Israel, the Land, and the Middle East (Part 2)

(by The Rev. Dr. Curtis I. Crenshaw, Th.M., Th.D.)

(6 Sep 2014)

(my forthcoming update of my book on dispensationalism will cover these matters in more detail.)

Last blog I wrote about the definition of “Israel,” which is taken for granted. We saw that there are many biblical and contemporary approaches to “Israel.” “Israel”  could be the Northern ten tribes that were taken captive in 722 BC by Assyria; or it could be those living in Palestine when the Lord came the first time; or it could be the elect Spiritual “Israel” (John 8:39-44; Gal. 6:16; Rom. 9:6); or it could be one person, Jacob; and so on. Paul stated that the true Jew was not the one by physical birth nor by circumcision but one of the heart who loved the covenant Lord:

28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh; 29 but he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the Spirit, not in the letter; whose praise is not from men but from God” (Rom. 2:28-29).

The interesting thing is that current dispensationalists think that the true Jew is the one outwardly, just by physical birth. Likewise in Romans 9:6, the great apostle to the Gentiles said, “they are not all Israel who are of Israel.”

Then in John 8:39-44 the Lord Himself stated that though the Jews He was speaking to were Abraham’s seed, nevertheless they were of their father the devil. Being of Abraham’s physical seed was a step in the right direction, but they must also be believers in the Lord of Glory who came to fulfill the covenant.

Here is a good summary of what I was saying two blogs ago, written by the brilliant evangelical Anglican scholar, Gerald Bray, in his systematic theology, titled God Is Love (p. 557). Dr. Bray has traveled worldwide, and speaks many languages. My comments on his material are in brackets ([]).

. . . the church is deeply divided about what the prospects for the Jewish people are. [I disagree with this statement. From the early church until Darby in the mid-1800s, the church was united that the hope of the “Jews” was in Messiah, belief in Jesus. It has only been in the last 100+ years that such has been challenged. The dispensationalists are, was, and always have been in the minority. They are primarily a USA phenomenon, and have only existed from the mid-1800s. Virtually all Christians are creedal (especially the Nicene Creed that states we believe “in one holy, catholic, and apostolic church,” which means not two peoples of God. The Nicene Creed is the most universal one, being held to by all three branches of Christianity, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodoxy, and most Protestants.] At one end of the spectrum are those who believe that, in restoring an independent Jewish state in Palestine, God has fulfilled the promise made to Abraham that his descendants would possess the land. They believe that the ingathering of Israel has already begun and that when it is complete—about a third of the world’s Jewish population now lives there—Christ the Messiah will return. It is important to understand that, although this view is clearly “pro-Israeli,” it is not held by any significant body of Jewish opinion, nor is it official policy of the state of Israel. In other words, pro-Israeli Christians do not correspond to any significant group within the Jewish community itself [today], even if elements of what they believe can be found among different (and often mutually antagonistic) Jewish circles.

At the other end of the spectrum are those Christians, historically the vast majority, who claim that although Jews may have some advantage over Gentiles, they cannot inherit the promises made to Abraham in any way other than by having faith in Christ because he is the fulfillment of those promises. . . . The end result is the same. In the final analysis, Jewish Christians are saved on the same basis and in the same way as anyone else” (p. 558).

Here is a summary of the fulfillment of the types and shadows of the Old Testament to the New Testament, showing bud (Old Testament) to flower (New Testament) fulfillment, and Christ is the fulfiller of all things:

From Ephesians 2:11ff:

Notice here that we have both covenants and promise used and in the sense of fulfillment of the Old Testament, thereby demonstrating continuity. Observe that the Gentiles are now included:

Gentiles from OT to NT in Ephesians 2:11ff

Formerly (v. 12) Now
Separate from Christ Brought near by Christ (v. 13)
Not citizens of Israel Fellow citizens with Israel (v. 19)
Strangers to the promises No longer strangers (v. 19)
No hope Hope (v. 16)
Without God With God (v. 18)

Results: The New Israel

  1. Both groups (Jews and Gentiles) now made into ONE new body (v. 14).
  2. The two made into ONE new man (v. 15).
  3. Reconciled both in ONE body to God (v. 16).
  4. Gentiles are fellow citizens with the saints (the true Jews), and are of God’s ONE household (v. 19).

Who is Israel according to Paul here? Israel existed before (Eph. 2:12, 19) but continues today (Eph. 2:13-21) in a different form: Jews and Gentiles are on an equal ba­sis in the same body. But Paul emphasizes that the Gentiles are now members of God’s true Israel (vv. 12, 19).

