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Thy Kingdom ComeThe Eschatology of the Kingdom
by Harold L. Patterson (Author)
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Note: Following is a sample chapter from the book Thy Kingdom Come, The Eschatology of the Kingdom by Harold L. Patterson.
© 2008 by Harold L. Patterson. All rights reserved.
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CHAPTER 8: THE NEW TESTAMENT INTERPRETATION OF ISRAEL AND THE CHURCH IN PROPHECY
ISRAEL HAS A NEW NAMESince Peter tells us that the Old Testament prophecies apply to our time, it is proper to seek for some indication of this in the prophets themselves. One of these indications is that the prophets knew that in the latter days God would call His people by another name, instead of Israel.
From the New Testament we can learn that the new name is Christians. Peter himself applies that name to his readers in his first epistle: . . .yet if one suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed (I Pet. 4:16).
The disciples were first called Christians at Antioch (Acts 11:26). This name simply means followers of Christ. The word, Christ, is a Greek word that means, anointed. The Hebrew equivalent is Messiah. The word Messiah is translated the Anointed in our English Old Testament (e.g. Psalms 2:2). When Psalms 2:2 is quoted in the New Testament, the same word (Anointed) is translated Christ. I bring this out to show that the words Anointed and Christ are synonymous, therefore interchangeable. This is important in establishing the validity and background of the name Christian. The key is the way in which it identifies us with Messiah, the Christ. I have said this so I can deal with two questions that might arise.
1. Did God choose the name Christian for His people?
The passage that I quoted from Isaiah certainly makes that a criterion for Israel's new name. Some people believe that when the believers were labeled Christians at Antioch that it was their enemies who gave them the name. It is true that the name did not gain general acceptance and usage right away, probably because the early church was largely dominated by Jewish Christians, who still called themselves Israelites (Rom. 11:1). However, these factors do not determine the issue. The determinant is the source of the name. As I have shown above, the source of the name Christian is Christ. When we focus on that there is no difficulty.
a. Jesus received the name Christ directly from the Father. Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36).
b. Jacob likewise received the name Israel directly from God. When Jacob was returning from his sojourn in the land of Haran, he met with God at a place called Peniel, and there received the name Israel. Israel is derived from a Hebrew word which means to strive, prevail or rule, combined with El, the name of God. Therefore the name depicts a royal, princely stature for the one who bears it. In effect, when Jacob received his new name he was inducted into the divine royalty, as a prince of God.
2. Do Christs followers have the prerogative of assuming the name of their leader?
a. The followers of Jacob and Jesus both adopted the divine title of their leaders. As can be readily seen there is a marked parallel between the two. Jacob received the name Israel as the head and leader of the people of God, therefore his descendants, or followers, took his divinely given title as their distinctive name. So it was and is with Jesus, who is called the Christ, and His people.
In its etymology and in usage, the term Christian is derived the same way as the term Israelite was. The first use of the word Israelite is recorded in Exodus 9:7, long after Jacob was dead. Their enemies may have originated it, because it appears in the context of Pharaoh's inquiry into the condition of Israel's cattle after God had destroyed Pharaoh's cattle.
b. Christians have Christ's anointing. Beyond the obvious parallels which are shown above, it is quite appropriate for the followers of Christ to use His divinely given title because the Apostle John tells us that we have the same anointing that Jesus has. The anointing (Gr. chrisma) which ye have received of him abideth in you, and ye need not that any man teach you. . . .(I John 2:27). This is confirmed by Paul. Now he which stablisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God (II Cor. 1:21). (I have called attention to the Greek word translated anointing, because it is derived from the same root word as Christ).
Therefore we are an anointed or messianic people, which fact justifies us in referring to this Christian era as the messianic age. Of course, the literal equivalent of the Jewish term messianic is Christian. The two are the same. As we have already seen, Jesus and Peter both said that the focus of the Old Testament prophecies is Christ. It is consistent with this thought, therefore, to think that these prophecies would also focus upon the body of Christ--the Christians. In the eyes of God we are completely identified with Christ. Therefore it is not presumptuous for us to take His name, even as a bride takes her husband's name. But we can put all questions to rest by allowing Christ Himself to have the last word:
THE CHURCH HAS BECOME THE HOLY NATION OF EXODUS 19:61. Israels status as Gods Holy Nation was terminated when the Mosaic Covenant was abrogated.
