Jehovah`s Witness/Spritual Israel vs National Israel
Mr Hepburn, one last set of questions on this topic.Is it true that the JWS used to believe that the nation of Israel featured in Bible prophecy for toady? What about the prophecies of 2 Samuel 7:23-29 Ezekiel 11:16-20 Isaiah 11:11-12 Jeremiah 30:1-11 Amos 9:14-15
Hello again Gordon
This is a long involved reply. Just as those that hold that Romans 11
teaches a fleshly restoration, JWs hold that according to the context of Romans and other supporting texts that Romans 11
is a clear indication of a spiritual nation. It is not a breaking of the covenant with Abraham as the “seed“ of Abraham is Jesus. We see Paul as elaborating on the fact that the Jews, as a nation, had been rejected, and is explaining that God had not forsaken his promise but is keeping it by bringing in a new nation
First I would like to spend some time with an overview of Romans chapters 1-11
As you read this you will notice similarities between the two lines of thought where we agree, but the conclusions are different. For the sake of trying to make this flow some points will be repeated from the last two answers. I have so much I have tried to convey that at times I jump around a little bit, I apologise for that, so please read carefully
OVERVIEW OF ROMANS 1 – 11 (This is a compilation of material from our publications)
Righteousness is through faith in Christ and as a result of God’s undeserved kindness That is the setting for Romans1:1–11:36
. Faith is essential for salvation; the scripture says, “The man who does righteousness will be living by his faith. (Rom 1:17
BBE). The Jews, although highly favoured by God, have not been able to attain to righteousness by means of the Law
Early in the letter to the Romans, Paul pointed to the wonderful result that could come from the good news he kept mentioning: “ For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first
, and also to the Greek.” (Rom. 1:16
) The Jews were given the first
opportunity to make up Gods Spiritual Nation. Yes, salvation was possible. However, faith was necessary, in line with a profound truth quoted from Habakkuk 2:4
: “ but the just shall live by his faith.” Or more correctly “but the righteous
shall live by his faith” (Besides Romans 1:16 17
, Paul also quotes Habakkuk in Gal.3:11
and Hebrews 10:38
Why was salvation now opened to the Greeks and other Gentiles?
Paul demonstrates that the creative works testify to the fact that God exists. (Rom. 1:20
) , But, according to Paul, those people who “knew God” suppressed this truth. (Rom 1:21
) Rather than serving God in harmony with the truth concerning his eternal power and God-ship, they made idols and worshipped these. Not being real gods, idols are an untruth, a lie or falsehood. (Jer 10:14
) Hence, these persons, though having the truth of God, exchanged it “Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever.” Their turning to the falsehood of idolatry led them into all kinds of degraded practices. (Ro 1:18-31
The degraded practices of non-Jews and the disobedience of the Jews to God’s law in no way brought harm to the Creator personally. Instead, his truthfulness, holiness, and righteousness stood out in sharp contrast, and this to his glory. But the fact that man’s wrongdoing makes God’s righteousness stand out in even greater prominence provides no basis for claiming that God is unjust in executing an adverse judgement against wrongdoers. Being a creation of God, a person has no right to harm himself by sinning.
The above is the argument that Paul used in his letter to the Romans, saying:.. “if our unrighteousness commend the righteousness of God, what shall we say? Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance?(I speak as a man) 6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world? 7 For if the truth of God hath more abounded through my lie unto his glory; why yet am I also judged as a sinner? And not rather, (as we be slanderously reported, and as some affirm that we say,) Let us do evil, that good may come? whose damnation is just..” (Ro 3:5-8
) God has delivered his people, not for a course of sin, but for a life of righteousness, that they may glorify Him. The apostle says later in his letter: “12 Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof. 13 Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourselves unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God..”(Ro 6:12,13
The Jews as well as non-Jews are under sin; “There is not one who does righteousness;” (Rom 3:10
) By God’s undeserved kindness both Jews and non-Jews can be declared righteous as a free gift through faith, just as Abraham was counted righteous as a result of faith even before he was circumcised (Rom 4:3-9
) Men inherit sin and death from one man, Adam; through one man, Jesus, many sinners are declared righteous (Rom 5:12
) All who are slaves to sin are not slaves of righteousness.
Those formerly under the Law “ become dead to the law by the ” (7:4
) through Christ’s body; they must walk in harmony with the spirit, putting sinful practices of the body to death The Law served the purpose of making sins manifest; only through Christ, though, is there salvation from sin . God calls those who come to be in union with Christ and declares them righteous; His spirit bears witness that they are His sons
Fleshly Israel received the promises but most of them try to attain righteousness by the Law, hence, because of Gods undeserved Kindness, only a remnant of them are saved (Rom 11:5
); a public declaration of faith in Christ is necessary for salvation. The illustration of the olive tree shows how, because of the lack of faith of fleshly Israel, non-Israelites were grafted in so that the true Israel might be saved.
