THE RESURRECTION OF NATIONAL ISRAEL

The  prophet  Ezekiel foretold a special resurrection that will only include  national Israel.  In  order to  understand why there will be a  special resurrection  for national Israel, it is important to review some  of the promises that God made to Abraham and the Israelites.

A Promise to Abraham

"That  in  blessing I will bless you, and in multiplying  I  will multiply your seed as the stars of heaven, and as the sand  which is  on the seashore. And your Seed shall possess the gate of his enemies.  And in your Seed shall all the nations of the earth  be blessed as a reward in that you  have obeyed my voice"  (Gen.22:17-18 Para.).

The  promise  to Abraham not only assured him multitudes  of  descendants but also that all the inhabitants of the world would be blessed through these descendants.

A Promise to National Israel

After God delivered the descendants of Jacob from slavery  in Egypt  and  brought  them to Mount Sinai, he offered to  make  a covenant with them:

"And  now  if you will surely listen to my  covenant,  you  shall become  a special treasure to me above all the nations,  for  all the earth is mine. And you shall become a kingdom of priests  for me, a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak  to the  sons of Israel. And Moses came and called the elders of  the people.  And  he put all these words before them which  the  Lord commanded him. And all the people answered together and said, All which the Lord has spoken we will do. And Moses brought back  the words of the people to the Lord" (Ex.19:5-8 Para.).

In  Deuteronomy  28:1-13, God promised  wealth,  protection, health,  happiness,  and many other fantastic  blessings  to  the Israelites for their obedience.

If  the  Israelites had performed their part of this  covenant,  God would not only have granted them enormous physical blessings but also spiritual salvation.

The Promise of Life

Immortality and  eternal  life were also offered to those who lived under the Old Covenant.  But in order to obtain it, they had to fulfill the conditions of  the covenant.  Those who obeyed God deserved life because  they  kept their  covenant agreement with God. A partial list of  those  who gained salvation under a covenant relationship with God is  given in chapter eleven of the Book of Hebrews.

"You shall therefore keep my statutes, and my judgments, which if a  man do, he shall live in (by) them: I am the  Lord"  (Lev.18:5 KJV). See also Job 14:14-15; 1.Thes.4:13-15; Heb.11:33-40.

We  know  from history and the scriptures that national Israel  failed  to keep  their part of the covenant, so God canceled  the  agreement with  them by giving them  a  bill  of  divorcement through the written word of the prophets. See Isa.50:1;  Jer.3:8-9.

Although national Israel failed to fulfill  their agreement with  God, they still had an opportunity for national  greatness and salvation because of God's unconditional promise to Abraham. Because   of these  prior  commitments to  the   patriarchs (2.Chron.6:14; Psa.89:34; Zech.2:10-12), God will continue to work with Israel until his purpose for mankind is completed:

"For  you are a holy people to the Lord your God. The  Lord your God  has chosen you to be his own treasure out of all the  people on the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love on you or choose you because you were more in number than any people,  for you were the fewest of all peoples. But because the  Lord  loved you, and because he kept the oath which he swore to your fathers, the  Lord  has caused you to go out with a strong hand,  and redeemed you from the house of slaves, from the hand  of Pharaoh king  of Egypt. Because of this, know that the Lord your God, is God, and who is a faithful God, keeps the covenant and mercy with those who  love him, and with those who keep his commands, to a  thousand generations" (Deut.7:6-9 Para.).

God Has Not Forsaken Israel

In his letter to the elect at  Rome, the  apostle Paul clearly explains that God has not forsaken Israel, but he has only set  them aside for a short time in order to give the Gentiles an  opportunity to have some of the promises given to national Israel.

