The Messiah came as the prophets had foretold. He was of the house of David, son of a virgin, born at Bethlehem; but His people knew Him not. He was rejected and crucified; He rose from the dead and ascended into heaven. This departure from the earth, and continued existence in heaven, was something the Jews had not known or anticipated, although intimated in prophecy; but it was a fact of highest moment, and we must ask ourselves how it bore on the further work of redemption. How was this work now to be carried on? In what relation did He, thus absent, stand to the elect people, and how could He fulfill to them the promises respecting the Messianic Kingdom? How could He, invisible, reveal God unto the nations? How could He Himself be made known unto the world?
To answer these questions, we must consider the threefold relations into which the Messiah was brought at His ascension, — first, to Jehovah; second, to the Jewish people; third, to the nations.
First, His relation to Jehovah. He was the "Word with God " before the worlds were made; as "the Word made flesh " had He suffered on earth; but now as the Son of man, raised from the dead, immortal and glorified, He is seated at His right hand, and made Lord over all. As the Anointed One, — th3 Messiah, — the Christ,—in whom is the fullness of the Spirit, He is the perfect instrument for the further execution of the Divine purpose in the earth, both to the Jews and to the Gentiles. Made after the power of an endless life, He is prepared to fulfill the ministry of the Great High Priest, and to baptize with the Holy Ghost; and to Him all authority is given. (Acts ii. 33.) Now is fulfilled in Him what is prophetically written in the Psalms: "I have set my King on my holy hill of Sion." "Sit thou at my right hand till I have made thy foes thy footstool. . . . Thou art a Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek." (Ps. ii., ex.; Heb. vii. 16, 17; viii. 1, etc.; Eph. i. 20.)
Thus anointed and glorified, He is prepared to fulfill the whole purpose of God in redemption. And this purpose now enters upon a new stage, the nature of which is to be carefully noted as determined by the relation into which He is brought, first to the Jews, second to the Gentiles.
Abraham was called, that in his seed all nations of the earth might be blessed. But when the promised Seed "came unto His own, His own received Him not." And after His ascension He was again rejected by them in the person of His apostles, to whom He had said, "He that receiveth you, receiveth me," and whose testimony to Him they refused to hear. (Acts xiii. 45, 46.) Their punishment came upon them speedily in the destruction of their city and temple by the Romans, and the dispersion of the people. Thus it became impossible that He could stand to them in the relation of their King, for they had no national existence, and could render to Him no national obedience. He could not manifest Himself to the nations as the Son of David, sitting upon Jehovah's throne, and ruling over them as a nation.
To understand the position of the Jews in this new dispersion, and their relations to the Messiah, we must note two things: First, That they did not cease to be the covenant people. Their position, after the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans, was in its essential elements the same as after its destruction by the Babylonians, only that they were now dispersed among all nations; and that this dispersion was not for years, but for centuries. As the sin was greater, so the punishment was more severe. Second, As the Messiah had come, and had been rejected by them, their restoration to God's favor could not be till they had repented and confessed their grievous sin, and sought forgiveness in His name. (Zech. xii. 10, etc.) Only through Him could they have access to His Father, and He as the High Priest must cleanse them from their iniquities, and send down upon them His Spirit. Continuing unrepentant, they must abide in dispersion. But we must consider more particularly the purpose of God in this new dispersion of His people, and especially its bearing on the Gentiles. It is the apostle Paul who has spoken most fully on this point in his Epistle to the Romans, and we must therefore carefully note his reasonings and conclusions. (Chaps, ix., x., xi.)
The apostle declares that his "heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved." It is generalty admitted that by Israel is meant the Jewish nation as such; and that by " salvation" is not meant merely the deliverance of individual souls from eternal death, it has its usual Messianic sense, the salvation of the nation. Whether individual Jews after Christ's rejection cculd be saved from God's wrath by faith in the cross, was not in question, for it was not doubted. The point before the apostle was, whether God had cast away His people, the covenant people, so that they no longer stood in any covenant relation to Him, nor had any claim to the fulfillment of the covenant promises under their King,—the Messiah? It is the fulfillment of these promises that he terms "their salvation," following in this the Old-Testament prophets who make this salvation to be realized in the setting up of the Messianic Kingdom. (Isa. xii. 2, etc.; xlix. 8; lii. 7,10; Ps. xcviii. 3; Luke i. 69-75.) In the same sense it is used by Peter. (1 Pet. i. 5.) That through their rejection of the Messiah they had put away from them this salvation, and that God's heavy judgment was about to come upon them, are facts the apostle assumes. (Matt, xxiii. 37, etc.) He speaks of their "fall," of their " casting away," of their being "branches broken off." But more than this, he affirms that "through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles." What, then, is the connection between the fall of the Jews and the salvation of the Gentiles? How could the exclusion of His ancient people from the place He had given them, bring to the Gentiles any benefit?
