The Magnificent Menorah
The Menorah was a magnificent golden lamp stand that provided light in the ancient Hebrew Tabernacle. For millennia it has been used as an emblem for Israel. It features on the national seal of the modern state of Israel, on Israel’s Presidential standard and on the flag of the Mossad.
This emblem of Israel is incredibly rich in symbolism of which not many are aware. Nor do they realise the significance of that symbolism for us today.
Some have suggested that the Menorah with its seven lamps symbolises the seven days of the creation. Others have suggested that it represents the tree of life. Many believe that the Menorah represents Israel’s mission to be a light unto the nations of the world. But what does your Bible reveal about the symbolism of this ancient lampstand?
Instruction for Moses
First we need to look at the specifications Moses was given for its manufacture, “And thou shalt make a candlestick of pure gold: of beaten work shall the candlestick be made: his shaft, and his branches, his bowls, his knops, and his flowers, shall be of the same. And six branches shall come out of the sides of it; three branches of the candlestick out of the one side, and three branches of the candlestick out of the other side: Three bowls made like unto almonds, with a knop and a flower in one branch; and three bowls made like almonds in the other branch, with a knop and a flower: so in the six branches that come out of the candlestick. And in the candlestick shall be four bowls made like unto almonds, with their knops and their flowers. And there shall be a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, and a knop under two branches of the same, according to the six branches that proceed out of the candlestick. Their knops and their branches shall be of the same: all it shall be one beaten work of pure gold. And thou shalt make the seven lamps thereof: and they shall light the lamps thereof, that they may give light over against it… … And look that thou make them after their pattern, which was shewed thee in the mount.” (Exodus 25:31-40).
The Menorah was to be specifically located in the Holy Place and serviced by the priests morning and evening, “And thou shalt command the children of Israel, that they bring thee pure oil olive beaten for the light, to cause the lamp to burn always. In the tabernacle of the congregation without the vail, which is before the testimony, Aaron and his sons shall order it from evening to morning before the LORD: it shall be a statute for ever unto their generations on the behalf of the children of Israel.” (Exodus 27:20-21).
The Book of Hebrews indicates that the Tabernacle with its furnishings, priesthood, rituals and ceremonies were shadows of heavenly things to come. They foreshadowed spiritual outcomes that God plans to bring about through a better covenant than the one Israel was under at the time, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man. For every high priest is ordained to offer gifts and sacrifices: wherefore it is of necessity that this man have somewhat also to offer. For if he were on earth, he should not be a priest, seeing that there are priests that offer gifts according to the law: Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle: for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount. 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.” (Hebrew 8:1-6)
The Menorah which was part of the furniture of the Tabernacle and fabricated according to a specific design foreshadowed things that God is planning to achieve.
From the specifications given to Moses we can confirm that there are at least seven main features that could have symbolic significance:
1. It is a source of light in the Tabernacle.
2. It is made out of pure gold.
3. Its branched structure resembled a tree with flowers, buds and branches connected to a supporting trunk or stem.
4. It was depicted as an almond tree which is the first to blossom and fruit in that area.
5. Only pure olive oil to be used in the lamps.
6. Its location in the Holy Place that was separate from the Outer Court.
7. Only priests were allowed access to the Holy Place and they were to service the lamps that were to burn continually.
Source of light
As a source of light in the Tabernacle the Menorah represented the one who is the source of light in this world, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not.” (John 1:1-5).
That source of light is our creator, the Word of God who later became Jesus Christ, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14).
Who better to reveal the symbolism of the Menorah than the one who commissioned Moses to make it in the first place?
In a vision Jesus Christ revealed much of the symbolism to His Apostle John, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and heard behind me a great voice, as of a trumpet, Saying, I am Alpha and Omega, the first and the last: and, What thou seest, write in a book, and send it unto the seven churches which are in Asia; unto Ephesus, and unto Smyrna, and unto Pergamos, and unto Thyatira, and unto Sardis, and unto Philadelphia, and unto Laodicea. And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden candlesticks; And in the midst of the seven candlesticks one like unto the Son of man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the paps with a golden girdle.” (Revelation 1:10-13).
