Tuesday, December 13, 2022

Conclusion to Messiah's Lecture on Israel - Larry Pettegrew etc

These are the concluding thoughts from Larry Pettegrew's chapter (The Messiah's Lecture on the Future of Israel) of Forsaking Israel. I highly recommend the book, and especially the first chapter: The Curious Case of the Church Fathers and Israel. I've touched on this topic before and will revisit it at some point.  

The Conclusion...

The Olivet Discourse is a majestic lecture presented by the Messiah in which He outlines Israel's future in the age between Israel's recent rejection of Him and the Second Coming when Israel finally embraces her Messiah. Supersessionists, including posttribulationists, argue that the lecture is about the church and the rapture, not Israel and the Second Coming. The disciples, they say, represent the church, and so the lecture must be about the future of the church. But the correct interpretation of this passage is not settled by whom the disciples represent. The questions that the disciples ask at the beginning of the Discourse settle it. Do they ask about the future of the church or the future of Israel? Clearly, they ask about the future of Israel in relationship to her temple, Messiah, and kingdom. And thus Christ answers these questions. [bold mine]

This does not mean that the discourse has no application to the church. All Scripture is profitable to all believers for doctrine. reproof, correction, and instruction in righteousness. But Jesus Christ is not teaching some form of replacement theology in this lecture. Israel's Messiah knows that Israel's story has not ended ~ Larry Pettegrew

Dr. Pettegrew mentioned posttribulationists, but the same may be said of leading Prewrath Rapturists. Consider the following statements.

Robert Van Kampen,

...it is my firm conviction that the Olivet Discourse is written for the church, and that its application is to believers and not to unsaved Israel which, by definition, has no interest whatsoever in the New Testament or its warnings concerning the unbelieving nation of Israel. (The Sign p 487, Revised Edition 1993)

This is what I wrote in a previous article:

In recent years Alan Hultberg (Three Views on the Rapture) wrote that, Jesus in some way has replaced Israel; that He “fulfills the role of Israel itself.” Hultberg wrote, “Thus for Matthew, to belong to Israel one must belong to the Messiah, Jesus.” He concluded that Jesus had rejected Israel as a whole...In Hultberg’s view, Matthew views the church as in a sense “the inheritor of the Jewish Kingdom.” Regarding that last statement Dr. Larry D. Pettegrew notes that that would mean Jesus was a supersessionist. For more, see page 279 in the book edited by Pettegrew, “Forsaking Israel.” [End quote]

Even where such extremes (?) aren't adopted, proponents cherry pick. For example, they'll note the Greek word for gathering (episunago) in Matt 24:31, and point to Paul's use of it in 2 Thess 2. So they conclude that this is the rapture of the church. But they forget that Christ used the same term in Matt 23 for Israel's gathering. 

We're told that God can simultaneously work with Israel and the church, so there's no reason He can't continue to do so throughout Daniel's 70th Week. Yet PW has the church removed (At the worst possible time?) while Israel endures the continuing Great Tribulation, plus God's wrath. See my brief comment on that logic HERE.

See also Dispensationalism: A Step Up for the Israel of God.

P.S. I note that Escahtos Ministries is hosting Alan Hultberg's response to Larry Pettegrew HERE. Hultberg denies that he's supersessionistic. I intend to make a few observations soon.


Coincidentally, after I published this post, Hultberg was invited to respond to Pettegrew on Eschatos' website. I invite readers to read his comments, and if possible his PW contribution to the book, Three Views on the Rapture. Hultberg aimed to defend against the possible charge of supersessionism. He admits to using supersessionist (Jesus is True Israel) language when commenting on Matthew, but denies holding to Replacement Theology. He writes, 

...my point was that Matthew does not envisage the radical discontinuity between the church and Israel that classic dispensationalists require to apply the Olivet Discourse (and the Sermon on the Mount!) to Israel and not to the church. Rather, Matthew understands the church to be in continuity with Israel, though not itself a replacement of Israel. The church of Jew and Gentile is a proleptic or inaugurated version of the messianic kingdom. (Bold mine)

In Three Views, Progressive Dispensationalist Craig Blaising makes the following comment of Hultberg's position,

I was somewhat surprised by Hultberg’s claim that “for Matthew the church is viewed as in some sense the inheritor of the Jewish kingdom.” Once again, this is inconsistent with Hultberg’s self-identification as a “progressive dispensationalist.”

But what exactly is "radical discontinuity"? I recommend Continuity and Discontinuity edited by John Feinberg. It discusses the subject in several key areas. Notably, Progressive Dispensationalist Robert L. Saucy argues in favor of discontinuity regarding Israel and the church. Mike Vlach's blog is helpful HERE

Perhaps I'm being unfair but I sense some equivocation. Hultberg blurs the identity of the Matthew 24 audience in order to defend the PW position by using supersessionist language. It's interesting that he mentions Israel's re-gathering and redemption. Yet he doesn't see Matt 24:31 as its fulfillment, despite Matt 23:37-39. PW requires Matt 24:21-22, 31 to apply to the church. If Israel is to be gathered in the future, which verses apply to it? How is it accomplished, and why wouldn't it be mentioned after Matt 23:37-39?

Another recommended book is Michael Vlach's The Old in the New. For example he compares Zech 12 with Matt 24:30: Persecution of the Jews in Israel (Zech 12:1-2 and Matt 24:15-22); The LORD comes on behalf of Israel (Zech 12:8-9 and Matt 24:29-30); Mourning (repentance) of families of Israel (Zech 12:10-14 and Matt 24:30).

How do we understand verses such as Hos 5:15 and Matt 23:39 (second-coming prerequisites) and the above in light of the church? Does the church mourn at the coming of Matt 24:30-31? Do these passages apply to it? How did the Jewish disciples understand v 31 (gathering) in light of Acts 1:6? Were they looking for the rapture?

Finally, while Hultberg attempted a defense of his stance, Pettegrew's case against PW's view of Matt 24 wasn't addressed.

For further consideration see Dr. Reluctant's Replacement Theology series. Also Mike Vlach's Variations within Supersessionism; What Does Christ as True Israel mean for the nation of Israel?; and Various Forms of Replacement Theology.

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