41 Now as (Jesus) drew near (to Jerusalem), He saw the city and wept over it, 42 saying, “If you had known, even you, especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes. 43 For days will come upon you when your enemies will build an embankment around you, surround you and close you in on every side, 44 and level you, and your children within you, to the ground; and they will not leave in you one stone upon another, because you did not know the time of your visitation.” (Luke19:41-44NKJV)
The Jews’ two-stage rejection of Jesus and His Kingdom
Confusion has arisen with regard to the implications of the rejection of Jesus as Messiah by His people in terms of the apparent subversion of Old Testament prophecy that, to the mystification of many, Paul refers to a number of times in his epistles. I have utilized one such reference as the title of my book: that is where the apostle explains that he had been called in order to “enlighten everyone concerning THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE SECRET (plan) known only to God who had created all things through Jesus Christ; (this mystery or secret) having been hidden through the ages from the authorities of Heaven is brought to light through the Church, so revealing the multi-faceted nature of God’s wisdom regarding His purpose for the ages which He accomplished in Christ (Eph3:9-11).
The passage from Luke 19 quoted at the top of this post relates to the first of two rejections by the Jews of their Messiah resulting in turn in two subversions to Old Testament prophecy. Paul refers to it as “the mystery (or secret) that has been hidden through the ages even from the authorities of Heaven (Eph3:9). The first subversion is recognized by Christendom but not Jewry whilst the second has not really been understood by either, being the fellowship of the secret; initial incredulity for Christendom, potential Good News for Jewry and great news for the world. I endeavour to unpack what I mean by that statement in my book and little by little within these posts.
As I pointed out in an earlier post, many ordinary Jewish inhabitants of Jerusalem will have welcomed Jesus to their city but their leaders were indignant and already plotting His downfall. This was the first rejection culminating in the crucifixion, and as Jesus stated (Lk19:42) it put paid to the prophecies indicating that the coming of the Messiah would bring an end to Israel’s political and military problems. The promise of peace and security for Jerusalem, evident in much prophecy including the angelic annunciations concerning the birth of Jesus and John Baptist, would not be secured by Jesus in His earthly lifetime, quite the contrary in fact; worse was to come for Israel in about a generation’s time. We should not be so surprised that historically the Jews have not perceived the crucified Nazarene prophet to be their Messiah – for truly, He did not in any substantive sense fulfil the geopolitical promises anticipated of Him in the Old Testament. But Jesus has just explained why that should be the case, at least as far as the current age is concerned (note Lk24:44), and Paul clarifies the matter for the churches in his Ephesians reference to God’s secret plan that (humanly speaking) resulted from the Jews’ rejection of their Messiah.
But the Jew’s role in the crucifixion of their intended Messiah is not per se what resulted in the rejection of their nation as sole inheritors of the Kingdom that Paul is actually referring to in Ephesians 3 and also Romans 11 (vv11-15). Such is affirmed in Acts where the apostle indicates that even after Pentecost it was still the Jewish people’s “day of visitation” and they were still not appreciating it. Paul gave this warning to certain Jews at Antioch:
So be careful! – or what the prophets say will happen to you: “Cast your eyes around you mockers; be amazed and perish! For I am doing something in your own days that you would never believe if you were told of it” (Acts13:40,41 New Jerusalem Bible)
Note the warning is about what will or might happen to the Jewish nation, not what already had happened. Their day of visitation did not end when they crucified Christ: that event that Jesus referred to as His other baptism had been both divinely planned and prophesied (Acts2:23; Is53:5); what was shortly to occur was undoubtedly planned or foreknown (by God) but never prophesied; it concerns the secret fellowship (or community partnership) “hidden in God” even from earlier prophets; it concerned the establishment of a universal Church. So the second rejection pertained to the fact that so many Jews refused to acknowledge that the resurrection and the miraculous signs associated with the apostles’ teaching were the vindication of Jesus’s earlier claims. They still rejected His Messiah-ship even now that He had been raised to the highest Heavens and empowered His disciples to work miracles in His name.