Romans 11:1-27 Paraphrased

"I  say then, Did God thrust away his people? Let it not  be! For I am also an Israelite, out of Abraham's seed, of the tribe of Benjamin. God did not thrust away his people whom he foreknew. Or did you not know what the scripture said in Elijah, how he pleaded with God against Israel, Saying, 'Lord, they killed the prophets, and they took down your alters; and only I am left; and they seek my  soul.' But what does the Divine answer say to  him,  'I reserved to myself seven thousand men who did not bow the knee to Baal'. So then, also in this present time a remnant according  to election of  grace has come into being, But if by grace, no longer is it  of  works; else  grace  no longer becomes grace. But if of works, it  is no longer grace; else work is no longer work" (vs.1-6).

The  terms and conditions of salvation through the Covenant  with Israel  included  stipulations for the  performance  of  physical works  for  justification before God, but this all  changed  when Jesus became the supreme sacrifice for the sins of mankind. After his  sacrifice, works could no longer secure  salvation,  because  salvation  had  become a gift of grace under  the  New Covenant. See our study paper about the covenants.

"What  then? What Israel seeks, this he did not obtain,  but  the election obtained it, and the rest were hardened; even as it  has been  written,  'God gave to them a spirit of slumber,  eyes not seeing and  ears  not hearing' until  this  day" (vs.7-8). See 2.Cor.3:13-18; 4:1-4.

Paul  says  that   the majority of Israel  obtained  neither  the blessings  promised  to  Abraham nor salvation.  However,  those specifically  selected by God (the election: Gr. 'ekloge')  for salvation did obtain it (see verses 2-5), but the rest had become unresponsive to God. Therefore, they became unable  to understand the way to salvation. See Mk.3:5; Rom.2:5; Ezk.3:7.

"I say then, Did not they stumble that they fall? Let it not  be! But  by  their slipping away came salvation to  the  nations,  to provoke  them  to  jealousy. But if their slipping  away  is the riches of the world, and their default the riches of the nations, how  much  more their fullness? For I speak to you,  the  nations [i.e., non-Israelitish nations], since I am the apostle of  the nations. . .. I glorify my ministry, if somehow I may  provoke  to jealousy my flesh, and may save some of them. For if their  casting away is the reconciliation of the world, what is their reception, except life from the dead?" (vs.11-15).

Paul  further  explains  that national Israel's opportunity  for  national greatness and salvation  is  still a part of God's plan for humanity:

"Now  if  the first-fruit is holy, so also the lump. And  if  the root is holy, also the branches. But if some of the branches were broken off, and you being a wild olive tree were grafted in among them, and  become a sharer of the root and the fatness  of  the olive  tree,  do not boast against the branches. But  if  you  do boast, it is not you that bears the root, but the root bears you. You  will then say, the branches were broken off that I might  be grafted in" (vs.16-19).

Israel  was the nation God chose to begin his redemptive work  to the  world  and  to be a righteous example of  God's  way  of life that  others could follow. Although Israel failed to  be this  example, they are still the nation that God will use  after the  return  of  Christ  to  be  an  example  for humanity:  See Deut.30:1-6; Isa.44:21; 51:2-3; 52:1-11; Jer.31:35-38;  32:36-42; 33:1-26.

"Well for unbelief they were broken off, And you stand by  faith. Do  not  be high minded, but fear. For if God did not  spare  the natural branches, lest he will not spare you either.  Behold, then,  the kindness and severity. But on you, kindness—if  you continue in the kindness. Otherwise you will also be cut off. And those also, if they do not continue in unbelief, will be grafted in.  For God is able to graft them in again. For if you were  cut out  of  the  natural wild olive tree, and  were against  nature grafted into a good olive tree, how much more these being according to nature will be grafted into their own olive tree?" (vs.20-24).

The English word 'unbelief' in verse 20 is the Greek word 'apistia', which  means 'unfaithfulness.' Israel was not temporarily set  aside  because they did not believe what God said; they were set aside because they were not obedient to his law and the covenant that they had made with him. See Hos.4:6; Joe.2:19-20; Psa.78:10, 36-37;  Jer.18:15-17; Rom.1:21-22.

