Jesus, Jerusalem and the big game changer

It’s been interesting watching the reactions to President Trump’s announcement concerning acknowledgement of Jerusalem as the capitol of Israel. Many are seeing this as a fulfillment of prophecy, most notably Zech. 12:1-3. Of course, on face value it seems to make sense if in fact Scripture indicates that Israel with Jerusalem at the seat of its theocratic power, as existed in the Old Testament, that such a move would be celebrated on theological grounds (there are political reasons as well but we won’t go into that).

All this points to a telling sign to me: that so many Christians believe that God’s fulfillment of covenantal promises still involve the geographic, political state of Israel as if those promises still involved that particular piece of land.

It would be a long while in my Christian walk before I realized that references to Israel in Scripture, particularly the New Testament did not mean the political state of Israel. Romans 9-11 is particularly instructive in this regard. Paul lays out the case that though he longs for his kinsmen according to the flesh (ethnic Israel) because of all that had been given to them (9:4-5), they don’t belong to the true Israel. “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel” (vs. 6). Israel refers to Abraham’s children according to the Spirit (vs. 8), those who have believed in God’s promises through Christ (cf. Gal: 3:7-18). The remnant of Israel is actually the true believers, those united to Christ, including the grafting in of the Gentiles as those who inherit the same promises (11:13-24). It’s important to note here with the rejection of Israel  that the distinction of ethnic Israel relates to the fact that they were first given the revelation of this glorious truth. God is not giving up on them but it doesn’t mean they are somehow a separate people of God who will be dealt with according to a specific piece of land.

But doesn’t Paul seem to be referencing such when he says, “a partial hardening has come upon Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles and come in. In this way all Israel will be saved” (11:25-26) then sites Is. 59:20 as an indication for a future for Israel. Is Paul referring to a deferred plan for the place called Israel? Not hardly. Another way of seeing this is that the time of the true Israel (Jews and Gentiles together) don’t get fulfilled until all the elect are saved, including Jews. (PS: I do recognize that scholars have debated the complexities of Rom. 9-11 and come to different conclusions.) Continue reading

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When You Say the Church Replaces Israel…

painting broad strokesAnyone who knows me, knows that I care that doctrinal positions be articulated fairly even if you don’t hold to that position. When we don’t agree with a position, it’s easy for us to make sloppy and sweeping statements or otherwise eliminate distinctions that should be there for a thoughtful discussion. We can tend to paint with broad strokes.

This happens a lot with charges against Dispensationalism, but I won’t go there. No matter whether or how much I move away from Dispensationalism, I will always care that it be treated fairly and will defend correct articulations especially given the modifications that have occurred over time.

So it pains me to raise this charge. One broad stroke, lack-of-distinction statement that I hear made, mainly from Dispensationalists who won’t take the time to understand the church/Israel relationship from a Covenant Theology perspective (there are many thoughtful dispies who do), is that Covenant theology teaches that the church replaces Israel. However, it is certainly not confined to Dispensationalists. In fact, what prompted this post was this article here.   I also find that when concepts filter down to a popular level broad strokes and mis-definitions can occur. Even when I more aligned with Dispensationalism, this particular mis-statement made me scream because it does not accurately reflect the difference in positions between replacement and continuity.

Replacement theology advocates for just as it says, that the church replaces Israel because the Jews rejected Christ, they are judged by God. Israel no longer exists. All promises are now transferred over to the church and do not benefit them. It is a minority view and rightly brings up concerns of anti-Semitism.

Covenant theology advocates for continuity between Israel and the church. The church did not replace Israel but is one of the same organism, beginning with Abraham. Under the new covenant it has expanded to include believing Gentiles.  According to CT advocates, it is the new Israel. Continue reading