That, in modern parlance is where they finally blew it. They had already blown the prospect of political peace and security through their rejection of Jesus in His lifetime, now something even more radical was at stake: Kingdom inheritance. The very next Sabbath, these same leaders “filled with jealousy” towards the apostles, just as they had been toward Jesus used blasphemies to contradict everything Paul said (v45), which prompted the apostle to add this:
We had to proclaim the word of God to you (Jews) first, but since you have rejected it, (i.e. the apostle’s message) since you do not think yourselves worthy of eternal life, here and now we turn to the Gentiles. For this is what the Lord commanded us to do when He said “I have made you (Israel) a light to the nations, so that my salvation may reach the remotest parts of the world” (Acts13:46,47).
The prophecy from which Paul quotes (Is49) declares Israel to be God’s servant, through whom He would manifest His glory (v3) and by whom He would bring saving enlightenment to the whole world (v6). They as His chosen people and future heirs of the world (cf. Rom4:13,14) would have come to know “eternal life”, i.e. an intimate relationship with God and life of an eternal quality (Jn17:3) through sanctification in Christ blood (Zech13:1); but as the same prophet foretold this had been prophetically linked with the restoration and liberation of their nation and holy city through the direct intervention of a returning messiah, who as well as residing with his people would act as judge and arbitrator with opposing nations (Is2:4; Mic4:3.) Now, says Paul, as a result of their rejection, the universal enlightenment would go ahead without them by means of a newly formed universal assembly founded by their Messiah and His apostles, none of whom had been drawn from the ranks of the Jewish sacral hierarchy.
Although it is only briefly alluded to in Scripture, the longed-for national liberation and the re-instatement of Israel to “the Kingdom” would now have to wait (Acts1:6). After issuing this warning, Paul and Barnabas symbolically shook the dust from off their feet as they left Antioch (13:51), just as the disciples had done to towns and homes that rejected the “gospel of the Kingdom” preached during Christ’s earthly ministry. Shortly afterwards at Corinth, preaching as usual in the synagogue, certain Jews “turned against (Paul) and started to insult him”. Paul took his cloak and shook it out in front of them, saying:
“Your blood be on your own heads; from now on I will go to the Gentiles with a clear conscience” (Acts18:6 New Jerusalem Bible).
One is bound to ask why Paul’s conscience would not have been clear (literally: clean) if he had brought this gospel to the Gentiles and the Jews hadn’t rejected his message: wasn’t his message of salvation intended for all? Well, yes and no: “for as a result of the Jews’ rejection, salvation has come to the Gentiles to provoke them to jealousy” (cf. Rom11:11). I had previously understood this to be merely a question of order, but there would no logical reason for such if the privileges of Kingdom service and the eternal life pertaining to it were from the time of Pentecost being offered to the world; apart from which the apostles would have been quite clear in their minds about the matter, which they certainly were not, with the obvious exception of the lately-commissioned Saul of Tarsus. Apart from which, Paul writing to the Romans is adamant: salvation came to the Gentiles as a result of the Jews’ rejection; it was not a question of protocol or order.
For as I am seeking to explain there is salvation and there is SALVATION. The latter was earmarked for the Jews alone in Old Testament prophecy but was to be made available to the nations through Paul’s revelation of what in short-hand I refer to as “the fellowship of the secret”. “Salvation” as foretold for the Gentile nations meant one would be enlightened, pardoned in the name of Jesus if one acknowledged Him as Lord, leading to acceptance as a subject in God’s Kingdom, for all who call on the name of the Lord would be saved (i.e. spared perdition). SALVATION on the other hand was to be born again by water and Spirit, delivered from corruption by means of sanctification in the blood appointed for sprinkling provided through Calvary (Heb12:24 cf. Greek) resulting in interior communion with Christ, eternal life, participation in God’s royal priesthood and a joint-inheritance with the Son of God, no-less. Once this mystery is grasped it has wondrous implications to broader providence. This is explained more fully in my book*, along with how such a concept can be reconciled with the rest of the Bible’s teaching.
Related post: The Samaritan woman