Written by Vladimir Moss



The Father of the Faithful


     Chapters 12 to 22 of Genesis represent, in symbolic and prophetic form, a brief but fully adequate summary of the central message of the Christian life. It is the story of Abraham, the man of faith - whose faith, however, had to be purified and strengthened through a series of trials, in each of which he was called to obey God by performing a work of faith. For in him “faith was working together with his works, and by works faith was made perfect” (James 2.22). These works of faith included: exile from his native land (Chaldea), separation from his relatives (Lot), struggle against the enemies of the faith (the four kings headed by the king of Babylon), struggle against his fallen desires (Pharaoh, Hagar) and, finally, the complete sacrifice of the heart to God (Isaac). To strengthen him on this path, Abraham was given bread and wine, a figure of the Body and Blood of Christ, by the priest-king Melchizedek, who was a type of Christ.[1]The strengthening of faith and the sharpening of hope that came from successfully passing these trials was crowned by the joy of love in the vision of God: “Abraham rejoiced to see My day: He saw it, and was glad” (John 8.56). And as a seal of the truth of this vision, which made the man of faith “an Israelite indeed”, that is, one who sees God, he received circumcision, a foretype both of Baptism by water and the Spirit, whereby all previous sins are washed away, and of the circumcision of the heart, whereby the desire to sin again in the future is cut off.


     All this was made possible by faith: faith in God’s promise to Abraham that from his seed would come the Seed, the Messiah and Saviour of the world, Jesus Christ (Galatians 3.16), in Whom all the nations of the world would be blessed. This meant, as St. Theophan the Recluse explains, that “the blessing given to him for his faith would be spread to all peoples, but not because of Abraham himself or all of his descendants, but because of One of his descendants – his Seed, Who is Christ; through Him all the tribes of the earth would receive the blessing.”[2]The supreme demonstration of Abraham’s faith was his belief that “God was able to raise [Isaac] from the dead” (Hebrews 11.19), which was a type of the Resurrection of Christ. Finally, Abraham is not only a model of the man of faith and the physical ancestor of Christ: he is spiritually the father of all the faithful, being a foretype of the Apostles, who are “in labour again until Christ is formed” in every Christian (Galatians 4.19).


The Peoples of the Covenant


     God’s promises to Abraham, which are known as the Abrahamic Covenant, were so important that they were proclaimed in at least eight different versions, or “drafts” (Genesis 12.1-3, 12.7, 12.13,14-17, 14.18-20, 15.1-19, 16.10-12, 17.1-22, 22.17-18). Each successive draft makes the Covenant a little more precise and far-reaching, in response to Abraham’s gradual increase in spiritual stature. Of particular interest in the context of this article are the promises concerning the relationship between the two peoples who descend from the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. Isaac is the true heir of Abraham, the freeborn son of Sarah, who inherits the promises and blessings given to Abraham in full measure, being also a man of faith of whom it is also said that in his Seed, Christ, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed (Genesis 26.3-4). Ishmael is the son of a slave, Hagar, and does not inherit those blessings, although he does receive the promise that his heirs will be strong and numerous.


     Now according to the popular conception, Isaac is the ancestor of the Jews, and Ishmael – of the Arab peoples. Certainly, the description of Ishmael’s race as “wild” and given to warfare that is given by the Angel of the Lord to Hagar in the desert (Genesis 16.10-12) appears to correspond closely, as St. Philaret of Moscow points out, to the character and life-style of the Arabs until Mohammed and beyond, who were constantly fighting and lived “in the presence of their brethren” – that is, near, or to the east of, the descendants of Abraham from his other concubine, Hetturah – the Ammonites, Moabites and Idumeans.[3]Moreover, a similar interpretation of the typology appears to stand true for the next generation, to Isaac’s sons Jacob and Esau, who are said to correspond to the Jews (Jacob), on the one hand, and the Idumeans (Esau), on the other. For this interpretation fits very well with the Lord’s words to Isaac’s wife Rebecca, that “two nations are in thy womb…, and the one people shall be stronger than the other people, and the elder [Esau] shall serve the younger [Jacob]” (Genesis 25.23), insofar as the Jews, from Jacob to David to the Hasmonean kings, almost always showed themselves to be stronger than the Idumeans and often held them in bondage. It was only towards the Coming of Christ that an Idumean, Herod the Great, reversed the relationship by killing the Hasmoneans and becoming the first non-Jewish king of Israel – the event which, according to the prophecy of Jacob, would usher in the reign of the Messiah (Genesis 49.10).


