The Vision of the Old Testament Prophets for this New Covenant Age (Preterist Conference Call)


On Sunday, May 22nd, I had the privilege of presenting a message in a conference call for those who believe in, or want to know more about, preterism (fulfilled eschatology). I titled my message, “Living Worthy of What the Old Testament Prophets Foretold about this New Covenant Age.” My message lasted 25 minutes and was followed by a time of discussion. Here’s the audio of my message, along with a written transcript of my notes. If you listen or read this message, you’ll see that the prophets had a vision of peace, and I’d love to especially hear your thoughts about that theme:

 

One thing I’ve heard from people who are skeptical of preterism is that, if everything is fulfilled, there must be nothing left for God’s people today. So I want to talk about some of those things that we do have in this new covenant age, about the present realities, mandates, and destinies that God has for us. Yes, I’m fascinated by all the things that took place in the first century AD during the last days of the old covenant age, and their significance and how they fulfilled prophecy, but I’m also very interested in how the prophets, Jesus, and the apostles said we would be equipped for a glorious, expanding, forward-moving life in God’s kingdom and in His holy city, the new Jerusalem.

This is a very broad subject, so in this message I want to narrow the focus to the vision that the Old Testament prophets had about this age. I will only have time to cover some of it, of course. Before we dig into some great Scripture texts, I want to briefly set this up and talk about one reason why it’s important to study and teach about this vision of the Old Testament prophets, especially at this point in church history. We live during a time when some very strange filters have been laid over the teachings of the Old Testament prophets because premillennial and dispensationalist teachings have dominated in the Church for several generations.

One of the foundation stones of dispensationalism is the idea that this present church age is a surprising parenthesis in God’s long-term plan. Many dispensationalist leaders have taught that this age we live in was never foreseen by the Old Testament prophets. Instead they looked past our time, i.e. the last 2000 years, toward a future 1000-year period known as “the millennium” when Christ would return and finally begin to reign. Here are a few short quotes from some of these leaders:

  1. “It has been illustrated how this whole age existed in the mind of God without having been revealed in the Old Testament.” [J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1958), p. 137]

  2. “Dispensationalists have regarded the present age as a parenthesis unexpected and without specific prediction in the Old Testament.” [J.F. Walvoord, Millennial Kingdom, 1959, p. 227]

  3. “The first prediction relative to the true Church was uttered by Christ, being recorded in Matthew 16:18.” [L.S. Chafer, Systematic Theology, 8 vols. (Dallas: Dallas Seminary Press, 1947), 4:374]

  4. “The Church is a mystery in the sense that it was completely unrevealed in the Old Testament and now revealed in the New Testament.” [Charles Ryrie, The Basis of the Premillennial Faith (Loizeaux Brothers, 1953), p. 136]

Harry A. Ironside also taught that the Old Testament prophets saw two mountains ahead, which were the first and second comings of Christ. According to Ironside, the church age was in a large valley in between those mountains and the prophets were unable to see into it:

“It has often been pointed out by others, but is well worth repeating, that the Old Testament seer might be likened to a man standing on one of our Western plains looking off toward a great mountain range. Many miles before him is a vast mountain which for the moment fills all his vision. Clouds cover the top of it, so that it seems to pierce the heavens, but suddenly the clouds are lifted and in the blaze of the westering sun he sees another and higher peak beyond, covered with snow, which seems to shine in resplendent glory. What the man gazing upon this scene cannot see, however, is the valley or the lower ranges of mountains that come in between these two peaks. The one may be many miles beyond the other. In between may be lesser hills, valleys, rivers, villages and farms, but all of these are unseen by the man upon the plain.

Let us imagine a cross surmounting the first peak, and call this the vision of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ to suffer and to die for our sins. Then imagine that the glory surrounding the second and higher peak takes the form of a crown of light, and think of it as indicating the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus to reign in power and glory over all this lower universe. Peter spoke of the “sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.” These two mountains illustrate both. But now, in between them we have all the events of the present age of grace, and these could not be seen by the Old Testament prophets for it was not yet the will of God to make them known. These are the mysteries kept secret from the foundation of the world, which began to be made manifest by our Lord Jesus as He told of the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven; and then were more fully unfolded in the unique revelation of the mystery of the Church, the body of Christ, given to the Apostle Paul, and the unfolding of the mystery of iniquity and of Babylon the Great through Paul and John. Other mysteries there are linked with these, and nearly all of them have to do with what is going on between the First and Second Comings of our Lord.”

Harry A. Ironside, The Great Parenthesis: the Mystery in Daniel’s Prophecy (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 1943.

This teaching has robbed the body of Christ of a glorious blueprint for our present time, which was laid out in the Old Testament and further developed in the New Testament. This teaching says that God’s best plans, promises, and purposes are not for this present age, but for a future age when the superiority of the Jewish race is once again restored. It’s robbed the body of Christ of wonderful descriptions of our identity and also descriptions of how God invites us to partner with Him in seeing His peace, His government, and His justice expand throughout our world.

So let’s look at some of the passages that reveal the vision that the Old Testament prophets had of this present new covenant age. One major theme that we will see in their vision is the theme of God’s peace.

Daniel 7:14, 18, 21-22, 27

In Daniel 7, Daniel had a vision of Jesus ascending to His Father and receiving everlasting dominion, glory, and a kingdom. Then during the time of the fourth beast, the fourth kingdom that would persecute the saints, God would give the kingdom and dominion into the hands of His people:

Then to Him was given dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed… But the saints of the Most High shall receive the kingdom, and possess the kingdom forever, even forever and ever… I was watching; and the same horn was making war against the saints, and prevailing against them, until the Ancient of Days came, and a judgment was made in favor of the saints of the Most High, and the time came for the saints to possess the kingdom… Then the kingdom and dominion, and the greatness of the kingdoms under the whole heaven, shall be given to the people, the saints of the Most High. His kingdom is an everlasting kingdom, and all dominions shall serve and obey Him” (Daniel 7:14, 18, 21-22, 27).

  • Revelation 13:5-7 describes this same great persecution as the beast “making war with the saints” and overcoming them for 42 months. This took place under Nero from November 64 AD until June 68 AD.
  • However, God ruled in favor of the body of Christ. Jesus took the kingdom and dominion that He received at His ascension and placed it into the hands of His people.
  • That’s a powerful picture of us partnering with Christ in expanding His kingdom, carrying His glory, and walking in His dominion.
  • All of Jesus’ parables about His kingdom expanding, growing, and impacting the world are true for us right now. Think of the mustard seed growing into a large tree and other images that Jesus presented.

Isaiah 9:6-7

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this.

  • Jesus began to reign on the throne of David during the time of the apostles (Acts 2:29-36, Ephesians 1:20-23, Hebrews 1:3-13, Revelation 1:5).
  • One of His names is “Prince of Peace.” Micah 5:5 also says regarding Jesus, “And this One shall be peace.”
  • Isaiah prophesied that Christ’s government and peace would only increase, forever.
  • Isaiah also prophesied that this would happen because of God’s own zeal.
  • God invites us to partner with Him and to know our role in seeing His government and peace expand in this world.

Isaiah 65:17 – 66:13

For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be glad and rejoice forever in what I create; For behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy” (Isaiah 65:17-18).

