Naked Bible enthusiasts (and despisers) may recall that, long ago, I posted a list of presuppositions that are brought to the Bible that ultimately dictate one’s position on eschatology (“end times”). I posted this because all too many Christians assume that their view is self-evident from the Bible (i.e., that it’s so clearly taught as to make them wonder how anyone else could see end times any other way). I’d say the position most guilty of this is the pre-tribulational rapture view (the view presented in the Left Behind novel series).
My goal in the posts that follow is to elaborate on my original list and unpack the items a bit. My goal isn’t to deny or endorse any position. I don’t like or hate any of them. There are things I like about all of them. I can already hear those married to one view: “how can he say that?! That’s not possible! Yeah, it is. And it’s the best perspective. (I’m sure that’ll tick someone off). I’ll explain my own thinking at the end of the series. For now . . . drum roll, please . . . let’s dive in.
Presuppositional Issue #1 – Are Israel and the Church distinct from each other, or does the Church replace Israel in God’s program for the ages? If they are distinct, it would seem that Israel might still have a national future, apart from the church. Keeping Israel and the Church distinct is key to any view of a rapture (because the Church is taken, not Israel).
Let’s unpack this.
“God’s people” in the first installment of the Bible (the Old Testament) was Israel (and a few Gentile converts here and there, who had to join the nation as Israelites — followers of Yahweh). God made a series of covenants with Israel to create and certify that bond. These covenants all had certain promises. As Israel came out of Egypt and entered the Promised Land, the nation inherited certain of these promises — or was it ALL of them? (that’s item #2 for next time). Here’s a list of the promises:
Abrahamic Covenant (Gen 12:1-3; Gen 15:6-7)
1. They would become a nation whose population would be like the sand of the sea and the stars of heaven.
2. They would prosper and be a blessing to all who blessed them (or a curse to those who cursed them).
3. They would inherit a land promised to them (“from the Euphrates to the river of Egypt” – more on that in other installments).
Sinai (“Mosaic”) Covenant (Exod. 20-24)
Gods covenant with the nation at Sinai was given in Exodus 20-24. Its focus is the Mosaic Law. God labeled Israel a peculiar treasure, a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation, and gave them the stipulations (laws) that would guarantee the continuance of fellowship between them and their God (continuation of the Abrahamic covenant). The covenant was ratified by a covenant sacrifice and the sprinkling of blood (Ex. 24:48). Various Sinai covenant renewals are recorded in the Old Testament. The most important were those on the plains of Moab (Dt. 29), at Shechem in the days of Joshua (Josh. 24), when Jehoiada was able to restore the Davidic line of kings under Joash (2 K. 11), the days of Hezekiah (2 Ch. 29:10), and in the days under the rule of Josiah (2 K. 23:3).
Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7)
God promised David that his descendants should have an everlasting dynastic rule over the Promised Land and be known as his sons (2 Sam 7:1217; Psalm 89; Isa. 55).
The New Covenant
Several passages in the prophets, but most explicitly in Jeremiah, speak of a new covenant in the messianic age (Isa. 42:6; Isa 49:68; Isa 55:3; Isa 59:21; Isa 61:8; Jer. 31:31, 33; Jer 32:40; Jer 50:5; Ezek 16:60, 62; Ezek 34:25; Ezek 37:26).
These passages assume a nation in exile due to its sins — its violations of the Sinai covenant. This covenant argues that, though the Sinai covenant was broken, the promise of God would not fail. There would be a remnant through whom God would honor His promises. He would make a new covenant. His law would be written on hearts of flesh. In that day the throne of David would be occupied by one of Davids line (this assume a situation when that was not the case – such as in exile) and the people would enjoy an everlasting covenant of peace in which the nations would also share (Isa. 42:6; Isa 49:6; Isa 55:35; cf. Zech 2:11;Zech 8:2023; 14:16; etc.). In those days worship would be purified (Ezk. 4048), true theocratic government would be established, and peace would be universal.
Got all that? Good. Now here’s the question: Is the nation of Israel (the national ethnic entity) still the focus of these covenant promises (before and after the final New Covenant) or is the Church their focus now?
Arguments can be made for both sides — depending on presuppositions. We’ll be getting into the details in items # 2 and 3, so let’s preview those items. The two sides of this #1 issue depend on whether one believes the promises of the Abrahamic, Sinai, and Davidic covenant were CONDITIONAL. That is, were there conditions behind receiving the promises (“Israel must do/be X”) or were the promises made without any conditions (“no matter what Israel does in the way of sin, God would still give them the promises”)? If there were conditions, it is obvious that Israel failed (they went into exile at God’s hand). If there were no conditions is that what the New Covenant is about? Is the New Covenant the answer?
These questions are important for #1 because they create a construct by which to parse this first issue’s question: Are Israel and the Church distinct from each other, or does the Church replace Israel in God’s program for the ages?
