Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Did God Lie to Israel About Promising Them a Homeland? Part 3

When it comes to Christians supporting Israel, we have to ask ourselves an important question.  Do I stand for Israel because of my love for the Jewish homeland and its people, or do I support Israel only because Israel's salvation is the key component to hurrying the return of Jesus?

Sadly, I think the latter is  mostly true. When I tell evangelical leaders and lay people about the current anti-Israel "Evangelical Intifada" taking place in the church, I often fail to observe a serious reaction. I witness a response that tells me a large segment of evangelicals don't care whether Israel is being trashed by some evangelicals unless it takes place in their own house of worship.

I also observe Christians who listen to anti-Israel speakers or view pro-Palestinian films like Little Town of Bethlehem and With God on Our Side, do so with an attitude of malaise. It is the rare Christian who is going to do the research and reading it'll take to refute and burst the propaganda bubble surrounding these films and lectures.

I would hope that my blogs and the writings of so many other evangelicals (see my Blog Log) who see the serious of the anti-Israel invasion of the evangelical church will cause the church to wake up.

One of the battle fronts of this "Evangelical Intifada" is theological.  Names like Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church in the UK and Wheaton College New Testament professor Gary Burge are among the theologians who espouse the scriptural nuts and bolts of the anti-Israel invasion.

In a recent radio conversation with Michael Rydelnik, Jewish Studies department head at Moody Bible College, Burge states the covenants God made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob have been fulfilled in Christ.  Christ, according to Burge, is the true seed of Abraham.  The promises Christians experience in Christ have been "elevated above the promises made to Abraham".  No longer is God concerned with the land of Israel, but is more focused on the whole world.

If Burge is correct, then the nation of Israel should not be of any concern to the writers of the New Testament after the coming of Jesus.  The major focus should be on Christ and the church - not one nation, especially Israel.

In Galatians 3:9 Paul writes,  "Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”

Burge correctly notices God's focus today is urging all humanity to find salvation through Israel's Messiah.  Burge fails to understand the verse quoted by Paul from Genesis 12:3 simply states Lord's intent from when He first chose Israel as His people - to bless the whole world through the people of Israel.  Through progressive revelation, the prophets revealed this blessing would come through one seed of Israel - the Messiah.

However, the salvation of the earth brought through the messianic seed of Israel is not at cross purposes with God's other covenants with Israel.

In Romans 9:4-5 Paul writes concerning  the people of Israel, "Theirs is the adoption to sonship; theirs the divine glory, the covenants, the receiving of the law, the temple worship and the promises. Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of the Messiah, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen." Paul traces God's plan to bring the Messiah forth from Israel who will bless all of humanity.  Yet Paul never says the other covenants God has with Israel will be nullified once the Messiah comes. Only theologians like Sizer and Burge spout forth that false belief.

Paul says later in Romans 11:25-27 He will bring Israel into the blessings of the New Covenant and will forgive their sins.  This is a promise that will be fulfilled with the nation as a whole but in the meantime the God of Israel is saving a remnant of  Jewish people as they place their trust in Yeshua (Romans 11:5).

Further evidence is found in the prophetic passages of the New Testament that describe Israel back in the Promised Land after the present diaspora. In Matthew 24:15-16 Jesus quotes from the Hebrew prophet Daniel (9:27) that in the last days prior to his return, “So when you see standing in the holy place ‘the abomination that causes desolation,’ spoken of through the prophet Daniel—let the reader understand— then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains." For this passage to be fulfilled, a Jewish temple must be standing in Israel. Consequently, the rebuilding of the Temple can only occur if the Jewish people are back in the land.

For those Reformed theologians and adherents of replacement theology who see these events as already fulfilled in the first century, then they would be forced to conclude Jesus has already returned. In the passage after the mention of the "abomination that causes desolation," Jesus adds, “Then will appear the sign of the Son of Man in heaven. And then all the peoples of the earth will mourn when they see the Son of Man coming on the clouds of heaven, with power and great glory. And he will send his angels with a loud trumpet call, and they will gather his elect from the four winds, from one end of the heavens to the other"(Matthew 24: 30-31).

From these New Testament passages we can only conclude the Jewish people will be back in the land prior to the return of Jesus when the abomination [the Antichrist] stands in the Jewish Temple to desecrate it (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4).

The presence of the Jewish people in the land of Israel prior to Jesus' return fits with other passages in the New Testament.  In Acts 1:11 in harmony with Zechariah 14:4 the scriptures teach the Messiah's feet will stand on the Mount of Olives in Jerusalem. In Zechariah 14 the prophet is speaking to the Jewish people and telling them the nations of the earth will come against Israel (vs. 2) but the Messiah will come to Jerusalem to defeat their enemies.  How can such a passage be fulfilled unless the Jewish people are back in the land?  Despite the New Testament's focus on the gospel going forth to all humanity (1 Timothy 2:4), God's dealings with the people of Israel never cease.

In the radio interchange between Rydelnik and Burge, the Moody Bible College professor brings out the fact Israel is mentioned in the Book of Revelation in harmony with Matthew 24 and the Old Testament prophets.  The Jewish Temple is mentioned in Revelation 11 as being rebuilt prior to Jesus' return. In Revelation 12:5 Israel is seen under the figure of a woman who gives birth to "a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.”  In this passage Israel becomes an object of Satan's hatred and is persecuted by the devil or dragon.

In response Burge answers like most scholars who refuse to see the obvious by saying, "scholars debate the images seen in the Book of Revelation." I'm sorry to inform Gary Burge but when God gives instructions to measure His temple  describing the altar and the outer court of the gentiles (Revelation 11:1-2), the interpretation of the text is not figurative but literal.

Where will Burge stop with his excuse of referring to the use of figurative language in Revelation to avoid acknowledging Israel's place in prophecy?  Is the return of Jesus in Revelation 19:11-16 figurative or literal?

My next blog on this subject will deal with the question whether the modern state of Israel is a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy?


1 comment:

Justin Kron said...

Thanks for writing about this. It definitely helps bring more balanced perspective to this issue. I especially concur with your comment, "It is the rare Christian who is going to do the research and reading it'll take to refute and burst the propaganda bubble surrounding these films and lectures."