The Continuity of Theological Concepts: A New Covenant Reading of Old Covenant Texts

While studying and teaching Zechariah 9-14 near Beirut, Lebanon I was challenged to think about the meaning and relevance of those chapters to Lebanese believers who often suffer because of the animosity between Lebanon and the very nation and people who are mentioned in those chapters. Does an alleged promised restoration of Israel and Jerusalem bring comfort or chagrin to believers in Lebanon? After all, are not Arabic speaking believers and Jewish believers in the Middle East the true people of God? Are they not the ones who should expect to share in the triumph of God? Does present day Israel have a “favored nation” status that trumps the “holy nation” of the church (1 Pet 2:9-10)?

Furthermore, does not a similar conundrum exist for those of us who live in North America? Do these texts have anything relevant to say to a largely Gentile church? Do we simply rejoice because ethnic Israel is to be restored or do we rejoice because the triumph which the old covenant nation expected is the triumph that belongs to all of those who are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ? Admittedly, the question of relevancy should not be determinative in the understanding of biblical texts but it does raise questions that might not be raised otherwise.

Additionally, not only does the difficulty of finding relevance in Zechariah 9-14 to Lebanese and North American believers pose a challenge, but so does a careful reading of the New Testament. Reading the Old and New Testaments separately, one might conclude that two distinct and contrasting Bibles exist (Old Testament and New Testament) written to two distinct peoples (Jews and Christians) with only shared lessons of moral application or common interest in the promised Messiah. Otherwise, one might conclude that God has distinct purposes for Jews and Gentiles. While interpreting texts in isolation from the larger corpus of Scripture makes this conclusion textually possible, a canonical reading of the Bible questions whether it is theologically justifiable and whether it adequately represents the biblical-theological message of the Bible which centers in the restoration of God’s original purposes as presented in Genesis 1-2, distorted in Genesis 3-11, given new hope in Genesis 12, and consummated in the coming of the Messiah.

Admittedly, a “pre- New Testament” reading of Zechariah 9-14 and the Old Testament on its own may lead one to conclude that ethnic Israelites are the people of God, earthly Jerusalem is the city He has chosen, He is present in the Jewish temple, the enemies of Israel will be defeated and Gentiles will make their way to Jerusalem, the Messiah will come humbly on a donkey and in glory with a display of power, etc.

However, Christians cannot read the Old Testament on its own because it is not on its own. It is part of the Christian Bible which includes both Old and New Testament. The Old Testament is a book of introduction, preparation, and expectation; the New Testament is a book of conclusion, denouement, and fulfillment. The OT informs the NT by giving background, promises, and a developing story line. The NT finalizes the story line and sees promise come to fulfillment.

The OT helps us understand the NT by introducing theological concepts which are continued in the NT, such as God, creation, sin, redemption, kingdom, people of God, temple, holy city, enemies, exile and restoration, etc. The NT expands on these concepts often giving them new clarity in light of the full and final revelation that comes with the advent of Jesus Christ.

Though there is continuity of theological concepts, there is discontinuity in the contextualization of these concepts. I suggest that in both the Old and New Testaments God addresses His people in language and terms that they generally understood, yet retaining a bit of mystery, because the ultimate reality, which God brings in the triumph of the Messiah, defies the ability of human language to fully convey.

If in the future believing Jews of the old covenant see the New Jerusalem coming out of heaven and witness the triumph of God over all evil and enemies, would they say, “I’m disappointed that it did not turn out ‘literally’ as portrayed in the language of the OT.” No, they would likely say, “This fulfillment not only satisfies all which God promised but goes far beyond what could be expected. Thank you, Lord.”

As I read Zechariah 9-14 and similar texts in light of the New Testament I look for theological concepts that are continuous between the testaments and interpret them in light of the fuller and final revelation of the New Testament. For instance, the theological theme of “people of God” is represented primarily by Israel in the Old Testament. Yet, we understand in the New Testament that the true “seed” of Abraham were those who had the faith of Abraham, regardless of ethnicity (Rom 2; Gal 3; 1 Pet 2). The “holy city” of the Old Testament was physical, geographical Jerusalem; in the New Testament the holy city is the New Jerusalem (Heb 12:18-24, Rev 21, 22). Furthermore, the New Testament even suggests that Abraham knew that the physical reality of “land and city” anticipated something more than earthly geography (Heb 11:10, 16; Rom 4:13). The theme of “temple as the place of God’s presence” in the Old Testament was primarily confined to the tabernacle and temple of ancient Israel; in the New Testament, Jesus is ultimately the temple (John 2:19—destroy this temple), believers and the church are the temple (1 Cor 3:16; 6:19), and there is no need of a temple in the new order because God’s presence pervades everything (Rev 21:3, 22).

There are other shared themes such as the ultimate triumph of God, the defeat of enemies, the removal of sin, the transformation of nature, the restoration of the cosmos, the establishment of worship and holiness. In Zechariah 9-14 all of these concepts are portrayed in old covenant language at times exceeding the limits of that language, anticipating the inauguration of the greater realities of the New Covenant and ultimately the consummation.

