|Satan Evicted: Israel & the Church|
Israel & the Church
The Amillennialist affirms that the people of Israel have not been cast off or replaced, but rather, that the Gentiles have now been included among the Jews in God's Covenantal promises. In other words, not replacement but expansion. God's redemptive plan, as first promised to Abraham, was that "all nations" would be blessed through him. Israel is, and always has been, saved the same as any other nation: by the promises to the seed, Christ. Amillennialists, do not believe in a literal 1000 year reign of Christ on earth after His second coming. Rather, they affirm that when Christ returns, the resurrection of both the righteous and wicked will take place simultaneously (see John 5), followed by judgment and the eternal state where heaven and earth merge and Christ reigns forever.
Revelation 7: 1-8 and Revelation 14:1-3 speak of 144,000 – 12,000 from each of the tribes of Israel – sealed with the Father’s name on their forehead. For the past 2,000 years, the Jews have suffered tribulation, persecution, and attempted annihilation, but they have persevered and many have regathered in the state of Israel. It is difficult to contemplate that Israel had no unique role in God’s plan following Christ’s crucifixion. Yet, that is what amillennialism contends. They assert that Israel and the Christians merged into a single body – the Church, that the Jew must convert to Christianity to partake of God’s blessings, and that the nation of Israel has no unique role in future prophetic events. Did the role of Israel as a nation end with Christ’s crucifixion and the destruction of the second temple in 70 AD? Is the Church the new Israel? Or, has Israel’s role been placed on the backburner until the Church Age is complete?
Animal Sacrifices within an Earthly Millennial Reign Are Illogical
Response: I agree with the first three points; however, the fourth point possibly ignores traditions such as the Jewish feasts or the Lord’s Supper. Shooting off fireworks on the Fourth of July commemorates the battles fought and the men who sacrificed their lives – the act has no material value, but it does bring us into remembrance and gives us a chance to celebrate. I don’t pretend to understand God’s purpose of bring back animal sacrifice during the Millennial Reign, but the potential of reinstituting animal sacrifice does not justify rejecting an earthly millennial reign of Christ.
Christ’s Covenant Supplants (Displaces) Israel’s Covenant
Heb 8:8-12 identifies the new covenant with Israel (Jer 31:33-34) with the covenant instituted by Christ with the church. Most importantly, Heb 8:13 declares the old covenant obsolete and passing away.2
Hebrews 8:8-12: For finding fault with them, he saith, “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more.”
Hebrews 8:13: In that he saith, “A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away.”
Response: This passage and the ones before and after explain how Christ now serves as the main priest in heaven and how this covenant is superior to the old, earthly covenant. It also explains how the old covenant is obsolete and passing away. And, I agree perfectly with those assertions.
The question remains one of timing. When will the old covenant vanish away?
Amillennialism contends that the old covenant drew its last breath with the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD and that would make logical sense. However, man’s logic does not always follow God’s logic, and God’s timetable doesn’t always follow man’s timetable. It was illogical for Israel to turn from God after he brought them out of Egypt, but they did. On the cross, Jesus Christ fulfilled all the requirements necessary to redeem mankind, but it has been nearly two-thousand years and we still await his return.
Has the prophetic vision within Jeremiah 31:33-34 been fulfilled?
Jeremiah 31:33-34: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD…
Is there still a need to teach our neighbors know the Lord? Atheism permeates our own communities, and the mystery of God has been replaced with the god of science and reason. Brotherly love has been replaced with the love of self, and immoral acts are granted constitutional protection.
While Jesus Christ has paid all debts required to redeem mankind and this earth from the clutches of Satan, the Father has not yet permitted Jesus Christ to take possession:
2 Corinthians 4:4: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them.
The events within the Book of Revelation serve as the first concrete steps in the physical act of repossessing the earth from Satan’s clutches:
Revelation 19:11: And I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war.
Jesus Christ will not force all his enemies into submission until the end of his earthly reign:
1 Corinthians 15:25-26: For he must reign, till he hath put all enemies under his feet. The last enemy [that] shall be destroyed [is] death.
While the new covenant is far superior to the old covenant, there is little indication that the old covenant has vanished:
Romans 9:27-28: Isaiah also cries out concerning Israel: "Though the number of the children of Israel be as the sand of the sea, The remnant will be saved. For He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth."
The prophetic words of Jeremiah 31:33-34 have yet to find fulfillment; there is still a need to teach our neighbors and brothers to “Know the Lord.” And, the frequent references to the old covenant with the Book of Revelation tends to indicate that the old covenant has not yet vanished but will be fulfilled within a remnant of Israel during the millennial kingdom.
There Is No Distinction Between Israel and the Church
Response: Abraham’s inheritance was extended to the Gentiles through Christ, and within the body of Christ there is no distinction between Jew and Gentile. Paul’s epistles tend to make these facts clear, and, in my opinion, beyond dispute. However, not all Jews accept Christ as their messiah. Are unbelieving Jews then to be placed in the same category as the wicked?