Jesus very clearly came to establish the New Covenant (“this is the new covenant in my blood” – see Luke 22:20; 1 Cor 11:25; 2 Cor 3:6; Heb 8:13; Heb 12:24). And the Spirit came upon the disciples and their converts after the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2; see the book of Acts thereafter). The church was “circumcision neutral” — it was not only Jews, but also Gentiles, that also was a New Covenant element. But if the Church — and not Israel as a nation — was the focus of the New Covenant, then what purpose is there for national Israel (except to embrace Jesus and become absorbed into the Church)? It also means that the Davidic ruler is Jesus, and the Promised Land is bigger than Israel — it’s the whole world — hence the Great Commission. Let’s ask it this way: Is there any part of the New Covenant *not* answerable by the Church? One might say the “all nations” part — but that is precisely the point of the Great Commission – given to the fledgling CHURCH, not Israel (Matt. 28:18-20).
At this point the common objection is the Land — that the Church isn’t a theocratic kingdom. But it is – it’s head is Christ and its land is the whole earth (back to the Great Commission). Why would we insist that the Land promises must be fulfilled in a tiny portion of the earth (Israel) rather than the whole earth? The answer given would be “well, the Abrahamic covenant guaranteed the Promised Land, and have specific dimensions, and Israel never got all that land … and so they either get *that* land as a national entity, or else God’s promises failed. That, too, is a presupposition. It presupposes that God’s plan doesn’t *succeed* through the New Covenant and the global, Gentile-inclusive Church. It also presumes that Israel never got the land according to the dimensions of Gen 15 (see later on that). But if the covenants were conditional, then Israel sinned the land promises away (they failed; God did not), and this objection about a literal kingdom within the parameters of Genesis 15 may be completley moot.
One more note on the difference and sameness of Israel and the Church, Galatians 3 (read the whole chapter) is crystal clear that Christians — the Church – “inherited” the promises given to Abraham. Should we exclude the land from land? If “the Promised land” has been replaced by “the whole earth,” then the answer is yes — and that is the primary argument for saying that we have no reason to look for a literal kingdom in *Israel* (a millennium) in the future.
So, are Israel and the Church distinct? Yes, one is not the equation of the other. But does the Church replace Israel as the people of God? In one sense, this is clearly the case since the Church inherits the promises given to Israel through Christ (Galatians 3). But what about the land? If the land promise is still out there, waiting to be fulfilled, then Israel as a national entity is still distinct in terms of kingdom prophecy. If the land promise was sinned away and is now replaced by the whole earth, then the nation of Israel itself has no special role in biblical prophecy — it’s all about the Church.
And believe it or not, if it’s all about the church, there is no seven year tribulation or rapture, since the former is entirely built on the 70 weeks prophecy given to Jerusalem and Israel, and the latter is in turn built on the literal tribulation.
Dr. Heiser, you have made some very good points here…and I would have to concede that obsession over eschatology really is a waste of time (although it is a pretty facinating area of study). It seems to me that when Pilate was addressing the Hebrew people who wanted Christ crucified, and the Hebrew religious leaders shouted “we have no king but Caesar,” that they, and all who follow(ed) their lead pretty much gave up their citizenship in the Kingdom of God (Christ being the King of that Kingdom). So if I, as a Christian, say “Jesus Christ is my King!” then I am a Jew (in the truest sense) because He is King of the Jews, as even Pilate pointed out. Just like if I revoked my U.S. citizensip and became a legal citizen of Great Britain and claim “Queen Elizabeth is the only sovereign ruler, and I am now one of her subjects” then I would no longer be a citizen of the Republic of the U.S., and would have become a subject of the United Kingdom.
Since Christ’s Kingdom (the King’s Dominion) is not of this world, as He himself said, then neither is His nation, whether you call it Israel, Spiritual Israel, or whatever you call it. The Church Militant (as the Eastern Christians refer to the earthly reflection of the Church in the fallen world) is only an image of the Heavenly Church.
So since I am a Jew (not by birth, but because Christ the King of the Jews is my King), then it seems that those who bless me will be blessed, and those who curse me will be cursed, and so on…according to the covenant God made with the Jews. God gave us free will, and it was that free will that allowed many pre-crucifixion/resurrection Jews to revoke their citizenship in the Kingdom of God by refusing to recognize the King of the Jews; just as that same free will gave me, who was once a non-believing, non-Christian Gentile, the ability to accept Christ’s offer to me, to accept Him as my King, receive Salvation, and be a partaker of His Divine Energies as a subject in His Kingdom, and can even look forward to being deified by Him .
If the citizens of the modern-day state called Israel build a temple in Jerusalem and start sacrificing animals again, they will be going backwards…building another kind of tower of Babel…because the way to the Kingdom can only be through the King…Jesus Christ. When they do build it…and they will…and the antichrist shows up in it, claiming to be God and demanding to be worshipped, it is obvious that prophecy will still be in the process of being fulfilled, whether Palestine is called Israel or not, at that time.