Old Testament saints had a “two-age” view of history—the age in which they lived and the age to come. The age to come anticipated the advent of the Messiah and the Day of the Lord in which God’s people would be delivered and His enemies would be judged. The age to come was depicted in terms that related to the age in which they lived though the seed of old covenant concepts blossoms into the unforeseen beauty of new covenant realities.

The New Testament declares that “the age to come” was inaugurated at the first advent of Christ (Lk 1:67-80; Acts 2:29-36), that we live in the age that was anticipated (1 Cor 10:11—“on whom the end of the ages has come”), but, though the age has already come, it is not yet consummated, so we anticipate the consummation at His Second Advent (2 Thess 1:5-10).

Consequently, New Covenant believers live between two worlds: having entered the kingdom (Col 1:13) but waiting for the consummate kingdom (Rev 11:15); having become part of the new creation (2 Cor 5:17), yet waiting for the consummate new creation (Rev 21); being seated in the heavens with Christ (Eph 2:6), yet living as strangers on earth (1 Pet 2:11); having witnessed the triumph of Christ over sin, Satan, and death (Col 1:13-15), yet awaiting the consummate world of righteousness (2 Pet 3:13); having tasted in the Spirit the inheritance to come (Eph 1:13-14), yet awaiting consummate glory (1 Pet 5:1).

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Aaron Blumer's picture

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(ESV paragraph headings)

  • 9:1-8 Judgment on Israel’s enemies
  • 9:9-13 The Coming King of Zion
  • 9:14-17 The Lord Will Save His People
  • 10:1-12 The Restoration for Judah and Israel
  • 11:1-17 The Flock Doomed to Slaughter
  • 12:1-9 The Lord Will Give Salvation
  • 12:10-13:1 Him Whom They Have Pierced
  • 13:2-6 Idolatry Cut Off
  • 13:7-9 The Shepherd Struck
  • 14:1-21 The Coming Day of the Lord

Comments...

  • Zech 9:1-8 literally fulfilled probaby under Alexander the Great
  • Zech 9:9 Messiah comes in peace riding on the foal of a donkey. Literally fulfilled at the Triumphal Entry
  • Zech 9:10-17 Not yet fulfilled. These verses are suddenly non-literal? More likely: to be fulfilled- 2nd Advent.
  • Zech 10:1 A call for prayer Zech 10:2-5 Condemnation of the shepherds and preduction of their destruction. If the preceding section refers to a spiritual Israel (i.e. the new “people of God”) does 10:2-5?
  • Zech 10:6-12 Prediction of strengthening and home-bringing of “Israel.” If the preceding judgment section is literal, are we supposed to believe this section is not? Not yet fulfilled. 2nd Advent.
  • Zech 11:1-17 Predicts destruction of Israel in judgment. This has either already happened (literally) or is yet to happen (literally).
  • Zech 12:1-9 Predicts a seige of Israel by multiple nations. This has either already happened (literally) or is yet to happen (literally).
  • Zech 12:10-14 Predicts an outpouring of the Spirit and a national grieving over a pierced one. Though opinions vary as to when this is fulfilled, most seem to see it as literally fulfilled in reference to Christ and Israel is literally Israel.
  • Zech 13:1-4 Predicts a (violent) end to idoloatry from “the land” (now not literally Israel?)
  • Zech 13:7-9 Predicts death of the shepherd. There appears to be a consensus that this is literally fulfilled in the death of the Messiah.
  • Zech 14:1-21 Predicts devasation and judgment followed by restored worship and blessing (now not literal?)

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

jpdsr51's picture

Hi Aaron:

In this short paper my interest was in the relevance of passages like this to NT believers and not whether there is somekind of 'literal' fulfillment. It is possible that things may occur as you have suggested but I would like to hear from you further on a few things:

1) How would you teach these passages with any practical relevance to believers?
2) How would you explain the NT's transfer of many of these concepts to the church along with the New Covenant union of Jew and Gentile into one body?
3) What is your concept of 'literal' and how does it affect your interpretation of apocalyptic literature? Do you (can you) apply it consistently in these passages?
4) Is it not possible that there is an complex mixture of time periods here including Maccabean, destruction of Jerusalem, First and Second coming, as well as a church/inaugurated kingdom age which transforms many of these Old Covenant theological concepts?

Thanks, JOHN

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

John (article) wrote:
Do we simply rejoice because ethnic Israel is to be restored or do we rejoice because the triumph which the old covenant nation expected is the triumph that belongs to all of those who are children of God through faith in Jesus Christ?

Sounds like literal vs. non-literal to me... or at least a hint of "literal causes relevance problems that are solved by some other approach"?