David L. White provides a concise list of passages that “destroys” the fundamental distinction between Israel and the church.3 This list serves as the foundation for this examination:
Suffice it to say that this passage teaches that membership in the true Israel is not a matter of physical descent, but one of God's election… In other words, Israel (the people of God) consists of elect Jews and elect Gentiles.
Romans 9:6-18: Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed…
Comment: White stretches his conclusion a bit too far. The premises of the passage are:
Being an offspring of Abraham does not make one a member of God’s people. [true premise]
Therefore: Israel consists of both Jew and elect Gentiles. [invalid conclusion]
White is correct in his assertion that being born a Jew does not make an individual a member of God’s chosen people (illustrated in verses seven through nine), and White is also correct in his assertion that God will have mercy on those who he elects (illustrated in verses ten through thirteen). However, the chapter does not merge the nation of Israel with the Christian church or the Christian church into the nation of Israel.
The apostle Paul, in this chapter, is using Israel as an illustrative model for the Roman believer… God chooses whom he chooses:
The apostle Paul takes this line of thought one step further:
Romans 9:16-18: So it is God who decides to show mercy. We can neither choose it nor work for it. For the Scriptures say that God told Pharaoh, “I have appointed you for the very purpose of displaying my power in you and to spread my fame throughout the earth.” So you see, God chooses to show mercy to some, and he chooses to harden the hearts of others so they refuse to listen. (NLT)
The ultimate purpose in Paul’s dialogue seems to be, “Despite not being a Jew, you have been chosen by God and should feel very special.”
It is clear through Paul’s other letters that the Gentiles have become heirs in Abraham’s promise, but does that indicate that Israel has been merged with the Church or that the Churched has been merged with Israel? I think not. In fact, Paul seems to make a distinction between the natural Israel and the Gentiles:
Romans 9:25: Concerning the Gentiles, God says in the prophecy of Hosea, "Those who were not my people, I will now call my people. And I will love those whom I did not love before." (NLT)
Romans 9:25: And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, "Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved. (NLT)
Paul mourns the sufferings of the people of Israel:
Romans 9:2: My heart is filled with bitter sorrow and unending grief for my people, my Jewish brothers and sisters. I would be willing to be forever cursed—cut off from Christ!—if that would save them. (NLT)
And, why this sadness? It seems that Paul understands that the nation of Israel will soon be destroyed and only a remnant will remain:
Romans 9:27: And concerning Israel, Isaiah the prophet cried out, “Though the people of Israel are as numerous as the sand of the seashore, only a remnant will be saved.
Romans 9:29: And Isaiah said the same thing in another place: “If the LORD of Heaven’s Armies had not spared a few of our children, we would have been wiped out like Sodom, destroyed like Gomorrah.” (NLT)
Although White’s premises are correct – that being a descendent of Abraham does not make one a member of the elect and that God chooses whomever he chooses, his conclusion is flawed. There is no support in this chapter that Israel consists of both Jew and Gentile. In fact, this chapter seems to indicate a distinct destiny between Christ’s believers and the people of Israel.
There is one olive tree composed of both Jews and Gentiles, i.e., there is one united people of God; not two.
Romans 11:11-24: …And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree; Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee. Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in. Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear: For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee…
Comment: White again takes his conclusion a bit too far:
Some of the branches of Israel were broken off because of unbelief. [true premise]
Therefore: There is one united people of God, not two. [invalid conclusion]
Within the grafting process, the graft takes its nourishment from the trunk. However, the new branches, the old branches, nor the trunk change their nature or characteristics. While the gentiles now partake of God’s promise, at least some of the old branches remain and retain their original nature and characteristics. This analogy does support White’s conclusion.
Jesus has sheep that come from two "pens" (Jews and Gentiles) and who together form one flock.
John10:14-16: I am the good shepherd, and know my sheep, and am known of mine. As the Father knoweth me, even so know I the Father: and I lay down my life for the sheep. And other sheep I have, which are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear my voice; and there shall be one fold, and one shepherd.
Comment: White’s basic argument seems to be valid:
Jews who hear Jesus’ voice will be a part of his flock. [true premise]
Therefore: Jesus will be the shepherd of one flock composed of converted Jews and Gentiles.
The first “sheep” mentioned in this passage refers to the Jews who have heard Jesus’ voice and become members of his flock. The “other sheep” refers to the Gentiles who will hear Jesus’ voice and will also become members of his flock – one flock from two different sources.
However, this passage does not discuss the Jew who remains faithful but has not heard Jesus’ voice and entered his flock – the ones who remain in their original “pen.” They should hear Jesus’ voice and they should join his flock, but not all will. And, it is these few who remain faithful but who have not converted to Christianity who will form the remnant of Israel.
Gentile believers are children of promise, the seed of Abraham, and spiritually speaking there is no distinction between them.
Galatians 3:15-29: Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster. For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus. And if ye be Christ's, then are ye Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise.