  • Isaiah goes on to describe New Jerusalem as a place with no weeping or crying, but where childbirth, physical death, planting, and building would still take place. Yet the labor of God’s people would not be in vain, and there would also be peace and reconciliation (“The wolf and the lamb shall feed together”), and no hurting or destruction in God’s holy mountain.
  • Names were very important in Scripture. Think about the name, “Jerusalem,” and its meaning. In its name we see “salem” and the closely-related word “shalom.” Jerusalem means “City of Peace.” When Isaiah looked forward to the New Jerusalem, he foresaw a new “city of peace.” We are the city of God, the city of peace.
  • The other part of Jerusalem’s name comes from the Hebrew word, “yara.” This word means “to shoot like an arrow, to throw, to pour, to flow, to teach, to inform, and to direct.”
  • Put those two parts together and we have a picture of shooting and pouring out God’s peace upon one another and into the darkest places of the world around us. Although I disagree with Sid Roth’s futurism and Zionism, his 2008 article “The Real Meaning of Jerusalem” has more valuable things to say on this.
  • We’re destined to live with peace in our hearts. The body of Christ is destined to be known as a community of peace, and we’re destined to see God’s peace touch and impact communities where we live and every part of the world where God’s people are.
  • As Isaiah continues to describe New Jerusalem, he says, “Rejoice with Jerusalem… that you may feed and be satisfied with the consolation of her bosom, that you may drink deeply and be delighted with the abundance of her glory… Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the Gentiles like a flowing stream… And you shall be comforted in Jerusalem” (Isaiah 66:10-13).
  • Recall what David said in Psalm 122:6-7. “Pray for the peace of Jerusalem: ‘May they prosper who love you. Peace be within your walls, prosperity within your palaces.’” That prayer has been answered, as God has created a new city of peace, the new covenant people of God.
  • When Jesus was talking with His disciples about going to His Father and leaving the Holy Spirit with them, He said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27).
  • In the New Testament, the clearest descriptions of the New Jerusalem, God’s city of peace, can be seen in Galatians 4:21-31, Hebrews 12:18-29, Revelation 3:12, and Revelation 21:1-22:5.

Isaiah 2:1-4

“…Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, ‘Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths.’ For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and shall rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; Nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore.”

  • The mountain of the Lord, New Jerusalem, was destined to attract all nations. It’s the place where the word of the Lord goes forth and people learn God’s ways.
  • Again we see an image of great peace.
  • The same vision is seen in Micah 4:1-3.

Haggai 2:6-9

For thus says the Lord of hosts: ‘Once more (it is a little while) I will shake heaven and earth, the sea and dry land; and I will shake all nations, and they shall come to the Desire of All Nations, and I will fill this temple with glory,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The silver is Mine, and the gold is Mine,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘The glory of this latter temple shall be greater than the former,’ says the Lord of hosts. ‘And in this place I will give peace,’ says the Lord of hosts.”

  • The author of Hebrews quotes from Haggai 2:6 when he writes about the soon-coming shaking and removal of those things related to Mount Sinai, i.e. the old covenant, and how the saints were about to receive a kingdom that couldn’t be shaken.
  • Notice that he did not include the phrase “it is a little while,” which Haggai used. That’s because it was just around the corner for the readers of Hebrews.
  • God again says that His new temple would be filled with glory, and that in His new temple He would give peace.

Ezekiel 34:23-31

I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them – My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. And I, the Lord, will be their God, and My servant David a prince among them; I, the Lord, have spoken. I will make a covenant of peace with them, and cause wild beasts to cease from the land; and they will dwell safely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods. I will make them and the places all around My hill a blessing; and I will cause showers to come down in their season; there shall be showers of blessing. Then the trees of the field shall yield their fruit, and the earth shall yield her increase. They shall be safe in their land; and they shall know that I am the Lord, when I have broken the bands of their yoke and delivered them from the hands of those who enslaved them…” (Ezekiel 34:23-27).

  • “David” is obviously Jesus here.
  • This vision speaks of fruitfulness, blessing, and again a covenant of peace.

Ezekiel 47:1-12

Ezekiel 40-48, the final eight chapters of Ezekiel’s book, describe a new city and a new temple. We need some preterist commentaries on these eight chapters, by the way. In this long vision, Ezekiel seems to be looking at both [1] the restoration of Israel to the land after the Babylonian captivity of 586 BC and [2] Israel’s hope fulfilled as Jesus establishes the new covenant. This was the view of Philip Mauro in his 1923 book, “The Hope of Israel” (chapters 11-12). In Ezekiel 47, he describes the same healing waters and trees that John describes in Revelation 22:1-2.

Then he brought me back to the door of the temple; and there was water, flowing from under the threshold of the temple toward the east, for the front of the temple faced east…  And when the man went out to the east with the line in his hand, he measured one thousand cubits, and he brought me through the waters; the water came up to my ankles. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through the waters; the water came up to my knees. Again he measured one thousand and brought me through; the water came up to my waist. Again he measured one thousand, and it was a river that I could not cross; for the water was too deep, water in which one must swim, a river that could not be crossed…  7 When I returned, there, along the bank of the river, were very many trees on one side and the other. Then he said to me: ‘This water flows toward the eastern region, goes down into the valley, and enters the sea. When it reaches the sea, its waters are healed. And it shall be that every living thing that moves, wherever the rivers go, will live. There will be a very great multitude of fish, because these waters go there; for they will be healed, and everything will live wherever the river goes… Along the bank of the river, on this side and that, will grow all kinds of trees used for food; their leaves will not wither, and their fruit will not fail. They will bear fruit every month, because their water flows from the sanctuary. Their fruit will be for food, and their leaves for medicine.’”

  • In the city of God there is constant fruit-bearing, life, and healing. This healing and life IS for God’s people, but it’s also for the nations. Healing is to take place everywhere the river flows. This is our ongoing mandate and calling, and the Lord has fully equipped us.
  • Zechariah 14:8-9 says that, in the day that the Lord would be King over all the earth, living waters would flow from Jerusalem toward the east and toward the west, in both summer and winter.
  • Jesus said that rivers of living water would flow out of the hearts of everyone who believes in Him (John 7:37-38).

Isaiah 54:1-17

For the mountains shall depart and the hills be removed, but My kindness shall not depart from you, nor shall My covenant of peace be removed… O you afflicted one, tossed with tempest, and not comforted, behold, I will lay your stones with colorful gems, and lay your foundations with sapphires. I will make your pinnacles of rubies, your gates of crystal, and all your walls of precious stones. All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children…” (Isaiah 54:10-13).

  • Here again we see there is a covenant of peace and great peace for the followers of the Lord in this age.
  • Paul quotes from this passage in his allegory of two covenants, two Jerusalems, and two women in Galatians 4:21-31.
  • This description of precious stones can also be found in John’s description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21:19-20.

Zechariah 6:12-13

Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; So He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.”

  • These words were spoken to Joshua, the son of the high priest in Zechariah’s day, but it was already made clear earlier in the book that Joshua was a type of a coming Branch, the Messiah.
  • Ephesians 2 says that Jesus is the chief cornerstone of God’s holy temple, which was made up of the one new man, Jews and Gentiles together, “thus making peace” (verse 15).
  • We see again that “the counsel of peace” marks the reign of Christ as King and Priest.
  • Peace is also one of the fruits of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23) and it’s one of the three attributes of God’s kingdom that Paul chose to highlight in Romans 14:17.
  • Zechariah 8 goes on to give a great description of the coming New Jerusalem.

If time allowed, we could also dig into Isaiah 49, Isaiah 60-61, Amos 9, Zephaniah 3, and a number of other prophecies. As another note about God’s peace, recall that when Zachariah, the father of John the Baptist prophesied about His nephew, Jesus, he echoed Isaiah 60 when he said, “…the Dayspring from on high has visited us; to give light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace” (Luke 1:78-79).

Do you want to further study this subject of the vision of the Old Testament prophets for this present age? One study strategy is to look up the passages that premillennialists say are about a future millennium period. Those passages have been arbitrarily tied to Revelation 20 and John’s vision of the 1000 years, as though John alluded to them in his vision. He did not actually. Those passages from the Old Testament, though, are rich with details and blueprints for this present, never-ending age.

Let’s be the peacemakers that Jesus called us to be in the Sermon on the Mount, and partner with Him in His reign to see the never-ending increase of His government and peace.

