What Does the Sunrise Mean for Israel?
By Jonathan C. Brentner
Today, many Bible-believing pastors ascribe to replacement theology, which asserts that God has replaced Israel with the church. They preach that Israel no longer has a place in God’s prophetic program for the future.
Is this true? No! This doctrine contradicts the clear teaching of Scripture in so many places! In Romans 11:1-2, Paul leaves no doubt as to the continuing place of Israel in prophecy, “I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! For I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew…”
In a previous post, I wrote about Israel’s vital place in prophecy. As we continue on with this theme, it’s important to keep in mind why this matters so much to us:
1. It enables us to recognize this as the season of Jesus’ appearing
2. It grounds our hope in the words of prophecy
3. It safeguards us from doctrinal error
As we look at the words of Old Testament prophets, and in particular Jeremiah, we find overwhelming evidence regarding God’s intention to restore Israel, just as He has begun to do before our eyes.
Jeremiah’s Promise of a Restoration
The words of Jeremiah 30:3 is one of several verses in the Old Testament that speak of such a restoration, “For behold, days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will restore the fortunes of my people, Israel and Judah, says the Lord, and I will bring them back to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall take possession of it.”
While some seek to apply these words to Judah’s return from captivity in Babylon, the prophet’s words depict a still future time. The restoration in this verse includes both “Israel and Judah. Such a combined kingdom has not appeared since the early days of King Rehoboam, the son of Solomon.
Jeremiah 30:9 confirms the unfulfilled nature of God’s promise to the Israelites, “But they shall serve the Lord their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them.” Since the time of Jeremiah, no one from the lineage of David has ruled over Israel. Only Jesus has the lineage to sit on the throne of David, which He will do someday (Isa. 9:7).
The restoration Jeremiah promised to Israel still awaits a future fulfillment.
If the Sun Rises
As if the grand assurance of restoration was not enough, the prophet provides one of the strongest statements in all the Bible regarding Israel’s permanence as a nation in Jeremiah 31:35-36:
Thus says the Lord,
who gives the sun for light by day
and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night,
who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—
the Lord of hosts is his name:
“If this fixed order departs
from before me, declares the Lord,
then shall the offspring of Israel cease
from being a nation before me forever”
If the sun rises tomorrow, Israel remains a nation before the Lord. If we see the moon or the stars in the sky tonight, Israel continues as a people in God’s eyes. This statement leaves no doubt regarding God’s future plans to bless and restore Israel; His promise to the Israelites is no less sure than the “fixed order” of the moon and stars.
Could the Lord be any clearer regarding His promise to restore Israel in the future? I do not see how!
Just to make sure no one misunderstood His intent, the Lord followed His solemn pledge regarding the nation with physical descriptions of places in Jerusalem that He will rebuild in the future (Jer. 31:37-40). It’s as if He was saying, “Do not allegorize my promises to Israel; I will physically restore a kingdom to her.”
Jeremiah Confronts Replacement Theology
The error of replacement theology is not new to the church age. Even in Jeremiah’s day, some took the prophet’s prophecies regarding Nebuchadnezzar’s future destruction of Jerusalem to mean that God had forever rejected Israel. Notice the prophet’s response in 33:26 to the idea God had rejected Israel:
The word of the Lord came to Jeremiah: “Have you not observed that these people are saying, ‘The Lord has rejected the two clans that he chose’? Thus they have despised my people so that they are no longer a nation in their sight. Thus says the Lord: If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed order of heaven and earth, then I will reject the offspring of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his offspring to rule over the offspring of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and will have mercy on them.”
Notice that again the Lord rests the certainty of a future restoration for Israel on something we observe every day, “the fixed order of heaven and earth.”
We also see here the motivation for God repeated assurances throughout the Old Testament of a future for Israel. With Nebuchadnezzar and the Babylonians poised to destroy Jerusalem and the temple, many Israelites assumed the nation would never recover from such a devastating defeat. And apart from the Lord’s direct intervention, their assumption would have been correct. This is why the Lord, in no uncertain terms, assured the people of Jeremiah’s day that the coming judgment did not mean the end of Israel.
In order to fulfill His promise of a Messiah, the Lord brought His people back from exile to the Land He promised to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. While they never saw the Lord’s promise of a restored kingdom, they did see the birth of their Messiah.
Today, many of God’s prophecies regarding Israel remain unfulfilled. The reemergence of Israel as a nation, however, assures us of two things. First, it tells us the Lord has started to fulfill His promises regarding Israel that we see in Ezekiel 36-37. Second, Israel’s presence signifies that live in the last days of human history as we know it.
For us, God’s faithfulness to Israel assures us that He will keep His promises. Just as God will never renege on His covenants or His promises to restore Israel, He will not fail to bring His New Testament Saints, that’s us, to glory.
The sun shines brightly outside my window this morning as I type these words. According to the prophet Jeremiah, this means Israel still exists as a nation in God’s eyes; He will preserve her as long as the current order of nature continues. What does this mean for us? It signifies we can rest in God’s faithfulness to keep His word to us; He is coming again to take us home to heaven!