Promises to Israel: We Should Expect Literal Fulfillment

If Israel has been chosen to perform a special role in the divine plan, what promises have been given to Israel that will enable that ancient people to fulfill that role?

The Apostle Paul is clear on the great privileges that God has granted Israel. He wrote in Romans 9:4: “who are Israelites, to whom pertain the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service of God, and the promises.” Paul nowhere intimates that these great privileges have been annulled, forfeited, or cancelled. As a matter of fact the three chapters of which this verse is a part (Rom. 9-11) have as one of their purposes to emphasize that God has not cancelled His promises to Israel or transferred them to some other people! What says Paul in Romans 11:1?: “I say then, has God cast away His people? Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not cast away His people whom He foreknew.”

Specifically, what are those promises to Israel?

Well, they ultimately are derived from those to “Father Abraham” in Genesis 12:1-3. To sum them up, they are basically the promises of a people, a land and a blessing. The Book of Deuteronomy and the later prophets unite on the affirmation of these promises to Israel. Chapters 28 and 29 of Deuteronomy clearly delineate the dire consequences if Israel disobeys the Lord - there will be drought, exile and suffering—to name only a few of the judgments. But even if the promises of judgment are fulfilled, that does not cancel the promises of Israel’s future blessings—found in Deuteronomy 30. As we will emphasize again in this brief article, to view the promises of Israel’s judgement as having been literally fulfilled while attempting to spiritualize and then transfer the promises of her blessings to the Church involves an inconsistent hermeneutic.

As an example of many such illustrations of this principle, consider just the prophets Hosea and Micah. In Hosea 3:4 there is a promise of judgement on Israel which already has been literally fulfilled: “For the children of Israel shall abide many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or sacred pillar, without ephod or teraphim.” If that verse has had a literal fulfillment in Israel’s history of the last two thousand years, what about the next verse embodying a promise of blessing for Israel?: “Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the LORD their God and David their king. They shall fear the LORD and His goodness in the latter days.” If Israel was punished literally, they will be blessed literally!

Or consider the dual promises of judgement and blessing in Micah 3:12-4:2:

Therefore because of you Zion shall be plowed like a field, Jerusalem shall become heaps of ruins, And the mountain of the temple like the bare hills of the forest. Now it shall come to pass in the latter days That the mountain of the LORD’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; And peoples shall flow to it. Many nations shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the LORD, To the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, And we shall walk in His paths.” For out of Zion the law shall go forth, And the word of the LORD from Jerusalem.

The promise of the destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple was literally fulfilled. Why would anyone then spiritualize the promise of restoration and blessing for Jerusalem and the Temple in the very next verses?

Now, someone may say that although the OT prophets may have stated that, now in the NT the Church is the so-called “New Israel” and the Church really spiritually receives those future promises of blessing to Israel. But this cannot be proved from the NT either. Already we have referred to that great chapter on Israel’s future, Romans 11. Throughout that chapter the word “Israel” refers to the Jewish people. Therefore, when Paul affirms the future blessings for Israel in Rom. 11:26-27, why would he then inject the word with a different meaning? “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’” Paul actually bases his theology of blessings for a literal Israel on OT prophecies (Isa. 59:20,21 and Jer. 31:33,34).

Why should the plain and natural sense of a text be jettisoned? In Luke 1:31-33 seven promises were given to Mary. Five of them have already literally been fulfilled. Why is someone authorized to say that the remaining two will not also be literally fulfilled? Indeed, Christ shall receive the throne of His father David, and He shall rule over the house of Jacob forever, literally.

Perhaps we need to pay closer attention to the words of a layman who understood the nature of language very well, the poet and novelist Robert Louis Stevenson:

I cannot understand how you theologians and preachers can apply to the Church Scripture promises, which, in their plain meaning apply to God’s chosen people, Israel; and which consequently must be future. The prophetic books are full of teachings which, if they are interpreted literally, would be inspiring, and a magnificent assurance of a great and glorious future; but which, as they are spiritualized, become farcical…as applied to the Church they are a comedy.

[node:bio/will-varner body]

15509 reads

There are 44 Comments

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Hosea 3:4 is speaking of the Babylonian exile likely the time that followed . . . the return of Israel that he then speaks about is the church. 

