Monday, February 20, 2006

Some Other Thoughts on Eschatology, Israel, and the Gentile Believer

My good friend and fellow-servant, KA in LV, pointed out that my recent remarks on Israel may be influenced by my covenantal leanings theologically. He may be correct in this, but I am uncertain. I am not a straight-up covenantalist, and I believe that he said that he is not a down-the-line dispensationalist either. What that means, actually, is that KA's theology and my own needs some work. Further, it means that we know too much from both sides for our own good, we understand the good points of both, so we promise further investigation on the matter as soon as the phone stops ringing, counseling sessions get cancelled, all the kids get well, and the grass gets cut. By the way, KA, we pray for you each day and you continue to be on our prayer list at Church.

Let me make a couple of things clear from the start. I do not wish emnity upon Israel in any shape, form, or fashion. I also would like to be friends with Belgium, if that is possible. I try to live at peace whenever I can.

Here is what KA meant when he said that my covenantal views have affected my views on Israel. According to strict covenantalism, the Church itself is the Israel of God. I think that it is a bit of a mistake to say that covenantalists believe that the church has "replaced" Israel as a people. They certainly believe that Israel is included in the Church. They just get the same space as the English, the Americans, the Williams', and even the French. In Covenantal theology, when you read "Israel", you can basically plug in "church" and have a good synonym.

That sounds sort of like what I am saying, but it isn't quite. What I am saying is that it is okay to protest against modern day Israel if they are guilty of violating people's basic human rights. Jeremiah did. Isaiah did. Most of the prophets spoke against the ruling powers of Israel if indeed they acted ungodly. My contention is that so should we.

I know that Israel its hands full dealing with terrorists and crazy Jihadists and things of this nature. I believe that Israel has a right to defend itself. But we can't just throw a blanket over everything that Israel does and pronounce it righteous simply because they sprang from Abraham's loins anymore than we can rubber stamp George Bush's choices because he is an "evangelical Christian."

That is all pretty basic, I believe. So let me get to the real reason why I believe the average dispensational guy defends Israel so vigorously. They are God's chosen people. Yes, that's true. I also happen to be a chosen person who has the faith like Abraham's and will sit at the table with he and Isaac and Jacob. No dispensationalist would disagree with that, I don't think.

What they really believe is that, if we leave Israel alone, or better yet, support them, that God will soon rapture the Church away so He can deal once again with His "chosen" people. Now I am a chosen person...wait, I said that already.

I am with you on this, my dispensational friend, sort of. I have some melancholy Post-trib leanings, though. Please don't stop being my friend over this; I can't help it that I'm right about that.

What fascinates me about this position is the inherit predestination and sovereign election of God that is built in to this view that the average dispy will most likely deny. That is, the average dispy believes in a general(ish) atonement and that election of individuals is based upon their foreseen belief in Christ. Now oddly, at the end of all things, all of surviving Israel will be saved. No doubt about it, according to dispensational theology. How is it that an entire nation of people, all armed with libertarian free will, will all accept Jesus as Messiah at the same moment? Why will this only happen to Israel and not, say, Mozambique? I know the answer: Brad, it is because God chose Israel for salvation.

What do you mean? God chose Israel as a nation and individually because He saw that they would all simultaneously believe in the end? they all simultaneously believe in the end because God chose them? (cf. John 15:16).

Just some food for thought there. In the end, I believe that the average evangelical is crazy about Israel because they see that nation as an end time fulfillment to prophecy and a sure sign that Jesus is returning soon. Further, all Israel will be gathered together so that God may work His saving grace among them.

I read you loud and clear, but let me add something more to this. I also believe that there are people in Saudia Arabia that God will save, and in Egypt, and in Texas, and in Italy. They will be just as much my brothers and sisters and Christ as any Jewish person that God saves. Are they due any less respect and awe?


pilgrim said...

I know a very dispensational guy--although he lives in the US now, so I haven't spoken with him recently.

When he spoke he peppered it with the phrase "God's chosen people"
He almost seemed to go out of his way to use the phrase, and ALWAYS about Israel including the modern nation state.

He put it in such a way as to denigrate the Church to elevate Israel--I know as you have stated, he didn't mean it that way--but it did come across that way, and was often the implication of what he said.

If you reminded him that God chose the Church as well, he would acknowledge you, then sweep the comment aside.

I, like you, do not agree that the Church replaced Israel, but agree with your assessment after that.

God has one people---it includes Jew & Gentile, and it doesn't excuse the modern nation of Israel from criticism.

Wes Kenney said...

It is interesting to me to follow your thoughts here. I served on staff for three years with a pastor who was the most strict dispensationalist I've ever met. I didn't think people like him existed until I met him. He believed that the Olivet discourse is being fulfilled before our eyes, that the fig tree began to bud in 1948, and that someone who was alive then will still be alive at the rapture.

