Monday, June 18, 2012

No Future Kingdom for Israel?

In my last post I addressed some comments by Doug Cox in regards to the relationship between Amos 9 and Acts 15 and the alleged throttling of dispensationalism. He’s since informed me that he’s responded to the Middle Town Bible Church article I had linked to.

Read it HERE.

In most of these cases, the thrust of the argument as to whether Jesus is currently sitting on David’s throne appears to be driven by supercessionism. If the church replaces Israel with Jesus currently on David’s throne then one can discard the physical nature of the OT promises, any prophetic relevance to national Israel and/or a future Messianic kingdom on earth. Some supercessionists insist these prophecies were fulfilled by Christ and the promises expanded upon, hence there’s no replacement theology involved. This isn’t the case. Jeremiah 31 promised both salvation and physical land promises to Israel. Jesus’ sacrifice enabled these promises to be fulfilled as given to the prophets.

My first observation is that Mr. Cox doesn’t deal with God’s promises to Israel nor the statements by Kaiser, Jelinek etc. He continues his argument utilizing texts which don’t fundamentally support his view when all is considered (Isaiah 2:2; Isaiah 22:22; Isaiah 33:5; Psalm 132:13; Heb 12:22; Eph 2:6; Luke 1:32; Rev 3:7).

He concludes:

“Dispensationalists do not comprehend this; only when Jesus opens their minds are they able to comprehend it. This is likely an example of what Jesus meant, when he said of himself, that he is the one that “openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth.” The minds of some people are opened, by Jesus, while the minds of others are closed to spiritual truths.”

Let me attempt to (perhaps awkwardly) reframe the issue from a dispie perspective. God made a number of specific promises to a particular ethnic group that included a parcel of land on the earth – not located in heaven. These promises were not just spiritual but also physical. The OT is saturated with them. God promised that Israel would be forgiven despite what they’d done, that they’d be returned to their land (Israel-Jerusalem-Zion) in unbelief where they’d be given a new heart under The New Covenant and never to be removed from that land again (Jer 31:31-37; Ezek 20:33-38, 36:25-28 and Amos 9:14-15).

In doing so, God intends to vindicate His holy name among the nations (Ezek 36: 16-38).

Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day, The ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night, Who disturbs the sea, And its waves roar (The LORD of hosts is His name): If those ordinances depart From before Me, says the LORD, Then the seed of Israel shall also cease From being a nation before Me forever. Thus says the LORD: If heaven above can be measured, And the foundations of the earth searched out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel For all that they have done, says the LORD. Jer 31:35-37

Could it be any plainer? Can there be a better example of an iron-clad assurance? The church is not the subject – it’s the house of Israel and the house of Judah. If God can renege there, then how can the Christian trust Him to be faithful elsewhere? See also Psalm 89:3-4, 19-37; Heb 6:17-18. God’s word and faithfulness is the issue here.

Just before His ascension, Jesus’ disciples asked Him when the kingdom of Israel was to be restored (Acts 1:3-7). This was after He had spent 40 days speaking to them “about things concerning the kingdom of God.” Of course, this is the NT (which re-interprets the OT) and Jesus immediately opened their minds by telling them that all those physical promises made in the OT aren’t meant to be taken literally. He told them something like, “I know what you think I said back then, but I was speaking allegorically and, besides, what Israel has just done is the last straw. Haven’t you been listening these past 40 days?” (See Acts 1:7)

There certainly is a connection between Rev 3:7 and Isaiah 22:22, yet that only reinforces the fact that the Davidic Covenant involved physical promises (as did the new covenant). In “The Greatness of the Kingdom” (p 440) Alva McClain notes:

“There is an interesting parallel in the career of King David, great ancestor of our Lord Jesus Christ. When David was chosen of God and anointed as king of Israel (I Sam 16:1, 13), he did not immediately occupy the throne. For a time he was actually a fugitive in the wilderness, pursued by Saul whose regal rights had been abrogated (I Sam 15:28), and who therefore continued to hold the throne solely as a usurper...Later, when Saul’s rule was ended by defeat and death, the kingdom of David was established over Israel, the event being definitely marked by services of anointing (II Sam 2:4, 5:3). Similarly, at His first coming our Lord was exalted to be both Lord and Messianic King (Acts 2:36); but not until His second coming will He establish His Kingdom on earth as the rightful successor to the throne of His father David.”

Earlier (p 329), McClain points out that the Kingdom and reign of the saints are said to be in the future and on the earth (Rev 5:10; Matt 13:41-43; Luke 19:12, 17, 19). Compare also Heb 2:8 & Rev 11:15. If reigning with Christ is still future (Rev 2:26-28; 3:12, 21 – note the two different thrones) then what do we make of Eph 2:6? McClain (p 435) notes that, “Although we are not yet de facto seated in the heavenlies, the thing is so certain that God can speak of it as already done.” On p 436 he cites examples where Christians are said to be in possession of something not yet realized (e.g. 1Cor 3:31-22). Also compare 1 Thess 2:12 with 1 John 3:2 and 1Pet 5:10, and 1 Pet 1:5, 9.

