The Vineyard of God

By John David Clark, Sr. - November, 1992

"Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt.
Thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it.
Psalm 80:8

"The vineyard of the Lord of Hosts is the house of Israel, and the men of Judah his pleasant plant."
Isaiah 5:7

God cast the heathen out of the land of Canaan and planted His vineyard, the Israelites, in Canaan after rescuing them from Egyptian slavery. He fed them "angels' food" in the wilderness and gave them His Law to guide them in ways of righteousness. He cherished them and shielded them from those who would do them harm. Said Moses, "What nation is there so great, who hath God so nigh unto them, as the Lord our God is in all things that we call upon him for? And what nation is there so great, that hath statutes and judgments so righteous as all this law, which I set before you this day?" (Dt. 4:7-8).

Unfortunately, not everyone in Israel shared Moses's exuberance and gratitude for God's grace, and the immorality which idolatry breeds ruined Israel's life. God grieved as a husband would grieve for a wife who had committed adultery against him: "Thou hast taken thy fair jewels of my gold and of my silver, which I had given thee, and madest to thyself images of men, and didst commit whoredom with them. . . . Turn, O backsliding children, saith the Lord, for I am married unto you. . . . (Ezek. 16:17; Jer. 3:14). Finally, after centuries of pleading through the prophets, who were rejected and persecuted for their efforts, God made the heart-rending decision to reject His beloved nation of Israel, the "apple of his eye". When the time came for this tragic event to take place, Jesus warned the leaders of Israel of its nearness (Mt. 21:33-43 NKJV).

"`There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard, set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a tower, and leased it to vinedressers, and went into a far country. And when the time for fruit drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive the fruit of it. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. But last of all he sent his son unto them, saying, They will respect my son. But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance. And they caught him, cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?’

They said to him, `He will miserably destroy those wicked men, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.’

Jesus said to them. . . . `Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits thereof. . . .’

And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he was speaking of them."

The vineyard of God prior the coming of the holy Ghost in Acts 2:4 was "the house of Israel", whose leaders were these wicked vinedressers, who had beaten, stoned, or killed many of the ancient prophets of God. And when at last God sent His own Son into the world, they conspired to murder him as well. Yes, Jesus "came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God." (Jn. 1:11-12).

The Jews held a position under the Old Covenant similar to that of the church under this New Covenant; that is, they were the vineyard of God then, as the church is the vineyard now. And just as very many of the chosen people in the Old Covenant were disobedient and rebellious against God's Law, many of those in God’s Church are disobedient today. Not all who hear the gospel, repent of sin, and are baptized by the Spirit into the Church will continue afterwards to live morally pure lives. They may be, as Israel was, the chosen people of God; still, only those in the church who obey the Father will be saved from the flames of the lake of fire. "I am the true Vine," Jesus explained, "and my Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, He taketh away. . . . If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered. And men [angels] gather them and cast them into the fire, and they are burned" (Jn. 15:1,2,6).

The vineyard of God was drastically pruned after the death of Jesus, leaving only a remnant of the house of Israel still walking with God, thus making room for us Gentiles to enter the kingdom. In order for the Jews, who belonged to God, to continue to be the people of God, they were required to acknowledge Jesus as the Messiah. It is with this understanding that Jesus prayed to his Father, "Thine they were, and thou gavest them unto me." Relatively speaking, only a few of the Jews believed in Christ Jesus, and those who did not believe were rejected by God. The Jews who did believe were a very special group, for they were in the vineyard of God all the way from the cradle to the grave! They were not cast out when the vineyard was pruned at Pentecost, nor were they grafted in, as the Gentiles later were. They were the chosen of God all their lives.

Faithful Until The End

Lest we Gentiles should begin to be proud against the original people of God who were cut off in unbelief, the Apostle Paul gave us this prudent, sobering warning: "Boast not thyself against the branches [Jews].... Thou wilt say then, the branches were broken off, that I [Gentiles] might be grafted in. Well, because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear. For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee. Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God. On them which fell, severity. But toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness. Otherwise, thou also shalt be cut off " (Rom. 11:18-22).

Isn't Paul's point clear? God will cast out of His vineyard, which is the Church, all who do not "continue in His goodness". Isn't this exactly what Jesus was teaching when he said, "The love of many shall wax cold, but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved" (Mt. 24:12-13)? This salvation is the hope of every obedient child of God. On the other hand, horrible as it seems, at the final judgment every one of God's precious, but unfaithful, children will be cast into the lake of fire to be "tormented day and night for ever and ever."

No one on earth is already saved, for salvation is synonymous with glorification. Salvation is the one hope of the Church, a hope the world does not have, because the world does not have Christ living within. Paul, you remember, told the Church at Colossae that Christ in them was their "hope of glory" (Col. 1:27). Salvation is God's reward for His children who are faithful to Him. For this reason Paul could make such statements as "Now is our salvation nearer than when we believed" (Rom. 13:11). Peter, too, years after being born of the Spirit in Acts 2, spoke of looking forward to being saved (Acts 15:11).

When all the evidence is weighed, the claim of many to be saved already is proved to be false. It is a premature judgment. It is our privilege to be confident of our hope of salvation; at the same time, it will be Jesus, and Jesus alone, who will pronounce the final judgment upon us all. Knowing this, Paul cautioned us to "judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the hidden counsels of the heart. And then shall every man have praise of God" (1Cor. 4:5).

No, we're not saved yet, because we're not home yet. Let us then pray for and encourage one another, and labor faithfully that we may be worthy of the salvation that many already allege to possess.

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