Gentiles: Once Far, Now Near
Ephesians Series #68
May 31, 2020
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Our Father, we are so thankful for Your goodness to us and Your grace for us as a congregation, the way You have supplied our needs during this time of the COVID pandemic, the quarantine and all of the social distancing and everything.
“Father, we’re thankful that no one in our congregation has the been ill or has lost their life during this time, we’re thankful for the opportunities many of us have had to talk about Your grace and Your goodness and why there is evil in the world and why there is disease and sickness.
“Father, we pray that You would continue to give us those opportunities, especially in light of many of the horrible things that are transpiring right now. We live in difficult times. We live in times that are unprecedented in some ways, but yet the truth of Your Word never changes. You never change.
“The solutions to man’s problems never change. Sin may manifest itself in different ways, but the solution is always the same: it is always Your grace. It is always the cross. It is always the blood of Christ as we read in Ephesians 2:13, we are brought near by the blood of Christ—His death on the cross for us.
“Father, we pray that as we study Your Word today, that You would help us to come to a greater understanding of the transformative power of Your grace and Your goodness. It is undeserved, it is unmerited, and it is an expression of Your great love for us. We thank You for this in Christ’s name, amen.”
We continue this morning from last week, talking about the deficit of the Gentiles. I have titled this lesson “Gentiles: Once Far, Now Near.” The “far” is what we will continue to study in Ephesians 2:12 and “being brought near” is the contrast that is presented in Ephesians 2:13.
First let’s read the context of our passage this morning.
Ephesians 2:11–13 “Therefore, remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ.”
These three verses are an introduction to this section that extends down to the end of Ephesians 2:22. When we come to Ephesians 2:13, we will see that it is the transition statement that is basically introducing the next section, for that short verse says that through Christ we who have been far off have been brought near. How did that happen? That’s the topic of Ephesians 2:14–18, which we will get to next time.
As we look at the structure here in Ephesians 2:11–12, there is a brief pause, the insertion of a parenthetical explanation in the middle of Ephesians 2:11, so that the primary thought is stopped and this secondary idea is brought in. Then the primary thought resumes in Ephesians 2:12,
“Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh …”
He needs to explain what he means by “Gentiles in the flesh.” That is, in their human physical body, they’re Gentiles. There’s something distinctive about them in the flesh—that is, in their physical body which he explains in the parenthetical clause set off by the em dashes, “—who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands—”
We studied that as Gentiles they were uncircumcised, and that circumcision was the sign of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Gentiles were, by this time in the first century as a result of the arrogant haughtiness and the elitism of the Pharisees … It was wrong, it was not part of the original idea: they were critical of the Gentiles, ridiculed them, derided them and called them names. The way they would refer to them was, “They are uncircumcised! They’re just not as good as we are because we are circumcised!”
They were taking the privileges that God had provided for them as Jews as a sign of superiority, when in fact, as we will see going through this, that it was just the opposite. It had nothing to do with the innate righteousness of the Jews, but because of God’s grace. It had nothing at all to do with who the Jews were. They had nothing of value to bring to God any more than any other human being.
By this time in Jewish history, the Pharisees taught that it was the blood that was shed in circumcision that had a redemptive value, a spiritual value, and that by circumcision—using the Mosaic Law because it was still specified in the Mosaic Law—that this is what would save you and save the Jews.
Then Paul reminds them of their basic deficits in Ephesians 2:12.
Ephesians 2:11, leaving out most of what’s in the parenthetical phrase, “Remember that you once Gentiles in the flesh were without Christ …”
Then we continue with the other four deficits mentioned in Ephesians 2:12.
“… that at that time you were without Christ …”
1. Without Christ.
2. Aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.
3. Strangers from the covenants of promise.
4. Having no hope.
5. Without God in the world.
Each of these phrases needs to be understood, and there’s a lot packed into them.
He began by saying in Ephesians 2:12, “that at that time …”
We have to understand this because you will find that a number of people will think “at that time” means “at that time before they were saved.” But the context here is talking not about their individual salvation and justification; it is talking about God’s plan for them as Gentiles “at that time”—that is, before the cross, during the Age of the Jews.
KAIROS, translated “time” is “at that time:” the time period that extends from the call of Abram in Genesis 12:1–3 to the Day of Pentecost in AD 33.
