Friday, August 22, 2014

Israel an Illegitimate State?

I mentioned in a prior post that Peter Goodgame has adopted the New Exodus concept. This involves revising the relationship between Israel and the church. He suggested I take the time to understand where his analysis of the transition between the Old Covenant and New Covenant (NC) is leading him. I was invited to an email dialogue. However, I prefer this venue.

Peter says we shouldn't be smug in our personal understanding. There are so many views that "humility is the key so that we do not deceive ourselves." I agree. However, here's the red flag. He writes:

I'm going deeper, way deeper, and far beyond the "literal interpretation" of dispensationalism that I was raised on, upon which I based my Red Moon Rising book...I'm beginning to see that eschatology is like one big parable, and just like Jesus used parables to both DISGUISE and REVEAL the truth, I now feel that eschatology works the same way. A literal reading of prophecy, especially a literal reading of OT prophecy, actually DISGUISES the truth, and has contributed to the eschatological confusion that we see in the church today, and also to the widespread problem of Christians focusing on agendas and causes that have NOTHING to do with the GOSPEL or the KINGDOM OF GOD. (Underlining mine)

New Age teachers employ the same deeper meaning methodology. Paramahansa Yogananda extensively cited Scripture. His interpretations departed from the literal and were influenced by his assumptions and worldview. Goodgame was actually raised in a Seventh-day Adventist environment in his earlier years. SDA prophecy appeals to types and anti-types, allegory and symbolism. Adventism is rooted in Historicism (and White's prophecies). When someone says they're digging for deeper meaning, what they're often doing is piling their assumptions over plain-sense texts and changing the original intent of the author.

Prophecy isn't given for private interpretation (2 Peter 1:20). Paul commended the Bereans for searching out the Scriptures (Acts 17:11). Christ expected the disciples to understand what the prophets wrote about Him (Luke 24: 25-27). Robert L Thomas notes that there are some 278 OT allusions in Revelation (Revelation 1-7 p 40). We are told that Revelation was given for our blessing and understanding (Rev 1:3).

This contradicts the premise that one must delve deeper to derive a veiled meaning. The Emmaus Road Disciples might well have responded that they couldn't have understood the prophets because the texts disguised the truth.

Goodgame understands that God made a New Covenant promise to Israel. He assumes that, since Jer 31:31 was applied to Israel, the church must be its continuation to derive any benefit. Thus, if the church is the continuation of Israel then his New Exodus concept must be applied to the church rather than an "out of covenant" secular Israel. That is circular reasoning.

Paul Henebury observes the following:

Personally speaking, I don’t see why dispensationalists have pulled their hair out over the New Covenant. To me at least, the language of Luke 22:2, made as it was with those who were to become “foundations” of the church (see Eph.2:20), and repeated imperturbably by Paul in I Corinthians 11:25; when taken with the argument in Hebrews, decisively shows that Jesus, “the Mediator of the New Covenant”, made the New Covenant with the Church!  If one is expecting to find that truth in Jeremiah or Ezekiel then one is not a dispensationalist. Those prophets did not envisage “the Body of Christ,” so naturally they did not write about the relationship of the New Covenant to the Church.

Paul further notes:

Does this necessitate two separate new covenants? No indeed! It means only that the same new covenant was given to the Church as shall be given to Israel.  The New Covenant promises to Israel are not the New Covenant promises to the Church. (Underlining mine)

It's a leap of logic to assume that the same promises made to Israel apply to the church, or that they must be the same entity to derive any benefit. Supersessionists typically point to Rom 2:28-29 and Gal 3:28 where the context is salvation. Those verses do not remove gender or ethnic distinctions. That a true Jew is one who is circumcised within does not mean a saved Gentile becomes a Jew. Similarly Goodgame cites Zechariah 2:11 and concludes:

....that “many nations” will be joined to the Lord at this time and shall become the Lord’s people. In other words, many Gentiles will become Israelites when the Lord comes to dwell in Israel’s midst.

That's not what the verse says. Gentile nations who are God's people need not become Israelites. Goodgame reads into these passages what he presumes true.

In Isaiah 60, God warns of the consequences of Gentile nations and kingdoms not blessing Israel (note v12). Of those same nations, Zechariah 8:23 tells us that they will grab the sleeve of a Jewish man saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." Isaiah 19:25 states that in that day God will say, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance." There is no incorporation of Egypt and Assyria into Israel as God's people. They are treated as distinct to Israel (not Israelites), yet are still God's people.