When Israel departed Egypt and came to Mt. Sinai, Moses ascended the holy mountain and communed with God. Among the first things which God told him was this: Now therefore, if ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people: for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation (Exodus 19:6, emphasis added). The unique and privileged role of ancient Israel among the nations as the people of God was entirely predicated upon the covenant that God made with them. This covenant was conditional and required obedience upon Israels part in order for it to remain in force. The universal witness of the Scriptures is that Israel broke that covenant (Psalms 78:10; Jeremiah 31:32, and many other refs.). God did not summarily withdraw all covenant blessings from Israel at any particular juncture in their long history. He exercised long patience with them until the time when they rejected their Messiah. Unworthy as they were, they were still Gods Holy Nation until they fulfilled their destiny by producing the Savior. When He came, one of His primary objectives was to mediate the New Covenant (Heb. 8:6). Preparatory to this was the sentence Christ Himself pronounced upon Israel when He said,
Jesus pronouncement that the Kingdom of God would be taken from Israel and given to another nation is our clue that He was referring to the Mosaic covenant. Under that covenant Israel, as Gods Holy Nation, was the earthly manifestation of Gods kingdom. Jesus here makes it clear that when Israel rejected the Stone (Christ), they would lose the Kingdom and their status as the Holy Nation would be lost. Since that status was based upon the Mosaic Covenant, Jesus pronouncement also signaled the end of that Covenant as well. The point is that Israels national status was based upon the Covenant, and with the disappearance of that Covenant they are no longer Gods special people. I labor this point because those who insist that national Israel must be restored in order to fulfill Old Testament prophecies are implicitly requiring a restoration of the Mosaic Covenant as well. Absurd as it is, this is a necessary conclusion, because there is no provision in the New Covenant for an earthly inheritance or an earthly sanctuary (or temple). According to Hebrews 8 and 9 these are merely types and shadows of the heavenly, eternal realities to which we are now directed. The earthly inheritance (Palestine) is replaced with an eternal inheritance, which will consist of a new heaven and a new earth (Heb. 9:15; Rev. 21:1). The earthly tabernacle is replaced with the heavenly one (Heb. 9:23,24). Now we are prepared to identify that nation to whom the Kingdom is given.
2. Peter directly applied the promises of Exodus 19:6 to the Church.
It is unquestionable that Peter's epistles are Christian documents. Therefore his application of the above-quoted word which God gave for Israel has significance which cannot be over-emphasized. Read what he says:
In this passage Peter has paraphrased two Old Testament portions, both of which were originally given to Israel, and he has deliberately applied them to the Christian body. The first of these is Exodus 19:6, as we have seen. The second is Hosea 1:9,10 and 2:23. The reference to Hosea is rendered even more significant in that Peter uses a prophecy which was originally given to recalcitrant Israelites, who were rejected for their unfaithfulness to God, and applies them to the Gentiles, who were not a people because of their alien status, but are now the people of God by virtue of their coming to Christ. Support for this interpretation is found in the fact that Paul, in Romans 9:22-26, uses the same passage in Hosea to confirm God's acceptance of Gentiles as joint heirs with believing Jews in the salvation of God.
Peter's application of these Old Testament passages to the Church can be seen as a fulfillment of our Lord's declaration to the nation Israel that The kingdom of God will be taken away from you and shall be given to a nation producing the fruit of it (Matt. 21:43 NASB). Taken together, these Scriptures support my statement that the Church is Israel's successor.
3. The Apostle Paul called the Church the Israel of God.
Paul's reference to this new nation is in the Epistle to the Galatians, which is a polemic against the Judaizers who were trying to compel Christians to conform to the Old Testament requirements of the law. After confuting their doctrine, he summarizes the issue by showing that the real Israel is comprised of those who meet the spiritual criteria for that name, not the natural descendants who adhere to the legal, outward criteria.
The term circumcision is frequently used by Paul to refer to the Jews--Israel after the flesh. By contrast, he uses uncircumcision to refer to Gentiles. We are taught in the above passage that fleshly circumcision is not a basis for one's identification with the true Israel of God. The basis for that identification, he says, is a new creation. In II Corinthians 5:17 he tells us that If any one is in Christ, he is a new creation (RSV). Furthermore, in I Cor. 12:12,13, and in Ephesians 2:14,15, Paul teaches that in Christ all distinctions and enmity between Jews and Gentiles are abolished, and we are baptized into one body, which he calls one new man. Therefore, he says (in Gal. 6:16) that all who walk according to this rule are blessed with peace and mercy, and comprise the true Israel of God.
4. The Church is now incorporated into the Commonwealth of Israel.
a. Christians are the true circumcision.
