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WAS ISRAEL LO-AMMI THROUGHOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT?: PART ONE

WAS ISRAEL LO-AMMI THROUGHOUT THE NEW TESTAMENT?: PART ONE

PART I

Most agree that Israel is lo-ammi today. I believe that Israel was put aside at Acts 28, but some believe that She was never taken back as God’s people after Her captivity. If that is true that would mean that Israel was lo-ammi during the entire New Testament period, including, of course, the Gospel and Acts periods.

In this study we will discuss the scriptures that prove that Israel had been taken back after Her captivity, and then we will discuss the arguments put forth by those who disagree with that view.

The topics that, in my opinion, prove that Israel had been taken back are:

THE TWO BASKETS OF FIGS (JER. 24)

HOSEA 8:35

“THEIR GOD”

“I AM WITH YOU” AND “THE GOD OF ISRAEL”

THE OLD COVENANT

FURTHER CLUES THAT ISRAEL HAD BEEN TAKEN BACK AFTER THEIR  CAPTIVITY

GENTILES GRAFTED INTO THE OLIVE TREE (ROM. 11)

THERE ARE NO JEWS AND GENTILES IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY

THE MOSAIC LAW OBSERVED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

We will consider the following topics that present the opposite view:

ISAIAH 49:7 “THE NATION”

“JACOB” IS THE NAME USED FOR ISRAEL IN HER LO-AMMI STATE

MALACHAI 3:6-7 “RETURN UNTO ME”

THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES STRETCHES FROM THE TIME OF THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY UNTIL THE PRESENT TIME

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT

THE SHEKINAH GLORY DID NOT FILL EZRA’S TEMPLE

ISRAEL DID NOT LIVE AS A NATION THAT HAD BEEN TAKEN BACK BY GOD

HEROD’S TEMPLE WAS NOT GOD’S

ARGUMENTS FOR ISRAEL HAVING BEEN TAKEN BACK AS GOD’S PEOPLE AFTER THE 70 YEAR CAPTIVITY

THE TWO BASKETS OF FIGS (JER. 24)

The passage in Jer. 24 that  will be examined in this section has to do with Judah, and will show from Scripture that Judah had been taken back as God’s People after the 70 year captivity. Other passages in the sections below will address the question as to whether Israel, i.e. the northern kingdom, was taken back as God’s People.

We read in Jer. 24:1, “The Lord shewed me, and, behold, two baskets of figs were set before the temple of the Lord after that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon had carried away captive Jeconiah the son of Jehoiakim king of Judah ……” Then in verses 8-9 we read “so will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land…..to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth…..”. It was during the reign of Jeconiah that Nebuchadnezzar carried away the things of the temple, and also carried away captive many of Jerusalem (see II Kings 24:10-17). And it was during the reign of Zedekiah that the temple was burnt and Jerusalem destroyed and “the rest of the people that were left in the city” were carried away captive (see II Kings 25:9-21). What we learn from this is that this chapter concerns the 70 year captivity of Judah.

The two baskets of figs each represent those of  Judah. Verse 2, “One basket had very good figs ….and the other basket had very naughty figs which could not be eaten, they were so bad”. We will see in this chapter that those represented by the good and bad figs met similar circumstances. We read in verse 5, “Thus saith the Lord, the God of Israel; ‘Like these good figs, so will I acknowledge them that are carried away captive of Judah…….'” So those represented by the good figs were carried “away captive”. Those represented by the bad figs were also carried away. We read in verses 8-10, “And as the evil figs, which cannot be eaten, they are so evil; ‘Surely’, thus saith the Lord, ‘So will I give Zedekiah the king of Judah, and his princes, and the residue of Jerusalem, that remain in this land…….and I will deliver them to be removed into all the kingdoms of the earth.…..and I will send the sword, the famine and the pestilence, among them till they be consumed from off the land that I gave unto them and to their fathers”. The events of this passage are recorded in II Kings 24-25 and it is clear that they were all carried away during the time of the reigns of Jeconiah and Zedekiah.

We have seen in verse 5 that those represented by the good figs were carried away captive. But the following verses are key in our discussion of whether Judah was lo-ammi after the end of the 70 year captivity. We read in those verses, “For I will set Mine eyes upon them (those represented by the good figs, see vs. 5) for good, and I will bring them again to this land: and I will build them, and not pull them down; and I will plant them, and not pluck them up. and I will give them an heart to know Me, that I am the Lord: and they shall be My People, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto Me with their whole heart” (Jer. 24:6-7).

This passage tells us quite specifically that those represented by the good figs who had been carried away captive will be brought back to the land (“I will bring them again to this land”), and that they will no longer be lo-ammi (“they shall be My People”), and that God ” will be their God”.

But some would say that their being brought back to the land is a millennial prophecy.  With that argument in mind, let us  consider the phrase in verse 5 which reads, “so will I acknowledge them that are carried away”. The “them” of this phrase are those who are represented by the basket of good figs and “carried away captive”. But how will they be acknowledged? The next verse continues with the word “for”. That “for” tells us that verses 6-7 tell us how they will be acknowledged. For I will set Mine yes upon them for good, and I will bring them again to this land…...they shall be My People, and I will be their God”.

Because the tendency is to see verses 6-7 as a millennial prophecy, let us consider this passage again. Verse 5 tells us that God will acknowledge some of Israel that were taken captive into Babylon. The word “for” tells us that what follows comes from what preceded it. If we take verses 6-7 out of context by applying it to the millennium, the “for” has no meaning as it would have nothing to do with those who were carried away captive. But the Holy Spirit does not use words that have no meaning. . We must therefore conclude that the word “for” is meaningful. It explains how God will acknowledge those represented by the basket of good figs. He will acknowledge those that had been carried away captive by returning them to the Land and by being “their God” as Israel will once again be “My People”.

But some might argue that this passage also tells us that God would “not pluck them up”. We know that Israel was indeed plucked out of their land when Jerusalem was destroyed by the Roman army in 70 A.D. Because Israel was plucked out of their land again, some believe that this passage must refer to the millennium. But that ignores the context which is obviously about a very specific time and certainly does not include the millennium. What is the answer to this dilemma? We have two choices. We can 1) ignore the fact that the context of Jer. 24 obviously concerns a very specific time, or 2) we can search for another answer. I prefer not to ignore the context. Therefore I suggest we consider the fact that Jer. 24 speaks of a very specific time and the two generations that lived in that time.