Isaiah 59 and Jeremiah 31 are clearly speaking of the new covenant which is the church. 

Romans 9-11 is Paul's explanation of how the Church is the true Israel. Thus, he says in 9:6 "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel." 

This fits perfectly with other statements by Paul in other books:

Gal. 6:16 "For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation."

1 Cor. 7:19 "For neither circumcision counts for anything nor uncircumcision, but keeping the commandments of God."

Jesus himself explains that ethnic or physical heritage no longer means anything when it comes to the people of God under the New Covenant. Just a few passages:

He told the Jews that they were not the people of God, unless they did the works of that kingdom. John 8:39 "They answered him, “Abraham is our father.” Jesus said to them, “If you were Abraham's children, you would be doing the works Abraham did." 

By Matthew 21:43, Jesus clearly states that because of their constant rebellion, the kingdom was being taken from them: "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits." 

According to Scripture, just because a covenant is called "everlasting," that does not mean that it cannot be broken: Isaiah 24:5 "The earth lies defiled under its inhabitants; for they have transgressed the laws, violated the statutes, broken the everlasting covenant."

Yes, the promises did come through the Jews, but there is no longer any advantage to being a Jew. The people of God, the Israel of God are those of faith and those of faith are the church. 

The land promises were fulfilled:

Joshua 21:43-45 "Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass."

And so have the spiritual promises: "For all the promises of God find their Yes in him." (2 Cor. 1:20) and Galatians 3:16 "Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ."

As for the judgments of Deuteronomy 30? And Jeremiah and Isaiah and the rest of the prophets? They are fulfilled in Revelation where Babylon, who is revealed to be Jerusalem (Old Jerusalem, the  the Whore as she is called all through the OT, the city in which our Lord was crucified). All of the judgments that are spoken about in the OT prophets, are fulfilled in the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD.

Just one example: "coming on the clouds" is a sign of judgment all throughout Scripture.

A sign of judgment in the OT Ps. 97:2; Jer. 4:13-14; Zeph. 1:15-17 - there are many more.

Christ promises that he will "come on the clouds" to judge - Matt. 16:27-28 and the fact that this is a sign of judgment is readily apparent to the Jews in Matt. 26:64-65. Why else would they consider his statement to be blasphemy? 

If those passages are not enough to motivate you to at least consider the idea that the true Israel is the church and that God's kingdom is now the church alone and will be forever, consider Daniel 7 where Daniel sees a person Who is described identically to John's vision of Christ in Revelation:

I saw in the night visions,

and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.

Christ also said that the "gates of hell will not prevail" against the church. And you expect me to believe that Paul is talking about physical, ethnic Israel? Even Peter didn't believe that when he referred to Jerusalem as Babylon . . . the same as the Babylon who is utterly destroyed at the end of the Book. 

 

formerly known as Coach C

npaul's picture

Does anyone know the source of the quote from Robert Louis Stevenson?  I'd like to know the context in which he made the statement.

I don't mean to doubt Dr Varner, but I was unaware of any connection of Stevenson with Christianity, so I went to Wikipedia to read his biography.  It seems Stevenson may have had Christian parents and a Christian upbringing, but turned his back on it, bringing grief to his parents.

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Maybe Stevenson turned his back on Christianity because nobody could adequately explain how the church has become the reconstituted Israel through the "one Seed," Christ. 

formerly known as Coach C

TylerR's picture

Editor

I found the same thing cited in a Master's Seminary Journal article. It is cited as follows:

As quoted from personal conversation by S. J. Whitmee, “‘Tusitala,’ R. L. S.—A New Phase,” The Atlantic Monthly 131 (March 1923): 348

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

x_delete_jhowell's picture

I don't have a lot of time today, and need to finish up for this weekend, but ...

Joshua, those are a lot of verses you are using, and you seem to marshal a lot of evidence, but Will Varner is more biblical, regardless of the use of Stevenson or not as support at the end.