The above conclusion is made more certain in Paul's further teaching on the spiritual meaning of circumcision, in reference to its fulfillment in Christ. In Colossians 1:10-12 he teaches us that we Christians are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ. Thus the Old Testament rite of circumcision is fulfilled in our identification with Christ in Christian baptism (verse 12), and Christians are now the true circumcision. The fleshly, carnal, natural rite of circumcision is thus replaced by a spiritual reality that is beyond ritual.
As though to avoid any confusion of terms, Paul, in this passage, calls fleshly Israel the concision. Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the concision (Phil. 3:2). This play on words indicates in the strongest language possible that the legalists, the Jewish nationalists, are unworthy and divisive. On the other hand, he has used equally strong language to affirm that the Church is the true successor to Israel. We are the true circumcision who recognize the spiritual significance and reality of the old, outdated rite. Even the Old Testament prophets knew that true circumcision is of the heart, not of the flesh. In another place, Paul even goes so far as to say that those who did not recognize the spiritual reality of circumcision were not worthy to be called Jews. For he is not a real Jew who is one outwardly, nor is true circumcision something external and physical. He is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal. . . (Romans 2:28,29 RSV).
b. The teaching in Ephesians, chapter two, is that saved Gentiles are now part of the commonwealth of Israel."
From the foregoing passage we may glean the following principal truths:
THE CHURCH IS THE NEW JERUSALEM
Extreme Premillenialists, especially Dispensationalists, assert that the Old Testament writers did not foresee the Church age. Their system of dispensations or ages of Biblical history requires them to think of the Church age as a parenthetical interruption of God's mainline program, which, they say, is to glorify His earthly people, Israel. For this reason C. I. Scofield says, The church, corporately, is not in the vision of the Old Testament prophet. In support of his statement, Scofield cites Ephesians 3:1-6. But that passage does not say that the Church, as such, is not seen by the prophets. What it does say is that the fact that Gentiles should be fellow-heirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel is a mystery which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men as it is now revealed. . . . (Eph. 3:4-6). Peter's statement that the prophets foresaw the grace that would come to us indicates that the prophets were not ignorant of the blessings of this age. They did have a hard time understanding that the Gentiles would share equally in those blessings. This was a typical limitation of the Jewish mind, as portrayed by Peter's resistance to God's command to teach the Gospel to the Gentiles.
The fact is that the Christian Church is the fulfillment of all the visions and aspirations which the Prophets had for the people of God. As Jesus tells us, they longed to see the things which were witnessed by those who heard Him preach the Gospel.
To go one step farther, the Church, in its nature and privileges, is the very substance of those things of which the Old Testament, Israelite economy was merely the shadow!
Likewise, in Hebrews, chapters 8-10 we are taught that the Old Testament priesthood and sacrifices were only shadows of the ministry of Christ to the Church (see Heb. 8:4,5 and 10:1-9).
With these things in mind, we can now think of Jerusalem, which was the central factor in the life of the Holy Nation. The Psalmist of the Babylonian exile expresses the sentiments of the whole nation towards Jerusalem in the most poignant terms: If I forget thee, O Jerusalem, let my right hand forget her cunning. If I do not remember thee, let my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth: if I prefer not Jerusalem above my chief joy Psa. 137:5,6). Is it possible that the Church could appropriate and fulfill Israel's chief joy? We shall see.
The Old Testament prophets had much to say about the future of Jerusalem, the City of God. The first historical reference to this city was when it was called Salem. There Abraham met Melchizedek, its king, and paid tithes to him as the priest of the most high God. Jerusalem was built on a hill called Zion, or Sion, which means citadel or refuge. David captured this stronghold and named it Zion, the city of David (II Samuel 5:17). This Zion was a favorite theme of the prophets, and in their writings it became an appellation for the people of God, the spiritual Israel of the Old Testament. These thoughts are expressed in the exalted language of Isaiah:
In the above passage Isaiah intimates, and elsewhere it is overtly stated, that this Zion also became a reference to the habitation of God. Sing praises to the Lord, which dwelleth in Zion (Psalm 9:11); In Judah is God known: his name is great in Israel. In Salem is his tabernacle, and his dwelling place in Zion (Psalm 76:1,20). Of course, we do not have to labor the point that in the New Testament it is the Church that is called an habitation of God through the Spirit (Eph. 2:22; also compare Leviticus 26:12 with II Cor 6:16).
Such references can be multiplied almost beyond measure. What can we learn from this? Simply this: The prophets foresaw a great future for Israel, God's holy nation, and spoke of it in glowing terms under the figure of Jerusalem, the Zion of God. They knew that the time of which they spoke was the age now present, as we have taken pains to show in the discussion of I Pet. 1:10-12. They also knew that the Gentiles would participate in the blessings of Jerusalem in some way, as we see in Isaiah 60:5 . . .because the abundance of the sea shall be converted unto thee, the forces of the Gentiles shall come unto thee. But, according to Paul, they did not realize that the Gentiles would be fellow-heirs and of the same body (Eph. 3:6).
