The Shadows of the Old Covenant Can’t Be Restored


A Facebook friend, Larry Siegle, posted the following book excerpt the other day, and it’s excellent. It comes from a book written in 1972 by James D. Bales titled, “Prophecy and Premillennialism” (pp. 162-163):

“If we tried to go back to the Old Testament, it would not permit it. It would send us back to the New. The substance has arrived, so the shadow tells us to abide in the substance.

First, if we go back to Moses, he sends us to Christ. (Deut. 18:15-18; Acts 3:22, 23).

Second, if we ask Moses to be our mediator, he sends us to Christ the mediator (Heb. 8:6; 12:24).

Third, if we go back to the Old Covenant, it sends us back to the New (Jer. 31:31-34; Heb. 8:5-13; 13:20).

Fourth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which its sacrifices were but a shadow (Heb. 10:1-4).

Fifth, if we go back to the blood of animals, it sends us to the sacrifice of Christ of which the animal blood typified (Heb. 9:15-27; 23-28; 13:20).

Sixth, if we go back to the Old Temple, the way to heaven is not made manifest (Heb. 9:6-12, 24, 25, 26); so it sends us to Christ who has opened and made manifest the way (Heb. 10:19-22).

Seventh, if we go to the Old Testament priests, they send us back to the priesthood of believers (I Pet. 2:5, 9).

Eighth, if we go back to the Jewish kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom which was being received in the first century (Hag. 2:6; Heb. 12:18-28; 13:20).

Ninth, if we go back to the Old Testament kingdom, it sends us back to the everlasting kingdom (Dan. 2:44; Heb. 12:28; 13:20).

Tenth, if we go back to the Old Testament Kings and High Priests, they send us to Christ the king and priest (Psa. 110:1-4; Heb. 7:11-22, 28; 8:4).

Eleventh, if we go to Abraham, he sends us to his seed, Christ (Gen. 22:18; Gal. 3:16-29).

We must not retreat from the substance to the shadow. Any system of the interpretation of prophecy which restores the shadow contradicts the Old Testament and the New Testament.”

James Bales (1915-1995) was “an influential Bible professor and administrator at Harding University (then Harding College) for almost 40 years.” Bales was an amillennialist (Wikipedia).

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Why I Abandoned Replacement Theology


I once believed in and taught “replacement theology,” but no one ever accused me of it at the time. Since turning away from replacement theology, however, I’ve faced this accusation numerous times.

What is replacement theology? Matt Slick, the president and founder of Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM), says this on the subject:

Replacement theology is the teaching that the Christian church has replaced national Israel regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God… [In] replacement theology the church has replaced Israel as the primary means by which the world is blessed by God’s work… Replacement theology is also known as supersessionism, which means that the Christian church has superseded Israel in God’s plan.

John Hagee, the founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI), said this in his 2006 book, “Jerusalem Countdown: A Warning to the World”:

“Adherents of replacement theology believe that the Jews are no longer God’s chosen people, and God does not have specific future plans for the nation of Israel” (page 72)… “Replacement theology means that Israel failed, and God has replaced Israel with the church” (page165).

Ironically, when I formerly taught replacement theology, my thinking was very much in line with Slick and Hagee. I wasn’t replacing Israel with the church, but I sure was replacing Jesus with the modern nation of Israel. I would have agreed with graphics like this one I saw posted on Facebook by a fellow Christian a few weeks ago:

false interpretation of Genesis 12-3

SOURCE

This illustration epitomizes the replacement theology I’ve left behind. It takes the role belonging to Jesus and assigns it to a political nation whose population generally has nothing to do with Him. The New Testament is especially clear in showing that it’s through salvation in Jesus that the nations are blessed.

Consider the progression of Biblical revelation regarding the promise recorded in Genesis 12:3:

[1] It was first made by God to Abraham alone: “It will be through you [Abraham], that all the families of the earth will be blessed.”

[2] It was repeated again in Genesis 22:18, and this time expanded to include his offspring: “And through your offspring all nations on earth will be blessed, because you have obeyed Me.”

[3] In Acts 3:25-26, the apostle Peter, speaking to a Jewish crowd in Jerusalem, is clear in identifying Abraham’s offspring and the means of blessing for the nations:

And you are heirs of the prophets and of the covenant God made with your fathers. He said to Abraham, ‘Through your offspring all peoples on earth will be blessed.’ When God raised up His servant, He sent Him first to you to bless you by turning each of you from your wicked ways.”

It’s Jesus who is Abraham’s offspring, and He blesses the nations, beginning with the proclamation of the gospel to Jews in the first century.

[4] The apostle Paul, in Galatians 3:7-8, declared that Jesus’ followers are Abraham’s offspring too:

Understand, then, that those who believe are children of Abraham. The Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: ‘All nations will be blessed through you.’”

According to the terms laid out by Matt Slick and John Hagee, the apostles Peter and Paul were guilty of teaching replacement theology. Yet according to Peter and Paul, when it comes to God’s plans, purpose, and promises, Slick and Hagee are seeking to replace Jesus and His church with a geopolitical nation located in the Middle East. It’s highly ironic that there are Christians who are comfortable with the idea of replacing Christ (their Savior) with a mere political nation, but are up in arms with those who allegedly replace Israel with the church.

Galatians 3, incidentally, goes on to make the point even more strongly that all of God’s promises are wrapped up first in Jesus and second in His followers. Paul says this in verse 16:

The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. The Scripture does not say ‘and to seeds,’ meaning many people, but ‘and to your seed,’ meaning one person, who is Christ.”

Jesus is singularly the recipient of all of God’s promises, and He extends those promises to His followers (verse 29), who are all one in Him regardless of ethnicity, societal status, or gender (verse 28):

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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” (Galatians 3:28-29)

Does Paul leave any room for those who are outside of Christ to be heirs of the promises? No, he doesn’t, not even for Jews who are outside of Christ. Neither did Peter (Acts 3:23), and neither did Jesus (e.g. Matthew 8:10-12Matthew 21:43John 8:31-47). As Paul says in II Corinthians 1:20, all of God’s promises are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus. What are they outside of Jesus? Meaningless and void.

One of my questions for Slick and Hagee is this: If God’s plan, purpose, and promises are waiting for the nation of Israel to carry them out, then did God utterly abandon the world between 70 AD and 1948 when there was no nation of Israel? Or is it not possible that God’s plan, purpose, and promises continued to be carried out by true Israel, i.e., Jesus and His church?

Consider also what Paul said to the Roman church: “A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit…” (Romans 2:28-29). “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 Godbut the children of the promise are counted as offspring” (Romans 9:6-8).

The church is Israel, that is, the Israel of God (Galatians 6:16). This is only true because Jesus is true Israel, and we who belong to Christ are made one with Him. One more example of each of these points will suffice. First we will look at how Matthew takes what was once said about the nation of Israel, and applies it to Jesus. Then, finally, we will look at how Peter takes what was once said of the nation of Israel, and applies it to the church.

[1] In Exodus 4:22, God instructs Moses to say to Pharaoh, “Thus says the Lord, ‘Israel is My firstborn son, and I say to you, “Let My son go that he may serve Me.”’” Then in Hosea 11:1-2 we read, “When Israel was a child, I loved him, and out of Egypt I called My son. The more they were called, the more they went away; they kept sacrificing to the Baals and burning offerings to idols.” Who is Israel in these Old Testament texts? Clearly it’s that ancient nation, known as Israel, which was finally destroyed by the Romans in 70 AD.