As we begin to summarize the Old Testament fulfillments even more, let us recall what Leonhard Goppelt said in his most excellent study of Old Testament fulfillment in the New Testament, titled Typos. In his Introduction, he says that fulfillment has basically two elements: historical continuity and escalation. In other words, there is a historical connection between the Old Testament type and the New Testament fulfillment, such as the Passover, veil in the temple and Christ’s flesh; but there is also escalation, which means that the fulfillment is much greater than the type. To continue the example, Jesus was the lamb of God who took away the sin of the world, and because of who He was, His sacrifice was once for all. There can never be another sacrifice without demeaning what the Son of God did. We can never go back and offer the Old Testament sacrifices again, which is what would happen if the “Jews” rebuilt the temple. Some might say that would just be memorials, symbolic, not effectual signs of the covenant, to which I say, that is all they ever were. Thus, when Jesus sent His Roman general Titus to destroy Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple, it indicated that God was judging them for rejecting His fulfillments in Christ. Now that the old covenant is fulfilled in the new covenant, we do not go back to the types and shadows, which is the message of the whole book of Hebrews. The point of the Bible is not the fulfillment of one man (Abraham), his seed, and one piece of real estate, but the fulfillment of mankind, the seed of the woman beginning with Adam (Gen. 3:15), going to Christ, who brings everything together. Consider this chart:

Fulfillment of Old Covenant by Christ as the New Covenant Head:

Adam                  Sabbath

Noah                    Sabbath                              Rainbow

Abraham            Sabbath                              Rainbow                            Circum

Moses                  Sabbath                              Rainbow                            Circum                Passover

David                  Sabbath                              Rainbow                            Circum                 Passover                              nation/kingdom

Fulfillment of all:

Christ                  Heb 3-4                             Christ judged                    baptism                Lord’s Supper                    Church

Col 2:16-17                         1 Peter 3:21                       Col. 2:11-12        1 Cor 5:7                            1 Pe 2:9

Let’s put this another way. The great symbols of God’s covenant with Old Testament “Israel” were these (in no certain order):

  1. Circumcision, fulfilled by Christ who was circumcised. Now baptism fulfills this without blood (Col. 2:11-12). Both indicate a joining with the people of God.
  2. Passover, now fulfilled by “Christ, our Passover, who was sacrificed for us” (1 Cor. 5:7)
  3. Tabernacle and temple with all the sacrifices that prefigured Jesus, who by His once for all sacrifice fulfilled the tabernacle, temple, and all the sacrifices. Indeed, when Jesus from the cross cried out with a loud voice “it is finished” (John 19:30), the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. There could never again be a temple and sacrifices that were acceptable to God. Hebrews 10:19-22 gives us the reason:

Therefore, brethren, having boldness to enter the Holiest by the blood of Jesus, 20 by a new and living way which He consecrated for us, through the veil, that is, His flesh, 21 and having a High Priest over the house of God, 22 let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” Moreover, this offering was once for all as is clearly stated in Hebrews 10:10-14.

  1. Pentecost was the firstfruits harvest of the Old Testament crops, and in Acts 2 was the firstfruits harvest of those coming to faith in Christ, including both Jews and Gentiles. Furthermore, the Old Testament put a curse on those at the tower of Babel, turning one language into many, while the New Testament fulfillment reversed the curse by the power of the gospel, turning many languages into one. There can never be another Pentecost.
  2. Another huge sign of the covenant was the land promise. When the Old Testament body of covenant people called Israel were in favor with Yahweh, they had good worship (tabernacle/ temple), good sacrifices, and dwelt peacefully in their promised land. When Israel was under judgment for their sins, God destroyed the temple and removed them from the land. That happened in 722 BC when the Assyrians took the northern 10 tribes of Israel from their land, never to be heard from again. They had no temple. About 150 years later when the southern two tribes turned away from their covenant, they were taken to Babylon (586 BC), out of their land, and the temple destroyed. When their judgment was over, they went back to the land, restored the law, rebuilt the temple, and rebuilt City of Jerusalem with the covenant blessing of Yahweh.
  3. We have not only the temple and land, but also Jerusalem that was destroyed. Now we are not to think of that city as the ultimate one because the Church is the city, as Scripture clearly teaches:

22 For it is written that Abraham had two sons: the one by a bondwoman, the other by a freewoman. 23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born according to the flesh, and he of the freewoman through promise, 24 which things are symbolic. For these are the two covenants: the one from Mount Sinai which gives birth to bondage, which is Hagar– 25 for this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and corresponds to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children– 26 but the Jerusalem above is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:22-26).