Verses 6-7, quoted above, are very true of the generation about which this passage is writteni.e. the generation that the Lord returned to Judah after the 70 year captivity. There is no need to ignore the context when one sees that Jer. 24 concerns only those generations that were carried away captive and later returned to the Land.

As we consider Israel’s initial coming to possess the land that God had promised Her we will see that there is a precedence for the suggestion that Jer. 24:6-7 refers to a particular generation. We read of those years in the book of Joshua. We read in Josh. 1:5, “there shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with thee: I will not fail thee, nor forsake thee”. If we take the phrase “I will not fail thee nor forsake thee” out of context and apply it to Israel throughout all Her generations, we have a very glaring difficulty because it certainly was not true of the generations that were later to be declared by God, “lo-ammi”. On the other hand if we consider the context, we see that the promise to Joshua given at the beginning of this verse that “there shall not any man be able to stand before thee all the days of thy life” is given to Joshua all the day of his life. The point is that we must consider the context as it will tell us when it concerns a specific generation(s) and when it concerns all future generations of Israel.

So there is a precedence to the suggestion that Jer. 24:6-7 concern the generation after the end of the captivity. That is to say, it was quite true that the generation that was freed after the 70 year captivity was not plucked up. Therefore, there is no reason to see this is a millennial prophecy. The entire chapter is about the generations that had been carried away captive for the 70 year lo-ammi period and returned to the land after that 70 year period.

Some might argue that only that generation that was returned to the land were taken back as God’s people and the generations that followed became lo-ammi again? If that were true then we must conclude that what was said of those represented by the bad figs was also true only those of that generation that was carried away captive. That is to say, if only the one generation was taken back as God’s people and later generations were lo-ammi again, logic dictates that the phrase concerning those who were “removed into all the kingdom of the earth” (vs. 9) was also true of only that generation, i.e. that their offspring were returned to the Land. But we know that most of Israel did not return to the Land and that they remained “removed into all the kingdoms of the earth” throughout Biblical history.

We are specifically told in Jer. 24:6-7 that Israel ” shall be My People, and I will be their God”. In my opinion, that should be the end of all discussion on this question, but we will consider more Scriptural evidence to prove the point that Israel had been taken back as God’s people after the 70 year captivity.

Ezra 8:35

In the section above on Jeremiah 24 we saw that Judah had been taken back as God’s People after their captivity.  Now let us turn our attention to the northern kingdom, Israel.

Because most of those who returned after the 70 year lo-ammi period were of the house of Judah, many believe that the ten tribes of the northern kingdom  remained lo-ammi.  I believe that all twelve tribes were taken back as God’s People. Let us consider a few passages that tell us that that is what did indeed occurred.

Ezra 6:16-17, “And the children of Israel, the priests, and the Levites, and the rest of the children of the captivity, kept the dedication of this house of God with joy. And offered at the dedication of this house of God an hundred bullocks, two hundred rams. four hundred lambs; and for a sin offering for all Israel, twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel”.

There are two phrases worthy of note. 1) the phrase, “and the rest of the children of the captivity” tells us that it refers to all twelve tribes because all twelve were “the children of captivity” (this will be proved below). 2) The phrase “offering for all Israel….. twelve he goats, according to the number of the tribes of Israel”. Twelve he goats were offered as a sin offering, i.e. one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. That tells us that all twelve tribes were included in the term “Israel”. Therefore this passage has to do with all twelve tribes. So even though there were relatively few of the northern kingdom that returned, it is clear from the fact that a sin offering was made for all twelve tribes that all twelve were no longer lo-ammi.

Let us consider a few passages from Chronicles and Kings for further evidence that all twelve tribes were represented in the dedication of the temple and were therefore included in the captivity, and therefore were included in the term “the children of Israel”.

We read in I Kings 12:17, “But as for the children of Israel which dwelt in the cites of Judah, Rehoboam reigned over them”. Rehoboam was, of course, King of Judah  Obviously the phrase “children of Israel which dwelt in the cities of Judah” refers to those of the northern kingdom or it would be totally redundant  to say that they dwelt in Judah.  Consider also I Chron. 9:3, “And in Jerusalem dwelt of the children of Judah, and of the children of Benjamin, and of the children of Ephraim, and Manasseh”.  Ephraim, and Manasseh were, of course, from the twelve tribes of the northern kingdom.

And in II Chron. 15:9 we read, “He (Asa, the king of Judah) gathered all Judah and Benjamin and those of Ephraim, Manasseh and Simeon who resided with them, for many defected to him from Israel when they saw that the Lord God was with him (Asa).” (NASB)

Let us also consider II Chron. 30. We learn in this chapter that King Hezekiah sent a message to the northern kingdom so that they might join in the celebration of the Passover (verses 1 and 6).  And we read in verse 11 that many accepted that call, “Nevertheless, divers of Asher and Manasseh and of Zebulun, humbled themselves, and came to Jerusalem” (see also vs. 18). What is key in our present discussion is verse 9 which reads, “For if ye turn again unto the Lord your brethren and your children shall find compassion before them that lead them captive, so that they shall come again into this land....”.

My point is that  the inspired word sent to Israel was that if they come to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover, the Lord will have compassion on their offspring and lead them back to the Land of Israel,  And that is, or course, exactly what happened.  Many of Israel did come to Jerusalem for the Passover and their offspring were led back to the Land when their captivity ended. This was just as true for those of the northern kingdom as it was for those of the southern kingdom.

In short, because we know that all twelve tribes were represented in the captivity and the return to Jerusalem, and that sacrifices were made on behalf of all twelve tribes, we must, in my opinion, conclude that God took back all twelve tribes of Israel.

“THEIR GOD”

Nehemiah, in Neh. 9:3 said, through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, that Israel read the law of “their God” and that they worshipped “their God”. We read in Hosea 1:9, “….call his name Lo-ammi: for ye are not My People, and I will not be your God”. Nehemiah, through the Holy Spirit, could not have said that Israel had worshipped “their God” if God had not taken Israel back as His own People. That is to say, if Israel were still lo-ammi in Neh. 9, God would not have been “their God”, and Nehemiah could not have said that He was.