On #1
I thought about starting out with the relevance question, but needed to look again at what was actually in the text first. I don't personally find it difficult to see the relevance in a literal reading.
Several highly relevant themes from these passages:

  • God keeps His promises
  • God is sovereign and chooses whom He will bless with His favor
  • God is holy and utterly rejects idolatry of any kind
  • God alone is worthy of worship
  • Salvation comes on God's terms and not on ours
  • God is merciful and forgives
  • God knows the end from the beginning
  • God is in control of the rise and fall of nations
  • God provides righteousness through the sacrifice of Himself/"our own" righteousness can never amount to anything
  • God will one day fully and permanently fix planet earth

On #2
There is no need to see these passages as "transfer." The route that answers best to all the Scriptures involved sees "inclusion in," or "points of similarity with" etc.

On #3
Apocalyptic is somewhat difficult. But "literal" means that you avoid seeing symbolism where the text itself or the analogy of Scripture doesn't require it. My own view is that when you have a portion of Scripture that is identified as a vision, you are reading a literal description of a vision. We know visions incorporate symbolism and are intentionally mysterious in various ways (Ezek's vision of God doesn't precisely match Daniel's vision or Isaiah's vision, etc.) At the same time, when they are rich in detail, the intent isn't that we should dismiss all that detail as unimportant and declare that--as an example--Revelation means nothing more than "God wins."
(In preaching through Daniel recently, I couldn't help but be struck by the emphasis on Daniel "understanding" the visions!)

But what does this have to do w/Zech.9-14? This is not apocalyptic.

On #4
It's clear that there is some mixture of time periods. I don't personally see any theological concepts in the passages that need transforming.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Ted Bigelow's picture

jpdsr51 wrote:
In this short paper my interest was in the relevance of passages like this to NT believers and not whether there is some kind of 'literal' fulfillment.

Hi John,

Aaron's question, in my mind, goes behind yours, and without his question, your quest for application is quite possibly untethered to the text. We must arrive first at a sound interpretation before we can make responsible application.

To take an easily agreed upon case, Jesus fulfills the "riding on a donkey" prophecy of Zech. 9:9. Hopefully all agree it was a literal fulfillment.

Perhaps you would like to answer - what is the application to today's believer? We aren't in the passage, or, are we?

Then move to something controversial: Zech. 12:10-14 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In guiding our people responsibly through that passage, we need to wrestle with similar "outpouring" language in the NT, but also with the limited object of the outpouring in Zech. 12:10, "the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem."

If we leave behind the matter of literalness, who is to say our application isn't heresy (to quote Haddon Robinson)? Am I, a new covenant believer, in the house of David? Am I an inhabitant of Jerusalem? (I wish)

BTW, I did preach through Zechariah, too. And I agree, there are passages difficult to find what I call "tight" applications, i.e., those easily seen in the text, vs. "general" applications, those that are of the "trust in the sovereignty of God" variety. God has written His word such that we are forced, all of us, to seek the application, but must rely principally on sound interpretation.

CPHurst's picture

I think what some are struggling with here is the difference between a literal interpretation and therefore a literal fulfillment vs. a literalistic interpretation and therefore a more rigid fulfillment that has no room for nuanced ways in which a passage can be literally fulfilled in the way it was intended to be fulfilled. Remember, NT Jews had a lot of misunderstandings about how "their" promises were to be literally fulfilled. Christ's 1st coming gave new and fuller meaning to many of the promises made to Israel.

There's my two sense worth.

Jeff Brown's picture

John, I appreciate your care for and sensitivity to believers in Lebanon. Regardless of my different view of Zechariah 9, I appreciate that you took time to be with them and encourage them. Their lot is very difficult. I have known Lebanese who lost innocent family members on account of Israeli bombing. I disagree however with your interpretation. In seeking to encourage Lebanese believers, have you not robbed another nation (and ultimately all nations) to do it?

I agree with Aaron. I have preached messages on this passage many times, with the interpretation that Zech. 9:10 ff are yet to be fulfilled. Believers in three different nations (so far) have been thrilled with this truth, that God has literally fulfilled his promises and will continue to do so, namely: Jesus will return to this earth, set up His Kingdom. Jerusalem on this earth will be the exalted city. The enemies of Jesus and Israel will be literally wiped out in battle. Jesus' Kingdom will reign from the currently existing Euphrates ("the river") to the farthest extent of the oceans. There will be literal peace here on earth. War will be ended and weapons destroyed. And there is a clear discontinuity between Israel and other "nations" in this passage. The blessings of the world are clearly tied to God's blessings that will come upon the nation of Israel. The fact that Israel as a whole is today unbelieving, makes the prophecy even more powerful. You can't come away from an interpretation like that, believe it, and not expect God does great things, and thus will do great things in your life (which are rather explicitly laid out in the NT letters - we do not need to co-opt passages for ourselves which talk about something different).