I noticed the comment about Hosea 3:4 and ... Hosea prophesied to the Northern tribes of Israel, not to Judah. So, I am just thinking about the implications of that when it comes to proper hermeneutic. Date, audience, intent, occasion and location in the scope of progressive revelation impact how one handles Hosea. Just think how misleading the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob has been to Hosea, as well as Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah later on, (not to mention Daniel, Ezekiel, Joel, Zechariah, and the others) if he uses believing, physical descendants of the Patriarchs as prophets to proclaim a message to all of Israel and later on Judah of future hope, and yet it never really applied to them! NO - for there to be the hope of the promise of Hosea 3:4-5, there has to be a literal believing Israel that are physical descendants of the fathers, because that is the original audience and that is original intent. Nowhere does the text allow us to spiritualize it and apply it to the church. Not buying that ... 

alex o.'s picture

The New Covenant was made with the Israel at Shavuot 50 days after Christ's resurrection when diaspora Jews of all the tribes were in Jerusalem at this required feast. The initial Church was composed only of Israelites. When Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, the 11 most likely thought Jesus was referring to the diaspora Jews. Only later was it revealed that now Gentiles would be included.

 

Rom. 11.15 speaks of an even much more glorious era than today when Israel will be re-ingrafted.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Joshua Caucutt's picture

jhowell, 

Thank you for your generous words about using Scripture. I am confident that if we can confine ourselves to the biblical evidence, that we can come to a true knowledge of the truth. I used to be a convinced, died-in-the-wool dispensationalist . . . until I really started to look hard at the biblical evidence. I once wrote a 20+ page paper in grad school "proving" how Romans 11:26 taught that physical, ethnic Israel would at some point in the future turn to Christ, en masse. It was garbage.

As to your assertions: 

First, all of the promises have been fulfilled to physical Israel - unless you contradict the clear statement at the end of Joshua or Paul's statement where he declares that the promise was fulfilled in Christ Himself as the "Seed" in Galatians 3. There are no promises for ethnic Israel that have been left unfulfilled, especially when we understand that the church is Israel. That's how Paul saw it.   

The bigger problem in your understanding might be that you seem to be confusing the terms "literal" "physical" and "spiritual." 

In doing so, you are making the same mistake as the Jews, Pharisees and even the disciples of Christ's day when it comes to the kingdom. They were expecting a physical, political kingdom where the Messiah would overthrow Rome, the Jews would reign, etc. Even up to the time of the crucifixion, Peter was expecting to fight with a physical sword. Peter and the Jews and the Pharisees were wrong about that - so are the dispy's especially when supporting the physical, ethnic, political, but godless nation of Israel. 

Peter had figured it out by Acts 2 where he quotes from Joel and Psalms and tells everyone who would listen that the prophecies of the OT had come to fulfillment in Christ. Read the whole chapter. And near the end: "Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified." Jesus was literally ruling on the throne of David in Acts 2 . . . Peter did not consider ethnic, physical Israel to be the people of God, he called them "Babylon" in 1 Peter 5:13, the early church thought of Jerusalem, ethnic Israel as the "whore of Babylon." This is not to say that Jews cannot be saved. Paul makes this abundantly clear, but they must now come through Christ and His church by faith, not circumcision, sacrifice, the clean laws or an appeal to being the physical descendants of Abraham. 

To my point, the kingdom is real, it is literal - but it isn't physical - i.e. it is not a worldly political entity made up of geographic boundaries or defined by human physical (genetic, fleshly) characteristics. The kingdom is the church - it is very real, it is very literal, yet spiritual. Unless you believe that spiritual entities are not literal . . .  

Therefore, the promises to Israel have been fulfilled to the "true Israel of God" the church in a very literal way - both physically (Do you not consider yourself to be a physical member of the church?) and spiritually. Jesus could not have been more clear as to what was going to happen: "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits." - Matthew 21:43 And it is this kingdom into which the people of God have been transferred. (Col. 1:13)

 

formerly known as Coach C

Joshua Caucutt's picture

alex o. wrote:

The New Covenant was made with the Israel at Shavuot 50 days after Christ's resurrection when diaspora Jews of all the tribes were in Jerusalem at this required feast. The initial Church was composed only of Israelites. When Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, the 11 most likely thought Jesus was referring to the diaspora Jews. Only later was it revealed that now Gentiles would be included.