“I AM WITH YOU” AND “THE GOD OF ISRAEL”

Let us also consider Hagg. 2:4. Dr. Bullinger puts the book of Haggai after the end of the 70 year captivity. This is proved by the fact that Hagg.1:1 reads, “In the second year of Darius the king, in the sixth month in the first day of the month, came the word of the Lord by Haggai….”. Israel was freed by Cyrus . The fact that Cyrus started the building of the temple (see Ezra 1:2-4) and later halted it (see Ezra 4:24), and the temple was completed by Darius (see Ezra 6:15), proves that Darius came after Cyrus and therefore, after the end of the captivity

Having established that Haggai was written after Israel was freed by Cyrus’ decree, let us consider Hagg. 2:4 which reads, “Yet now be strong, O Zerubbabel, saith the Lord, and be strong Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest: and be strong, all ye People of the land, saith the Lord, and work: for I am with you, saith the Lord of hosts”. The Lord could not possibly have said to those who had returned, “I am with you” if indeed Israel was still lo-ammi.

Some might argue that God was with the remnant who returned, but that He had not taken Israel back as a nation as His own. Let us consider that argument. Along with Israel being lo-ammi in the 70 year captivity, She was also divorced. We read in Hosea 2:2, “Plead with your mother, plead: for she is not My wife, neither am I Her Husband.…..”. Jehovah did not divorce part of His wife and keep the other part. He divorced His wife, i.e. Israel. Consider also that the believing remnant were carried way captive just as the unbelievers were. That is to say, all Israel, including believers such as Daniel, Daniel’s three friends, Mordeccai, Esther etc., were lo-ammi, divorced, carried away captive. There was no distinction between the believing remnant and unbelievers as to who were lo-ammi, the entire nation was lo-ammi. Because there is no distinction between the believing remnant and the unbelievers because all were carried away captive, neither can we force a distinction between the believing remnant and unbelievers when God said to Israel “I am with you”.

THE OLD COVENANT

Lev. 26 tells us of the covenant God made with Israel. It says basically that if Israel obeyed God’s commandments He would bless them, and if they disobeyed He would punish them. Verses 27-39 explain what would happen to Israel if She disobeyed. “and if ye will not for all this hearken unto Me, but walk contrary unto Me; then I will walk contrary unto you …..ye shall eat the flesh of your sons ……I will destroy your high places, and cut down your images…..I will make your cities waste, and bring your sanctuaries unto desolation…. then shall the land enjoy her sabbaths, and upon them that are left alive of you I will send a faintness into their hearts in the lands of their enemies……and they shall fall one upon another… and ye shall perish among the heathen, and the land of your enemies shall eat you up. and they that are left of you shall pine away in their iniquity in your enemies’ lands”. I believe it is widely understood that these things were accomplished when Babylon defeated Israel so I will not present the Scriptural evidence for that.

Having established how Israel will suffer for Her sins, let us look at what She must do in order for God to reestablish His covenant relationship with Her as His favored nation. We read in Lev. 26:40, “If they shall confess their iniquity, and the iniquity of their fathers,with their trespass which they trespassed against Me, and also that they have walked contrary unto Me…..Then will I remember My covenant with Jacob, and also My covenant with Isaac, and also My covenant with Abraham will I remember; and I will remember the land”.

As we examine the scriptures that tell of the time when Israel was allowed to return to the land of Israel, we will see that She did indeed meet the exact requirements for God to take Israel back as His own people. We read in Neh. 9:1-3, “Now in the twenty and fourth day of this month the children of Israel were assembled with fasting, and with sackclothes, and earth upon them. And the seed of Israel separated themselves from all strangers, and stood and confessed their sins, and the iniquities of their fathers. And they stood up in their place, and read in the book of the law of the Lord their God one fourth part of the day; and another fourth part they confessed, and worshipped the Lord their God” (see also verses 33-38).

In my opinion there is no doubt that Israel did indeed meet the requirements that God had determined as recorded in Lev. 26 in order for God to take them back as His people. God, in turn, of course, did as promised, He remembered the covenant He had made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

Some might object that because only a small portion of Israel did return to the Land, God was not obligated to keep His agreement with Israel. But there is nothing in the agreement with Israel as recorded in Lev. 26 that suggests what portion of Israel must confess their sins in order for God to take them back. We cannot think that God failed to keep His agreement and would not take back His nation unto Himself based on an element that was not part of the agreement. Those who make this argument are saying in effect that God made an agreement, but when Israel’s part of the agreement was met, God did not keep His part because of an element that was not in the agreement. I think we must reject that argument.

FURTHER CLUES THAT ISRAEL HAD BEEN TAKEN BACK AFTER THE 70 YEAR CAPTIVITY

Another clue that Israel had been taken back by God is found in Neh. 12 which tells of the dedication of the wall of Jerusalem. We read in verse 43, “Also that day they offered great sacrifices, and rejoiced; for God had made them rejoice with great joy…..”. That they offered sacrifices showed that they had finally realized that they were indeed dependent on God’s grace for their freedom and their safety. But perhaps even more importantly, God “made them rejoice“. God could not have made them rejoice if they had not met the requirements for Him to take Israel back, and they could not have rejoiced, had He not taken them back.

Yet another clue that God did take Israel back as His own was that Israel was allowed to come back to their land. That shows that the sabbaths of the land had been completed and that all the requirements of Lev. 26 had been met.

GENTILES GRAFTED INTO THE OLIVE TREE (ROM. 11)

We read in Rom. 11:17-24 the following: 17) 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, 18) boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. 19) Thou wilt say then,’The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in’.20) Well, because of unbelief they were broken off and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear; 21) for if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest He also spare not thee. 22) Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God; on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. 23) And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in, for God is able to graff them in again. 24) For if thou wert cut out the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert  graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree; how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?”

The good olive tree had at one time, both believers and unbelievers. How do we know that the good olive tree had unbelievers? We read in verse 17 of the good olive tree, “And if some of the branches be broken off….”. These branches were broken off because of unbelief  (vs. 23). That tells us that originally, the good olive tree had unbelievers who were eventually broken off. Also, we read in Rom. 11:23, “for God is able to graff them in again“. These unbelievers must have been in the good olive tree at one time or Paul could not have written that they would be graffed in again. Nor could Paul have written that they were broken off unless they had been part of the olive tree to begin with. In other words, some of the natural branches were part of the good olive tree, then cut off because of unbelief, but if they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be “graffed in again“. That tells us that unbelieving, as well as believing Israelites were, at some point in time, part of the good olive tree.

