God's promise to Abraham and the Patriarchs are unique.
"What other nation on earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name, and doing for them great and terrible things, by driving out before his people a nation and its gods?" (2 Sam. 7:23)
Abraham's seed was to include a Nation (an earthly people, "as numerous as the grains of sands on the seashore"):
"And the angel of the LORD called to Abraham a second time from heaven, 'By myself I have sworn,' says the LORD, 'because you have done this, and have not withheld your son, your only son, I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice.'" (Gen. 22:15-18).
Israel is to be a model for all nations.
"Is it too light a thing that you [Messiah, son of David] should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob and to restore the preserved of Israel; I will give you as a light to the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth." (Is. 49:6).
Israel guaranteed ultimate and specific Territorial Boundaries, see Ezekiel 47:13-48:1-35, Deut. 11:23,
"Every place on which the sole of your foot (Abraham) treads shall be yours; your territory shall be from the wilderness and Lebanon and from the River, the river Euphrates, to the western sea."
The nation was to be a Holy People (the nation was composed of Jews plus Proselytes) Isaiah 62:
"For Zion's sake I will not keep silent, and for Jerusalem's sake I will not rest, until her vindication goes forth as brightness, and her salvation as a burning torch. The nations shall see your vindication, and all the kings your glory; and you shall be called by a new name which the mouth of the LORD will give. You shall be a crown of beauty in the hand of the LORD, and a royal diadem in the hand of your God. You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and your land shall no more be termed Desolate; but you shall be called My delight is in her, and your land Married; for the LORD delights in you, and your land shall be married. For as a young man marries a virgin, so shall your sons marry you, and as the bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you.
"Upon your walls, O Jerusalem, I have set watchmen; all the day and all the night they shall never be silent. You who put the LORD in remembrance, take no rest, and give him no rest until he establishes Jerusalem and makes it a praise in the earth. The LORD has sworn by his right hand and by his mighty arm: 'I will not again give your grain to be food for your enemies, and foreigners shall not drink your wine for which you have labored; but those who garner it shall eat it and praise the LORD, and those who gather it shall drink it in the courts of my sanctuary.' Go through, go through the gates, prepare the way for the people; build up, build up the highway, clear it of stones, lift up an ensign over the peoples. Behold, the LORD has proclaimed to the end of the earth: Say to the daughter of Zion, 'Behold, your salvation comes; behold, his reward is with him, and his recompense before him.' And they shall be called The holy people, The redeemed of the LORD; and you shall be called Sought out, a city not forsaken."
The Law and Promises were given to Israel: Rom. 9:4, 5:
"They are Israelites, and to them belong the sonship, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises; to them belong the patriarchs, and of their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ. God who is over all be blessed for ever. Amen."
The Messiah was to come in the Line of David.
"Salvation (for all mankind) is from the Jews." (John 4)
A High Priest (Mortal) and a priesthood unique to Israel were given at the same time the Law was given. (See Exodus). The Levitical Priesthood also included a specific and detailed system of sacrifices to show God's provisions for all manner of sin.
The Giving of Scripture: All the books of the Bible were written by devout Jews. The Bible was given to the entire world through the Jews.
The Prophets of the OT are unique to Israel among the nations. No other nation has ever gotten the same treatment.
"What other nation on earth is like thy people Israel, whom God went to redeem to be his people, making himself a name, and doing for them great and terrible things, by driving out before his people a nation and its gods?" (2 Samuel 7:23)
Israel was appointed to be a light to the nations. Her future is guaranteed, in spite of past failures,
"It shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the house of the LORD shall be established as the highest of the mountains, and shall be raised above the hills; and all the nations shall flow to it, and many peoples shall come, and say: 'Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob; that he may teach us his ways and that we may walk in his paths.' For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the LORD from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall decide for many peoples; and they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more." (Isaiah 2:1-4)
A Temple Building in Jerusalem was to be part of the Jewish economy, and will be in the future, Ezekiel 41-43, 46.
A Throne (King David and his line). The throne was granted to the nation in perpetuity.