If at that time, a lot of pre-trib rapture proponents are standing around saying ‘that dude in the “temple of God’ can’t possibly be the antichrist, because we’re supposed to be “taken out” before he shows up’, one can only hope and pray that they will turn to Christ for the truth at that time, rather than continue to listen to false teachers.
>>>..Since Christs Kingdom (the Kings Dominion) is not of this world, as He himself said, then neither is His nation, whether you call it Israel, Spiritual Israel, or whatever you call it. The Church Militant (as the Eastern Christians refer to the earthly reflection of the Church in the fallen world) is only an image of the Heavenly Church….
“of this world” means, in this context, “not established by this world.”
“Heavenly” means “in the sky” but the NT, along with the OT, clearly has in mind a kingdom in the middle east – Israel:
Revelation 21:2 And I John saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down from God out of heaven, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband.
Revelation 21:3 And I heard a great voice out of heaven saying, Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and he will dwell with them, and they shall be his people, and God himself shall be with them, and be their God.
I’ve been pondering all this for a while now. I’m open to learning. I only want the Truth and my eyes have been opened to the fact that the Truth is buried in the Scriptures, but weighed down with translations that hide it.
I thank Yah, that He led me to find your sites (with all your research and studies you’ve made available). I do NOT understand it all – but am slowly coming to grips with enough that it has really begged me to question what I was taught in ‘church’ for so many years.
What I’m trying to say (partly) is that I’m waiting with almost baited breath, to read the coming instalments on this particular topic. I wondered where you stood on eschatology. The thing for me, which I’ll state again – is – I want the Truth.
I’ll do my best to try and be coherent!
My question – is the current nation state of Israel equivalent to the entire nation of Israel as defined in the old testament? If it is then I don’t see how this specific promise has been fulfilled.
“They would become a nation whose population would be like the sand of the sea and the stars of heaven”
Steven M Collins’ research suggests that the current nation state of Israel is actually the southern kingdom – Judea and that even Truman was surprised that the nation wanted to be called Israel instead of Judea. Mr. Collins proposes that the remaining tribes (lost tribes) are not actuall lost but consisted of Scythians and Parthians and that these groups eventually migrated through Europe, Britian, and to the U.S. His arguments are interesting and I was wondering if you (MSH) thought they might have any validity.
This is sounding like the old British Israelism stuff. There’s no real archeological evidence for this sort of thing. What one finds is the *belief* in European monarchy of a descendancy from David (and why not? divine right to rule!). When the Jews return from exile, Ezra and Nehemiah (and later books) have Jews in the homeland who are from other tribes besides the two that made up Judah. In one sense, Assyria did disperse the ten northern tribes and they were substantially “lost,” but the family lines and descendants were not entirely erased. This really doesn’t matter much for eschatology, even if one is a “left behinder” — since the NT does have the 12 tribes in Revelation (except for Dan – and isn’t that interesting – there are reasons for that), one could easily say the northern “lost” tribes will be recovered. This of course presumes a need for that in this view.
I both follow and appreciate much of what you are doing with eschatology, but I have a few points about which I would like to know your response:
1. When you use the word _Gentiles_ do you mean it in the popular sense of those who are not modern-day Jews? In the KJV, _Gentile_ is used for both the Hebrew _goyim_ and the Greek _ethnae_ which, as I understand it, are equivalent in meaning and best rendered as _nations_, which sometimes in scripture are Hebrew-Israelite (Abraham was the father of many nations) and sometimes not. It seems to me that the word, which etymologically comes from the Latin _gentilis_, meaning those who are not citizens of Rome (Jesus was a Gentile, Paul was not) is best avoided for the sake of clarity.
2. Similarly, _Jew_ nowadays can refer to non-Israelites, such as the Ashkenazi Jews who (if Arthur Koestler was onto anything at all) are Khazars and therefore Turks. Any Turk who knows his heritage will tell you that the father of the Turks was Ashkenaz, found in the Genesis genealogies. (The Sephardic or Spanish Jews are historically traceable back to the tribe of Zarah of Judah and they have different traditions and beliefs than Ashkenazi Jews.) Thus, it seems to me that a different word is needed to make a distinction between Jews in general and Jews who are descendents of Judah. Some use _Judahite_ to refer to Jews of Israelite descent. The Greek word rendered Judean appears to follow the usual biblical and ancient custom of referring to people according to where they lived and not their ethnicity. Ruth, for instance, was a Moabite because she lived in the area once inhabited by the Moabites, though she was an Israelite. The NT usage seems to me to refer to Israelites and their descendents who returned from Babylonian captivity to Judea. They are thus not the same as those referred to as _Jews_ today.