———————————————

This article was also posted on a new website dedicated to our Monthly Preterist Conference Calls.

Advertisements

Both Jews and Non-Jews Belong Equally to “the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16)


In Galatians 6:16, the apostle Paul concluded his letter to the Galatians with an expression that he never used anywhere else:

And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.”

Who belongs to this group that Paul refers to as “the Israel of God”? Who is excluded?

Argument #1: Only Jewish Believers Are the Israel of God

Some insist that Paul could only have been speaking of Jews, believers in particular. The following quotes are representative of this view:

“The Israel of God refers to Jewish believers in Jesus Christ, to those who are spiritual as well as physical descendants of Abraham (Galatians 3:7) and are heirs of promise rather than of law (Ga 3:18). They are the real Jews, the true Israel of faith, like those referred to in Romans 2:28, Ro 2:29 and Ro 9:6,7″ (John MacArthur, Galatians. Chicago: Moody Press, p. 210).

“This controversial verse, with its expression, unique in the New Testament, ‘the Israel of God,’ has been misinterpreted as teaching what Replacement theology wrongly claims, namely, that the Church is the New Israel which has replaced the Jews, the so-called ‘Old Israel,’ who are therefore now no longer God’s people. But neither this verse nor any other part of the New Testament teaches this false and anti-Semitic doctrine” (D. H. Stern, Jewish New Testament Commentary: Clarksville, Md.: Jewish New Testament Publications).

H/T: Steve Thomas, “Christian Zionism – Deconstructing the Myths – Biblically – One at a Time” (Facebook)

In one article, Arnold Fruchtenbaum claims that “the Jewish believer” differs from “the Gentile believer,” and that “four lines of biblical truth” form the basis of what he calls “the Messianic Jewish distinctive.” One of these lines is “the Doctrine of the Israel of God,” in which he says the term “Israel” is used narrowly: “It should be pointed out that the term Israel is never used of Gentiles, whether they are believers or not, nor is it used of the Church; it is used only of Jews.” According to Fruchtenbaum, Paul makes a distinction in both Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16 between “Israel the whole composed of all Jews; and Israel the elect, composed of all believing Jews.” In Galatians 6:16, he claims, believing Gentiles are “the them” and believing Jews are “the Israel of God” (Dr. Arnold G. Fruchtenbaum, “Jews, Gentiles, Christians,” Ariel Ministries).**

Thomas Ice agrees with Fruchtenbaum that “the New Testament consistently differentiates between Israel and the church,” adding that these are “two peoples” of God. When it comes to the term “Israel of God” in Galatians 6:16, they insist that Paul is speaking of “believing Jews in contrast to unbelieving Jews called ‘Israel after the flesh’ (1 Cor. 10:18)” (Thomas Ice, “Israel / Church Distinction: The Fourth Foundation,” Rapture Ready).

Argument #2: All Followers of Jesus Are the Israel of God

Then there are those who, like myself, believe that “the Israel of God” must include all who belong to Christ, Jews and non-Jews alike. In Paul’s day, both Jewish and non-Jewish believers were walking according to the rule named in the previous verse: “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15). If Paul used the expression, “the Israel of God,” to only mean Jewish believers, then the following passages would be untrue:

[1] “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him” (Romans 10:12).

[2] “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28).

[3] “Do not lie to one another, since you have put off the old man with his deeds, and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him, where there is neither Greek nor Jew, circumcised nor uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave nor free, but Christ is all and in all” (Colossians 3:9-11).

If only Jewish believers were “the Israel of God,” but non-Jewish (i.e. Gentile) believers were locked out of this privilege, then there really would be a distinction between Jews and Greeks in Christ. There really would be favoritism and partiality, based on race or ethnicity.

A similar problem exists when the claim is made that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people. There’s no doubt that those who belong to Christ are God’s chosen people, as these passages reveal:

In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being chosen according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory” (Ephesians 1:11-12).

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do” (Colossians 3:12-13).

But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy” (I Peter 2:9-10).

Those who teach that all Jews are God’s chosen people sometimes fall back on the idea that God has two chosen peoples (one based on race, and one based on faith). This, however, also makes nonsense of Romans 10:12, Galatians 3:28, and Colossians 3:10-11 (quoted above), for it places Jewish Christians (aka Messianic Jews) into two chosen groups. It says that they are [1] chosen because of faith, and [2] doubly chosen because of race. Meanwhile, according to this view, non-Jewish Christians (aka “Gentile Christians”) are only part of one chosen group. Unlike Jewish Christians, they are only chosen because of faith. They allegedly don’t have the same overlap of blessings that Jewish believers do, because they are not of the Jewish race. This also creates favoritism, partiality, and distinction, contradicting the teachings of Paul.

Being a part of the Israel of God is the privilege of all who abide in Christ, because Jesus is true Israel, God’s chosen One. This is developed further in two earlier posts at this site:

[1] “Why I Stand With Israel,” outlines how Isaiah, Matthew, Luke, and John demonstrated that what was once said of national Israel is now said of Jesus.

[2] God also promised that He would one day make a new covenant with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31-34). One way that we see this fulfilled is when Paul, in Ephesians 2, declared that the household of God, His holy temple, the one new man of Jews and Gentiles together, was being built on the foundation of the apostles, who were also known as “ministers of the new covenant” (II Corinthians 3:6). See “God’s Promise of a New Covenant to the House of Israel.”

The Myth of An All Jewish Israel

There’s an idea prevailing in the Christian Zionist movement today that Israel was, and was always meant to be, exclusively Jewish. This idea is applied to ancient Israel, as if God’s promises made to ancient Israel were for Jews only, then and forever. This idea is also applied to modern Israel, saying that the land belongs only to Jews, etc. However, even in ancient Israel, many non-Jews were joined to Israel. Besides the non-Jews who were among Jesus’ ancestors (Matthew 1:1-17), there are numerous other examples. Here are just two:

And the Egyptians urged the people, that they might send [the children of Israel] out of the land in haste… Then the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand men on foot, besides children. A mixed multitude went up with them also…” (Exodus 12:33-38).

And in every province and city, wherever the king’s command and decree came, the Jews had joy and gladness, a feast and a holiday. Then many of the people of the land became Jews, because fear of the Jews fell upon them” (Esther 8:17).

Ever since Jesus was obedient to the point of completing His work on the cross, the Israel of God has everything to do with Him and nothing to do with being outside of Him. People of all nations are included. As Paul taught, no one who is in Christ is any longer “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.”

Thomas Schreiner’s Excellent Summary of Galatians 6:16

Thomas Schreiner offers some excellent thoughts on why Paul’s epistle to the Galatians as a whole mandates that there is no separation between Jewish and non-Jewish (Gentile) believers when Paul speaks of “the Israel of God” (Schreiner is an author and professor at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary):

The key question in Galatians is whether one must become a Jew and be circumcised to belong to the people of God. Must one receive circumcision to belong to the family of Abraham? The false teachers argued that circumcision and observance of the law were required to be part of Abraham’s family. But Paul has argued throughout the letter that circumcision is unnecessary and that those who put their faith in Christ belong to the family of Abraham. When he speaks of “the Israel of God” at the conclusion of the letter, where he rehearses the major themes of the letter, he is driving home the point that believers in Christ, members of the new creation, are the true Israel.

Such an interpretation fits with the whole of the letter, for believers in Christ are the true sons of Abraham [Gal. 3:29]. But if they are Abraham’s children and belong to his family, then they belong to the Israel of God. It would be highly confusing to the Galatians, after arguing for the equality of Jew and Gentile in Christ (3:28) and after emphasizing that believers are Abraham’s children, for Paul to argue in the conclusion that only Jews who believe in Jesus belong to the Israel of God. By doing so a wedge would be introduced between Jews and Gentiles at the end of the letter, suggesting that the latter were not part of the true Israel. Such a wedge would play into the hands of his opponents, who would argue that to be part of the true Israel one must be circumcised.

