Sunday, December 19, 2010

Church age overlap?

Was there an overlapping of the Church Age and the Old Testament economy? Discussions along this line arise when the idea is put forward by “some” dispies that during the 7 year Tribulation; Grace will give way to Law again. In other words, this Age of Grace is an “interruption” in God’s plan for Israel. When that plan resumes, the Church won’t be there.

I’m eminently unqualified to make any emphatic or really informed comments regarding the Dispensation of Daniel’s 70th week and there seems to be debate among dispies regarding this anyway. However, I do think there are clues in Revelation that suggest that something has changed.

As an example, angels seal the 144, 000 – it's not performed by the Holy Spirit. The cry of the 5th seal martyrs for vengeance seems to be at odds with what we’d expect from “gracious” Church saints. One of the arguments posited for the Church going through the Tribulation is that it needs to be “refined”…

“When Jesus returns, He is coming back for a Bride “without spot or wrinkle” (Eph. 5:27). Can we truly say that if He returned today, the entire body of believers could be described as “without spot”? The seals are a time of refinement by fire so that the Bride may be presented blameless before Him. While the Church may be positionally righteous before God, this is a far cry from being without spot.”

Apart from the theological problems inherent within that statement - in light of Rev 6:10 we might ask, does refinement produce vengeful saints? And pity about the vast majority who miss out on that “refining” process by dying before the Tribulation!

In an attempt to debunk that Dispensational argument for the Church being absent, some argue that there was an overlap when the Church was birthed and the Temple was destroyed in 70 AD. Following on from that, then the same can be said that during the 7 year Tribulation we can have an overlap where the Church is present as God judges Israel.

“…it would be impossible to defend the position that a Jewish man, living in Jerusalem, who was deemed righteous and acceptable before God under the Old Testament economy the day before Christ died, was, the day after Christ’s death, unrighteous and rejected.” Marvin Rosenthal

This isn’t a valid objection and it misses the point entirely. It’s also a straw man argument because it puts words into the Dispensational mouth. The hypothetical man’s salvation is speculation and a matter between himself and God. What is beyond doubt, however, is that there was no more need for the Old Testament economy’s rules relating to that salvation.

The destruction of the Temple in 70 AD had nothing to do with the cessation of the “Old Testament economy”. Once Christ died for our sins, any Temple sacrifice became obsolete. There is no overlap. A Jew offering a sacrifice in the Temple - after Christ’s work on the cross - was simply wasting his time. That sacrifice ceased to be officially acknowledged.

It’s true that God is currently working with Israel. He has brought a certain number of Israelites back into the land and has set up His “chess pieces” for the Final Week. However, it is called Daniel’s 70th week and that means Israel.

While some argue that “your people” in Dan 9:24 includes the Church and that the Tribulation saints are the Church, some of these also believe in a rapture that occurs during the 70th week where Israel gets left behind. A consistent reading of Dan 7:25 and Rev 13:5-7 would seem to be a problem for that view. There are other complications with blurring distinctions between Israel and the Church and the issues are more complex than some may realize.

But if there are seventy weeks allotted to Israel and there is an overlap where God works simultaneously with the Church and Israel then what makes the 70th week what it is? Again, if God is now working with the Church but also with Israel then what defines the 70th week and how is it different to the status quo?

I suspect that it’s not a matter of whether God can deal with Israel and the Church simultaneously during Daniel’s 70th week. It’s more a matter of the purpose for the Tribulation. One of those purposes is to put Israel through a process where the nation will be redeemed.

That has nothing to do with the Church.

While not intending to be dogmatic, I believe the Dispensational view is the most consistent in dealing with these issues.


Michael Henderson said...

Concerning Rosenthal's statement, "“…it would be impossible to defend the position that a Jewish man, living in Jerusalem, who was deemed righteous and acceptable before God under the Old Testament economy the day before Christ died, was, the day after Christ’s death, unrighteous and rejected.”"

Sounds to me like he is trying play on emotions. As a christian i wish none to perish. The emotional argument is the same one used by universalists. If a man is "good" he but doesn't trust Jesus, his goddness will get him to heaven. Or other religions have their "Roads to Rome" why should Christianity be exclusive? The fact is as you say. On the day Christ died there was no more a sacrifice necessary except Himself. Jesus, told the story of the Rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16 and stated in vs. 29b "‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’" In another place he stated,

"But you do not have His word abiding in you, because whom He sent, Him you do not believe. You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life." (John 5:38-40 NKJV)

My premise is simply they had the same OT we have and were looking for the coming of the Messiah. They even knew where He was foretold to be born, as they told the Magi. The weight of whether a good law keeping Jewish person would still be able to have eternal life if he/she rejected Christ or never heard of Christ rests somewhat on their own shoulders. They have the Law and Prophets which told of the coming of Christ. It is their own Law and Scripture that would be their judge.

In Christ

Alf Cengia said...

Thanks for your thoughts, Mike. When I get back to the US I plan on getting a hold of your new book.

In Christ.