     In fact, however, the racial interpretation of the two peoples of the Covenant has only limited validity before the Coming of Christ, and none at all after. For, according to the inspired interpretation of the Apostle Paul, the two peoples – or two covenants, as he calls them - represent, not racial, but spiritual categories: “Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar – for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all.” (Galatians 4.22-26). In other words, Isaac stands for the Christians, both Jewish and Gentile, while Ishmael stands for the Jews who reject Christ. For the Christians, - and this includes the Jews before Christ who believed in His Coming, - become through faith in Christ the freeborn heirs of the promises made to Abraham and Isaac, whereas the Jews, by remaining slaves to the Law of Moses and refusing to believe in Christ, show themselves to be the children of the bondwoman, and therefore cannot inherit the promises together with the Christians. Moreover, it can be said of the Jews, as of the men of Ishmael’s race, that ever since they rejected Christ they have become “wild”, with their hands against all, and the hands of all against them, always striving for “freedom” but remaining voluntarily in slavery to the Law (and to their own kahal).[4]It may therefore be that the age-old phenomenon of mutual enmity between the Jews and the Gentiles, of anti-semitism and anti-Gentilism, is prophesied in these verses.


     That Isaac is the ancestor of Christ and the Christians is indicated also by his choice of wife, Rebecca, who signifies the Bride of Christ, or the Church. Rebecca is freeborn, being of the family of Abraham, and is an even closer image of the Church than Sarah; for she is Isaac's only wife as the Church is Christ's only Bride. Moreover, the Holy Fathers see in the story of the wooing of Rebecca a parable of Christ's wooing of the Church, in which Eleazar, signifying the Holy Spirit, conveyed Isaac's proposal to her at the well, which signifies Baptism, and gave her gifts of precious jewels, signifying the gifts of the Holy Spirit bestowed at Chrismation.[5]Ishmael, on the other hand, receives a wife from outside the holy family – from Egypt. And she is chosen for him, not by a trusted member of the family, but by his rejected mother, the slavewoman Hagar.


     The relationship between Isaac and Ishmael is almost exactly mirrored in the relationship between Isaac’s two sons, Jacob and Esau. Thus St. Philaret comments on the verse: “The Lord hath chosen Jacob unto Himself, Israel for His own possession” (Psalm 134.4), as follows: “This election refers in the first place to the person of Jacob, and then to his descendants, and finally and most of all to his spirit of faith: for ‘not all [coming from Israel] are of Israel’ (Romans 9.6). The two latter elections, that is, the election of the race of Israel, and the election of the spiritual Israel, are included in the first, that is, in the personal election of Jacob: the one prophetically, and the other figuratively.


     “The reality of this prefigurement in Holy Scripture is revealed from the fact that the Apostle Paul, while reasoning about the rejection of the carnal, and the election of the spiritual Israel, produces in explanation the example of Jacob and Esau (Romans 9), and also from the fact that the same Apostle, in warning the believing Jews against the works of the flesh, threatens them with the rejection of Esau (Hebrews 12.16, 17).


     “And so Jacob is an image, in the first place, of the spiritual Israel, or the Christian Church in general, and consequently Esau, on the contrary, is an image of the carnal Israel.


     “Esau and Jacob are twins, of whom the smaller overcomes the larger: in the same day the spiritual Israel was born together with the carnal, but, growing up in secret, is finally revealed and acquires ascendancy over him.


     “Isaac destines his blessing first of all to Esau, but then gives it to Jacob: in the same way the carnal Israel is given the promises from the Heavenly Father, but they are fulfilled in the spiritual [Israel].


     “While Esau looks for a hunting catch in order to merit his father’s blessing, Jacob, on the instructions of his mother, to whom God has revealed his destinies, puts on the garments of the first-born and seizes it before him. While the carnal Israel supposes that by the external works of the law it will acquire the earthly blessing of God, the spiritual Israel, with Grace leading it, having put on the garments of the merits and righteousness of the First-Born of all creation, ‘is blessed with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ’ (Ephesians 1.3).


     “The sword of battle and continuing slavery is given to the rejected Esau as his inheritance. And for the carnal Israel, from the time of its rejection, there remained only the sword of rebellion, inner enslavement and external humiliation.


     “The rejected Esau seeks the death of Jacob; but he withdraws and is saved. The rejected old Israel rises up to destroy the new; but God hides it in the secret of His habitation, and then exalts it in strength and glory…”[6]     


     As for the wives of Jacob, they also, like Isaac and Ishmael, and Jacob and Esau, signify the spiritual Israel of the Church and the carnal Israel of the non-believing Jews. Thus Leah, whom Jacob married first, signifies with her weak eyes and fertile womb the weak faith of the carnal Israel and its abundant offspring. (It is precisely blindness that “shall befall Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles shall come in” (Romans 11.25)). But Rachel, whom he married later but loved first and most strongly, signifies the New Testament Church, which the Lord loved first but married later; for the Church of the Gentiles, that of Enoch and Noah and Abraham before his circumcision, existed before that of Moses and David and the Old Testament Prophets. Moreover, Rachel brought forth her children in pain because the New Testament Church, brought forth her first children in the blood of martyrdom, and is destined to inherit spiritual blessedness only through suffering – “we must through many tribulations enter the Kingdom of God” (Acts 14.22).