Goodgame claims there is no Scriptural warrant for a "God-led Exodus of modern day ethnic Jews back to their ancient home in the Middle East." The only "God-led Exodus" is the "New Exodus" of nations out of "Babylon." He allows for some prophecies to be fulfilled by Israel today, but these are all negative.

For example, a Jewish Temple must be rebuilt in Jerusalem so that the Antichrist can fulfill the Abomination of Desolation. He's sure of that because he's studied it. One wonders how he could be certain given a literal interpretation disguises the truth. Then there's this:

Should we give these Jews weapons and support their violence against the former inhabitants? In other words, does their claim to possess the land still stand, even though they are out of covenant with God?  No way! Israel's legal right to the land was ALWAYS conditionally based on their observance of God's ETHICAL commandments. Modern Israel is so far from this that it isn't funny, and they have been apostate from the beginning when they claimed to be a nation in 1948. (Underlining mine)

How can Goodgame have his Temple without Israel's reformation? But one can see where all this is heading. The narrative isn't new. It is popular among some Neo-Premillennialists who make similar statements. Out-of-covenant Israel is an oppressive, unethical new-kid-on-the-block. The church is "true Israel."

Note that God did not make a covenant with Israel's neighbors either. And speaking of ethics, what do we say of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and Islamist regimes that oppress their civilians and conspire to destroy Israel? Do they have a better claim to the land?

Post-exilic Israel was not returned to the land because they repented. That occurred afterwards. Israel was returned because the 70 years of God's decree had expired. Moreover, its right to the land is unconditional and eternal (Jeremiah 7:7; 25:5; 31:31-37 and Amos 9:14-15). It is the enjoyment of it which is conditional. In Leviticus 26:27-33, God warned Israel that the consequences of disobedience would be discipline (see also Deut 4:40).

However, in Leviticus 26: 44-45, God said He would not reject them and would remember His covenant with them. God has not cast off His people whom He foreknew (Rom 11:1-2) because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29).

Scripture demands Israel's presence in the land prior to Christ's return. God promised to return the Jewish people in unbelief in order to purify them (Ezekiel 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:22-25; 37:1-4; Hosea 5:15). Zechariah also demands Israel's presence in the land as the nations come against it (Zech 12:3, 9; 14:2-5, 16).

Dispensationalists are often accused of privileging Israel to the point of idolatry, and not focusing on the Gospel of the kingdom. The proper response is to note that modern Israel isn't perfect but neither is it the oppressor that people like Goodgame claim it to be. We rejoice that God loves Israel and plans to redeem it. We see God's faithfulness to Israel reflected in our own lives.

As for the latter point, it might be observed that unfairly demonizing Israel is also detrimental to the Gospel of the kingdom. We might inquire as to what motivates such behavior. This is important in light of the rising global hatred against Jews. The typical excuse is that criticizing Israel is not tantamount to anti-Semitism. Yet the one-sided narrative we too often see contradicts that apology and inflames Jewish hatred.

Two of the most balanced treatments of this subject can be found in David Baron's Israel in the Plan of God and Michael Rydelnik's Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict. See also Israel The Land and the People, edited by H. Wayne House and Footsteps of the Messiah by Arnold Fruchtenbaum.

Keep an eye out for a new book edited by Darrell Bock and Mitch Glaser. It has contributions by Mike Vlach, John Feinberg, Michael Rydelnik and others.

Addendum:

One way to understand where Goodgame is now coming from is to look at the books he's reading. Of particular interest is Bill Johnson's theologically problematic When Heaven Invades Earth, which I bought soon after becoming a Christian. You can read a review of Johnson's book by Bob DeWaay HERE.

An excerpt:

Johnson warns against "a powerless Word." The only way God's Word lacks power is if we refuse to believe and obey it. Johnson suggests that he and others like him who refuse to be taught the truth but relish signs and wonders have "power." The rest of us who love and believe God's Word (from Scripture, understood according to the Holy Spirit inspired authors' intent) are supposedly powerless. Johnson's teaching is false and is abusive to the Lord's flock. Ordinary Christians who cannot replicate the miracles of Jesus and His apostles are relegated to a lesser category: powerless Christians to be pitied by elitists like Johnson.

He further cites Johnson:

Those who feel safe because of their intellectual grasp of Scriptures enjoy a false sense of security. None of us has a full grasp of Scripture, but we all have the Holy Spirit. He is our common denominator who will always lead us into truth. But to follow Him, we must be willing to follow off the map—to go beyond what we know. (Johnson: 76)

But where does following "off the map" take Johnson?

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