THE HOUSE OF JUDAH TODAY
Ken McFarland, U.K.
As it is the viewof many ,that the identification of Israel today among the CeIto, Anglo-Saxon, Scandinavian and related peoples is the key to understanding end time Bible prophecy, it is vital that proponents of this view should, where possible, speak with a unified voice, on the subject.
As such, one such issue which I feel must be addressed, is the prophetic interpretation regarding the location of the House of Judah today.While some take the view that the present day Israeli State constitutes the House ofJudah, and in turn regard many of those Jews living in Palestine as our 'blood brothers', others adopt
the position that all twelve tribes remain scattered abroad, and that any predicted return to the promised land, by either the House of Judah, and or, the House of
Israel, wiIl only take place foIlowing the return of Our Lord Jesus and the establishment of His millennial reign on earth. It is with a view to perhaps bringing some clarity to the issue that I humbly produce the following evidence.
Let me commence by exarnining Jeremiah chapter 19, and the implication of Jeremiah's prophecy to the House of Judah around 600 BC, and more importantly
how it relates to the Jewish remnant that returned to, and remained in, Jerusalem up until the year 70 AD.While some Bible scholars hold the view that this predicted
downfaIl in Jeremiah 19 refers exclusively to the Babylonian captivity in 588 BC, there are a few points, which contradict this view. First of all, we notice that
Jererniah was instructed by God, in verse 3, to address the message to the Kings of Judah, plural, indicating therefore that this message related to the whole royal
house and not just to the reigning King at that time.
Secondly, in supporting the view that these predicted events did not find their complete fulfilment until the destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, we note that the grisly
events foretold by Jeremiah in verse 9:
"And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and they shall eat every one the flesh of his friend In the siege"
were fulfilled to the letter during the Roman siege. We find confirmation of this, in the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus, who was present during the Roman siege of AD70, and vividly records that these terrible events did in fact take place exactly, as predicted at that time.
Thirdly and, I believe most importantly, this predicted destruction was not conditional upon any future repentance. The Lord makes it quite clear in verses 3-4:
"I will bring evil upon this place, the which whosoever heareth, his ears shall tingle. Because they have forsaken me, and have estranged this place, have burned incense in it unto other gods".
This promise is reiterated in verse 7 when the Lord again states:"I will make void the counsel of Judah and Jerusalem in this place". In short, God, through Jeremiah, was telling the House of Judah that their time was up.
The Lord makes it quite clear in verses 10-11 that this removal of the House of Judah, from the land of Palestine, was to be final, as Jeremiah is instructed to:
"break the bottle in the sight of the men that go with thee, And shalt say unto them, Thus saith the LORD of hosts; Even so will I break this people and this city, as one breaketh a potter's vessel, that cannot be made whole again".
Confirming this position, the prophet Isaiah, who also ministered unto a rebellious House of Judah prior to their period of Babylonian captivity also predicts a
similar fate as recorded in Isaiah 30: 12-14:
"Wherefore thus saith the Holy One of Israel, Because ye despise this word, and trust in oppression and perverseness, and stay thereon: Therefore this iniquity shall be to you as a breach ready to fall, swelling out in a high wall, whose breaking cometh suddenly at an instant. And he shall break it as the breaking of the potters' vessel that is broken in pieces; he shall not spare: so that there shall not be found in the bursting of it a sherd to take fire from the hearth, or to take water withal out of the pit".
Here we see the prophet Isaiah reiterating the prediction that there would not be one piece of the vessel remaining that would be of any use. This confirms that
Judah's final destruction could not have taken place in 588 BC, as it was necessary for a remnant of Judah to be present in the land of Palestine in order that they would fulfil their destiny of bringing forth the Messiah.
And indeed, we know that a remnant of the House of Judah was to provide the sanctuary for the first coming of the Lord Jesus and His redeeming sacrifice on
Calvary's hiIl, after which they served no further purpose in the land of Palestine. Then, as predicted, within one generation after the crucifixion, Jeremiah's prophecy
concerning this rebellious remnant of Judah was fulfilled
The truth of scripture is therefore that foIlowing the final destruction of Jerusalem in AD70, this remnant of the House of Judah was banished from the land of
Palestine, and the few survivors scattered among the nations. Thus the "two families which the Lord hath chosen" the House of Israel and the House of Judah, were sent into captivity as a result of their sin.
However,in order to fully address the issue, we must also note that a predicted return of Israel and Judah to the Promised Land is recorded in Jeremiah 33:26:
"I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them".
It is vital therefore that we look at this future return in order, if nothing else, to dispel any misunderstanding which might lead to the view that this predicted return took place in 1948.
First of all we note in Jeremiah 33:24, that this predicted return refers to "The two families which the LORD hath chosen", that is House of Judah, and the House of Israel. Confirmation of this position is found again in verse 26 where reference is made to "the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob", again referring to 'All Israel'. As the House of Judah consists onlyof members from the tribes Judah, Benjamin and to a lesser extent, some from the tribe of Levi,doubt is already cast on the position that the return to the land in 1948 fulfils this prophecy. However two other well-known passages are often cited as proof that the formation of the Israeli State in 1948 was a fulfilment of a predicted return by Israel to the Promised Land.