The Judaizing of Christianity


     Since the two peoples of the covenant come from the same father, there is a family likeness between them, their destinies in history are intertwined, and the transition of individuals and groups from one people to the other is easier than to any third category or people outside the covenant (pagans or atheists). Thus the conversion of the Arabs, the original physical Ishmaelites, to Orthodox Christianity in the early Christian centuries (before Mohammed) is an example of transition from the spiritual category of unbelieving Ishmael to the spiritual category of believing Israel. Again, while the Jews have never converted en masse to Christianity, there have been individual conversions throughout the centuries.


     More common, alas, has been the reverse movement, the falling away of Christians into various forms of Judaizing heresy. We see this already in the Early Church – St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians is essentially a tract against the Judaizing of Christianity – and explicitly or implicitly Judaizing movements in Christianity have appeared many times since then. Islam, for example, contains many Judaizing elements. In fact, when Christians fall away from the True Faith, if they do not become complete pagans or atheists, they usually acquire traits of Judaism; for, as an anonymous Russian Christian writes, “Christianity without Christ reverts to Judaism”.[7]


     We see this, for example, in Roman Catholicism: at the time of the falling away of the Roman Church in the eleventh century, the Romans adopted wafers – that is, unleavened bread (azymes) - in the liturgy instead of the leavened bread of the Orthodox – a relapse from the New Testament to the Old. Thus St. Nicetas Stethatos, a monk of the Studite monastery in Constantinople, wrote to the Latins: “Those who still participate in the feast of unleavened bread are under the shadow of the law and consume the feast of the Jews, not the spiritual and living food of God… How can you enter into communion with Christ, the living God, while eating the dead unleavened dough of the shadow of the law and not the yeast of the new covenant…?”[8]


     The same Judaizing process is still more evident in Protestantism. Thus the Protestants adopted as their Old Testament Bible, not the Septuagint until then in use throughout the whole of Christendom, but the Massoretic text of the Jewish rabbis. Again, the Protestants’ chapel worship is similar to the Jews’ synagogue worship: in both we find the exaltation of Scripture reading and study above liturgical worship (although this is more principled in Protestantism – in Judaism it is necessitated by the destruction of the Temple in which alone, according to the Law, liturgical worship can take place). Again, the relationship between Church and State in many Calvinist communities was modelled on the Old Testament Israel in the period of Moses and the Judges. Thus A.P. Lopukhin writes: "On examining the structure of the Mosaic State, one is involuntarily struck by its similarity to the organisation of the state structure in the United States of Northern America." "The tribes in their administrative independence correspond exactly to the states, each of which is a democratic republic." The Senate and Congress "correspond exactly to the two higher groups of representatives in the Mosaic State - the 12 and 70 elders." "After settling in Palestine, the Israelites first (in the time of the Judges) established a union republic, in which the independence of the separate tribes was carried through to the extent of independent states."[9]Indeed, for the Pilgrim Fathers, their colonisation of America was like Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land. Just as the Canaanites had to be driven out from the Promised Land, so did the Red Indians from America. And just as Church and State were organically one in Joshua’s Israel, so it was in the Pilgrim Fathers’ America.


     Protestantism, especially in America, also acquired the distinctly Judaistic trait of the deification of materialism, the pursuit of material prosperity, not simply for its own sake, but as a proof that God is with you. “This Jewish materialistic approach,” writes the anonymous Russian Christian, “openly or more subtly, under the appearance of various social theories and philosophical systems, encroaches upon the consciousness of Christians, breaking down the Christian nations. In particular the penetration into the Christian consciousness of this Judaistic idea explains many heresies, the rise of Islam, the substitution of Christianity with humanism, altruism, Marxism and separatist nationalism. Nationalism, which at times takes on an anti-Semitic character, at other times ends up in union with Judaism; in any event it is the reverse side of Jewish philosophy. A nation is truly attractive only in that part of it which is Christian. On the other hand, separatist nationalism, that is the extolling of a nation because it is a particular nation, refers back to the incorrect and prideful Jewish understanding of their chosenness, when they boast, ‘We are the children of Abraham’.


     “This activity of Judaistic philosophy is responsible for the striving towards the worldly in Christian societies, the wasting of spiritual talents for the worldly, that is, the burying of them, which explains the direction of present-day civilization towards ‘progress’, the ruining of our planet, modern pagan art, and so on.


     “Thus the Jews may obtain supremacy, resulting from the breakdown of the Christian peoples, that is, from an open or subtle falling away from Christianity, which can be viewed as a direct influence of Jewish philosophy. In the end they will bring forth from their midst the Antichrist, their messiah, upon whom they hope…”[10]


     In still more recent times, Western Christianity as a whole has adopted another, still more fundamental trait of Judaism: its adogmatic character, making it, like Judaism, a religion, not so much of faith, as of works. Thus L.A. Tikhomirov writes: “It is now already for nineteen centuries that we have been hearing from Jewish thinkers that the religious essence of Israel consists not in a concept about God, but in the fulfilment of the Law. Above were cited such witnesses from Judas Galevy. The very authoritative Ilya del Medigo (15th century) in his notable Test of Faith says that ‘Judaism is founded not on religious dogma, but on religious acts’.