Instead, Paul confirms one of the major themes of the letter. All believers in Christ are part of the true Israel, part of God’s Israel. This fits with what Paul says elsewhere when he says believers are the true circumcision (Phil 3:3). Since believers in Christ are the true family of Abraham and the true circumcision, they are also part of the true Israel.

–Thomas Schreiner, Commentary on Galatians, pp. 382 – 383

Amen. Let’s also not forget that Galatians is where Paul contrasts earthly Jerusalem and the Jerusalem above, saying that one was in bondage and about to be cast out, but the other (“the Jerusalem above”) is free and is the mother of God’s people (Galatians 4:21-31).

Christopher Gowan (Associate Editor of The Journal for Biblical Manhood and Womanhood) interacts with Schreiner’s conclusion, agreeing with it and expanding upon it in an article titled “Context Is Everything: ‘The Israel of God’ in Galatians 6:16” (4-page + PDF). It’s worth reading as well.

A Question

Finally, I have a question for those who would insist that Paul was speaking only of Jewish believers when he referred to “the Israel of God.” Paul’s use of this expression implies that there was an Israel during his time that was not of God, which would have been national Israel (as a whole, minus the remnant of believers). It’s often insisted today that modern Israel is a continuation, or a restoration, of national Israel, which was wiped out by the Roman armies in 70 AD. If that (pre-70 AD) Israel was not of God, then why is national Israel today allegedly “God’s chosen people”, “the apple of God’s eye,” a nation that we must bless and support unconditionally, etc.?

Paul did make a distinction in Galatians 6:16, but it wasn’t between Jewish believers and non-Jewish believers. It was between “the Israel of God,” those who belong to Christ, and the Israel that was not of God, those outside of Christ. The Israel of God today still has everything to do with God’s chosen One, Jesus Christ.

—————————————————————————

**When Fruchtenbaum claims that only Gentile believers made up the “them” of Galatians 6:16, he is basically saying that Jewish believers were not walking according to the rule that “in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation” (verse 15). Supposedly, only Gentile believers were walking according to this rule. In effect, Fruchtenbaum puts all the Jewish believers in Paul’s day into the camp of the Judaizers, who Paul said were in danger of falling from grace (Galatians 5:4).

TK Burk: $1000 Challenge to Dispensationalists


“$1000 For One Scripture That Says…” On the heels of the previous post being about dispensationalism, I find this long-standing challenge by TK Burk to be an interesting one. For those who may have seen the last post, but weren’t sure what dispensationalism is, Burk’s eight points below should help give you an idea of what is taught in this school of thought:

A biblical doctrine is not biblical unless it has biblical passages proving it is biblical fact. That may sound a little simplistic, and maybe even a bit of a tongue twister, but it is still the main rule to follow when rightly dividing God’s Word. Please, keep this in mind when reading through this $1000.00 challenge.

Each of the following eight points are taken from foundational teachings in the prophecy view called “Dispensationalism.” If Dispensationalism is truly biblical then there should be Bible passages that clearly speak of these points. If there are no such scriptures, how then can Dispensationalism be said to be biblical? For this challenge, I am offering $1000.00 to the first person that can give just one Bible verse that actually says any of the following Dispensational teachings:

  1. God delayed His Kingdom because the Jews rejected Jesus.
  2. There is a gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel.
  3. There will be a secret pre-tribulation rapture of the Church.
  4. God will require the building of a physical third Jewish Temple.
  5. God will no longer accept grace and Jesus’ blood for salvation but will instead return to the Law and animal blood sacrifices.
  6. An Antichrist will make a seven-year covenant with the Jews.
  7. There will be a future seven-year tribulation period.
  8. A physical Jesus Christ will return to establish a 1000-year reign on earth.

If you’re a Dispensational believer, and if you believe that any or all of the above eight teachings are biblical, would you please give us at least one Bible verse that actually says any of the above? Though Dispensational teachers claim to have much scriptural evidence to support their teachings, you only need one Bible scripture to qualify for the $1000.00.

This $1000.00 offer has been around for many years. To date not even one verse has ever been sent to prove any of these Dispensational teachings are in fact biblical…not one. This silence alone should be enough to prove that these main points in the Dispensational theory are not biblical. However, since Dispensationalism is still claimed by some to be biblical, this $1000.00 is still being offered to the first person that can give such a verse. If you are a Dispensationalist and you cannot find such a scripture, I hope you realize that this means you are missing much more than just $1000.00–you are missing the fullness of God’s Truth.

For continuity, responses to this challenge must use the King James Bible. Use the below “reply” area to send in any Bible verses. Comments concerning the lack of any such scriptural evidence are also welcomed.

(Source)

Burk is right – not one Scripture passage substantiates any of those eight points. As a side note regarding #5, my understanding is that dispensationalists/pre-millennialists would probably say that God’s grace and Jesus’ blood will still be the basis for salvation in an alleged future millennium, but that animal sacrifices will be re-established as some kind of a memorial. It’s still a very strange idea, though, in my opinion, and certainly without Scriptural basis.

Allyn Morton: How Radical is Dispensationalism (A Tongue in Cheek View)


The following article appeared in The Fulfilled Connection Magazine, a new writing collaborative started and managed by Allyn Morton (see Allyn’s bio at the end of this post), featuring content from a fulfilled eschatology viewpoint. There are currently 35 columnists, and I’m privileged to be one of them as well. This is one of Allyn’s first entries, published on June 20th. It’s satire, meant to demonstrate a point – the radical nature of dispensationalism:

They say, “When the full number of Gentiles have come in (along with the full number of believing Jews, who are coming in at the same time), the mystery of God shall be complete and Jesus will return.”

Let me explain. See, there’s a Gentile alive now who will receive Christ [he will be the last one], and then the church made up of Jews and Gentiles (not to be confused with Israel) will be raptured. This is the fullness of the Gentiles coming in. At this point, God’s prophetic timeclock will start ticking again, and He will begin working with the Jews, who are different from the Jews He worked with when He was saving them during the church age.

Now, since all the Church, made up of both Jew and Gentile Christians (and not to be confused with Israel), will be gone from the planet, we don’t know who will be witnessing to the Jews, much less the Gentiles (who God won’t be working with) during the Tribulation. Somehow, they will get saved, because God will unharden their hearts after ensconsing most of them in Hell for the last 2,000 years.

Never confuse God’s wonderful plan for Israel (not to be confused with His plan for Jews who receive Christ, during the church age).

These Jews who get saved during the Tribulation (Israel, not to be confused with the church) are not in the church, because the church made up of Jews (not to be confused with Israel) and Gentiles who make up the church have already been raptured, so God could start working with the Jews (not the ones who were raptured, and thus not a part of Israel) again.

The Jews (not to be confused with raptured Jews) who get saved during the Tribulation witness to the Gentiles of the world. Lots get saved. They are not a part of the church (not to be confused with Israel) either. These are called Tribulation saints (not to be confused with the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles who got raptured, not to be confused with Israel).

So, in heaven, there will be the church, made up of Jews and Gentiles, not to be confused with Israel, and Israel, made up of Jews, who are not the Jews who got saved prior to the rapture and thus make up part of the church, which is not to be confused with Israel, and Tribulation saints, who are Gentiles who get saved when God’s prophetic time clock awakens Him to save the Jews, who are not part of the church, which is not to be confused with Israel, because Israel is made up of Jews only, not Gentiles, who could be a part of the church, or the Tribulation saints, depending on where God’s prophetic time clock is.

So, there’s the church made up of Jews and Gentiles, then Israel made up of Jews only, then Tribulation saints, made up of Gentiles.

See how simple eschatology is when you don’t confuse the church with Israel?

