This Kingdom was offered to the Jewish nation, but the nation rejected it.
PROPOSITION 57. This Kingdom was offered to the Jewish nation, but the nation rejected it.
That it was offered in good faith we have seen—the mission of John, Jesus, and the disciples being confined to the nation. But the nation, instead of repenting and receiving the Messiah, conspired through its representative men, the chief priests, scribes, and elders, to put Him to death. The entire record of the Gospels shows how He was persecuted and finally crucified, as John 1:11; Luke 19:14; Matt. 16:21; Matt. 20:18, 19, etc. By this action they said: “We will not have this man to reign over us;” by this conduct they evinced how utterly unprepared, morally, they were for a restored Theocratic-Davidic Kingdom under the Messiah.[*]
Note. If it be asked, Why this imposed condition of repentance? the answer is plain. Such a Theocratic Kingdom under the Messiah, with the accompanying elevation of the Jewish nation—as covenanted and predicted—cannot possibly be established without a suitable moral preparation. An exaltation to such supremacy and honor, unless previously prepared for it, would only have excited the pride, the selfishness, the arrogance, and ambition of the Jewish nation. The purity of the Kingdom intended, its design for blessing, the character of its rulers, the Theocratic idea itself—all demanded hearty repentance and true reformation. This feature will appear more evident when we see how God is raising up a repentant people for this very purpose, viz.: to establish it upon a basis of moral preparation in the persons of those who are associated with Him in government. Thus e.g. the account of Luke 9:60, which some denounce as “cruelty,” and which others (Barnes, etc.) explain that “sentimentality” must give place to “decision” and “eternal consolations,” can be more readily explained in the light of this conditioned repentance. The man was a disciple of Jesus, as evidenced by his asking permission. Now, as the offer of the Kingdom, the greatest of all things, was thus conditioned, and the preaching of this repentance nationally being very limited and urgent (in order to make the nation inexcusable), it was of the highest moment and importance to bring this testimony before the nation; all other objects, for the time being, must give place to this one, so essential, which could not be postponed. Hence, under the circumstances, the charge to preach the Kingdom—a style of preaching which speedily, as we shall show—changed, the crisis having been passed.
Obs. 1. Nationally, through the nation’s highest officials and council, the Kingdom was rejected on account of the imposed condition, repentance, although individual Jews repenting were received as believers. The Kingdom could not be erected, owing to its affiliation with the nation itself, requiring not merely a few who believed, but a national moral regeneration. The past history of the nation clearly taught the sad truth that, without such a moral reformation, it was utterly unfitted to bear a Theocratic rule. This it most painfully evidenced at the First Advent by crucifying its own promised Messiah. This was, when fully appreciated, a fearful crime. The great question with the Jew, after the Messiah was killed, was this: How could he under such aggravating guilt, slaying the covenanted David’s Son, be saved from his sin? This it was that caused, under Peter’s exhibition of this guilt, that anguish of heart, bursting forth into the significant inquiry: “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” What they were to do—this key of knowledge given in mercy—was committed to Peter, as well as the other key pertaining to the Gentiles.[*]
Note. The modern Reformed Jews deny that the fall of the Jewish nation resulted from sinfulness. We leave them to assign the reason for their dispersion, etc., in the following resolution at a meeting held by Reformed Rabbins in Philadelphia, Pa. (quoted in The Israelite Indeed, Feb. No., 1871): “Resolved, That the fall of the Jewish state had not its cause in the sinfulness of Israel, but in the Divine purpose, manifested more and more in history, to send the members of the Hebrew race to all parts of the earth, for the fulfilment of their high mission, to lead all nations to the true conception and worship of God.” Now, aside from the New Test. declarations (which they, of course, do not receive, and yet which are verified in the literal fulfilment of its predictions in their actual history), this is utterly opposed by Moses in his prophecies, by all the prophets, by the repeated confessions of the ancient Jews, and even by modern Orthodox. Many prayers of the Jews indicate the truthfulness of the same; and it is only a spirit of unbelief in the Divine Record, a virtual abandonment of God’s own testimony and that of the nation itself in the past, that can lead to such unscriptural and unhistorical resolutions. Rev. Van Noorden (pastor Holland Pres. Ch., Chicago) has written some strictures on this untenable resolution, and among other things shows “that since the fall of Jerusalem the Jews as a nation never have influenced the nations to forsake idolatry, nor taken any active steps to lead the nations to the true conception and worship of God.” History substantiates this, seeing that civilization, enlightenment, etc. came through the labors, etc. of Christians, and not through Jews, however individuals of the race may have aided in the same work. The entire resolution, therefore, is opposed both by Scripture and history, and its framers were unable to substantiate it by a single quotation from or reference to the Word of God.