Specific, literal fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies that have already taken place gives us great confidence that the Bible is truly God's Word. Regardless of what pious thoughts are sometimes given that we do not need proof if we have God's Word, God constructed us as beings that test for truth. One of the stipulations about prophecy laid down in the Law of Moses is that if prophecy does not have exact fulfillment, don't listen to the prophet. When we read in Micah that the Messiah is to be born in Bethlehem, then read the Gospel story about how this literally came about, we are amazed at God's foreknowledge, wisdom and might. It is unfortunate that our expectations of future fulfillment of God's prophetic Word are significantly lowered by changing the meaning of prophecy to be "spiritual" or "in the Church" or whatever you want to call it (just not literal peace on earth, not national Israel, not literal Jerusalem on earth - whose dimensions in OT prophecy differ in the extreme from the heavenly Jerusalem described in Revelation 21-22).

Jeff Brown

G. N. Barkman's picture

John,

Thanks for an insightful and thoughtful treatment of a challenging passage. Your approach makes an awful lot of sense to me.

Warm regards,
Greg Barkman

G. N. Barkman

Bob Hayton's picture

Ted Bigelow wrote:
...Then move to something controversial: Zech. 12:10-14 and the outpouring of the Holy Spirit. In guiding our people responsibly through that passage, we need to wrestle with similar "outpouring" language in the NT, but also with the limited object of the outpouring in Zech. 12:10, "the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem."

If we leave behind the matter of literalness, who is to say our application isn't heresy (to quote Haddon Robinson)? Am I, a new covenant believer, in the house of David? Am I an inhabitant of Jerusalem? (I wish)...

I want to challenge this a bit. And I'm just using Ted's words here it isn't about him it's a bigger issue. What John is doing is trying to do justice to the NT teaching which is quite clear on how much continuity there is between God's people before Christ and afterward. The comments here by the opposing view center only on Zecharaiah mostly.

If we just had Jer. 31, then yes, we aren't "new covenant believers", to use Ted's terms. But the New Testament tells us the new covenant has begun. Jesus said as much in his inauguration of the Lord's Supper ceremony for the church. "And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, 'This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.' " (Luke 22:20 ESV) Paul tells us that he is a minister of the new covenant:

"Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. " (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 ESV)

In context, the ministry of the new covenant is Paul's ministry of spreading the gospel among the gentiles (4:1 "this ministry"... and 4:3-6 "our gospel").

Furthermore, Hebrews says the old covenant is passing away and insufficient because the new covenant is here, see chapters 8 and 10 of Hebrews where Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted and applied as a current reality.

Not only are we "new covenant believers", we are inhabitants of "Jerusalem" who is our true mother (see Gal. 4:26, Heb. 12:22) and seek a heavenly city in the same sense that OT believers sought a heavenly (not earthly) city (Heb. 13:14, cf. Heb. 11:13-16).

This NT language means something. The NT description of God's people being a living temple is something that goes beyond OT realities. Something is happening in the NT and it will affect how we understand the OT. 1 Peter tells us that the OT authors often didn't know what they were writing of, but were writing for our benefit (1 Pt. 1:10-12). And what happened to the OT saints is a lesson and instruction for us and was written for our encouragement (1 Cor. 10:11, Rom. 15:4).

I believe that following the lead of the NT apostles and Jesus, in how they used OT Scripture and saw that it culminated in Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace, is how best to interpret Scripture. Scripture doesn't leave us without a hermeneutic. A redemptive-historical hermeneutic aims to follow the teaching of the Bible about itself and to understand how Christ truly sums up all things in His own ministry. He fulfills the Law.

I think John Davis' last paragraph captures the NT age experience well. The new covenant is here but we aren't experiencing it in all its fullness quite yet. That may mean a millennium, but it certainly means more than a millennium. Christ will reign and we will live on a restored earth for all eternity.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

jpdsr51's picture

Thanks for your comments, Ted. I agree with both you and Aaron with the need to exegete the text and arrive at the meaning of the text itself. We all know that is easier said than done especially with OT prophetic/apocalyptic texts. My approach begins recognizing that the text is a small story in the grand story line of what God accomplishes for us in Christ. OT texts are part of the story and not a separate story. To me, the NT is clear that the first coming of Christ inaugurates the fulfillment of OT expectation. The manner of that fulfillment takes on both literal and beyond-literal dimensions. It also signals that a radical change has taken place. Where Israel had failed as a covenant-breaking nation, Jesus succeeds in his covenant faithfulness. He is now The Israelite who inherits the promises and consequently (Gal 3) so do all of those in union with him. The NT concept of people of God is changed from national and ethnic to include both Jew and Gentile without national identity. In the 73 NT references to Abraham there is no mention of a land promise. The Davidic throne that Jesus sits on is in heaven. His kingdom grows mysteriously throughout the world. The temple is Jesus, the church, etc. We have arrived at a heavenly Jerusalem; Abraham looked for an eternal city; he inherited the cosmos. All of these NT transformations of OT concepts tells us that something is different. For me (and this is my conscious interpretive perspective) they at least tell me what OT texts cannot mean - there is no future ethnic favored nation, temple, or land for an ethnic people. This is not to say that ethnic Jews won't be saved en masse. Perhaps this is even happening at this moment. Either texts like Zechariah 9-14 are fulfilled literally prior to and in the ministry of Christ and the establishing of the church (ca Amos 9 and Acts 15); or they have been fulfilled historically in the post-exile; or they are transformed in some way to reognize these new realities. I agree that a purely historical-grammatical approach to OT texts will yield different results than one that is redemptive historical in which Jesus Christ is the fullest and final revelation from God and in which we read the OT from the perspective of the NT.