Thus we arrive at the clinching evidence that the Church is spiritual Israel. This Jerusalem, the holy Zion, of which the prophets spoke in such glorious language, is none other than the Spiritual Israel of the Old Testament fulfilled and combined in one body with the New Testament Church, in full fellowship! In other words, the Old Testament prophets foresaw and spoke of the Church under the figure of Jerusalem! I will use three Scripture references to establish this truth. Three witnesses should be enough.
1. But the Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all (Gal. 4:26 KJV).
When Paul here speaks of Jerusalem as the mother of us all he is including the faithful of the Old and New Testaments. This is predicated upon the fact that the Church is included in God's covenant with Abraham. Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying In thee shall all nations be blessed. So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham (Gal. 3:7-9). Further on, Paul makes it clear that the blessing of Abraham has come upon the Gentiles through Christ (v. 14); that the blessing of Abraham is the covenant that was confirmed before of God in Christ (v. 17); and that . . . if ye be in Christ ye are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise (v. 29). It would be difficult to deny that all who are in Christ are in the Church. Furthermore, when Paul says that Abraham's covenant was confirmed before of God in Christ, it becomes evident that Abraham is in Christ also, by virtue of his participation in the covenant which bears his name. Is anyone prepared to deny, then, that all the Old Testament saints, who are also Abraham's spiritual seed, are also in Christ? Certainly the Spirit of Christ was in them (I Pet. 1:11).
I call attention to the phrase the church of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven. I can do no better than to quote from Vincent's comments on this expression:
With or without Vincent's comments, there is little difficulty in confirming from Hebrews 12:22-24 that the Church is the New Jerusalem. That he identifies the redeemed of both dispensations with the New Jerusalem is no more than a requirement of the text. The spirits of righteous men made perfect is an obvious reference to those Old Testament saints of Heb. 11:39, 40, who could not be made perfect (complete) without us.
We know from Ephesians 5:22-32, that the bride, the Lambs wife, is the Church. It is worthy of note that as John gives the symbolic description of the Heavenly City in Revelation 21 we see that its gates have the names of the twelve tribes of Israel written thereon. This, of course, is in harmony with Jesus' statement that salvation is of the Jews (John 4:22). Old Testament Israel is the gateway to salvation because unto them were committed the oracles of God (Romans 3:12).
Please note that I did not say the New Testament Church in and of itself is spiritual Israel. I said that in fellowship with the Old Testament saints it is Israel. It seems to me that too much has been made of the differences between the Old Testament saints and the New Testament Church. Jesus said that we shall sit together in the Kingdom of God (Matt. 8:11). The concept of a spiritual Israel, as distinguished from a natural Israel is not peculiar to the New Testament. In his discourse on Abraham's two sons, Paul made it clear that there has always been a distinction between the spiritual and the fleshly seed of Abraham.
Not only is the spiritual seed distinguished from the natural, but also we, of the Church age, are identified with the spiritual seed. This is the very thing to which Paul was referring when he said, They are not all Israel who are of Israel (Rom. 9:6). This also is illustrated by the word in Isaiah, which says The Lord sent a word into Jacob, and it hath lighted upon Israel. In this case, Jacob can represent natural Israel, and Israel can represent the spiritual seed.
THE CHURCH, AS SPIRITUAL ISRAEL, NOW COMPRISES THE TOTALITY OF GODS ELECT
1. The elect of the Old Testament are in the Church
I must begin this discussion with a reference to Johns vision of the Heavenly Jerusalem in Revelation 21, in order to illustrate what I have said in the above heading. Under the previous heading I briefly noted the fact that the gates of the heavenly city are embellished with the names of the twelve tribes of Israel. I have already identified that city with the Church, the bride of Christ; therefore the presence of the names of the twelve tribes on her gates has a significance which cannot be ignored. In verse 12 of Rev. 21 we read that the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb. When Isaiah spoke of this city in the Spirit of prophecy, he said, In that day shall this song be sung in the land of Judah: We have a strong city; salvation will God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Open ye the gates, that the righteous nation which keepeth the truth may enter in (Isa. 26:1, also Isa. 60:18). According to I Peter 1:10, that day is our day. According to I Peter 2:9 the righteous nation is the Church. Isaiah tells us that the walls of the city represent salvation. Since we read in Rev. 21:12-14 that the walls of the city have gates with the names of the twelve tribes on them, we can conclude, as Jesus affirms, that the gateway of salvation is the Jews (see John 5:22).
