Thursday, April 5, 2012

National Israel is not God's Chosen People

Over the last three days, Chris Pinto has been doing a Bible study in the Letter to the Hebrews in which he clears up some questions I've had about how to view the nation of Israel in relation to the Church. I've never done a thorough study of these issues myself but have picked up bits of the controversies involved over the years from various teachers, which seem to range from the idea that ALL God's promises and prophecies in the Old Testament concerning Israel now belong to the Church, to something close to the opposite extreme, that NONE of it belongs to the Church but all pertain exclusively to national Israel.

As I've thought it through myself I've remained persuaded that God certainly does have plans for national Israel for the last days, though I've never been completely clear which scripture verses apply to this because they are often ambiguous, but I also reject the extreme views that treat the Church as some sort of afterthought rather than the fulfillment of God's covenant with Abraham, which the New Testament clearly says is the case.

I've come to sort this in terms of the Church as the spiritual fulfillment of the promises and prophecies to Israel, such that we ARE Israel or the New Israel, or the spiritual Israel inheriting the heavenly Jerusalem, which was always the main objective of God's promises that would be realized through the Savior Messiah Jesus Christ, but that physical or fleshly Israel still inherits something from God. I'm not sure to what extent Chris Pinto would see it this way, but it still makes sense to me. He did point me to Ezekiel 36 as a scriptural reference for God's plans for earthly Israel as opposed to the Church, which helps me anchor all this better than I'd been able to before. I've copied out some of that passage below, where it seems pretty clear that attempts to make it apply to the Church are strained to say the least.

Those who apply most of the Old Testament to physical Israel at the expense of the Church are known as Dispensationalists, which is such a theological quagmire to me that I tend to try to avoid it, a theology which is held in varying degrees by different teachers, apportioning scripture more or less to the Church versus the state of Israel. I know I can't accept the full Reformed point of view, which treats Dispensationalism as a complete heresy and applies ALL the scripture to the Church instead, because I do believe scripture points to an end-times role for national Israel, and that we can see this already fulfilled in its becoming a state as of May 14, 1948, and it now seems to me, thanks to Chris Pinto's recent Bible studies, that Ezekiel 36 is the best description of this.

Dispensationalists are the ones who complain so loudly against "replacement theology" which puts the Church in the place of Israel to such an extent that no place is left for the prophecies concerning the literal land God gave to the Jews or the literal return of Christ to the Mount of Olives either, or other events prophesied in the Book of Revelation. And I agree with them that far, but even the best of them tend to go too far beyond that.

The main form this seems to take is in celebrating the State of Israel in its present apostate condition as if it were God's own people. They confuse physical Israel with spiritual Israel. They also call the Jews "God's Chosen People." They also tend to go into raptures over every event that shows Israel preparing to resume its Old Testament form, such as the plans that have been underway for years for the rebuilding of the Temple and the reinstatement of the animal sacrifices, or the search for a perfect Red Heifer, and the like. While these plans do point toward a likely reinstatement of the Old Testament religion, and there is scripture that supports such a reinstatement, after the Messiah has come there's something very wrong with Christians cheering them on.

The Lord Jesus was the Reality that ALL those Old Testament institutions and practices were intended to point to. He has come. There is no way any of that can be reinstated without being an offense to God. Yes, they may well be reinstated in fulfillment of prophecy, but Christians who applaud these developments, who rationalize them as simply a "different" way God has of dealing with Israel as opposed to the Church, who make Israel out to be a separate "dispensation" in God's plans from the Church, have to deny all the clear statements in the New Testament that Jesus Christ IS their fulfillment. I already said all this in my previous post about the animal sacrifices, about John Whitcomb's assertion on Brannon Howse's radio program that the animal sacrifices would continue although Christ Himself reigns from Jerusalem. Cannot be. They may be reinstated during the reign of the Antichrist but they couldn't possibly continue through the reign of Christ.

What I've not quite allowed myself to say in so many words is: Physical Israel is NOT "God's people" any more, the Church is God's people, and the Church is both Jew and Gentile, there is not one dispensation for Jews and one for Gentiles. Of course the twelve patriarchs and the twelve apostles were all Jewish and it may well be that God will also put other Jewish believers in special roles in the Church, I think there may be scripture to that effect, but they are still The Church and not a separate dispensation. The New Testament makes it clear that the Church is now God's "Elect" and only some fancy twisting of words can make that mean anything other than "Chosen" as if one people were the elect and another the chosen.

This is NOT "Replacement Theology." God still has plans for Israel because God still has plans for the world, to show forth His glory, to redeem not only His Elect but the whole Creation and shame the heathen and the devils who have been ruling this wrecked planet since the Fall. This is to be the finale of the grand drama that began back at the Creation, and He is bringing back His apostate people Israel for the final Act in which first all Hell and then all Glory will break loose.