Many believe that the olive tree represents the church of the dispensation of the mystery. But unbelievers were never part of the church. Let me put that another way. We learned that some of the branches of the olive tree were broken off because of unbelief. If the olive tree represented the church, that would mean that the church had unbelievers in it who were later taken out of the church. We know that by definition, the church never had in it unbelievers, therefore we must conclude that the olive tree does not represent the church.

Consider also, verse 24 reads, “….how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree“. The natural branches were, of course, Israelites. How do we know that the natural branches were Israelites? We read in verse 13 that Paul was speaking to Gentiles, “For I speak to you Gentiles….”. Then in verse 17 we read, “….and thou (Gentiles) being a wild olive tree….”. If the Gentiles were the “wild olive tree“, obviously Israel was the good olive tree. Therefore, this passage could not be more clear; the good olive tree is Israel.

The point is this: it makes no sense to say that Gentiles were grafted into Israel in Her lo-ammi state. Because Gentiles were indeed grafted into Israel during the Acts period, we must conclude that Israel was not lo-ammi in the Acts period, She was God’s people.

THERE ARE NO JEWS AND GENTILES IN THE DISPENSATION OF THE MYSTERY

Paul makes a contrast in Rom. 11 between the natural branches of the good olive tree and the branches from the “wild olive tree” that were grafted in to the good olive tree contrary to nature . I mention this in order to point up the fact that Paul makes a very clear distinction in this passage between Jews and Gentiles. But as one looks at all the occurrences in the prison epistles, which were written at a time when we know that Israel was lo-ammi, one sees that in the eyes of God there are no  Jews and Gentiles in the dispensation of the mystery.

Before we look at some of  the occurrences in the prison epistles of “ethnos”, often translated “Gentiles”, we must understand that it is used for the people in the nations in such passages as Jn. 11:52 where we read of the high priest prophesying that “Jesus should die for that nation” (i.e. Gr. “ethnos”). Jesus did not die for a nation, He died for the people of the nation. I suggest that that is how it is used of believers of the dispensation of the mystery, i.e. as “people of the nations”.

I will list all the occurrences of  “ethnos” translated “Gentiles” in the prison epistles that have to do with Gentiles of the present dispensation.

Eph. 3:1, “For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles….”. The Greek word translated “for” in the phrase “for you Gentiles” is “huper”. The Companion Bible Appendix 104 gives the following definition: “In the interest of…. . On behalf of…. . For the purpose of… .” I do not believe that Paul was a prisoner in the interest of, or on behalf of, or for the purpose of Gentiles as opposed to Jews. I believe that he was a prisoner for all the people of the nations. If we translate “ethnos” as “Gentiles” we by definition, exclude Jews. That being the case “ethnos” is better translated “nations”, and to be understood as people of all the nations.

Eph. 3:6, “That the nations should be together heirs, together bodies and together partakers……..” (For the Scriptural reasons for this translation please see the paper on this web-site What Exactly Is The Mystery That Had Been Hid In God?.) In this verse the two outer adjectives, “together heirs” and “together partakers” are obviously blessings of the believers of the nations, while it is equally clear that “together bodies” is an adjective describing nations as an entity. If we translated “ethnos” as “nations” we would understand it as the people of the nations in regard to together heirs and together partakers, and as nations in regard to together bodies.

Eph. 3:8, “…..that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ”. Surely Jewish believers were not excluded from the unsearchable riches of Christ. That being the case, “ethnos” must be understood as the people of the nations. If we translated “ethnos” as “nations” rather than “Gentiles” we include all believers of the nations, not just Gentiles.

Eph. 4:17, “……walk not as other Gentiles walk…..”. Verse 18 goes on to explain more specifically how they walked, “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart“. I believe this is applicable to both Jews and Gentiles. I believe that if we translated “ethnos” as “nations” and understood it to mean the people of the nations, all are rightfully included.

Col. 1:27, “To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles which is Christ in you, the hope of glory”. Are we to understand that Paul is excluding Jews from the hope of glory? I think not. I believe that here too if we translated “ethnos” as “nations” and understood it to mean all the people of the nations all believers are included and all is clear.

I Tim. 2:7, “Wherefore I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle…..a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity”. Paul did not exclude Jews from his preaching, God is no respecter of persons. Here again, if “ethnos” were translated “nations” all would be included. However, we must use common sense and understand it to mean the people of the nations.

I Tim. 3:16, “….God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world……”. It is a matter of record in God’s Word that God was indeed preached to Jews. Therefore, we must translate “ethnos” as “nations” in this verse. Again, we must understand it as referring to the people in the nations.

II Tim. 1:11, “…..I am appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher of the Gentiles”. There is no reason to assume that because Israel had been put aside that Jews were no longer part of Paul’s ministry. Again, we must understand “ethnos” to refer to the people of the nations. If we translate “ethnos” as “Gentiles” we say that Jews are excluded. I do not believe that that is the message God has for us in this verse, or in any other verse.

II Tim. 4:17, “Notwithstanding the Lord stood with me, and strengthened me; that by me the preaching might be fully known, and that all the Gentiles might hear; and I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion”. There is no reason to assume that Paul never preached to Jews after Israel was set aside. I believe that Paul preached to all who would hear, both Jews and Gentiles. Again, if we translate “ethnos” as “nations” all are included and Jews are not excluded from Paul’s preaching.

We know that Israel was lo-ammi when Paul was imprisoned at the end of the Acts period. We have seen that there are no Jews and Gentiles after Israel was set aside. We should therefore expect that the same would be true of the Acts period (i.e. no Jews or Gentiles) if Israel were lo-ammi during Acts. But as we have seen, Paul makes a clear distinction between Jews and Gentiles in Rom. 11. Logic therefore forces us to conclude that Israel was not lo-ammi in the Acts period.

THE MOSAIC LAW OBSERVED IN THE NEW TESTAMENT

We know for certain of two periods when Israel was lo-ammi. One was when she was led away into captivity. The other is at the present time in the 21st century. (I will not put a starting point to this lo-ammi period as that is controversial and not a necessary detail in the context of this particular discussion.) These two periods have one thing in common, i.e. the law of Moses could not be observed, primarily because the temple had been destroyed.