To remind us of the ages—not the dispensations, which are shorter periods of time within the broad ages.
The Age of the Gentiles: from Creation to the Call of Abraham, everybody’s a Gentile.
Then there is a distinction made. God selected the Jewish people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for five privileges related to this list of what the Gentiles were without. The Gentiles lacked these five privileges, but the Jews had taken these five privileges as a sign of their superiority.
During the Age of Israel, Israel goes through this time of disobedience in the period of the Judges, obedience under David, a lot of obedience under Solomon, but then they began to apostatize and go into idolatry. Then the nation splits. The Northern Kingdom is in idolatry the whole time. Nothing good is said of any of their kings.
In the Southern Kingdom there’s only about four or five kings about whom anything good is said. The nation is in disobedience and rebellion, although there are many believers who were not. But as a whole the nation did not walk with God.
Finally, God brought about His promise in the five cycles of discipline, Leviticus 26, and eventually He took them out of the land. The Northern Kingdom went out in 722 BC; the Southern Kingdom in 586 BC.
He brought them back in 538 BC. One of the primary reasons for that was so there would be a nation present when the Messiah came, and so you have this return known as the Postexilic period. During that time, a legalism developed within Judaism, hoping to placate God’s wrath so that this thing of an exile would never happen again.
But when Christ came, they rejected Him, preferring their legalism to the grace of God’s Messiah. Again, God took them out under discipline, and the Jewish people as the people of God were temporarily set aside for a new people of God—the church.
We move from the Age of Israel to the Age of the Church.
When Paul in Ephesians 2:12 says “at that time,” he is talking about the Age of Israel, not the Age of the Gentiles. During the Age of Israel the Jews took on this act of superiority thinking they were spiritually better because they had the promises given to Abraham.
In the future Christ will return, and then we will have the Messianic Age. Of course, we know that the Tribulation precedes the coming of the Messianic Age. This is a broad picture of the ages, not the dispensations.
Ephesians 2:12, “at that time you were.” The verb indicates it’s in the imperfect tense, so it’s a continual action in past time. It’s talking about the Gentiles as a group, as a class of people—not as individuals—for there were many Gentiles in the Old Testament that were believers in the Messianic hope of Israel.
We can think of a couple of women who are in the line of Christ: Rahab the harlot, and Ruth the Moabitess were Gentiles but were proselytized as they married Jews and entered into the Commonwealth of Israel.
There were others like Naaman the Syrian, and I believe that very possibly Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, and others never became proselytes. They were Gentiles who were saved, but they never entered into the commonwealth of Israel. There were many others who were saved during that time. This is focusing on that that time period.
1. They were, first of all, without Christ. This should not be taken that they were not saved—they didn’t have Jesus—but they were without a Messiah as a class of people. We have to remember, Paul is talking about this class of people. As a class of people they did not have a messianic hope, a messianic promise; they did not have this revelation from God.
In Romans, Paul talks about certain privileges that the Jews had. I went through these last time, so I’m going to zip through them real fast this time.
A. God granted to the Jews the privileges of being the custodians of the Scripture.
The Scripture was revealed by God through Jewish prophets, through Jewish writers, through Moses, through Joshua, through Samuel, through the other prophets who wrote and copied and transmitted the Scripture down through the ages. The Scriptures came through the Jewish people.
B. Jews were granted privilege of priority in the apostolic age. Paul took the gospel to the Jew first and then to the Gentile, Romans 1:16.
C. Jews had the adoption; very important background for understanding Ephesians 2. Jews had the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the promises, the Law. They served God in His tabernacle and temple, and as a nation they were to be a kingdom of priests, Romans 9:4.
D. The Jews were granted to provide the line of the humanity of Jesus.
God had first indicated a promise of a deliverer in Genesis 3:15 that He identified as the seed of the woman who would come to defeat and destroy the seed of the serpent. That’s why those genealogies are there, so that you can trace the seed. Genesis 5, Genesis 10, Genesis 11. The line goes down to Abram in Genesis 12, when God calls out the Jewish people and gives to them the covenants of promise.
That’s the big theme here as a backdrop to understanding Ephesians 2:12: the Gentiles, as a class, had no messianic hope, no messianic promises. They did not have the messianic Scriptures.
2. They were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel.” This is an important phrase. There are two key words that have to be understood here.