Yet look at how Matthew treats this same statement. To set the background, an angel has warned Joseph, the father of Jesus, to flee to Egypt with his family, because Herod would seek to destroy Jesus: “And he [Joseph] rose and took the child [Jesus] and His mother by night and departed to Egypt and remained there until the death of Herod. This was to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet, ‘Out of Egypt I called My son’” (Matthew 2:14-15).

Only 40 verses into the New Testament, Matthew declares, by strong implication, that Jesus is true Israel.

[2] Compare what Moses spoke to “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3) to what Peter said was true of the church. It’s impossible to miss the parallel language, and I have letter-coded the parallels (A, B, and C):

To ancient national Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be [A] MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me [B] A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and a [C] HOLY NATION…” (Exodus 19:5-6).

To the church: “But you are a chosen race[B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSIONthat you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” (I Peter 2:9-10).

Peter leaves no doubt that Christ’s followers are chosen for the same purpose for which the nation of Israel was once chosen.

I abandoned replacement theology because Jesus is irreplaceable, and I love His church.

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I first published this article on Hubpages on February 10, 2013.

Who Are God’s Chosen People and Why Are They Chosen?


Who Are God’s Chosen People and Why Are They Chosen?

by Adam Maarschalk (September 22, 2010)

What follows is an actual discussion which took place on my Facebook page during the month of August 2010, concerning the very pivotal theological question of who God’s chosen people are. I was pleased that the discussion drew out the common ideas which are normally expressed on this topic. Lord willing, this won’t be the only post at this site dealing with this question, but I believe that the reader will find the following conversation to be educational and profitable. Anyone is more than welcome to add further thoughts, as well as to express agreement or disagreement with any of the thoughts expressed in this discussion. All of the 29 comments have been numbered for easy referencing, and they are also color-coded to indicate which participant wrote them (Adam, Dan, Mike, Manuel, Nadia, David). Last names have been removed for the sake of privacy. Here are the questions posed, and the comments which followed:

ORIGINAL POST: Important Christian theology question: According to the Bible, who are God’s chosen people at this present time? For what purpose are they chosen? How many chosen peoples does God have? One? Two?

COMMENT #1 (by Dan):  Ah, your favorite subject. God can choose different people for different things simultaneously. He doesn’t have to cancel out one choice for one purpose before he makes another choice for another purpose. He can have more than one plan in operation at one time. God chose us, the church, for eternal life. He didn’t choose Israel for eternal life, He chose them for other things, like for preserving His words and for being a means of revealing the true God to this world, etc. So, 2 peoples chosen for 2 different purposes. There’s no conflict here.

COMMENT #2 (by Adam): Hi Dan. Thanks for your comment. I’ll share my own viewpoint later today after I see what feedback comes in. In the meantime, I have a few questions for clarification, in particular regarding the second group you named (Israel):

[1] Do you believe that all who live in Israel today are presently chosen to preserve God’s words, reveal Him to this world, etc? In other words, does this include Palestinians and foreigners who are working/studying there? Does this exclude Jews who happen to live outside of Israel?

[2] Do you believe that God had only one chosen people (the Church) from 70 AD – 1948 when there was no established nation of Israel, and that ever since 1948 He has had two chosen peoples?

[3] What, if any, New Testament Scriptures speak of a present calling for the political nation of Israel (or for ethnic Jews, if this is what you mean instead)?

COMMENT #3 (by Mike): My question would be… EVERYONE in Israel? Just the Jews? Or Christians? What about Israeli Muslims? Is it a question of religion or ethnicity? Also kind of along the same lines, who are the 144,000 in Revelations? I used to think that was a big number, then I grew up.

COMMENT #4 (by Manuel): 1) Those who have trusted in Christ for salvation. 2) They are saved and therefore are the “chosen” to spread the good news of God’s redemption through Christ. 3) God only has one chosen people which are the spiritual seed of Abraham. In other words, the believers in Jesus Christ (people of faith in Christ). This is also known as spiritual Israel (not the nation of Israel). In my opinion.

COMMENT #5 (by Adam): Manuel, you have articulated my position on this matter, and I very much agree with what you have written. God has only ever had one chosen people, and no one (regardless of race) is part of God’s chosen people if they are outside of Christ. God’s chosen people in Old Testament times were chosen for the same purpose as God’s chosen people at this time. Compare what was spoken by Moses to “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3) to what has been spoken to the Church through Peter. The parallel language is unmistakable, and I have letter-coded the parallels (A, B, and C):

[1] To ancient national Israel: “Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, you shall be [A] MY TREASURED POSSESSION among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; and you shall be to Me [B] A KINGDOM OF PRIESTS and a [C] HOLY NATION…” (Exodus 19:5-6).

[2] To the Church: “But you are a chosen race, [B] A ROYAL PRIESTHOOD, a [C] HOLY NATION, a people [A] FOR HIS OWN POSSESSION, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people…” (I Peter 2:9-10).

Can there be any question that the Church is chosen for the same purpose that the nation of Israel was once chosen? In fact, Dan, I forgot in my previous reply to ask about your statement that ancient Israel was not chosen for eternal life. I believe the people of Israel were indeed chosen for this, and that the faithful among them have this inheritance as much as we do. Otherwise, should we expect that Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, and many other faithful servants from Israel fell short of inheriting eternal life? Will we be separated from them for eternity? The people of Israel were to make known the path to eternal life (faith in the coming Messiah) to the nations surrounding them, but this often did not happen. The kingdom was eventually taken away from faithless Israel, as Jesus prophesied (Matthew 21:43, cf. Matt. 22:1-14), and given to “a people producing its fruits” (clearly the Church, those who belong to Christ and are indwelt by the Holy Spirit who enables us to produce spiritual fruit). This “people” (some translations say “nation”), of course, is made up of both Jews and Gentiles (i.e. those who trust in Christ).

As Manuel said/implied, Israel has never ceased to exist. The body of Christ today IS Israel in every true sense (see, for example, Romans 9:6-8 and Galatians 6:16). Outside of Christ there is no Israel (as God’s people), despite the fact that a secular, political nation in the Middle East happens to bear that name today. Romans 9:6-8 is most profound on this point (parenthetical notes are mine): “…For not all who are descended from [natural] Israel belong to [spiritual] Israel, and not all are [spiritual] children of Abraham because they are his [physical] offspring…it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as offspring.” See this article for an excellent explanation of Galatians 6:16’s use of the phrase “the Israel of God” to refer to the Church: http://www.bible-researcher.com/gal6-16.html. Furthermore, we who are in Christ are spiritual Jews, so to speak: “For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter…” (Romans 2:28-29; see also Philippians 3:3).

Galatians 3:16 further points out that all the promises were made to Abraham and his offspring, “referring to One, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ.” In the same chapter, Paul says, “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). Does Paul leave any room for those who are outside of Christ to be heirs of the promises? No, he doesn’t, not even for unbelieving Jews. Nor did Jesus (see, for example, John 8:31-47), nor does the New Testament in any place.

