Debate: Michael Brown and Don Preston On Romans 11:25-27 (Video and Notes)


As announced earlier, a debate took place on June 3rd between Dr. Michael Brown and Dr. Don K. Preston regarding Romans 11:25-27. The debate lasted for 1 hour, 45 minutes and was moderated by Dr. James White of Alpha & Omega Ministries. Don K. Preston is an author, pastor, and the president of Preterist Research Institute (websites 1, 2, and 3), and Michael Brown is an author, professor, and radio host (websites 1, 2, and 3). Both men have authored 22 books each.

The key questions for the debate were as follows: “Does Romans 11:25-27 state that there will be a national turning of the Jewish people to God? Are there any Old Testament promises made to ethnic Israel that remain to be fulfilled?” Both men had 17 minutes each to make their initial case, 12 minutes each to rebut the other’s arguments, 15 minutes each to cross-examine the other, and five minutes each for concluding statements. Here’s the video of the debate, followed by the less-than-perfect notes I took while watching it. (I’ve also included the video time markers for each section of the debate, and my additional thoughts are in red font.)

A. Introduction by Dr. James White (0:00 – 3:53)

B1. Michael Brown’s Initial Case (3:54 – 20:54)

According to Michael Brown, Romans 11:25-27 is about “ethnic, national Israel” and a future “national turning of the Jewish people.” (Will the unsaved Palestinians and expatriates living in Israel be excluded from this national turning because they’re not Jewish? Will Jews living outside Israel be excluded as well?)

Michael distinguishes this entity, Israel, from “the Gentile church.” (I’m not sure what “the Gentile church” is, since there is no Jew or Gentile in Jesus Christ, and no distinction – Romans 10:12-13, Galatians 3:28, Colossians 3:11.) Paul is looking forward to the full inclusion of Jews, says Michael, not just a remnant. The “partial hardening” of Israel is partial in that it’s not for all time. This hardening, though, is still on Jewish hearts to this day.

–The “fullness of the Gentiles” refers to salvation for Gentiles.
–The church is not Jacob (in reference to Jeremiah 31).
–The wolf is not yet laying down with the lamb. (Paul demonstrates otherwise in Romans 15 by quoting from the same section of Isaiah 11 where it’s predicted that the wolf would lay down with the lamb. Paul applied this passage to Gentiles, in his day, putting their hope in Christ along with Jews. See here for more details.)
–We haven’t yet seen the renovating of the universe spoken of in II Peter 3. (I personally see Peter’s prophecy as speaking of the burning of the Jerusalem temple and the destruction of the old covenant system in 70 AD, as did Eusebius, John Owen, Jonathan Edwards, and others in church history. See here for more.)
–The new covenant was inaugurated with the remnant, but not yet with the nation as a whole.
–“If words mean anything, _____________ has not happened” (in reference to a number of things that Michael Brown believes have not yet been fulfilled).
–The expression “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:26) will not necessarily include all Jews, but will include many of them. (Is this because it won’t include Jews living outside Israel, or is this an admission that God only promised to save a remnant from Israel? I was surprised to hear Michael Brown say this.)

B2. Don Preston’s Initial Case (21:41 – 38:37)

Don Preston agrees that Romans 11:25-27 deals with ethnic Israel, and adds that verses 28-29 deal with ethnic Israel and Jewish unbelievers. Don lists the following Scriptures as providing the background to Paul’s teaching here: Deuteronomy 32:18, 43; Isaiah 26:21, 27:10-13, 59:1-21; Jeremiah 31; and Daniel 9:24-27.

–Both judgment and salvation are in view in Isaiah 26-27 and in Isaiah 59, including judgment for the shedding of innocent blood (themes in Matthew 21, 23; Revelation 6, 16-19; etc.).
–Hosea predicts both the divorce of Israel and God’s promise of remarriage for Israel. This is what Paul is speaking of in Romans 11. The remnant of Israel was to be joined with new covenant believers from other nations, and all of them made one in Jesus.
–God would slay the kingdom, but preserve the family.
–“Paul is dealing with the climax of Israel’s covenant history” in Romans 11.

