Who are God’s people? This is a question that has caused much confusion through the years. One of the most popular concepts, currently held by many well-meaning Christians, claim the Jews of today are in a sort of holding pattern until the fullness of the Gentiles has come to pass. They say when the Gentile Church is complete then the emphasis switches back to the Jewish people and centers in the Middle East in the physical land of Israel. But, is this the correct eschatological view? Is this what the Bible really tells us? Are the Jews of today still the covenant people of God that we read about in the Old Testament?
We should be able to discover the correct answer to this question by searching the scriptures and one thing we do find is that the physical aspects of the Old Covenant were given to us as examples and preparation for the ultimate arrival of the Messiah. We find in Hebrews 8:5 that the feasts and accompanied ceremonies are but shadows and types of spiritual truths and were given as mere dress rehearsals for learning and maturing in the Redemptive History of Gods people. If we keep this in mind then we should gain insight and understanding by studying these Old Testament physical realities and discern what there spiritual meaning is to us now. At this time let’s narrow the scope of this paper to one particular law that was given in Deuteronomy 25: 5-6 to see if it gives us a clue as to who the children of God were. Then lets continue the thought into the New Testament to discover who the children of God are now.
Deut. 25:5 & 6: "When brothers live together and one of them dies and has no son, the wife of the deceased shall not be married outside the family to a strange man. Her husbands brother shall go in to her and take her to himself as wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. It shall be that the first born whom she bears shall assume the name of his dead brother, so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel."
As we continue reading through Scripture we come to the book of Ruth. Naomi’s husband and two sons have died, leaving her two daughters-in-law childless. Because of a famine in the land Naomi decides to return to the land of Judah. Since she was past child bearing age — and wouldn’t be able to provide any more sons to marry Orpah and Ruth to continue the family name (as stated in Deut. 25) — she tells her two daughters-in-law to return back to their own families. Orpah does so, but Ruth insists on staying with Naomi, and the two returned to Judah. Ruth eventually marries Boaz, a close relative of Naomi, and Ruth and Boaz have a son, "…in order to raise up a name of the deceased on his inheritance, so that the name of the deceased will not be cut off from his brothers or from the court of his birth place…" (Ruth 4:10). This son was no other than Obed, "… the father of Jesse, the father of David." (Ruth 4:17).
We see this law was given through Moses in order to keep the families and tribes of the Israelites distinct, and to perpetuate their seed. To "raise up seed unto his brother" means the children would be reckoned in the genealogy of the deceased brother; and for all civil purposes, would be considered as his. With this account in Ruth we see the importance of this law when we eventually get to the New Testament writings and we read the genealogy of Jesus in Matthew 1:5 and Luke 3:32, which specifically mentions this same Obed. We have now discovered the impact this law had on the lineage of The Messiah, the one and only Saviour for all of mankind!
What happens to this law after the appearance of Jesus on the scene? Is this issue addressed in the New Testament? Yes! We find it in Matthew 22, Mark 12 and Luke 20. Lets look at the Luke account.
Luke 20:27- 33 "Now there came to Him some of the Sadducees (who say that there is no resurrection). And they questioned Him, saying, "Teacher, Moses wrote for us that if a man’s brother dies, having a wife, and he is childless, his brother should marry the wife and raise up children to his brother. Now there were seven brothers; and the first took a wife and died childless; and the second and the third married her; and in the same way all seven died also. Finally the woman died also. In the resurrection therefore, which one’s wife will she be? For all seven had married her."
Here the Sadducees have asked a question based on the Old Testament law, and they were correct in their knowledge of the scripture (even if the scenario they pose is probably not indicative of an actual situation but seems an exaggeration). It may be appropriate at this juncture to note that many readers will immediately focus on the resurrection aspect of the question, but is that really the point? Lets continue and read how Jesus answered their question
Luke 20:34ff " Jesus said to them, "The sons of this age marry and are given in marriage, but those who are considered worthy to attain to that age and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot even die anymore, because they are like the angels, and are sons of God, being sons of the resurrection.
What is Jesus saying here? On the surface it seems that in "that age" nobody will be getting married and it is obvious that people in this present age are getting married. In fact our futurist friends will give this very reason on why Jesus’ answer MUST refer to a still yet, future physical resurrection. But does this interpretation do justice to the answer that Jesus gave?
First thing I notice in Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees is the mention of "this age" in contrast to "that age". To remain consistent as a preterist I recognize "this age" refers to the age Jesus was living in at that point in time, present tense in the 1st century AD. And to follow suit, "that age" would be referring to the next age to come, which is present tense to us, being fully consummated in AD70 . Since we DO marry in this present age then there does seem to be a dilemma here! But, is there something that can help us understand what appears to be a contradiction in this case?
I believe the answer lies in what the purpose of the law was, which was to perpetuate the race of the Israelites. We discovered the importance of the law and the impact it had in the genealogy of Jesus Christ Himself! But once Jesus arrived on the scene is there any reason why this particular law needs to be upheld any longer? No! The seed (not seed’s) that was promised to come through Abraham was specifically referring to Jesus Christ (Gal 3:16), and He was already on the scene at this point! To continue to enforce a law that would guarantee the ongoing existence of the Jews as a race was rendered invalid when Jesus was born, as we read in Gal. 3:24-26:
"Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
Are there any other passages in the New Testament that would back this up? Yes again!
Titus 3:9 "But avoid foolish questions, and genealogies, and contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and vain."
1 Tim. 1:4 "Neither give heed to fables and endless genealogies, which minister questions, rather than godly edifying which is in faith: (so do)."
With our Scriptural understanding of the meaning of Jesus’ answer to the Sadducees, as to their question regarding "giving in marriage", we have gained more insight into the two verses above.
So who are the children of God? We have learned it is not the continued physi
cal race of the Jews as the very words of Jesus Christ attest to. When Jesus answered the Sadducees He was explicitly telling them there was no need to bother continuing the physical seed as stated in Galatians 3:16:
"Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as (referring) to many, but (rather) to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ."
The New Testament does tell us who the children of God are:
Romans 8:16 "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God,"
Romans 8:21 "that the creation itself also will be set free from its slavery to corruption into the freedom of the glory of the children of God."
Romans 9:8 "That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants."
Romans 8: 16-17 "The Spirit Himself testifies with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, heirs also, heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him so that we may also be glorified with Him."
Galatians 3:26 "For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus."
Galatians 3:28-39 "There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise."
I pray this short study will be edifying to those who love the Word of God as I do.