Today many teach that the Jews (meaning all ethnic Jews) are God’s chosen people. I believe this is classic false teaching. I Peter 2:9-10, already quoted here, makes it explicitly clear why God’s chosen people, the body of Christ (believing Jews and Gentiles), are chosen. His people have been called out of darkness and now have the privilege of proclaiming His excellencies to those who are still in darkness. Unbelieving Jews remain in darkness, and cannot possibly carry out any such calling. For those who teach that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, the question remains: What are they (allegedly) chosen for at this present time?

Another implication of this teaching (that all Jews are God’s chosen people) is that it makes Jewish believers superior to non-Jewish believers, something that the New Testament declares cannot be the case (e.g. Romans 10:12-13; Galatians 3:16, 28-29; Gal. 5:6, Gal. 6:15-16). The reason this superiority is implied is that Jewish believers would then be heirs of two sets of spiritual promises/blessings. One set of promises would be theirs simply because they are ethnically Jewish, and the other set would be theirs because they belong to Christ. Gentile believers could only partake of the second set of promises, and could never partake of the first set. The New Testament doesn’t allow for this, and in fact combats this idea, saying, for example: “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12).

God never rejected the entire race of Jewish people, but continues to have a remnant from among them (Romans 9:27, 11:1-5). Any Jew who trusts in Christ for salvation is part of God’s one and only chosen people, the Church. In Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile, no partiality, no superiority for one group over the other, and no special plan that applies to one group and not the other. Any Jew who does not trust in Christ is just as much lost and in darkness as any non-Jew who does not belong to Christ. They are chosen, along with lost Gentiles, only for condemnation (John 3:18).

COMMENT #6 (by Adam): An excellent, though lengthy, treatment of this subject of God’s chosen people can be seen here in this article by Stephen Sizer:

http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/zcs2.pdf

COMMENT #7 (by Adam): Hi Mike. I appreciated your thoughtful questions above. And I liked your line about the 144,000 (“I used to think that was a big number, then I grew up”). I can identify with that. 🙂 Regarding the 144,000, I personally believe they were first-century AD believers (all Jewish, or mostly Jewish) who fled from Jerusalem to Pella (in modern day Jordan) before that city was invaded by the Romans. They did this in response to a very specific warning given by Jesus (see Matthew 24:15-20 and Luke 21:20-23). I believe their virginity (Revelation 14:4) was not necessarily physical, but rather spiritual (this is language commonly used in the Old Testament for faithfulness versus faithlessness). If interested, feel free to check out the studies on my blog on Revelation 7 and 14 (where the 144,000 are mentioned):

[1] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/09/27/revelation-7-study/
[2] https://kloposmasm.wordpress.com/2009/11/30/revelation-chapter-14/

COMMENT #8 (by Nadia): Adam, I see you have your own theological forum. Nice work:)

COMMENT #9 (by Adam): Thanks, Nadia. Do you have any thoughts you’d like to add to what’s already been stated here?

COMMENT #10 (by David): The beginning of the Mission to the Gentiles is very strong evidence that Jesus of Nazareth is the promised Messiah. It was God’s purpose all along that the blessings promised to Abraham and his seed should go out to all the nations of the world. It is this that we see unfolding in the book of Acts.

COMMENT #11 (by David): We should learn to read the whole of the Bible missiologically, rather than see world evangelism as being based merely on the texts traditionally known as The Great Commission. That’s the grand narrative expounded in Christopher J H Wright’s book, “The Mission of God”.

COMMENT #12 (by David): Don’t you hate it when people who oppose Adam’s position accuse us of teaching “replacement theology”? If ever there was a bad description of consistent Biblical theology, surely that is one.

COMMENT #13 (by David): Often overlooked when Christians are debating this theological topic: The suffering of Palestinian Christians. Brethren – pray for them.

COMMENT #14 (by Adam): David, thank you for your comments. Yes, world evangelization was a Biblical goal long before Jesus delivered what is known as the Great Commission. I also understand what you’re saying about the common accusation of teaching “replacement theology.” This phrase seems to be used quite often as a cop-out or a conversation stopper. Ironically, those who use it as a weapon often assign promises made to the Church to either the modern nation of Israel or to the Jewish people as a race, the majority of whom are completely separated from Christ, in whom all promises are fulfilled. In effect, then, it’s the Church that becomes (at least in part) “replaced.”

I also agree with you about the plight of Palestinian Christians. Their suffering is not only far too often overlooked, but is even perpetuated by hardline Zionist policies which are rabidly supported by many American professing Christians. But that’s perhaps a subject for another time and place. Indeed, let’s pray for them.

COMMENT #15 (by Nadia): Unfortunately, I don’t have any thoughts to add. This was our last week’s assignment and I am behind 😦 Maybe later I will put my two cents 🙂

COMMENT #16 (by Dan): ‎? I guess I needed to be more specific. I didn’t use the word ‘Israel’ to mean the current political entity in the Holy Land. That seems to be the assumption behind the questions. God called the descendants of Jacob, “Israel’, regardless of whether they were living in the promised land or not. For example, the prophet Ezekiel was among the captives of Judah in Babylon, long after the northern tribes were taken captive by Assyria. He used the word “Israel’ almost 200 times. It looks like most of those times were the words of God talking to Israel and calling them ‘Israel’ even though they weren’t in their land. That’s the meaning I intended.

All Israel (all ethnic Jews) haven’t been saved (received eternal life). All the Church has been saved, or they wouldn’t be the Church. So, I meant Israel, as a whole, isn’t guaranteed eternal life. This doesn’t exclude Abraham, Moses, David, etc. from attaining it. The problem with contrasting Israel and the Church is that there is a lot of overlap between the two, as well as the contrasts. The Church wasn’t something completely separate from Israel. God gave the New Covenant to Israel, but called Gentiles to be a part, also, as wild olive branches grafted into the natural olive tree (Romans 11). God didn’t create a whole new tree, He grafted us into the old one. That’s why the parallel passages from Moses and Peter make perfect sense. At the same time, God does have covenants with ethnic Israel that are irrevocable (also Romans 11). Caboose…

COMMENT #17 (by Adam): Dan, thank you for following up on your previous comment, and for addressing some of my (and Mike’s) questions. OK, so I think we’re clear now that you believe that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, and that this chosen people is distinct from God’s other chosen people, the Church. You and I have talked briefly about dispensationalism in the past, but I know that it’s this system (invented by John Nelson Darby in the 1830’s) which holds that Israel and the Church are distinct, with each entity having separate (although some overlapping) promises.

To me, the parallel language used by Moses (Exodus 19) and Peter (I Peter 2) only makes sense if the Church now IS Israel, and if outside of the Church there is no Israel (regardless of the fact that a political entity bears that name today).

You said that God grafted Gentile believers into God’s natural olive tree. However, was/is the olive tree natural or spiritual? I believe it’s spiritual, and that it’s the natural branches (the Jews) who, because they didn’t believe in Christ, were cut off from the tree (Romans 11:17-24) but can be grafted in on an individual basis if they believe on Christ (verse 23). The grafting in of Gentiles is likewise on an individual basis, only for those who believe. You also said that the New Covenant was given to Israel, which you have defined as referring to ethnic Jews. Surely we agree, though, that unbelieving Jews have nothing to do with the New Covenant, right? The New Covenant was established through Christ’s work on the cross. Also, in response to what you said, what exactly are the covenants that God maintains with ethnic Israel to this day, and how do we reconcile this idea with New Testament teaching (see previous comments) that all spiritual blessings belong to the Church and that all promises are fulfilled in Christ (and therefore none are fulfilled outside of Christ)?

