“And yet for all that, when they be in the land of their enemies, I will not cast them away, neither will I abhor them, to destroy them utterly, and to break my covenant with them: for I am the LORD their God” (Leviticus 26:44).
“For I am with thee, saith the LORD, to save thee: though I make a full end of all nations whither I have scattered thee, yet will I not make a full end of thee: but I will correct thee in measure, and will not leave thee altogether unpunished” (Jer. 30:11).
“Hear the word of the LORD, O ye nations, and declare it in the isles afar off, and say, He that scattered Israel will gather him, and keep him, as a shepherd doth his flock. For the LORD hath redeemed Jacob, and ransomed him from the hand of him that was stronger than he. Therefore they shall come and sing in the height of Zion, and shall flow together to the goodness of the LORD, for wheat, and for wine, and for oil, and for the young of the flock and of the herd: and their soul shall be as a watered garden; and they shall not sorrow any more at all” (Jer. 31:10-12).
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: Afterward shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days” (Ho. 3:4-5).
Replacement Theology is the doctrine that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan.
The apostle Paul taught the early churches that God’s covenants with Israel do not belong to the church and will yet be fulfilled. Consider the following clear teaching from Romans 11 which answers the question, “Hath God cast away his people?”
- Paul answers the question, “Hath God cast away his people?” with an emphatic expression of negation, “God forbid.”
- Paul proves that God has not permanently cast away Israel by the fact that there is presently a remnant, of which he is a member (Ro. 11:1-5). The nation Israel is preserved before God through the believing remnant. This has always been the true Israel (Ro. 9:6-8).
- The present fall of Israel has a divine purpose, that of bringing salvation to the Gentiles, and Israel’s fall is not permanent but will end in their fulness (Ro. 11:11-12).
- The same Israel that has been cast away will be reconciled (Ro. 11:15).
- Israel is likened to an olive tree. Branches have been broken off, but the tree remains (Ro. 11:17-24). When Israel ceases to abide in unbelief, they will be saved or “graffed into their own olive tree.”
- Israel’s present blindness will only last until the end of the church age “until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in” (Ro. 11:25).
- Israel will be saved at the coming of Christ and God’s covenant will be fulfilled in them (Ro. 11:26-27). Paul gives a general reference to the New Covenant which is God’s promise to convert Israel and forgive her sin and give her a new heart of obedience (Jer. 31:31-34; 32:38-40). In that day, “there shall be a fountain opened to the house of David and to the inhabitants of Jerusalem for sin and for uncleanness” (Zec. 13:1).
As the apostasy grew during the early centuries after the apostles during the era of the “church fathers,” the clear apostolic teaching about Israel was rejected.
Following is a brief survey of this from The Coming Apocalypse by Renald Showers:
Justin Martyr (AD 100-166), in Dialogue of Justin Martyr with Tropho a Jew, said that Christians ‘are the true Israelitic race.’ He also asserted that the biblical expression ‘the seed of Jacob’ now referred to Christians, not Jews.
Tertullian (160-220) wrote an anti-Semitic discourse titled An Answer to the Jews. He interpreted God’s statements to Rebekah concerning the twins (Esau and Jacob) in her womb (Ge. 25:23) in the following manner: Esau, the older brother, represents the Jewish people; Jacob, the younger brother, represents the Christians. He indicated that God thereby revealed that the Christians would overcome the Jews, and the Jewish people would serve the Christians.
Origen’s (185-254) allegorizing method of interpretation permitted him to read almost any meaning he desired into the language of the Bible. It allowed him to claim that the word Israel in the Bible can mean the church, not national Israel.
Cyprian (195-258) wrote Three Books of Testimonies against the Jews. He stated that in this work, he ‘endeavoured to show that the Jews, according to what had before been foretold, had departed from God, and had lost God’s favour, which had been given them in past time, and had been promised them for the future; while the Christians had succeeded to their place.’ Like Tertullian, he interpreted God’s statements to Rebekah concerning the twins in her womb (Ge. 25:23) allegorically Esau representing the Jews and Jacob representing the Christians. The implication is that the Christians have inherited the birthright that the Jewish people have forfeited. He declared, ‘The Gentiles rather than the Jews attain to the kingdom of heaven.’