First we have Jeremiah 30:3:
"For, lo, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will bring again the captivity of my people Israel and Judah, saith the LORD:and I will cause them to return to the land that I gave to their fathers, and they shall possess it".
And then in Ezekiel 37:19-22, we read:
"Say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the stick of Joseph, which is in the hand of Ephraim, and the tribes of Israel his fellows, and will put them with him, even with the stick of Judah, and make them one stick, and they shall be one in mine hand. And the sticks whereon thou writest shall be in thine hand before their eyes. And say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, I will take the children of Israel from among the heathen, whither they be gone, and will gather them on every side, and bring them into their own land: And I will make them one nation in the land upon the mountains of Israel".
First of all, it is quite clear that, prior to this prophesied return, the distinction is still made between the two Houses referred to as 'Israel and Judah' in Jeremiah 30:3, and as two sticks in Ezekiel 37:19. However to get a proper understanding concerning the main issue, that is concerning the time, of this promised return, we must look at each passage in a little more detail.
Returning first of all to Jeremiah 30:3, and reading further on in verse 7, we notice that the day of Israel and Judah's return is, "great, so that none is like it: it is
even the time of Jacob's trouble". Confirmation that this clearly refers to the day of our Lord's return is found a little further on again in verse 9, when we are told that, at that time, "they shall serve the LORD their God, and David (The Lord Jesus) their king, whom I will raise up unto them".
With virtually all Jewry remaining outside of Christ, and with some twenty percent of Jews in the State of Israel professing to be atheists, the nonsense that we are seeing a fulfilment of these verses at this time becomes evident. The view that the present Israeli State is the fulfilment of these verses is also severely tested when we read in verse 10, that at this time, Israel, "shall be in rest, and be quiet, and none shall make him afraid". We need only to lift a newspaper or turn on a television set, to see that this clearly is not the case, in the land of Palestine today.
Again, looking briefly at the second passage under consideration, Ezekiel 37, we read in verse 22 that at this time of return:
"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".
When we look at this passage in conjunction with the very next verse where we read:
"Neither shall they defile themselves any more with their idols, nor with their detestable things, nor with any of their transgressions",
it is again only too obvious that the present Jewish State does not fulfil the criteria in relation to this prophetic word.
Scripture is very precise therefore, concerning the final return of the true Israel of God to the land of Palestine. It will take place when Our Lord Jesus returns to rule over His Kingdom on earth and not before. As such the present Jewish State, by any stretch of the imagination, is not a fulfilment of the prophetic word as it relates to either the House of Israel and /or, the House of Judah.
In concluding, there is just one other point I would mention and it is the matter of the 'sceptre', recorded in Genesis 49:10:
"The sceptre shall not depart from Judah, nor a lawgiver from between his feet, until Shiloh come; and unto him shall the gathering of the people be."
As most Israel Identity believers, to my knowledge, hold the view that the 'sceptre', spoken of here refers to this Royal Line and authority, I have to pose the following question; if the Royal line was to remain with the House of Judah, is it feasible to state that the present day Israeli State constitutes the House of Judah
when at no time has there ever been any connection between that state, and /or its people, and our Royal Throne?
While it is of course vital, despite the Israeli government's animosity towards the Christian faith, that every attempt should be made to bring the gospel message to the Jews, the truth I must contend is, that the Israeli State today,does not constitute a re-gathered House of Judah but rather, embodies the 'Spirit of the Dragon' that has been instrumental in igniting the conflict in the Middle East which in turn threatens to engulf the entire world in "the battle of that great day of God Almighty".
The Fig Tree as it Relates to the House of Judah
In seeking to identify the House of Judah today, many Israel identity believers will point to the parable of the 'fig tree' referred to in Our Lord's address, commonly
known as the Olivet Discourse, as recorded in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21. Speaking about the events that would immediately precede His coming again, Jesus told His disciples:
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these things, (signs pertaining to the end of the age) know that it is near, even at the doors". - Matthew 24:32-33.
It is stated that the fig tree symbolises the present day House of Judah which was to 'put forth leaves' and as such the formation of the Israeli State in 1948 was a fulfilment of this prophetic word.
Also on the strength of this so called prophetic fulfilment in 1948, deceived futurist preachers, who regard the 'fig tree' to represent all Israel, taught that a period of 1,260 days had commenced during which the Antichrist would appear and rebuild the Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. This did not happen. These preachers were equally convinced that following a second period of 1,260 days, seven years in total, the Jews would repent and Our Lord Jesus Christ would return. Again this did not happen. More recently we were told that within a generation or forty years after the formation of the Jewish State, seven years tribulation would take place prior to our Lord's return in 1988. This prediction needless to say also came to nothing.