In any case, the words of Moses and Peter simply cannot be true of ethnic Jews as a whole or for anyone who does not belong to Christ. So the question remains: If ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people at this present time, where does the New Testament express the purpose for which they are chosen? On the other hand, here is what the New Testament has to say about God’s chosen people and why they are chosen (I did a quick Bible Concordance search for NT passages speaking of God’s chosen ones in a corporate sense):

[1] “For many are called, but few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14; see verses 1-13 for context).

[2] “You did not choose Me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in My name, He may give it to you” (John 15:16).

[3] “If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you” (John 15:19).

[4] “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in Christ with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places, even as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and blameless before Him…” (Ephesians 1:3-4; see also verses 5-14 for an even fuller description of what belongs to God’s chosen people).

[5] See also Ephesians 2:11-22 [The word “chosen” is not used, but this passage speaks of God bringing those who were far off (Gentiles) “near by the blood of Christ,” creating “one new man”, “one body,” and breaking down the wall of hostility that separated them (us) from the “the commonwealth of Israel” and “the covenants of promise.”]

[6] “Here there is not Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave, free; but Christ is all, and in all. Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience…” (Colossians 3:11-12).

[7] “As you come to Him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ… But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy” (I Peter 2:4-10).

Clearly God’s chosen people, according to these passages, are strictly those who belong to Christ. It’s all about bearing spiritual fruit, not being of this world, having every single spiritual blessing, being holy and blameless, being God’s own special possession, proclaiming His excellencies to those who are in darkness, receiving mercy, etc. None of these things can be true for unbelieving Jews, or for the Jewish race as a whole. So where is the evidence in the New Testament that all ethnic Jews are chosen for any unique purpose at all? What are they presently chosen for?

COMMENT #18 (by Dan): I guess John Nelson Darby organized ideas in the 1830’s about Bible dispensations to a greater degree than previously, but he didn’t invent it. Writings about various ‘dispensations’ (also called ‘economies’) in the Bible goes back to Justin Martyr (110-165 A.D.), Irenaeus (130-200 A.D.), Clement of Alexandria, who specified 4 dispensations (150-220 A.D.), and Augustine (354-530 A.D.). Some of them were even premillenialists, believing that Jerusalem and the Temple had to be rebuilt because of prophecies about the Antichrist. Nearer to Darby, Pierre Poiret (1646-1719) wrote a 6-volume systematic theology that included 7 dispensations. John Edwards (1637-1716) wrote a 2-volume systematic theology titled “A Complete History or Survey of All the Dispensations”. Isaac Watts (1674-1748) wrote about 6 dispensations. Even the apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians refers to a future dispensation: “… the dispensation of the fullness of times…” (Eph. 1:10). That would be the last dispensation, sometimes called ‘the eternal state’.

Actually, I’ve never warmed up to the term, ‘Dispensationalism”. It’s never made sense to me to focus so much on dispensations. If someone says that I’m a dispensationalist, I think, “OK, whatever.” I also don’t think much about ‘Covenantalism’, the antithesis of Dispensationalism. I can’t get into the debate about whether to focus on dispensations or covenants. I see them both in the Bible, and I don’t understand this whole thing about drawing a line in the sand and lining up on one side or the other. I think it’s much more important to focus on whether to take the words of the Bible literally or to take them symbolically. And I realize that some of the differences between Dispensationalism and Covenantalism DO involve this. Dispensationalists tend to take the Bible literally and Covenantalists tend to allegorize the Bible. I read recently that any kind of ‘ism’ in systematic theology has problem scriptures. I suppose that’s true. Some dispensationalists are realizing the necessity to fine-tune some of their doctrine. They’re called Progressive Dispensationalists. Mostly, they’re realizing that Classic Dispensationalism makes too much distinction between Israel and the Church and that they shouldn’t keep them distinct forever. Some Covenantalists are also realizing the necessity to fine-tune some of their doctrine. They’re called Progressive Covenantalists, and they realize that they can’t just allegorize the wealth of specific details in all the prophecies about Israel’s future, including their national restoration in their land. I’ve also read that anyone’s beliefs about Israel indicate whether they’re a Dispensationalist of a Covenantalist. That’s actually not true. After reading some of Stephen Sizers articles on his website, I read a couple books by his friend, David Pawson, defending Christian Zionism. I was really suprised to find out that David Pawson, even though he is a Christian Zionist, is NOT a dispensationalist, and very much against dispensationalism. So, I find this whole ‘ism’ thing in systematic theology not very helpful in understanding things. Caboose time again (that pesky Post Office)…

COMMENT #19 (by Adam): Dan, I also don’t have a problem with seeing a few different ages or dispensations in history. I understand that some in the past have seen three dispensations: law (up until Christ), grace (this present age), and kingdom/eternal state. Others have seen four: patriarchal, Mosaic, Church age, Zionic and/or kingdom age. Darby, however, is credited even by Classic Dispensationalists as having developed the modern system of dispensationalism. You’re correct that some now favor Progressive Dispensationalism (which I’m not really sure how to define), and that some Christian Zionists are not classic dispensationalists.

Beyond the breaking up of history into ages (dispensations), the key component of dispensationalism seems to be the distinction between national Israel and the Church, as well as the assertion that God’s promises to national Israel have never been fulfilled but will be in the future. Another key component is the idea that this present Church age is an unforeseen parenthesis (interruption) in God’s program with national Israel, which He will allegedly fully resume during a future 7-year Tribulation period after the Church is taken away (raptured). According to classic dispensationalism, the “Tribulation saints” will somehow be saved without the work of the Holy Spirit (the restrainer of II Thess. 2), who will have been removed from the earth together with the Church. John Nelson Darby also championed the idea that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people, even if they reject Christ. It’s these ideas that I personally reject more so than the breaking up of history into different ages (although I also don’t believe that there will be a future earthly kingdom based out of Jerusalem–premillennialism, nor do I believe that the Great Tribulation is future or that it was ever said to be 7 years in length).

Anyway, as much as I’m happy to discuss dispensationalism, I hope this topic doesn’t become a rabbit trail leading away from the specific topic at hand:

“Who are God’s chosen people? Does He have one chosen people or two, and for what purpose are they chosen?”

Dispensationalism is related in a way, though, since Darby (and C.I. Scofield after him) did so much to promote the idea that all ethnic Jews are God’s chosen people. So feel free to respond to what I’ve written here about dispensationalism, but if at all possible I’d like to hear from you (and anyone else who shares your viewpoint) why you believe that even unbelieving Jews remain among God’s chosen people. That is, for what purpose are they presently chosen? In particular, I’d like to know which New Testament texts express this idea. Feel free to invite anyone else here to tackle this question.