C1. Michael Brown’s Rebuttal (39:16 – 51:13)

–The temple has not yet been rebuilt.
–Israel has not yet welcomed Jesus back (Matthew 23:39).
–Atonement has been made, but not yet received by national Israel.
–Isaiah 60 predicts that Israel would rise and shine, but this hasn’t happened yet. (What if the light that would shine was Jesus, and a remnant of Israel would rise with believers from other nations and shine with His light? See here for more.)
–Israel’s return from Babylonian exile in the 6th century did not happen with the expected and predicted glory. Those prophecies only happened in part.

C2. Don Preston’s Rebuttal (51:33 – 1:03:33)

–In I Peter 1, Peter said that the prophets looked into the salvation we have experienced in Christ, and they did not understand the time or the manner of its fulfillment.
–Hosea 3 predicted that the 10 northern tribes of Israel would be without a temple, altar, ephod, and sacrifices until the last days when David would be their king.
–In II Peter 2, Peter writes to the 12 tribes of the diaspora, referring to them as a royal priesthood called to make spiritual sacrifices. Jesus, of course, is exalted to the throne of David. Hosea’s predictions for Israel were fulfilled in Peter’s day.

D1. Michael Brown’s Cross-examination of Don Preston (1:04:36 – 1:19:36)

Michael Brown posed this question to Don Preston: “How was all Israel saved in 70 AD and how is there no longer hardening on Israel today?” The following are some of Don’s replies to this and other questions that came up:

–God never promised to save the entire nation of Israel. In fact, Paul quoted Isaiah in saying that only a remnant would be saved (Romans 9:27-28).
–The remnant of Israel was transferred from the old covenant body to the new covenant body. “All Israel will be saved” = The full number of the remnant will come in.
–Any hardening of Jewish hearts in Israel today is not in fulfillment of Romans 11:25, which was a prophecy for Paul’s generation.
–James, who also addressed the 12 tribes, testified that he was among the first fruits gathering of Jewish believers (James 1:18).
–Don addresses the fulfillment of Isaiah 2, in context of Isaiah 2-4, and Jesus’ application of portions of Isaiah 2 in Luke 23:28-31.

D2. Don Preston’s Cross-examination of Michael Brown (1:19:53 – 1:34:54)

Don Preston posed this question to Michael Brown: On what basis can we reject or look beyond instances when the New Testament writers spiritually apply Old Testament promises that, on the surface, appear to require literal or physical fulfillments? The following are some of Michael’s replies to this question:

–If a later interpretation undermines an earlier prophecy, it has to be discounted.
–“If the New Testament writers made void the words of the Old Testament prophets, then it’s the New Testament writers who have to be rightly questioned” (1:22:40). “Consistent interpretation says they made nothing void. They just gave further insight into the meaning of the prophets.”

Don Preston posed this question to Michael Brown: Was the establishment of the kingdom truly at hand when Jesus said it was? The following are some of Michael’s replies to this question:

–Yes.
–“We’ve been in the last days for the last 2000 years.”
–We are in the transition age that has many “untils.”

Don Preston posed this question to Michael Brown: Peter said, “The end of all things is near” (I Peter 4:7), and Paul said that the consummation (or the goal) of all previous ages was upon his generation” (I Corinthians 10:11). What is the significance of these statements if we are still waiting for the events of the last days to take place? The following are some of Michael’s replies to this question:

–“I take all those things seriously, including I John 1:18” (“Little children, it is the last hour; and as you have heard that the Antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have come, by which we know that it is the last hour“).
–We live in a holy tension now, as many prophecies are not fully realized.
–“In Isaiah 49 the Messiah appears to have failed in His mission to Israel. And the Lord says to Him, ‘not only will you regather the lost tribes of Israel (national restoration), but You will also be a light to the nations.’ Hence, Isaiah 42 speaks of a persevering until.” (??? I had a hard time understanding what Michael meant here.)
–The national repentance of Israel (Zechariah 12:10-13) hasn’t happened yet.
–“We are living in the last hour.” (How is this possible if John said it was the last hour in the first century, nearly 2000 years ago? This would mean that “the last hour” has lasted longer than the entire old covenant age, which was 1300 years. See here for more.)

E1. Michael Brown’s Closing Statement (1:35:33 – 1:40:34)

“The Israel that is hardened, that has rejected the Messiah, will be the Israel that turns back fully.”