Constantine (272-337), the first Roman emperor to declare himself a Christian, became sole ruler of the entire empire in AD 323. He began an increasingly ‘hostile policy toward the Jews.’ In 329 ‘the death penalty was ordained for those who embraced the Jewish faith, as well as for Jews versed in the Law who aided them.’
Sylvester, bishop of Rome from 314-335, incited the inhabitants of the Roman Empire against the Jews.
John Chrysostom (347-407) delivered messages Against the Jews.
Ambrose (340-397) used the Jewish people as ‘a type of the infidel.’ He regarded the Jewish soul to be ‘irrevocably perverse and incapable of any good thought’ and asserted that ‘burning a Jewish synagogue was not a crime.’
Augustine (354-430) influenced the future direction of organized Christendom more than any person since the apostle Paul. Augustine’s Tract Against the Jews was so influential that derogatory arguments against Jewish people throughout the Middle Ages were usually called ‘Augustinian.’ Augustine applied the allegorical method of interpretation to the prophets and Revelation. He interpreted the first resurrection and millennium of Revelation 20 as salvation of the soul at the new birth. Augustine developed the idea that the church is the kingdom of God foretold in such Scriptures as Daniel 2 and 7 and Revelation 20. In The City of God, Augustine was the first person to teach that the Catholic church is the Messianic kingdom and that the Millennium began with the first coming of Christ. ‘Therefore the Church even now is the kingdom of Christ, and the kingdom of heaven. Accordingly, even now His saints reign with Him.’
Cyril, bishop of Alexander (378-444) drove the Jews from the city. ‘He assembled the Christian mob, incited them against the Jews by his excessive fanaticism, forced his way into the synagogues, of which he took possession for the Christian,’ and handed over the Jews’ property ‘to be pillaged by the mob, ever greedy of plunger.’
This became the official doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church.
The view that God is finished with Israel was behind the persecution of Jews by the Catholic churches, such as during the Crusades.
Replacement Theology was brought out of Rome by the Protestants in the 16th to 18th centuries. For example, Martin Luther, the father of Lutheranism, became extremely anti-Jewish toward the end of his life and called for the princes to persecute them and mobs to set upon them, ‘even as Moses did, who slew three thousand of them in the wilderness.’ He called for their synagogues to be destroyed, their houses pulled down, and their books burned.
Covenant Theology, which was developed by the Reformed churches of Switzerland and Germany, adopted Replacement Theology. They taught that since Israel rejected Christ as Messiah, God has forever rejected the nation of Israel as His people and replaced Israel with the church. The church is now the Israel of God and inheritor of the blessings God promised to national Israel.
This view meant that national Israel lost forever its rightful claim of ownership of the land that God gave to it in ancient times.
(The previous summary of the teaching and history of Replacement Theology is from The Coming Apocalypse: A Study of Replacement Theology by Renald Showers.)
A Refutation of Replacement Theology
The whole Bible refutes Replacement Theology. That God is not finished with national Israel is taught from Genesis to Revelation.
The only way to refute it is to allegorize and spiritualize a vast amount of plain Scripture, which is exactly what Replacement Theology does and which is exactly what we refuse to do. No one is going to rob us of a consistent normal-literal method of interpreting Bible prophecy, because the evidence that this is the proper method of interpretation is overwhelming.
Normal-Literal Method of Interpretation
A fundamental issue is how to interpret Bible prophecy. If a normal-literal method is used, there can be no doubt that God is not finished with Israel and that the church has not replaced Israel. To say that God is finished with Israel requires an allegorical interpretation of God’s covenants with Israel and the Old Testament prophecies about Israel’s restoration.
“Normal-literal” refers to the normal way that we interpret human speech. We use figures of speech, such as metaphors, in normal speech, but we understand that these are figures of speech by the context and we know how to interpret them. If someone says, “I’m going out for a run,” we know that means that he is literally going to go running. But if someone says, “I’m going to run down to the store,” we know that is a figure of speech, and it simply means that he is going to the store.