 

Rom. 11.15 speaks of an even much more glorious era than today when Israel will be re-ingrafted.

 

And that reconciling happens through Christ and His church. 

formerly known as Coach C

alex o.'s picture

Sadly Dr. Varner has not posted at Dr. Ibex recently and has threatened to quit that blog. The blog has many good insights and continues to supply  good information.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

alex o.'s picture

Joshua Caucutt wrote:

alex o. wrote:

The New Covenant was made with the Israel at Shavuot 50 days after Christ's resurrection when diaspora Jews of all the tribes were in Jerusalem at this required feast. The initial Church was composed only of Israelites. When Jesus told the disciples to go into all the world and preach the gospel, the 11 most likely thought Jesus was referring to the diaspora Jews. Only later was it revealed that now Gentiles would be included.

 

Rom. 11.15 speaks of an even much more glorious era than today when Israel will be re-ingrafted.

 

And that reconciling happens through Christ and His church. 

 

It speaks of a new era in my mind. Clearly a normal reading of the Prophets and the New Testament demands, and only makes sense, that a new age will dawn when Christ reunites Israel to Himself.

I am sorry not to have time to debate these points with you in depth. Your first post was not convincing at all to me, I would say however.

"Our faith itself... is not our saviour. We have but one Saviour; and that one Saviour is Jesus Christ our Lord.  B.B. Warfield

http://beliefspeak2.net

Larry's picture

Moderator

Isaiah 59 and Jeremiah 31 are clearly speaking of the new covenant which is the church.

So our fathers were brought out of Egypt by the hand and broke the covenant God made with them then (Jer 31:31-32)? The phrase “house of Israel and house of Judah” can only refer to the kingdoms of Israel, indicating that both are included. That phrase is never applied to non-Israelites in the Scriptures. You have to go outside the Scripture to get that. Notice that when Hebrews quotes the NC, it only quotes a portion of it, the portion needed for that particular argument. He doesn't quote the whole thing because that was referring to something bigger.

Romans 9-11 is Paul's explanation of how the Church is the true Israel. Thus, he says in 9:6 "But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel." 

Paul says this is about his “kinsmen according to the flesh,” (9:3) which is Israel right? How can Paul's "kinsmen according to the flesh" be the church? They are unsaved, and they are fleshly related. Further, Paul says these are the ones to whom belongs “the glory and the covenants and the giving of the Law and the temple service and the promises,” none of which can be said about the church. The church is expressly said to not have those things. The Law was only for a time until faith came (Gal 3) and the church is the temple (1 Cor 3). In fact, the whole argument of Rom 9-11 is based on distinction between the two. If you equate the two, you have some absurdities like a partial hardening happening to the church until the church comes in.

Paul’s actual point is not that Israel includes more than Israelites, but that not all Israelites are true Israelites. There are some Israelites who are not believers. So not all Israel is actually children of God.

By Matthew 21:43, Jesus clearly states that because of their constant rebellion, the kingdom was being taken from them: "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits." 

Who is that people? It is endtime Israel, according to Zech 12:10 and Rev 1:7. God gives the kingdom to the Israelites who repent. There is no reason, in the text, to see that as the church. That has to come from outside the text.

 

The land promises were fulfilled:

Joshua 21:43-45 "Thus the Lord gave to Israel all the land that he swore to give to their fathers. And they took possession of it, and they settled there. 44 And the Lord gave them rest on every side just as he had sworn to their fathers. Not one of all their enemies had withstood them, for the Lord had given all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed; all came to pass."

And yet more than 600 years after this, the land promises are still being repeated as future. Even the New Covenant promises a restoration to the land (Jer 31:31-40) and Jeremiah was about 800 years after Joshua. So after the Assyrian captivity of the NK (722 BC), the land is still being held out as a promise of God all through the prophets. And Israel is still being given hope to be chief among the nations.

 

As for the judgments of Deuteronomy 30?

But what about the promises of regathering (30:3ff)? The judgments were on certain group of people, and the promises of restoration are to the same group. Yet you want to change horses midstream, and make the curses on one group and the promises to another. You create an unwarranted division of the covenant here.

