Friday, February 19, 2021
There’s a saying that “Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it.” But it’s more than just a saying, it’s a biblical truth that God centered in the middle of the Bible. I’ve often quoted it, but here it is again because it’s highly relevant: “That which has been is what will be, that which is done is what will be done. Is there anything of which it may be said, ‘See, this is new’? It has already been in ancient times before us” (Eccl. 1:9–10). Leadership in the organized church should discern this warning related to their traditions of unbelief.
Ancient Israel’s rebellion against God was initially caused by fear, creating unbelief, and if Christians today don’t learn from that, and repent, they will also suffer the results of unbelief. God reminds us that “all these things happened to them [ancient Israel] as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11). And in Godly fear we observe that as a result of Israel’s unbelief, God “put her away and [has] given her a certificate of divorce” (Jer. 3:8), and has never remarried unbelieving Israel, while “the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable” (Rom. 11:29), meaning that anyone who will by faith believe, and become “a true Jew” (Rom. 2:28–29), God’s calling cannot be withdrawn.
Before going further, it’s important to note that God said to Israel, “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people…And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Exo. 19:5–6). We must remember this because we’ll see it again, almost verbatim, spoken to true Jews “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), and not post-Calvary unbelieving Jews in Israel and around the world, but being applicable only to God’s “true Jews”, those born again are “the Israel of God”.
When ancient Israel enslaved to Egypt was presented with the truth that God, through Moses, would deliver them from bondage, Israel believed and did what God through Moses commanded. Israel saw God’s power at work, being kept from the ten plagues that decimated Egypt; they kept the Passover; they plundered the Egyptians as they left; crossed the Red Sea on dry ground; saw Pharaoh’s army destroyed in the Red Sea, and received the Law at Mt. Sinai; all while being led by God’s cloud by day and pillar of fire by night on their way to the Promised Land, a land that flowed with milk and honey, a land of their eternal inheritance by covenant to Abraham. Israel journeyed to the edge of Canaan, their Promised Land, and sent 12 spies to learn of its condition who returned saying “It truly flows with milk and honey, and this is its fruit. [But] There we saw the giants (the descendants of Anak came from the giants); and we were like grasshoppers in our own sight, and so we were in their sight” (Num. 13:27, 33).
Hearing of the giants in Canaan, Israel’s faith turned to fear. And that fear led to unbelief and rebellion, though God had shown them His power and salvation as they left Egypt. None of that mattered now. They were offended that God would bring them to this place, saying “has the Lord brought us to this land to fall by the sword, that our wives and children should become victims? Would it not be better for us to return to Egypt? So they said to one another, ‘Let us select a leader and return to Egypt’” (Num. 14:3–4). But Israel already had a leader, Moses, the chosen of God, but Israel rejected both! Read the remainder of that account and understand that God utterly decimated unbelieving Israel. Except for Joshua and Caleb who believed God, none of that generation entered their Promised Land, but altogether perished in the wilderness!
REPLAY? Since the mid-19th Century most of the church rejects God’s Word for the gathering of His elect to their promised land “Immediately after the tribulation” (Matt. 24:29–31), not any different than unbelieving Israel. And yet, regardless of God’s love, salvation, mercy, and grace, hearing of the seven-year tribulation and rule of Antichrist has caused the same fear and unbelief as that of ancient Israel! Canaan’s giants and the coming seven-year tribulation are synonymous, and the cause of unbelief and rebellion remains the same – fear of what they heard! And just as Israel asked for a new leader and to return to Egypt, so too many Christians today have chosen a new leader named Dispensationalism that’s deceitfully drawn many into unbelief via a pre-trib rapture not found in Scripture. Indeed, if Christians don’t learn, they will suffer a REPLAY!
Ancient Israel, however, was not nearly as culpable before God as is the post-Calvary church, because we have their written record of unbelief from which to learn while they had none. Their fear, unbelief and rebellion, as regards God leading them to their eternal inheritance was forged on our behalf, to keep us from engaging in the same fear, unbelief and rebellion, and to trust the written testimony of Jesus Christ, God’s Son sent to testify to “the truth” (John 14:6). But many, in academic and self-serving pride cast aside the testimony of God’s Son to instead love Satan’s deceit of getting to our eternal inheritance via a pre-trib rapture conjured in the pit of hell.
There will be a very heavy price to pay for that unbelief and rebellion. If ancient Israel perished in the wilderness outside of their eternal inheritance, (and they did over the course of 40 years, Num. 14:34) then what will become of unbelieving professing Christians but to suffer not only the wrath of Antichrist in the tribulation, but also the wrath of God in the great tribulation! And we know that God does not show partiality, Acts 10:34, Rom. 2:11, Eph. 6:9, and Col. 3:25; nor does He show favoritism, Luke 20:21 and Gal. 2:6. We know too that God “did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thess. 5:9), but if we ignore the testimony of God’s Son, will God show partiality to us over those of ancient Israel? Not at all!
Many pervert 1 Thess. 5:9 as a promise that God will not allow Christians to suffer His wrath, even though they’re unbelieving and rebellious. But the Christian faith does not work like that. God did not appoint us to wrath any more than the DMV from which we received our license appointed us to suffer an auto crash. But if we abuse our license and disbelieve the law and have a crash and suffer terrible consequences, it wasn’t the DMV’s fault, but our own! Likewise, God sent His Son to teach us the truth, but if we don’t believe Christ, we’ll suffer God’s wrath, John 3:36, as ancient Israel suffered His wrath when they perished forty years in the wilderness!
It’s important that you know what God said to post-Calvary believers, it’s almost verbatim to what He said to ancient Israel at Exo. 19:5–6, to whom He later gave “a certificate of divorce” (Jer. 3:8) for their unbelief and rebellion. God said to all who truly believe Him and the witness of His Son: “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people…who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but have now obtained mercy” (1 Peter 2:9–10). Let’s not lose our high position in God through unbelief and rebellion as did ancient Israel, but hold firmly the testimony of His Son, and faithfully endure to the end.
Marlin J. Yoder