3. British lawyer-historian Sharon Turner, in his multivolume _History of the English_, traced the English back to Persia, one of the places the Assyrians deported the northern kingdom. Archaeologist E. Raymond Capt, in his book, _Missing Links Discovered in Assyrian Tablets_ (www.artisanpublishers.com) connect the Saccae (Persian) or Gomri or Khumri (Assyrian) or Scythian (Greek) to the house of Omri, the Israelites, thus completing the historical trail of northern kingdom Israel (and those deported from the southern kingdom too) by Assyria. The OT apocryphical books (2 Esdras 13:40-46) tell where the deported Israelites migrated – to Arsareth, NW of the Black Sea. Russian archaelogists have found numerous Israelite graves in the Crimean area. From there, the migration by the Israelites as Scythians and Cimmerians is traceable into Europe, though without the smoking-gun kind of evidence historians seek. Yet so many pieces of evidence exist – the Welsh are still called the Kymri and whole lines of old Celtic Welsh read as Hebrew (so I have read) – that some Gestalt connecting of the dots suggests this as a not unreasonable working hypothesis.
Gentile: somewhat not ethnically Jewish (of any era); those from the nations (having a national ethnicity) other than Israel, per the NT.
I’m not concerned with who is a Jew by religious, genetic, etc. standards. It isn’t my job to parse that. But not everyone is a Jew, and there ARE Jews. I’ll let God parse that.
Thanks for your definitions of these words. In looking at the occurrences of _Gentile_ in English Bible translations, I can see no logic for its use (instead of _nations_) apart from the exegetical judgement of the translator, in guessing whether _nations_ refers to Israelites or not. It seems to me to be needless translational interpretation and can lead to confusion.
This point has a bearing on eschatology because the option of considering God’s promises to (1) David and (2) Israel as applying to their descendants makes it important to know who the descendants are, even to this day. The promise, in the case of David’s dynasty, at least, is perpetual, as I read it. This would consequently have a bearing on which Jews are Israelites (and who else are too), would it not? What am I missing?
If the people of God is a circumcision neutral body in light of Jesus’ work on the cross – the fulfillment of the OT covenants, it seems to me it matters not at all who’s and Israelite, Jew or neither of those. The issue is faith in the work of Jesus.
I follow your points with great interest. Indeed, they are ones I have often raised, finding myself in the amillennialist camp most of the time…when it comes to eschatology.
But then I scratch my head and wonder about the nation Israel. After two thousand years, it exists again! How do I explain this anomaly that has sprung up in the whole divine scheme of “promised land morphing to entire world” theology of the Church. Why has God allowed this hiccup to come back if it’s not in the bigger plans…if he intends something else, something beyond a national border?
well, Israel as a people group has always existed. I’m not sure what the anomaly is. The children of Abraham were never wiped out to begin with. If they sinned away the land promise, then it makes sense that, politically, they would be unviable. I’m not sure you realize it, but many among the ultra orthodox Jews did *not* want Israel to be a nation again (they were opposed to “Zionism”) because they believed that nationhood should only come about under the leadership of the messiah.
I just wanted to let you know how much I admire your hard work. This piece from you appears to be perfect timing for me, as I’ve been listening to some supposed contemporary podcasts on the topic and have been scratching my head.
I’ll end up giving your more places to scratch — but that’s a good thing. You need to know *WHY* XYZ “prophecy expert” holds his/her position — and if they’ve ever considered how presuppositionally driven it is. Just in my first post you can see the “well, how do I know for sure what the answer to this question / impasse is?” You don’t and can’t. People either just pick a side (most popular “experts” do that) or you build a case and say “I prefer this instead of that, but if a few pieces in the picture change, I’d come out somewhere else.” That’s an honest approach — one that is theologically humble.
Thanks, by the way.
This tribe of Dan hint is very interesting, i heard the Jewish belief is that north = darkness and with the land of Dan containing Bashan, with all that entails, it gets intriguing not to mention the Moravian stuff, can you expand on the tribe of Dan in future with regard to end times ?
May the 4th be with you. 🙂
If Israel the nation wasn’t important, why does it exist?
since Egypt still exists, does that mean it still has special importance? This logic isn’t really coherent.
Well actually Isaiah 19:1-25 says they do have a destiny with God and His people.
No one is denying we have a destiny. The point is the false sense of secure conclusions about that destiny – and the details between now and then.
I was simply pointing out Egypt is spoken of as having a destiny just as Israel has, just not in as much detail. Does that make since? Do you mean the false since of security that their conclusions are correct?
understood; we’re really talking about two different things; yes,, my target is a false sense of being right, assuming things are self-evident.
I don’t do this very often, so I don’t know if in violating any etiquette with the ongoing comments. If so please forgive me.
I agree with you basically, it
Sorry I’m doing this on a phone. God has a way of fulfilling His prophecies where they make perfect since but in retrospect, you would say “I never saw that coming”. Take the first advent, the Hebrews at the time did not recognize him. For that matter if I had been alive then I can’t say I would have either. God has a way of throwing you a curve ball so you may understand the substance of prophecy but don’t think you have it mapped out.
Sure, and that argues *against* pretending to be certain now. (And the phone commenting came through just fine).