I do appreciate both of your comments and have been challenged to think about a few things.

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Well, these ideas have been debated for centuries... so it'll take a couple more posts to settle them once and for all. Biggrin

But am I the only one who has trouble harmonizing this...

Quote:
My approach begins recognizing that the text is a small story in the grand story line of what God accomplishes for us in Christ. OT texts are part of the story and not a separate story.

With this...?

Quote:
It also signals that a radical change has taken place. Where Israel had failed as a covenant-breaking nation, Jesus succeeds in his covenant faithfulness. He is now The Israelite who inherits the promises and consequently (Gal 3) so do all of those in union with him. The NT concept of people of God is changed from national and ethnic to include both Jew and Gentile without national identity.

It's precisely because I do not see the OT as a separate story that I do not believe the NT concept of people of God erases the national dimension. There is no question that the New Cov't is new and makes some pretty big changes. We all believe that. But the nature and extent of those changes is where the rub lies. It's really not accurate for either side to claim "continuity" and characterize the other simply as "discontinuity."

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

Bob Hayton's picture

jpdsr51 wrote:
In the 73 NT references to Abraham there is no mention of a land promise.

Dr. Davis,

I think there actually is 1 NT reference to the land promise in conjunction with Abraham. But it fits your contention of the land being expanded.

What do you think of the following:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all... (Romans 4:13-16 ESV)

I contend that "the promise" in view above is the land promise. But it is expanded to include the cosmos rather than just a plot of land in Palestine. And importantly this very promise, of Abraham's receiving the world/land as his inheritance, is "guaranteed to all his offspring", meaning us redeemed Gentiles too. This jives with Jesus saying the meek will inherit the earth and with Paul using the land promise tacked on to the "honor your parents" commandment and applying it to the Ephesian children as well. His quoting the land promise there means that the Ephesian children were to get some kind of blessing for honoring their parents too. In light of the connection of God's presence and the land (Numb. 5:2-3 and 35:33-34), and the concept of rest and the land being the place that rest is experienced (see Hebrews 4), I believe a spiritual blessing is promised in Ephesians 6:3.

Anyway, these thoughts about Romans 4 coupled with Gal. 3 saying the church are the offspring of Abraham, helped me to realize there is much more continuity between the OT people of God and the NT church than I had realized.

If a future en masse conversion of Israelites will happen, it won't happen apart from their embracing Christ. And then they will be grafted back into the same olive tree that Gentiles are now included in (Rom. 11 with Eph. 2:12, 19).

Thanks again for your post. Thanks to Aaron and company at SI for publishing it.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Paul J. Scharf's picture

Aaron Blumer wrote:
Well, these ideas have been debated for centuries... so it'll take a couple more posts to settle them once and for all. Biggrin

You go Aaron! I am going to sit this one out. I am sure anyone who cares can probably figure out where I stand H:)

I just rejoice in knowing that Zechariah was one of the great dispensationalists of all time Wink

Church Ministries Representative, serving in the Midwest, for The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry 

jpdsr51's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
jpdsr51 wrote:
In the 73 NT references to Abraham there is no mention of a land promise.

Dr. Davis,

I think there actually is 1 NT reference to the land promise in conjunction with Abraham. But it fits your contention of the land being expanded.

What do you think of the following:

For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all... (Romans 4:13-16 ESV)

.

I agree with you Bob on the use of cosmos as an expansion or ultimate fulifllment of the land promise. I would say that Israel's possession of land always anticipated the New Creation as did earthly Jerusalem anticipate the heavenly. Thanks for your insight.

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Bob Hayton's picture

jpdsr51 wrote:
I agree with you Bob on the use of cosmos as an expansion or ultimate fulifllment of the land promise. I would say that Israel's possession of land always anticipated the New Creation as did earthly Jerusalem anticipate the heavenly. Thanks for your insight.

Thanks. I also think that Eden itself was a picture of the ultimate reality of God's presence, and it was a garden temple as G.K. Beale and others bring out. Rev. 22 brings things full circle as the new heavens and new earth are realized in primarily a single Eden-like temple-city -- the New Jerusalem. The recurring theme that God is His people's God and they are His people, and He dwells with them, finds fulfillment throughout the OT and NT experience culminating in Rev. 21.