E2. Don Preston’s Closing Statement (1:40:47 – 1:45:49)

–“Isaiah 27 and Isaiah 59 foretold that the salvation of Israel would take place at the time of the judgment of Israel for shedding the innocent blood of the martyrs.”
–Jesus said this blood, from the beginning of Israel’s history until His generation, was going to be held to Israel’s account in Jesus’ own generation in the form of judgment.
–The time of the putting away of Israel’s sin in Daniel 9:24-27 is confined to the 70 weeks and the related destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, as Michael Brown concurred earlier in the debate. Therefore, the putting away of Israel’s sin in Romans 11 occurred no later than 70 AD.
–Judah had to be divorced in the same way the 10 tribes were, according to the Old Testament prophets and Jesus. In Matthew 22 those who rejected the wedding invitation persecuted and killed God’s servants. Jerusalem, the principal city of Judah, was to be burned at the time of the marriage promised in the Old Testament. This happened in 70 AD, and this is also in accordance with Revelation 18-19 where Babylon the Great (earlier identified as “the city where our Lord was crucified – Rev. 11:8) was to be burned just before Jesus married New Jerusalem. God married the remnant of Israel along with believers from all other nations.

——————————————————————————

Final thoughts: This was a very civil debate, which was great to see. Both men showed a high level of respect toward the other. I wish Don Preston would have given his perspective on “the fullness of the Gentiles” and also that he would have said more about “the partial hardening” that was on Israel. I understand that there were time pressures, however.

Personally I believe that only Jesus’ generation in Israel was under this hardening, in accordance with Jesus’ frequent statements that they were an evil, wicked, vile, faithless, and adulterous generation; and in accordance with His declaration that they had dull hearts, ears hard of hearing, closed eyes, etc. (see Matthew 13:10-17).

Concerning “the fullness of the Gentiles,” I personally believe this is not related at all to Gentiles being saved, but rather to the Gentile nations that had dominion over Israel from the time of Daniel onward: Babylon, Medo-Persia, Greece, and Rome. This period would end with the 3.5 year trampling of Jerusalem by the Gentiles (compare Romans 11:25 with Luke 21:24 and Revelation 11:1-2). The significance is that New Jerusalem, the new covenant community, is free (Galatians 4:21-31).

God’s promise of a new covenant for the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31) has been fulfilled in the church, the spiritual house built on the foundation of the apostles (ministers of the new covenant – II Cor. 3:5-6), with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone (Ephesians 2:11-22).

Your thoughts on this debate are welcome in the comment section below.

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11 thoughts on “Debate: Michael Brown and Don Preston On Romans 11:25-27 (Video and Notes)

  1. Enjoyed the debate and thought that both sides did a good job, don’t fully agree with Michael Brown, but it was good to hear both sides presented and confronted with questions re: their weak points. I really don’t get how the book of Hosea shows that God divorced the 10 northern tribes and because of Jesus,God divorces Judah…Is that something you believe also Adam? PJ?
    One of the keys that I will consider more is how the covenant that was/is/has passed away is the Mosaic Covenant, not the Davidic or Abrahamic Covenant. I need to study that out more. I found Don’s comment that the “Kingdom of Israel was destroyed, but the family of Israel continues” interesting. I thought Michael made a good point, that God scattered Israel and that He had not yet “gathered” them. Good stuff.

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    • Hi Chuck,

      I’m glad you enjoyed the debate. I did as well. Thanks for your feedback on it. I also find that comment interesting – “the kingdom of Israel was destroyed, but the family of Israel continues.” I would agree with that, seeing “the family of Israel” as the family of Christ.

      I will have to look at the book of Hosea again. I know the book speaks of divorce and a remarriage that will last forever, in relation to Israel. However, the idea that the 10 northern tribes were about to be divorced in Hosea’s day, and that Judah would be divorced in Jesus’ generation, is beyond what I have personally known. The divorce analogy in Hosea is fascinating, though, and it’s been a while since I’ve read/studied that book.

      Blessings on your study/consideration of the covenants. It’s a worthwhile study for sure.

