In the last two posts I’ve been making a simple observation: arguments defending a literal millennium that depend on the unconditionality of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants are poor. The reasons are twofold: (1) each of those covenants also have clear conditional elements, and (2) Both covenants may be viewed as fulfilled, though this second item is subject to debate. But that’s the point: the premillennial view cannot be defended as self-evident. Possible, yes; self-evident, no.
I’ll be hitting on the land fulfillment issue in subsequent posts, thus returning to the Abraham covenant. But before that, we need to look at one more important covenant that is typically viewed as unconditional and ultimately future, but which is subject to the same two elements above: it has conditions and it can be viewed as fulfilled.
The covenant I speak of is the New Covenant. Here is the prophecy from Jeremiah 31:
31 Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, Know the Lord, for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
Let’s note the elements of importance:
1. The covenant is made with “the house of Israel” (v. 33).
2. The law of God is written on the heart of the believer/faithful person (v. 33)
3. “All” will know the Lord – How should “all” be taken? Premillers and pretribbers want to see this as millennial language, but in that case, “all” cannot mean “all” as in “every person in the kingdom” since Rev 20 tells us there are evil people in the millennium (the people who rebel with Satan after the millennium). Therefore “all” is really a subset. Amillers who would take this as already fulfilled in the Church would say this subset = believers (i.e., everyone who has the law written on their heart will know the Lord). The “all” in this view = the true Israel of Paul — *any* and every believer.
4. The covenant with the house of Israel is made “after those days” (v.33). “Those days” refers to the time of exile, as any outline of Jeremiah 30-31 will make evident (meaning the question is “how long after the exile is the rest of this fulfilled?”). Here’s one (you can check your own Bible or study Bible too):
a. Return from captivity (Jer. 30:13)
b. The time of Jacobs trouble (30:47) – note that this section is *assumed* to be future by premillers and pretribbers, but verses 4-7 could easily be viewed as a “flashback” to what the Lord had said *earlier* about Israel and Judah, prior to the promise of return. Again, a future interpretation is not at all self evident.
c. Freedom from bondage to oppressors (30:811)
d. Israels wounds healed (30:1217)
e. Rebuilt Jerusalem and her ruler (30:1822)
f. Judgment, then blessing (30:2324)
The new covenant (31:140)
a. Gods mercy for Ephraim (31:16) – Since the northern kingdom of Israel (“Ephraim”) no longer existed in Jeremiah’s day, *any* fulfillment view would be future to Jeremiah’s time. While the premill / pretrib view assumes this refers to a future regathering of Israel, it could also refer to the presence of Ephraimite tribes returning back to the land (there are such tribal affiliations mentioned after the returns of Ezra and Nehemiah, and the tribes are numbered at 12 after the return – see Ezra 6:17; 8:35; Luke 2:36 [Asher]; Neh 10:28ff. [Levi]). Nevertheless, the fact that this passage (see v. 4) talks about the rebuilding of Israel and Paul equates the true Israel with *any* believer, Jew or Gentile, may make the whole subject moot.
b. The restoration of Israel in joy (31:714)
c. Israels lamentable present (31:1522)
d. Judahs bright future (31:2326)
e. National increase in the future (31:2730)
f. Gods new covenant (31:3134)
g. The perpetuity of Israel (31:3540)
Now for some discussion. The conditionality aspect with the new covenant is the law of God mentioned in Jer. 31:33. The law refers back to the Law of Moses. Thus the New Covenant relationship presumes obedience to the law. And yet the history of God’s people shows that they cannot keep it. God must do something that makes that possible. He puts the law “in” their heart. In effect, the New Covenant is God’s way *not* of removing conditions to be his people, but of meeting the conditions for obedience he set long ago for the true children of Abraham (see my earlier post on the Abrahamic covenant) and any descendant of David who would sit on the throne (recall that they would be removed if they were ungodly, despite the Davidic covenant). God meets the demands of his own covenantal requirements through a remnant that he himself calls and instills his law.