Jesus Christ, who we have already established is the ‘light of men’ is portrayed as being in the midst of the seven lamps, clearly has a central role to play. The light from the lamp stand foreshadowed a greater light that was Christ Himself, “And he had in his right hand seven stars: and out of his mouth went a sharp twoedged sword: and his countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.” (Revelation 1:16).
He was the light to lead humanity out of spiritual darkness and into eternal life, “… I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” (John 8:12).
John the Baptist confirmed that Christ was the true light sent from God, “There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe. He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light. That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world. (John 1:6-9).
He is the one who brings the light of His gospel to a world that ‘the god of this age’ (Satan) has imprisoned in spiritual darkness, “Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this age hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (II Corinthians 4:1-6).
Christ is the only source of salvation through which mankind can be redeemed to receive eternal life, “Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6).
Clearly the Menorah symbolises Jesus Christ who is the true source of the spiritual light that comes from God and His mission is to bring the world out of the spiritual darkness caused by Satan.
Moses was instructed to use ‘pure gold’ in the manufacture of the Menorah (Exodus 25:31).
Gold is a precious metal and in its purest form represents Jesus Christ whose life being more precious than all of mankind is without the spiritual impurity of sin, “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15).
That is why His sacrifice was able to pay the penalty for the sins of every human being, “By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God;” (Hebrews 10:10-12).
Constructed from pure gold and standing about 1.62 metres in height the Menorah was fashioned after an almond rod with three branches either side of the central stem. This structure symbolises the relationship Christ has with those whom He brings to salvation. They are connected like branches to a stem from which they receive their spiritual sustenance, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” (John 15:5).
The Holy Spirit He gives them provides them with the attributes of God Himself, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). It produces behaviours that are acceptable to God, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23).
The relationship with Christ is ongoing, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.” (John 15:4).
Without such a relationship salvation is not achievable, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.” (John 15:6).
The Menorah shaped like an almond branch symbolised Christ as the Branch who will bring spiritual enlightenment to the world, “And there shall come forth a rod out of the stem of Jesse, and a Branch shall grow out of his roots: And the spirit of the LORD shall rest upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD;” (Isaiah 11:1-2).
He is a righteous branch who will rule the world, “Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and a King shall reign and prosper, and shall execute judgment and justice in the earth.” (Jeremiah 23:5).
He is also the Branch who will build the spiritual temple, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD:” (Zechariah 6:12).
That spiritual temple foreshadowed by the Tabernacle and later the Temple comprises those who have been given God’s Spirit, “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you?” (I Corinthians 3:16).
The spiritual temple is a living temple, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5).
The rod, or branch of the almond tree was also used in the Bible to symbolize the fact that God will accomplish what He sets out to do, “Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Jeremiah, what seest thou? And I said, I see a rod of an almond tree. Then said the LORD unto me, Thou hast well seen: for I will hasten my word to perform it.” (Jeremiah 1:11-12).
The menorah not only symbolised Christ who brings spiritual understanding to the world but also the power by which He will build a living spiritual temple from mankind.
First to Blossom and Fruit
It is significant that each of the seven lamps was shaped like an almond flower which is the first of the fruit trees to blossom in that area of the world and thus symbolising the first-fruits of God’s harvest. Jesus Christ Himself being the first of the first fruits, “But now is Christ risen from the dead, and become the firstfruits of them that slept.” (I Corinthians 15:20).
John was told that the lamps represented seven churches, “The mystery of the seven stars which thou sawest in my right hand, and the seven golden candlesticks. The seven stars are the angels of the seven churches: and the seven candlesticks which thou sawest are the seven churches.” (Revelation 1:20).