The same is true for Bible prophecy. It contains figures of speech, but the Bible makes it clear that these are figures of speech and teaches us how to interpret them either by the context itself or by comparing Scripture with Scripture.
If we use the normal-literal method of interpretation, the whole Bible is found to speak with one thunderous voice about Israel and her future, and a handful of isolated proof texts (selected to support Replacement Theology) cannot overthrow this vast amount of clear teaching.
Following are some of the reasons why we know that prophecy must be interpreted by the normal-literal method:
1. God gave the Scriptures to REVEAL truth to man, not to hide it. See Deuteronomy 29:29. Prophecy is given to reveal secrets, not hide them. Prophecy is light, not darkness (2 Pe. 1:19). The Bible’s final book of prophecy, Revelation, is so named because it is given to reveal truth, not hide it. Prophecy is to be understood in the normal way that human language is understood because it is God’s revelation to mankind in human language.
2. The apostles interpreted prophecy literally.
We have already seen how that Paul interpreted the covenants and prophecies pertaining to Israel literally in Romans 11.
Consider another example.
Peter preached that as there was a literal fulfillment of Christ’s first coming to suffer for man’s sin, so there will be a literal fulfillment of the prophecies pertaining to Israel’s conversion and kingdom.
- The heaven will receive Christ until He returns.
- Then there will be a “restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets.” Words could not be plainer. The prophecies of Israel’s regathering and conversion and blessing, and the prophecies of Christ sitting on David’s throne, will be literally fulfilled.
That the apostles and the apostolic churches interpreted prophecy literally is admitted by most church historians.
“The early Church for 300 years looked for the imminent return of our Lord to reign, and they were right” (William Newell, Revelation).
Even Augustine, “the father of amillennialism,” admitted that there were many in his day [fifth century] who believed in a literal fulfillment of Revelation 20. He said, “I myself, too, once held this opinion. ... They who do believe them are called by the spiritual, Chiliasts, which we may literally reproduce by the name Millenarians” (Augustine, City of God, book 20, chapter 7).
The church at Antioch continued to interpret prophecy literally after the allegorical method was invented by heretics such as Origen (185-254). Antioch, of course, was an important church founded by Barnabas and Paul, and it is from this church that the first foreign missionaries were sent out (Acts 11:19-26; 13:1-4; 15:39-41). It was at Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians. Some of the preachers associated with Antioch were Lucian (died 312), Diodorus of Tarsus (d. 390), Chrysostom (d. 407), Theodore (d. 428), and Theodoret (d. 458). These men did not accept the Alexandrian allegorical method of interpretation. They interpreted Bible prophecy literally. Farrar says, “Diodorus of Tarsus’ books were devoted to an exposition of Scripture in its literal sense, and he wrote a treatise, now unhappily lost, ‘on the difference between allegory and spiritual insight’” (F. W. Farrar, History of Interpretation, pp. 213-215).
3. Bible prophecies have always been fulfilled literally.
Prophecies about Israel were fulfilled literally.
Israel’s entire history was given in the great prophecy of Deuteronomy 28 (see particularly verses 25, 29, 32, 36-37, 63-67). These prophecies describe Israel’s defeat at the hands of foreign powers and her dispersion to the ends of the earth, and they have been fulfilled exactly over the past 2,000 years.
Prophecies of Christ’s First Coming were fulfilled literally.
Consider, for example, the prophecy of Christ’s first coming in Psalm 22. In this Psalm alone, there are many specific prophecies about Christ’s death, and they were literally fulfilled:
Ps. 22:1 – Jesus’ words on the cross (Mt. 27:46)
Ps. 22:6-8, 12-13 – The people reviled Jesus (Mt. 27:39-44)
Ps. 22:11 – There were none to help Him (Mk. 14:50; Heb. 1:3)
Ps. 22:14-16 – They crucified Him (Mt. 27:35)
Ps. 22:17a – They did not break his bones (Jn. 19:33)
Ps. 22:17b – They stared at Him (Mt. 27:36)
Ps. 22:18 – They gambled for his garments (Mt. 27:35; Jn. 19:24)
Since Bible prophecy has always been fulfilled literally, there is no reason to believe that future prophecies will be fulfilled any differently.