What does it mean to be an alien? It doesn’t mean that you’re from some planet, that you’re a Klingon or you’re from Vulcan or some other planet, that you’re a Wookie or something from somebody’s imagination out there in the universe. It means that you are excluded from something; that’s the main idea. Excluded, it says here, from the commonwealth of Israel—you’re separated.
We talked about this word last time. It’s used a couple of other times in the Scripture. Ephesians 4:18 talks about being alienated from the life of God. That’s our definition of spiritual death: we’re alienated from the life of God. We’re not dead like a corpse, as reformed theology teaches. There are a lot of things that we do, but we are alienated from the life of God; therefore, we are spiritually dead.
Colossians 1:21 uses it in a similar way, “And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked work …” Again it has to do with separation from God. In Ephesians 2:12, it’s separation or exclusion from the commonwealth of Israel.
“Being aliens” is a participle in the perfect tense. What’s important about all of this grammatically is simply understanding that the perfect tense says something. It tells us that there’s an action that’s completed in past time, but it’s focusing on the ongoing results of that completed action.
The action in past time is the calling of Abram in Genesis 12:1–3 to leave his home and to go where God is leading him, because He’s going to give him a special piece of real estate. And God is going to provide a nation through Abram. He will be the Father of the nation of Israel, of the people of Israel.
The perfect tense tells us that at that time the Gentiles are excluded. That’s probably the best way to understand this word. They’re excluded because this separation occurs of Abram and his descendants from the rest of the human race.
We must understand that God didn’t choose Abram because he was inherently good or because God in His omniscience knew that his descendants were going to be wonderful people, they were going to be brilliant people, and they were going to do many good and wonderful things. That somehow He picked them because they were inherently in some way better than everybody else.
We see that God calls them because they’re not good at all! It’s all God’s grace. There’s nothing valuable that God sees in the Jewish people.
In Deuteronomy 9:6 Moses says, “Therefore understand that the Lord your God is not giving you this good land to possess because of your righteousness, for you are a stiff-necked people.”
That’s the first compliment here: “You’re a stiff-necked people.” He’s saying you’re stubborn. Deuteronomy 9:7 the second thing he says is, “Remember! Do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness.”
They’re making God angry all the time by their stubborn rebelliousness. That’s the third thing at the end of Deuteronomy 9:7, “Do not forget how you provoked the Lord your God to wrath in the wilderness. From the day that you departed from the land of Egypt until you came to this place, you have been rebellious against the Lord.”
They’ve got three strikes against them:
#1 they’re stubborn and stiff-necked;
#2 they angered God all the time by their disobedience; and
#3 they’re rebellious.
With three strikes they’re out.
There’s nothing about the Jewish people that God saw and said, “Aren’t you wonderful! I’m going to make you my special people!” They were not that way at all. What happened is that because God chose the Jewish people, this angered the Gentiles. “Why do THEY get all these blessings?” “Why did THEY get all these privileges?”
This is the root of anti-Semitism. Anti-Semitism is really Satan’s great ploy to destroy God’s plan. Satan rejected the choice of the Jewish people, as he rejected God’s plan from the very beginning of his fall in eternity past. So did those who rejected God, rejected God’s plan.
They said, “Why should you choose the Jews?” They became jealous, they became angry, and that is the root of anti-Semitism. It is a rejection and hostility to the plan of God to work out His plan through the people of Israel, through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Even though the Scripture’s clear that He wasn’t showing any favoritism, He wasn’t choosing them because there was something inherently good about them, but He was going to set them apart as a special people through whom He was going to work.
That helps us understand the next phrase “the commonwealth of Israel.” The Greek is POLITEIA. It has the idea in some contexts of citizenship, of a civic life, of a person’s role within the political community of a city or a region or a nation. This was often the way it was interpreted in early literature and an early interpretation of the passage.
But we find that it has a better understanding if we really look at the context here, which we will do. But it has to do more as a figurative way of talking about the people of Israel belonging to a group. That group is Israel, and Israel is a community that God chose, to whom God gave certain privileges, blessings and certain covenants, and that they are excluded from that community.
That’s important because of the way it’s used in the opposite sense in Ephesians 2:19, “Now, therefore, you.” That’s talking to them; what were they? “You” were without these things. “You” were strangers of the covenants of promise; “you” were aliens and were excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. Then because of being in Christ, Paul says, “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God.”
