A Review of ‘The Future Restoration of Israel’ (Part 2)


Read the series.

Mark F. Rooker is the next scholar in line and contributes a study of Jeremiah 31:31-37. He delineates the major features of the New covenant which include God’s writing His law on the heart (55-56). He is a little unclear in these pages, but the main thing he points out is the inner working of this covenant which produces a new relationship to God. This comes about as a result of God’s forgiveness of their sin (57).

The New covenant is certain because in Jeremiah 31:35-37 God has promised that “the choice of the people of Israel is as firm as the statutes of nature” (58), something supercessionism ignores by appeal to their own typology. Rooker summarizes Jeremiah’s prophecy well:

Thus, two impossibilities are stated – the creation cannot be scoped out, and YHWH cannot reject Israel’s seed despite what they have done. (60)

Rooker therefore believes “the new covenant is an unconditional covenant” (61). There are lots of solid assertions in this article, including the statement that “The new covenant [is] the means whereby the Abrahamic is fulfilled” (65). He also insists that the New covenant is made with everyone, Jew and Gentile saints alike (65 cf. 66, 67). Once or twice I had cause to quibble, as when Rooker noted his belief in “second Isaiah” (62), and in his heading “The New Covenant in the New Covenant (New Testament),” which adds ambiguity where none was necessary (62).

Next up is Michael VanLaningham’s critique of Progressive Covenantalism’s treatment of Israel’s land promise. Unsurprisingly for a system that employs typology as perhaps its main hermeneutical tool, PC makes both Israel and its land a type (usually fulfilled in Jesus – 83). His main foil is Gentry and Wellum’s Kingdom through Covenant, which has been a major influence in spawning this movement. His final sentence hits home: “I do not see how they can escape the accusation that their theological paradigm leaves them open to the charge that God lacks integrity in keeping his promises” (83). PC’s will reject this because in their mind God fulfills all His promises once they have been run through their typological interpretations.

Darrell Bock writes a very solid chapter on “Israel’s Future as a Nation and Reconciliation.” I have read a lot of helpful studies by Bock, but this may be the best essay of his I have come across and is a contender for best contribution in the book. On page 90 he says that salvation is an ingredient of the covenant with Abraham, but this is on the strength of Galatians 3. but the Abrahamic covenant nowhere presents Christ as crucified (Gal. 3:1), but rather only as a descendant of Abraham. I have been quite vocal about the fact that the New covenant is the salvation covenant, which all the other unconditional covenants have to pass through so as to be literally fulfilled.

Bock soon hits his stride and clearly sets out Israel’s hope (90-91) before providing close readings of Isaiah 2:1-4, and Ezekiel 37, both excellent. Once in the NT he begins with Romans 11 (95-98), Ephesians 2:11-22 (98-99), and Luke’s “until” passages (Lk. 13:34-35, 21:20-24; Acts 1:6-7, 3:18-22, with 26:6-7). He closes with a series of “Implications” for the Middle East and for God’s character (102-103). Rightly he states that “God’s grace and character as rooted in his promises” (103).

A full study of Zechariah 14 and its allusions in the book of Revelation is provided by David J. Fuller. Fuller does a survey of the treatment of Zechariah 14 in systematic theologies and biblical studies before launching into his literary analysis of the passage. He is less strident in his conclusions than I would have liked, but the chapter makes a positive contribution.

Vying with Bock for best essay so far is Mark Saucy’s effort, “One Nation Under God: Does the World Need an Israelite Theocracy?” Saucy begins with the important note that human life is meant to be “nationed life” (126-127). He counters the common view that nations only came about as a result of the Fall by taking Revelation 21:24, 26; 22:2 seriously (128). Obviously, if God is going to arrange eternity with nations and peoples around Him “nationed life” is central to His plan for humanity. As with Bock, Saucy asserts the soteriological importance of the Abrahamic covenant (129). He rightly claims that the salvific aspect is ahead, but he fails to tie this into the Abrahamic covenant’s encounter with the New covenant, which actually conveys salvation to all the saints. By all means, “life in the land” includes salvation (130) but it doesn’t deliver it.

As already indicated I really liked this contribution, but that does not mean that I always agreed with it. I put a question mark next to a number of statements on pages 130 and 132-133 especially. However, he also states that,

Like Eden, the prophets’ vision for human flourishing is fully resourced by God’s own gracious provision in a new covenant relationship and a Spirit-anointed servant leader. (133)

Further, he says in a footnote that “This resolution of the sin-problem is the basis of the new covenant promises” (134 n. 39), and his next footnote claims “A new enablement for the source of life, the heart, is where most scholars place the locus of the new covenant’s novum” (Ibid n. 40 italics his). I couldn’t agree more.

It is this new covenant enablement through the Spirit that will turn Israel into witnesses to God’s glory among the nations (135, 139). This mission of Israel comes from a place of eminence among the nations (136), which is not what is spoken of the Church by the NT writers (137). This was an outstanding study.