So when is the New Covenant fulfilled? The New Testament uses the phrase “new covenant” several times:
I was at a meeting Wed night for the CWI (Christian Witness to Israel) I heard it said and i have heard it said many times that replacement theology is a damaging teaching to adhere to as it lessens our duty to Israel and the Jewish people (to the Jew first) especially in these times when Israel is painted as the bad guy and all the world condemn her for the protecting herself.
I know it has little to do with what you said above but it has a real practical application with Eschatology, and i would be interested in your answer.
The reasons people fear replacement theology (read: non-dispensationalist theologies / views of eschatology) are twofold: (1) it removes a sacred status from Israel as the people of God; (2) it is assumed that without #1 someone will not continue to support Israel politically.
The first has far more substance than the second, but it must be kept in mind that replacement theology has its own presuppositions and biases. For example, it assumes things like: (1) we’re right; our view is obvious from the Bible [sound familiar?]; (2) since OT prophecies and the covenants are fulfilled, that’s all there is to prophecy other than the second coming (how would we know that was God’s intention – see #3); (3) prophecies only get fulfilled once (wrong – they can be fulfilled cyclically, or you can have fulfillments that are preparatory to an ultimate fulfillment).
It also never asks the question of whether BOTH “non-literal” and “literal” fulfillment might be simultaneously true but in different ways.
The latter — support for Israel — does not (or should not) depend on one’s theology, other than to discern evil and propaganda (how could anyone who claims the name of Christ side *with* a political entity whose sworn purpose, by charter, is to wipe another people [Israel] off the face of the earth?) Yeah, Jesus would defend that.
I just want to do a “shout-out” to you for taking on the eschatology issue (I know it’s not your favorite). Nevertheless, your insights and expertise are invaluable. I appreciate your approach and candor, as always. This series will prove to be beneficial for anyone, regardless of their eschatological inclinations, because of the means by which you strive to approach the biblical text with an awareness of such typical presuppositions. Thank you for your continued service to the Body of Christ.
thanks, Marc. Hope all is well in ABQ with your ministry.
Loving this series of posts, and your thoughts on all of this, as this is where I tend to be going lately…i.e. scrapping all the systems and getting back to what the bible says. What a novel idea!
While I may not see eye to eye with everything you’ve written to date, you seem to be doing me an incredible favor by having done a whole ton of heavy lifting on this. Thank you so much MSH!
The response to nobunaga above brings up an interesting set of thoughts, and I figure you’re the guy, MSH, to be able to answer this. I’ve read in several far flung places that biblical prophecy can be viewed and understood cyclically (the pre-wrath view of joel 2:30-31 being fufilled at Jesus death, pentacost, and at rev 6:12 springs to mind.)
Is there a book/books/journals where one can investigate this notion in some sort of way? I’ve heard it said that the jewish mind would tend to interpret prophecy in a cyclical way anyway. EW Bullinger makes a point in numbers in scripture about this, and G. H. Pember picks up on it and mentions it in the latter part of “earths earliest ages.” He says something like “Well it appears that its cyclical and according to my calc. something really interesting is going to happen on 1896 or 1897 regarding Israel returning to the land.” There seems to be a neglected facet of biblical study there that I just cant seem to find anything about. Any hints helps, etc.on study, reading…really anything on this would be greatly appreciated.
I’ll have to give this some thought. Nothing specific hits me just now — just random journal articles and book chapters and sections. I’ll have to check.
Thank you and yes i agree “support for Israel does not (or should not) depend on ones theology” but there is a lot of anti Israel stuff going around in the media and it would be easy to fall for it and just see Israel as obstacle to peace in the middle East. Thanks again
I hold a a position that Israel and the Jewish people have a important role based on Mat 23:39 the circumstances surrounding the cry is not as important to me, it my be repentance or under judgment or both.