But the law of Moses was being observed in the Acts period. How do we know that? We know that from Acts 21:24 where we read of the believers in Jerusalem giving Paul the following advice, “Take these men, join in their purification rites and pay their expenses, so that they can have their heads shaved.  Then everybody will know there is no truth in these reports about you, but that you yourself are living in obedience to the law.”  The point of this passage is that Paul went out of his way to prove that he was observing the law.

The Mosaic law was being observed by believing Jews all throughout the Acts period because Israel was God’s people and because the temple was standing. In my opinion, while that may not  prove the point that Israel was God’s People in the Acts period, it does point to that conclusion.

Some may point to the fact that the temple that stood in the Gospel and Acts period was built by Herod, who was not a believer. But the fact that the temple of the Gospel and Acts periods was built by Herod did not prevent our Lord from referring to that temple as “My Father’s house” on two separate occasions (see Jn. 2:16 and 14:2).

ARGUMENTS AGAINST ISRAEL HAVING BEEN TAKEN BACK AS GOD’S PEOPLE AFTER THE 70 YEAR CAPTIVITY

ISAIAH 49:7 “THE NATION”

We read in Is. 49:7, “Thus saith the Lord, the Redeemer of Israel, and His Holy One, ‘to Him Whom man despiseth, to Him Whom the nation abhorreth, to a servant of rulers, Kings shall see and arise, princes also shall worship, because of the Lord That is faithful, and the Holy One of Israel, and He shall choose Thee'”. The phrase, “to a servant of rulers” points to the Gospel period when Christ had taken on the body of His humiliation. The phrase “to Him Whom man despiseth” also points to the Gospel period when Christ was crucified.

The note in the Companion Bible on the word “nation”in Is. 49:7 implies to some that Israel was not God’s people in the Gospel period. Let us consider that note which reads, “nation. Heb. goi: i.e. a heathen nation. So called here for its unbelief and rejection of the Messiah”. The reasoning of those who believe that Israel was still lo-ammi in the Gospel period is that because “goi” means, according to Dr. Bullinger, “a heathen nation”, that proves that Israel was still lo-ammi when they rejected their Messiah. But a study of how the Hebrew word “goi” is used in other passages will prove that the word does not mean “a heathen nation”, as Dr. Bullinger suggested in this comment.

The first occurrence of the word “goi”  is found Gen. 12:2, “And I will make of thee a great nation....”. This is, of course, God’s promise to Abram concerning Israel. Surely God is not telling Abraham that He will make of him a great “heathen” nation.

We read in Ex. 19:6, “And ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation….”. God was not going to make of Israel a holy “heathen” nation as Dr. Bullinger’s note implies is the meaning of the Hebrew “goi”.

We read in II Sam. 7:23-24, “And what one nation in the earth is like Thy People, even like Israel, whom God went to redeem for a People to Himself, and to make Him a name, and to do for you great things and terrible, for Thy land, before thy People, which Thou redeemedst to Thee from Egypt, from the nations and their gods? For Thou hast confirmed to Thyself Thy people Israel to be a people unto Thee for ever; and Thou, Lord, art become their God”.

Note that Israel is referred to as “goi in the earth” and “Thy (God’s) people” in the same phrase. Note also that they are again referred to as “Thy people” at the end of this quote. In short, this verse alone proves that “goi” does not mean “a heathen nation” and especially not a lo-ammi nation.

Is. 51:4, “Hearken unto Me, My people; and give ear unto Me, O My nation…..”. Note that God is speaking to “My nation”. If the Hebrew word “goi” meant “a heathen” nation that was, as some believe, lo-ammi, the Lord could not have said, “My nation”, nor could He have said “My people” because they wouldn’t have been His.

Ezek. 37:22, “And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel; and one king shall be king to them all: and they shall be no more two nations, neither shall they be divided into two kingdoms any more at all”. Obviously this is a millennial prophecy. There can be no question that the nation of Israel will be God’s people in the millennium. Therefore, we must conclude that “goi” does not mean a “heathen” nation.

The Hebrew word “goi” means nation, and as we have seen from the scriptures quoted above, the word itself has no connotations of being “heathen”. The plural of “goi” is “goyim”. When the plural is used it always refers to Gentile nations as opposed to the one nation that is God’s, i.e. Israel. But, as we have seen above the singular may be used of Israel but does not indicate Israel in Her lo-ammi state.

“JACOB” IS THE NAME USED FOR ISRAEL ACCORDING TO THE FLESH

Many believe that when the Word of God refers to the nation of Israel as “Jacob” it does so because it is speaking of the nation in the flesh as opposed to spiritual Israel. Dr. Bullinger, in his note on the passage where Jacob is renamed “Israel” in Gen. 32:28 wrote, “Jacob = contender (25:22). Used of the natural Jacob and his natural seed. Israel used for spiritual Jacob and his spiritual seed”. I don’t know if Dr. Bullinger believed that the term “Jacob” is used of unbelievers and the term “Israel” is used for believers, (perhaps he did, I can’t say for certain), but it seems that that is how some understand the terms. If it were true that “Jacob” refers to unbelievers, as opposed to believers of Israel, there may be some validity to the belief that Israel was lo-ammi when the term “Jacob” was used of Her. But is it true? Let us search the Scripture.

We read in Is. 44:3-4, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass as willows by the water courses”. The point of this passage is that during the millennium Israel will be blessed. We read in the next verse, i.e. Is. 44:5 , “One shall say, ‘I am the Lord’s, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob; and another shall subscribe with his hand unto the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel”. The point of verse 5 is that Israel will worship the Lord in the ways described in this passage. Note that one of the ways of worship is to call one’s self “by the name of Jacob“. If “Jacob” referred to Israel in the lo-ammi state, this would make no sense at all. We must conclude that it does not refer to Israel in Her lo-ammi state.

Is. 49:26 is another end times prophecy and reads, “and I will feed them that oppress thee with their own flesh; and they shall be drunken with their own blood, as with sweet wine: and all flesh shall know that I the Lord am thy Saviour and thy Redeemer, the mighty One of Jacob“. Surely if the term “Jacob” referred to Israel in a lo-ammi state the Lord will not be known by that term in the millennium, when it is clear that Israel will be God’s people, not lo-ammi. Furthermore, Israel’s lo-ammi state was certainly not the epitome of God’s might, so the title “Mighty One of Jacob” would be inappropriate to the extreme.