On pp 437-438 McClain cites Samuel J Andrews’ “God’s Revelations of Himself”:

“It is as its Head that He [Christ] rules over it [the Church], not as its King; for this latter title is never used of this relation...As Jehovah was absolute ruler always over all nations, and yet was not the theocratic King of any till the election of Israel, so the Lord Jesus became the “Prince of the Kings of the earth” at His ascension, but does not yet stand in immediate kingly relations to any one people...”

And this:

“Had it been the purpose of God to set the Son at His ascension as the King of the nations, He would have in some way made His kingship so plain that the nations could not have been ignorant of it, and the duty of allegiance and homage.”

On pp 291-293 of “Future Israel”, Barry Horner notes that although Abraham looked for a better, heavenly country – the vital point is how a Hebrew perceives that expression:

“Thus Abraham’s hope was eschatological, but certainly not in the sense of the superiority of heaven above compared with earth below, of the superiority of the spiritual over the material. Rather his hope was of the future messianic age, the millennial kingdom in which heaven would be manifest on earth and residence there would be gloriously holy, permanent. Consequently George Peters explains this perspective as follows.”

“Evidently that which misleads the multitude in this matter is the statement of the apostle (Heb. 11:16), that “they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly.” Commentators, as Barnes, Bloomfield, etc., overlooking entirely the Theocratic relationship that this country (i.e. Palestine) is to occupy in the Kingdom of God, at once conclude that this “heavenly” country is the third heaven. They forget that this phraseology would not mislead a Hebrew, who was accustomed to designate the restored Davidic Kingdom a heavenly Kingdom, and the country enjoying its restoration and Theocratic blessings, a heavenly country. The expression does not mean “the third heaven,” but something that pertains to, or partakes of, the heavenly, as heavenly vision, body, calling, etc.”
~ George Peters The Theocratic Kingdom, I, p. 295.

Dispies recognize that Christ rules in the church today (See the Mediatorial Kingdom In The Epistles chap 25, The Greatness of the Kingdom) and Arnold Fructhenbaum’s Israelology p 610. But that isn’t the Messianic kingdom. McClain points out there are two Jerusalems – one on earth and one in heaven (Gal 4:25-26; Heb 12:22). He adds:

“Now the Old Testament prophets speak of a city which, in the coming Kingdom, shall be reclaimed from Gentile power, rebuilt, restored to the historic nation of Israel, and made the religious center of the world. This Jerusalem cannot be the “heavenly Jerusalem” for that city is impeccably holy, the eternal dwelling of the true God, and has never been marred by human sin and rebellion....” (p 244)

McClain cites the following notable verses regarding earthly Jerusalem: Isaiah 1:21, 26; 60:14, 18; 62:3, 7; Zech 8:3 and Jer 31:6. Also compare Zech 14 with Rev 20 & 21. In “A Case For Premillennialism – A New Consensus” John H Sailhamer writes of Isaiah 2:1-5:

“There are several features of the passage that suggest the vision was meant to be taken literally and physically, that is, that Isaiah is here looking forward to the physical restoration of Jerusalem and reign of the Messiah on earth in the “Last days”.” (p 95)

Sailhamer goes on to expound that position, answering objections, and concludes:

“Historically, it is hard to understand Israel’s prophets any other way than they longed for a physical, that is, earthly, reestablishment of the Davidic monarchy. The fact that prophetic books such as Isaiah continued as Scripture long after the postexilic period shows that their reference looked far beyond any temporal fulfillment within Israel’s own immediate history. If our goal is to describe the reference of Isaiah’s visions as he would have understood them, we can only hope to do so by playing close attention to the sense of those visions as they are given us in the book of Isaiah. That sense, as we have suggested in this chapter, fits best in the context of an earthly reign of Christ in Jerusalem as a precursor to the eternal state.”

One only need look at a sampling of OT texts to appreciate that Sailhamer is correct (Isaiah 11:1-16, 27:1-13, 35:1,10, 59:15-21, 62:4-7, 66:10-20; Ezekiel 20:33-44, 28:25-26, 37:1-28 (see esp. vv 26-28), Ezekiel 39:21-29 (see esp. vv 27-29); Hosea 2:14-23; Joel 3: 18-21; Obadiah 17,21; Micah 4:6-7, 7:14-20; Zephaniah 3:14-20; Zechariah 8:7-8).

Finally, even progressive dispensationalists who contend that Jesus is currently sitting on David’s throne in some vague “already-not-yet” (ANY) phase understand that the Davidic Covenant still awaits ultimate fulfillment. Dispensationalists disagree with PD’s ANY stance. For those interested in a refutation of ANY, I strongly recommend Ron Bigalke’s “Progressive Dispensationalism – An Analysis of the Movement and Defense of Traditional Dispensationalism” (esp. chapters 5 & 9).

Further reading:

George N H Peters, The Theocratic Kingdom


Paul Henebury - Christ at the Center (Pt.2a)


John Walvoord - The Fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant

Mike Vlach - Acts 1:6-7


Bible Study & Exposition by Barry Horner

Lynda O's - Shepherd’s Conference: Matt Waymeyer on Revelation 20

Note that Matt Waymeyer has written a superb booklet entitled "Revelation 20 and the Millennial Debate". It packs a great deal of information with extensive endnotes and bibliography.

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