Well, I agree we should not be so smug in our pet interpretations, but I think it’s bit extreme to say an obsession with eschatology is a waste of time. I believe there is a lot to be learned from the mosaic formed from the various interpretations, if you can keep an open mind. I’m pretty conservative in my views of the subject and I think you have a good point about not being dogmatic about this kind of subject. But there are some things we do know. Mainly Jesus promised to return and this is definitely something we can look forward to but you must “look”. There will be a rapture we just can’t seem to agree on the timing, his return will be physical and at a time of great upheaval. You get the point. I tend to look at prophecy as less a tool for seeing the future and more as sign post to let us know how far along we are. By the way I’m a fan, I loved “The Facade” it was a new point of view for me and very plausible.
To do the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity. To study eschatology endlessly while knowing certain questions will never be resolved until the events actually transpire (or events transpire that show you that events you thought were future really weren’t) is a waste of time. What is to be gained at that point?
Well if it were a purely academic exercise, I would have to agree. But let me pose the same question; if we already understand salvation why do we still study the Gospels or any other subject for that matter? In your comments something is conspicuously missing, the work of the Spirit. I study the passages repeatedly with the prayer He will reveal something new to me. Remember Simeon, he was waiting for the Christ, it was reveal he would not die until he saw Him. You never know when the Spirit will reveal something new to you if you persevere. Its my personal belief as the time grows near the Spirit will reveal more to His people about these coming events but we must keep studying and praying. On the flip side, if we become to entrenched in our pet interpretations we may miss something big, like many did the first Advent.
You’re missing the point – which is clear from the title of the series.
I’m not saying we shouldn’t study eschatology (as in forbidding it or advising against it). I’m saying you shouldn’t be obsessed with it (which the content of the posts further defines as elevating one’s position to the level of certitude to other things – like salvation). Where there is no certitude about a biblical issue (unlike the gospel), it’s a waste of time presuming you’re going to solve the issues. The reason the text lacks certitude in some items is that we aren’t given the information (unlike salvation).
No, the point of the series is not lost on me. I was simply replying to your posts. Remember what you said “To do the same thing over and over again expecting different results is the definition of insanity.” I don’t think you meant it to discourage anyone but some might read that and think they should put the subject aside or it should be worthy of less effort.
I was just saying we should not give up on the pursuit because we lack some information. God can make things clear to us before the events transpire. Jesus did tell us to watch. By the way my definition of obsession is more text book but I agree there is to much dogma in this subject and not enough open minded discussion. I’m saying the subject deserves a great deal of scrutiny. The first coming of the Lord was the initiation of our salvation. The second coming of the Lord will bring the final step, namely the redemption of our physical bodies and meeting Him face to face. These two events are eschatology and our salvation is inseparably linked them both. In light of that fact I don’t think obsession is a strong enough word. And I don’t think I need to mention some of the profound variations in people’s beliefs when it comes to salvation, a subject we should be sure of. That’s why I used it to make my point. Believe it or not we are in the same place, I think we have different opinions of where we should go from here.
What I want to know is where the prophecy about the restored Temple that Ezekiel talks about fits in, in either view. Why go into so much detail about a building that may or may not actually exist at some point? By the way, glad to see you back on this subject!
I guess I have a problem with the statement
“Keeping Israel and the Church distinct is key to any view of a rapture (because the Church is taken, not Israel).”
I am not sure why this is true?… are you eluding to Matt 24 statement about one taken and one left?… anyway, if in fact there is the church (including believing in Jesus Jews) and the non-church (including non-believing in Jesus Jews) that is all you need for one is taken one is left…
no – it’s because the rapture idea has to distinguish between prophecies “for Israel” and so fulfilled “for Israel” and other prophecies. The rapture has two peoples of God – Christians and national (“elect”) Israel. The Christians must be removed from the earth (rapture) while prophecies connected to the Day of the Lord and “the time of JACOB’s trouble” are played out on earth against unbelievers and, specifically in some regards, to ISRAEL.
Its a waste of time if you think you call the coming with any exactness. However, if it keeps a manin the word it will be prophetable to him and will help him to stay in his walk. also I should like to qoute ezekial 33: 6 And the watchman, when he seeth the sword coming in, And he hath not blown with a trumpet, And the people hath not been warned, And come in doth a sword, And taketh away of them — a soul, He in his iniquity is taken away, And his blood from the hand of the watchman I require.
I believe we are all called to be watchmen that are in the Lord. We may not be able to know all that is in the prophecy but by dilligence we will know the sword is coming because of it and can warn others and point to the sword that is goming with clarity so as to make them believe easier. For we fight the coming sword with the sword.
I’ll buy the “keeping people in the word” value argument.
Failure to distinguish between Israel and the church is just a bad hermeneutic. Paul slams this home in Romans 9 10 ,11.
“Lest you be wise in your own sight, I want you to understand this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.”
So was Jesus.
“Now learn the parable from the fig tree: when its branch has already become tender, and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near; even so you too, when you see all these things, recognize that He is near, right at the door. Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.