So “saints and members of the household of God,” which is the church in this context, is used in contrast to being excluded from the commonwealth of Israel. When we look at it that way, we see that what he’s talking about is the exclusion within a group of people.
I heard a seminary student when I was in seminary trying to make an argument that the last part of this indicated that we were all one people of God, “we’re all one household.” It looks that way if you stop at the end of Ephesians 2:19, but “fellow citizens with the saints” and “members of the household of God …” This guy was trying to make an argument that Jews are also members of the household; there’s just one household.
But the household of God is defined specifically when we look at Ephesians 2:20, “… having been built—the household of God having been built, past tense—on the foundation of the apostles and prophets—those aren’t Old Testament prophets; those are New Testament prophets—Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone.”
That didn’t happen in the Old Testament, so you can’t argue that Christ is the chief cornerstone of Israel in the Old Testament.
We will see other things that are said in the coming verses that make this strong distinction between the church and Israel very clear and that is fundamental to biblical interpretation. God has a plan for Israel; God has a plan for the church.
They’re the two separate peoples of God. God has set aside Israel for the time being because they rejected Jesus as Messiah, but He will restore them and return them to the land in the future, and He will fulfill all of His promises and all the covenants to them literally as they were originally intended.
That helps us to understand what we will see in the third statement:
3. They are strangers from the covenants of promise.
Ephesians 2:12, “that at that time—in the Age of the Gentiles—you were without Christ—no messianic hope, no knowledge of the Messiah; you are excluded—being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel—you were separated. God was working through Israel, through the Abrahamic Covenant. You were not part of that Abrahamic Covenant, you were not part of the group of Israel through whom God was working and—strangers from the covenants of promise.”
The word translated “strangers” is XENOS. In English, “xenophobia,” the fear of foreigners, the fear of strangers. Often you hear people on the left accuse those on the right (of this), who believe in national security and the establishment of secure borders, simply because that’s what gives security to a nation. God is the one who established borders according to Paul in Acts 17. That is a biblical principle.
We have those in the nation—part of that national entity. And those who are not citizens of that country are referred to in the Scriptures as strangers, using the term XENOS. We don’t go around calling the French racists, but their word for a foreigner is étranger, which is stranger. If you’re not French you’re a stranger. That’s not racist, that’s just biblical truth applied originally.
You have a nation, those that aren’t part of that nation are strangers. They are foreigners. It’s not a bad word. It’s not a racist term. It’s not a horrible word. In fact, there are those who accuse people of being racist because they use words like “aliens” instead of this politically correct “undocumented workers.”
They are aliens. They are strangers. They are foreigners. That’s not racist. In fact, those who are calling people who use those terms racist are indeed themselves racists in a very subtle arrogant manner. We always have to protect against that. Political correctness is the ideological virus of our generation.
They are foreigners, they are strangers to the covenants promise. God did not make a covenant with the Gentiles. What do we mean by the covenants of promise?
One other thing we ought to recognize is with this use of the word “stranger. It’s ironic that when God speaks of Israel and taking them into the land in Leviticus 25:23, God says that when they go into the land, they will be strangers, using a synonym for the word XENOS in the Greek translation.
In fact, we see that the Jewish people, because they were God’s chosen people, are strangers in the world. They’re strangers in the land that God gave them, and they were going to be strangers in the world. An example of this is Esther 3:13, as the Jewish people were the target of Haman’s anti-Semitism.
As God’s choice people in the devil’s world, they are constantly under satanic attack. Satan’s policy towards Israel is always anti-Semitism, and anyone who is anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist or anti-Israel is playing into the hands of the devil’s policy of anti-Semitism.
When I say “anti-Israel,” that doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything, every policy, every action of the Jewish government. That’s not what that means, because even Jews living in Israel, Israelis, disagree with their policies. There are about 20 different political parties in Israel. There’s an old Jewish proverb that when you have three Jews, you have five opinions. They argue about everything!
It means that those who are anti-Zionist and anti-Israel believe that the land of Israel really should be given to the Arabs known wrongly as the Palestinians. They also say that Israel doesn’t have a right to self-defense as a nation and a right to secure borders, which is essentially every position that comes down in every peace plan along the way. We have to avoid anti-Semitism at all costs.