Christ promises that he will "come on the clouds" to judge - Matt. 16:27-28 and the fact that this is a sign of judgment is readily apparent to the Jews in Matt. 26:64-65. Why else would they consider his statement to be blasphemy? 

Because they understood him to be claiming to be the Messiah (cf. Dan 7), and they did not believe him. Coming on teh clouds was a sign of power and glory, both for judgment and blessing (the Day of the Lord). To make that in AD 70 fits neither the Scripture nor history.

 

If those passages are not enough to motivate you to at least consider the idea that the true Israel is the church and that God's kingdom is now the church alone and will be forever, consider Daniel 7 where Daniel sees a person Who is described identically to John's vision of Christ in Revelation:

Not sure how that helps anything other than showing why the Pharisees accused Jesus of blasphemy.

 

Christ also said that the "gates of hell will not prevail" against the church. And you expect me to believe that Paul is talking about physical, ethnic Israel?

Why would it be a hard to believe that Jesus and Paul were talking about two different things? Why would Paul be talking about the church being unbelieving and hardened against God, when the very nature of the church is opposite?

 

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Are you guys saying that Jesus is going to eventually divorce Himself from His bride, the church after the marriage feast of the Lamb and then re-marry the whore of Babylon? (The city where our Lord was crucified - Rev. 11:8, also 1 Peter 5:13)

Even though God's own law prevents Him from remarrying once final divorce has happened? (Deut. 24; Jer. 3:1)

formerly known as Coach C

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Larry wrote:

 

Christ also said that the "gates of hell will not prevail" against the church. And you expect me to believe that Paul is talking about physical, ethnic Israel?

Why would it be a hard to believe that Jesus and Paul were talking about two different things? Why would Paul be talking about the church being unbelieving and hardened against God, when the very nature of the church is opposite?

 

My reference to Paul here, should have said "Daniel." Daniel was not speaking of a hardened people, he was speaking of an unending dominion - he was speaking of the church, the new covenant community. 

formerly known as Coach C

Larry's picture

Moderator

Are you guys saying that Jesus is going to eventually divorce Himself from His bride, the church after the marriage feast of the Lamb and then re-marry the whore of Babylon? (The city where our Lord was crucified - Rev. 11:8, also 1 Peter 5:13)

Where in the world did that come from?

BTW, 1 Peter 5:13 is probably Rome, not Jerusalem.

Larry's picture

Moderator

My reference to Paul here, should have said "Daniel." Daniel was not speaking of a hardened people, he was speaking of an unending dominion - he was speaking of the church, the new covenant community.

In that case, why would it be hard to believe that Jesus and Daniel were talking about two different things? What is the textual reason (textual, mind you) to think that the unending dominion of the Messiah in Daniel 7 is the church? And what reason is there to think that the church is the New Covenant community, given how the New Covenant defines the community in Jer 31?

These are questions that have to be answered from the text.

 

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Larry wrote:

Are you guys saying that Jesus is going to eventually divorce Himself from His bride, the church after the marriage feast of the Lamb and then re-marry the whore of Babylon? (The city where our Lord was crucified - Rev. 11:8, also 1 Peter 5:13)

Where in the world did that come from?

 

God has always pictured Himself as being married to His covenant people - every covenant has worked this way - although not all of them are explicitly termed as such. The OC and the NC are certainly explicitly called marriage covenants. This why unfaitfulness to the covenant is always called "harlotry" "adultery" etc. God was once joined in a marriage covenant with ethnic Israel, throughout the OT He threatens divorce, after the crucifixion and the rejection of Christ, God (Jesus) divorces ethnic Israel. He then joins Himself in marriage covenant to the church, the bride of Christ. (Ephesians 5, Revelation 19, etc.)

Your position makes it seem as if Jesus is going to at some point in the future, either divorce Himself from His bride the church and re-marry ethnic Israel - who is called the whore of Babylon in the final book of the Bible. Or He is going to add a wife.

Also, under the OC, justification was carried out via the clean laws and sacrifice. In the NC, justification comes via the sacrifice of Christ alone. In this future covenant, what will be the basis of justification? Is there going to be a New New Covenant? 