And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your offspring after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your offspring after you. And I will give to you and to your offspring after you the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession, and I will be their God. (Gen. 17:7-8 ESV)

I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Ex. 6:7 ESV)

I will dwell among the people of Israel and will be their God. (Ex. 29:45 ESV)

I will make my dwelling among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. (Lev. 26:11-12 ESV)

You shall not defile the land in which you live, in the midst of which I dwell, for I the LORD dwell in the midst of the people of Israel. (Numbers 35:34 ESV)

But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jer. 31:33 ESV)

That they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. (Ezek. 11:20 ESV)

My dwelling place shall be with them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Ezek. 37:27 ESV)

What agreement has the temple of God with idols? For we are the temple of the living God; as God said, 'I will make my dwelling among them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.' (2 Cor. 6:16 ESV)

And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God. (Rev. 21:3 ESV)

Anyway, there is so much to say on this topic. God is so good, and the Scriptures fit together so wonderfully.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

jpdsr51's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
I also think that Eden itself was a picture of the ultimate reality of God's presence, and it was a garden temple as G.K. Beale and others bring out. Rev. 22 brings things full circle as the new heavens and new earth are realized in primarily a single Eden-like temple-city -- the New Jerusalem. The recurring theme that God is His people's God and they are His people, and He dwells with them, finds fulfillment throughout the OT and NT experience culminating in Rev. 21.

Yes, I have read and concur with Beale's - "The Temple and the Church's Mission: A Biblical Theology of the Dwelling Place of God"

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Ted Bigelow's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
I believe that following the lead of the NT apostles and Jesus, in how they used OT Scripture and saw that it culminated in Jesus Christ and the gospel of grace, is how best to interpret Scripture. Scripture doesn't leave us without a hermeneutic. A redemptive-historical hermeneutic aims to follow the teaching of the Bible about itself and to understand how Christ truly sums up all things in His own ministry. He fulfills the Law.

Thanks for your interaction.

I just don't think I can presume to have found the apostle's hermeneutic, and to be following their lead. If there is such a thing as an apostolic hermeneutic, That means Gal. 4:26, which speaks of a heavenly Jerusalem, is really what Zechariah was referring to when he wrote "Jerusalem" in Zech. 12:10. Now we just got the apostle's lexicon entry on Jerusalem.

A.L Entry # 3564
"When you read Jerusalem in the OT, the apostles were thinking "heavenly Jerusalem."

Pretty cool, huh?

But in so doing, we just "lost" the unique message of Zech. 12:10. And that's a loss I just can't take.

The biggest problem with the apostolic hermeneutic position is that it proposes that I can go back and re-read new-found meanings into OT passages, all the while presuming this is what the apostles did. But is that assumption correct? I don't agree.

I believe the Holy Spirit gave them new applications and even new meanings for OT texts (I think I might lose the fellowship of Aaron here).

But you see, they could do that. They were apostles with special promises and ministries that I don't have (John 16:13-15). So I'm fine to see Zech. 12:10 as referring to the house of David and inhabitants of Jerusalem, but have there be another use of that text expanded to "all the tribes of the earth" (Rev. 1:7).

To summarize: When you are saddled with the idea of an "apostolic hermeneutic," you are compelled to arbitrarily expand "the house of David and Jerusalem inhabitants" to "all the tribes of the earth." Thus Zech 12:10 has lost its unique meaning, and has been eclipsed by Rev. 1:7.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
I believe the Holy Spirit gave them new applications and even new meanings for OT texts (I think I might lose the fellowship of Aaron here).

Yes, I'm reluctant to call them new meanings. I'm OK with "additional meaning" or "expanded meaning" in some cases though.

But I'm with Ted on being inclined to see "apostolic hermeneutic" as opening a door for lots of arbitrary re-meaning of OT texts. If "Jerusalem" in Zech.12 is not the Isrealite city, why is it the Israelite city in other passages?

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

CPHurst's picture

This whole discussion of the land promise is a perfect example of a literal vs. literalistic interpretation of Scripture and more specifically the promises as tied to prophecy. I see Scripture as a whole teaching that there is one true people of God - the true/spiritual Israel. It is this Israel that will ultimately inherit the land promise. I think there is too much weight given to nationalistic fulfillments of the promises. Isnt that the very understanding that the Jews had that Jesus corrected? If all the promises have to be fulfilled nationalistically then isnt that a step back from the coming of Christ and not a step forward in line with the coming of Christ? In the end the people of God will inherit not just the promised land but the whole world. Again, Jesus expands their understanding of this promise. Too much weight is given to the functional differences between Israel and the church. They comprise the one redeemed people of God throughout all time. God's people functioned differently before and after Christ came. The church dosent replace Israel, rather it expands Israel on a much greater level.

The problem with how many Dispensationalists see the fulfillment of the land promise is that it is inconsistent with the way they will see other promises (New Cov. promises specifically) fulfilled. If the "church" can receive the Spirit even thought he promise was not initially given to them then why cant they be included in the land promise? I think the problem is that if they were to concede to that then it would totally change how they view the relationship between Israel and the church and thus the people of God. An expansion of the fulfillment of the land promise needs to be made in light of how the other promises have already been fulfilled in Christ and will be in the future.

G. N. Barkman's picture

CPHurst,

Good insight on the Church receiving the promise of the Holy Spirit initially made to Israel. Is it possible that this promise was always intended for the "Israel of God," ie. The Church?