Comment: White’s basic statement seems to be true:
The Law of Moses taught humans to come to Christ in faith. [true premise]
Those who come to Christ in faith are now baptized into Christ. [true premise]
There is no distinction of groups for those who are baptized in Christ. [true premise]
If you are baptized in Christ then you inherent Abraham’s promise. [true premise]
It is true that the Christian is not tutored by the Law but by the Spirit and Christians inherit the promises of God. Unfortunately, not all Jew’s learned the lesson of faith through the Moses’ Law. Again, the Jew should convert to Christianity, but not all will. And, it is these few who remain faithful but who have not converted to Christianity who will form the remnant of Israel.
The phrase "the Israel of God," contextually seems best understood to refer to believers in general. In more technical language, this expression is epexegetical to the expression "those who will walk by this rule."
Galatians 6:16: And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God.
Comment: The term “epexegetical” is defined as “the addition of the words or phrases to a text to clarify its meaning.” It’s like an appositive: “Dean, my brother, lives in Indianapolis.” The term “my brother” clarifies which Dean I’m discussing.
Within this passage, White errs. In fact, the opposite seems to be true… Israel is addressed separately and respectfully.
The purpose of this passage is to instruct believers that outward appearances have nothing to do with their salvation, specifically whether a male is circumcised. In verse 15, Paul provides the reader with a general rule:
Galatians 6:15: It doesn’t matter whether we have been circumcised or not. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation. (NLT)
Verse 16, provides a blessing who follows this rule. Additionally, it provides a similar blessing to the nation of Israel:
Peace and mercy to all who follow this rule, even to the Israel of God. (NIV)
Now may peace be on all those who live by this principle, and may mercy be on the Israel of God. (ISV)
And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (ESV)
And those who will walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. (NASB)
I speculate that Paul placed this blessing here so as not to offend those who follow the orthodox Jewish tradition. Regardless, the passage does not refer to the Christian believer as the “Israel of God” but blesses Israel separately from the believer.
All Promises to Abraham Need Not Be Literally Fulfilled
Amillennialism assert that all promises to Abraham need not be literally fulfilled as the gains under the new covenant are far superior.
The completeness of God’s promises to Abraham are well beyond my scope and I will leave this topic for others to debate. For what appears to be a well considered amillennialism view, please read Paul Williamson’s article, “Abraham, Israel, and the Church.”4
The 144, 000 in Revelation
How then does amillennialism account for the direct reference to Israel in the sealing of 144,000 with 12,000 coming from each of the twelve tribes? William Hendriksen, in his book More Than Conquerors, provides a detailed explanation of his perceptive – I’ll include a small portion:
Hendricksen’s interpretation follows the theory that the Church replaced Israel as God’s chosen and that both Jew and Gentile are composites of that Church. In the amillennialism view, there is no room for the old Israel to be treated separately from the Church; thus, any references to old Israel must be alluding to the Church.
Had John’s vision only seen 144,000 from all tribes, then Hendricksen’s interpretation may have been viable, but the inclusion of a direct reference to 12,000 from each of the twelve tribes seems to be a compelling allusion to the physical nation of Israel. Furthermore, assigning one role to the apostles and a separate role to the twelve tribes within the new city of Jerusalem seems to imply that even in the New Heaven and New Earth their roles will be remembered distinctly.
God’s covenant with mankind under Christ is the perfect and far superior to the imperfect old covenant with Israel; the old covenant in antiquated. Jews should convert to Christianity; however, I have found no compelling argument that demonstrates that the old covenant no longer exists. There does appear to be evidence that a remnant of Israel will be regathered under the old covenant and be treated as a unique, identifiable entity during the transition from this age to the next.
1 “AMILLENNIALISM,” Monergism: CPR Foundation, 2009. <http://www.monergism.com/directory/link_category/Eschatology/Millennial-Views/Amillennialism/> Oct. 6, 2011.
2 Robert B. Strimple, Professor of Systematic Theology at Westminster Theological Seminary, Escondido, California, “Amillennialism,” The Mountain Retreat, ND. <http://www.mountainretreatorg.net/eschatology/amil_strimple.html> Oct. 6, 2011.
3 David L. White, “My Shift to Covenant Theology and Amillennialism,” Dave White's Links To Reformed Theology, etc. ND. <http://qqohelet.tripod.com/shift.htm> Oct. 6, 2011.
4 Paul Williamson, “Abraham, Israel, and the Church,” Beginning with Moses, 2011. <http://beginningwithmoses.org/bt-articles/183/abraham-israel-and-the-church> Oct. 6, 2011.
5 William Hendriksen, More Than Conquerors: An Interpretation of the Book of Revelation, Mobi Edition, Baker Books: Grand Rapids, Michigan, July 2007.
6 Gary Hedrick, President of CJF Ministries, “Replacement Theology: Its Origins, Teachings and Errors,” Congregation Shema Yisrae, 2001. Retrieved: Oct. 7, 2011. <http://www.shema.com/Combating%20Replacement%20Theology/crt-004.php>
With all glory, honor, and praise to God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit...
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