Thus says the LORD of hosts [to David], I took you from the pasture, from following the sheep, that you should be prince over my people Israel; and I have been with you wherever you went, and have cut off all your enemies from before you; and I will make for you a great name, like the name of the great ones of the earth. And I will appoint a place for my people Israel, and will plant them, that they may dwell in their own place, and be disturbed no more; and violent men shall afflict them no more, as formerly, from the time that I appointed judges over my people Israel; and I will give you rest from all your enemies. Moreover the LORD declares to you that the LORD will make you a house. When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever. I will be his father, and he shall be my son. When he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men; but I will not take my steadfast love from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be made sure for ever before me; your throne shall be established for ever.'" (2 Samuel 7:8-16)
"For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government will be upon his shoulder, and his name will be called 'Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.' Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David, and over his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from this time forth and for evermore. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will do this." (Isaiah 9:6, 7)
Israel was the Wife of Jehovah. God had several covenants with Israel affirming His loyal-love for Israel. Hosea for instance,
"And the LORD said to me, 'Go again, love a woman who is beloved of a paramour and is an adulteress; even as the LORD loves the people of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins.' So I bought her for fifteen shekels of silver and a homer and a lethech of barley. And I said to her, 'You must dwell as mine for many days; you shall not play the harlot, or belong to another man; so will I also be to you.' For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or teraphim. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and they shall come in fear to the LORD and to his goodness in the latter days." (3:1-5)
"I will heal their faithlessness; I will love them freely, for my anger has turned from them. I will be as the dew to Israel; he shall blossom as the lily, he shall strike root as the poplar; his shoots shall spread out; his beauty shall be like the olive, and his fragrance like Lebanon. They shall return and dwell beneath my shadow, they shall flourish as a garden; they shall blossom as the vine, their fragrance shall be like the wine of Lebanon." (14:4-7)
Because of Israel's unfaithfulness under the Old Covenant one can see from the typology of Hosea that God had no choice but to divorce his wife Israel. However, Hosea shows us that by grace alone God then chose to restore and remarry the nation under the gracious terms provided by the New Covenant.
Nowhere does the Bible ever assert that Israel has been replaced by the Church or that God has canceled His eternal, everlasting covenant with Abraham which guarantees the future of that nation in spite of themselves.
Israel is called God's Son. Messiah is the unique seed of Israel, the root out of dry ground.
"For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or comeliness that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him." (Isaiah 53:2)
Israel was an Assembly (Synagogue), a worshiping community. Israel's government (from God) involved both King and Priest. These two office are combined in Israel's' Messiah and His future place as Head over the nation, Zech. 3.
Israel was to be blessed under the Old Covenant , and the New Covenant was promised to them long ago to bless them in spite of their failure under the Old. (See for example Jer. 30-31).
Israel may be Compared to the Physical Body of the New Adam (Ray C. Stedman)
Part Two of a two-fold Promise to Abraham: The church to be a Nation (a heavenly people, "as numerous as the stars in the heavens"). Abraham is "the father of all who believe."
The church is a peculiar people (drawn from all nations). The church is a new body of Jew and Gentile, (Ephesians 2:14-3:6)
All believers today belong to the Melchizedek Priesthood. This is a superior priesthood to that of Levi under the Old Covenant, Hebrews 5-9.
Jesus is our Great High Priest (Immortal).
The Church is the Body of Christ, Ephesians, 1 Cor. 12-14. Christ is the Head of the Body. Where the Head is, so also is the Body. In the mystery of the incarnation Jesus the Son of God has made Himself one with His covenant peoples.
Spiritual Gifts are given by the Holy Spirit to all members of the Body of Christ, 1 Cor. 14., etc.
All believers today are called "Sons of God. " The disciples of Jesus are all called by the Lord Jesus "friends of God," a term originally given to Abraham by God.
Believers today are "Joint-Heirs with Christ."
The Church is the Bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5:25-33, 2 Cor. 11:2:
"I feel a divine jealousy for you, for I betrothed you to Christ to present you as a pure bride to her one husband."
The church as the ecclesia is a special body of people called out of the world system to be a special, unique, separated, distinctive people.
Jews and Gentiles without distinction make up the Body of Christ. No land is promised to the church, nor an earthly inheritance. The church is not given a sword, nor is she to team up in partnership with governments.
Members of the church are members one of another. There is no hierarchy in the church, all are brothers and sisters. Authority is given on the basis of servant lifestyle. There is no clergy/laity distinction in the NT church.
The Church is a Temple made up of Living Stones. The church gathers together as a worshiping community. Collectively the church is a dwelling place or habitation for God the Holy Spirit.
The church's ultimate dwelling place is the New Jerusalem, the heavenly city.
From the old fallen race of Adam, God is making "One New Man." This new Adam is symbolized by the two communities of the redeemed: Israel and the church. The church represents the soul of the New Man, Israel, the body. God Himself is the Spirit. (Ray C. Stedman). The churches role in the present age was a "Mystery Hidden from Ages Past"
The church as "The Pearl of Great Price" is the special object God's grace and protection and mercy.