© Allyn Morton

Allyn is the owner and administrator of several websites including TFC Magazine. He began his pursuit of understanding in html programming at the early stages of the internet. His interests are wide but mostly deal in websites, writing, and the joys of the outdoors. He is also a contributor to the Fulfilled Covenant Bible. Allyn is the father of three children and the husband of a loving wife.

Jonathan Welton: Daniel’s 70 Weeks Prophecy Is About Jesus, Not An Antichrist


(Note: This post includes a full-scale teaching illustration below the following introduction.)

The last quarter of the 20th century featured many prophecy charts, based on dispensationalism, depicting a future “Rapture,” 7-year tribulation, Antichrist, series of seal/trumpet/bowl judgments, Battle of Armageddon, etc. When I was younger, I saw a few of these charts in person, and a number of others when I watched “A Thief In the Night” (1972), “A Distant Thunder” (1977) and “Image of the Beast” (1981); all available here.

Charts and illustrations can be good teaching aids. Based on my study of church history, however, the vast majority of respected leaders in the first 1800 (or so) years after Christ would have been horrified to see a lot of these (dispensationalist-based) charts. As my personal journey has taken me away from the pre-trib Rapture/premillennialist view I grew up with, and toward fulfilled eschatology, I’m glad to see that new charts, illustrations, and similar tools are being created which are a lot more sound and Biblical (in my opinion). In a couple of previous posts, I’ve highlighted two such illustrations by author Jonathan Welton, one on Daniel 2 and the kingdom of God and another on John’s use of “ge” (land) versus “kosmos” (world) in the book of Revelation.

Welton’s newest illustration concerns the 70 Weeks prophecy in Daniel 9. Seeing this prophecy differently was a major turning point in my own journey. Previously I was led to believe that Daniel saw a future Antichrist who would make a 7-year political covenant with Israel, then break it 3.5 years later, before presiding over another 3.5 years of planet-wide turmoil and catastrophes. This was to be the 7-year tribulation period. The text (Daniel 9:24-27) says none of these things. I can’t forget how stunned I was when it was pointed out to me, online, that the covenant of Daniel 9:27 is parallel to Jesus’ words on the night He was betrayed by Judas:

Then he shall confirm a covenant with many for one week; But in the middle of the week he shall bring an end to sacrifice and offering…” (Daniel 9:27).

For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28).

Each “week” in Daniel’s prophecy represents a period of seven years. We also know that Jesus laid down His life as a sacrifice after 3.5 years of ministry (“…in the middle of the week…”), and that His sacrifice brought an end to the sacrifices and offerings under the old covenant. There went the idea that sacrifices must be restored in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem in our future. There also went the only Scriptural basis (so I thought) for a 7-year tribulation period. Jonathan Welton does a great job bringing this and more out in his latest illustration:

God’s Promise of A New Covenant to the House of Israel


(This post is somewhat similar to my April 2011 post titled, “No Alienation from the Commonwealth of Israel.” This post, however, features several new details and approaches the topic from a different angle.)

Summary Outline

In this post we will see that Scripture presents the following case:

1. God promised, through Jeremiah, that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and that He would be their God and they would be His people.
2. In the New Testament, the church is called “the household of faith” and “the household of God”, which is no longer alienated from the commonwealth of Israel or separated from “the covenants of promise.”
3. In the Old Testament, God repeatedly said that He had chosen Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple as His dwelling place.
4. In the New Testament, John says Jerusalem has become a dwelling place for demons.
5. In the New Testament, God declares that the bride of Christ and “the holy city, New Jerusalem” has become His dwelling place, and that He is their God and they are His people.
6. In the New Testament, the household of God is said to be built on the foundation of the apostles, who are known as “ministers of the new covenant.” Jesus is the cornerstone of God’s new house.

Jeremiah’s Prophecy of a New Covenant for the House of Israel

Jeremiah, a prophet of Judah before and during the Babylonian exile (586 – 538 BC), delivered a key promise to the house of Israel and the house of Judah, a promise of coming days when God would establish a new covenant:

Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more” (Jeremiah 31:31-34).

In this promise of a new covenant, we see the following elements:

Participants in this covenant: [1] God [2] the house of Israel, and the house of Judah*

Nature of this covenant: Not according to the covenant made at Mount Sinai, which was broken by the house of Israel

Features of this covenant:

[1] God’s laws in their hearts and minds [2] The house of Israel is God’s people, and He is their God [3] Everyone in the house of Israel will know the Lord, from the least to the greatest [4] God will forgive their sins and remember them no more.

*The houses of Israel and Judah were separated soon after Solomon’s death around 975 BC. The Assyrians captured Israel (the northern kingdom) in 722 BC, and Babylon would defeat Judah and Jerusalem in 586 BC.

Has Jeremiah’s prophecy come true? Has a new covenant been established with the house of Israel? Some insist that the answer to these questions is “no”:

[1] “This covenant must follow the return of Christ at the second advent… This covenant will be realized in the millennial age… the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 must and can be fulfilled only by the nation Israel and not by the Church” (Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 1958).

[2] “…the new covenant is with Israel and the fulfillment [will be] in the millennial kingdom after the second coming of Christ… the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament concerns Israel and requires fulfillment in the millennium kingdom” (John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, 1959).

[3] “The Church, then, is not under the new covenant…it is Israel which is God’s covenant people” (Harry Ironside, Notes on the Prophecy of and Lamentations of Jeremiah, 1906).

Those who believe this way apparently insist that we identify “the house of Israel,” even now, as national Israel. This assumption acts as a powerful filter against the idea that the new covenant has already been established:

  • It matters not that Jesus explicitly said His blood was to be poured out in order to give birth to the new covenant, “made with many for the forgiveness of sins” (Matthew 26:28), the very purpose for which Jeremiah said it was designed.
  • It matters not that Paul said he and his co-workers in the gospel were “ministers of the new covenant,” which he likened to “the ministry of the Spirit” and “the ministry of righteousness.” Paul’s ministry excelled the “ministry of death, written and engraved on stones” and ready to pass away (II Corinthians 3:5-11).
  • It matters not that Paul gave an “analogy of two covenants,” one represented by Mount Sinai (the birthplace of the old covenant), a woman in bondage, and earthly Jerusalem, which was about to be cast out; and the other covenant representing the “Jerusalem above,” which is free and “the mother of us all” (Galatians 4:21-31).
  • It matters not that the author of Hebrews states that Jesus “has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
  • It matters not that the author of Hebrews immediately goes on to quote from Jeremiah’s prophecy and explicitly states (Hebrews 8:6-13) that this New Covenant had been established in his own time (i.e. the first century AD), even as the first covenant had been made obsolete and was ready to vanish away.
  • It matters not that Hebrews 12:22-24 says that the church had already “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem…to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaks better things than that of Abel.”
  • It matters not that “the New Testament” is named as such due to its unveiling of God’s new covenant.

One of the many cures for this hangup can be found in Paul’s epistle to the Ephesians. Notice the vocabulary that Paul uses in the following passage (Eph. 2:11-22):

11 Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17 And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18 For through Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19 So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22 In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

There are plenty of gems worth unpacking in this beautiful passage, but I’ve highlighted two sections to examine (verses 12 and 19-21), as well as three phrases which I believe relate to Jeremiah’s prophecy:

  • the commonwealth of Israel
  • the household of God
  • a dwelling place for God

The Commonwealth of Israel

In verse 11 Paul specifically addresses Gentile believers, i.e. non-Jewish followers of Christ. He reminds them (verse 12) that, just as they were separated from Christ, they were also “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” By speaking this way, he indicates they now belong to the commonwealth of Israel, just as they now belong to Christ. This expression, “commonwealth of Israel,” appears to mirror the expression, “the house of Israel,” used in Jeremiah 31 and throughout the Old Testament. The Strong’s Concordance entry for the Greek word translated as “commonwealth” (#4174) is defined as “citizenship; a community.”