Everyone who has a covenant with God should take heed to honor  their agreement  and remain faithful to their word, or God will  reject them as  he did Israel. Verse 23 shows that the consequence of disobedience  is  the separation from God and the  blessings  and benefits of this relationship, but obedience brings acceptance:

"For  I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery,  brothers—so that you may not be wise within yourselves—that hardness in part has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the nations comes  in; and so all Israel will be saved, even as it  has  been written,  'The deliverer will come out of Zion, and he will  turn away  ungodliness from Jacob. And this is my covenant with  them, when I take away their sins" (vs.25-27).

The Covenant People

When reviewing the new covenant that God has promised Israel, it is important to remember that it is the contract made at Mount Sinai that is spoken of. Moreover, it is this contract with the nation of Israel that will be revised and codified.

Jeremiah 31:31-33 Paraphrased

"Behold the days come, says the Lord, that I will cut a new  covenant  with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah,  not according  to the covenant that I cut with their fathers  in  the day  I took them by the hand to bring them out of  the  land  of Egypt—which covenant of mine they broke, although I  was  a husband  to them, says the Lord" (vs.31-32).

Those with whom God made the original contract are all dead along with  millions of their descendants who died without a new  covenant. Israel of the original covenant is not a nation today; its descendants  are  scattered throughout the nations of the  earth, which was prophesied  by the prophets Isaiah and Jeremiah. However, because the majority of the Israelites who have ever lived are dead, when will God make this new contract  with  them and their descendants?

"But this shall be the covenant that I will cut with the house of Israel: After those days, declares the Lord, I will put my law  in their  inward parts, and I will write it on their hearts; and  I will be their God, and they shall be my people" (v33).

Notice  that the new contract will be made "after  those  days." The  phrase "after those days" refers to a period of  time  after  Christ  returns as a conquering king. Before Christ's return,  Israel, as  a nation under the direction of God, does not  exist,  because most of the descendants of ancient Israel are scattered throughout the nations of the world.

THE VALLEY OF DRY BONES

Ezekiel  37 contains the prophecy of the valley of  dry  bones, which pertains to racial Israelites who have  died  throughout  the ages. They will be  resurrected to physical life some time  after the return of Christ in order to have their opportunity for salvation under the New Covenant:

"The  hand  of the Lord was upon me, and carried me  out  in  the spirit  of the Lord, and set me down in the midst of  the  valley which  was  full of bones, And caused me to pass  by them round about: and, behold, there were very many in the open valley; and, lo, they were very dry."And  he said to me, Son of man, can these bones live? And I  answered, O lord God, you know. Again he said to me, prophesy  upon these  bones, and say to them, O you dry bones, hear the word  of the  Lord. Thus says the Lord God to these bones; Behold, I  will cause  breath to enter into you, and you shall live: And  I  will lay sinews upon you, and will bring up flesh upon you, and  cover you with skin, and put breath in you, and you shall live; and you shall know that I am the Lord" (vs.1-6 KJV).

These  people will not be given a spirit body like those who participate in the first resurrection who will be made spirit-beings at Christ's coming  (see 1.Cor.15:42-5);  these people will be  brought back to life  as  physical human beings (i.e., flesh and blood). See also Ezk.37:11 below.  

"And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came upon  them, and the skin covered them above: but there was no breath in them. Then  said he to me, Prophesy to the wind, prophesy son  of  man, and  say to the wind, thus says the Lord God; Come from the  four winds,  O breath, and breathe upon these slain,  that  they  may live.  So  I prophesied as he commanded me, and the  breath  came into  them, and they lived, and stood upon their   feet,  an exceeding great army" (vs.8-10 KJV).

This  pictures  millions of humans  who  will  be brought  back to physical life in this great valley. God says these people are from the whole house of Israel—the combined houses of Israel and Judah:

"Then he said to me, Son of man, these bones are the whole  house of  Israel:  behold, they say, Our bones are dried, our  hope  is lost: we are cut off from our parts" (v11 KJV).