     “But religious acts are, in essence, those that are prescribed by the Law. That means: if you want to be moral, carry out the Law. M. Mendelsohn formulates the idea of Jewry in the same way: ‘Judaism is not a revealed religion, but a revealed Law. It does not say ‘you must believe’, but ‘you must act’. In this constitution given by God the State and religion are one. The relationships of man to God and society are merged. It is not lack of faith or heresy that attracts punishment, but the violation of the civil order. Judaism gives not obligatory dogmas and recognizes the freedom of inner conviction.’


     “Christianity says: you must believe in such-and-such a truth and on the basis of that you must do such-and-such. New [i.e. Talmudic] Judaism says: you can believe as you like, but you have to do such-and-such. But this is a point of view that annihilates man as a moral personality…”[11]


     Of course, the works prescribed by Talmudic Judaism are very different from those prescribed by Christ: the one kind enslaves and debases while the other liberates and exalts. However, in the last resort works without faith, according the Gospel, are useless; for works are only valuable as the expression of faith, faith in the truth – it is the truth that sets man free (John 8.32). So contemporary Christians’ adoption of the Jewish ethic of works, and loss of zeal for dogmatic truth, is a kind of slow but steady spiritual suicide…


     The logical conclusion of the apostasy of the Christian world and its reversion to Judaism will be, as St. Paul prophesies, the appearance of “the man of sin”, the Antichrist (II Thessalonians 2.3). He will become the king of the Jews, will rebuild the Temple and reintroduce the Mosaic Law and Temple worship in its fullness, with the worship of himself as Messiah and God as its centre and culminating point. And so Judaism will finally acquire a positive dogma, that the Antichrist is God, to supplement its negative dogma, that Jesus Christ is not God; and the Christian world, the spiritual Israel, will finally dissolve into the carnal Israel – with the exception, however, of a heroic “remnant of Israel”…


The Christianizing of Judaism


     Although the spiritual Israel is blessed, while the carnal Israel is accursed, still an important promise is given to the carnal Israel: that it will live in accordance with Abraham’s petition: “Let this Ishmael live before Thee” (Genesis 17.18). This life cannot be spiritual, because that is promised only to the spiritual Israel. So it must be carnal – physical survival and worldly power. At the same time, St. Ambrose admits the possibility that Abraham’s powerful petition could win spiritual life for some of the Jews – but only, of course, if they cease to belong to the carnal Israel and join the spiritual Israel through faith in Christ. For “it is the attribute of the righteous man [Abraham] to intercede even for sinners; therefore, let the Jews believe this too, because Abraham stands surety even for them, provided they will believe…”[12]


     The promise of physical life and prosperity has certainly been fulfilled in the extraordinary tenacity of the Jewish race, its survival in the face of huge obstacles to the present day, and - since its gradual emancipation from the ghetto in the nineteenth century, - its domination of world politics and business in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. However, the successes of the Jews in worldly terms have been so great that many Evangelical Protestants have been tempted to ascribe it, not to God’s promise to Ishmael, but to his promise to Isaac. Reversing the interpretation of the Apostle Paul, they have made of the carnal Israel “the chosen people”, “the blessed seed” - and this in spite of the fact that this “chosen people” not only does not believe in Christ, but has been the foremost enemy of those who do believe in Christ for the last two thousand years!


     In fact, “it may be,” as the anonymous Russian writer has suggested, “that the very preservation up until now of the Jewish people is a result not of their being ‘chosen’, but as a result of their apostasy”. For, having renounced their birthright, the Kingdom of God, they have received a “mess of pottage” instead – the promise of physical survival and worldly power. “If the Jews, having repented of the crime committed on Golgotha, would have become Christian, then they would have made up the foundation of a new spiritual nation, the nation of Christians. Would they have begun to strive in this case to preserve their nationality and government? Would they not have dispersed among other nations as the missionaries of Christianity just as the Apostles? Would they not have been strangers in a foreign land, not having a fatherland, like unto Abraham, but in this case with a higher spiritual meaning? All this happened with the Jews, that is, they became wanderers, not in a positive spiritual sense, but due to a curse, that is, not of their own will, but due to the will of chastising Providence since they did not fulfil that which God intended for them. Would they not have been exterminated en masse during persecutions as the main preachers of Christianity? Would they not have been assimilated among other peoples, so that the very name ‘Jew’, ‘Hebrew’, as a national name, would have disappeared and would have only remained in the remembrance of grateful nations as the glorious name of their enlighteners? Yes, and the very Promised Land and Jerusalem were given to the Hebrews not as a worldly fatherland, for which they are now striving, but as a prefiguration of the Heavenly Kingdom and the Heavenly Jerusalem, as a token of which Abraham and through him all the Hebrew nation coming out of Haran, renounced their earthly fatherland. For this reason the very significance of Jerusalem and the idea as a prefigurement would have passed away for the Jews, as soon as the Kingdom of God and the Heavenly Jerusalem would have become obtainable for them and would have become for them, as they are now for us, Christian holy places.”[13]