This very same wall is founded upon the twelve apostles of the Lamb. They are the ones who had the privilege of first proclaiming the Gospel to the world, and upon their teachings the Church is founded. Paul uses the same analogy in Ephesians 5:20, wherein he says that we who are saved are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets. . . . Both here and in I Peter 2:6 we are told that Jesus Christ is the corner stone of the structure. So, this combination of Israel's patriarchs and Jesus' apostles in the wall of the City of God confronts us with the inescapable fact that God is building that city with materials from both dispensations! I have no difficulty arriving at the conclusion that the twenty-four elders described in Revelation 4 and 5 likewise represent the people of the Old and New Testaments in the same manner. The twelve patriarchs stand for the old and the twelve apostles stand for the new. This conclusion is further supported in Rev. 21:17, where we read that the measurement of the wall is 144 cubits. This number is the square of 12, and obviously links the saved of the Old and New Testaments together in a most intimate relationship. Incidentally, it is unfortunate that some translators convert the numbers in prophetic books to modern units of measure. This destroys the Biblical significance of the numbers for the reader, which is most inappropriate.
The relationship and interdependence between Old and New Testament saints is also shown in Hebrews 11 and 12. After giving an impressive summary of the exploits of the Old Testament faithful, the writer says; and these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect (Heb. 11:39,40). If we can accept the proposition that the promise here mentioned is the promise of full salvation through Christ (Gal. 3:14,29), we can see how it was not possible for the Old Testament saints to have been perfected before He came. His blood had to be shed before sins could be taken away (Heb. 10:4,5). It is recorded in John 17:23 that Jesus prayed to the Father that all who believe in Him might be made perfect in one through His indwelling presence. This prayer reflects back to Jesus prophetic statement in John 10:14 that his other sheep, the Gentiles, would be brought in, and that there would henceforth be one fold and one shepherd. This prophecy is fulfilled, and Jesus' prayer is answered in the accomplished fact that Jews and Gentiles are indeed brought together in one body (I Cor. 12:13; Eph. 2:11-16; 3:6). Obviously the Old Testament people could not enjoy this perfection of unity with us until Christ had come, nor could the household of God be complete without us (Eph. 2:19). In Heb. 12:22,23, which we have already discussed, these elements are brought together. We are come unto. . . the church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven...and to the spirits of just men made perfect. Those who could not be made perfect without us are now perfected in the spirit, and in the Spirit we are made one with them.
There are those who feel that when Jesus said in Matt 16:16 I will build my church he was referring to the future, therefore it would be impossible for it to include the Old Testament saints. This objection is easily answered. The Old Testament saints are not dead. Jesus said of the patriarchs, God is not the God of the dead, but of the living (Mt. 22:32). Spiritual Israel could not die. As we have seen from Heb. 12:23 they have simply entered into the spiritual domain, where they await the resurrection of their bodies. If God were building an earthly city, nation, or church, He would have to do it with people who are living on the earth. But we are the children of the Heavenly Jerusalem. Why, then, is it difficult to accept the truth that Christ is building His Church with the entire congregation of the just, the saints in heaven and on earth? Now that we who are called out of all nations have come together with Israel of old into one body, one New Jerusalem, we are all, in the words of Jesus, made perfect in one (John 17:23). In short, when the long-awaited Messiah did come and build His Church, He built, and is building it out of materials from both dispensations. Who are we to presume to exclude the Old Testament faithful from their own Church--from their own olive tree? In the true tradition of the Apostles' creed I believe. . . in the communion of the saints.
2. The elect of contemporary ethnic Israel are in the Church.
In Romans, chapters 9-11, the Apostle Paul gives a complete excursus on the status of contemporary Israel. After having shown that the natural descendants of Abraham have no claim to God's salvation on the basis of their ethnic identification with Israel, Paul himself raises and answers the question that naturally follows:
In this passage Paul hastens to declare that the fact that God has removed ethnicity as a basis for identification with His people does not mean that Israel, as such, is excluded from His kingdom. He seals his point by using himself as an example. Paul points out that he is an ethnic Israelite with impeccable genealogical credentials. As such, he is saved, is a Christian, and is a member of the body of Christ. His conclusion is that God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. I have emphasized the last phrase because that is where Paul makes the critical distinction between the natural Israelites, as such, and the elect. Being a member of the first group does not ensure membership in the second. This is elaborated in verse 7:
In Romans 9:27 the apostle quotes Isaiah to the effect that Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, a remnant shall be saved. He follows this up in Romans 11:5 by saying, Even so at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.