Let’s look at the Covenants of Promise—all covenants that God made with Israel:
They started with promises that were made to Abraham in the Abrahamic Covenant:
Genesis 12:1–3, Genesis 13:14–18, Genesis 15:1–21, and Genesis 17:1–21.
Genesis 12, 13, 15, and 17: write those chapters down, and read them for yourself. He made those promises, and those promises will not be fulfilled until the future. That’s God’s plan for the ages.
The element I’ve just added to the slide, gives us the timeline of history at the bottom, starting with the formation of Israel—the calling forth of Abraham as the father of the Jewish people. Later the formation of the nation at Mount Sinai when Moses becomes the father of the Jewish nation.
A. The Abrahamic Covenant: an unconditional and eternal covenant that God gave to Abraham, and promised him three things:
- Land: a specific piece of real estate
- Seed: there would be more descendants than the sand of the seashore and the stars in the sky
- Blessing: through him all nations, that is, all Gentiles would be blessed.
The seed promise and the blessing promise are ultimately focused and fulfilled in the Messiah—the Lord Jesus Christ.
B. The real estate or the Land Covenant. God promised specific piece of real estate to Israel, is bordered on the west by the Mediterranean Sea, and on the east by the Euphrates River.
If you ever go to some of these demonstrations by the Arabs who are hostile, anti-Semitic, anti-Zionist and the enemy of God because of those positions—not because of their ethnicity but their religion makes them an enemy of God as well, they have a little chant, “from the river to the sea.” What they’re saying is they want land.
The river they’re talking about is the Jordan. When you hear them chant, “From the river to the sea,” they mean that they want everything from the Jordan River to the Mediterranean Sea. But God gave all of that and more to the Jewish people. He gave them everything from the Euphrates River to the sea, and then down south to the Wadi of Egypt.
This is clearly articulated in Genesis 12:7b where God said to Abraham, “To your descendants I will give this land …” then in later statements of the covenant in Genesis 15 and Genesis 17, He defines the borders as stated above.
C. The Davidic Covenant, not given until 2 Samuel 7:12–17 where God takes the seed provision of the Abrahamic Covenant, and says that this will be fulfilled through the line of David. It will culminate in an individual who is Jesus the Messiah as a descendent of David.
The passages are 2 Samuel 7:12–17; 2 Samuel 23:5; Psalm 89:3, Psalm 89:27–37, and Psalm 132:11–12. The Davidic Covenant is not ultimately fulfilled until Jesus returns to establish His kingdom at the beginning of the millennium.
D. The New Covenant. Dispensationalists have a lot of disagreements about how the church relates to the New Covenant. There are about three major positions.
The pastor’s group that I have put together on Friday mornings took a year to study two important books on the New Covenant that have been published, I think one came out in 2009; the other in about 2014. As a result of that study, we learned more than we thought we needed to know about the New Covenant.
Over three or four Friday mornings I had the writers of each one of those chapters come and present his chapter online to all the pastors. We have 25 to 30 pastors from around the world who joined that group, and we had lively conversations and debates, and we didn’t all agree when we got through with the whole thing.
But it was very clear to me that I needed to change my view a little bit. I’d always held the view that the New Covenant was primarily and exclusively with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. That’s the way it’s stated in Jeremiah 31:31–33 and also in Hebrews 8.
I said that by virtue of the covenant that will be fulfilled with the Jews that certain applications of those blessings come to the church. That’s why I have the dotted line on this chart which I’ve used for many years. But the reality is that when you really look at the blessings that are promised in the New Covenant, they’re similar to, but they’re not the same as the blessings that we’re experiencing in the Church Age today.
There will be a universal indwelling of God the Holy Spirit in the Jewish people as a result of the New Covenant in the Millennial Kingdom, so that they won’t need to be taught by anybody. We have a universal indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer, but we need to be taught! That’s why the Holy Spirit gives the gift a Pastor-Teacher.
Similar doesn’t mean it is the same, it doesn’t mean identical. I think that’s a mistake that is often made because there are certain similarities with what happened on the Day of Pentecost and what is going on in the church today.
I know there are passages that talk about Paul being a minister of the New Covenant because he’s bringing Jews to Christ and believers to Christ, and we will participate in that in the kingdom. So he’s talking proleptically, and there are other ways of looking at those verses.