     By elevating the carnal Israel into the spiritual Israel, the Protestants fill up a major spiritual and emotional gap in their world-view; for, having rejected both the concept of the Church, and the reality of it in Orthodoxy, they have to find a substitute for it somewhere else. And so we have the paradoxical sight of the State of Israel, one of the main persecutors of Christianity in the contemporary world, which forbids conversions of Jews to Christianity and has driven out the majority of the Orthodox Christian population, being ardently supported by the Evangelical Protestants of the Anglo-Saxon countries. There have even been several attempts by Evangelicals to blow up the mosque of the Dome of the Rock, in order to make it possible for the Jews to build their Temple again – the Temple of the Antichrist!


     However, before dismissing this delusion out of hand, we need to study the arguments that the Evangelicals produce in favour of it. And one of the most important of these is that Israel’s success has been prophesied and blessed by God in the Abrahamic Covenant. In particular, they argue that God promised to the descendants of Abraham the whole land of Israel from the Nile to the Euphrates, which promise has been almost fulfilled since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, and that this would be their heritage forever (Genesis 13.15, 15.18).


     In reply to this argument, we may note the following:-


1.      God’s prophecies are never fulfilled approximately, but always exactly. The prophecy of the Jews’ winning control of the whole area from the Nile to the Euphrates was fulfilled exactly in the time of Kings David and Solomon (II Kings 8.3, II Chronicles 9.26). But the modern-day Jews have not emulated this feat: they reached the Suez Canal, but not the Nile very briefly in 1967, and have never reached the Euphrates.

2.      Even if the boundaries of the State of Israel were to extend this far at some point in the future, this would still be an achievement of the carnal Israel (unless Israel would have been converted to Christ by that time), and therefore would not be something to rejoice in as if it were blessed by God, but rather to be bemoaned as an extension of the kingdom of the Antichrist.

3.      According to St. Philaret of Moscow, the Hebrew word translated as forever (I will give it to thee and to thy seed forever” (13.15)) can mean no more than an indefinite period of time.[14]Even if we accept St. John Chrysostom’s interpretation, that it means in perpetuity,[15]this can only mean until the end of the world. For it is only “the meek” – that is, the Christians - who “will inherit the earth” in the age to come…


     However, this is not the only argument of the Evangelicals. They also point to the many Biblical prophecies that speak of the return of the Jews to the land of Israel and their conversion to Christ. Some Orthodox Christians reject the Evangelical interpretation of some of these passages on the grounds that all the as-yet-unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel in fact refer to the New Testament Israel, the Church. However, it is impossible to allegorize these prophecies to such an extent that all references to the race of the Jews and to the physical land of Israel are excluded. In any case, even if, as I shall argue, some of these prophecies do refer to the return of the Jews to the Holy Land and their conversion to Holy Orthodoxy, they do not justify the Evangelicals’ positive attitude to the carnal Israel that remains unrepentant and unbelieving. So let us now examine these prophecies:-


     1. Malachi 4.5, 6: “I will send you Elijah the Tishbite, who will restore the heart of the father to the son, lest I come and utterly smite the earth”. That this passage indeed refers to the conversion of the Jews through the Prophet Elijah is confirmed by Christ Himself: “Elijah is indeed coming first and restores all things” (Mark 9.12) as one of the two witnesses against the Antichrist (Revelation 11). And St. John Chrysostom explains that the reason for Elijah’s coming is that “he may persuade the Jews to believe in Christ, so they may not all utterly perish at His coming... Hence the extreme accuracy of the expression: He did not say ‘He will restore the heart of the son to the father’, but ‘of the father to the son’. For the Jews being father to the apostles, His meaning is that He will restore to the doctrines of their sons, that is, of the apostles, the hearts of the fathers, that is, the Jewish people’s mind.”[16]


     2. Ezekiel 36-39. In chapter 36 the Prophet Ezekiel describes how the Jews will be gathered back into the land of Israel, and there converted and baptized: “For I will take you from the nations, and gather you from all the countries, and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water upon you [baptism], and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses… And you shall be My people, and I will be your God” (36.24-25, 28). Then comes the famous vision of the dry bones (ch. 37), which is an allegorical description of the resurrection of the Jews to true faith when they appeared to be completely devoid of it. Then comes the invasion of Israel by Gog and Magog (ch. 38), and the description of how the Jews will spend seven months clearing up after the destruction of the invaders (ch. 39). And then the Prophet says: “All the nations shall know that the house of Israel was led captive because of their sins, because they rebelled against Me, and I turned My face from them, and delivered them into the hands of their enemies, and they all fell by the sword. According to their uncleanness and according to their transgressions did I deal with them, and I turned My face from them. Therefore thus saith the Lord God, Now will I turn back captivity in Jacob, and will have mercy on the house of Israel, and will be jealous for the sake of My holy name” (39.23-25).