The New Covenant ("enacted on better promises"), is given to the church prior to Israel's final restoration under this same New Relationship with God as foretold by the prophets.
The United States does not have a covenant relationship with God. God is not a respecter of persons or of nations, hence all nations receive even-handed treatment from God.
Gentile nations will be judged in the future by how they have treated the Jews (Joel 2, Matthew 25:31ff).
The US is one of "goyim"--the gentile world powers, therefore largely pagan. We are still living in "the times of the gentiles" when Israel is not center-stage among the nations and gentile powers rise and fall. The Gentile nations seethe with restlessness, often against Israel (Psalm 2), full of selfish ambition, greed, rivalry and special interests.
The US was founded on some Biblical principles and some devout Christians were numbered among the founding fathers. The US has been relatively free and has been an ethnic melting pots for various peoples and cultures.
Nations who bless the physical descendants of Abraham, that is, the Jews, are blessed by God. The US has generally treated the Jews well. The US was the first nation to support the Statehood of Israel in 1948. The US has generally supported Israel as a nation up to the present time.
God to Abraham:
"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." (Gen. 12:2, 3)
US churches vigorously supported world evangelism for many decades. God has honored this obedience to His call to world evangelism, and to giving and sacrifice.
The United States has had a vigorous church in times past. As a result God has showered blessings on us, the descendants of the godly saints of previous generations.
There is still a godly remnant in this country. Many of these godly people are in the heart of the country rather than in the major cities.
The Mass Media as a group is very largely anti-Christian these days. Good News goes unreported. Bad News makes all the headlines. It is very difficult for us to assess the true spiritual "state of the nation."
Educators have largely followed a Secular Humanistic Philosophy for many decades which is in fact anti-Christian. As a result our educational system is largely bankrupt.
The US has been reasonably philanthropic and humanitarian as a world power.
The economic philosophies upon which our free enterprise, capitalistic economy have been based are not necessarily correct, sound, or Biblical.
Democracy is weak form of government, Daniel 2, and the US is most closely connected with the Roman Empire as it is described in Daniel 2 and Revelation. Many ideals of American life were originally derived from Greek and Roman values and philosophy.
God appoints rulers over all nations, Isaiah 40. God appoints different types of governments over different nations as it pleases Him. The US has been fairly thoroughly evangelized and many have rejected the gospel. The result is God has abandoned many to the deception described in 2 Thess. 2:9-12:
"The coming of the lawless one by the activity of Satan will be with all power and with pretended signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are to perish, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends upon them a strong delusion, to make them believe what is false, so that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness."
Much of the church in the US has apostatized or has been severely compromised. We are now living in the Laodicean Age of the Church (Rev. 3).
Much of the church in this country has been inundated and compromised by the world. This can be corrected by repentance and reform and renewal. Wealth and affluence and freedom from persecution are generally detrimental to the spiritual life of the church.
The salt has largely lost its saltness and the lampstands have been removed from countless churches, therefore human evil has not been restrained or corrected. Only the church has the light, knowledge and power to deal with fundamental human problems.
The present times of stress and distress are clearly predicted in the NT. For example, 2 Tim. 3:1-5:
"But understand this, that in the last days there will come times of stress. For men will be lovers of self, lovers of money, proud, arrogant, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, inhuman, implacable, slanderers, profligates, fierce, haters of good, treacherous, reckless, swollen with conceit, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Avoid such people."
The church is a nation with a nation and to some extent "as the church goes so goes the nation." God may yet grant a revival in our country if the church wakes up. In any given church, no matter its condition or it faults, God promises great rewards to overcoming saints, (Revelation 2, 3)
On the other hand Scripture does not predict a world wide revival of the church at the close of our age. The next major event will be departure (rapture) of the true church, preparing the way for the end-time tribulation.
"Nevertheless, when the Son of man comes, will he find faith on earth?" (Luke 18:8)
Addendum: Who is Israel? Who are God's people? by Rick Young
The early church was faced with a totally different perspective concerning the Church and Israel than many do today. In their day the real question would have been how the Gentiles could be considered part of the people of God. Before I get to that point let me talk about God's covenant with Israel (the Sinai Covenant) and distinquish it from the New Covenant. Since these two are different things it is important to understanding who Israel is and who the Church is.
Although the new covenant is a better covenant, superseding any other covenant and making all other covenants obsolete, it still does not invalidate, negate, or annul any other covenant God has ever made with any man. There are several significant distinctions between the new covenant and the Sinai covenant that makes the Sinai covenant have its own meaning and significance. The nation of Israel was birthed under the Sinai covenant with this process recorded in Exodus 19 - 24.