We read in Ezek. 28:25, “Thus saith the Lord God; When I shall have gathered the house of Israel from the people among whom they are scattered, and shall be sanctified in them in the sight of the heathen, then shall they dwell in their land that I have given to My servant Jacob. And they shall dwell safely therein, and shall build houses…….they shall know that I am the Lord their God“.

We read quite specifically in this verse that the Lord is Jacob’s God, i.e. ” they shall know that I am the Lord their (“Jacob’s”) God“. God is not Jacob’s God while She is lo-ammi. “Jacob” can not be the term used of Israel in Her lo-ammi state if it said, as it is in this verse, that the Lord is “their God”. Therefore, we must conclude that to say that the term “Jacob” is used of Israel in Her lo-ammi state is incorrect.

We read in Ps. 135:4, “For the Lord hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, and Israel for His peculiar treasure”. The Lord did not choose a lo-ammi nation unto Himself. We must conclude therefore, that the term “Jacob” does not refer to that nation in a lo-ammi state.

MALACHAI 3:6-7 “RETURN UNTO ME”

We read in Mal. 3:6-7, “For I am the Lord, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed. Even from the days of your fathers ye are gone away from Mine ordinances, and have not kept them. ‘Return unto Me, and I will return unto you,’ saith the Lord of hosts”.

Those that believe that Israel had not been taken back after the 70 year captivity believe that the phrase “return Unto Me and I will return unto you” tells us that Israel was lo-ammi at the time that Malachai wrote this prophecy, which was, of course, after the end of the 70 year captivity. But in order to correctly understand that phrase we must search the Scriptures. As the reader will see from the scriptures quoted below, the Lord often called on Israel to return to Him when they were not lo-ammi. Also, David called on the Lord to return to him and David was never lo-ammi.

We read in Ps. 6:1-4 a prayer of David, “O Lord, rebuke me not in Thine anger, Neither chasten me in Thy hot displeasure, Have mercy upon me, O Lord; for I am weak: O Lord hear me; for my bones are vexed. My soul is also sore vexed: But Thou O Lord, how long? Return, O Lord, deliver my soul: Oh save me for Thy mercies sake”. Evidently David was ill in body and in spirit and prayed that the Lord would “return” to him. David was not lo-ammi, but he evidently had  displeased the Lord. It is clear in this passage that David’s prayer that the Lord “return” unto him was in the sense of reestablishing the relationship David had once enjoyed with His God.

Ps. 80 is a Psalm asking God to protect His nation. We read in verse 12, “Why hast Thou then broken down her (Israel’s, see verse 8) hedges? So that all they which pass by the way do pluck her?” Then in verse 14 we reads, “Return, we beseech Thee O God of hosts: Look down from heaven, and behold, and visit this vine”. Israel was never lo-ammi in the time of David and yet David prayed that God would “return” unto them. In short, in this passage, the prayer that God would return unto Israel does not mean that Israel was lo-ammi at the time of the prayer.

Psalm 90 is yet another Psalm that is a prayer for God’s forgiveness of Israel’s sins. We read in verses 7-8, “For we are consumed by Thine anger, and by Thy wrath are we troubled. Thou has set our iniquities before Thee, our secret sins in the light of Thy countenance”. Then we read in verses 13-14, “Return, O Lord, how long? And let it repent Thee concerning Thy servants. O satisfy us early with Thy mercy; That we may rejoice and be glad all our days”. Again, Israel was never lo-ammi in the period in which the Psalms were written. This is not a prayer to restore Israel from a lo-ammi state. This is a prayer to restore Israel to it’s relationship with the Lord that was spoiled because of Israel’s sin.

Isaiah was written before the 70 year captivity, but we read in Is. 55:7, “Let the wicked forsake his way, and the unrighteous man his thoughts: and let him return unto the Lord, and He will have mercy upon him; and to our God, for He will abundantly pardon”. Once again, it is clear that the return unto the Lord is to reestablish the relationship with God before sins had spoiled that relationship. Because Israel was not lo-ammi at the time, it could not have meant a reversal of a lo-ammi state.

By comparing scripture with scripture we must conclude that God’s call for Israel to return unto Him in Mal. 3:6-7 is not a message for a lo-ammi nation, it is a message for a nation who had sinned against God to reestablish its relationship with their God.

THE TIMES OF THE GENTILES STRETCHES FROM THE TIME OF THE BABYLONIAN CAPTIVITY UNTIL THE PRESENT TIME

The “times of the Gentiles”, is assumed to have begun with Nebuchadnezzar. The phrase “times of the Gentiles” has been defined by many as the times that Jerusalem was under Gentile rule and began with the rule of Nebuchadnezzar. Israel was lo-ammi in the time of Nebuchadnezzar’s reign. The assumption is that because Israel had been conquered by Nebuchadnezzar and was lo-ammi, and that Jerusalem was under Gentile domination in the Gospel and Acts period, that Israel continued to be lo-ammi through the Gospel and Acts periods, and through the centuries including the present day.

Of course, the most immediate problem with that assumption is that Israel is not under Gentile control in the present day. Israel has Her own government. I am not suggesting that modern day Israel is the fulfillment of any prophecy because it is clear that She is lo-ammi today. I am only pointing out that Her being under Gentile rule cannot be proof of whether or not She is lo-ammi. If it were, one would have to conclude that Israel is no longer lo-ammi today  even though She is not under Gentile rule, and that is not possible for any number of reasons that would take us too far afield of our subject to discuss in this paper.

The problem with the assumption that “the times of the Gentiles” began with Nebuchadnezzar is that while it is obviously true that Israel was conquered by Nebuchadnezzar, it is not proved by Scripture that that is when “the times of the Gentiles” began, it is assumed. So in this section we will determine from Scripture when the times of the Gentiles will be.

The only occurrence of the phrase “times of the Gentiles” is found in Luke 21:24, where we read, “And they shall fall by the edge of the sword, and shall be led away captive into all nations: and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled”. When are the times of the Gentiles? The note in the Companion Bible on verse 21 of the phrase “trodden down” reads, “…..The reference is to the Mohammedan possession since AD 636 in succession to the fourth or Roman possession…”. Others believe the times of the Gentiles began with the Babylonian Kingdom of Nebuchadnezzar in 606 BC.  Still others believe they began with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. I believe that at least part of the reason for the difference of opinion is based on the fact that none of these opinions can be substantiated by Scripture, because none of the times or events said to begin the times of the Gentiles are spoken of in Scripture. It is only by comparing scripture with scripture that we can come to a Scriptural conclusion.