4. The Lord Jesus said the major prophetic events are yet future. In His prophecy in Matthew 24, He described the Great Tribulation and the rule of the Antichrist and said that these events will occur in the future just prior to His literal return (Mt. 24:15-29). It is obvious, then, that the Great Tribulation is not something that has already been fulfilled in history or is being fulfilled, and it is obvious that the Antichrist is a literal man who will desecrate a literal third temple.
5. Christ rebuked His disciples for not believing the prophecies in their literal interpretation (Lu. 24:25-27).
6. The stage is set today for the literal fulfillment of the prophecies. The machinery for a one-world government and a one-world religion as described in Revelation 13 and 17 is being set up before our eyes. The technology is in place to control world commerce as described in Revelation 13:16-17 and for the people of the world to observe the events described in Revelation 11:8-10. Most importantly, the nation Israel is back in her land in fulfillment of Ezekiel 37:1-14 (which says she will return first in a spiritually-dead condition, verse 8) and in preparation for the literal fulfillment of all her covenants and prophecies. She is making preparations to build the third temple, which will be desecrated by the Antichrist. She is looking for a peace-making, temple-building Messiah, which is exactly what the Antichrist will be at the beginning of his reign when he makes a covenant with Israel. This supports the doctrine that God has not rejected the nation of Israel in a permanent sense or replaced Israel with the Church, but has only temporarily set Israel aside until He is ready to fulfill His covenants with her.
7. Prophecy as an apologetic demands the literal interpretation of prophecy. In Isaiah, Jehovah God Himself uses Bible prophecy as evidence that He is its Author. See Isaiah 41:22-23; 44:6-7; 45:21-22; 46:9-10. The reason that Bible prophecy can be used as an evidence of the divine inspiration of Scripture is that it is precise and clear. It contains details such as names, dates, and places. For example, Psalm 22 contains the details of Christ’s death, including the very words He spoke (Ps. 22:1), the piercing of His hands and feet (Ps. 22:16), mocking crowds (Ps. 22:7-8), the gambling for His garment (Ps. 22:18), and the fact that His bones were not broken (Ps. 22:17). It is impossible for man to know such things about the future. For such details about a man’s life to be written in a book hundreds of years before his birth is irrefutable evidence that that book is of God. But if the details of the prophecies are not interpreted literally, the prophecies cannot be used as an apologetic because it will not be clear exactly what is being prophesied. If piercing of the hands and feet, for example, means something other than a literal piercing then the power of the prophecy as an apologetic is destroyed.
8. Practical necessity demands the literal interpretation of prophecy. To interpret Bible prophecy allegorically destroys the absolute sense of God’s Word. If prophecy does not mean what it says, there is no way to know what it does mean. Consider Revelation 20:1-3. If this passage does not mean that a literal angel binds a literal devil in a literal bottomless pit for a literal thousand years, we have no way of knowing for sure what it does mean. If it does not mean what it says, it could mean anything that any interpreter says it means.
Consider this important statement by Paul Lee Tan:
“Whether it is the interpretation of prophecy or non-prophecy, once literality is sacrificed, it is like starting down an incline. Momentum speedily gathers as one succumbs to the temptation to spiritualize one passage after another. ... Moreover, under the method of spiritualization, there is no way for an interpreter to test the validity of his conclusions, except to compare his works with that of a colleague. Instead of ‘a more sure word of prophecy’ (2 Pe. 1:19), interpreters end up with an ‘unsure’ word and chaos in the ranks” (Tan, The Interpretation of Prophecy, pp. 73, 74).
J. Vernon McGee was trained in the allegorical method of interpretation, but he realized as a young man that it resulted in foolishness:
“I went to a seminary that was amillennial, where they attempted to fit the rest of Revelation into the historical, or the amillennial, viewpoint. It became ridiculous and even comical at times. For example, when we reached the place where Scripture says that Satan was put into the bottomless pit, we were taught that that has already taken place. I asked the professor, ‘How do you explain the satanic activity that is taking place today?’ He replied, ‘Satan is chained, but he has a long chain on him. It is like when you take a cow out into a vacant lot and tether her out on a long rope and let her graze.’ That was his explanation! And my comment was, ‘Doctor, I think Satan’s got a pretty long chain on him then, because he is able to graze all over the world today!’ It really makes some Scriptures seem rather ridiculous when you follow the allegorical viewpoint” (Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee).