Paul also reminds these Gentile believers that they were once “strangers to the covenants of promise.” Again, by speaking this way, Paul indicates they are now recipients of “the covenants of promise” made to Israel. Paul made a similar point in his epistle to the Galatians, when he declared that all the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring, i.e. Christ alone (Gal. 3:16). He then added that those who belong to Christ—regardless of ethnicity, gender, or status (Gal. 3:28)—are heirs of those promises (Gal. 3:29). We, as followers of Jesus, have received “the covenants of promise” because they were made to Jesus, who is true Israel.

The Household of God

In verse 19, Paul refers to the Church as “the household of God,” very similar to the way he calls the Church “the household of faith” in Galatians 6:10. Again, it seems these titles are parallel to the title, “the house of Israel,” used since the days of Moses. The following is a sample of texts where this title occurs (notice the progression toward unfaithfulness and a state of being lost):

And the house of Israel called its name Manna. And it was like white coriander seed, and the taste of it was like wafers made with honey” (Exodus 16:31).

For the cloud of the Lord was above the tabernacle by day, and fire was over it by night, in the sight of all the house of Israel, throughout all their journeys” (Exodus 40:38).

So the Lord gave to Israel all the land of which He had sworn to give to their fathers, and they took possession of it and dwelt in it… Not a word failed of any good thing which the Lord had spoken to the house of Israel. All came to pass” (Joshua 21:43-45).

For the vineyard of the Lord of hosts is the house of Israel, And the men of Judah are His pleasant plant. He looked for justice, but behold, oppression; For righteousness, but behold, a cry for help” (Isaiah 5:7).

I have seen a horrible thing in the house of Israel: There is the harlotry of Ephraim; Israel is defiled” (Hosea 6:10).

But go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 10:6).

But He answered and said, ‘I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’” (Matthew 15:24).

Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ” (Acts 2:36).

In Ephesians 2:20-22, Paul goes on to define “the household of God” as “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets,” with Jesus as the cornerstone. Everyone, joined together, “grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” This is significant. Jeremiah prophesied that a new covenant would be made with the house of Israel. Here we see that the household of God, in Jesus, was built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets. Recall that Paul said he and his co-workers were “ministers of the new covenant” (II Corinthians 3:5). Since Paul was a minister of the new covenant, this was also true of Peter, John, James, and the other apostles. The household of God, with Jesus as the cornerstone, has been built on the foundation of apostles who were ministers of the new covenant. This is nothing less than Jeremiah’s prophecy unveiled as a reality in the first century.

A Dwelling Place for God

Paul says something else very profound to the believers in Ephesus: “In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” Paul’s words very clearly echo a common and central theme in the Old Testament, where God repeatedly stated that He had chosen Israel, Jerusalem, and the temple as His dwelling place. Consider the following sample of texts:

You will bring them in and plant them In the mountain of Your inheritance, In the place, O Lord, which You have made for Your own dwelling, the sanctuary, O Lord, which Your hands have established” (Exodus 15:17).

But you shall seek the place where the Lord your God chooses, out of all your tribes, to put His name for His dwelling place; and there you shall go” (Deuteronomy 12:5).

In Jerusalem also is His tabernacle, and His dwelling place in Zion” (Psalm 76:2).

For the Lord has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His dwelling place(Psalm 132:13).

At the same time, God’s dwelling place was in heaven (e.g. I Kings 8:30, 39, 43, 49).

By the time John wrote the book of Revelation in the first century, we see a tragic picture of what had become of His former dwelling place, through John’s description of “Babylon the great.” Also known as “the great city” (see Rev. 14:8 and 17:18) and “the harlot” (see Rev. 17:1-6), “Babylon the great” was first identified in Rev. 11:8 as “the great city which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.” This is a clear reference to Jerusalem, the place of Jesus’ crucifixion. As we saw in the section above, Hosea called Israel a harlot in his day as well (Hosea 6:10). John invokes the names of two of Israel’s oldest enemies, Sodom and Egypt, and uses them to describe first century Jerusalem. Now, instead of being God’s dwelling place, a terrible thing had happened. Observe what God said had happened to His former dwelling place:

And [the angel] cried mightily with a loud voice, saying, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and has become a dwelling place of demons, a prison for every foul spirit, and a cage for every unclean and hated bird!” (Revelation 18:2; see our study on Rev. 18)

Had God lost His earthly dwelling place then? Not at all. He dwells with (and in) those who belong to His Son:

Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be His people, and God Himself will be with them as their God’” (Rev. 21:2-3; see part 1 and part 2 of our study on Rev. 21).

In her last days before judgment, Jerusalem was given over to demons, but since the time of Christ, God dwells in “the holy city, New Jerusalem.” We, the church, are that city: “You are the light of the world. A city that is set on a hill cannot be hidden” (Matthew 5:14). Is this promise from Revelation 21 awaiting future fulfillment? The author of Hebrews didn’t believe so when he told his first century audience that they had already “come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem… to Jesus the Mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling…” (Hebrews 12:22-24). The apostle Paul also didn’t believe so when he quoted Exodus 29:45, Leviticus 26:11, and Ezekiel 37:27 as a present reality for the Church in his own day:

For you are the temple of the living God. As God has said: ‘I will dwell in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they shall be My people‘” (II Corinthians 6:16).

Here, and also in Rev. 21, we see one of the features of Jeremiah’s prophecy of a new covenant for the house of Israel: “I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jer. 31:33). Consider also this description of the church by Peter:

Coming to Him as to a living stone, rejected indeed by men, but chosen by God and precious, you also, as living stones, are being built up a spiritual house, a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ” (I Peter 2:4-5).

The conclusion is simple. Jeremiah laid out certain things that would be true of the house of Israel when God made a new covenant with that house. Paul, John, and Peter said these things were true of the church, the bride of Christ, in their day. Therefore, the church is the house of Israel, and God has made His new covenant with us. Let us rejoice in this truth, and not allow anyone to try to steal this birthright from the people of God who are in Christ.

 

A Revolution in the Realm of Eschatology


I belong to a Facebook group called “Charismatic Preterist Movement,” led by my friend, Maurice Perry. The purpose of the group is “bringing charismatic saints together who hold a fulfilled (preterist) eschatological position.” Yesterday Maurice highlighted the group description. I love the way it’s worded, and, for the most part, it resonated so much with my own outlook that I’ve decided to re-post it here:

Once again, it’s time for reformation in our church. For far too long, the seduction of dispensationalism and the futurist eschatological viewpoint has held the church captive in a state of fear, escapism, and lack of zeal and compassion for missions, ministry, evangelism and reaching the lost.

The Charismatic Preterist Movement (CPM) is a company of Christians that is dedicated to promoting Sola Scriptura, proper exegesis and hermeneutics in an effort to dismantle every lie and strong delusional tactic constructed by Satan to keep the corporate Body of Christ in a state of slumber, inactivity and perpetual hope deferred. CPM also believes that the same Holy Spirit that moved in power, signs and wonders through men and women in the 1st century church can, will, and desires to do the same today through yielded human vessels that have compassion for the lost and those that are bound.

What Do We Believe?

1. Everything Jesus said would happen, happened exactly as and when He said it would — within the lifetime of his contemporaries.

2. Everything every New Testament writer expected to happen, happened exactly as and when they expected it would — within their lifetime — as they were guided into all truth and told the things that were to come by the Holy Spirit (John 16:13).

3. Scholars across a broad spectrum are in general agreement that this is exactly how every NT writer and the early Church understood Jesus’ words. If they were wrong on something this important, how can we trust them to have conveyed other aspects of the faith accurately, such as the requirements for salvation?