     3. Jeremiah 3.16-18: “Then it shall come to pass, when you are multiplied and increased in the land in those days, says the Lord, that they will say no more, ‘The ark of the covenant of the Lord’. It shall not come to mind, nor shall they remember it, nor shall they visit it, nor shall it be made anymore. At that time Jerusalem shall be called the Throne of the Lord, and all the nations shall be gathered to it, to the name of the Lord, to Jerusalem. Nor more shall they follow the dictates of their evil hearts. In those days the house of Judah shall walk with the house of Israel, and they shall come together out of the land of the north to the land that I have given as an inheritance to your fathers.”


     4. Zephaniah 3.10-13, 18-20: “From beyond the rivers of Ethiopia My suppliants, the daughter of My dispersed ones, shall bring Me offering. On that day you shall not be put to shame because of the deeds by which you have rebelled against Me; for then I will remove from your midst your proudly exultant ones, and you shall no longer be haughty in My holy mountain. For I will leave in the midst of you a people humble and lowly. They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord, those who are left in Israel... I will remove disaster from you, so that you will not bear reproach for it. Behold, at that time I will deal with all your oppressors, and I will save the lame and gather the outcast, and I will change their shame into praise and renown in all the earth. At that time I will bring you home, at the time when I gathered you together; yea, I will make you renowned and praised among all the peoples of the earth, when I restore your fortunes before your eyes, says the Lord.”


     5. Zechariah 12-14. In chapters 12 and 13 the Prophet Zechariah appears to describe how the Jews come to a profound repentance for their apostasy from Christ: “I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and compassion; and they shall look on Me Whom they pierced” (i.e. the Crucified Christ), “and they shall mourn for Him, as one mourns over a first-born” (12.10). “In that day a fountain shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleanness [baptism]” (13.1). In chapter 14 a great disaster overtakes the people, and “half the city shall go into captivity” (14.2). But the Lord will fight for Israel, and finally, after a great war, “it shall come to pass that everyone who is left of all the nations that came against Jerusalem shall go up from year to year to worship the King, the Lord of hosts, and to keep the Feast of Tabernacles” (14.16). Now the mention of the feast of Tabernacles may lead to the thought that this is a Judaic feast, and so the context is the whole world going up to Jerusalem to pray at the Judaic feast – perhaps even to worship the Antichrist! However, in the context it is much more natural to interpret this as being a true, Christian feast, probably the Christian fulfilment of the feast of Tabernacles.


     6. Romans 11.15, 25-27: “For if their [the Jews’] being cast away is the reconciling of the world [the Gentiles’ conversion], what will their acceptance be but life from the dead?... For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved.”


     Origen explains this passage well: “Now indeed, until all the Gentiles come to salvation, the riches of God are concentrated in the multitude of [Gentile] believers, but as long as Israel remains in its unbelief it will not be possible to say that the fullness of the Lord’s portion has been attained. The people of Israel are still missing from the complete picture. But when the fullness of the Gentiles has come in and Israel comes to salvation at the end of time, then it will be the people which, although it existed long ago, will come at the last and complete the fullness of the Lord’s portion and inheritance.”[17]


     For, as St. Cyril of Alexandria says, “Although it was rejected, Israel will also be saved eventually… Israel will be saved in its own time and will be called at the end, after the calling of the Gentiles.”[18]


     What does “all Israel” mean in this context? Blessed Theodoret of Cyr says: “’All Israel’ means all those who believe, whether Jews… or Gentiles.”[19]So when “the fullness of the Gentiles” has been gathered into the granary of the Church, and then “the fullness of the Jews”, we will be able to say that “all Israel” has been saved – that is, the whole of “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6.16), the Church of Christ.

     7. Revelation 3.8: “Behold, says the Lord to the Angel of the Church of Philadelphia, I will make them of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie; behold, I will make them to come and make obeisance before they feet, and to know that I have loved thee.”

     Holy New Hieromartyr Mark (Novoselov) comments on this: “[St. John] with complete clarity speaks about the conversion of the God-fighting people to the Church of Christ, when she, few in numbers and powerless from an external point of view, but powerful with an inner strength and faithfulness to her Lord (Revelation 3.8) will draw to herself the ‘remnant’ of the God-fighting tribe.

     "Gazing with the eye of faith at that which the Lord has done before our eyes, and applying the ear of our heart and mind to the events of our days, comparing that which is seen and heard with the declarations of the Word of God, I cannot but feel that a great, wonderful and joyous mystery of God's economy is coming towards us: the Judaizing haters and persecutors of the Church of God, who are striving to subdue and annihilate her, by the wise permission of Providence will draw her to purification and strengthening, so as ‘to present her [to Christ] as a glorious Church, having no spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but so that she should be holy and blameless’ (Ephesians 6.27).