We have already abundantly seen that the election of the Jews was to the end that through them all other nations might be brought to the knowledge of God, and be blessed in the Kingdom of His Son. And we cannot doubt that if they had continued in the grace of God, and received their Messiah, this end would have been effected. But from this grace they fell; "they stumbled at the Stone of stumbling." How does this their sin affect the Divine purpose? It but brings out in a more wonderful way God's mercy and wisdom. He so overrules it that "their fall becomes the riches of the world; and their diminishing, the riches of the Gentiles." Now is brought out that mystery "which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, . . . that the Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body." To be "fellow-heirs " is much more than had been promised by God through the prophets to the nations in the Messianic Kingdom. To be of the same body, is to be lifted up into such relation to the Christ that they are made members of Him. The fall of the Jews as the elect people opened the way for a new election, which through Christ should be brought nearest to God, highest in honor, and be His chief instrument in the further stages of His work. Thus "the fall of the Jews was the riches of the world," because, they failing to answer the end of their election, the Messianic Kingdom was not set up then, and the Gentiles can now become His elect, and being made members of Christ, be partakers in the highest degree of spiritual blessings.
It may be said, to guard against possible misapprehension, that the apostle is not speaking here of the deliverance of individual Gentiles from God's eternal wrath. He does not affirm that if the Jews had not fallen, no Gentile could have escaped everlasting damnation. Because special grace had been given to the Jews, all grace had not been withdrawn from the Gentiles. Nor does He affirm that the Jews must be cast away in order that the Gospel might be preached to the Gentiles. It was the special calling of the Jews to make known their Messiah, and His salvation to all nations; and had they remained faithful, this calling they would have fulfilled, as they are still to fulfill it. (Zech. viii. 22.)
As we are now able to see how the failure of the first or national election opened the way for the choice of a second — the church — taken from all peoples, we can, also, see how the restoration of the first to its covenant standing may be a source of fresh blessing to the nations, or to all not included in either of the two elections. The second election is but a part, comparatively few, out of the multitudes of the Gentiles, as the Jews were only one out of many nations; and when it is gathered and completed, — the Church made like her Head, — a new stage of Divine activity begins. Then the Jews in the repentant "remnant" are restored to their original relation as the theocratic nation, and God is able to fulfill through them His promises of blessing to all the world. This is the fulfillment of the apostle's words: "If the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness?" Now a part only of the Gentiles are made rich through their membership in the body of Christ; but when " the Deliverer shall come out of Sion, and turn away ungodliness from Jacob," then will all the ends of the earth see the salvation of God. The receiving of the Jews will be "as life from the dead."
Thus the apostle distincthy recognizes God's way of carrying on redemption by elections, first of a nation, then of a body of individuals from all nations, each chosen with reference to its special end. The Jews, though cast off for the time as a people, are still "beloved for the fathers' sake," and are yet to fulfill the purpose of God in them; "for the gifts and calling of God are without repentance." And the Church, made up of both Jews and Gentiles, gathered individually during the time of the Lord's absence through the preaching of the gospel, will also fulfill its functions as the body of Christ; and through both elections, in the day of the Kingdom, will God manifest Himself to all the world.
To the Jews as the covenant people it was due that the Gospel be first preached, and not till they refused to hear was it preached to the Gentiles. (Acts xiii. 46.) Through their persistent disobedience, "the Kingdom of God was now to be taken from them, and given" to others (Matt. xxi. 43), and the Lord's words fulfilled, "Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is He that cometh in the name of the Lord." But during His absence, all among them who believed on Him might have part in the new election; the Jew in this relation had no advantage over the Gentile. (Gal. iv. 28, etc.) Few comparatively in later generations have believed, the veil is still upon their hearts. They know not that their Messiah is risen and in heaven; but He will manifest Himself to them, and their unbelief, like that of Paul, will vanish away; and like Thomas they will cry, "My Lord and my God."
Having seen how the casting away of the Jews was for the benefit of the Gentiles, we are now to consider the new relation of the latter to the Messiah. In the prophets He had been presented in His special relation to the Jews as their Messiah, and only through them to the nations; but by His work on the cross, and His exaltation into heaven, He was now brought into direct relations with all men. First, by His atoning sacrifice as Son of man, He opened the way for the approach of all to God. Now the gospel of forgiveness could be everywhere preached, to the Gentiles as well as to the Jews, that all might believe and be saved. (Rom. iii. 22.) Thus His relation to men as their Saviour from sin through the cross, was universal. All might come unto Him, and through Him enter into the fullness of the grace of God. Second, as the Risen One, He became the fountain of a new and heavenly life of which all who believed in Him might be made partakers. "Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee," was interpreted by the apostles of His being begotten in resurrection. (Acts xiii. 33.) When He ascended and was glorified, He was made the second Adam. (1 Cor. xv. 45.) Humanity in Him then reached its highest condition; no more under the law of sin and of death, but able to receive the fullness of the Spirit, and to be glorified with the glory of God. "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second Man is the Lord from heaven." As the second Adam, the quickening Spirit, He could give His heavenly life to all who came unto Him in faith. Believing, they were baptized into Him, made members of Him, branches in the Vine. In this gift of a new life there was no difference put between the Jew and the Gentile, bond or free, male or female. All the children of the first Adam might become the children of the Second.
Thus, both as the Crucified One and as the Second Adam, His relations to the world were universal. His sacrifice on the cross was for all. He was "the propitiation for the sins of the whole world." All who sought to be members of Him, were made in regeneration partakers of His life. "Go ye and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them." And those thus made disciples, without distinction of race or of sex, constituted the new election, the Christian Church. The Messiah exalted into heaven, and thus set free from all local and national bonds, can now be presented to all on the earth as their Saviour and Lord. He died for all; the gospel can be preached unto all. He is the Son of David, but He is more; He is the Son of man.