END OF OVERVIEW
I would like to address Romans 3:3-4
which reads “For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?” (KJV) Other Bibles give a different rendering which suggests that Paul was talking about Gods earlier promises e.g. “ For what if some did not believe? Will their unbelief make the faithfulness of God without effect?” (New King James Version)
Is this teaching that, disbelief in God nullifies his promise to Abraham or the Jews? I see that verse differently. Here is why. First looking at verse 1
had Paul asked about the superiority of the circumscribed Jews. WHY? because they had been given the law code but were not keeping it. Paul had said in chapter 1:16
he was not ashamed of the good news (referring to the good news of the Kingdom
and of its King Jesus). He then relates and describes from verse 18 to the end of the chapter the bad that the natural Jews had done and how God had “gave them up to uncleanness” (1:24,26
) In chapter 2
Paul relates points regarding the law because some of the Jewish Christians still took pride in the law (Verse 23
) Paul then goes to show that it is a spiritual circumcision of the heart that is NOW important not the flesh (verse 28
). Now we come to Chapter 3
. Paul is asking 'Just because the nation of Israel as a NATION had been unfaithful, could not and would not keep the law, does that mean that we should LOOSE FAITH in God' That is what Paul is saying here. It is NOT to do with Gods promises to the nation in the past.
The Greek actually reads “if they_ un_believe any no the un_belief of_them the belief of_the God shall_be_down_un_acting”. (the words with “_” between them represent one Greek word from A.E. Knoch, et al, Concordant Literal New Testament) Here O present it from the interlinear of the Emphatic Diaglot “What for? if believed not some, not the unbelief of them the faith of the God will make void?” (
Other English renderings
“For what if some of them did not believe? Shall their unbelief have made the truth of God<i? without effect?” (Jubilee 2000)
For if some of them have not believed, have they, by their not believing, made <u?the faith of God
inefficient? (1851 James Murdock)
In what should we have faith in God? Why its God's righteousness. Paul goes on “God forbid: yea, let God be true, but every man a liar;” Just because the men of Israel lied and failed to obey Jehovah never be it said that God is not real. Paul now turns his attention to Gods righteousness
in verse 5 and 6 we read “Is God unrighteous who taketh vengeance? (I speak as a man) 6 God forbid: for then how shall God judge the world?” He is saying that it is not unrighteous
on Gods part to take vengeance on Israel (and by extension all that are disloyal to him) Why would he take vengeance on Israel? Because they as a nation had rejected his Son.
With that I return to my previous post in that in Romans 2:25-29
is redefining what a Jew is in GODS EYES. “25 For circumcision verily profiteth, if thou keep the law: but if thou be a breaker of the law, thy circumcision is made uncircumcision. 26 Therefore if the uncircumcision keep the righteousness of the law, shall not his uncircumcision be counted for circumcision? 27 And shall not uncircumcision which is by nature, if it fulfil the law, judge thee, who by the letter and circumcision dost transgress the law? 28 For he is not a Jew
, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision, which is outward in the flesh: 29 But he is a Jew
, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart
, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God.”
This is in keeping with what Jesus said at Matthew 23: 37
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not! 38 Behold, your house is left unto you desolate.
God did not need natural Jews to be children of Abraham
. We are told at Matt 3: 9
“And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.”
Also in Matt. 21:43
we see that Jesus is saying God was to take the kingdom away from the Israelites. “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you
, and given to a nation
bringing forth the fruits thereof”
Before we can understand the illustration of the olive tree, we need to know four facts concerning the development of Jehovah’s purpose with regard to the foretold seed. First, Jehovah promised Abraham that “ “in thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed;” by means of his seed, or descendants. (Gen. 22:17, 18
) Second, the nation of Israel that sprang from Abraham was offered the prospect of producing “a kingdom of priests.” (Ex. 19:5, 6
) Third, when the majority of natural Israelites did not accept the Messiah, Jehovah took other steps to produce “a kingdom of priests.” (Matt. 21:43; Rom. 9:27-29
) Finally, although Jesus is the primary part of Abraham’s seed, others are given the privilege to become part of that seed (Gal. 3:16 & 29
Up until chapter 11 Paul is showing how the Jews in the past had so often turned their back on Jehovah, the law code that the nation still thought they were under was of no avail for them. The nation had to recognise the ransom of the promised messiah who came ONCE to the earth, never to return again. That is an area where we differ also. As far as I know all Christian groups that say Jerusalem and the Nation of Israel are to be restored and all national Israel saved also hold that Jesus is literally coming back to earth. That has a bearing on this topic but is also is another topic on its own.