The Sinai covenant defines the Jew. To understand who a Jew is one must always go back to the Sinai covenant. That is why the Jews have been called the "covenant people." The Sinai covenant establishes a special relationship between the nation of Israel and God. This relationship does not extend to the Gentile church, however. The covenant that God made with Israel was with a nation whereas the covenant He has made with those who enter into the new covenant is not with any particular nation but with individuals from every nation on earth.
Part of the Sinai covenant includes such things as civil and judicial laws, which cannot be applied to the Gentile believers (since they do not constitute a particular nation). Hence, for Israel to operate as a nation they needed to have laws that worked on levels of their society. Hence, God gave Israel laws concerning morality, religious ceremony, and judicial laws. The Church, not being a nation, were not assigned the task of setting up laws like Israel were given to govern themselves; each Christian was to subject themselves to the established secular authorities and laws (e.g., see Rom 13 & I Pet 2). For the Church only the moral laws that come dir! ectly from the new covenant apply. Thus, Israel had the duties and responsibilities of a state that the Church was not charged with. One of these duties was to deal with criminals in their midst as well as go to war at times.
There has never been a call by Jesus for the establishment of a Christian state. We can look in history and see Christian attempts at such things: the Crusades of the late Middle Ages to regain the Holy Land from the Muslims and the Christian states as embodied in the Byzantine Empire and the Puritans in New England. God has not called the Gentile church to these things. God gave several promises to the nation of Israel that God will keep for His name's sake. It would be a mistake to think that this special relationship between God and Israel somehow makes Israel better or more loved than any other nation. God will fulfill his covenant promises to Israel despite their success or failure to live up to the covenant. Attempts have been made to "spiritualize" these promises so that they no longer apply to the nation of Israel but to the Church. But these attempts stretch the meanings of the texts into meaninglessness. The Sinai covenant was not given to produce life, justification, or righteousness (see Heb. 7:18-19; Gal. 2:21; 3:11,21). The new covenant was required (see Heb. 8:6-13) and has been the only source of these things since the foundations of the world. So, if the new covenant is eternal and has been the means for salvation from beginning to end then what was the purpose of the Sinai covenant? Some see the Sinai covenant as God's "Plan A" to bring salvation to the world. The reasoning goes that Israel failed miserably in God's "Plan A."
However, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of "Plan A" so now God has constructed a "Plan B," which is the new covenant, where God uses the Church to accomplish what Israel failed to do. The problem with this, of course, is that it fails to take into account the eternal nature of the new covenant as the only means for salvation ever. But does the coming of the Messiah and the revealing of the new covenant mean that God is through with the nation of Israel? Just because the Law has been made obsolete does that make the Sinai Covenant and God's purposes for Israel obsolete as well? To do so I think would be quite presumptive about God's plans. Only the arrogant believe that they have figured out God. We do not want to be in the place of Job when God asks him "if you know so much then tell me where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?" "Did God reject His people? By no means!" (Rom. 11:1a).
Israel, as a nation, will come into the New Covenant, as promised by God. Actually, the Gentiles coming into the New Covenant is one of the mysteries of God only revealed fully after the coming of the Messiah.
When we think about the new covenant being fully enacted Jeremiah 31:33-34 gives us pause: "...this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days... They will not teach again, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying,'Know the Lord,' for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them." Verse 33 specifically states that the new covenant will be establishment with Judah and Israel. The Gentiles are not mentioned. Could this reference to "Judah and Israel" really be a reference to the Gentiles who compose the Church? This type of spiritualization is based on the faulty assumption that God has annulled the Sinai covenant and ended His relationship with the ethnic nation of Israel. But since the Gentiles seem to now be tasting the new covenant doesn't this justly render Jer. 31:33 as a reference to the Gentile Church? And, if it truly is a reference to the ethnic nation of Israel then, how could the new covenant now be in operation? Romans 11, without equivocation, states that physical Israel (i.e, ethnic Jews - not Gentiles - who are not part of the Gentile church) will become partakers of the new covenant: "I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: 'The deliverer will come from Zion; He will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them when I take away their sins.'" (Rom. 11:25-27).
