We have stated in our last two posts concerning “Israel’s Prophetic Future” that to have a proper and correct end-time doctrine one of the things we must recognize is Israel’s Covenant right to the land. God sovereignly chose a man, that man was Abram (Abraham). Through that man He promised to make of Him and his descendants a mighty nation (Israel and the Jewish people), and to those people He promised a land. This was a promise of a literal, physical piece of real estate, the borders of which are clearly laid out in scripture [See Gen. 15:18 – 20; Deut. 34:1 – 12; Josh. 15:1, 2]. They have never actually possessed all that the LORD promised them. They came the closest during the United Kingdom period under King David. Ezekiel declared that Israel will indeed possess all of the land in the coming Kingdom Age [See Ezek. 47:15 – 20; Ezek. 48:1; Ezek. 48:28].
Some may argue at this point, “Yes, the land was promised to the descendants of Abram through Isaac and Jacob, and their descendants. However, they forfeited that right when they rebelled and got off into idolatry and were driven from the land and carried off into captivity.” That seems like a scriptural argument, doesn’t it? Did not the Lord say, Ye shall therefore keep all my statutes, and all my judgments, and do them: that the land, whither I bring you to dwell therein, spue you not out? [Lev. 20:22 In this connection also see Deut. 29:23 – 28]] Israel’s being driven from the land certainly was a penalty of the broken law. During the Divided Kingdom period the Northern 10 tribes were carried off into captivity to the Assyrians never to return to the land. Her Southern brethren, Judah; comprised of the tribes of Judah and Benjamin, were eventually carried off to Babylon, where they would remain for some 70 years. Some may think that was the end of the story, but it was not.
Jeremiah was an exile Prophet. In other words, he prophesied during Judah’s exile to Babylon. He declared prophetically the exact period of time that Judah would be in Babylon. He said, And this whole land shall be a desolation, and an astonishment; and these nations shall serve the king of Babylon seventy years. And it shall come to pass, when seventy years are accomplished, that I will punish the king of Babylon, and that nation, saith the LORD, for their iniquity, and the land of the Chaldeans, and will make it perpetual desolations. [Jer. 25:11, 12] He further stated, For thus saith the LORD, That after seventy years be accomplished at Babylon I will visit you, and perform my good word toward you, in causing you to return to this place. [Jer. 29:10] We know, interestingly enough, that at the end of the seventy years God moved on the heart of a Gentile King, Cyrus, to issue a decree for the Jews to return to the land and rebuild their Temple. This would make the seventy year period probably beginning in the fourth year of Jehoiakim’s reign when Jerusalem was first captured and the Temple treasures taken. It ended, again, with the decree of Cyrus to let the Jews return. This would put the seventy year period spanning from 605/04 B.C. – 536/35 B.C. The exact number of Sabbath years is 490 years, or the period from Saul to the Babylonian captivity. This would be direct retribution for their violation of the Sabbath Law. [See Lev. 26:34, 35; 2 Chr. 36:21]
At any rate, the point is, even though they were driven from the Land they were brought back. Why is that? Because they did not receive the land on the basis of their adherence to the Law. Another way to say it would be that they did not receive the promise of the land on the basis of the Mosaic Covenant. Israel’s prophetic future is connected directly to two separate Covenants: The Abrahamic and the Davidic. In other words, covenant promises given to both Abraham and David concerning their descendants. Both Covenants were everlasting covenants, both were unconditional. For example,
the Bible says with respect to David’s descendants, I have made a covenant with my chosen, I have sworn unto David my servant, Thy seed will I establish for ever, and build up thy throne to all generations. Selah. His seed also will I make to endure for ever, and his throne as the days of heaven. If his children forsake my law, and walk not in my judgments; If they break my statutes, and keep not my commandments; Then will I visit their transgression with the rod, and their iniquity with stripes. Nevertheless my lovingkindness will I not utterly take from him, nor suffer my faithfulness to fail. My covenant will I not break, nor alter the thing that is gone out of my lips. Once have I sworn by my holiness that I will not lie unto David. His seed shall endure for ever, and his throne as the sun before me. It shall be established for ever as the moon, and as a faithful witness in heaven. Selah. [Ps. 89:3, 4; 29 – 37]
There is one seated this very moment seated at the right hand of the Father, the Lord Jesus Christ, a descendant according to the flesh of David, who will indeed sit on that Throne and reign in the coming Kingdom Age. The Covenant that God made with David may have been conditional in one or more generations, but it will be absolutely unconditional in the end. [See Ezek. 37:24 – 28] Israel will come into all that was given to them by Covenant in the Kingdom Age. They will step into all that they were given by promise. The literal physical land of Israel, and the literal physical city of Jerusalem will be theirs throughout the 1,000 year Kingdom Age and in the Perfect Age to come throughout eternity. Why am I stressing the literal physical nature of the land of Israel and the city of Jerusalem? Because Replacement Theology and amillennialism have made such inroads into the Christian Church. In so doing, those affected by these doctrines have sought to spiritualize and allegorize the Covenant promises of the land of Israel, and particularly the city of Jerusalem.