Matthew 24:32-34 (NASB)
The Bible refers to the fig tree some 33 times 18 times in the Old Testament alone. In context, the fig tree is always a symbol for Israel. This became a realization on May 14, 1948. Sure I could be wrong, however God devoted a substantial portion of the Bible to eschatology for a reason, I think it is a grave error to call it a waste of time.
If there is a distinction between Israel and the Church, how is it that the Church inherits the promises of Abraham? (Gal 3; esp. vv. 22-29). Actually, Paul’s statements in Romans 9 are used by theologians who embrace the unity of Israel and the Church! When Paul says “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (Romans 9:6) that means that believing GENTILES *are Israel* in God’s sight. If non-Israelites *are* Israel, where is the distinction? Moreover, this “non-Israel Israel” idea is tied to the new covenant — where God decrees that he will elect a remnant who will inherit the promises of Israel, ensuring they do not fail. The blood of Christ, of course, was the sign of the new covenant (and the coming of the Spirit to indwell as well). This points to the fulfillment of the ABRAHAMIC covenant to ultimately be in the Church (back to Galatians 3 there) — and so the question is begged: of what need is there to posit a literal future in prophecy for NATIONAL Israel?
Your post made me flip to Romans 11 for some reason.
I may be way off…but wouldnt it suppose that the CHURCH is being used as instrument in Isreal’s eventual salvation.
As for the land promises…that a really tough issue you brought up because doesnt Christ end up ruling all the nations and in essence we will all be one nation “grafted ” together with Isreal???
Also another issue….was “rebirth” of Isreal fullfillment of thasat “land promise”
hey MSH. Really great post.
a couple of comments, that have me scratching my head about your above post…
The great commission a land promise?
A bit confused about the idea of the great commission being about retaking land. In several places, Jesus says things like “My kingdom is not of this world”.
In the great commission (ala matthew) it says
“All power is given unto me in heaven and earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.”
I’ve never thought of that applying to physical land before. I have always interpreted our connection as born again sons of the Most High, as spiritual. I have always intrepreted our kingdom in which we now reside to be God’s kingdom, and as “ambassadors” of God, our job is to go and spread the good news, defend the innocent, bring about goodness, lift up the weak and hurting, etc. Thats the way we advance God’s kingdom.
Re-reading the great commission above, I may just be totally stupid, but I don’t quite see “land” in there.
Please show me what I missed.
Since Galatians 3 clearly has Christians inheriting the Abrahamic promises, the question becomes “how does the church then inherit the land?” Answer (in that view): The land = not only the place where the people of God lived, but also the place where YAHWEH’s presence dwelled (in the tabernacle and then the temple). Since Christians (individually and corporately – 1 Cor 3:16; 6:19 – one is PLURAL) *are* the temple of God now, and they are indwelt by the Spirit (presence of God), then it stands to reason (biblically) that wherever the church is, Yahweh’s presence is, and the kingdom is. The great commission is the command to overspread the earth with Christians — hence it becomes a land promise, replacing a localized kingdom area (Canaan) with the entire world — Israel AND all the nations.
Daniel 9:27 to me presupposes a national Israel.
well, it would since it was given at a time when there was a national Israel. There are significant problems with taking Dan 9 the way “left behinders” want to see it, though. We’ll get to that eventually.
Just started reading these articles and thought I would throw in my two (probably worthless) cents. If by studying “Eschatology,” you mean foisting the hottest headlines upon Daniel or Revelation, then I concur. An obsession with Eschatology is only repeating the age old silly tom-foolery so many prophecy (prognosticators…cough…cough) “experts” have made. Teach what the Bible says…accepted eschatological structures are like headline chameleons in our day. Each of which can have in its underlayment the very means whereby deception can cause one to stray from the fiery inferno of Christs love and will for each of us.
When asked what the sign of his coming would be, Jesus first statement was…”Do not be deceived.”
Stay close to him, know him. Trust him 100%. He alone, through his Spirit, is our only salvation from deception.
certainly not worthless!
MSH, I have been thinking a lot lately about how no one was outside the tomb when Jesus rose from the dead. As a matter of fact I have had a near obsession with the thought. Even though Jesus clearly prophesied exactly when he would rise again, and the old testament on numerous occasions alluded to its occurrence, and even the first prophecy in the Bible, in a veiled way, looked forward to it…no one was there.
I have been wondering if this tells us something about the nature, purpose, and spirit of prophecy. I am not sure I have really concluded anything concrete, only that it is one of the single most utterly mind boggling narrative realities in the gospel in my opinion. As Paul said that the resurrection itself was the most important aspect of Christianity, for if we have not that…we have ONLY the hope of Christ. Wrap your bean around that.
The “three days” timing in the New Testament descriptions of the crucifixion and resurrection is actually a famous old problem. Discussion of it gets extraordinarily detailed, even involving astronomers. This is all due to the fact that you can’t get three 24 hour cycles out of a Friday crucifixion and Sunday resurrection, due to the time of day Jesus actually dies (“gives up the ghost”) and is removed from the cross (before the Sabbath began – ca. 6pm). Solutions typically involve the idea that “three days” should be taken to mean “events occurring on three days” and not three 24 hour cycles. I mention this since anyone presuming to be expecting the resurrection might have been timing it all wrong. But the narrative really doesn’t describe *anyone* among his disciples as expecting a resurrection, which may be your point — they all seemed to miss it, despite it being telegraphed. Or perhaps they couldn’t believe it would really happen.