We have given eight reasons why Bible prophecy must be interpreted by the normal-literal method, and, to repeat what we said at the beginning of this section, if we use the normal-literal method, the whole Bible is found to speak with one thunderous voice about Israel and her future, and a handful of isolated proof texts (selected to support Replacement Theology) cannot overthrow this vast amount of clear teaching.
The Covenant of Deuteronomy 29-30
The covenant of Deuteronomy says God is not finished with Israel (Deuteronomy 29-30). It has been called “the Palestinian Covenant,” but we believe that a better name is “the Return Covenant.” “Palestina” is the name that Rome gave to the land of Israel after the destruction of the Bar Kokhba revolt in AD 135. It is a term that has been popularized by the Muslim Palestinian movement which argues that the land belongs to the “Palestinians” rather than to Israel. The land is not called Palestine in Scripture. (The one mention of “Palestine” in the King James Bible in Joel 3:4 is translated from the same Hebrew word as “Philistia” and refers to the coastal area that was occupied by the Philistines.)
The covenant of Deuteronomy 29-30 guarantees the return of Israel to the land. The same Israel that would rebel and be cast out of the land and suffer great indignation (De. 29:22-28) is the Israel that will return (De. 30:1-9).
This covenant was made with the 12 tribes of Israel at the end of the 40 years of wilderness wandering just before they entered the Promised Land. It was made in the land of Moab (De. 29:1), which bordered the land of Canaan on the east.
The covenant is unconditional and sure--“[thou] SHALT return ... and shalt obey his voice” (De. 30:2-2); “the Lord thy God WILL bring thee into the land” (De. 30:5); “God WILL circumcise thine heart” (De. 30:6); “God WILL put all these curses upon thine enemies” (De. 30:7); “thou SHALT return and obey the voice of the Lord” (De. 30:8); “God WILL make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand” (De. 30:9).
The covenant will be fulfilled when Israel, scattered among the nation repents (De. 30:1-2). This proves that apostate Israel of the Diaspora is the Israel that will fulfill this covenant.
Israel will be gathered from among the nations and brought to “the land which thy fathers possessed” (De. 30:3-5).
Israel will be restored to the place of God’s blessing. “And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers” (De. 30:9).
This covenant is not fulfilled in Israel today, but it will be fulfilled when Israel is converted during the time of Jacob’s Trouble (Jeremiah 30:7).
The covenant cannot be applied to “the church” without doing violence to the language. It pertains to people who were scattered among the nations and then brought back to the very land possessed by their fathers. The same people who are scattered will be restored.
The Davidic Covenant
The Davidic covenant says God is not finished with Israel (2 Samuel 7:4-17).
The Davidic covenant is an extension of the covenant God made with Abraham. In the Davidic covenant, God gives more details about the national kingdom aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant.
Israel’s future existence, restoration to the place of God’s favor, and the re-establishment of her kingdom is based on God’s unconditional promise to David.
The Davidic Covenant promises the following: First, the house and throne of David will be established forever (2 Sa. 7:13, 16). Second, David’s children will be chastised for sin, but the covenant can never be annulled (2 Sa. 7:14-15). Third, the Davidic covenant will be fulfilled through Jesus Christ, David’s Son, who inherits David’s throne (Mt. 1:1) and who will establish the Davidic kingdom (Isa. 9:6-7).
The Psalmists mention the Davidic covenant and interpret it literally (Ps. 18:50; 89:3-4, 20-37; 132:11-18). The Psalmists teach us that the Davidic Covenant is the means whereby God will establish His kingdom on earth (Ps. 89:20-29). Psalm 72 describes in much detail the physical, earthly kingdom of David’s Son Jesus the Messiah.