The New Covenant is not for the church. The New Covenant is for Israel, and we anticipate that in the Lord’s Table. That is why Jesus said, “I will not drink of this cup until I come in My kingdom.”
The Passover meal that was established in Exodus looked forward to the coming of the Lamb of God who would take away the sin of the world. But it looked back to what had been accomplished in the redemption of the people and delivering them from slavery in Egypt.
The Lord’s Table looks back to what Christ did on the cross as the sacrifice for the New Covenant, but a sacrifice isn’t necessary to have a covenant. What was the sacrifice for the Davidic Covenant? Can’t think of one because there wasn’t one!
It wasn’t the sacrifice that started a covenant. It was an oath that started a covenant. The oath that God gives is sworn, it’s given in Ezekiel. He swears an oath to Israel at the beginning of the Millennial Kingdom, when the New Covenant kicks off.
That just gives you a quick overview. Someday I’ll come back, and we will do a drill down on it, but it’s very interesting. We all learned a lot in that particular study.
These are the covenants of promise:
- The Abrahamic Covenant and its derivatives.
- The Land Covenant: Land, seed, and blessing aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant. The Israel Land Covenant in Genesis 12:7 and Deuteronomy 29:1 promised a specific piece of real estate, the land.
- The Davidic Covenant in 2 Samuel 7 promises an eternal seed.
- (The New Covenant) the blessing as exemplified in Jeremiah 31:31–33.
This is the covenant of promise, and we learn that the Gentiles are excluded. They are strangers from the covenants of promise. The Covenants of Promise are for Israel. They’re for the Jewish people, the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob—a true Israel, which are those who are believers. Not just those who are physical descendants, but those who believed in the messianic hope, the messianic promise from the Old Testament.
I ran across this passage that I thought was remarkable, Jeremiah 23:3–8. I want you to see how this passage pulls these together.
God is speaking through the prophet, Jeremiah 23:3, “But I will gather the remnant of My flock.” The remnant always refers to Jews. The church is not a remnant. The believers today are not a remnant. The remnant is technical language for believers in Israel, as opposed to the rest who are apostate—I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I’ve driven them …”
This is not talking about the return of some Jews in 538 or 516 or later in the 5th century BC. There were groups that came back under Zerubbabel, groups that came back under Ezra, groups that came back under Nehemiah, but they all came from Babylon. They didn’t come from those who had fled to Egypt. There were Jewish communities down in the southern part of Egypt which is called Upper Egypt.
There was a large Jewish community in Alexandria and other areas. There were Jews that had been scattered from the Assyrian conquests that had established communities in Italy, Spain, in what we know as Asia Minor or Turkey. There were Jewish communities that did not return to Israel. It was primarily those who came from Babylon. So, it was a small group, a small percentage.
Today, according to a recent study I saw from Israel on their census, 45% of Jews worldwide live in Israel. There has never been anything approaching that. Never since 722 BC. Think about that! Once you had the Northern Kingdom taken and those people scattered throughout the Assyrian Empire, you always had just a small percentage, 20 or 25%, of all Jews living in the land that God promised. But today 45% of Jews in the world live in the land God promised.
You’ll hear people say God can allow somebody to wipe out Israel today. Maybe they’ll come back three or four times. That’s hogwash! It’s taken 100 years since the Balfour Declaration, but the Balfour declaration was just a recognition of their right to their national homeland.
It really started with the first Aliyah, which started around 1881, so it has been over 140 years, and they’ve gotten to 45%. This is remarkable. This is God regathering in unbelief—not the regathering in belief—that we have here.
There are two re-gatherings:
- A regathering in unbelief first, so that there’s a nation there when the Tribulation begins
- Then a second regathering that will occur at the end of the Tribulation.
Which is what this passage is talking about, “I will gather the remnant.” That’s believers; this is talked about in Deuteronomy 30:1–2.
Jeremiah 23:3, “I will gather the remnant of My flock out of all countries where I’ve driven them, and bring them back to their folds—now this is their homeland. That’s just another way of talking about the land. So we have the promise here of the land covenant—and they shall be fruitful and increase.” That’s related to the blessing of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Jeremiah 23:4, “I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them; and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, nor shall they be lacking.”