Your last two sentences capture more what I am concerned about, as a statement concerning even the most clearly articulated prophecy can either be missed entirely, or our hearts can be completely hardened to receiving it. Which then begs the question, why did he tell them anyway, if they never were willing or cared to receive it? Is prophecy more for God himself than it is for men? Does it become more for men once the event (or echo of events, in the Jewish way of thinking) occurs?
I have read a bit about the three day issue, and at least thought for a while that it was a problem with “Good Friday” being a tradition of men. I will have to look into that a bit more, as Jesus himself said he would be in the heart of the earth for three nights and three days as Jonah was in the belly of the whale. (Matthew 12:38-43)
God doesn’t need prophecy (i.e., he doesn’t need to hear himself talk). It’s not for his benefit. It’s a variegated way of telling humanity that he has a plan for what he’s created (and who). Whether people can grasp it completely or want to believe it is incidental to what it is. If we could should our minds off with respect to the New Testament thinking we have and think only in OT terms (and the OT on *its own* terms) we’d have more of an appreciation for the mystery (and for the finite way our minds form ideas like “fulfillment”).
Here is a passage I just read that baffles me, and maybe you could shed some light on this as far as what you are implying. (I know you mentioned it above) Jeremiah 31:31 talks about the “New Covenant” which will be written on the hearts of the “House of Israel” and upon the “House of Judah.” It all seems peachy and easy to apply until you get to verse 34…and there all my capacity to apply what it means in a completed sense completely fly out the window of any car I am driving in. Ere go the “finite way our minds form ideas like ‘fulfillment.'” It seems that a persons interpretation of this is going to be heavily weighted upon their eschatology. So is there a way to find value in what is being said then outside of an eschatological perspective? Or would you teach it by presenting all the different views and then leaving it in the hands of the hearers? I mean if you were giving a sermon on that, apart from your eschatological views, how would you preach it? Frankly I do not see how it is fulfilled in any linear, completed sense. Because whether you are in the “Church” or “Israel” as a nation, what was predicted does not seem to be something that has ever been fully true in either case. Which lends credence (in my wimpy opinion) to the idea that the gifts have not ceased because “That which is perfect” has not yet come. Otherwise we would not have Apostles, prophets teachers, evangelists, and Pastors. Because it is not yet that “EVERY MAN” does NOT teach his brother… (Please understand, I am not trying to start a debate over “giftings” I am only using it as an example to apply what you are talking about.)
“God does not need to hear himself talk.” Gotcha.
By the latter half of your paragraph, are you saying that people inject the New Testament into the old when they interpret?
I can think of numerous of examples of this where foisting the New upon the Old without respect to gleaning exactly what the old is saying can actually cause people to completely miss the point of a given passage.
One of the most perfect examples of this that I have seen is when many people teach about Abraham and Isaac on Mt. Moriah, they almost invariably want to make it an evangelistic message about God the Father offering up His Son, because the line of reasoning suggests that it is foreshadowing the event. While this may be true, and it would appear that there is a fore-shadow going on here, it seems to me that to fail to see that this is two men whom submitted to the word of God in faith and they actually performed what they did, through faith, really can devalue even what it may be intended to foreshadow. We can really fail to apprehend the nature of a faith/obedience relationship to God when we only see it as a foreshadow…thus it affects a part of our theology brain, and causes us later to have a hard time reconciling James with Romans etc…
someone not premill will say this is idealized language denoting that Israel no longer by itself knew Yahweh — instead, all nations now have the knowledge of Yahweh. This is in turn represents the spread of the gospel to all nations, not just the Jews. Premillers are thinking it refers not just to all nations, but has *individuals* in focus, requiring that every individual know Yahweh.
And that is the rub. Both are possible, which one is right?
When Jesus commanded his disciples to “make disciples of all nations” was he speaking of individuals from all the nations or the conversion of each nation in its entirety? It seems grammatically that the object of the disciple making is the nation(s). So is nation a collective noun or did Jesus mean each resident of the nation? If one believes in election that has to be factored in here, too (in both Jer 31 and the great commission). Is “all really “all” or a sub-group (which, when converted = “all”).
Dude! You’ve been busy!
Nice websites. How do you find time for it all – plus all the writing?
I try not to think about it.
Michael. Have you considered the Acts 28 dispensational position? In this framework, the church during the Acts period is really the Israel of God under the New Covenant. However, the post Acts Concept of the One New Man of Ephesians 2 is an entity distinct from Israel.
I taught a class on dispensationalism for five years at a Bible college, so, yes, I’ve thought a lot about dispensationalism. It’s another system (like all the others) that has some good insights and then cheats when it needs to, and ignores certain items when it needs to.