The word translated ‘church’ comes from the Greek word ‘ekklesia’ which according to Strong’s Concordance means a religious congregation, assembly or community. It is a compound of two words - ‘ek’ meaning ‘out of’ and ‘kaleo’ meaning ‘to call’ which together means it is a congregation, or community of those ‘called out’ by God who are often referred to as the ‘called out ones’.
The Church, represented by the seven lamps is the congregation of those who will be resurrected to spirit when Christ returns, are first fruits of the harvest, “And not only they, but ourselves also, which have the firstfruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption, to wit, the redemption of our body” (Romans 8:23).
They are identified as the Church of the firstborn, “To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,” (Hebrews 12:23). And are the first to be redeemed from among mankind “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb.” (Revelation 14:4).
The number seven indicates completeness in the Bible and the seven lamps were representative of the complete church which even at that time comprised many congregations scattered throughout the region.
Although Christ went on in John’s vision to address individual messages to the seven churches (Revelation 2:1 to 3:22) they were presented in a manner to be heeded by all church congregations, “He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches” (Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 29, 3:6,13 and 22). That was because the problems faced by each congregation in this small representative sample were common to the whole church throughout all ages. The word ‘prophecy’ indicated that the messages were for all ages as well as all congregations, “Blessed is he that readeth, and they that hear the words of this prophecy, and keep those things which are written therein: for the time is at hand.” (Revelation 1:3).
Clearly the seven lamps symbolised the whole church comprised of those whom God has called from all ages. Through these warning messages Christ was focusing attention on the need to be spiritually prepared at all times regardless of what century, or what church congregation one attends.
The ‘seven stars’ mentioned in Revelation 1:20 are ‘the angels of the seven churches’ indicating that the ‘called out ones’ will have divine protection, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).
Pure Olive Oil
The oil specified for the lamps was to be pure olive oil. Olive oil is significant because it was used throughout the Bible to anoint those receiving God’s Spirit and in effect symbolised His Spirit, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the LORD came upon David from that day forward.” (I Samuel 16:13).
The Holy Spirit is the essence, mind and power of God that is given to those who obey, “And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him.” (Acts 5:32). It renews the mind, “And be renewed in the spirit of your mind;” (Ephesians 4:23). Changing those who are carnal to spiritual, “Brethren… …ye which are spiritual” (Galatians 6:1).
It is the promise of eternal life that is their inheritance until they are redeemed when Christ returns, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14).
The Holy Place
Moses was instructed to position the lamp stand in the Holy Place right outside the Holy of Holies where God had His presence (Exodus 27:20-21). The Hebrew word ‘qodesh’ translated ‘holy’ means consecrated, hallowed, or sanctuary. The Holy Place was a special consecrated area curtained off from the Outer Court that could only be accessed by the priests who serviced the lamps.
The priests symbolised those who are being set aside to serve Christ as priests when He returns to redeem them, “and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Revelation 1:6 RSV).
They are a holy priesthood, “…an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ.” (I Peter 2:5)
They shall reign with Him, “…and by thy blood didst ransom men for God from every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and hast made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10 RSV).
The priests who serviced the lamps in the Holy Place symbolised the holy priesthood of those whom Christ has been preparing as spiritual pillars in for the spiritual temple, “Him that overcometh will I make a pillar in the temple of my God” (Revelation 3:12). And they will serve Him when He returns to complete the process of redeeming mankind.
Jesus Christ is going to return to this earth with great power, “And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war… …And out of his mouth goeth a sharp sword, that with it he should smite the nations: and he shall rule them with a rod of iron: and he treadeth the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God.” (Revelation 19:11, 15).
The power that He will have was revealed to the prophet Zechariah in the symbolism of the Menorah that he was shown in a vision (Zechariah 4:1-14).