Verse  11 shows that these people who will be resurrected  are the  whole  house  of Israel, which also includes  the  house  of Judah. It is apparent that these are the millions of  Israelites who have died over the centuries.  They  all  died without  hope because they did not have a covenant with God for salvation.

These people will include Israelites who were scattered throughout  the nations  of  the world (most without even knowing  they  were  of Israelite decent) and have lost their national identity  as part of national Israel's punishment for disobedience to God:

"And the Lord says, because they have forsaken my law which I set before them, and have not obeyed my voice, and have not walked in it;  but have walked after the stubbornness of their  own heart, and after Baals, which their fathers taught them; so the Lord  of host,  the God of Israel, says this: Behold, I will  feed  them, this  people with wormwood, and make them to drink water of poison.  I will scatter them among the nations which they  have  not known,  nor their fathers. . ." (Jer.9:13-16 Para.).  See  also Jer.18:15-17; Ezk.12:1-15; Rev.8:10-11.

"Therefore  prophesy  and say to them, Thus says  the  Lord  God; Behold  O  my people, I will open your graves, and cause  you  to come  up out of your graves, and bring you into the land  of  Israel. And you shall know that I am the Lord, when I have  opened your graves, O my people, and brought you up out of your  graves, and bring you into the land of Israel" (vs.12-13 KJV).

In  verses 12 and 13,  God speaks to the Israelites as  a  nation and as specific individuals when he says that he will bring them  back to  physical life. He calls them "my people"—a phrase that  he only uses for the covenant people.

This scripture describes  a people who do not know the God who brought  their nation  into existence and formed a covenant with them and  their ancestors.  The only logical reasons that these Israelites who will be resurrected do not know God is that they have either  forgotten who he is or have never known who he is.

In  order to understand why God said they will know him in  verse 13, some of what the Bible records about  Israel before, during, and after Christ's first coming must be researched.

BEFORE CHRIST

The following two texts show that national Israel as a whole had forgotten God long before Jesus came as the Messiah:

"With  strange  gods they moved him to jealousy; and  with  idols they  provoked him to anger. They sacrificed to demons  who  were not God, to gods whom they did not know, new ones who came lately;  your fathers had not dreaded them. You forgot the Rock  that brought you into being; and neglected God who formed you. And the Lord  looked and despised because of the provocation of his  sons and of his daughters. And he said, I will hide my face from them; I will see what their end will be; for they are a perverse generation,  sons  in whom is  no  faithfulness"  (Deut.32:16-20 KJV Para.).

"O generation, see the word of the Lord. Have I been a wilderness to Israel, or a land of darkness? Why do my people say, We  roam; we will come no more to You. Can a virgin forget her finery, or a bride  her attire? Yet my people have forgotten me  days  without number" (Jer.2:31-32 Para.). See also Jer.3:21; 13:25; 18:15-17; 23:23-27; Ezk.22:12.

DURING CHRIST'S LIFETIME

"Then they said to him, Where is your father? Jesus answered, You neither know me nor my Father. If you had known me, then you also would  have  known  my Father. . .. Jesus answered,  If  I  glorify myself,  my glory is nothing; it is my Father who  glorifies  me, whom you say is your God. And you have not known him; but I  know him, and if I say that I do not know him, I shall be like you,  a liar. But  I  know him, and keep his  word"  (Jn.8:19,54-55 Para ).

The Jews who lived in Jesus' time did not know God the Father nor did they recognize Jesus who was the Creator God. Here, we  find a  people devoid of the knowledge of God the Father and his Son, the Creator and Covenant God of Israel.

The  history  of Israel from its inception through  its  division into  the  ten tribes of the  House of Israel and  the  House  of Judah  shows  a rebellious people who do not have knowledge  and faith of the true God. Since the time of Christ to this very  day the majority of national Israel who are scattered throughout the nations still do not know their God.

But, there will come a day when the dead of Israel shall rise  and know  who God is and they will know what  great blessings he  has in store for them.