One popular internet blogger and author of two anti-rapture books postulates that the New Jerusalem that will descend from Heaven at the beginning of the kingdom Age is actually the “Promised Land” spoken of in many scriptures. He states that no piece of real estate in the Middle East was ever intended to be the Promised Land. He sites Genesis 12:1 – 7 and concludes from the promise that through Abram and his descendants all nations of the earth would be blessed , that God’s intention was to bless all peoples, Jew and Gentile, with a land; a heavenly country, hence the New Jerusalem. That portion of the promise did not concern the land, but rather the “Seed” of Abram (Abraham), whom we know from Paul’s letter to the Galatians was Christ, not a land. [See Gal. 3:13, 14] The “blessing of Abraham” here is justification by faith, which indeed all receive by faith in Christ. In the same article he cites Gen. 13:14, 15 and correctly notes after the separation of Abram and his nephew Lot that the LORD instructs Abram, And the LORD said unto Abram, after that Lot was separated from him, Lift up now thine eyes, and look from the place where thou art northward, and southward, and eastward, and westward: For all the land which thou seest, to thee will I give it, and to thy seed for ever. [Gen. 13:14, 15] He correctly identifies this as the former land of the Canaanites, Hittites, Amorites, Jebusites, and Girgashites. He notes that this land was indeed promised to Abram and his descendants forever. The dear brother next makes a mistake in his hermeneutic that is commonly made by adherents to Covenant Reformed theology, namely that the land promises to Israel have already been fulfilled.
Those who hold to this view typically quote Joshua 21:43 – 45; 1 Kings 4:21; 8:56; and Nehemiah 9:7, 8. From these passages, and a few others, they conclude that Israel has already possessed all the Lord promised them. Since the author I am referring to here only quotes the Nehemiah passage in his article, I will refer to it. The passage in question states, Thou art the LORD the God, who didst choose Abram, and broughtest him forth out of Ur of the Chaldees, and gavest him the name of Abraham; And foundest his heart faithful before thee, and madest a covenant with him to give the land of the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Amorites, and the Perizzites, and the Jebusites, and the Girgashites, to give it, I say, to his seed, and hast performed thy words; for thou art righteous:[Neh. 9:7, 8] My Covenant Reformed brethren conclude by this that the land promises to Israel were fulfilled when the Jews returned from Babylon. Is that the case? I submit to you, it is not. Why do I say that? In the passages cited by the dear brother I am alluding to, and others who would teach Covenant Reformed theology I believe we can draw some important conclusions: 1). First, the language is straight forward and clear that it is physical land God has in mind to give Abraham and his descendants. In fact, the land is identified with the “land of the Canaanites,” the geographic area that becomes the land occupied by the Jews and known as Israel. 2). Second, nothing in the language suggests that God meant anything other than physical territory when He promised the land to Abraham. In other words, God was not telling Abraham, “I will give this land to you and your descendants, but really it’s just a type for heaven, so don’t take my words in a “wooden, literal fashion.”As far as Abraham is concerned, he believed he was being promised the possession of physical territory that he and his descendants will occupy forever. 3). Adding to that last point, God says several times that He gives the land to Abraham and his descendants “forever.” Moreover, in Genesis 17:7, 8, this covenant promise is described as an “everlasting” covenant and the land is described as an “everlasting possession.” Now, if we take the words “forever” and “everlasting” in their normal meaning, they describe something that is “forever” and “everlasting.” Thus, no matter if Israel’s possession of the land is interrupted due to their disobedience and the people are removed from the land, the idea of “everlasting” means God will come through with the fulfillment of His promise and restore them at some future point.