The prophets often mention the Davidic covenant and interpret it literally (Isa. 9:6-7; 16:5; 22:22-24; 55:3-5; Jer. 23:5-6; 30:9; 33:15-26; Eze. 34:23-24; 37:24-25; Hos. 3:4-5; Amo. 9:11-15; Zec. 12:7 - 13:1).
We look at Amos 9:11-15 and Hosea 3:4-5 later in these studies.
According to Replacement Theology, Jesus is currently sitting on David’s throne in heaven and this is the fulfillment of the Davidic covenant, but this requires allegorical gymnastics that I, for one, refuse to engage in. It requires “spiritualizing” the plain words of the Davidic covenant and the New Covenant.
Progressive Dispensationalism also says that Christ is already sitting on David’s throne, but it further teaches that Christ will establish a literal 1,000 year kingdom in fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy at His return. This is called “already but not yet,” meaning that “Jesus is already on David’s throne but has not yet completely fulfilled the promise of God to David for a descendant to sit on his throne” (“What Is Progressive Dispensationalism?” gotquestions.org).
But no verse or passage in the New Testament says that Christ is currently sitting on David’s throne. Psalm 110:1-4 doesn’t say that; one must read this into the passage. David wrote Psalm 110, but he does not say here that the Messiah will sit on his (David’s) throne while He awaits victory over His enemies. In fact, the Bible tells us that the throne upon which the Messiah currently sits is the Father’s throne.
The New Covenant
The New Covenant says God is not finished with Israel (Jeremiah 31-33).
The New Covenant is God’s promise to convert rebellious Israel, restore her to her own land, and bless her.
Consider some facts about the New Covenant:
1. It was made with the nation Israel (Jer. 31:31).
2. It promises the following things:
a. The New Covenant promises the regathering of Israel (Jer. 31:6-11). Observe that it is the same Israel that was scattered by God among the nations that will be regathered.
b. The New Covenant promises God’s blessing upon Israel’s land (Jer. 31:4-5, 12-14, 24-25). Ezekiel often refers to the land as “the land of Israel” when he prophesies of Israel’s restoration (Eze. 11:17; 20:38, 42; 37:12; 38:18-19; 40:2; 47:18).
c. The New Covenant promises the spiritual conversion of the people and cleansing from sin (Jer. 31:33-34).
d. The New Covenant promises the reestablishment of Israel’s kingdom and the possession of the land (Jer. 31:35-37).
e. The New Covenant promises blessing upon Jerusalem as the capital of the kingdom (Jer. 31:38-40).
There is no way to make this fit the church or church-age Christians without doing violence to plain Bible language and to clear promises of God.
3. The New Covenant is unconditional and sure (Jer. 33:16-26). God goes out of His way to make this unequivocal.
“In those days shall Judah be saved, and Jerusalem shall dwell safely: and this is the name wherewith she shall be called, The LORD our righteousness. For thus saith the LORD; David shall never want a man to sit upon the throne of the house of Israel; Neither shall the priests the Levites want a man before me to offer burnt offerings, and to kindle meat-offerings, and to do sacrifice continually. And the word of the LORD came unto Jeremiah, saying, Thus saith the LORD; If ye can break my covenant of the day, and my covenant of the night, and that there should not be day and night in their season; Then may also my covenant be broken with David my servant, that he should not have a son to reign upon his throne; and with the Levites the priests, my ministers. As the host of heaven cannot be numbered, neither the sand of the sea measured: so will I multiply the seed of David my servant, and the Levites that minister unto me. Moreover the word of the LORD came to Jeremiah, saying, Considerest thou not what this people have spoken, saying, The two families which the LORD hath chosen, he hath even cast them off? thus they have despised my people, that they should be no more a nation before them. Thus saith the LORD; If my covenant be not with day and night, and if I have not appointed the ordinances of heaven and earth; Then will I cast away the seed of Jacob, and David my servant, so that I will not take any of his seed to be rulers over the seed of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob: for I will cause their captivity to return, and have mercy on them.”
Note that God specifically corrects those who say that He has cast off the families of Israel that they should be no more a nation. This is exactly what Replacement Theology says.