Jeremiah 23:5, “‘Behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that I will raise to David a branch of righteousness—who’s the righteous branch? That’s the Messiah. This is the Davidic Covenant. So we have a reference to the land covenant, we have a reference to the timing of the New Covenant, we have a reference to the Davidic Covenant—A King shall reign and prosper—this is the future kingdom in the Millennial Kingdom—and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth.’”
Jeremiah 23:6, “In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.”
Jeremiah 23:7, “ ‘Therefore, behold, the days are coming,’ says the Lord, ‘that they shall no longer say, “As the Lord lives who brought us up the children of Israel from the land of Egypt…” ’ ”
Isn’t that remarkable? All this time, since 1446 BC, the Jews talk about Yahweh as the One who delivered them from Egypt, but in the future it’s going to be, Jeremiah 23:8, “… but, ‘As the Lord lives who brought us up and led the descendants of the house of Israel from the north country and from all the countries where I had driven them.’ And they shall dwell in their own land.”
The return in 538 and the subsequent returns in 516, 480, 470, 445—all through that period—is what people are talking about now, they brought us back. But this future return will be all the remnant from all countries, and all the remnant will be in the land. The reference point will be the deliverance that God gives at that point.
The covenants of promise are these four: The Abrahamic Covenant, the Land Covenant, the Davidic Covenant, and the New Covenant.
4. Fourth deficit for the Gentiles is that they have no hope. Literally, it is not having hope. They do not have hope, they are without hope, and this hope, refers to, I believe, the messianic hope and the future hope of eschatology. Llet me show you why I say this.
Ephesians 2:12, “having no hope.” This is technical, and again, we have to go to the Old Testament to understand it.
We live in an era today where we have false teachers who teach in these mega-churches. There’s a graduate of Dallas Seminary who should have his degree revoked if they had any courage at that school! He’s the son of a well-known Orthodox and solid Baptist pastor, and this pastor’s name is Andy Stanley. He has published works, and he has said,
“We don’t need to know the Old Testament. We as Christians need to divorce ourselves from the Old Testament. All this stuff in the Old Testament just keeps people away from Jesus and the gospel…” and coming to my big mega-church, is really what he’s saying. He’s just a heretic and a false teacher.
The reality is you can’t understand the New Testament without the Old Testament, and we have to teach the Old Testament. To understand this concept of hope, you have to go back to how it’s used in the Old Testament.
1. In the Old Testament, hope is specifically attached to Yahweh, to the Person of God. In the Psalms, the word is used 27 times, and there are a couple of other synonyms that are translated “hope” 27 times out of the 43 times that this word yochil or forms of it are used. So that’s well over half of the times in the Old Testament.
Jeremiah seems to be the one who uses it the most significantly, as we’ll see, but in the Psalms it usually refers to personal hope, personal waiting on God. In Psalms 119 our hoping is in God’s Word.
The other word is miqweh, not to be confused with a homophone that refers to the ritual bath. This word means to wait for something, to hope for it, or to look for it, used a number of times and is usually translated “hope” as well. The most significant use is in Jeremiah.
Jeremiah 14:8, referring to God, “… the hope of Israel, the Savior in time of trouble.”
Jeremiah 50:7, “… The Lord, the hope of their fathers.”
It’s focused in many passages on God as our hope. He’s our confidence. That word for hope has to do with a confident expectation. Our confidence is in God, and this is that word yochil that’s used in these passages.
Other passages use the word miqweh.
Jeremiah 17:17, “Blessed is the man who trusts in Yahweh, and whose hope is the Lord.”
Jeremiah 17:13, “Oh Yahweh, the hope of Israel …”
2. We have the hope of Israel mentioned there, and then that hope is also tied in a second usage to the future fulfillment of God’s promises to them. So, on the one hand what I’m showing you is that hope is related to God and their relationship with God, and in the second set it has to do with the future fulfillment of God’s promises.
Jeremiah 29:11, “For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope.”
That hope is connected to the future fulfillment of the promises and the future for Israel.
3. Hope is connected to the promises in the Word of God. Again it is Jeremiah who uses the word in Lamentations 3:21–26.
This is a great passage; hope is used three times and we should memorize this:
Lamentations 3:21, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.” What is hope based on? It’s the Word of God, the promises of God that are remembered. Hope here’s related to the promises of God and their fulfillment.
Lamentations 3:22, “Through the Lord’s mercies we are not consumed, because His compassions fail not.”
Lamentations 3:23, “They are new every morning; great is thy faithfulness.”
