Mystery of the Ages Synopsis, Part 5: Mystery of Israel
You can’t understand the purpose of man or reach your incredible potential unless you understand the truth about Israel. This subject is worth a close look. It is a mystery to the world.
Why did God raise up Israel? He is not a respecter of persons (Acts 10:34), so why would He be a respecter of nations? Is God playing favorites? Why didn’t God offer salvation to ancient Israel? Why did He only give His Holy Spirit and the chance for salvation to a select few individuals who received the Holy Spirit? And if all Israelites are Jews, then why did the Jews go to war against Israel? (2 Kings 16:5-6). The world is baffled by these vital questions.
Herbert W. Armstrong wrote about the seven biggest mysteries of the Bible in his greatest book, Mystery of the Ages. We can understand why Israel by studying Chapter 5: Mystery of Israel.
Ancient Israel’s Failure
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing” (Genesis 12:1-2). God started humanity with one man: Adam. He started Israel with one man: Abram. God called Abram and changed his name to Abraham, which means father of many nations.
Abraham was the patriarch of Israel, called the “father of the faithful.” Israel was the congregation, the church, of the Old Testament. This physical nation was a type of New Testament spiritual Israel: God’s Church.
“This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise” (Isaiah 43:21). God planned to use Israel to show the world the joy and glory of His way of life!
“Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: And ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel” (Exodus 19:5-6).
God wanted Israel to teach the world about Him! Israel was God’s holy nation, in the sense that this nation was set apart from the world. They didn’t have God’s Holy Spirit, and they kept only the letter of God’s law. But that is the most wonderful way for anyone without the Holy Spirit to live. Israel had an opportunity to set a marvelous example for the surrounding nations, and to receive incredible blessings from God for doing so.
“And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord” (Exodus 19:8). Did Israel really obey every word of God? No.
“Surely as a wife treacherously departeth from her husband, so have ye dealt treacherously with me, O house of Israel, saith the Lord” (Jeremiah 3:20). Israel didn’t measure up to God’s standard. Even after witnessing miracles such as the parting of the Red Sea, the spectacular scene of fire and lightning on Mt. Sinai, the sun standing still, and hornets driving out enemies, Israel continued to grumble and lack faith.
Why did God go through the arduous process of leading a carnal nation that had no access to the Holy Spirit and therefore no chance to truly submit to Him? The answer to this question is one of the most amazing truths in the Bible!
The Grand Experiment
In Chapter 5 of Mystery of the Ages, Mr. Armstrong wrote:
God now decided to give them knowledge of His law—His kind of government—His way of life! He was going to prove to the world that without His Holy Spirit, their minds were incapable of receiving and utilizing such knowledge of the true ways of life. He was going to demonstrate to them that the mind of man, with its one spirit, and without the addition of God’s Holy Spirit, could not have spiritual discernment—could not solve human problems, could not cure the evils that were besetting humanity. The nation Israel would be his guinea pig to demonstrate that fact.
God formed an intimate marriage covenant with ancient Israel. Israel failed because the people did not have God’s Holy Spirit. Only the occasional prophet or king had that Spirit. The nation had pure heredity, God’s perfect laws, an ideal environment and personal leadership by God—almost every possible condition for success. All they lacked was the Holy Spirit, God’s power that would have helped them to solve their spiritual problems.
Mr. Armstrong visited more world leaders than perhaps anyone alive at the time. They told him that human beings cannot solve world problems, the most terrifying being the possibility of extinction caused by nuclear weapons. History proves them correct. Our problems are spiritual in nature; they require a spiritual solution!
Ancient Israel had the Ten Commandments, God’s perfect spiritual law. But even that law, without the Holy Spirit in the people, could not solve the nation’s problems! Carnal man is helpless. The nation of Israel became God’s guinea pig, the grand experiment that provided undeniable proof of man’s desperate need for the Holy Spirit.
The modern descendants of ancient Israel—primarily America, Britain and the Jewish state—have drifted even further from God. (Request Mr. Armstrong’s free book The United States and Britain in Prophecy to prove the modern identities of the Israelites and the Jews, two separate groups of people.) These nations will be punished first because they should know better, yet they are deluged with sins today.
God’s promises of blessings to Abraham were both physical and spiritual. They can be called the promises of race and grace, respectively. Abraham’s physical descendants were destined to become great nations, though rebellious. Spiritually, all mankind has the opportunity to become Israel. That potential makes the mystery of Israel relevant to everyone, whether Jewish, Israelite or Gentile.
“Now the Lord had said unto Abram, Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will shew thee: And I will make of thee a great nation, and I will bless thee, and make thy name great; and thou shalt be a blessing: And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee: and in thee shall all families of the Earth be blessed” (Genesis 12:1-3).
“[I]n thee shall all families of the Earth be blessed.” This is a promise of grace, or salvation for all humanity! It is talking about all families of the Earth, not just a nation descended from Abraham (Genesis 17; 22:18). It is a promise that Jesus Christ will rescue all mankind from Satan’s clutches very soon (Galatians 3:8, 16). Christ, the second Adam, will succeed where the first Adam failed. He chose the tree of life, died for our sins, and today gives His loyal people access to God through the Holy Spirit. We are saved by His life (Romans 5:10).
Paul was an apostle to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13). He explained to them how they could have the same access to God as Abraham’s offspring. “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” (verse 17).
Physical Israel in the Old Testament became spiritual Israel in the New Testament. Spiritual Israel, or God’s Church, is open not just to physical descendants of Abraham, but to anyone who obeys God in faith! (2:28-29). Physical Gentiles who God calls can choose to be grafted in to the Church, along with the physical descendants of Abraham.
In this end time, 95 percent of God’s Church rebelled. They said they were Jews, but that wasn’t true. This proves that any obedient member of God’s Church, no matter the skin color, ethnicity or nationality, is considered a spiritual Jew. It also proves that the vast majority of God’s converted saints have failed to be a godly example to the world, just like ancient Israel did.
“Love ye therefore the stranger: for ye were strangers in the land of Egypt. Thou shalt fear the Lord thy God; him shalt thou serve, and to him shalt thou cleave, and swear by his name. He is thy praise …” (Deuteronomy 10:19-20). Israel failed to praise God in the sight of the whole world. This is now the job of God’s Church. The Church is the solution!
A Royal Priesthood
“But ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should shew forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvellous light” (1 Peter 2:9). God’s Church today is a holy nation, just like physical Israel once was. But this time, God calls His people a royal priesthood. The Church today is a future kingdom of kings and priests who will soon teach the Word of God and God’s way of life to all people. Unlike ancient Israel, members of God’s Church have the Holy Spirit living in them.
Physical Israel refused to obey even the letter of the law, which is possible, even without the Holy Spirit. God’s Church is expected to obey the letter and the spirit of the law. God’s people must show forth the praises of God today, before Christ returns.
“But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah” (Hebrews 8:6-8).
Physical Israel’s failure is not God’s fault. He is perfect. His law is perfect. The Old Covenant was perfect, except for one flaw: the carnal people with whom God made the agreement! The Israelites couldn’t handle their spiritual problems without the Holy Spirit.
The New Covenant somehow exceeds the lofty standard of the Old Covenant. This covenant was established upon better promises, meaning that we may cry out in prayer to God the Father, receive forgiveness for our sins, and obtain eternal life. All of this is made possible by the Holy Spirit. We have access to it; ancient Israel did not.
Through ancient Israel, God showed the entire world that the fault is with us—carnal, sinful human beings. Through ancient Israel, we see the need for God’s Holy Spirit in our lives.