Consider two other major prophecies of the New Covenant in the Old Testament, among many that could be considered:
Isaiah 61:1-2 is the passage that Jesus read in the synagogue at Nazareth at the beginning of His ministry (Lu. 4:18-21). He stopped mid-way through verse 2 and said, “This day is this scripture fulfilled in your ears.” He didn’t read the rest of the prophecy which deals with God’s judgment on and the restoration of Israel.
Observe some lessons from the prophecy of Isaiah 61:1-11:
The old wastes will be rebuilt (Isa. 61:4).
Strangers will serve Israel as shepherds, farmers, and vinedressers (Isa. 61:5).
Israel will be converted and be the priests and ministers of God (Isa. 61:6). Israel will finally be what God intended that she be, which is a light to the nations.
Israel will be physically blessed and enriched (Isa. 61:6).
The nations will recognize Israel’s conversion and know that God has blessed her (Isa. 61:9). This, too, tells us that these are real, earthly events.
Observe some of the lessons from this major prophecy pertaining to the New Covenant:
God will restore Israel for His name’s sake (Eze. 36:22-23). As God’s name has been profaned among the nations because of Israel’s apostasy, so His name will be glorified in her repentance and restoration. He will be glorified because of the display of His power and He will be glorified because Israel will exhibit His character of holiness and righteousness and truth and compassion before the nations.
God will regather Israel from among the nations and bring Israel to her “own land” (Eze. 36:24). This is proof that the land of Israel belongs to ancient Israel and that currently apostate Israel will be restored to it. This is also proof that the same Israel that rejected God and was scattered among the nations is the Israel that will return.
Israel will be converted and cleansed and given a spiritual heart to love and obey God (Eze. 36:25-27).
Israel will then dwell in the land that God gave to their fathers (Eze. 36:28). Again, we see that the land is Israel’s for a permanent possession.
Israel will be physically blessed in the land (Eze. 36:29-30, 33-34, 38).
The nations will know that the Lord has done this (Eze. 36:36). The restoration and blessing will be visible, dramatic events, and there will be no question by the onlookers that prophecy will have been fulfilled.
The New Covenant and Church-age Believers
Question: If the New Covenant is not fulfilled in the church, why does the writer of Hebrews quote it (Hebrews 8:6-13; 10:15-19)?
1. Hebrews does not say the New Covenant is fulfilled in the church. It twice states, rather, that the New Covenant belongs to “the house of Israel” (Heb. 8:8, 10).
2. Hebrews refers to the New Covenant to show that the Mosaic law was only temporary and that even the Old Testament promised that it would be abolished and replaced by another covenant. Hebrews was written to Jews who professed Christ, some of whom were being tempted to return to the Jewish religion because of persecution. It was written to encourage them that Christ is superior in every way. The writer of Hebrews mentions the New Covenant to show that God had all along planned to replace the Mosaic Covenant with a better one.
3. The writer of Hebrews indicates that the New Testament believer partakes of the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant through Christ (Heb. 10:15-18), but nowhere does he say that this covenant has been transferred from national Israel to the church or that the physical aspects of the covenant should be spiritualized. Since the spiritual aspects of the New Covenant (and the spiritual aspects only) are cited in Hebrews 8:8-11 (from Jeremiah 31:31-34), it appears that New Testament believers participate only in the spiritual blessings of the New Covenant through Christ’s atonement.
4. The apostle Paul plainly taught that the New Covenant will be fulfilled literally in Israel following the church age (Ro. 11:25-27). In verse 27 Paul refers to the covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34.
This is one of the many brief passages in the Old Testament prophets that summarize God’s dealings with Israel.
The prophecy deals with the remnant of the house of Jacob that will return and be blessed after the judgment. It is a remnant that will be saved, not every Jew or everyone who is the seed of Jacob.
The seed of Jacob will be judged and scattered among the nations, but a remnant of that seed will return and trust Jehovah God “in truth,” and the conversion will “overflow with righteousness.” This has not yet happened, but it will happen during the time of Jacob’s trouble when Israel will be converted in preparation for and in conjunction with the return of Christ and the establishment of His kingdom.
The prophecy of the Valley of Dry Bones says God is not finished with Israel (Ezekiel 37).