     "And in His time, known only to the One Lord of time, this, according to the son of thunder's strict expression ‘synagogue of Satan’ will bow before the pure Bride of Christ, conquered by her holiness and blamelessness and, perhaps, frightened by the image of the Antichrist. And if the rejection of the Apostle Paul's fellow-countrymen was, in his words, ‘the reconciliation of the world [with God], what will be their acceptance if not life from the dead?’ (Romans 11.15)."[20]

     The famous monarchist writer Lev Tikhomirov agrees with this interpretation: “Is this conversion of the Jews that salvation of ‘all Israel’ which the Apostle Paul foretold? In the Apocalypse it is said that the saved will come ‘of the synagogue of Satan, who say they are Jews, and are not, but do lie’. But not the whole of the ‘synagogue’ will come, but only ‘of the synagogue’, that is, a part of it. But even here, where the Apostle Paul says that ‘the whole of Israel will be saved’, he means only a part: ‘for they are not all Israel, which are of Israel… 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).

     “The opinion is widespread among us that the conversion of the Jews will take place at the very appearance of the Saviour, when they shall cry out: ‘Blessed is He That cometh in the name of the Lord’. But this is not evident from the Apocalypse. But if the Philadelphian conversion will bring ‘all Israel’ that is to be saved to Christ, then this will, of course, be a great event, fully explaining the rejoicing of the Heavens. Israel is a chosen people with whom it will not be possible to find a comparison when he begins to do the work of God. The Jews will, of course, multiply the forces of Christianity for the resistance against the Antichrist. ‘If the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world,’ says the Apostle Paul, ‘what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?’ (Romans 11.15).”[21]

      7. Revelation 7.4: “And I heard the number of those who were sealed; and there were sealed a hundred and forty and four thousand of all the tribes of the children of Israel.”This sealing,” writes Archbishop Averky of Syracuse and Jordanville, “will begin with the Israelites, who before the end of the world will be converted to Christ, as St. Paul predicts (Romans 9.27, 11.26). In each of the twelve tribes there will be twelve thousand sealed, and 144,000 in all. Of these tribes only the tribe of Dan is not mentioned, because from it, according to tradition, will come the Antichrist. In place of the tribe of Dan is mentioned the priestly tribe of Levi which previously had not entered into the twelve tribes. Such a limited number is mentioned, perhaps, in order to show how small is the number of the sons of Israel who are saved in comparison with the uncountable multitude of those who have loved the Lord Jesus Christ from among all the other formerly pagan people of the earth.”[22]


     So the carnal Israel can and will be saved. But only, it must be emphasized again, by ceasing to be the carnal Israel and becoming part of the spiritual. For the carnal and the spiritual Israels, though related through their common father, and constantly intertwined in history, are mutually incompatible…      




     We are now in a better position to understand the relationship between the two “great nations” who come from Abraham and who are given promises in the Abrahamic Covenant. For clarity’s sake we shall refer to two covenants, or promises, the one referring to the spiritual Israel and the other to the carnal Israel. The two covenants are both complementary and contrary to each other. The spiritual Israel is promised spiritual blessings: salvation and the Kingdom of Heaven, while the carnal Israel is promised carnal blessings: survival and the kingdom of this world; for this is what the Jews confessed that they belonged to when they declared to the ruler of this world: “We have no other king than Caesar” (John 19, 15). And so it has turned out in history: the children of the spiritual Israel, consisting of people from many nations, both Jews and Gentiles, have been given salvation in Christ, while the children of the carnal Israel, having lost salvation, have nevertheless survived many centuries of oppression and humiliation, and have achieved worldly power – and power over the spiritual Israel, too, in places like Israel and Soviet Russia. The worldly power of the carnal Israel is destined to reach its peak at the end of the world, in the time of the Jewish Antichrist. At the same time, however, - or perhaps before – the spiritual Israel will achieve her greatest victory – the conversion of many, perhaps most of the children of the carnal Israel to Christ.


     Since the carnal Israel is promised physical life and power, it is no wonder that since the Balfour Declaration of 1917, and especially since the foundation of the State of Israel in 1948, it has regained power over the land of Israel, driving out most of the Christians in the process, and may well recapture all the land from the Nile to the Euphrates, as was promised in the Abrahamic Covenant. But it is important to understand that such a reconquest, if it takes place, will not be by virtue of the Jews being the chosen people, as they and their Evangelical allies believe, but by virtue of the exact opposite: of their being the accursed people. For the people that is carnal is given physical gifts that are appropriate to its carnal desires.