Obs. 2. The leading reason assigned by the priests and Pharisees in council (John 11:47, 48) for putting Jesus to death (whom they hated for exposing their rottenness, and insisting upon repentance) was, that by acknowledging Him as their King, they should bring the Roman power upon themselves, which would destory “both our place and nation.” Here certainly was lack of faith in a Theocratic King and Kingdom. And on this very charge was He arraigned before Pilate (Luke 23:2, 3); thus hatred causing them to choose Cœsar, instead of “Christ, a King.” Let the reader reflect: their guilt was aggravated by a knowledge of the covenanted Kingdom, of a covenanted Messiah in David’s line able to protect against all earthly power, and hence their malignity was manifested in causing the death of One who gave all the predicted evidences of Messiahship, and in taking advantage of the very tender of this Kingdom to them in procuring His condemnation. Their knowledge of the covenants and prophets, their acquaintance with the works of Christ, made the rejection the more deliberate and cruel. Knowing the claims of the predicted Messiah, knowing that if He ever came He should be truly a King on David’s restored throne—this makes the charge produced by them and their conduct in the matter the more dastardly and inexcusable. What was offered in mercy and love, they make the basis of accusation and death.[*]
Note. This condition of repentance, as essential to the bestowment of a Theocracy imposed, is the key to the private nature of Christ’s miracles. Unbelievers ask why they were not more conspicuous, etc. The design was to give sufficient evidence to satisfy His claim to Messianic power and dignity; hence the miracles performed in connection with this preaching. If, however, on the other hand, He had publicly, like Moses, at Jerusalem performed miracle after miracle of an astounding nature, he would have precipitated the nation, without being morally qualified, into an effort (as even in His reserve was adverted to, John 6:15) to make Him King by force, thus bringing on a rebellion against the Roman Government. The exhibition of the miraculous was graduated by this condition of repentance. The delicacy of Jesus—foreknowing the result—in avoiding, by withdrawal and retirement, to bring the nation into revolt against and conflict with the Roman Empire, is most admirable, and serves to explain a number of events in His life.
Obs. 3. Pressense (The Redeemer) has several chapters on “The Preparation for Christianity,” and takes the position, as announced in his Preface: “In my view, that preparation consisted solely in developing the desire of salvation.” We apprehend that here is a great mistake, as plain fact proves. Thousands before the Advent desired salvation, but did not obtain it; few at the Advent entertained it so strongly that they were willing to acquiesce in God’s mode of securing it, for the multitude rejected and crucified Christ, and by their very conduct showed that other motives, other desires, were stronger than those alleged by Pressense. The facts disprove the theory. If the nation had repented and received Jesus as the Messiah, then, and only then, would it be true, but as it did not, such a preparation is imaginary.[*]
Note. See e.g. what Mosheim, Neander, Killen, Kurtz, and others say of the actual condition of the Jews, sunken into degeneracy, divided into hostile parties, eager for Roman patronage, etc. The simple Bible truth is this: the Word predicts the unsuccessful nature of Christ’s tender of the Kingdom, the unbelief of the nation, that He shall be despised, rejected, etc. The nation itself is suffering continued punishment for its unbelief. The desire for salvation was only such as wicked men now possess, viz.: a willingness to be saved in, and not from, their sins. A proper desire, excepting in a few, was not cultivated. Hence, many writers blunder when adverting to this subject, forgetting that both Advents, the First and the Second, are represented as finding the people arrayed against the Christ. For even at the time of the Sec. Advent, when Jesus comes again “unto salvation,” we find that the world, instead of desiring salvation, will be in open hostility to the Messianic claims. Both Advents fall under the same Divine procedure, and we must look deeper than this for the real preparation. The secret of the matter lies in the Divine Purpose, foretold already by Moses, Deut. 33:21, who, instead of predicting a desire for salvation, prophesied the unbelief and rebellion of God’s chosen people and their punishment until a period of trial had passed, and that, notwithstanding the same, God would gather out a people who shall desire, and ultimately participate in, this salvation. The Divine Purpose accommodated itself in the Plan of Redemption to these foreseen exhibitions of national depravity. The times of the Gentiles were introduced, not because of the desire of salvation previously fostered in the Jewish nation, but because (as Paul in Rom. 11) of unbelief, the veil over their eyes, their fall. The idea of there having been preparations going on and culminating at that period is indeed a correct one, as other writers have noticed (in language, facilities of intercourse, general peace, etc.), for prophecy indicates this; but it possesses a different aspect and must be placed on other grounds. The error of some writers consists in this: having no proper conception of another and coming dispensation here on the earth, in which salvation is to be realized, they make the faith, hope, and earnests of salvation the salvation itself, and under the influence of this misapprehension indulge themselves in corresponding laudatory flights, opposed alike to fact and the Word.