      Like

  2. The ethnic Israel was the chosen people of God. But at the end only the remnant was called Israel. And not all Israel have faith in Christ, some have partial hardening until the fullness of the gentile have come in, Romans 11:25-26. Just as gentiles who were at one time disobeyed to God have now received mercy as a result of their disobedience. So they (Israel) too have now become disobedient in order that they too may now receive mercy as a result of God’s mercy to you (gentiles), Romans 11:30-31. And so “all Israel will be saved” equals “all the remnants from the chosen people of God”, excluding the 19 years old and below. The 19 years old and below were excluded from A.D. 70 judgement as the reality from the shadow of the judgement of the first exodus, Numbers 14:29-31. Moreover, the phrases “all Israel will be saved” and “the fullness of the gentiles come in” were expressions referred to as the conclusion of the old covenant story. Since the conclusion has already given, the new generations which were all 19 years old and below included us are no longer subject to the category of Israel or Gentile because such system was totally closed. In fact all of them and we as well have received the free gift from God, the eternal life of our soul not of the flesh, Romans 5:18; 6:23. The God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob is also our God. He is not the god of the dead but of the living, Matthew 22:32. We are not dead, we are in the age to come wherein eternal life exist, Mark 10:30

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    • Hi Ciriaco,

      Thanks for your feedback. I realized what you were saying about “the 19 years old and below” once I looked at Numbers 14:29-31. I do agree that “the fullness of the Gentiles come in” was an expression related to the conclusion of the old covenant age (or story). After hearing Don Preston’s view here, I can see the real possibility that “all Israel will be saved” is related to the end of that age as well. I’m not done thinking this passage through, but this debate was helpful.

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  3. I would say that both individuals presented their positions succinctly. However, I personally believe that Dr. Brown was more convincing and held the clearest biblical view if the debate thesis. To me it’s ridiculous to believe the last days are in the 1st century. But I suspect that neither one of them was swayed by the other. Some might be asking the question a politician asked about a recent controversy, “What difference does it make”?

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    • Hi Dwaine,

      Thanks for sharing your opinion on the debate. Regarding the idea that “it’s ridiculous to believe the last days are [were] in the 1st century,” I’d like to share just a few related passages from the New Testament:

      “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

      “He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:20).

      “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

      “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (I Corinthians 10:11).

      “For these are not drunk, as you suppose, since it is only the third hour of the day. But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, that I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh…” (Acts 2:15-17).

      It’s very clear from these texts and others that Jesus lived, spoke, and ministered, and died on the cross during the last days; that the Day of Pentecost took place during the last days prophesied by Joel; and that Paul wrote to an audience living at the end of the age(s). Now some people say that “the last days” have been around for 2000 years now, an idea with which I personally disagree, but it’s indisputable that the New Testament teaches that the last days were indeed around in the first century. This is discussed more fully in this post:

      http://kloposmasm.com/2014/05/31/are-we-in-the-last-days-the-last-days-of-what/

      Like

  4. I’ve listened to some of the Michael Brown “debates” and often see his pro-Israel posts on Facebook; some of which I find “unhelpful” for believers. In my estimation he doesn’t understand the New Covenant nor God’d Israel.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. For many years I held to the position that the last days have existed for 2,000 years, it was simply a matter of going along with the crowd and not thinking things through. A phrase like last days requires a termination date that is soon like “a generation or it really has no meaning at all–just a useless through away phrase or the equivalent of I don’t know.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I completely agree, Patrick, and for a while I also – without critical thinking – held to the idea that the last days have been ongoing for the last 2000 years. I believed that the last days began at Pentecost, but that’s not true according to these passages:

      “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:1-2).

      “He [Jesus] indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (I Peter 1:20).

      “He then would have had to suffer often since the foundation of the world; but now, once at the end of the ages, He has appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself” (Hebrews 9:26).

      As discussed in the following post, the new covenant age has already outlasted the old covenant age by a longshot: about 2000 years versus about 1300 years. Instead of seeing “the last days” as lasting far longer than the entire old covenant age, it makes a lot more sense (with Biblical evidence as well) to see the final generation of the old covenant age as being “the last days”:

      http://kloposmasm.com/2014/05/31/are-we-in-the-last-days-the-last-days-of-what/

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