of Israel. There will be blessedness for Israel in Christ's manifesting Himself in the glory of supreme governing power and authority in their midst.

 

Jerusalem, the Centre of Worship

 

(3) Jerusalem, in the midst of Israel, shall be throughout the millennium, a place and centre of worship above any city or place in the whole world. There will be there, as nowhere else, worship after the order appointed in the days of Moses.

 

We are told in Ezekiel (chapters 40-44) that there shall be a restored temple, and restored sacrifices and a restored priesthood of the sons of Levi. As to the restoration of the sacrifices, it will at once occur to the mind that this seems to be in conflict with the great statement concerning Christ's sacrifice - "By one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified" (Hebrews 10: 14). The apparent contrariety may disappear if we consider the future sacrifices, not as formerly, typically anticipative of the one great Sacrifice, but retrospectively, commemorative. Whatever sacrificing God will have maintained in Jerusalem in the future, this will remain as a sure fact, that Christ, at His first coming, appeared "to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Hebrews 9:26).

 

At the same time, this future sacrificing may, by way of memorial, vividly and impressively set forth the One Sacrifice so that IT will be remembered with fuller apprehension of its value and ever-renewed adoring gratitude. Allowing for the restoration of sacrifices, the restoration of the priesthood presents no difficulty; for this is in line with what is said in 1 Chronicles 23:13, that "Aaron was separated, he and his sons for ever," that is, as long as the nation as a nation should last. The temple also, when it is restored, will be a house of prayer for all nations.

 

The great feasts of Israel will also again have place and be kept in Jerusalem; and they shall not be kept by Israel only, but other nations shall be Israel's fellow-worshippers and fellow-celebrants. "It shall come to pass, that every one that is left of all the nations which came against Jerusalem, shall even go up from year to year to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, and to keep the feast of tabernacles. And it shall be, that whoso will not come up of all the families of the earth unto Jerusalem to worship the King, the LORD of hosts, even upon them shall be no rain" (Zechariah 14:16-17). When "the mountain of the LORD's house shall be established in the top of the mountains," "all nations shall flow unto it." Nations shall flow, it may be in this sense - that great companies of every nation shall go up with gladness, or it might be, in this sense also, that nations will eagerly present themselves in Jerusalem in the person of officially-appointed responsible representatives.

 

We do not forget how, when the woman of Samaria said to Jesus, "Our fathers worshipped in this mountain (Gerizim); and ye say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship," Jesus answered her, "Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father ... the hour cometh, and now is, when the true worshippers shall worship the Father in spirit and in truth; for the Father seeketh such to worship Him" (John 4: 20-24).

 

Our Lord's words affirmed that all places, as well as Jerusalem, would be places of acceptable worship if only the worship were worship according to God's mind. This will, of course, hold good during the millennium. At the same time, there will be superadded the call and the privilege for all nations to enter into association with the privileged Israel, in that city which the Lord shall account His earthly rest and dwelling-place, and where His visible glory shall be shining forth for the thousand years.

 

The Plenitude of the Holy Spirit

 

What a place of joyful worship that city of holiness and truth shall be in those days to come. Besides the visible glory, there will be there in continuous plenitude of effusion the Holy Spirit in His mighty grace. With one accord, all the lands shall "make a joyful noise unto the LORD," shall "serve the LORD with gladness" and "come before His presence with singing," shall "enter into His gates with thanksgiving, and into His courts with praise" (Psalm 100). Israel shall boast in God, and the nations shall join in this with Israel. There will be a very exultation of worship, and at the same time worship that will be worship in spirit and in truth. To Israel will be given the distinctive blessedness of having this in the midst.

 

We cannot tell how much it will mean for Israel to be, all through the millennium, God's own peculiar treasure. As a bridegroom rejoiceth over a bride, so the Lord will rejoice over the nation. Notwithstanding the excellency of distinguishing favour shown to Israel, and pre-eminence in experience of blessing, the nation will find the other nations - not moved with envy or jealousy (with some exception at the beginning and end of the millennium), but on the contrary, rejoicing in their joy. Israel will be such a blessing to other nations, or the blessing of the nations will be so bound up with Israel's blessing, that they will take pleasure in God's great goodness to His peculiar people.

 

It is evident that there will also be this most wonderful happening, that Israel will not be lifted up in pride or arrogance or national glorying because of all their marvellous prosperity and distinction. There will be accorded to them this very great grace to keep saying, "God hath not dealt with us after our sins, nor rewarded us according to our iniquities: for as the heaven is high above the earth, so great is His mercy toward them that fear Him." If they glory, their glorying will be all in the Lord.

 

When God makes of Israel His peculiar treasure, He will exhibit before the eyes of the nations THE EXCELLENCY OF GRACE. What nation has sinned as Israel has? What nation has provoked and dishonoured God as this one? What nation has been obstinate, rebellious and apostatising as this one? Has any nation sunk deeper in guilt? When it is Israel that receives pardon of God it will be said, "Who is a pardoning God like unto Thee, that pardoneth iniquity, and passeth by the transgression of the remnant of His heritage?" And when God enters on taking continuous delight in Israel, will it not be as when He made of Saul the persecutor and blasphemer a saint and an apostle in whom the Lord glorified Himself. Could grace further go?

 

Divine Grace, Faithfulness and Wisdom

 

When God makes of Israel His peculiar treasure He will exhibit before the eyes of all the PERFECTION OF FAITHFULNESS. For in proceeding thus He will act in fulfilment of a covenant made thousands of years previously. No lapse of time shall have made Him forgetful of that covenant, no ingratitude or wickedness on the apart of Israel shall have made Him alter or modify His purpose. "Hath He said and shall He not do it."

 

And when God makes of Israel His peculiar treasure it will be as if WISDOM IN ITS SUPREME WONDERFULNESS had come into evidence. "Now, if the fall of them (Israel) be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them be the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?" "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!"

 

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