Obs. 4. This Kingdom was offered to the nation in good faith, i.e. it would have been bestowed provided the nation had repented. The foreknown result made no difference in the tender of it, so far as the free agency of the nation is concerned; that result flowed from a voluntary choice. The national unbelief did not change God’s faithfulness, Rom. 3:3. It would be derogatory to the mission of Christ to take any other view of it, and the sincerity and desire of Jesus that the nation might accept, is witnessed in His tears over Jerusalem, in His address to it, in His unceasing labors, in sending out the twelve and the seventy, and in His works of mercy and love. It follows, then, that the Jews had the privilege accorded to them of accepting the Kingdom, and if the condition annexed to it had been complied with, then the Kingdom of David would have been most gloriously re-established under the Messiah.[*]
Note. The question, How, then, would the atonement have been made by the shedding of blood? has nothing whatever to do with the sincerity of this offer, for “the manifold wisdom of God” would have been equal to the emergency, either by antedating to some other period, or by providing for it previously; or in some other, to us unknown, way. As it was, God’s purposes, His determinate counsel, are shaped by what was a foreseen voluntary choice of the nation. God’s mercy was willing to bestow, but the nation’s depravity prevented the gift. That the Kingdom would have been established had the nation believed, is evident from Deut., ch. 32; 2 Chron. 7:12–22; Isa. 48:18; Ps. 81:8–16, etc. Dealing with facts, we are not concerned with contingencies. Compare Oosterzee’s Ch. Dog., vol. 2, p. 523, and Augustine quoted by him, and Augustine and Gregory the Great as quoted by Hagenbach, His. of Doc., vol. 1, p. 351.
In the programme of unbelief we find it asserted by the Duke of Somerset (Ch. Theol. and Mod. Sleep., p. 139) that “the disbelief of the Jews in Jesus was indispensable to the scheme of the atonement”—language even incautiously used by some believers. This is disproven by this tender of the Kingdom, by the prevailing tenor of the Word, and by the guilt of the nation not being compromised or lessened through such a fiction. It is unauthorized assumption. Paul’s argument in Romans proceeds on the supposition that the nation had the power of choice, that it wilfully chose the evil, and that God in mercy overruled its fall for the salvation of the Gentiles. They stumbled and fell, not through necessity, and not because God’s Purpose required it, but solely through their own unbelief; and God’s Plan, as the Omniscient, embraced the same as a foreknown result, and made provision accordingly. This feature also meets a Jewish objection. Thus e.g. Levi (Disserts., vol. 1, p. 120) says: “They (Christian Apologists) cannot produce one single, clear, unequivocal prophecy of the Old Test. which foretells a twofold coming of one and the same person as the Messiah,” etc. This arises simply from the fact that, as this offer was to be made at the First Advent, the prophecies are guardedly (see Prop. 55; Obs. 7, and Prop. 34) given, and at the same time sufficiently distinctive to show that at the First Advent, as occurred, the Messiah would be despised and rejected (Isa. 55; Dan. 9:26).
Obs. 5. Able writers make incautious assertions relative to this period. Thus e.g. Oosterzee (Theol. New Test., p. 32) on this point says: “The covenant act of the Theocracy thus founded was the lawgiving at Sinai; its seat the Sanctuary; its end, not the rising of the Kingdom, by which it was modified, but the destruction of the Israelitish state; its highest benefit, finally, was the appearing of Him who put an end to the wall of separation between Israel and the nations.” According to the express promises annexed by Moses (Prop. 26) to Deut. 32, its end was not such as Oosterzee states, for it was designed for blessing and not for such a destruction. The end alleged by him was brought about, not by the tender of a Theocratic Kingdom (much less by a Kingdom not then in existence), not by the appearing of Christ in itself, but is invariably attributed to the nation’s unbelief. If we do not accept of the solution given by revelation, and put the fall of the nation where God places it, viz.: not in His purposing or designing it, but in their own unbelief, we introduce an antagonism into the Divine Plan, inconsistent with the universal ideas of justice and love, and invite, unnecessarily, the sneers of infidelity. Besides this, the end contemplated has not yet come; let the times of the Gentiles end, and let this nation again be restored, and then will the Theocracy be restored, and refute such fallacies.