It was after some of the captive Jews had returned from Babylon to rebuild Jerusalem and the Temple that Zechariah was shown a golden lamp stand with seven lamps plus an olive tree either side, “And the angel that talked with me came again, and waked me, as a man that is wakened out of his sleep, And said unto me, What seest thou? And I said, I have looked, and behold a candlestick all of gold, with a bowl upon the top of it, and his seven lamps thereon, and seven pipes to the seven lamps, which are upon the top thereof: And two olive trees by it, one upon the right side of the bowl, and the other upon the left side thereof. So I answered and spake to the angel that talked with me, saying, What are these, my lord?” (Zechariah 4:1-4)
Zechariah was told that the Menorah symbolized the power by which Christ is going to build the spiritual temple that Zerubbabel’s physical temple foreshadowed. It is the power of God’s Spirit and it can move mountains, “Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the LORD unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the LORD of hosts. Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zechariah 4:6-7).
Jesus Christ is going to return at the end of this age with the power to achieve all that He sets out to do.
A ‘headstone’ is the foundational cornerstone on which the whole building is aligned. The ‘headstone’ of Zurabbabel’s temple symbolized the foundation stone upon which the spiritual temple will be aligned which was Jesus Christ, “Who art thou, O great mountain? before Zerubbabel thou shalt become a plain: and he shall bring forth the headstone thereof with shoutings, crying, Grace, grace unto it.” (Zechariah 4:7 see also Isaiah 28:16-17).
He is the chief cornerstone of the foundation on which the future temple is to be built, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
We have already seen that Christ is the “BRANCH” who will “build the temple of the LORD” (Zechariah 6:12). The temple is known throughout the Bible as the House of God (II Chronicles 3:3-17 etc). And Paul clearly defines the House of God as the Church, “But if I tarry long, that thou mayest know how thou oughtest to behave thyself in the house of God, which is the church of the living God, the pillar and ground of the truth.” (I Timothy 3:15).
The temple that Christ will build is the Church against which nothing will prevail, “And I say also unto thee, That thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matthew 16:18).
Not only did the earthly temple foreshadow the spiritual temple that Christ is building, but Zerubbabel the builder of the temple in Zechariah’s time, also foreshadowed Jesus Christ the builder of the spiritual temple who was, according to the genealogy in Matthew 1 (verses 12-16), a direct descendent of Zerubbabel. He was coming in the combined role of both Joshua the high priest and Zerubbabel the governor of Judah to become the High Priest who will assume the role of King in the spiritual temple, “Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.” (Hebrews 8:1-2).
Although Zerubbabel’s earthly temple was inferior to Solomon’s it was not to be despised because it foreshadowed the greater spiritual temple that shall be completed by Christ, “The hands of Zerubbabel have laid the foundation of this house; his hands shall also finish it; and thou shalt know that the LORD of hosts hath sent me unto you. For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:9-10). The ‘plummet’ is the plumb line that is used by builders to achieve perpendicular alignment.
The Menorah in Zechariah’s vision symbolised the spiritual temple to be built with the power of the Holy Spirit by Christ. We understand that the spiritual temple is the church described by Peter as a royal priesthood, a holy nation who are the people of God, “Ye also, as lively stones, are built up a spiritual house, an holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices, acceptable to God by Jesus Christ. Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed. 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: Which in time past were not a people, but are now the people of God: which had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.” (I Peter 2:5-10).
When Zechariah asked about the two olive trees that empty the oil out of themselves into the lamp’s bowl he was told, “These are the two anointed ones, that stand by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Zechariah 4:14). Some translations call them, “The two sons of the oil, who are standing by the Lord of the whole earth.” (Darby, and Young’s Literal Translation).