At the same time, he was stridently anti-Calvinist (as opposed to me; I'm slothfully anti-Calvinist). I wish I had thought to point out to him the dilemma that put him in with regard to the mass salvation of Israel at the end of the tribulation. It would have been fun to watch the wheels turn on that one.

By they way, as to your last paragraph, I'm not so sure about Texas...

(Just kidding - my wife is from Texas)

Jonathan Moorhead said...

You write, "In the end, I believe that the average evangelical is crazy about Israel because they see that nation as an end time fulfillment to prophecy and a sure sign that Jesus is returning soon."

"Ambigous" - this is the word that many writers use to define Christian Zionism. Why? Dispensationalists love to help Jews get to Israel and support them 100%, but they are basically a means to an end: the 2nd coming. Additionally, most Jews will be destroyed in the Tribulation anyways, so many do not even consider Christians true Zionists.

Anonymous said...

I hardly feel capable of writing anything concerning eschatology, but in the interest of insight to all parties, I will share what others have concluded.
John Walvoord, Dallas Th.Sem * proponent of dispensationalism, sees Zechariah 13:8 & ch14 pointing to the end times. In it(v8) he interprets that 2 out of every 3 of the Jews will have died in the preceding Tribulation period. As far as I can tell, apart from the 144,000 of the Jews who are Divinely sealed, the remaining Jews are also open to God's judgement(Rev 9:18 - 1/3 of all people killed; Rev 6:7,8 - 1/4 of earth killed with sword, hunger, death, etc.) Certainly, faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only measure by which anyone will be saved, Jew or Gentile.
Eschatology doen not begin with John's Revelation, but this book certainly has to be considered thoroughly before one arrives at a viewpoint. If the church corporate were still around(Gentiles & Jews), why does God select 12000 from 12 tribes of israel to be His witnesses instead of a combined effort? The literal reading of this text seems to make the most sense instead of trying to symbolize the Jews into the church.
Duties call...more questions than answers, but I promise to keep studying....KA

étrangère said...

"I also would like to be friends with Belgium, if that is possible." Thanks Brad, I haven't laughed so hard in a while!

Studying Romans recently and this is how I see it developing:
1) He establishes that not all of Israel ARE saved - all haved sinned, not all had faith / were chosen (Paul's specific examples are Isaac and Esau; Hebrews reminds us that not all Jews were able to enter God's rest because of disobedience). [aside thus how can all of physical Israel be saved? they already haven't been.]
2) But that's 'ok' because "Not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel" (9.6ff) - ie there's physical Israel and within it, faith-saved Israel (eg 4.12, 11.7), both of which he's calling Israel.
3) Then he says that the restoration of Israel prophesied in Hosea refers to a group of both Jews and Gentiles whom God has prepared for glory rather than destruction (9 esp vv22-26)
4) So God hasn't rejected his people: his *inheriting the promises* people (Promised People?) have always been this remnant by grace through faith.
5) The rest of the Jews are hardened and thus "the fullness" of the Gentiles gets grafted in. (11.25) Not ALL the Gentiles obviously! But the full number of those who are elect.
6) This causes jealousy amongst the Jews and in the end "the fullness" of the Jews will be in too. Not all the Jews, obviously (by now in Paul's argument this is just as obvious as 'not all the Gentiles')! But the full number of those who are elect.
7) And in this way all Israel ("the fullness of the Jews" + "the fullness of the Gentiles", by faith as Abraham) will be saved. Woohoo, praise God for his truthfulness to his promises to the Jews and his mercy to the Gentiles (15.8-9)!

Bonza, it even forms 7 points ;-)

Oh, and Paul's application? Not "therefore focus on Israel", but "therefore, neither of you have any cause for boasting - get on with being Christ's church why don't you!" (uh, paraphrase of 3.27-30 & 11.18&21... and not lacking from most of the rest of the book).

Thoughts? Call me out? Ah no, whoever did that would have to venture into (whisper it: francophone) Belgium for that, I'm safe ;-D Seriously though, since I just can't see any other way of reading Paul's argument as a whole, if there's something sticking out like a sore thumb at anyone else I'd welcome a heads up.

Jim said...

Brad, good post. I think etrangere's thoughts are quite on track.

There are obviously promises given to the Israelites that do not apply to the church, and promises given to the church that are not fulfilled in the old covenant.

I guess my question is; if the Jewish nation is no longer relevant as a people of God, why do they continue to suffer so much persecution and slander? What other race or distinct group of people have such an intact history and have been targeted for elimination so many times as the Jews?