22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, to an innumerable company of angels, 23 to the general assembly and church of the firstborn who are registered in heaven, to God the Judge of all, to the spirits of just men made perfect, 24 to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel (Heb. 12:22-24).

We see that our new city is Mt. Zion, the new and heavenly Jerusalem (Rev. 3:12; 21:2, 10). All God’s people from Adam to the last one saved will be one, not two peoples of God. Christ is not a bigamist with two brides, an Old Testament Jewish one and a New Testament Gentile one. Moreover, as we read in Hebrews 11:39:

And speaking of the Old Testament saints, of whom the author of Hebrew spent his longest chapter on from Abel to Abraham, and so, concludes that the New Testament saints to whom he is writing are included in that one people of God:

37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, were tempted, were slain with the sword. They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins, being destitute, afflicted, tormented–38 of whom the world was not worthy. They wandered in deserts and mountains, in dens and caves of the earth. 39 And all these, having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, 40 God having provided something better for us, that they [Old Testament saints] should not be made perfect apart from us [New Testament saints]. (Heb. 11:37-40).

 

Notice these comparisons and contrasts between the first and last parts of the Bible:

Genesis 1-3
Revelation 21-22
Creation of heaven and earth New heaven/new earth (first past away; 2 Peter 3:1-13)
Fall into sin, cast out of garden No more sin, new garden
Cannot eat of the tree of life May eat the tree of life (22:2)
Curse on the earth and on man “No more curse” (22:3; see Rom 8:19ff)
All nations cursed Healing of the nations (22:2)
Seed of the woman promised for salvation The Lamb is the promised seed

To put it this way:

We move from one man Adam who failed to the one Man Jesus who succeeded

We move from the sin of the one man to God’s judgment on the garden and the earth to the Last Adam, who removed the curse

We move from one nation to many nations as the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, not from one nation, to many nations, and back to one nation, which would be a reversal (Rom. 4:17-18).

We move from the small parcel of land in the mid-East that is not even what the original “Israel” held, to the whole world: “or the promise that Abraham would be the heir of the world [kosmos] was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through the righteousness of faith” (Rom. 4:13).  Again, Jesus said at His Ascension,

18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen. (Matt. 28:18-20).

“Heaven and earth” remind us of the creation in Genesis 1:1 so what we are to understand here is the same that was created and fell is the same that is being redeemed, a new creation. In other words, the land promise has been extended to the church so that we are heirs of the world. Christ has all authority for us to evangelize the whole world, not just Palestine. Jesus said “the meek shall inherit the earth,” not just a few square miles. The word for “earth” is gη (pronounced “gay”, γῆ), which can mean “land” though that is rare. It is translated “earth” by every English translation I checked on Matthew 5:5. Furthermore, if you recall what God said to His people in the Old Testament, that everywhere their foot trod, that land was given to them. In Matthew 28:18-20, we have the same promise; namely, that everywhere the church goes, that land belongs to use. At every point, we win. Our gospel wins, not Satan’s false teachings. Our atonement wins and so we conquer by its power. The cross wins, and in that sign we conquer (as Constantine in the early 300s). When things are bad—as they are now for the church around the world—we must repent, look up, for persecution strengthens the church. The church is like a gas fire: stomp it, and it spreads; leave I alone, and it dies out.

 

We may summarize where we are:

Comparison: Old Covenant (“Israel”)                      New Covenant (Church)

Circumcision                                                                                fulfilled in Christ (Col. 2:11-12)

Passover                                                                                        fulfilled in Christ (1 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 10:10-14)

Tabernacle/temple                                                                     Christ is now the temple (John 2:20-22), and the

                                                                                                                     Church is the temple (Eph. 2:19-21)

Pentecost                                                                                       Jesus poured out His Spirit to begin formally

                                                                                                                 Building His kingdom (Acts 2)

Given the land of Palestine                                                      Church given the whole world

The one nation Israel                                                                  Now the Abrahamic covenant has been

                                                                                                                   Fulfilled in MANY nations.

We don’t return to circumcision. We don’t return to Passover. We don’t return to the tabernacle or the temple and its fulfilled sacrifices. We don’t return to Pentecost. We don’t return to the land. And we don’t return to the one nation but go on to the many nations. In each case, the type has been fulfilled and has escalated to something so much greater!

(TO SEE A SUMMARY OF THE ISSUES THAT REALLY MATTER REGARDING DISPENSATIONALISM, GO HERE.

AMEN. Ώ

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