They are ‘Sons of oil’ as opposed to sons of God, or sons of man, seems to indicate that they are angelic beings administering to the Branch who we have already established as Jesus Christ. The two covering cherubs over the mercy seat in the tabernacle indicate a similar role, “And thou shalt make two cherubims of gold, of beaten work shalt thou make them, in the two ends of the mercy seat. And make one cherub on the one end, and the other cherub on the other end: even of the mercy seat shall ye make the cherubims on the two ends thereof. And the cherubims shall stretch forth their wings on high, covering the mercy seat with their wings, and their faces shall look one to another; toward the mercy seat shall the faces of the cherubims be.” (Exodus 25:18-20).
It is interesting that those who were with Christ when He ascended saw two men who were angelic beings sent as witnesses to them of His ascension to Heaven, “And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel;” (Acts 1:10).
Later when the Apostle John had his vision depicting similar imagery it was explained that the lamp he saw represented the churches among whom Christ moved and the two olive trees were actually described as two witnesses who will have supernatural powers to do God’s work and who will witness to the world of His return in the end-time, “And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophesy a thousand two hundred and threescore days, clothed in sackcloth. These are the two olive trees, and the two candlesticks standing before the God of the earth. And if any man will hurt them, fire proceedeth out of their mouth, and devoureth their enemies: and if any man will hurt them, he must in this manner be killed.” (Revelation 11:3-5).
It is highly possible that the two witnesses in the end-time who proclaim Christ’s return are the same two angelic beings who witnessed His ascension to Heaven (see our article entitled The Two Witnesses).
Zechariah’s vision of the lamp stand depicted the spiritual power by which Christ the Branch will build His living spiritual temple, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:12-13).
Long before Israel was established a spiritual priesthood comprising those who had been given the Holy Spirit was already being prepared for the spiritual temple that Christ will build. People who had the faith to believe and obey like Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, Jacob and Joseph were called by the Father to the Word (Christ) and promised eternal life, “These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.” (Hebrews 11:13).
This verse clearly indicates that they died in expectation of the eternal life that they had been told about. They believed and trusted in what was preached to them just as we believe and trust the same gospel that is preached to us today, “For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it.” (Hebrews 4:2).
Obviously the gospel of salvation did not profit those who lacked the faith to believe and trust in it and it is no different for those who hear the gospel today. If they do not have the faith, believe and trust in what is said then they will not receive salvation in this life time.
It is the gospel of salvation, in which we also trust, that promises the eternal life for which we too are waiting, “That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:12-14).
Like them we must also either die, or remain in faith until Christ returns, “But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.” (Hebrews 3:6). And when He returns the promise will be redeemed, “… ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” (Ephesians 1:13-14).
It was the same gospel offering the same promise of eternal life that was preached to the ancient world as is preached to us today.
The eleventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews provides evidence that many from the nation of Israel did trust and believe the gospel preached to them. They were given God’s Spirit as an assurance of eternal life and died in faith believing that promise. The following passage indicates that they will be resurrected to perfection along with the saints from our times, “And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets: Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens. Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection: And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment: They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented; (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect.” (Hebrews 11:32-40).
Ever since the time of Adam and Eve human nature had been corrupted with evil (Genesis 3:5) and mankind has been at enmity with God, “Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be.” (Romans 8:7). Those who did not believe and trust in God were given over to a reprobate mind, “And even as they did not like to retain God in their knowledge, God gave them over to a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not convenient” (Romans 1:28). In other words He cut them off from Himself and their inheritance of eternal life.
On the other hand, the deeds of those heroes and patriarchs who did believe and trust what God preached were recorded by Moses in the Book of Genesis as a foundation for the nation that Christ later establish from their descendents. Israel was designed to foreshadow in physical terms the spiritual Kingdom that Christ was preparing for humanity. They were to be an example nation to the world.
As Abraham’s extended family they could have received the Holy Spirit to become part of the spiritual Kingdom if they had been willing to believe and obey. The opportunity was there for them just as it is for the families of those called today, “For the unbelieving husband is sanctified by the wife, and the unbelieving wife is sanctified by the husband: else were your children unclean; but now are they holy.” (I Corinthians 7:14).
