"I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for us? Then said I, Here am I; send me. And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear ye indeed, but understand not; and see ye indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed. Then said I, Lord, how long? And he answered, Until the cities be wasted without inhabitant, and the houses without man, and the land be utterly desolate, And the LORD have removed men far away, and there be a great forsaking in the midst of the land" (Isaiah 6:8-12).
This was God's message to Isaiah upon his commission as the prophet to the two Hebrew kingdoms in the generation when Assyria conquered Israel and unsuccessfully attempted to conquer Judah. The two kingdoms, rooted in two separate houses (Leah's and Rachel's: Ruth 4:11) from the very beginning of the 12-tribe people-group called the Hebrews, were at that time at war – and the Judeans for the first time were called Jews to distinguish them from the Israelites (2 Kings 16:6).
There would be a near-term partial fulfillment of the Isaiah 6 prophecy (perhaps better defined as an "iteration of the desolation-of-Jerusalem biblical pattern") in the Babylonian conquest of Judah a century and a half later, and another partial fulfillment (by the Romans) following the earthly ministry of Our Lord.
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When Jesus began His ministry in Galilee of the Gentiles, the former territory of the Kingdom of Israel, He made it very clear that "I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel" (Matthew 15:24), which was a prophetically important restatement of the limitation He imposed when He sent out "The Twelve" (Matthew 10:5-6). The number was 12 because both Hebrew houses by this time included members of all 12 tribes, but the distinction between the two houses remained because the House of Israel had been "divorced" by God and went fully pagan, and the House of Judah had not (Jeremiah 3, especially verse 8, Hosea 1-3).
Having fulfilled various key prophecies by giving the House of Israel "first dibs" on salvation in His name, Jesus then broadened the franchise to "all the families of the earth" (Genesis 12:3), by sending out "The Seventy" (numerologically representative of the Table of Nations of Genesis 10: the 70 patriarchs descended from Noah).
The Jews were a special case, however, because authentic Torah-based Judaism implicitly assumed that the House of Judah would recognize its Messiah when He came: All the biblical writings and rituals had been designed to prepare them for that. But Judaism had been severely corrupted in the years immediately preceding His first coming: the Jewish political world had been hijacked by the Edomite Herod the Great (who, with Roman backing, had slaughtered the entire Hasmonean royal family – the descendants of the righteous Judah Maccabee who had overthrown the Antichrist figure Antiochus IV Epiphanes of Daniel 11). And internally, the cult of hyper-legalism called Phariseeism dominated the religion.
All of this is enormously important in understanding why Jesus invoked Isaiah 6:9-10 in Mark 4:11-12, saying, "The mystery of the kingdom of God has been given to you, but to those on the outside everything is expressed in parables, so that, 'they may be ever seeing but never perceiving, and ever hearing but never understanding; otherwise they might turn and be forgiven.'"
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The "outsiders" were (and are) those who, because of lack of familiarity and/or spiritual discernment, could not recognize the teachings of the Tanach (Old Testament), which His parables conveyed in the form of symbols, metaphors and textual landmarks. The Herodians, Pharisees and Non-Hebrews would not understand the hidden deeper meaning of the parables, even if they understood the surface meaning. The best example of this phenomenon is the parable most closely implicated by the "sibling rivalry" context of Isaiah 6: the Parable of the Prodigal Son.
The surface meaning of the Prodigal Son parable happens to be one of the most profound truths of Christianity: that God welcomes back repentant sinners no matter how far they have fallen away from Him. The very clarity of this powerful message of God's grace and mercy makes it the perfect cover for a deeper meaning that only Christ's disciples and Torah-faithful Hebrews would have understood. But importantly, the surface meaning is not in the slightest degree diminished by the deeper message, a fact that is critical to remember when grappling with the following revelation. Many Bible truths do not fit the Hellenic two dimensional perspective, which insists "either this/or that must be true exclusively," but rather fit the Hebrew multi-dimensional perspective, which recognizes "both this/and that can be simultaneously true."
What is the deeper message of the Parable of the Prodigal Son? It is the summary of a prominent prophecy that is repeated many times throughout the Old Testament and subtly referenced throughout the New Testament: the reunification of the two Hebrew houses in the Millennial Kingdom. Only those who appreciate the spiritual and historical significance of the two house prophecy will recognize it, but once the blinders of unfamiliarity are removed, the truth is glaringly obvious to anyone with eyes to see.
"Very simply, the father in the parable is God. The older son is Judah, and the younger (prodigal) son is Joseph. These are the two actual sons of Jacob's wives Leah and Rachel, respectively (the human roots of the two houses and later two kingdoms of Judah and Israel). Joseph, who is represented by his son Ephraim among the 12 tribes (as the symbolic head of the House of Israel – Jeremiah 31:9), led his house into idolatrous rebellion against God so egregiously that God "divorced" the House of Israel and sent him/them away to live among the Gentiles. God then made a way for Israel to be restored that simultaneously opened the door to salvation for the Gentiles. To allay any doubt of His intended meaning (to the alert Hebrew listeners), Jesus designed the parable to directly parallel the metaphorical restoration of the figurative "Prodigal Son" to the historical restoration of the actual prodigal son Joseph (the patriarch of the House of Israel) by Pharaoh in Genesis 41 (note especially the symbolic significance of the ring and robe in the Genesis account, and of the sandals in Ruth 4:7)." The foregoing is from my latest book "The Prodigal Son Prophecy," which I am now publishing in serial form as a set of PDFs available freely by request.
There will be objections to my thesis from those who believe that the prophecies of the reunion of the two Hebrew houses were fulfilled in the era of the second temple construction, and from post-millennialists and a-milliennialists who reject the notion of a still-future millennial kingdom. As a biblical literalist studying the New Testament from a first century cultural perspective, I found both sets of arguments easy to refute.
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A tougher group of critics are the Jew-haters of the growing anti-Zionism fringe of Christendom whose core theology rests on "supersessionism," better known as "replacement theology." This unbiblical doctrine holds that the Christian church fully replaced the Hebrews as the recipients of God's promises. As a key theological premise of Roman Catholicism (which was unfortunately not jettisoned during the Reformation), "replacement theology" is the primary root of Christian anti-Semitism throughout the ages.
The anti-Zionists are a tougher group not because their arguments are stronger, but because (generally speaking) their allegiance to their cause is emotional and not intellectual. With some exceptions, the anti-Zionists literally hate Jews, and this prevents them from admitting the clear teaching of Romans 11 (and many other passages) that the House of Judah was not rejected by God when He created the path of restoration for the House of Israel into which the Gentile world has flooded for 2,000 years. I'll write more on this later.