Cordially,
Greg

G. N. Barkman

G. N. Barkman's picture

Thanks, Ted. Perhaps we are making progress toward reconciliation?

G. N. Barkman

Bob Hayton's picture

Ted,

I believe multiple meanings is a problem for you not a help. If the inspired NT author says an OT text means something, then it always meant that in the sense the NT author is teaching.

I think many have a problem with an apostle's hermeneutic idea because they have a problem with what they think that hermeneutic is rather than how it's used in the redemptive historical hermeneutical approach. With "Jerusalem", I wouldn't say in every passage in the OT, it is referring to heavenly Jerusalem. But I need to see how and why the NT author can find "every tribe" in the text in Zecheriah.

When the Bible records hermeneutics (interpretation) being done by later authors on earlier, canonical Scripture, shouldn't we assume that this is important? How else is Scripture to give us a hermeneutic if it isn't through modeling how to use and interact with previous Scriptures? Could it be the real problem is such a use of previous Scripture is not done in a dispensationalist way? A dispensationalist reading of the OT doesn't jive with the NT author's use of that text, and so the problem is primarily one with the theological system not with the NT use of the Old?

I don't want to downplay a difficult problem for everyone, but seeing how the New uses the Old is very instructive. Just as Jesus modeled how to interpret one parable and said if you don't get this, you won't know how to interpret all the parables, even so the NT use of OT paradigms, images, and stories should shape our theological understanding of the divinely intended meaning which was there all along in those texts.

I would recommend Dennis W. Johnson's Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures for a careful defense and illustration of how to use the redemptive historical hermeneutic. (You can read my review http://www.fundamentallyreformed.com/2009/04/17/him-we-proclaim-preachin... here ). He points out how much all of hermeneutics today has been negatively influenced by the enlightenment's scientific rationalism. My thought of much of the original dispensationalism was a scientific figuring out of the pattern which was hidden in Scripture. Once figured out, it was systematized and diagrammed (to death, LOL). It's as if scientific minds needed to just figure it all out anew. This method downplayed the noetic affects of the fall, and essentially can boil down to affirming that unsaved people can understand Scripture they just can't appreciate it (in spite of 1 Cor. 2:14's word to the contrary).

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Ted Bigelow's picture

Bob Hayton wrote:
I believe multiple meanings is a problem for you not a help. If the inspired NT author says an OT text means something, then it always meant that in the sense the NT author is teaching.

Quote:
I don't want to downplay a difficult problem for everyone, but seeing how the New uses the Old is very instructive

Bob,
My post was all about the uncritical presuppositions required for your position, not multiple meanings. When that is understood, I think you'll better see who is captive to the enlightenment's rationalism.

James K's picture

Romans 9-11 is the perfect defense that God keeps his word and will fulfill it in spite of Israel's rebellion.

Question for you gentile christians: if God can't keep all those promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Israel regarding the small matter of a tiny piece of real estate, how can he keep you eternally secure?

It seems as though Paul decided to answer that very thing after teaching on eternal security in Rom 8.

The retort that they have bigger and better promises doesn't work. God isn't into bait and switch.

The quest for relevance has marred interpretation from almost the beginning. Origen was embarrassed of the OT scripture so he used allegory to smooth over those pesky passages that he didn't like. Sadly such a hermeneutic welcomed what became the catholic church and the dark ages. I don't need a decoder ring to understand the OT.

1 Kings 8:60 - so that all the peoples of the earth may know that the LORD is God and that there is no other.

jpdsr51's picture

James K wrote:
Romans 9-11 is the perfect defense that God keeps his word and will fulfill it in spite of Israel's rebellion.

Question for you gentile christians: if God can't keep all those promises to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Israel regarding the small matter of a tiny piece of real estate, how can he keep you eternally secure?

I fail to see how what Rom 9-11 says about the present or future conversion of Jews has anything to do with 'a tiny piece of real estate.' As mentioned earlier Rom 4 states clearly that Abraham inherited the cosmos and Heb 11 makes clear that he was looking for more thna a tiny piece of real estate.

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Jeff Brown's picture

The idea that dispensationalism bases itself on Enlightenment thinking is presented by George Marsden in Fundamentalism and American culture "thus the millenniarian's view of Scripture was, in effect, modeled after the Newtonian view of the physical universe." (p.57) I doubt it. Marsden also says in the same context, and for the same reasons, that "Inerrancy arose out of the same scientific view of the Bible." If you question dispensational interpretation on this basis, you need to question the doctrine of inerrancy also. Marsden ties them both together. Now, it is quite true that Isaac Newton was a believer in the literal fulfillment of OT prophecy, which caused him to conclude by 1700 (very pre-dispensational) that the nation of Israel would return to the land before Jesus returned to earth and would be the exalted nation in the Kingdom age. But Newton never based this view on his Celestial Mechanics (his papers on the subject, by the way, are now preserved in Israel).