From a Jewish viewpoint, Gentiles were incapable of producing acceptable fruitage. However, Jehovah made these very ones part of “a nation” that produced Kingdom fruitage. (Matt. 21:43
“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you [that is the Jews to whom Jesus was addressing], and given to a nation
bringing forth the fruits thereof.) Why did Jesus say those words? Because the Jews had rejected Jesus as the corner stone (“Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord’s doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?” Matt. 21:42)
Now for the symbolic Olive tree
We understand that the trunk of the tree must represent Jesus because the promise of a seed given to Abraham proved to be Jesus. (Galatians 3:19
) The law given to Moses was a tutor (schoolmaster) leading to Christ and once he was here we no longer needed the law (tutor) This seed (Jesus) becomes the mediator of a new covenant.
“ 15 Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. 16 Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ
. 17 And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after [see Gal 3:17; Exod.12:40,41
], cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. 18 For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.
19 Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come
to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. 20 Now a mediator
is not a mediator of one, but God is one. 21 Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22 But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24 Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. 25 But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”
The branches collectively represent “fulness of the Gentiles” or “the full number” (Rom 11:25
) of those included as part of Abraham’s seed.
This grafted olive tree, the seed of Abraham which includes a remnant of Jews and Gentiles are a nation ( Matt. 21:43
) that is scattered or dispersed among the nations. At that time there were a nation without a homeland. Peter writes to all the Chritians scattered around (Not just the Hebrews) and says 1 Peter 2:9,10
“9 You but, a race chosen, a royal priesthood, a nation holy, a people for a purpose, so that the virtues you may declare of the out of darkness you one having called into the wonderful of himself light; 10 those once not a people, now but a people of God; those not having obtained mercy, now but having obtained mercy.” The gentiles are now “a people of God”
Peters opening words are not addressed to just Hebrews. No national group is mentioned. The letter was addressed to those that lived as strangers in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, and was written for the benefit of ALL Christians not just the Hebrews (2 Tim 3:16
) All those that took sides with the Christ were stangers in the land that they lived (Matt 21:43; John15:19
) The Christian congregations were likened to the early Israelites that lived in an alien land. Notice Paul's words to the Ephesians in addressing the Gentiles. That even tough they were not part of the fleshly Israel with is law code and circumcision (both of which were done away with), that because of their faith in Jesus are now fellow citizens of God Ephesians 2:11-19
“11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands; 12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: 13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; 15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; 16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: 17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. 18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father. 19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints, and of the household of God;”
The household of God was not Israel but the Christian arrangement
The prophecies recorded at 2 Samuel 7:23-29 Ezekiel 11:16-20 Isaiah 11:11-12 Jeremiah 30:1-11 Amos 9:14-15
had a fulfilment when the nation of Israel was released by the Babylonians and they returned to their homeland to rebuild the temple and the city. During the first siege and consequent destruction of Jerusalem many Israelites were dispersed among the nations. They could now return to the land of their forefathers.
as we understand it is of a spiritual restoration. There is too much to discuss here but I will give a brief example of why we see it as a spiritual restoration as well as back to their homeland after their exile in Babylon
When the surviving Jews were dragged off to Babylon for an exile they were practically a dead nation. Because of their not putting faith in the prophecies of God’s Word, their hopes of living again as a united nation on their God-given homeland were dead, for the majority of exiled Jews. The land of Babylon appeared to be the burial place of their nation. Babylon may have thought so too. But Jehovah, who had foretold the repeopling of the mountains and hills and valleys of the then desolated land of Israel, had in mind a miracle. The prophet Ezekiel had a vision of it, and he amazes us as he tells us about it in these words:
At Ezekiel 37:1-10
the symbolic vision of the valley of dry bones is presented, the bones coming together, becoming covered with sinews, flesh, and skin, but “as regards breath, there was none in them.” Ezekiel was told to prophesy to “the wind ” saying, “Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live..” Ezekiel also would be able to see the bodies begin to breathe, even though he could not see the spirit, energizing their bodies. As verses 11-14
show, this vision was symbolic of a spiritual (not physical) revivification of the people of Israel who were for a time in a spiritually dead state due to their Babylonian exile. Since they were already physically alive and breathing, in verse 14
, where God states that he will put ‘his spirit’ in his people so that they would become alive, spiritually speaking.