COMMENT #20 (by Dan): I agree with much of what you said here. I’ve also heard that the Church age is an unforeseen parenthesis, and that God will someday ‘resume’ His program with Israel. Completely untrue. Even back at the beginning, when God first called Abraham, He promised him that all the families of the earth would be blessed through Abraham’s one, specific seed/descendent – which we know is Jesus. “All the families of the earth” reaches way out beyond the promised land to include the whole planet, and reaches way out beyond one particular line of the sons of Shem to include all men. The church would only be ‘unforeseen’ to someone ignorant of the Bible. And God’s dealings with ethnic Israel doesn’t have to ‘resume’ because it was never put on hold to begin with. God’s dealings with ethnic Israel during their diaspora/dispersion were fully explained by Moses in Leviticus 26 and elsewhere, so rather than being on hold, the program of God for Israel has been ongoing in just the way the Bible said it would.

You’re also correct that the Great Tribulation was never said to be 7 years in length. We’ve heard the phrase “seven-year Tribulation” so often that many think it comes from the Bible. It doesn’t. It comes from people thinking that the entire 70th week of Daniel is the Tribulation, but there’s no Biblical reason to think that. And you brought up the teaching that the ‘Tribulation saints’ will be saved without the work of the Holy Spirit. Right – saved without the Holy Spirit. Where do people come up with this stuff? It’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad. Christians should know better.

“Who are God’s chosen people? Does He have one chosen people or two?” Answering that with either a simple “one” or “two” could be misunderstood and misleading and wouldn’t communicate effectively or satisfactorily. The answer has to have more information with it than just one word. It has to also include some explanation. So, the best answer I can think of right now is to say that God has one chosen group and one group of chosen individuals. This is a very important distinction! We’re not comparing apples with apples here, or even apples with oranges – we’re comparing apples with trees. Again, God has one chosen group and one group of chosen individuals – and the chosen group is chosen for different purposes than the chosen individuals are chosen for. I think the distinction is profound. There’s no reason to think that God has to unchoose the group before He starts choosing the individuals. As I said before, God can have more than one plan in operation at one time. He’s God.

Israel was chosen as a nation, not as individuals – chosen as a group, irregardless of what any specific individuals within the group did or didn’t do; or what they believed or didn’t believe. God chose to bring about certain results/purposes through this chosen nation-group as a whole. He blessed them as a whole and judged them as a whole. It was primarily the whole – ‘the big picture’.

The church, however, is chosen one at a time, individually, and not as a group, a nation, or a people. They’re randomly scattered and completely unrelated. Like Peter said, “once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people“. 1Pt.2:10

Why did God choose ethnic Israel?
And because He loved your fathers, therefore He chose their descendants after them;…” Deut. 4:37
The LORD did not set His love on you nor choose you because you were more in number than any other people, for you were the least of all peoples;
“but because the LORD loves you, and because He would keep the oath which He swore to your fathers
,…” Deut. 7:7,8
The LORD delighted only in your fathers, to love them; and He chose their descendants after them, you above all peoples, as it is this day.” Deut. 10:15

What about now?
“…they are still the beloved (dear to Him) for the sake of their forefathers.
“For God’s gifts and His call are irrevocable. [He never withdraws them when once they are given, and He does not change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call
.] Rom. 11:28,29 Amplified.

After Jesus came, was there still a legitimate expectation that God would still restore national Israel according to the words of the prophets? The disciples asked Him about this in Acts 1:6, “Therefore, when they had come together, they asked Him, saying, “Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” Jesus didn’t tell them that God wasn’t dealing with the nation of Israel anymore. He said, “It is not for you to know times or seasons which the Father has put in His own authority.” In other words, God has decided when the restoration of Israel will happen, but is keeping that timetable to himself right now.

Caboose.

COMMENT #21 (by Manuel): To say that God loves the Jewish people more than any other is a racist statement. God chose Abraham as an example of the faith people and his seed or people of faith (in Jesus specifically for our time). Jesus himself wept over Israel’s decision not to follow Him. that He came unto his own but His own did not receive him. So what did Jesus do – He chose those who would believe in Him. Remember when Jesus’ 1/2 brothers and sisters came looking for Him. Jesus said to the onlookers – “But he answered and said unto him tahat told him, Who is my mother? and who are my brethren? And he stretched forth his hand toward his disciples, and said, Behold my mother and my brethren! For whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother.” Mat 12:48-50
So Jesus did not respect a blood line. He only sees a spiritual line to believers.

There is another principle we have to consider: God is not a respector of persons. And by the same token of nations, or creeds, or whatever.
God the Father is no respecter of persons, and He will not be showing any type of partiality or favoritism to any man or woman He has ever created.
Acts 10:34, Gal 2:6, Deut 10:17, 1 Peter 1:17

Now let’s look at the Jewish response to Jesus according to Jesus himself:

Matt 23:37 “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing.”  Verse 38 “Behold your house is left desolate.”
Verse 39 “For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, till ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord.”

On verse 39 – Jesus is saying that He will not be seen by the Jewish people until they individually can see Him as the Savior. In other words, until they become his spiritual children, not his physical ethnic group. Please remember that God does not save nations, He only saves individuals from nations. God will not wait for the whole nation to change its mind. If I have already decided to follow him now, I am accepted when I say yes to Him. When I say yes, then I am included into His spiritual family and become a child of God. Now I can rightly say that I am his brethren as noted in Mat 12:50.

I can’t make this more clear than using the Lord’s own words from the word of God.

I think that we as believers should concentrate more on the lost than to wait around for the Jewish nation to repent and see Jesus for who He really is – messiah. There should be an outreach to the Jewish nation as other nations that do not know who the savior is. God loves all people and has children in many nations. We clearly see that God is not showing any favoritism to Israel. We can choose Jesus as savior, or eternal judgement, regardless of our ethnic background. Period.

COMMENT #22 (by Dan): ‎”To say that God loves the Jewish people more than any other is a racist statement”. I agree – who said that?

COMMENT #23 (by Adam): Dan, I’ve been meaning for some time now to reply to your response from over a week ago, but here it is finally. I appreciate your openness regarding the claims of dispensationalism, and where you stand on some of these things. It all makes for very interesting discussion, and helps in getting to know you better. At some point in the future I’d be interested in knowing how you view the 70th week of Daniel (e.g. who makes—or made—the covenant with many, who the “many” are, how the sacrifices and offerings of Daniel 9:27 are to be viewed, etc.). That’s such a pivotal prophecy.

I agree with you that no program of God’s has been postponed or put on hold, including His program with Israel. The difference we have in this regard seems to be in how we identify Israel. In the viewpoint that you’ve articulated, Israel is made up of ethnic Jews. On the other hand, I see Scripture teaching that Israel is the Church, and that outside of the Church there is no true Israel. In other words, there is only continuity, and God has never ceased to have one special and chosen people for Himself, Israel. Some passages to examine on this point are those already quoted above: Romans 2:28-29, Romans 9:6-8, and Galatians 6:15-16.

Prior to Christ’s first coming, Israel as a nation was chosen, as you have said. Still, God always had a faithful remnant, just as He has now. Even at that time, provision was made for those who were unfaithful to be cut off from among God’s people. For example:

And God said to Abraham, ‘As for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations… Every male among you shall be circumcised… So shall My covenant be in your flesh an everlasting covenant. Any uncircumcised male who is not circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin shall be cut off from his people; he has broken My covenant” (Genesis 17:9-14).

Seven days you shall eat unleavened bread. On the first day you shall remove leaven out of your houses, for if anyone eats what is leavened, from the first day until the seventh day, that person shall be cut off from Israel” (Exodus 12:15; see also verse 19).