After Christ's Return

Both the  prophets Hosea and Isaiah spoke of the great  resurrection  when  the dead of Israel will be brought forth  from  their graves and have their opportunity for salvation:

"O  Israel, you are destroyed, but your help is in me.  Where  is your  king? Where is any other who may save you in all  your  cities?  And where are your judges of whom you said, Give to me  a king and rulers? I give to you a king in my anger, and take  him away in my fury. The iniquity of Ephraim is bound up; his sin  is hidden. The pains of a woman in travail shall come to him; he  is not  a  wise son; for he cannot stand still in the  time  of  the breaking  forth  of sons. I will ransom them from the  hand  of Sheol;  I  will redeem them from death. O death where  are  your plagues?  O Sheol, where is your ruin? Repentance is hidden  from my eyes" (Hos.13:9-14 Para.).

Hosea was inspired to speak of Israel—past, present, and  future—and its destruction for national and personal sins.  He spoke  of the future when the elect of God will come  forth to rule the earth and the dead will be brought  out  of their graves to an opportunity of redemption through Christ:

"The  Lord stands up to plead his cause, and stands up  to  judge the peoples. The Lord will enter into judgment with the elders of his people, and their kings. For you have eaten up the vineyard, the  plunder  of  the poor is in your  houses"  (Isa.3:13-14 Para.).

"Thorns and briers shall spring upon the land of my people;  even over  all  the houses of joy in the jubilant  city,  because  the place  is forsaken; mound and tower are instead of  caves, until forever, a joy of wild asses; pasture for flocks; until the spirit is poured out  on us from on high, and the wilderness becomes  a fruitful  field; and the fruitful field is reckoned as a forest. Then  justice shall dwell in the wilderness,  and  righteousness shall dwell in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the service of righteousness shall be quietness  and  hope forever. And my people shall live in  a  peaceful home,  and  in  safe dwellings, and  in  secure  resting places" (Isa.32:13-18 Para.).

"Israel is to be saved in the Lord with everlasting salvation. You shall not  be  ashamed  nor disgraced  to  the  forever  of  eternity" (Isa.45:17 Para.).

These scriptures show that God will resurrect the rebellious of Israel from their graves to give them an opportunity for salvation, not to destroy them.

Alive in the Promised Land

"And  I  shall put my spirit in you, and you shall  live,  and  I shall place you in your own land: then you shall know that I  the Lord   have  spoken  it  and  performed  it,  says   the   lord" (Ezk.37:14 Para).

This scripture shows that God will place the spirit of life that belongs to him (See Ecc.12:7; Ezk.18:4; Num.27:16) back into the physical  body. The spirit that is placed into  these bodies  is the spirit of man (Jms.2:26), not the spirit of  God, which makes one a spiritual son of God. The spirit of God is only given  when  a person believes God, repents of sin, and is baptized.  These people obviously did not make  these  kinds  of decisions  in their first life, because if they had, they would not be included  in this resurrection.

Into the Land

"And I shall place you in your own  land . . ." (Ezk.37:14 Para).

This means that these millions of  Israelites  will  be resurrected  into  the land that God originally gave  to ancient Israel.

The land promised to Abraham lies between the Nile and  Euphrates rivers.  A  very conservative estimate would allow a  minimum  of well  over  a  million square miles of territory  for  this  vast multitude to occupy. See Gen.13:14-17; 15:18; Ex.23:31; Deut.11:24; Ezk.chps. 47; 48.

There will be no doubt in any of these Israelite's minds who God is when they are resurrected and placed in the promised land; not just because they have been resurrected but also because  Christ and the elect of God will be there to lead and teach  them  into all truth.

Is all of Israel to be Saved?

A scripture that is often used in an attempt to prove that all of Israel is predestined to be saved is Romans 11:26. Few understand it, yet if all preconceived ideas are put aside the meaning is clear:

"And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There  shall come  out of Zion the Deliverer, and shall turn away  ungodliness from Jacob" (Rom.11:26 Para.).