This whole matter can be summarized in a few words. During the Church age there is an elect remnant of Israel according to the flesh, and that remnant is part of the Church. Unsaved Israelites who are not of this remnant and who are not, therefore, in the Church are no different from the unsaved Gentiles. There is nothing in the New Testament to encourage the premillenial teaching that God will call out another Jewish remnant to receive national salvation after the Church has been taken from the earth. The 144,000 sealed members of Israel which are mentioned in Revelation, chapters 7 and 14, whatever else they may be called, are simply followers of the Lamb, just as all Christians are (Rev. 14:4).
3. The elect from among the Gentiles are in the Church (Acts 13:48; Rom. 11:25).
In the first few verses of Acts 13 it is recorded how that Paul and Barnabas were separated by the Holy Spirit for the preaching of the gospel to the Gentiles. Verses 14-41 record the sermon which Paul preached in Pisidian Antioch. In this sermon he gave a brief history of Israel, then told how the Jewish leaders had rejected Christ (verses 23-29). This stirred up a controversy among the Jewish hearers, and they also rejected the message, with the result that the Apostles turned to the Gentiles. The words of the Scripture best describe the results:
Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold. and said. It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing ye put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, lo, we turn to the Gentiles. For so hath the Lord commanded us, saying, I have set thee to be a light of the Gentiles, that thou shouldest be for salvation unto the ends of the earth. And when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad, and glorified the word of the Lord: and as many as were ordained to eternal life believed (Acts 13:46-48 KJV, emphasis added).
This word, as many as were ordained to eternal life, has reference to God's predestination of the elect (see Romans 8:29,30). It is clear from the text that those who believed were ordained or appointed to eternal life before they believed, in the foreknowledge of God. God has an election among the Gentiles upon whom He has placed His name (Acts 15:15), and whom He is gathering into the Church (Romans 11:25). This elect company is seen in Rev. 7:9 as A great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues. . . .before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands.
THE NAME, ISRAEL, IS USED GENERICALLY IN ROMANS 11:17-27.
In order to show that the Church is the legitimate successor of Israel in the Kingdom of God I have discussed various Scriptures which represent, I believe, that Israel has a new name, that the Church is now God's Holy Nation, that the Church is incorporated into the Commonwealth of Israel, that the Church is the true circumcision, it is the New Jerusalem, and that it is spiritual Israel. On the foundation of the foregoing evidence, I will now suggest that God is saving Israel only. This is not as novel as it may sound at first. If my statements will stand that the elect of the Old Testament are in the Church, the elect of contemporary ethnic Israel are in the Church, and the elect that He is gathering from among the Gentiles are in the Church, who else can be saved? Since both Jews and Gentiles are included as branches of the one olive tree, which is Israel, it is manifest that this generic group is the composite body, the all Israel that will be saved (v. 26). In this sense the Church does not "replace Israel," it is the spiritual consummation of Israel.
While recognizing that the New Testament Church is an unique manifestation of God's plan and of His work in the world, I still insist that it is really the last of a series in the progressive unfolding of God's eternal purposes in Christ. It is the final fulfillment of Gods plan of eternal salvation. As such, the New Testament Church is truly eschatological. As Paul tells us, it is that upon which the fulfillment of the ages has come (I Cor. 10:11 NEB).
I have said that God is saving Israel only in order to introduce the concept that God has only one people--not two, three, or some other number. I remember attending a Bible conference in Surrey, B.C. Canada in 1974, in which Derek Prince was one of the speakers. This brother is a recognized scholar, a prolific writer, and a beloved teacher, but he made a statement with which I must take issue. He said that God has two peoples which we must recognize--Israel and the Church, and these two have different destinies. He taught that Israel's destiny is earthly and that of the Church is heavenly. This is a common premillenial position.
George Eldon Ladd is a self-avowed premillenialist, but he is an atypical one. He acknowledges freely that the Church is spiritual Israel, yet he still insists that Israel after the flesh enjoys a separate and distinct status as the chosen people of God. His explanation of these views seems to be self-contradictory. On the one hand, he says . . . there are unavoidable indications that the Old Testament promises to Israel are fulfilled in the Christian church. The alert reader will say, This sounds like amillenialism. And so it does. . . . Yet, on the other hand, he interprets Romans 11:26 as a reference to literal Israel. In defense of this position he says: However there are two passages in the New Testament which cannot be avoided. One is Romans 11:26: And so all Israel will be saved. It is difficult to escape the conclusion that this means literal Israel.