 

formerly known as Coach C

Paul Henebury's picture

Wow.  Replacement theology at its ugliest.  Joshua, you seem to think you can instruct us.  Please expound Jeremiah 33:14-26 for me in its context.  Then maybe we'll talk.

Dr. Paul Henebury

I am Founder of Telos Ministries, and Senior Pastor at Agape Bible Church in N. Ca.

Larry's picture

Moderator

First, I think you are pushing the marriage imagery a bit far. But regardless, I don't think any of those things follow on what I am saying.

Second, justification in the OC was never by clean laws and sacrifice. As we are told, the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin (Heb 10:4). Justification is always by faith, and it is always based on the sacrifice of Christ. (Imagine the irony of a dispensationalist having to clarify that.)

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Larry wrote:

My reference to Paul here, should have said "Daniel." Daniel was not speaking of a hardened people, he was speaking of an unending dominion - he was speaking of the church, the new covenant community.

In that case, why would it be hard to believe that Jesus and Daniel were talking about two different things? What is the textual reason (textual, mind you) to think that the unending dominion of the Messiah in Daniel 7 is the church? And what reason is there to think that the church is the New Covenant community, given how the New Covenant defines the community in Jer 31?

These are questions that have to be answered from the text.

 

No disrespect, but I almost have to laugh . . . surely you have read these passages?

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah Jeremiah 31:31

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

And the writer of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah directly!

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Hebrews 8:10

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15

Do you really need passages that proclaim the unending dominion of the kingdom the church? We can start with the great commission . . . 

 

formerly known as Coach C

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Larry wrote:

First, I think you are pushing the marriage imagery a bit far. But regardless, I don't think any of those things follow on what I am saying.

Second, justification in the OC was never by clean laws and sacrifice. As we are told, the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin (Heb 10:4). Justification is always by faith, and it is always based on the sacrifice of Christ. (Imagine the irony of a dispensationalist having to clarify that.)

How am I pushing the imagery too far? Are you aware of the sheer volume of verses that portray God's relationship with His covenant people in this way?

True, it was not true justification, it was passover justification - temporary (Romans 3:25; Galatians 2,3). However, a Jew who did not practice this rudimentary form of passover justification would not be justified. (i.e. a Jew who was not circumcized, was not justified, etc.) So in that sense, it was the means of justification. 

So, what will be the basis of justification in this future, earthly kingdom of which you speak? The one were the Jews will be re-ingrafted? 

formerly known as Coach C

Joshua Caucutt's picture

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel...so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places ...Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen....For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God...Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

formerly known as Coach C

Larry's picture

Moderator

No disrespect, but I almost have to laugh . . . surely you have read these passages?

Yes, that was kind of my point. Let's read the passages and see what they say.

 

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah Jeremiah 31:31

What does the bolded part mean? The house of Israel and the house of Judah are two political and ethnic entities. The passage gives us a bit more identification when it says that they are the ones God lead out of Egypt by the hand and the ones with whom he made a covenant that they broke. Now, doesn't that have a clear historical referent in the nation of Israel? Didn't God tell us exactly who he was talking about?

And the writer of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah directly!

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Hebrews 8:10

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15

Yes, if you recall, I mentioned that. And remember that the author of Hebrews (AH) only quotes part of the NC. Why? Because he is only talking about one specific issue in the NC -- forgiveness. He is not intending to invoke it all because it would be irrelevant to his point. That doesn't mean it isn't true, though.

Do you really need passages that proclaim the unending dominion of the kingdom the church? We can start with the great commission . . .

Yes, if we are going to have a biblical theology, then we need passage to tell us things to believe. Otherwise, we are just making it up.

I don't recall anywhere that the Great Commission identifies the church as the unending dominion of the kingdom. Do you have a line in mind?

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

How am I pushing the imagery too far? Are you aware of the sheer volume of verses that portray God's relationship with His covenant people in this way?

Yes, but I would not impose human marriage on the relationship of God with his people.

However, a Jew who did not practice this rudimentary form of passover justification would not be justified. (i.e. a Jew who was not circumcized, was not justified, etc.) So in that sense, it was the means of justification.

The issue was their faith that caused them to offer sacrifice.

So, what will be the basis of justification in this future, earthly kingdom of which you speak? The one were the Jews will be re-ingrafted?