“…but the person who eats of the flesh of the sacrifice of the Lord’s peace offerings while an uncleanness is on him, that person shall be cut off from his people…” (Leviticus 8:20-21).

Now on the tenth day of this seventh month is the Day of Atonement. It shall be for you a time of holy convocation, and you shall afflict yourselves and present a food offering to the Lord… For whoever is not afflicted on that very day shall be cut off from his people. And whoever does any work on that very day, that person I will destroy from among his people. You shall not do any work. It is a statute forever throughout your generations in all your dwelling places” (Leviticus 23:27-31).

The ultimate cutting off from God’s people was to come upon those who reject(ed) Christ:

Moses said, ‘The Lord God will raise up for you a prophet like me from your brothers. You shall listen to Him in whatever He tells you. And it shall be that every soul who does not listen to that prophet shall be destroyed from the people.’ And all the prophets who have spoken, from Samuel and those who came after him, also proclaimed these days. You are the sons of the prophets and of the covenant that God made with your fathers, saying to Abraham, ‘And in your offspring shall all the families of the earth be blessed.’ God, having raised up His servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:22-26).

Under the Old Covenant, God’s people weren’t as plentiful as it might seem that they were, for there were many who descended physically from Abraham but were not counted as being among God’s people, Israel, because of their unfaithfulness. God’s people were those Israelites who served Him faithfully, as well as those from other nations who joined them in this service. When John the Baptist (Matthew 3:7-12) and Jesus (e.g. John 8:37-47) refused to allow their Jewish audience to claim to be among God’s people because of their physical descent from Abraham, they really weren’t saying anything different than what Moses and the Old Testament prophets had said.

Prior to the cross, the majority of those who were counted as God’s people were ethnic Jews. God’s people today are those who belong to Christ, whether Jew or Gentile. There has been an expansion, a very intentional opening up of the gospel to the Gentiles, and today the majority of those who are counted as God’s people are Gentiles. Aside from this difference, there is also much continuity. God had a faithful remnant prior to the cross, and the same is true today.

I have to confess that I don’t understand the distinction you tried to make between God having one chosen group and one group of chosen individuals. I have pondered what you said, but I just don’t see it. You said that the chosen group (and by this, I understand that you mean ethnic Jews) is chosen for different purposes than the group of chosen individuals (the body of Christ) is chosen. But how is this true? As already shown in previous comments, “the people of Israel” (Exodus 19:3-6) were chosen for the very same purposes that the body of Christ is presently chosen (I Peter 2:9-10). You also said that the nation of Israel was chosen as a group, regardless of what individuals did/believed or didn’t do/didn’t believe. However, as shown above, provision was made to cut off faithless individuals from among that group known as Israel, so that only a faithful remnant remained (from God’s vantage point) to make up God’s people. You also said that a distinctive of the Church is that we are chosen “individually, and not as a group, a nation, or a people.” We are saved individually, yes, but our calling/purpose/choosing is certainly corporate, and we are declared by Scripture to be a people and a holy nation (e.g. Matthew 21:43, II Corinthians 6:16-17, Ephesians 2:11-22, I Peter 2:4-10).

Regarding Romans 11:28-29, the Jewish people are spoken of as “beloved for the sake of their forefathers.” This speaks of the historical significance of the Jewish people and the nation of Israel, and to me it also fits with what Peter said (quoted earlier): “God, having raised up His servant, sent Him to you first, to bless you by turning every one of you from your wickedness” (Acts 3:26). Jesus lived and ministered among the Jews, and the gospel was first made available to them, before being proclaimed throughout the nations. At the same time, “God has consigned all to disobedience, that He may have mercy on all” (Rom. 11:32). In other words, Jews are just as lost as anyone else without Christ (and on this I know we agree). However, the Jews are not utterly cast off, for any Jew who would turn from disobedience, drawn to Jesus by the Father (John 6:44), would receive mercy (just as any Gentile would). At that point, and at that point only, could they possibly take their place in fulfilling the purposes for which God’s people are chosen (both in ancient times and also now): to be a holy people, a nation of priests, a people for His own possession, and a light to the nations.

My response concerning Acts 1:6 will follow in the next comment…

COMMENT #24 (by Adam): Regarding Acts 1:6, you’re right that Jesus didn’t explicitly rebuke the disciples for asking a nationalistic question. Their question was similar in nature to the statement made by the two men on the way to Emmaus: “But we had hoped that He was the One to redeem Israel” (Luke 24:21). Jesus was patient in His reply to these two men, just as He was with the question asked by the apostles as recorded in Acts 1:6 (“Lord, will You at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”). In addition to His statement regarding times and seasons, part of His reply was to again prophesy of the Day of Pentecost, the giving of the Holy Spirit with power, and the mandate to be His witnesses even to the end of the earth. It’s interesting, and I would say very revealing, that after Pentecost came the apostles never again spoke of the kingdom of God in nationalistic terms. I appreciate the explanation that Stephen Sizer gives regarding Acts 1:6.

“It is interesting that in this question, the Apostles at least, see ‘Israel’ as having a separate existence as a people without sovereignty in the land. In his commentary, John Calvin writes, ‘There are as many mistakes in this question as there are words.’ John Stott, in his commentary on the Acts of the Apostles, succinctly appraises errors made:

‘The mistake they made was to misunderstand both the nature of the kingdom and the relation between the kingdom and the Spirit. Their question must have filled Jesus with dismay. Were they still so lacking in perception?… The verb, the noun and the adverb of their sentence all betray doctrinal confusion about the kingdom. For the verb restore shows they were expecting a political and territorial kingdom; the noun Israel that they were expecting a national kingdom; and the adverbial clause at this time that they were expecting its immediate establishment. In his reply (7-8) Jesus corrected their mistaken notions of the kingdom’s nature, extent and arrival.’

Since the Holy Spirit had not been given, the disciples may be forgiven for still holding to an Old Covenant understanding of the Kingdom with the reestablishment of the monarchy and liberation from the brutal colonialism of Rome. Had they been present at Jesus’ trial they might have understood things differently. Jesus explained, ‘My kingdom is not of this world. If it were, my servants would fight to prevent my arrest by the Jews. But now my kingdom is from another place’ (John 18:36).

Jesus repudiated the notion of an earthly and nationalistic kingdom on more than one occasion (see John 6:15). This is why, in reply to the disciples, Jesus says that he has another agenda for the Apostles:

It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)

The kingdom which Jesus inaugurated would, in contrast to their narrow expectations, be spiritual in character, international in membership and gradual in expansion. And the expansion of this kingdom throughout the world would specifically require their exile from the land. They must turn their backs on Jerusalem and their hopes of ruling there with Jesus in order to fulfill their new role as ambassadors of his kingdom (Matthew 20:20-28; 2 Corinthians 5:20-21). The Acts of the Apostles suggests that they needed something of a kick-start to get going. It is only when the Christians in Jerusalem experience persecution following the death of Stephen and are scattered that they begin to proclaim the gospel to others (see Acts 8:1-4). The Church was sent out into the world to make disciples of all nations but never told to return. Instead Jesus promises to be with them where ever they are in the world (Matthew 28:18-20).”