With regard to the Nehemiah 9:7, 8 passage we see a couple of things occurring. First, we see the people begin to praise God and to acknowledge Him. They first acknowledge Him as the Creator of the Universe and the various forms of life in the Universe. Secondly, they talk of the faithfulness of God. He created a nation, beginning with Abraham and made promises to Abraham to give his seed this land of Canaan. God has fulfilled that promise. They acknowledge that God is a faithful God. Does this mean there are no future land promises to Israel and the Jewish people? Certainly not. To suggest otherwise is to apply eisegesis as opposed to exegesis to the scriptures. Or one could say a future, literal interpretation,as opposed to a spiritual, heavenly fulfillment. It boils down to, as I see it, whether or not one believes the clear Word of God or insist on spinning it and twisting it to fit their own agenda and preconceived prejudices and bias.
On that note, we do see a great deal of teaching geared toward establishing a particular agenda, and this especially seems to be true in the area of Bible prophecy. In saying this I want to make it clear that I am not referring to those who hold to a different view of the timing of prophetic events than I do. There is enough ambiguity in the prophetic texts to allow for some difference of opinion among sincere brethren. If we are going to be intellectually honest, I think we have to admit that we don’t know exactly how prophetic events will play out in the final analysis. We can, and should, study the prophetic Word and in so doing we can ascertain certain scenarios; however in the end it is really only the Lord Himself who perfectly knows and understands exactly how all of this will play out. In the words of the late Walter Martin (whom by the way was a post-tribulation believer), “Eschatology is peripheral theology.” What does that mean? Simply that our views on end-time prophecy should not be the basis of our fellowship with other believers. I have friends in pretty much every “camp” with regard to prophecy. That does not mean that I am “wishy-washy” with respect to my convictions, but that I can extend grace to those who may not agree with me.
There is a group however, and I might add a growing group of individuals, who teach, at least it would appear so; from a vantage point of an agenda. They seem to have an “ax to grind”, they have to use a colloquial, “A dog in the hunt.” They write books and BLOG posts and in so doing accuse those of us who teach a pre-tribulation rapture of the Church as being a part of some vast conspiracy to deceive the Church with the “lie” of a promise of an escape from the future Great Tribulation. They will even accuse us of being “afraid” or not believing God is powerful enough to take us safely through the Tribulation. They say things like the pre-tribulation rapture is a “new” teaching fist given to the Church through a young Scottish woman by the name of Margaret McDonald, who in turn gave it to John Nelson Darby, and consequently it was picked up by C.I. Scofield who popularized the theory through the notes in his study Bible, with the rest being as it were, history. This elaborate theory as to the origin of the pre-tribulation rapture view is easily refuted, and I will do so in a future installment. I bring all of this up this time to mention that these are the same individuals who are writing the articles stating that the “Promised Land” was not and is not the physical land promised to Abraham and his descendants by an everlasting Covenant, but was rather a picture of the future New Jerusalem and a general blessing on all nations, Jew and Gentile alike. There is a connection between the two, anti-rapture and anti-Jew.
- RECOGNIZE THE ROLE OF MODERN ISRAEL IN END-TIME PROPHECY
Here too is a point that many in the Christian Church have very strong opinions about. While there is growing support among Bible-believing Evangelical Christians for Israel and the Jewish people especially among North American Christians, there is still a fairly vocal group within Christendom who are very much anti-Israel. These are typically found in the more liberal branch of the Christian Church, and in a few groups who are geared to conspiracy theories and who preach what I refer to as, “Tabloid Eschatology.” Some pretty strong statements have been made by these individuals. For example, Preterist Gary North has boasted that he has a book already in his computer for when, “Israel gets pushed into the sea, or converted to Christ.” [From a personal letter from Gary North to Peter Lalonde] Lutheran radio host Don Matzat has stated, “The present-day nation of Israel is no more involved in God’s plans for the future than is France, England, Germany, the United States, etc. The teaching of the New Testament is very clear—Jesus fulfilled everything pertaining to Israel and formed the New Israel.” [Don Matzat – “The Great Pre-Millienial HOAX”, Issues, Etc. Journal]
The anti-Jew vitriol is probably the most vicious though from author and Bible teacher Texe Marrs. Among other things Mr. Marrs asserts that the Jews are not God’s chosen people, but rather Christians are. He sees the modern state of Israel as not being a work of divine grace, but rather a vast anti-American conspiracy involving agents of the shadow government funded by the Rothschild family, Wall Street bankers, and assorted other socialist revolutionaries. While I readily acknowledge that much covert activity is going on at high levels of government and finance, I reject the anti-Semitic statements of Texe Marrs and others of his ilk. They are on the lunatic fringe of Christianity at best, and in my opinion should not be read , listened to, or be taken seriously.
What is the role of modern Israel in God’s prophetic plan? I want to take that subject on in greater detail next time.