It is the way God deals with the families of those who are called and who prove faithful. They are considered sanctified and holy and can receive salvation if they repent and submit to Christ but are not condemned to eternal death if they do not do so. They will still be resurrected in the Great White Throne Judgment to be offered salvation like everyone else if they have not already received the Holy Spirit.
Constitution of Israel
The first five books of the Bible written by Moses contain the history upon which Israel was founded. They also formed the nation’s constitution. They contained their constitutional law including the commandments, statutes and judgement by which the Israelites were to live.
They entered into a covenant, or agreement, with God to obey their constitutional law and they would receive a physical inheritance of land, wealth and status that represented the spiritual inheritance God had in store for mankind.
That constitutional law stipulated that they were to love God from the very heart, “Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God is one LORD: And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5).
If they did obey in the way God required they also had the opportunity to become part of the spiritual Kingdom that their physical inheritance symbolised, “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).
But most of them could not become part of the Kingdom because they lacked the faith to believe and obey, “Let us therefore fear, lest, a promise being left us of entering into his rest, any of you should seem to come short of it. For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it… …and they to whom it was first preached entered not in because of unbelief:” (Hebrews 4:1-2 and 6).
God is not prepared to compromise His law and in accordance with the constitutional law of Israel those who did not repent and obey were to be ‘cut off’ from Him as the law stipulated, “...Whosoever he be of all your seed among your generations, that goeth unto the holy things, which the children of Israel hallow unto the LORD, having his uncleanness upon him, that soul shall be cut off from my presence: I am the LORD.” (Leviticus 22:3).
Many were ‘cut off’ because of their sins during the forty years Israel spent in the wilderness, “While it is said, To day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts, as in the provocation. For some, when they had heard, did provoke: howbeit not all that came out of Egypt by Moses. But with whom was he grieved forty years? was it not with them that had sinned, whose carcases fell in the wilderness? And to whom sware he that they should not enter into his rest, but to them that believed not? So we see that they could not enter in because of unbelief.” (Hebrews 3:15-19).
After King Solomon when the nation was split the majority of Israel comprising the ten northern tribes under Jeroboam were guilty of profaning the things of God, “And he made an house of high places, and made priests of the lowest of the people, which were not of the sons of Levi. And Jeroboam ordained a feast in the eighth month, on the fifteenth day of the month, like unto the feast that is in Judah, and he offered upon the altar. So did he in Bethel, sacrificing unto the calves that he had made: and he placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made. So he offered upon the altar which he had made in Bethel the fifteenth day of the eighth month, even in the month which he had devised of his own heart; and ordained a feast unto the children of Israel: and he offered upon the altar, and burnt incense.” (I Kings 12:31-33).
As a result of their continued profanity and disbelief they were ‘cut off’ from God and taken into captivity by the Assyrians and eventually disappeared from sight, “And the king of Assyria did carry away Israel unto Assyria, and put them in Halah and in Habor by the river of Gozan, and in the cities of the Medes: Because they obeyed not the voice of the LORD their God, but transgressed his covenant, and all that Moses the servant of the LORD commanded, and would not hear them, nor do them.” (II Kings 18:11-12).
Under the law there were a number of things for which they could be ‘cut off’. For example if they profaned that which God had made sacred, “Therefore every one that eateth it shall bear his iniquity, because he hath profaned the hallowed thing of the LORD: and that soul shall be cut off from among his people.” (Leviticus 19:8). If they defiled the sanctuary, “But the man that shall be unclean, and shall not purify himself, that soul shall be cut off from among the congregation, because he hath defiled the sanctuary of the LORD” (Numbers 19:20).