Paul is clearly not spiritualizing 'Israel' as the Gentile Church when he quotes from Isa 59:20 and Jer 31:34 here in Romans 11:26-27. Paul understands these texts in the Hebrew Scriptures to be references to physical Israel and not to the Gentile Church. The new covenant has been revealed in Christ and is being manifested by Christ though His Church. But the new covenant is only completely fulfilled with Christ return. "the mystery which has been hidden from the past ages and generations, but has now been manifested to His saints, to whom God willed to make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory." (Col. 1:26-27). At first the apostles and early disciples did not comprehend what the new covenant fully meant. They thought of the new covenant as being merely an extension and fulfilling of the Sinai covenant. In Acts 10-11 Peter was sent to some Gentile believers where they received the gift of the Holy Spirit. God had first spoken to Peter in a vision telling him "do not call anything impure that God has made clean" (Ac 10:15). We discover in the events that follow that the message referred to God bringing Gentiles into His family without them first becoming Jews: "The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles" (Ac 10:45). Afterwards Peter explained the event to the circumcised believers in Jeru! salem who had criticized him for associating with Gentiles, "who was I to think that I could oppose God?" (Ac 11:17b). From Peter's testimony they concurred saying, "God has granted even the Gentiles repentance unto life" (Ac 11:18b). Later, when some had been teaching, "unless you are circumcised according to the custom taught by Moses you cannot be saved" (Ac 15:1b) a council of the apostles and elders in Jerusalem debated the matter and Peter testified that God, "made no distinction between us and [the Gentiles], for He purified their hearts by faith. Now then, why do you try to test God by putting on the necks of the disciples a yoke that neither we nor our fathers have been able to bear? No! We believe it is through the grace of our Lord Jesus that we are saved, just as they are." (Ac 15:9-11). The church ended up issuing a letter declaring that "it seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you [Gentiles] with anything beyond the following requirements: You are to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals, and from sexual immorality. You will do well to avoid these things." (Ac 15:28-29). The early believers were beginning to understand that they were now living under a new and different covenant. The early church wrestled with whether the Gentiles should keep the Law of the Sinai covenant. The Jews who made of the major portion of the early church did not fully understand the new covenant. Peter understood the new covenant through his understanding of the Sinai covenant (though Jesus spoke at length about the underlying new covenant principles of the Sinai covenant in the Sermon on the Mount). But God revealed to Peter that he was not to reject those who God had made clean. God demonstrated that the Gentiles - without the Law and without becoming Jewish first - were received into God's family by the Holy Spirit coming upon them (i.e., Cornelius and the other Gentiles of his household). The Gentiles were not required to be circumcised, pay tithes, keep Saturday as the Sabbath, etc. They were not part of! the Sinai covenant. They were not Jewish. They had, by the grace of God, bypassed the shadow and model of God's plan and had gone directly to the substance and actual, who is Christ.
Unfortunately there continues to be many, even after the church elders and apostles issued their letter that still no do not understand living under the new covenant. They try to instill remnants of the Sinai covenant by creating temples, priesthoods, eating kosher foods, tithing, observing the Sabbath, establishing theocratic states, and a myriad of similar other things that have their origins in the Sinai covenant. Sometimes observing the Sinai covenant is shrouded in the idea of "principles" contained within it. Tithing, for example, is a requirement for the Jews under the Sinai covenant to provide support for the Levite priesthood who lacked an allotment of land. In some Gentile churches support of the clergy and church activities is warranted by a tithe. Though tithing is never advocated to the Gentiles in the ! New Testament it is presented as "principle" presented under the Law. But when Paul spoke about how he had the right to obtain physical support from the church (though he did not accept it) he did not provide any principles of Levites receiving tithes but a proverb about not muzzling the ox as he worked. The principle of giving was provided but not tithing. In another variation of extending the Sinai covenant to Gentiles the idea of water baptism is used in the same manner as circumcision was among the early believers. Jesus illustrated this proper fitting of the new covenant in a set of parables: "No one tears a piece of cloth from a new garment and puts it on an old garment; otherwise he will both tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled out, and the skins will be ruined. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins." (Luke 5:36-38). In summary, God still has a covenant with Israel and they have a place in God's plans as a nation. The New Covenat, promised to Israel, has, by the mystery of God, been given to the Gentiles, until the time of the promise of Israel being brought into the New Covenant arrives. The Sinai Covenant and the New Covenant are not the same thing and the Sinai Covenant does not become invalid because the Gentiles are experiencing the New Covenant, though it is a superior covenant. Israel was promised to be given the New Covenant and this will happen in the future. (added 2/12/08)
The Error of Replacement Theology by Clarence H. Wagner, Jr.
Israel and the New Covenant, by Ray C. Stedman
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