They ARE apostate, they are NOT the Chosen People any more, though some of them WILL be. The Church is the Chosen People. But many of them WILL yet join us according to scripture, many many of them, as the Day of the Lord, or the times of the heathen, or the times of the Antichrist, unfolds.

It's one thing to watch with interest -- or bated breath with perhaps a little horror thrown in -- prophecy being fulfilled in the plans to reinstate the Old Testament religion, and other to celebrate it as if God could be happy with it. The Dispensationalists who celebrate it are whitewashing sepulchres full of dead men's bones. Orthodox Judaism today is the very same religion of the Pharisees that Christ denounced in His day. Spend any time talking to an Orthodox Jew about his beliefs and you will soon find out that it is the identical belief system, in which the traditions of men through the Talmud eclipse scripture. They still strain a gnat out of their soup lest they eat unclean meat unawares. I could probably write a very long post just on this subject because of conversations I had over many years with an Orthodox Jew. Orthodox Judaism is the aggressive denial of Christ. It was in His day and it still is.

Of course Israel is not just orthodox Judaism but atheism and paganism and devil worship and the sort of stuff to which all the nations of this world are in bondage. The devil's work.

Rev 11:8 And their dead bodies [shall lie] in the street of the great city, which spiritually is called Sodom and Egypt, where also our Lord was crucified.
Earthly Jerusalem is not the Holy City and earthly Israel is not God's people. As Paul said, "not all Israel is Israel." But some are and will be revealed in God's own time.

Although I believe this, believe we can't treat Israel as on a par with the Church, mustn't celebrate the reinstatement of the institutional and ceremonial types and shadows which have been fulfilled in Christ, I nevertheless believe we must support Israel for the sake of prophecy and in my opinion also because they are politically and historically in the right and surrounded by devil-driven enemies who are still seeking to overthrow God's rule on this planet. Jesus is to return to earthly Israel. His feet will split the Mount of Olives when He comes. Then it may be that there will be a Millennium as the dispensationalists believe, in which He will reign literally over the entire earth from Jerusalem. That would conclude the drama of Planet Earth in seven millennia which is a very nice number.

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Ezekiel 36:16-38 Moreover the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, Son of man, when the house of Israel dwelt in their own land, they defiled it by their own way and by their doings: their way was before me as the uncleanness of a removed woman. Wherefore I poured my fury upon them for the blood that they had shed upon the land, and for their idols [wherewith] they had polluted it: And I scattered them among the heathen, and they were dispersed through the countries: according to their way and according to their doings I judged them. And when they entered unto the heathen, whither they went, they profaned my holy name, when they said to them, These [are] the people of the LORD, and are gone forth out of his land.

Eze 36:21 But I had pity for mine holy name, which the house of Israel had profaned among the heathen, whither they went. Therefore say unto the house of Israel, Thus saith the Lord GOD; I do not [this] for your sakes, O house of Israel, but for mine holy name's sake, which ye have profaned among the heathen, whither ye went. And I will sanctify my great name, which was profaned among the heathen, which ye have profaned in the midst of them; and the heathen shall know that I [am] the LORD, saith the Lord GOD, when I shall be sanctified in you before their eyes. For I will take you from among the heathen, and gather you out of all countries, and will bring you into your own land.

Eze 36:25 Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you. A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do [them].

Eze 36:28 And ye shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and ye shall be my people, and I will be your God. I will also save you from all your uncleannesses: and I will call for the corn, and will increase it, and lay no famine upon you. And I will multiply the fruit of the tree, and the increase of the field, that ye shall receive no more reproach of famine among the heathen. Then shall ye remember your own evil ways, and your doings that [were] not good, and shall lothe yourselves in your own sight for your iniquities and for your abominations.

Eze 36:32 Not for your sakes do I [this], saith the Lord GOD, be it known unto you: be ashamed and confounded for your own ways, O house of Israel.

Thus saith the Lord GOD; In the day that I shall have cleansed you from all your iniquities I will also cause [you] to dwell in the cities, and the wastes shall be builded. And the desolate land shall be tilled, whereas it lay desolate in the sight of all that passed by. And they shall say, This land that was desolate is become like the garden of Eden; and the waste and desolate and ruined cities [are become] fenced, [and] are inhabited.

36:36 Then the heathen that are left round about you shall know that I the LORD build the ruined [places, and] plant that that was desolate: I the LORD have spoken [it], and I will do [it]. Thus saith the Lord GOD; I will yet [for] this be enquired of by the house of Israel, to do [it] for them; I will increase them with men like a flock. As the holy flock, as the flock of Jerusalem in her solemn feasts; so shall the waste cities be filled with flocks of men: and they shall know that I [am] the LORD.