Later the remnant of Israel that had become known as Judah was also taken into captivity by the Babylonians because of their sins, “The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron, and with the point of a diamond: it is graven upon the table of their heart, and upon the horns of your altars; Whilst their children remember their altars and their groves by the green trees upon the high hills. O my mountain in the field, I will give thy substance and all thy treasures to the spoil, and thy high places for sin, throughout all thy borders. And thou, even thyself, shalt discontinue from thine heritage that I gave thee; and I will cause thee to serve thine enemies in the land which thou knowest not: for ye have kindled a fire in mine anger, which shall burn for ever.” (Jeremiah 17:1-4).
After about seventy years some were allowed to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and city. But by the time Christ was born Judah was occupied by the Romans and the attitude of the Jewish religious authorities was not pleasing to God, “Judah hath dealt treacherously, and an abomination is committed in Israel and in Jerusalem; for Judah hath profaned the holiness of the LORD which he loved, and hath married the daughter of a strange god. The LORD will cut off the man that doeth this, the master and the scholar, out of the tabernacles of Jacob, and him that offereth an offering unto the LORD of hosts.” (Malachi 2:11-12).
They had all the trappings of religion and loved to make a big show of it, “And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.” (Matthew 6:5). They loved the status, “Woe unto you, Pharisees! for ye love the uppermost seats in the synagogues, and greetings in the markets.” (Luke 11:43). It gave them a feeling of importance, “Beware of the scribes, which desire to walk in long robes, and love greetings in the markets, and the highest seats in the synagogues, and the chief rooms at feasts;” (Luke 20:46).
They had a form of godliness but denied the power of God (II Timothy 3:5) and just like their forefathers lacked the faith to believe and obey. Consequently they stumbled when it came to accepting Christ as their King and saviour, “But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone; As it is written, Behold, I lay in Sion a stumblingstone and rock of offence: and whosoever believeth on him shall not be ashamed.” (Romans 9:31-33).
That is why Christ said to the Pharisees and scribes, “Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” (Matthew 21:43).
Because they did not accept Christ who was sent by the Father to be their king and saviour they were to be ‘cut off’ from God.
Church of God
On the Day of Pentecost 50 days after Christ’s death a small group of spirit-led Israelites publicly received the Holy Spirit in a spectacular display, “And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled all the house where they were sitting. And there appeared unto them cloven tongues like as of fire, and it sat upon each of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Ghost, and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance.” (Acts 2:1-4).
Because the Holy Spirit was a promise, or assurance, of eternal life in God’s Kingdom this small remnant of believers were in effect receiving the Kingdom that had been taken from the Pharisees and scribes. After this they became known as the Church of God. They were Jewish Israelites who believed and obeyed and it wasn’t until several years later when Paul started preaching that the Gentiles were added to the Church of God, “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.” (Acts 20:28).
Gentiles were added from all nations, “…for thou wast slain, and hast redeemed us to God by thy blood out of every kindred, and tongue, and people, and nation; And hast made us unto our God kings and priests: and we shall reign on the earth.” (Revelation 5:9-10).
Since that time many more have been added and they are the ones who in this age still have the testimony of Christ and keep the commandments, “And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (Revelation 12:17).
Christ’s sacrifice made it possible for people from all nations to be called.
Israel of God
Paul recognised that among the Jews of his time there were those who were carnally minded and those who were spiritually minded. The spiritually minded were led by Spirit of Christ (Holy Spirit) that dwelled in them, but the carnally minded did not obey God’s commandments and were still at enmity with Him, “For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.” (Romans 8:6-9).
He said that not all those who called themselves Israelites were of Israel in God’s eyes, “…For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Romans 9:6-8).
It was a small remnant within Israel who had God’s Spirit that Paul defined as the Israel of God, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creature. And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.” (Galatians 6:15-16).
The true Israel of God were those who believed and trusted in Christ. They had been given God’s Spirit as an assurance that they would be the royal priesthood that will serve Christ when He returns.
It was the unbelieving Pharisees, scribes and their followers who would not accept Christ who was sent from the Father that were about to be ‘cut off’ in accordance with the constitutional law of Israel, “Because he hath despised the word of the LORD, and hath broken his commandment, that soul shall utterly be cut off; his iniquity shall be upon him.” (Numbers 15:31).
