Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Gospel of the Kingdom: What about Israel?

"Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven".

“…they asked him, "Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?"
He said to them: "It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority”

The teaching of “replacement theology” is not new. It was stirring in the very early years of the church and it is possible that the book of Romans was written to address this issue with the climax of Paul’s argument coming in chapters 9-11 and particularly in chapter 11.

“Did God reject His people? NEVER!!!”

Romans was written to a church that had for a time been made up totally of gentile believers after all Jews had been forced out of Rome by the emperor Claudius. When Nero came to power he allowed the Jews to return, and Jewish believers had difficulty being accepted back into a church that considered their exile had been evidence that God had forsaken the Jews.

The idea that the church has replaced Israel as God’s people because of Jewish disobedience is categorically refuted by Paul in Romans. When he wrote NEVER in Romans 11, the word used was the strongest possible negative exclamation available to him in the Greek language (meganoita!).
Paul also clearly attacks the smugness of those who considered themselves as being those people who had allegedly replaced Israel in God’s affections. (“Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either”).

While Romans addresses a very early incarnation of “replacement theology” there can be no doubt that it is a belief system that refuses to go away, and it is widely held today; despite the historically unprecedented “resurrection” of a long dead nation (Israel) and its language (Hebrew) only 50 years ago.

Why should there be such contention over Israel and its continuing role in God’s purposes? Why are so many determined to dismiss Israel’s relevance despite the events of recent history in which a nation, totally dead and gone as a political entity, returned against the odds to become one of the world’s most powerful military forces; and to become a nation constantly at the centre of world attention. Has there ever been a time since 1948 when Israel, a tiny nation, has not been in the news? Would there be such a continuing obsession with a mere political entity, no matter how unlikely the renewed existence of that entity after 2000 years may seem?

In a previous post I addressed the matter of the “millennium” in Old Testament prophecies. Almost every Old Testament prophet foretold of a time when the nations would be ruled by a King from the throne of David in Zion. The issues of Israel’s continuing importance and the rule of this King are very much linked. It is therefore not surprising that “replacement theology” often goes hand in hand with “amillennialism” - a theology that denies the literal earthly reign of Christ after His return.

Israel is very much tied up with end time events and Satan knows that. He thought he could prevent fulfilment of Gods purposes by leading men to crucify Jesus – but his “victory” was short lived. Satan knows that Gods plans for THIS creation are heading towards an earthly kingdom ruled by God’s Son from the throne of David. Satan knows that the establishment of that earthly kingdom begins with him (satan) being imprisoned and stripped of his deceptive power, and will end with him being thrown into the lake of fire. It’s not surprising that he would try to prevent the establishment of that kingdom by removing Israel. And its not surprising that he would cause so much confusion about the events that mark his final destruction.

I tend to think that Satan’s attempt to destroy Jesus was to prevent the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel under the rule of the Messiah. By killing the Messiah, Satan thought he could stop the kingdom. But God’s plan involved an unexpected twist. The Messiah would come twice, first as a sacrifice then secondly as King to rule over the nations from His throne in Zion.

Satan’s misunderstanding played right into God’s hands. Instead of destroying God’s plans, the death of Jesus FULFILLED them. Satan knows he can no longer prevent God’s Kingdom by destroying the King, so his attention becomes focused on the nation from which the King will rule over the earth.
By turning the church against Israel Satan is trying to kill two birds with one stone. It turns the church away from God’s purposes while trying to rid the world of Israel. The final part of that attempt will come when the beast launches a massive “final solution” to rid the world of both church and Israel.

Paul made it clear that Israel has not been replaced by anyone. There are many statements in Romans 11 that should dismiss any doubt about Israel’s continued importance to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: the God of Israel.
But true to form, one of the clearest promises made specifically to Israel about its ongoing part in God’s purposes is most often quoted and applied to the church in a most inappropriate way.

“…for God's gifts and his call are irrevocable”. Instead of applying this to Israel, it is usually applied to disobedient “Christians” who still SEEM to be displaying Spiritual gifts. Implying that disobedient Christians can’t lose what they have been given – while Israel is portrayed as having lost their inheritance because of their disobedience. What a complete twisting of the context and the intended application of that promise regarding God’s relationship with Israel.

So what are we to do with Israel? Should Christians throw unconditional support behind the current political incarnation that goes by that name? Is that what God would have us do? Or does God require that we expect the same standard of righteousness that HE demands from His Israel?

It is clearly the latter - and the only way they can attain that standard of righteousness is through faith in His Son, their Messiah.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written:

"The deliverer will come from Zion;
he will turn godlessness away from Jacob.
And this is my covenant with them
when I take away their sins."
Rom 11:25-27


Daniel (Da Pilgrim) said...

Great post. The plans God has for Israel are plans He will bring about.

I went to Israel for a month and did a tour along with some voluntary work there. What an experience!

It is amazing to think that one day the Jews will know their Messiah again!
Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!

Vince said...

Onesimus, this is the first time I have visited your site and am amazed how you are saying the same things I have been. I couldnt agree more. There is only one thing where we differ and that is Rom. 11:29. When I read this in context it of course speaks of Israel, yet I see this verse also as a general statement that can also be taken as it is. That GODS gifts and HIS call are irrevocable. This scripture gives me hope, not to continue in sin but that GOD has made a call on me and that HE is faithful to see it through. I do believe that while a chapter or a book must be taken in context, there can also be general statements made one scripture at a time. I could possibly be wrong on this as I have before. Anyway, you make good sense in your deductions, and I find myself in much agreement with you. GOD BLESS!! Vince

Onesimus said...

G’Day Vince,
Of course, general statements that reveal the character and ways of God express a general truth that is always applicable. In the case of the statement in Romans 11:29, this is specifically addressing God’s faithfulness to Israel – but that does not in any way mean that the gifts and callings with which He has equipped the church are any less irrevocable. However those who cling to that promise for themselves very often DENY the intended context related to Israel.

I think it is also overlooked that the gifts and callings of God (in the same way as “election” and “the anointing”) are all IN CHRIST and THROUGH CHRIST. God’s gifts and calling come through Christ and are available in Him. We can not expect to retain any gift and calling if we do not remain in Him, therefore it is a mistake to think that those who have departed from the Lord will still be able to utilise Spiritual gifts as is often claimed.

Onesimus said...

Vince, thank you for your honest and open comment. At the moment I am withholding it from public view until I've had time to prayfully consider what you have said.

The last thing you need is a glib hurried response.

Bless you mate,

Onesimus said...

Could you please contact me direct via email (see my profile page) or send me your email address through a comment here (it will not be posted for all to see).