     As for the spiritual Israel, the meek and the righteous Israel, it is not in this age that it will inherit the earth, as was promised by God. It will be given to it only after this present world has perished in its present form, and has been renewed and transformed into the conditions of the original Paradise. For “we, according to the promise, look for new heavens and a new earth in which righteousness dwells” (II Peter 3.13). That is the Promised Land of the Saints. Moreover, since corruptible “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom” (I Corinthians 15.50), they will receive it, not in their present corruptible bodies, but in that “earth”, the glorious body of the resurrection, which they will inherit at the Coming of Christ…


     St. Seraphim of Sarov prophesied that at the end of the world there would be only two important nations: the Russians and the Jews, and that the Antichrist would be a Jew born in Russia. However, the Russians and the Jews will not be strictly racial but spiritual categories, corresponding to the categories of the two sons of Abraham, Isaac and Ishmael. The Russians will be the leading Christian nation, and any other Christian nation that does not want to be destroyed spiritually by being merged into Judaism will have to follow the lead of Russia (Isaiah 60.12). And the Jews will be the leading antichristian nation, to which all those nations who have fallen away from Christianity will submit. But we have seen that it is precisely in the very last times that large numbers of Jews will be converted to Christ. How fitting, then, if the Russian nation which has suffered most from the antichristian Jews in the terrible Russian-Jewish revolution, should finally convert them to Christianity, so that the former bitter enemies, reconciled in the Body of Christ, should fight together against the Russian-Jewish Antichrist!


                                                                                                                                    June 2/15, 2008.


[1] However, Mar Jacob considered it to be no figure of the Eucharist but the Eucharist itself: "None, before the Cross, entered this order of spiritual ministration, except this man alone. Beholding the just Abraham worthy of communion with him, he separated part of his oblation and took it out to him to mingle him therewith. He bore forward bread and wine, but Body and Blood went forth, to make the Father of the nations a partaker of the Lord's Mysteries." ("A Homily on Melchizedek", translated in The True Vine, Summer, 1989, no. 2, p. 44)

[2] St. Theophan, Tolkovanie na Poslanie k Galatam (Interpretation of the Epistle to the Galatians), 3.16 (in Russian).

[3] St. Philaret, Zapiski rukovodstvuiuschia  k osnovatel’nomu razumeniu Knigi Bytia (Notes leading to a Basic Understanding of the Book of Genesis), Moscow, 1867, part 2, p. 98 (in Russian).

[4]St. Philaret, Zapiski, p. 100.

[5] St. Ambrose of Milan, On Isaac, or the Soul.

[6] St. Philaret, Zapiski, part 3, pp. 27-28.

[7]“How to understand the Jews as being a chosen people”, Orthodox Life, vol. 41, no. 4, July-August, 1991, pp. 38-41.

[8] St. Nicetas, in Jean Comby, How to Read Church History, London: SCM Press, 1985, vol. 1, p. 132.

[9]Lopukhin, A.P. Zakonodatel'stvo Moisea (The Legislation of Moses). Saint Petersburg, 1888, p. 233; quoted in Alexeyev, N.N. “Khristianstvo i Idea Monarkhii” (“Christianity and the Idea of the Monarchy”), Put' (The Way), 6, January, 1927, p. 557 (in Russian).

[10] “How to understand the Jews as being a chosen people”, op. cit.

[11] Tikhomirov, Religiozno-filosofskie Osnovy Istorii (The Religio-Historical Foundations of History), Moscow, 1997, pp. 379, 380 (in Russian).

[12] St. Ambrose, On Abraham, 88.

[13]“How to understand the Jews as being a chosen people”, op. cit.

[14] St. Philaret, Zapiski, p. 69.

[15]St. John Chrysostom, Homily 34 on Genesis, 9. The Greek phrase from the Septuagint is: eis ton aiona, literally: “to the age”.

[16] St. John Chrysostom, Homily 57 on Matthew, 1.

[17] Origen, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans.

[18] St. Cyril of Alexandria, Explanation of the Letter to the Romans, P.G. 74: 849.

[19] Blessed Theodoret of Cyr, Interpretation of the Letter to the Romans, P.G. 82: 180. Metropolitan Anthony (Khrapovitsky) interprets this passage to mean that all of the Jews will be saved: “Not of a single people - not of the Russians, or of the Greeks - has it been said that all of their descendants will be saved in due time, as this is said of the Jews” (“Sermon on the Sunday of the Myrrh-bearing women”, 1903; Living Orthodoxy, N 83, vol. XIV, no. 5, September-October, 1992, p. 37). But this is surely a mistake. We know that the Antichrist, for one, will be a Jew and will not be saved.

[20] Hieromartyr Mark, Pisma k Druziam (Letters to Friends), Moscow, 1994, p. 125 (in Russian). See also pp. 103-104.

[21] Tikhomirov, Religioznie-Filosofskie Osnovy Istorii (The Religious-Philosophical Foundations of History), Moscow, 1997, p. 570 (in Russian).

[22] Archbishop Averky, Rukovodstvo k izucheniu Sviaschennago Pisania Novago Zaveta (Guide to the Study of the Sacred Scriptures of the New Testament), Jordanville, N.Y. Holy Trinity Monastery, 1987, pp. 406-407 (in Russian).

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