To say that dispensational interpretation is based on the views of the Voltaire, Rosseau, Hume, Diderot, et.al. and the mechanics of Newton's Principia, and on this basis found the hidden meanings of Scripture is a real, real stretch! Most early dispensational writers in the US followed the ideas of the Hodges and Warfield on the matter of defending Scripture. Did they actually read the Enlightment philosophers? I have my doubts. Did they read Newton's Principia? Check out the math in that volume. The Hodges and Warfield based their views on "Common Sense Realism." Common Sense Realism was not necessarily an Enlightenment philosophy, but rather a counter-punch at it on its own terms. Common Sense Realism lost the day, by the way. Immanuel Kant's philosophy was more convincing. Western civilization has been having problems with defining reality, morality, and Scripture ever since.

Dispensationalists based their views on prophecy upon already existing views of a literal 1000 year millennium, the return of Israel to the land, and the conversion of national Israel. Increase Mather preached all those things. Joseph Mede (d.1638) is called "the father of English Premillialism." He taught a literal 1000 year kingdom on earth, with judgments both before and after the 1000 years (pretty close to Darby, it seems). Dispensational interpretation had far more to do with Mede's view of things than anything the Enlightenment philosophs ever wrote.

Before any of these, you can read what Clement (AD 95), Barnabas (AD 100?), and Justin Martyr (AD 150) say about the Kingdom. For all of them it is literal, and only future. You will find no mention of a present Kingdom in their writings (I think I am correct). Premillinnialism goes way, way back, and this is the real basis of dispensationalism.

Added to all of this, there have been plenty of dispensational schemes of the Heilsgeschichte by various writers, stretching all the way back to St. Bonaventure.

So if one wants to disagree with dispensational interpretation, that is fine. But trying to prove that the basis of dispensational interpretation is Enlightenment thinking is a lost cause, I am rather sure. I doubt seriously if rigorous historical study would ever bear out that thesis. -- Unless you mean, of course, the way that we all use Enlightenment thinking. None of us is unaffected.

By the way, if you want an historical explanation for the rise of the interpretation that the church is the new Israel, read Israel and the Church, by Ronald Diprose: who makes an examination of Greek, Latin, and Italian documents of the Church fathers.

Jeff Brown

jpdsr51's picture

Jeff Brown wrote:
Dispensationalists based their views on prophecy upon already existing views of a literal 1000 year millennium, the return of Israel to the land, and the conversion of national Israel. Increase Mather preached all those things. Joseph Mede (d.1638) is called "the father of English Premillialism."

Meade also projected that the end of the world would come by 1716, but that has nothing to with a defense or denial of dispensationalism. It sounds more like you are defending Premillennialism rather than dispensationalism which unquestionably is a later devleopment. Todd Magnum offers an interesting survey of the institutional and ecclesiastical politics involved in the rift between dispensational and covenant theology (http://ntresources.com/documents/DSG2010_Mangum_DispCovRift.pdf) -- and by the way, there is a third way.

church - www.gracechurchphilly.com blog - www.thegospelfirst.com twitter - @johnpdavis

Bob Hayton's picture

I should clarify and say Johnson's book doesn't single out dispensationalists as being singularly influenced by rationalist thought. He is saying Bible interpreters in general believe applying scientific-sounding principles to Holy Writ will uniformly result in the single correct interpretation to be found. And while obviously modernist theology resulted from this, we all are affected by the air that Western society breathed for so many years. It is no wonder in such a system that spirtual interpretations fell on hard times. Yes there was a medieval allegorism run wild, but the answer isn't a thorough-going naturalism.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Bob Hayton's picture

jpdsr51 wrote:
Todd Magnum offers an interesting survey of the institutional and ecclesiastical politics involved in the rift between dispensational and covenant theology (http://ntresources.com/documents/DSG2010_Mangum_DispCovRift.pdf) -- and by the way, there is a third way.

Thanks for the link, I look forward to checking it out.

Striving for the unity of the faith, for the glory of God ~ Eph. 4:3, 13; Rom. 15:5-7 I blog at Fundamentally Reformed. Follow me on Twitter.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Quote:
...but the answer isn't a thorough-going naturalism.

I don't think anybody is offering a thorough-going naturalism anymore--not as a biblical hermeneutic.
I appreciate Jeff's post. I think the whole Enlightenment thing is a smoke screen.

The distinction between premillennialism and dispensationalism doesn't amount to much of an argument either. Though it's true that a fully developed dispensational system that has premil as a feature comes later, much in theology has followed that pattern of development. Bits and pieces of disp. ideas are scattered all through church history. Premil. is legit. viewed as one of those pieces because the interpretational processes involved in getting to premil. have much in common w/the process that builds the rest of disp. thought.

I keep saying though that a better focus (than the antiquity question) is on the texts involved and letting them speak.

Views expressed are always my own and not my employer's, my church's, my family's, my neighbors', or my pets'. The house plants have authorized me to speak for them, however, and they always agree with me.

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