4. No inspired NT writer, writing twenty or more years later, ever corrected their Holy Spirit-guided understanding and fulfillment expectations (John 16:13). Neither should we. Instead, they intensified their language as the “appointed time of the end” (Daniel 12:4; Habakkuk 2:3) drew near — from Jesus’ “this generation” (Matthew 24:34), to Peter’s “the end of all things is at hand” and “for it is time for judgment to begin” (1 Peter 4:7, 17), and John’s “this is the last hour . . . . it is the last hour” (1 John 2:18).

5. God is faithful (2 Pet. 3:9) and “not a man that He should lie” (Numbers 23:19). Faithfulness means not only doing what was promised, but also doing it when it was promised.

6. 1st-century fulfillment expectations were the correct ones and everything happened, right on time — no gaps, no gimmicks, no interruptions, no postponements, no delays, no exegetical gymnastics, and no changing the meaning of commonly used and normally understood words. Such manipulative devices have only given liberals and skeptics a foothold to discredit Christ’s Deity and the inerrancy of Scripture.**

7. What needs adjusting is our understanding of both the time and nature of fulfillment, and not manipulation of the time factor to conform to our popular, futuristic, and delay expectations.

8. The kingdom of God was the central teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ, is a present but greatly under-realized reality, and must again become the central teaching of His Church.

——————————————————————————————————

**As an example of point #6 above, the famous author, C.S. Lewis, taught that Jesus meant for His disciples to believe that His eschatological predictions would take place in their own time, but that He didn’t know what He was talking about:

“The apocalyptic beliefs of the first Christians have been proved to be false. It is clear from the New Testament that they all expected the Second Coming in their own lifetime. And, worse still, they had a reason, and one which you will find very embarrassing. Their Master had told them so. He shared, and indeed created, their delusion. He said in so many words, ‘this generation shall not pass till all these things be done.’ And he was wrong. He clearly knew no more about the end of the world than anyone else. This is certainly the most embarrassing verse in the Bible.” (Essay: “The World’s Last Night” (1960), found inThe Essential C.S. Lewis, p. 385.)

I appreciate a lot of C.S. Lewis’ writings, but this quote is tragic. Jesus wasn’t wrong. He told the truth. He kept His word. He did what He said He would do within the time frame He set for Himself to do it. The church is overdue for a revolution that makes it clear this is our common position.

Israel Is God’s Chosen People – What Does That Mean?


Two days ago Andrew Strom, a well-known minister from New Zealand, created a firestorm with his post, “Replacement?? – Israel & the Church.” I personally agree with about 90% of what he wrote. As expected, there have been many responses, some very emotional. There are nearly 350 comments under that post, as of last count, and they address so many different aspects of this topic (and beyond) that it can make the mind spin. I’m very interested in what some have to say, but quite baffled at what others say. I’d like to get feedback, if possible, regarding one baffling statement that appeared repeatedly in that forum, one which I’ve heard so many times before:

“Israel is God’s chosen people.”

For those who say this and believe it, what does that mean? Does it mean that all citizens of Israel are God’s chosen people? At face value, that’s what it seems they would mean. Somehow, though, I get the impression that people mean Jews only, when they say this. Did you know that there are roughly 1.6 million Arab citizens in Israel? According to this Wikipedia entry, that’s the case. Are they also among God’s chosen people, since they live in Israel?**

Others claim that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, and I also completely disagree with this idea. Scripture teaches that only those who belong to Jesus are God’s chosen people. In I Peter 2:4-10, for example, those who belong to Jesus are chosen to be a royal priesthood, to receive mercy, to be a light in the darkness, etc. This is true of those who belong to Christ. It’s not true for those outside of Christ, even if they happen to be Jewish. For a deeper discussion on this topic, please see this post:

http://kloposmasm.com/2010/09/23/who-are-gods-chosen-people-and-why-are-they-chosen/

However, I’m even more baffled by the claim that the nation of Israel is God’s chosen people. It makes no sense Scripturally, and it doesn’t even make sense politically. What are your thoughts on the claim that “Israel is God’s chosen people”?

———————————————————————————————–

**I believe that some Arab citizens of Israel actually are among God’s chosen people, but only those who belong to Christ. And some of them do – praise God.

Stephen Sizer Q & A at Taylor University


Early this morning, while preparing and eating breakfast before leaving for work, I was able to listen to Stephen Sizer field questions from students at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana regarding the 2010 film, “With God On Our Side.” As far as I can tell, this event took place on March 2, 2011. It was posted yesterday, however, on Sizer’s blog.

Taylor University is an interdenominational, evangelical Christian university founded in 1846, and presently has an enrollment of approximately 2600 students, according to its official website. A 2012 US News & World Report survey shows that Taylor has been the top college among 109 Midwest Regional Colleges for the last five years.

This video is 33 minutes long, and features questions from students regarding the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Christian Zionism, Dispensationalism, John Hagee’s eschatology, Jeremiah 31, Ezekiel 37, the Samaritan woman that Jesus encountered, and more. I thought Stephen Sizer did a great job responding to these questions, and I believe that everyone can learn from this session.

I wrote a review of the film “With God On Our Side” which can be seen here.

No Alienation from the Commonwealth of Israel


(Thoughts on Ephesians 2:12)

Paul’s letter to the Ephesians is a remarkable book, one that is full of wonderful expressions of truth. In the first three chapters Paul lays out, in glorious fashion, the riches of the grace we have in Christ. His adoration for the gospel just keeps spilling out, and he even gets long-winded (in a good way) as he does so. Take a look at some of his gospel-saturated, lengthy sentences which span several verses at a time (e.g. 1:7-10, 1:15-21, 3:14-19). Some of the most magnificent portrayals of the New Covenant are found in this book.

With this in mind, it’s amazing to consider that today there is a popular teaching insisting that the New Covenant which Paul describes here in Ephesians and elsewhere is NOT the same New Covenant which was foreseen by the Old Testament prophets (e.g. Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:26-27). This is despite the fact that the author of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah’s prophecy and explicitly states (Hebrews 8:6-13) that this New Covenant had been established in his own time (i.e. in the first century AD). The “problem” seems to be that Jeremiah and Ezekiel addressed their prophecies to “the house of Israel.” Dispensationalism and Christian Zionism are notoriously unwilling to acknowledge that the Church IS spiritual Israel, and their proponents often have harsh words for those who believe this. Shortly we will see that Ephesians 2:12, being just one such example in the New Testament, does not allow their position to stand.

[Please bear with this brief explanation before we get back to looking at Ephesians. Prior to Progressive Dispensationalism taking root in western Christianity within the last few decades, Classic Dispensationalists like H.A. Ironside, Charles Ryrie, Dwight Pentecost, and John Walvoord claimed that the Old Testament never foresaw the coming of the Church age, and that God will one day bring an end to the Church age and resume His program with national/ethnic Israel. This was the teaching of John Nelson Darby, who founded this theological system in the 1830’s, and of C.I. Scofield, who published his famous reference Bible in 1909. These men and others also taught (or teach) that the New Covenant is reserved for a future millennium period! Consider the following statements regarding Jeremiah’s prophecy of a coming New Covenant:

[1] “This covenant must follow the return of Christ at the [yet future] second advent… This covenant will be realized in the [yet future] millennial age… the new covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34 must and can be fulfilled only by the nation Israel and not by the Church” (Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, 1958).

[2] “…the new covenant is with Israel and the fulfillment [will be] in the millennial kingdom after the second coming of Christ… the new covenant as revealed in the Old Testament concerns Israel and requires fulfillment in the millennium kingdom” (John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, 1959).

[3] “The Church, then, is not under the new covenant…it is Israel which is God’s covenant people” (Harry Ironside, Notes on the Prophecy of and Lamentations of Jeremiah, 1906).