Fulfilment of Promise
The small remnant who believed and trusted in Christ were the fulfilment of the promise made to Israel when they came out of Egypt. “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).
That promise had been conditional to their obedience - ‘if’ they obeyed ‘then’ they would become what God promised. But when Peter was addressing the Church that was comprised of believing and obedient people he did not use the words ‘if’ and ‘then’. He spoke as if they are the chosen generation, the royal priesthood and holy nation, “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:” (I Peter 2:9).
In other words the Church which is a remnant of Israel that had the testimony of Christ and kept the commandments are the fulfilment of what had been promised to Israel and will be the ones who will serve Christ when He returns. That includes all those from ancient times who died in faith as indicated in Hebrews 11.
This body of spirit-led people that included Abel, Enoch, Noah Abraham, Sarah, Isaac and Jacob were the very foundation on which Israel was established. That body of spirit-led people was added to from generation to generation throughout the history of Israel and Judah.
As each generation of believers died in faith more were called until the time of Christ. After He died this body of people emerged as a remnant from Israel to be called the Church of God who, “… keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Revelation 12:17).
The Church did not replace Israel: it existed from the very foundation of Israel and was at core of Israel throughout its history to remains today as the very remnant of Israel.
The Modern State of Israel
Although the modern day Jews are ethnically Israelites they are a remnant of those who were ‘cut off’ from Israel and their God because of their unbelief and refusal to accept Christ as their King and saviour. They have retained a form of religion and a sense of entitlement but they are not the ‘Israel of God’ who keep the commandments of God and the testimony of Christ.
Despite what many want to believe the modern state of Israel was not established by God. It was established after decades of lobbying from the political Zionist movement who because of their ethnicity claimed they had an entitlement to certain lands that their ancestors had been given by God.
Some of the more orthodox Jews in Israel have plans to build a temple and they may well build a temple in Jerusalem but any attempt to do so is not of God. It will be a temple built by men who do not believe Jesus Christ is the Messiah and if Christ is not the one building the temple then it is not the temple of God, “And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the LORD of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The BRANCH; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the LORD: Even he shall build the temple of the LORD; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:12-13).
It is Christ who has been commissioned to build the temple and the power with which He will accomplish it is symbolized by the Menorah that the modern state of Israel uses as an emblem. He is the stumbling block for them, “Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Sion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on him shall not be confounded. Unto you therefore which believe he is precious: but unto them which be disobedient, the stone which the builders disallowed, the same is made the head of the corner, And a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offence, even to them which stumble at the word, being disobedient: whereunto also they were appointed.” (I Peter 2:6-8).
He said that He is going to build the temple, “After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up:” (Acts 15:16, from Amos 9:11).
Construction of the spiritual temple that Christ is building is already well under way! “Know ye not that ye are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwelleth in you? If any man defile the temple of God, him shall God destroy; for the temple of God is holy, which temple ye are.” (I Corinthians 3:16-17). And, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God; And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone; In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord: In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:19-22).
The unbelieving remnant of Israel have been blinded to the truth, “What then? Israel hath not obtained that which he seeketh for; but the election hath obtained it, and the rest were blinded (According as it is written, God hath given them the spirit of slumber, eyes that they should not see, and ears that they should not hear;) unto this day.” (Romans 11:7-8).
Although they have the Menorah as an emblem on the national seal of the modern state of Israel, on the Presidential standard and the flag of the Mossad they remain blind to the fact that it symbolizes Jesus Christ, the one they deny and His mission to bring light to this world.
Fortunately God is merciful and will offer these unbelieving Israelites from the extended family of Abraham the opportunity of salvation along with all the other non-believing nations.
For further information be sure to read our two companion articles:
“Israel, O Israel”
“Thy Kingdom Come”