Journal articles, journal entries, book chapters etc. are fine.
you can send anything that comes to mind, or scans or whatever via the email embed required for this comment
Might even be an interesting entry or series for nakedbible in its own right.
I can’t actually remember what this is for – which subject again?
send me an email about this to remind me.
I am new to this blog , personally I think that most classified theologies fall short of the Truth. I have been referred as a adherent of replacement…. well who came up with that terminology but those who disagree!
the word is clear as to who the people of God’s new covenant are, it is Those in Christ.
Apostle Peter addressing Jews in Christ scattered abroad said “once you were not a people But Now Ye are God’s people in Christ”. Thing have not changed Israel or Gentile in Christ Are The Israel of god.
Sorry, I am assuming that your comment:
“Ill have to give this some thought. Nothing specific hits me just now just random journal articles and book chapters and sections. Ill have to check.”-MSH
Was directed at my comment:
“The response to nobunaga above brings up an interesting set of thoughts, and I figure youre the guy, MSH, to be able to answer this. Ive read in several far flung places that biblical prophecy can be viewed and understood cyclically…Any hints helps, etc.on study, reading really anything on this would be greatly appreciated”.-Tom Bioinc
I was hoping to get you input on places to go reading something scholarly (FACE guy doesnt qualify) about the cyclical aspect of biblical prophecy.
Sorry if my comments were not clear, or if yours, MSH were directed at someone else. I apologize.
no problem – just send me a separate email so I remember to gather some things.
Nice sum up. You’ve used the word ” sophistry ” about three times in other places lately, I had to look it up.
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Especially the latter since sometimes you respond to someone but it’s not always evident to whom it refers back to. Some posts are hard to follow the trail of the comments such as this one : http://michaelsheiser.com/TheNakedBible/2010/04/focus-on-fornication/
sweet advice – I will get those plugins. Thanks!
I had to look it up sophisim also, the image of Christopher Hitchens kept poping into my mind while reading the definition.
Mike, Are you familiar with the two-house teaching. That Israel(Ephraim) would become a fullness of the gentiles and that, as Paul states gentiles have been grafted in to the household of Israel and are, therefore, no longer gentiles but of Israel. sorry I know that was long winded. If you are familiar what od you think of it?
why would two houses of Jews become Gentiles?
So, Mike, in the end….are the Church and (the non-national) Israel the same?
It seems to me that they are, from Galatians 3, Romans 4:11-12, Romans 4:16-17, Romans 9:6-7. Lary Hurtado says that Paul distinguished between the two. Well, I agree that he distinguishes between ethnic Jews and ethnic Gentiles but I think Paul does equate the Church with the “true/new (spiritual) Israel”. I don’t see how it works any other way, anyway.
By the way, when is the book (The Myth That Is True) coming out ?
I’m not doing eschatological specifics. I’m being sincere when I say I don’t care. They are the same and different (like people – they are all humans but all different – pick your analogy). Prophecy works out on earth and in heaven in tandem, simultaneously, so questions like these, designed to force on into a literal vs. a non-literal (more than literal in my parlance) choice are simply irrelevant in my view.
No idea about the Myth. My goal now is the end of March. Very difficult to find time to work on it.
Well, I’m not trying to force anything. I’m just interested, I’m not forcing a literal vs non-literal dichotomy. I think the Church is the “true Israel (Jews and Gentiles) but there may still be (and probably are) some prophetic “things” that are to happen with the ethnic/national Israel; the Israel “according to the flesh” probably still has its role.
However, my point was about the spiritual Israel. My view is that everyone who believes in Christ is part of Abraham’s offspring (Gal 3:29) and is therefore part of (the spiritual) Israel. Since the Church is the body of Christian believers then I think it naturally follows that the spiritual Israel = the Church.
What’s your opinion on this?
agreed that everyone who believes in Christ is part of Abraham’s offspring; patently biblical as you note.