Sounds like a good hymn doesn’t it? We ought to sing that!
Lamentations 3:24, “‘The Lord is my portion’, says my soul, therefore I hope in Him.” Our hope is in the promise of God that is backed by the character of God.
Lamentations 3:25, “The Lord is good to those who wait for Him—that concept of wait is the other word, a form of qavah, which is what miqweh is based on—to wait for Him. The Lord is good to those who wait for Him … is very close to the idea the Lord is good to those who hope in Him—to the soul who seeks Him.”
Lamentations 3:26, “It is good that one should hope and wait quietly—those two words are connected—for the salvation of the LORD.”
In this passage we see it used in terms of the focus on God, focus on the promise of God and its future fulfillment.
4. In light of the Old Testament background, hope is used with reference:
a. To God.
b. To the future fulfillment of the promise of God.
Which is it in Ephesians 2:12? The next thing that he’s going to say is “without God.” It wouldn’t be the first part “to God” because that would just be a redundancy. So he’s using “without hope” in the second sense—“without a hope” in a future fulfillment of promises of God.
He is saying that there is no future eschatological confidence for the Gentile people. They have nothing to look forward to, which is the meaning of this fourth phrase.
5. “Without God in the world.”
The Greek is ATHEOS, where we get our word “atheism.” The “a” at the beginning in Greek is like our English prefix “un;” it’s a negation, so “no God.” But this doesn’t mean they’re atheists in the world because we know that the Ephesians were not atheist.
The Ephesians had many gods. They were polytheists, and they worshiped not only the gods and goddesses that we’re familiar with, if you’ve studied Roman or Greek mythology, they had temples to all of those different gods. Probably, some Jewish influence because they had an altar or temple to the Almighty God.
Then there was the greatest temple in the ancient world, was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world, the temple to Artemis of the Ephesians. This was four times larger than the Parthenon to Athena in Athens. People came from all over to go to the Artemis of the Ephesians and to worship there.
When Paul came and preached the gospel, and people turned from the gods and goddesses of the Ephesians and turned to the God of the Bible, the silversmiths who, if you remember were making little statues of Diana or Artemis of the Ephesians, revolted. They wanted to kick Paul out of town and get rid of him and execute him because he was cut cutting into their business. The gospel had a huge economic impact.
These are the five deficits of the Gentiles. Next time we will start with Ephesians 2:13, but this is really the transition and topical sentence for what is coming:
Ephesians 2:13, “But now—you had these deficits as Gentiles as a class of people prior to the Church Age, but now in the Church Age those—in Christ Jesus you who once were far off—and it’s sort of a double entendre. They’re far off from who? Contextually, it’s far off from the Jews, but they’re also far off from God. We will see how the terms “far off” and “brought near” are used in the Old Testament.
But they—“have been brought near by the blood of Christ,” which is a figure of speech for the substitutionary death of Christ on the Cross, where He paid for our sins. Because of that, neither Jew nor Gentile are going to be far from God. They will both be brought near.
We have two barriers that come up in the next section:
- the barrier between Jew and Gentile,
- the barrier between both Jew and Gentile and God.
We have to keep that distinct and will begin that next time.
“Father, we thank You for this opportunity to study these things, read through them, understand their significance, look at how it brings so much from the Old Testament to play in each of these individual phrases.
“Father, we pray that You would just open our minds to the wonderful uniqueness that we have as Gentiles, and Jews also, one together in the body of Christ, united in this distinct wonderful masterpiece that You have created according to Ephesians 2:10. May we recognize this is our identity. Our self-image needs to start with the fact that we are first in Your image, and second, we are a masterpiece of creation in the body of Christ.
“Therefore, there’s nothing that we should think negatively about in our lives because we are blessed more than anyone in all of the world. This is not a point of pride, but a point of humility that we have been given so much by You.
“Father, we pray if anyone is listening who has never trusted Christ as Savior that they would understand the gospel, the good news that Christ died to save sinners. He died for us; He paid our penalty. And by simply trusting in Him, believing in Him, we have eternal life.
“We become new creatures in Christ, we become spiritually alive, adopted into God’s royal family, and made part of the body of Christ where we are positionally seated together with Him in the heavenlies because we have been made alive together in Him and raised.
“Father, help us to understand and apply all these things. In Christ’s name, amen.”