Let me make one thing clear before we proceed with this subject. I am not saying that Our Lord's return is not imminent. On the contrary I believe that it most definitely is. What I am attempting to point out is that this entire body of false teaching, particularly in relation to the Jewish Israeli State, serves only to create confusion and cast doubt on the infallible Word of God. With the Futurists particularly, having cried 'wolf' for so long without any fulfilment of their dire predictions, people are now turning away and failing to heed the very real waming that time is indeed short.
Concerning this interpretation of the 'fig tree' I would suggest that too much emphasis, and indeed false emphasis, has been placed on this reference to the 'fig tree' here in the Olivet Discourse. First of all it is not consistent with scripture to state that the fig tree refers specifically to either al l Israel, and /or, the House of Judah
In fact there is not one reference in the Bible relating to the fig tree that can be said refers unequivocally to either all Israel or the House of Judah. It could be argued that when Our Lord cursed the fig tree as recorded in Matthew 21:19 and Mark 11:13, He may have been referring to a possible forthcoming judgement on the
remnant of the House of Judah at that time. However Our Lord was not specific as to what the fig tree symbolised and I would suggest that the lesson expounded here could equally refer to any individual or body of believers who, having failed to bear fruit for the Lord, deserve to be cursed and wither away. Indeed the view that Israel is synonymous with the fig tree becomes more untenable when we consider that elsewhere in scripture Judah is referred to as an 'Olive Tree' in Jeremiah 11:16, and as a 'Vine' in Jeremiah 6:9 and Ezekiel 15:6. The symbol of the vine is also used in relation to Israel in Hosea 10:1 and Jeremiah 2:21.While in Hosea 14:5-8, Israel is again referred to as a 'Lily', an 'Olive Tree', a 'Vine' and a 'Fir Tree'.
Let us now examine Our Lord's Olivet Discourse, looking at the reference to the 'fig tree' in context. While we will concern ourselves here in Matthew 24, Mark 13 and Luke 21, with those signs pertaining to the end of the age, Our Lord's full address does in fact cover the period starting from the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem.
Our Lord's answer concerning the end of the age and His 'coming again', was initiated by the following question from His disciples; "what shall be the sign of
thy coming, and of the end of the world?" Reading all three accounts from Matthew, Mark and Luke, we see that The Lord Jesus warned the disciples that the
following main events were to take place. There would be wars and rumours of wars and nation was to rise against nation. There would also to be famines,
pestilences and earthquakes in divers places and Christians would be afflicted, killed and hated among the nations. False Prophets were to arise and because
iniquity or apostasy would abound there would be divisions and strife among professing believers. Our Lord further states that while the true gospel of the
kingdom would be preached in all the world and to all nations before the end, this period prior to His return would be a time of great tribulation. He then adds:
"And except those days should be shortened, there should no flesh be saved: but for the elect's sake those days shall be shortened". - Matthew 24:22.
This last statement is significant in that it dates the culmination of these events in an age where mankind is in a position to destroy all flesh. Clearly this scenario must relate to the present day, as it is now possible, due to the invention of atomic and hydrogen weapons, for sinful man to destroy all life on the planet.
Keeping in mind these events which were to take place, Our Lord concludes by making the following statement:
"Now learn a parable of the fig tree; When his branch is yet tender, and putteth forth leaves, ye know that summer is nigh: So likewise ye, when ye shall see all these thlngs, know that it is near, even at the doors". - Matthew 24:32-33.
First I would say that there is nothing significant in and of the fig tree itself In fact the account as recorded in Luke's gospel bears this out where we read that Our Lord refers to, "the fig tree, and all the trees". - Luke21:29.While this view goes against the grain concerning some excellent historist interpretations for which I have the utmost respect, I have to say that to over emphasise the reference to the fig tree here in the Olivet Discourse tends to give our futurist opponents a foothold in the door to which they are not entitled. Quite simply, Our Lord is stating that when we see the trees putting forth their leaves it is a sure sign that summer is on the way. Likewise when we see 'these signs' to which Our Lord refers (wars, persecution, strife within Christendom and an increase in natural disasters) we know that "It (Our Lord's return) is near, even at the door".
While sceptics will be quick to state that there have always been wars and earthquakes, famines and disease, let me point out again that it is only in recent years that we have reached the capability, through atomic and hydrogen weapons, to wipe out all humanity. When we consider that many nations, including the Israeli State, possess such weapons, and that it is only a matter of time before some of Israel's most committed enernies, either as a nation or as rogue individuals, attain such weaponry if indeed they have not done so already, then we should be very concerned.
Setting aside the very real threat of nuclear war, we would also do well to consider the level of earthquake activity in recent years. It is a fact that there have been more earthquakes in the past thirty years than in the rest of recorded history. In 2003 alone there were some sixty-eight major earthquakes, which was an all time high.
As I therefore, bring this study on the identification of the House of Judah to a close, it is clear that we do not have to cling to any misinterpretation concerning the 'fig tree' to prove the authenticity of scripture and the very near return of Our Lord Jesus Christ. §
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