One proposed solution by more recent Progressive Dispensationalists is that there are two new covenants (!) in Scripture, one for the Church (now) and one for national/ethnic Israel (later). This belief seems to be true for those who would affirm that the Church presently lives in the New Covenant (and experiences the taking away of sin), but who also assert that Romans 11:26-27 (“And in this way all Israel will be saved…and this will be My covenant with them when I take away their sins”) will only be fulfilled in the future for ethnic Jews. This belief doesn’t stand up either, as we will see. For a much fuller treatment of the implications of this facet of Dispensationalist teaching, please see the first half of this post from our series on Revelation 20.]

Having expressed these thoughts, let’s now look at a very pivotal section in Ephesians 2, verses 11-22. I don’t want to take anything away from the very valuable things Paul expresses earlier in this chapter, and in fact verse 11 begins with “therefore,” meaning that what Paul says next is based on what he has just said earlier. So here’s a quick summary of the first half of the chapter: Paul reminds the believers in Ephesus that they were once dead in their sins (verses 1-3), but that God in His mercy and love had made them alive in Christ (verses 4-5). They are now seated with God in Christ in heavenly places (verses 6-7). It was not by any works of their own that they were saved, but only by grace through faith. Their salvation was a gift from God, and they were created anew for the purpose of walking in good works (verses 8-10). With this as context, here’s what Paul says in verses 11-22:

11Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision, which is made in the flesh by hands— 12remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world. 13But now in Christ Jesus you who once werefar off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14For He himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in His flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that He might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility. 17And He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near. 18Forthrough Him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father. 19So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God20 built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone, 21 in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. 22In Him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.

It would certainly be profitable to break this passage down verse-by-verse, and there are so many rich truths here, but I’d like to mainly zero in on verse 12 which is highlighted above. First, we should note that Paul is specifically addressing Gentile believers (verse 11), that is, non-Jewish followers of Christ. One of his reminders to them is that they were once “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.” By speaking this way, Paul clearly indicates that they are now part of “the commonwealth of Israel.”

There is simply no getting around the idea that Gentile (non-Jewish) believers are part of God’s people, Israel, here in Ephesians 2:12. And make no mistake about it, Jewish believers are part of this same covenant people of God, but no more so and no less so: “For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile—the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12); “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). There are no spiritual blessings which are available for males but not for females, nor are there any spiritual blessings which are available for Jews but not for non-Jews. Does Scripture leave us any room to believe that a future age will come along and change this reality? No, it does not.

In Ephesians 2:12 Paul also reminds His believing Gentile audience that they were once “strangers to the covenants of promise.” Again, by speaking this way, Paul clearly indicates that they are now recipients ofthe covenants of promise” which were made to Israel. In the next chapter, Paul explicitly defines the mystery of Christ (which had been kept hidden in generations past) as the joining together of Jewish and non-Jewish believers in the partaking of the promise in Christ through the gospel: “This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). In Galatians 3 Paul likewise declares that all the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring. He then defines Abraham’s “offspring,” contrary to what many might expect, as singularly Christ (Gal. 3:16). He finally adds that those who belong to Christ—with zero regard for ethnicity, gender, or status (Gal. 3:28)—are heirs of those promises (Gal. 3:29). So Paul says here in Ephesians 2 exactly what he also says in Galatians 3.

With these things established, can it be possible that any Old Testament covenants or promises are yet to be fulfilled for ethnic Jews only? Can Jeremiah 31:31-34 and Ezekiel 36:26-27 (which promised a coming New Covenant) be awaiting a fulfillment which Gentile believers will have no part in? No. Such an idea does great violence to all that Paul argues in Galatians, Ephesians, and elsewhere. Those who are still looking for such a covenant to arrive are about 2000 years too late, and far too narrow in their view of to whom this covenant belongs. The New Covenant is already here, and the heavenly Jerusalem is already a reality for God’s people (Hebrews 12:22-24).

I also highlighted Ephesians 2:19 because Paul refers to the Church as “the household of God,” very similar to the way he calls the Church “the household of faith” in Galatians 6:10. It would seem that these phrases are a New Testament equivalent to the oft-used expression in the Old Testament, “the household of Israel,” used by both Jeremiah and Ezekiel as we have seen. As mentioned near the beginning of this post, it seems that Dispensationalists and Christian Zionists tend to trip up over the Old Testament phrase, “the household of Israel,” because they are somehow convinced that the promises made to ancient Israel must only be fulfilled among their physical descendants.

However, we must let Scripture interpret Scripture. First, how often did Jesus and the apostles make the point that being able to physically trace one’s self to Abraham means nothing? Observe what Jesus said in John 8 to the Jews of His day who appealed to Abraham as their father, and observe whom Jesus said was their father instead. Observe what Paul says in Romans 9:6-8, “…For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring… This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” Here Paul equates being a part of Israel with being a child of God. In this New Covenant age, then, can you be a child of God and not be a part of Israel? (Of course, I’m not referring to that nation in the Middle East which happens to bear this same name. By “Israel,” I mean God’s covenant people.) In Romans 2:28-29, Paul further says that “no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly…a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart…” In Galatians 6:15-16, Paul declares that only a new creation counts for anything, and then pronounces peace and mercy upon “the Israel of God.” If, despite the evidence above, you are one of the many who believe that Paul’s use of this phrase, “the Israel of God,” must refer only to Jewish believers, please examine this very well-written and informative article by Michael Marlowe.

Secondly, an honest appraisal of the New Testament will show that the inspired writers of the NT clearly apply many specific promises once made to ancient Israel to the Church, the body of Christ. Shall we rebuke them for promoting the allegedly false teachings of “replacement theology”? As we have seen above, the NT authors also declare that the Church is no longer alienated from ANY of the promises and covenants, because they are recipients of ALL of them. They are all found in Christ, but they are not to be found outside of Christ. Again, Jews are not left out, for a remnant from among them would call out to the Lord and be saved (they have done so throughout the last 2000 years). Paul makes this clear (see Romans 11:1-6, where he uses himself as an example).

Let’s look again at what Ephesians 2:12 says: “[R]emember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise.” What is “the commonwealth of Israel”? What is it not? As we consider how we are not alienated from this entity, if we try to replace this phrase with “national Israel” or “ethnic Jews,” we’ll see that this doesn’t work. If you are a non-Jew (ethnically speaking), can you say that because of Christ you are now fully integrated into the political nation of Israel? Or can you say that you are very much a part of the worldwide ethnic Jewish community? No, but I believe you’ll find that this explanation given by Albert Barnes in 1834 makes sense:

Being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel – …This means more than that they were not Jews. It means that they were strangers to that ‘polity’ …or arrangement by which the worship of the true God had been kept up in the world, and of course were strangers to the true religion. The arrangements for the public worship of Yahweh were made among the Jews. They had his law, his temple, his sabbaths, and the ordinances of his religion; see the notes at Romans 3:2… The word rendered here as ‘commonwealth’ – πολιτεία politeia – means properly ‘citizenship,’ or ‘the right of citizenship,’ and then ‘a community,’ or ‘state.’ It means here ‘that arrangement or organization by which the worship of the true God was maintained.’”

Indeed, Paul says this of his own “kinsmen according to the flesh” (Romans 9:3),

They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen” (Romans 9:4-5).

Paul, who agonized over his own people so much that he could have wished himself “accursed and cut off from Christ” (verse 3) for their sake, yet affirms to the Gentile believers in Ephesus that they were present heirs of all the promises and covenants which were articulated to the commonwealth of Israel in times past. All alienation had ceased. It hasn’t resumed since then, it hasn’t resumed in our day, and it won’t resume in the future. It’s gone because of the work of the cross, and that alienation is gone forever. Please don’t let anyone tell you otherwise. If you are a follower of Christ, it doesn’t matter what your ethnic background is. You are a full-fledged member of the commonwealth of Israel, and all of God’s promises are yours through Jesus Christ.