He interprets the analogy of the olive tree in Romans 11 in such a way as to support the above conclusion, and summarizes it thus:
With all due respect to his position and his scholarship, I must say that Dr. Ladd has taken an untenable position. He agrees that the Old Testament prophecies to Israel are fulfilled in the Church, but he later backs off from this and says only some of them are. To this we must respond by asking which of the prophecies apply to Israel, and which of them apply to the Church, and by what authority do we decide this question? I believe that a partial analysis of the teaching of Romans 9-11 will remove Dr. Ladd's dilemma. In the interest of brevity, I will not here reproduce those chapters, but I would beseech the reader to have them at hand as we discuss them.
1. In the ninth chapter of Romans, Paul tells us that Gentiles are included in the elect (verses 24,30). In chapter 9:27-29 he describes the elect of Israel as a remnant. The significance of the teaching in this portion is that there are not two elect peoples in view. The elect remnant of Israel is combined with the saved Gentiles to form one elect people. In verse 31, those of Israel who followed after the law to obtain righteousness are excluded, because righteousness is by faith (verse 30). On the other hand, Gentiles who seek the righteousness which is by faith are accepted.
2. In Romans 9:5-13 Paul teaches that the children of the flesh (ethnic Israel) are not all saved. Only the children of the promise are counted for the seed. In this connection he says that they are not all Israel which are of Israel (verse 6). With respect to the holy seed, he explains in Galatians 3:26-29 that all who are in Christ are of Abraham's seed, and that ethnicity, sex, and socio-economic status do not affect this.
3. In Romans, chapter 10, Paul majors on the subject of salvation for Israel. Brethren, my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they might be saved (verse 1). In this context he clearly teaches that Jews (Israel) and Gentiles are both saved on exactly the same basis--faith in Christ. For there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (verses 12,13). (It is evident from verses 1 and 12 that Paul sometimes uses the terms Israel and Jews interchangeably). How, then, could ethnic Israel be promised a different kind of salvation that excludes gentiles?
4. In chapter 11, verse 5, he again says that the elect of Israel are a remnant. A remnant is obviously part of the whole. He says that they are a remnant according to the election of grace.
5. In chapter 11, verse 7, he says that only the elect of ethnic Israel are saved, the rest being judicially hardened and lost.
6. In verse 14, he expresses the hope that some of Israel will be saved. Obviously, some is not all, therefore it is clear that in this verse he refers to Israel after the flesh.
7. The elect remnant of Israel consists of those whom God foreknew. Paul includes himself in that number (verses 1,2).
8. Since Paul includes himself in the elect remnant, it is clear that this remnant consists of those ethnic Jews who believed the gospel and formed the nucleus of the church.
9. In Romans 11:16-24 we are made to understand that saved Jews and Gentiles are in the same olive tree. Since this olive tree is represented as belonging to Israel (they ...shall be graffed into their own olive tree, verse 24), and the Gentiles are represented as being wild branches which are grafted in, it is not unreasonable to think of the olive tree as spiritual Israel.
10. In Romans 11 Paul repeatedly says that ethnic Israel is blinded and fallen in part (verses 7-12,25). (Many modern translations say hardened, instead of blinded). Now if part of Israel is blinded or hardened, it is obvious that the part that is hardened has reference to those natural, ethnic, or literal Israelites who have not believed the gospel and are therefore not saved. In verses 11, 12, and 25 it is stated that the elimination of part of Israel from the election, or the olive tree, was to make room for the Gentiles to come in. Through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles (verse 11). Blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in (verse 25).
11. At this point it is appropriate to say that the true olive tree is comprised of the fullness of Israel plus the fullness of the Gentiles (compare verses 12 and 25). For the purpose of discussion, we can say that the fullness of Israel consists of three categories:
The fullness of the Gentiles consists of Gentiles who believe in Christ and are grafted into the olive tree on that basis. If one can take an unbiased look at Paul's use of the word in in verses 17,19,23, and 25, and into in verse 24, it can be seen that the whole passage is focused upon an ingathering of both Jews and Gentiles into one olive tree--one body.
12. All this is introductory to verse 26, which says and so all Israel shall be saved. This should be read as a continuation of the thought in verse 25 and before, that all who believe will partake of the same salvation. We can paraphrase by saying after this manner all Israel shall be saved, referring to the process of combining elect Israelites and elect Gentiles in one body.
All Israel in verse 26 cannot refer to ethnic Israel, because it is plainly stated that only part of ethnic Israel shall be saved. As pointed out above, they are a remnant in verse 5, and some in verse 14. By no amount of semantic manipulation can either of these terms be made to mean all. The only sense in which it can be said the All Israel shall be saved must be in reference to an Israel that is totally composed of saved people. This cannot and never could be said of Israel after the flesh. It can be said of the elect Jews and Gentiles of both dispensations.