The sacrifice of Christ, as always.

 

Larry's picture

Moderator

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel...so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places ...Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen....For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God...Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

This is a great passage because notice how the church is present (presently members of the same body) and the kingdom is future (inheritance to be gained later).

Again, here is where your presuppositions matter. If you think that the church is Israel, then you read it differently than if you don't. But the issue is simple this: What does the text say? The text does not equate Israel and the church. In fact, it distinguishes them when it talk about the Jews and Gentiles being made into one body. It doesn't talk about the Gentile becoming Jews. Nor the Jews becoming Gentiles. The church is a whole different thing as evidenced through this passage.

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Larry wrote:

No disrespect, but I almost have to laugh . . . surely you have read these passages?

Yes, that was kind of my point. Let's read the passages and see what they say.

 

Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah Jeremiah 31:31

What does the bolded part mean? The house of Israel and the house of Judah are two political and ethnic entities. The passage gives us a bit more identification when it says that they are the ones God lead out of Egypt by the hand and the ones with whom he made a covenant that they broke. Now, doesn't that have a clear historical referent in the nation of Israel? Didn't God tell us exactly who he was talking about?

And the writer of Hebrews quotes from Jeremiah directly!

For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Hebrews 8:10

Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:15

Yes, if you recall, I mentioned that. And remember that the author of Hebrews (AH) only quotes part of the NC. Why? Because he is only talking about one specific issue in the NC -- forgiveness. He is not intending to invoke it all because it would be irrelevant to his point. That doesn't mean it isn't true, though.

Do you really need passages that proclaim the unending dominion of the kingdom the church? We can start with the great commission . . .

Yes, if we are going to have a biblical theology, then we need passage to tell us things to believe. Otherwise, we are just making it up.

I don't recall anywhere that the Great Commission identifies the church as the unending dominion of the kingdom. Do you have a line in mind?

 

"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

Eph. 3:21; Colossians 1; Matthew 16... I'm curious, though, where do you find the end of the church? Other than heaven - which I submit is still the church, but be that as it may - how does the church end? Destroyed like Israel?  

 

formerly known as Coach C

Larry's picture

Moderator

"And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

But how does that indicate it is the unending dominion of Daniel 7? I think the kingdom of Christ is his rule over all things, not just over the church or over believers. I think you making connections based on theological presuppositions. We all do that, to some degree, to be sure. But I have never found yours convincing. You can't just quote a line. IMO, you need some argumentation taking into account the whole of Scripture and showing why something is something.

I'm curious, though, where do you find the end of the church?

I don't think the church ends, per se. I think it is eternal

Joshua Caucutt's picture

If this new New Covenant that you speak of has it's basis in the blood of Christ, how is that not the New Covenant - the church? 

 

Larry wrote:

This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel...so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places ...Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen....For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God...Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.

This is a great passage because notice how the church is present (presently members of the same body) and the kingdom is future (inheritance to be gained later).

Again, here is where your presuppositions matter. If you think that the church is Israel, then you read it differently than if you don't. But the issue is simple this: What does the text say? The text does not equate Israel and the church. In fact, it distinguishes them when it talk about the Jews and Gentiles being made into one body. It doesn't talk about the Gentile becoming Jews. Nor the Jews becoming Gentiles. The church is a whole different thing as evidenced through this passage.

Huh. Because Christ and the apostles thought the kingdom was now. Matt. 3:2; Mark 1:15, 9:1; Hebrews 1:8, 12:18, 12:28

Colossians 1:13 is probably the best, written in past tense to the church at Colossea: "He has delivered us from the domain of darkness and transferred us to the kingdom of his beloved Son."

Matthew 12:28 But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you.

According to your position, someone was given keys that they can't use until . . . when? But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come upon you. - Matt. 16:19

Jesus said, "Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits." - Matthew 21:43 - are you saying that the Jews had the kingdom, it was taken away from them and then it will be given back to the Jews? 

Do you proclaim the gospel of the kingdom? "And this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." Because the world is going to end after the kingdom is proclaimed . . . except you seem to think that we have the gospel, then the kingdom, then the world ends. . .? 