Source: http://www.cc-vw.org/articles/zcs3.pdf (pages 14-15)

COMMENT #25 (by Adam): Manuel, thank you very much for your latest response as well. I most appreciated your opening up of Matthew 23:39. This is my understanding as well, that Christ was speaking of an individual response, not a corporate one, and that both Jews and Gentiles (us included) have been responding in this way during the last 2000 years. May we continue to labor in the vineyard so that even more will do so.

COMMENT #26 (by Nadia): Adam, I think it’s time to publish a book based on these insights 🙂 looks like you have enough material!

COMMENT #27 (by Manuel ): I have to agree with Nadia on this Adam. That way we can reference from that resource.

COMMENT #28 (by Dan): Adam, I’m getting the distinct impression that we don’t completely agree on some of these things. 😉

Actually, I know that any difference of opinion in these things is just a temporary situation. Ultimately, we will see and know and understand these things in exactly the same way. Now, we know in part, but then we shall know as we are known. Imagine Stephen Sizer, Hal Lindsay, and John Hagee all being in complete agreement about Israel and the Church (OMGosh). It will happen. That’s the power of God.

It’s been awhile since I looked at anything connected with Daniel’s 70th week, so I remember generalities, but I’m a little hazy on specifics. I’ll have to look at it again, and then I’ll get back to you about it.

COMMENT #29 (by Adam): Now, Dan, what gave you that impression? 🙂 Yes, that day you’re speaking of, when we will know fully even as we have been fully known (I Cor. 13:13), is definitely something to look forward to. Very good reminder. I have to admit that the image of Sizer, Lindsay, and Hagee being in complete agreement is a startling one.

I would very much look forward to a discussion of Daniel 9:24-27, if we’re able to do so. When that time comes, it would be good to start a new discussion thread, rather than host it here in this thread. I do continue to appreciate your willingness to dig deeper on some of these things, to challenge and be challenged, etc. It’s very good exercise for the mind and spirit.

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This wraps up the discussion as it took place on Facebook. What viewpoint do you, the reader, have on this subject of the identity and purpose(s) of God’s chosen people? Are God’s chosen people the physical descendants of Abraham (ethnic Jews)? Are they the spiritual descendants of Abraham (all who belong to Christ through faith)? Do both of these groups make up God’s chosen people? In any response that you may have, please—if you are able to—make an effort to interact with the question of why God’s chosen people are presently chosen. Thank you.

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.

A Night to Honor Israel – And to Dishonor Jesus and His Church


A Night to Honor Israel – And to Dishonor Jesus and His Church

by Adam Maarschalk (May 23, 2010)

Last Tuesday night (May 18th) a friend and I headed out for what I thought was one of CUFI’s “A Night to Honor Israel” events. On the way there we imagined ourselves in the midst of several thousand fans waving Israeli and American flags. The crowd would be bleeding with unquestioning support for the nation of Israel and all her political policies. It turns out that the flags weren’t there, and neither were the thousands, but the unquestioning support certainly was. And the political nation of Israel was most definitely honored above all else, including Jesus, who didn’t receive one single mention the entire evening. What my friend and I ended up attending was more like a regional information meeting led by John T. Somerville, the Central Regional Coordinator for CUFI (Christians United for Israel). CUFI is a large organization which was founded in 2006 by San Antonio-based megachurch pastor John Hagee.

The event was held at Living Word Christian Center, the premier “health and wealth” (prosperity gospel) church in the Minneapolis/Saint Paul area. LWCC is pastored by Mac Hammond, who is also on the Executive Board of CUFI and is their Region 8 Director (for Minnesota, Illinois, Iowa, Wisconsin). The church draws speakers like Kenneth Copeland, Creflo Dollar (yes, that’s his real last name), and Jesse Duplantis, as evidenced by this poster near the entrance to the massive lobby:

The Ahmadinejad bashing began almost right away, my first clue that this evening’s focus would be as much political as anything else. The speaker, John Somerville, listed off the evils of Iran, giving special attention to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s various meetings with foreign diplomats. We were told that each and every time he meets with national leaders he tries to sell them his “let’s wipe Israel off the map” agenda (I certainly acknowledge this agenda as evil). Somerville then predictably invoked Zechariah 2:8, which reads: “…for he who touches you [Jerusalem] touches the apple of His [God’s] eye.” Somerville declared, his voice rising, that the nation of Israel always has been and always will be the apple of God’s eye, His most precious possession. Those who would oppose Israel in any way will incur God’s wrath. As proof of this transgression on the part of national leaders, Somerville put up this ingenious slide picture of different leaders putting a finger up in the air:

Political leaders allegedly “sticking their fingers in God’s eye”

Never mind how easy it was to locate a picture of John Hagee with his own finger extended upward…

If Somerville is correct in his interpretation of Zech. 2:8 (and Hagee as well, for he teaches the same thing), who was the apple of God’s eye from 70 AD until 1948 when there was no nation of Israel? Did nearly 19 centuries pass without God having a special possession to call His own? This time period covers much of the present church age, so what is the Church in God’s eyes? Chopped liver? On the other hand, this is the testimony of the New Testament regarding the Church, which is made up of believing Jews and Gentiles alike: “But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for His own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (I Peter 2:9).

Somerville, on Tuesday night, voiced his disagreement with the apostle Peter, by announcing numerous times that the Jews are God’s chosen people. He never did clarify what they are presently chosen for, but one curious thing to note was that whenever this phrase appeared in one of his slides it was always capitalized (“Chosen People”). This made me wonder something. If he were to acknowledge that the body of Christ is God’s chosen people (he did not), would capital letters again be used? Somehow I doubt it. His main proof text for his assertion that the Jews are God’s chosen people was Isaiah 65:9. This verse reads, “I will bring forth offspring from Jacob, and from Judah possessors of My mountains; My chosen shall possess it, and My servants shall dwell there.”

Ah, this verse appears to speak of the land. So is this a clue as to why Somerville believes the Jewish people are presently chosen? “Israel is the only piece of real estate that God calls His own,” Somerville thundered next. And God has given the land of modern Israel (and more) to the Jewish people forever, we were repeatedly told, so woe to anyone who would get in the way of them possessing it. This apparently includes the Palestinian people who happened to be born there, and whose ancestors had lived there and cultivated the land for a long time. Apparently we can chalk it up to mere collateral damage that around 70,000 Palestinian men, women, and children were slaughtered in 1948; around 700,000 made homeless that same year; and 4 million or so have been dispossessed of their land ever since. The land in red on the map below, we were told, rightfully belongs to the Jewish people. The Balfour Declaration of 1917 was “the high-water mark of the British Empire,” Somerville added. Transjordan made up 77% of the (partially) resulting British Mandate, but the British “gave it away in violation of Genesis 12:3 [see below] and Joel 3:2.” The British soon lost their vast empire, according to Somerville, as a direct result of leaving most of “the Promised Land” in the hands of the Arabs:

Somerville emphasized that when God said the land belonged to Israel forever, He meant it. We will address this question in depth in future posts. For now, let us take note that the covenant of fleshly circumcision was also said to be forever/eternal/perpetual [see, for example, Genesis 17:9-14, and note the language used]. The same was said regarding numerous temple-based rituals [Exodus 28:43, 29:28, 31:16-17, 40:15; Leviticus 3:17, 6:18, 22, 7:34, 36]. How does the New Testament deal with the non-land covenants/statutes which were said to be eternal? Should the “eternal” land promises be dealt with in a different manner? If so, why? Were they ever said to be conditional? Are we not heirs of a better “land” under the New Covenant? The land promise was first articulated to Abraham, but what city did he look forward to possessing (hint –> Hebrews 11:10-16)? All of this and more we will deal with later, Lord willing.