13. The fact that Paul uses the term Israel with two connotations in this passage should not be an occasion of stumbling to those who know the Scriptures. He does this throughout all of his writings, as do the other inspired writers. The most direct and lucid example of the two-fold usage of the term Israel is in Romans 9:6, where Paul says, They are not all Israel who are of Israel. From this it necessarily follows that when he says in Romans 11:26 that all Israel will be saved he is speaking only of the elect: the rest are excluded or hardened as he says in 11:7.
THE TRUE HOPE OF ISRAEL IS IDENTICAL WITH THE HOPE OF THE CHURCHIt would seem that one of essential points in premillenial eschatology is their belief in the national restoration and salvation of ethnic Israel in the future. This is integral to their insistence upon a literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Dr. Ladd, quoted above, uses his interpretation of Romans 11:26--All Israel shall be saved--in that way. Having responded with an alternate interpretation of Romans 11:26, I now wish to present what I believe to be the true hope of Israel.
There is only one hope for Israel, and it is not an ethnic one. In Acts 28:20 Paul said, for the hope of Israel I am bound with this chain. As a matter of fact, he had been imprisoned for preaching the gospel. At his trial before King Agrippa he said, And now I stand and am judged for the hope of the promise made of God unto our fathers: . . .Why should it be thought a thing incredible with you, that God should raise the dead? (Acts 26:6,8). In his trial before Felix he said, And (I) have hope toward God. . . that there shall be a resurrection of the dead. . . . (Acts 24:15). At his trial before the Jewish Sanhedron he testified, Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called in question (Acts 23:6). The evidence is most explicit that Paul was willing to stake his life on the proposition that the hope of Israel is the resurrection, not a national restoration.
The implications of the foregoing truth are many, but I will emphasize three of them:
As to a return of natural Israel to their land for the purpose of being restored to national glory in an earthly kingdom, the New Testament is silent. Any such hope is far short of the one of which Paul speaks. The only possible restoration for ethnic Israel offered in the New Testament is salvation and membership in the one true Church, where they can exchange the rags of self-righteousness and ethnic superiority for the royal robes of Christ's righteousness, along with the rest of us.
There is room in the interpretation of Romans 11:26-32 for a final ingathering of ethnic Jews into the Church before the return of Christ, through the ministry of the Gospel to them. I mentioned this previously in another context. In this case their ethnicity would be submerged in their new identity as members of the one body of Christ, where there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. It would certainly be more to the glory of God if the Church would give this a high priority, instead of catering to their ethnic pride by holding before them a false hope of ethnic salvation.
The foregoing Scriptural position on the spiritual status of natural Israel before God must never be conceived as a license or excuse for anti-Semitism in any form. The fact that ethnic Israel no longer enjoys a covenant relationship with God does not reduce nor impact their dignity and rights as individuals, and even as a nation, in any way. They have their place among the nations, and on a political level they are entitled to every right and consideration that is afforded to any other nation. Beyond that, the Church of Jesus Christ is greatly indebted to Israel as the instrument of God in bringing us the Scriptures, and in bringing us Christ in the flesh. These factors in themselves do not form a basis for spiritual fellowship with Jews, as long as they are outside of Christ as individuals, but they certainly merit honor and respect toward them. If we could share Pauls great yearning and compassion for them in the Holy Spirit, there would be no legitimate issue or question of anti-Semitism in the Church.
Unfortunately, by some strange perversion of thought, anyone who shares Pauls sentiments in our time, and seeks to act upon them, is deemed to be politically incorrect, and will be charged with anti-Semitism. For this reason evangelism is illegal in the State of Israel.
 Of course Premillenialists, Reconstructionists, and some Covenant theologians will deny that the Mosaic Covenant was abrogated. In response to this we are compelled to stand upon the Scriptural pronouncements of II Cor. 3:4-14 and Hebrews 8:7-13.
 Cf. Deuteronomy 10:16; 30:6; Jeremiah 4:4; 9:26; Romans 2:28,29.
 Current dispensational thinking tends to modify this view ( See Blaising and Block, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church)
 Scofield Reference Bible, 1917 ed., page 711.
 see Acts, Chapter 10.
 Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, Vol. IV, p. 554.
 He holds the other to be Rev. 20, which speaks of the millenium.
 Ladd, The Meaning of the Millenium, Robert G. Clouse, Ed. pp. 27-29.
 Galatians 3:28.
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