Luke 12:32 Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father's good pleasure to give you the kingdom.

I know all of the dispensational explanations and responses to why the kingdom is not the church and frankly, even when I held that position, I didn't understand it. Also, I understand that at times, the NT speaks explicitly of the kingdom as our future in heaven. These are clear - but one cannot be a part of the future, heavenly kingdom if he is not a member of the present, earthly kingdom (the church) so these two groups are essentially the same.

I will post one final passage and I know that the word "church" does not appear (however, assembly is there and many translations use "church" here) in it, but what else could the writer of Hebrews have in mind? As you read, note the present tenses throughout, also the mention of the "new covenant", note that his readers were to be greatful for "receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken." To make this passage about something other than the church would be rip it from it's context which includes numerous references to the church. 

I don't know how anyone can forsee a future end to the church, a future replacement of the church or God's returning to his "whore of Babylon" after reading Hebrews: 
 

Hebrews 12:18-29 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.

25 See that you do not refuse him who is speaking. For if they did not escape when they refused him who warned them on earth, much less will we escape if we reject him who warns from heaven. 26 At that time his voice shook the earth, but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heavens.” 27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of things that are shaken—that is, things that have been made—in order that the things that cannot be shaken may remain. 28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, 29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Tell me, what is the "assembly of the firstborn" in this passage? If it is the church, then nearly everything that I have said is true. If it is not the church, then what could it be?  

Also, keep in mind that Christ often called kingdom a mystery and there would be some who would understand this mystery and some would never understand this mystery. The mystery of the church was hidden from the view of the OT prophets, at least in it's final fulfillment, but now it has been fully revealed. (i.e. Eph. 5 where the model for human marriage is Christ's relationship to His Bride, the church.)

formerly known as Coach C

Joshua Caucutt's picture

Larry wrote:

 

I'm curious, though, where do you find the end of the church?

I don't think the church ends, per se. I think it is eternal

 

I agree! Except you were asking me for passages that prove this . . . but, what happens when Israel comes back to God? 

formerly known as Coach C

Joshua Caucutt's picture

I am not surprised by the vigor with which Larry has defended his position, I used to do the same myself. However, all the while, there was all kinds of tension in the text, it didn't make sense logically or biblically, but I still held on for dear life, even though I was finding more contradictions within the Text than anything else. Since I have jettisioned dispensationalism as my supporting biblical theology, I have found that I grasp Scripture with far more confidence, I can see the movements and how it all fits together. The Bible makes sense in a way that it never did before. I can read Matthew 13 and easily understand how we are to function within the church because of the kingdom instruction there. I don't have to wonder, Now is this the church? Or is it Isreal? Or is this heaven? Or is the kingdom really the USA? (Btw, do not assume that my bib theo is CT or NCT - those have issues too.) 

I have a philosophical question based on my experiences within dispensationalism and now as I have stepped away from that school of thought. It is simply: Why do dispy's hold on to a system in which it is so easy to poke biblical and logical holes so tightly?

Here are some of my theories:

Fear of letting go of the past - it takes courage to consider a point of view that might be contray to your parents or Bible college. 

A reluctance to treat present-day, political Israel as nothing more than another nation on equal footing before God as Spain, the Congo or the USA. That idea undergirds much of the politics of conservatives in America. One who does not consider present-day Israel to be the "special people of God" is looked at like a liberal, a jihadist, a nazi or an anti-semite. 

Maybe it is a reluctance to consider the instruction given to the kingdom. Dispensationlism is sometimes used as a way of avoiding accountability to all of the instruction that is given for kingdom living in the Bible. Since under DT, the church is not the kingdom and the kingdom is some future or undefined entity, a person who subscribes to this view does not have to see instruction given to the kingdom as binding on the church. It can be a useful "out" on occasion. 

Curious . . . how can we forsake all for the kingdom or seek the kingdom first if we don't really know what it is? I mean, even though Jesus died for the church. . . does he then expect us to make some future Jewish state as our top priority? Is that what Jesus was talking about?

 

formerly known as Coach C

TylerR's picture

Editor

Joshua:

Is it hard building straw men . . . ?

 

 

 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Pages

Help keep SI’s server humming. A few bucks makes a difference.