I believe that “the times of the Gentiles” refers to the end times, and more specifically, to the great tribulation. That period is covered in Scripture, which makes any reliance on secular historians unnecessary. By comparing Matthew 24 with Luke 21 we will find our Lord giving more or less, the same message, but at different times and at different places. That being the case, we will also find some differences. I believe that if there are several items that are the same in these to passages (and there are) and there are no contradictions which would prevent us from seeing them as the same message (which there are not), the most logical conclusion is that our Lord was delivering more or less the same message at two different times and two different places.

The so-called “sermon on the mount” is another message preached by Christ at two different times and two different places. As we shall see, when Christ preached this message “on the mount” as recorded in Matthew, He preached a much more comprehensive version than He did when He was on a “level place” as recorded in Luke. Let us briefly compare this message as preached in two different places.

Let us compare Luke 21 with Matthew 24 for the purpose of determining if indeed, both passages refer to the end times. That is to say, we know that Matt. 24 is an end times prophecy, let’s us see if the discourse recorded in Luke 21 is of the same times. Our Lord’s discourse which included the phrase “times of the Gentiles” begins at Luke 21:6. “As for these things which ye behold, the days will come, in the which there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down”. In verse seven the question is asked of Christ, “Master, ..when shall these things be? and what sign will there be when these things shall come to pass?” We read the same statement and resulting question in Matthew 24:2-3, “And Jesus said unto them, ‘See ye not all these things? verily I say unto you, There shall not be left here one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down. And…..the disciples came unto Him privately saying, ‘Tell us, when shall these things be and what shall be the sign of Thy coming…”. By comparing scripture with scripture we have learned that both Luke 21 and Matthew 24 address the same question and give the same answer. Let us continue with our comparison.

Note Matthew 24:5, “For many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ’; and shall deceive many”. Compare that with Luke 21:8, “….Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in My name, saying, ‘I am Christ’…..”.

Matthew 24:6, “And ye shall hear of wars and rumors of wars: see that ye be not troubled….”. Luke 21:9, “But when ye shall hear of wars and commotion’s, be not terrified”.

Matthew 24:7, “For nation shall rise up against nation and kingdom against kingdom…”. Luke 21:10, “Then He said unto them, ‘Nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom”:

Matthew 24:9, “Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for My name’s sake”. Luke 21:12, “But before all these (earthquakes etc. verse 11) , they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake”.

We go now to Matthew 24:15-16, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place, (whoso readeth, let him understand:) Then let them which be in Judea flee to the mountains”. In Luke 21:20-21 we read, “And when you see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof his nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee to the mountains….”.

Matthew 24:19, “And woe unto them that are with child that give suck in those days”. Luke 21:23, “But woe unto them that are with child, and to them that give suck, in those days!…”.

The key to the answer to our question as to when are the “times of the Gentile” is found in Matthew 24:21, “For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no nor ever shall be”. And in verse 29 we read, “Immediately after the tribulation of those days shall the sun be darkened and the moon shall not give her light, and the stars shall fall from heaven and the powers of the heavens shall be shaken”. In Luke 21:24-25 we read, “…..and Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled. and there shall be signs in the sun, and in the moon, and in the stars: and upon the earth……”.

There is, in my opinion, no question but that Matthew 24 and Luke 21 both speak of the great tribulation and the day of the Lord which “immediately” follows it. Therefore, the “times of the Gentiles” have to do with end times, not times which are not even covered in Scripture.

Let us come back to the comparison of Matthew 24:15-16 with Luke 21:20-21 . In Matthew we read, “When ye therefore shall see the abomination of desolation, spoken of by Daniel the prophet, stand in the holy place…let them which be in Judea flee,,,”. And in Luke we read, “And when ye shall see Jerusalem compassed with armies, then know that the desolation thereof is nigh. Then let them which are in Judea flee…”. We have already determined that both Matthew 24 and Luke 21 concern the tribulation. And Christ tells His listeners to flee. But in Matthew they should flee when they see the abomination of desolation, while in Luke 21 they should flee when they see Jerusalem compassed about with armies. Are these two different events, or are they the same event?. That question is answered in Daniel 11:31.

Because this is a very difficult passage I will quote verse 31 from the NIV, which is, in my opinion, easier to understand. “His armed forces will rise up to desecrate the temple fortress and will abolish the daily sacrifice. Then they will set up the abomination that causes desolation”. Here we have a description of the scene during which the antichrist will set up the abomination of desolation which, according to Matthew 24:15 will mark the beginning of the time that all should flee, i.e. the time of the tribulation. The antichrist will bring his forces to the temple. That makes sense, he has in mind to put the abomination (Scriptural term for an idol) in the house of God. One can only imagine how the appearance of an idol in God’s house would effect those who worship there. It is not difficult to understand why the antichrist would have his armies to help in the process of setting up this abomination of desolation.

What we learn from Dan.11 is that while Matthew tells us what the antichrist will do in the temple, Luke tells us what he will do with his armies in order to facilitate his actions in the temple. There is no contradiction here, there is only a fuller account of the same event. That event is what marks the beginning of the tribulation.

Let us review what has been presented thus far. Matthew 24 obviously is a record of Christ’s answer to the question asked by His disciples as to what will be the sign of the end of the age and of His coming. One of the main events of the end times is the tribulation, which will begin when the antichrist places the abomination of desolation in the temple. By comparing Luke 21 with Matthew 24 we have seen that Luke 21 answers the same question and also includes a warning as to what to look for, which will signify the beginning of the tribulation. Where Matthew’s Gospel gives the sign of the beginning of the tribulation as the abomination of desolation being placed in the temple, Luke gives the sign of Jerusalem being compassed about. We have read in Daniel 11 that Jerusalem will be compassed about by the armies of the antichrist when he, the antichrist, places the abomination in the temple. Therefore, the encompassing of Jerusalem and the placing of the abomination in the temple are one and the same event.

The times of the Gentiles will begin when the armies of the antichrist will surround Jerusalem in order to place the abomination in the temple, and that will be the beginning of the tribulation. The times of the Gentiles will begin at the beginning of the tribulation and will end at the appointed time, i.e. at the end of the tribulation.

A discussion of different views is presented in the paper on this web-site When Will The Times Of The Gentiles Be fulfilled?