Are the events in Revelation chronological or do they only seem chronological ?
this is a longstanding debate. Many scholars read Revelation’s content as cyclical (“recapitulating”) since it has a lot of repeated themes.
Thank you for developing such a fantastic body of work regarding this and many other areas of theological studies. I´ve noticed many people have a greater need to “believe” rather than to “know”, and when something is unknown, they prefer to “guess”. This really shows how important it is for every believer to seek for competent guidance on theology (and of course, on everything!), instead of just counting on a sunday to “solve” their dilemmas. I am a jazz musician, who loves learning about God´s word, not a pastor or preacher, but with a strong sense of research, and there are many other Christians around the globe who are already aware of the great amount of pseudo-theological speculations being preached extensively. I greatly appreciate your work, you are a blessing!
thanks for the kind words!
A detail in the bible you seemed to miss here. Genesis 48 and 49. If you read it you realize there is a very important nugget of information hidden here for Eschatology.
Genesis 49-1. Or simplified it means that Israel was to become a multitude of nations by the end times. Knowing this make a major difference on how you see prophecy in the bible.
Example Daniel 11-6
And in the “end of years” they shall join themselves together; for the king’s daughter of the south shall come to the king of the north to make an agreement: but she shall not retain the power of the arm; neither shall he stand, nor his arm: but she shall be given up, and they that brought her, and he that begat her, and he that strengthened her in these times.
Now try to say that happened in the BC era. 🙂
The Hebrew phrase in Dan 11:6 can be translated “and after some years” (see ESV). It need not point to a far distant future. The identical phrase occurs in 2 Chron 18:2 (“a few years later…”) — note that Ahab wasn’t visited in the far distant future millennium — it happened in the BC era.
So, no, I didn’t miss anything, and yes, I can say the language could be interpreted within the BC era.
It’s ambiguous, like most everything having to do with prophecy . . . which is why it’s a waste of time being obsessed with it.
Mike, speaking of eschatology, you might find this article interesting. It has to do with US military and Foreign policy and pre-tribulation dispensational theology.
Strategic Implications of American Millennialism
sweet – thanks; I am indeed interested in this.
First, thank you for publishing this series. While I certainly don’t think that eschatology is a waste of time, I agree that an obsession with it–one which starts bypassing every other theme in the Scriptures to get to the cool sci-fi stuff–certainly is. My own eschatology, which I once thought to be pretty nailed down, is back up in the air on several key issues, so I’m enjoying going through the series and re-checking my biases. I may get around to blogging the results one of these days.
For now, though, I want to run a perspective past you: The last several verses in Isaiah 19 speak of a day when the Holy One would call Egypt and Assyria, “My people . . . the work of My hands,” yet describes Israel as being “the third” alongside them and being, “[God’s] inheritance.” It has occurred to me for a while now that this provides the framework through which we should understand the eschatological kingdom, where the one-time pagan enemies of Israel are redeemed and at peace with the Eternal One, but are still distinct from Israel, which still has a particular position.
Much as Rome was the center state of an empire that spanned the known world, then, Israel becomes the center state of the Kingdom spanning the whole globe–yet those in the surrounding states are still God’s people, citizens rather than subjects (as per Eph. 2). Israel then would be destined to be the capital state of the Kingdom, the seat of the Messiah, and the center of the Church, rather than being separate from the Church or being replaced by it.
So I guess the question would be where do you see me making a leap of logic or cheating here? Would you argue that Isa. 19 was already fulfilled, and if so, when and how?
Thanks, and shalom.
Loved the second sentence. Thinking “out loud” now:
You wrote: “this provides the framework through which we should understand the eschatological kingdom, where the one-time pagan enemies of Israel are redeemed and at peace with the Eternal One, but are still distinct from Israel, which still has a particular position.”
Why not say, “hey, that sounds like the Gentiles being grafted into the people of God … the Church.” Of course, if we do that, then we’re back to the question of whether Paul in Rom 9-11 (or anywhere else) speaks of an eschatological future for ethnic / political / geographical Israel apart from the unified Jew-Gentile people of God, which is now not isolated to Israel but is global.
I don’t follow the logic of the second last paragraph. Why should I care that Rome was the center of an earthly empire? Why would we assume a deliberate eschatological analogy between the two?
The new Jerusalem is the “capital” of the *global* Eden at the end of Revelation. I don’t see a division of its citizenry.
Mike was wondering if you have ever read the book last days madness by Gary DeMar?
Where is Part 2? I am not seeing the link.
Thank you for this series. You have me a true V8 moment. I realized my views were really based on “canned” explanations by “experts” that I had heard or read. I had not really questioned what was taught or really done a truly critical reading of the text or the assumptions about its meaning. So, thank you and, (under breath) Jerk, you ruined my neat little beliefs box and I have to put in effort. (kidding, It is a good thing. Although the reconsideration is A lot of work. Ah, platitude…)