Because this scripture says that "all Israel shall be saved",  many who  believe a doctrine of predestination think that all Israel shall be saved regardless of their behavior. This surely seems to prove their point; however, after further research, it becomes apparent that this scripture does not say this at all.

Some Bible scholars say the Greek word 'pas', which is translated as 'all' in English, could also mean that not all of Israel will be saved, but the  majority as a whole will be saved. However, the true meaning of  this scripture is found in the original Greek translation.

The following is the  correct  translation  according to  the  Interlinear  Greek-English New Testament by George Rickerberry:  "So all Israel shall be saved according as it has been written . . .."

The key to understanding Romans 11:26 are the words "as it  has been  written", which refer to how God says we can obtain salvation. The intent of this scripture is not that all will be saved, but that the Israelites must all accept Christ as their savior to be saved

The overall plan of God for salvation has not changed from the foundation  of the world. Part of this plan is  that  humans must come into conformity with his laws for physical and spiritual  behavior. A fundamental teaching of both the Old and the  New Testaments is that an individual must stop breaking the laws  and precepts of God and obey him before God can bless that  individual.

The Promise to the Apostles

On two different occasions Jesus promised that the twelve  disciples would rule on the earth with him:

"Then  answering,  Peter said to him, Behold, we  have  left  all things and followed you. what then shall happen to us? And  Jesus said  to them, Truly I say to you, You who have followed me;  in the regeneration, when the Son of man sits on his throne of  his glory,  you also will sit on twelve thrones, judging  the  twelve tribes of Israel" (Matt.19:27-28 Para.).

"You  are  those  having continued with me in my  trails.  And  I appoint a kingdom to you, as my Father appointed to me, that  you may eat and drink at my table in my Kingdom. And you will sit on thrones  judging  the twelve tribes of Israel"  (Lk.22:28-30 Para.).

Four  hundred years after the death of king David,   the  prophet Ezekiel also spoke of this same event. See Ezk.37:24-28.

SUMMARY

The  resurrection of National Israel will occur after the  return of Christ and the resurrection of the elect of God (Rev.20:4-6). And after the  Israelites  who live through the  great  tribulation  are brought  to Palestine   to reestablish  the  nation  of  Israel (Ezk.36:24-28).

In this time of peace and prosperity, all the dead of Israel will be  raised  out of the dust to meet their God and be  taught  his laws,  which lead to salvation and eternal life in the Family  of God:

"And  they shall no longer each man teach his neighbor, and  each man  his brother, saying, Know the Lord. For they shall  all  know me, from the least of them even to the greatest of them, declares the Lord.  For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will  remember their sins no more" (Jer.31:34 Para.). See also Heb.8:7-10.

When  Christ returns, he will fulfill the promise he made to  ancient  Israel  when he was their covenant God,  and  Israel  will again  have an opportunity for national greatness, and  an opportunity for salvation under the New Covenant:

"Remember  these O Jacob, and Israel. For you are my  servant,  O Israel;  you shall not forget me. I have blotted out your  transgressions  like a thick cloud. Return to me, for I have redeemed you" (Isa.44:21-22 Para.).

"And my Servant David shall be king over them. And there shall be one Shepherd to all of them. And they shall walk in my judgments, and  keep my statutes, and do them. And they shall dwell  on  the land that I have given to my servant, to Jacob, there where  your fathers dwelt in it. And they shall dwell on it, they and  their sons,  and the sons of their sons, forever. And my Servant  David shall be a ruler to them forever. And I will cut a  covenant  of peace, and everlasting covenant it shall be with them, and multiply.  And I will put my sanctuary in their midst forever. And  my Tabernacle shall be with them. And I will be their God, and  they shall  be my people. And the nations shall know that I,  the Lord, sanctify Israel, when my sanctuary shall be in their midst forever" (Ezk.37:24-28). See also Zech.12:8 10 and the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:15-17 about the children killed by Herod, their return to the land of Israel, and their victory over death after Christ's return (v16;1Cor.15:24-28).

By B.L Cocherell, file b7w3