THE ARK OF THE COVENANT

Some believe that the ark of the covenant was not placed in Ezra’s temple, which in their minds, proves that God did not take Israel back as His own. Let us first determine the importance of the ark of the covenant.

In Exodus 25:21-22 we read, “Place the cover on top of the ark and put in the ark the Testimony which I will give you.  There above the cover between the two cherubim that are over the ark of the Testimony, I will meet with you and give you all My commands for the Israelites”.  And in Deut. 12:11 we read, “Then to the place the Lord your God will choose as a dwelling for His Name …there you are to bring everything I command you”.  It is clear that God told Israel that He would dwell and meet with them from wherever the ark of the Testimony was. This made the ark of the covenant a very important article.

We read in Jer. 27:21 of the items in the temple shortly before it was destroyed, “Yea, thus saith the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, concerning the vessels that remain in the house of the Lord, and in the house of the king of Judah and of Jerusalem”. Note that this verse concerns those vessels that remained in the temple. Obviously, if some vessels remained, others had been taken out of the temple. Given the extreme importance of the ark of the covenant, I would think it more than likely that the ark had been taken and hidden. I believe it is also worth noting that as important as the ark was, it is never mentioned as having been carried away. I believe that adds considerable weight to the suggestion that it had been hidden. Let us consider the list of things that Nebuchadnezzar had carried away from the temple.

Ezr 1:7-11 lists the items Cyrus returned to the temple. “Also Cyrus the king brought forth the vessels of the house of the LORD, which Nebuchadnezzar had brought forth out of Jerusalem, and had put them in the house of his gods; Even those did Cyrus king of Persia bring forth by the hand of Mithredath the treasurer, and numbered them unto Sheshbazzar, the prince of Judah. And this is the number of them:
– thirty chargers of gold,
– a thousand chargers of silver,
– nine and twenty knives,
– Thirty basons of gold,
– silver basons of a second sort four hundred and ten,
– and other vessels a thousand.
All the vessels of gold and of silver were five thousand and four hundred. All these did Sheshbazzar bring up with them of the captivity that were brought up from Babylon unto Jerusalem.”.

There two things worthy of note here. 1) The ark is not listed as being returned. 2) This list is of the items that Nebuchadnezzar had taken from Jerusalem. If the ark had been hidden (which I believe is much more likely than not, given its importance) then Nebuchadnezzar did not carry away the ark and therefore, it could not have been included in the list of things that were returned by Cyrus.

But we read in II Chron. 36:18, “All the vessels of the house of God, great and small……..he brought to Babylon. This verse seems to tell us that all the vessels were taken. But that contradicts Jer. 27:21 which tells us that he took all the remained, i.e. some. There are, of course, no contradictions in the Word of God, and I believe the note in the Companion Bible on the word “all” will clear this up. That note reads “all = the whole that came into her (Babylon’s) hand”.

In short, I believe that the ark of the covenant was hidden before the destruction of Jerusalem by Babylon, and that is why we do not read of it being carried away to Babylon, and why it is not included in the items that were returned.

THE SHEKINAH GLORY DID NOT FILL EZRA’S TEMPLE

We are told that the glory of the Lord filled the tabernacle built by Moses (Ex. 40:34), and that it filled Solomon’s temple (I Kings 8:11), but we are not told that the glory of the Lord filled Ezra’s temple, i.e. the temple built by the returning captives. Does that signify that Israel was not taken back? No, I don’t think we can say that because of the Scriptural evidence offered  in this paper  which proves that Israel was taken back.

Those that believe that Israel had not been taken back after the 70 year captivity believe that the fact that the glory of the Lord did not fill Ezra’s temple proves their point. But we are not told why the glory of the Lord did not fill the temple. The reason is assumed and not supported by Scripture. In other words, the question of why the glory of the Lord did not fill Ezra’s temple is not addressed in Scripture and, in my opinion, where God does not tell us, we must remain ignorant.

But just for the sake of argument let us see if there could be another reason why the glory of the Lord did not fill Ezra’s temple. I am not suggesting these as the reasons, I am only saying that there may be reasons other than that Israel was still lo-ammi when Ezra’s temple was completed for the temple not being filled with the glory of the Lord.

We know that most of the members of the ten tribes of the northern kingdom did not return to the Land. That means a small percentage of Israel did return. In other words, Israel was not then, nor has She ever been, restored to Her former glory of the days of Solomon. That could be one reason the glory of the Lord did not fill Ezra’s temple.

We read in Ezra 3:12, “But many of the priests and Levites and chief of the fathers, who were ancient men, that had seen the first house, when the foundation of this house was laid before their eyes, wept with a loud voice….”. We learn that those who had remembered Solomon’s temple wept at the foundation of Ezra’s temple. We read in Hagg. 2:3 the probable reason for this weeping at the foundation, “Who is left among you that saw this house in her first glory? and how do ye see it now? is it not in your eyes in comparison of it as nothing?”. I am suggesting that because Ezra’s temple was not much in comparison to Solomon’s temple, that could have been another reason that the glory of the Lord did not fill Ezra’s temple.

But the point is that we are simply not told why the glory of the Lord did not fill Ezra’s temple. We cannot assume the reason and then base a doctrine of such importance on that assumption when there is nothing in Scripture that points to Israel being lo-ammi after the 70 year captivity.

ISRAEL DID NOT LIVE AS A NATION THAT HAD BEEN TAKEN BACK BY GOD

The argument is made that Israel did not act as a nation that had been taken back as God’s people after the 70 year captivity. That is unfortunately very true. But if we are to be blunt, Israel has rarely acted like a nation that was God’s People. We learn for example that the very same generation that had been so miraculously led out of Egypt had built the golden calf. But no one believes that Israel was, at that time, lo-ammi. In short, this is not, in my opinion, a credible argument.

HEROD’S TEMPLE WAS NOT GOD’S TEMPLE

Another argument that is made is that the proof that Israel was still lo-ammi in the Gospel period was that the temple standing at the time had been built by Herod, who was not a true believer. But in Jn. 2:16 and 14:2 Christ refers to that very temple as “My Father’s house”. In other words, Christ worshipped at the temple Herod build and accepted it as His Father’s. This is therefore, in my opinion, also not a credible argument.

This paper was written by Joyce Pollard. If you would like to respond please e-mail me at: janjoyce@aol.com

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