Somerville made it very clear that two big “no nos” are [1] attempting to divide the land of Israel and/or Jerusalem, and [2] preventing the Jewish people from coming back to the land God promised them (for which Britain was especially guilty, he said). We were taken to Joel 3:1-2, “For behold, in those days and at that time, when I restore the fortunes of Judah and Jerusalem, I will gather all the nations and bring them down to the Valley of Jehoshaphat. And I will enter into judgment with them there, on behalf of My people and My heritage Israel, because they have scattered them among the nations and have divided up My land.”[1] This text, we were told, is proof positive that America is in deep danger because of President Obama’s lack of pro-Israel policies and his non-red carpet treatment of Benjamin Netanyahu in recent months.

Apologies for the blurry photo. It says: “… …” (Zech. 2:8). Is the US sticking its finger in God’s eye? Is the US being brought under the judgment of God? Is there still time and any hope for our nation?

All night long, the only verses referenced or quoted were from the Old Testament. This was no surprise to me, for the New Testament has much to say in direct response to the many false doctrines of Christian Zionism. Those who belong to Christ today are in the New Covenant, but one wouldn’t have known it from being present at this event. Somerville almost broke from this pattern, though, by going to Matthew 25:40. This verse flashed briefly on the screen in front of us before he decided to skip it, but I took note of what was highlighted in that verse. It’s from the famous Sheep and the Goats passage: “And the King will answer them, Truly I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these My brothers, you did it to Me.” I’m all too familiar with how John Hagee treats this passage, so I will go ahead and assume that Somerville (as a key representative of his organization) would have treated it the same. In addition to seeing this as a future judgement, they see Christ’s brothers in this passage as the Jewish people, simply because Jesus was an ethnic Jew. Therefore, God will one day judge all people based on how they related to the Jewish people. What is John Hagee’s creepy application of this passage (Matthew 25:31-46)?

It is important to be right on the Israel question when you consider that being wrong brings you under the curse of God and headed for eternal, everlasting fire with the devil and his angels. Israel is not a “take it or leave it” subject. It is a life and death matter-eternal life!

However, Jesus didn’t consider His true brothers to be those who happened to share His same ethnicity, nor even those who happened to be born of His mother:

Then His mother and His brothers came to Him, but they could not reach Him because of the crowd. And He was told, “Your mother and Your brothers are standing outside, desiring to see You.” But He answered them, “My mother and My brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it” (Luke 8:19-21).

Somerville apparently believes that all nations are in some sort of a covenant with God today, saying that they are all duty-bound to honor the promise given to Abraham in Genesis 12:3– “I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” Somerville’s immediate application of this verse was to instruct us to all “go find a Jew tonight and bless him,” and God would then be obligated to bless us in return. I’m not sure if he expected us to go out knocking on doors, asking people if they were Jewish, but it was 9:30 pm by the time we got out of there and…well, I guess I failed to receive my guaranteed blessing that night. On a related note, CUFI’s purpose was expressed on another slide: “to fulfill God’s Biblical Mandate to bless Abraham’s descendants.” Clearly we were meant to understand that it’s Abraham’s physical descendants who we are to go out of our way to bless. How does this idea stand up, though, to the scrutiny of the New Testament?

And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith (Galatians 6:9-10).

The apostle Paul actually cites Genesis 12:3 in Galatians 3:8. Let’s see what he, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, had to say on the matter. First, he said that by this promise “the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham” (this also agrees with Peter’s interpretation in Acts 3:25-26). Then Paul goes on to state something which John Hagee and others in this movement very badly need to embrace as truth: “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to One, ‘And to your offspring,’ who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). Going on a little bit further, we come to even more truth regarding those who are counted as Abraham’s offspring today: “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. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:28-29).

In Christ, there are no benefits that God grants to males which He will not also grant to females, and there are no benefits or promises that He grants to ethnic Jews which He will not also grant to ethnic non-Jews who trust in Christ. All of God’s promises are accessible only through faith (Romans 4:13-18). “For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing His riches on all who call on Him” (Romans 10:12). “For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15; see also Gal. 5:6 and John 8:39-47).

The saddest part of the evening occurred when Somerville turned the microphone over to a Jewish community leader (a Rabbi?) who was clearly not a follower of Christ. This man, who didn’t hear a trace of the gospel that evening, emphasized the common ground between Jewish Zionists and Christian Zionists, much to the delight of the crowd. It only got worse when he proceeded to define what a “righteous Christian” is: one who [1] does what is right regarding the nation of Israel and the Jewish people [2] rejects “replacement theology,” and [3] believes that all the promises God gave to Abraham apply today to his physical descendants, the Jewish race. Unbelievably, this definition of a “righteous Christian” received applause from the crowd, even though it was implied that all Christians who fail to meet these three criteria are unrighteous. The Biblical definition of righteousness has everything to do with Jesus and His work on the cross. It’s impossible to be a genuine follower of Christ without being made righteous, and to be without righteousness is to be without Christ. The deceived supporters of CUFI fell for the lies spoken by a man who has no hope of ever being found righteous unless God draws him to Himself and he places his trust in Christ for salvation. Tragically, that hope was kept hidden from him that night.

We were pushed hard to join more than 175,000 other Christians in signing “The Israel Pledge.” In fact, the crowd was asked to repeat this pledge out loud together (my friend and I remained silent, although we could certainly agree with point #2):

The Israel Pledge We believe that the Jewish people have a right to live in their ancient land of Israel, and that the modern State of Israel is the fulfillment of this historic right. We maintain that there is no excuse for acts of terrorism against Israel and that Israel has the same right as every other nation to defend her citizens from such violent attacks.

We pledge to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors.

A few days ago, Jews for Jesus’ founder Moishe Rosen passed away. He left behind a heartfelt letter in which he expressed his concerns regarding certain trends today:

As I go, one of the things that concerns me deeply is how much misunderstanding there is among believers. I never thought I would live to see the day when those who know the Lord and are born again were supporting the efforts of rabbis who, frankly, not only don’t know Christ, but don’t want to know Him.

To be an honest ministry, it can only come from the Holy Spirit; and the Holy Spirit can only indwell those who have the new birth and are born again. Therefore, I would urge you to think very seriously before you support any “ministry” that involves Jewish people and doesn’t actually bring the gospel to the Jews… Within Judaism today, there is no salvation because Christ has no place within Judaism.

Source: http://jewsforjesus.org/(HT: PJ Miller)

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All posts on the subject of Christian Zionism can be found here.


[1] In a future post I hope to interact with Joel 3:1-2, which is often used today by Christian Zionists to say that God will judge all nations in the future based on how much or how little favor they granted to the nation of Israel which was founded in 1948. Briefly, though, it may be of interest to note that both John Wesley and Matthew Henry saw in this passage a two-fold application: [1] to the time period following Judah’s defeat at the hand of the Babylonians in 586 BC, and [2] to the Church in this present age, in terms of God ultimately vindicating His people who experience persecution and martyrdom for their faith.