This great prophecy is the only one that explains that Israel will return from her wanderings among the nations in two stages, and in the first stage she will return in a spiritually dead condition.
The interpretation of the valley of dry bones is plainly given in the prophecy itself. It signifies Israel in her dispersion among the nations.
“Then he said unto me, Son of man, these bones are the whole house of Israel: behold, they say, Our bones are dried, and our hope is lost: we are cut off for our parts” (Eze. 37:11).
The resurrection of the dry bones represents Israel’s return to the land and restoration as a nation.
“Therefore prophesy and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your graves, and cause you to come up out of your graves, and bring you into the land of Israel” (Eze. 37:12).
This is as great a miracle as the resurrection from the dead. Never in human history has a nation been evicted from its land and scattered throughout the world for 2,000 years to survive as a nation and be restored to its original land with its original language and religion.
The first stage of the restoration of Israel is in an unconverted state.
“So I prophesied as I was commanded: and as I prophesied, there was a noise, and behold a shaking, and the bones came together, bone to his bone. And when I beheld, lo, the sinews and the flesh came up upon them, and the skin covered them above: BUT THERE WAS NO BREATH IN THEM” (Eze. 37:7-8).
This is exactly what Israel is today and where Israel is today prophetically. Modern Israel is not righteous and is not a fulfillment of the regathering described in connection with the prophecies we have previously considered that describe the New Covenant. Since the 20th century, the land of Israel has been developed in an amazing way, but it is not a fulfillment of prophecies about the desert blossoming as the rose (Isaiah 35:1). Modern Israel is, by her own profession, a secular state and most Jews are secular Jews who aren’t religious and don’t believe in the God of the Bible. A large percentage of them are atheists or agnostics. A minority hold to various branches of “orthodox Judaism,” which is a religion that does not follow the Old Testament but rather follows the Talmud. “Rabbinic Judaism” is ancient Phariseeism.
Israel is back in the land in an apostate condition to set the stage for the fulfillment of the last week of Daniel’s 70 Week prophecy (Da. 9:27). Israel must return in a spiritually dead condition in order to sign a covenant with the Antichrist. A living, redeemed Israel would not do that.
But Ezekiel’s prophecy explains that God is going to touch Israel again and convert her spiritually.
“Then said he unto me, Prophesy unto the wind, prophesy, son of man, and say to the wind, Thus saith the Lord GOD; Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live. So I prophesied as he commanded me, and the breath came into them, and they lived, and stood up upon their feet, an exceeding great army. ... And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live, and I shall place you in your own land: then shall ye know that I the LORD have spoken it, and performed it, saith the LORD” (Eze. 37:9-10, 14).
This is in the future, and it is described in many prophecies, as we have seen, such as Zechariah 12-14.
It is clear from Ezekiel’s prophecy that God is not finished with Israel. The same apostate Israel that was evicted from the land and scattered among her nations for her sin will be restored to the land. This has nothing to do with church age saints.
The prophecy of Gog and Magog says that God is not finished with Israel (Ezekiel 38-39).
This prophecy describes an attack upon Israel by a great military alliance from the north.
Our purpose here is not to look at the prophecy in detail but to see that it proves that God is not finished with Israel.
The prophecy occurs when Israel has been “brought back from the sword” and “is brought forth out of the nations” (Eze. 38:8). It occurs after a regathering that follows the land of Israel becoming waste. Obviously, it refers to the restoration of the same Israel that was scattered among the nations.
The attack of Gog and Magog will occur in the latter days (Eze. 38:16). We see that Israel still exists in the end times.
The attack will occur at a time when the “people of Israel dwelleth safely” (Eze. 38:14). This isn’t today. It could be during the first 3.5 years of her covenant with the Antichrist. It could refer to after Armageddon. It’s difficult to place the time exactly, but it is certainly referring to a literal Israel in a literal land.
The armies of Gog and Magog will be supernaturally destroyed by God (Eze. 38:21-22).
Israel will be brought back from the nations and will know the Lord. God’s Spirit will be poured upon “the house of Israel” (Eze. 39:25-29).
The nations will then understand God’s dealings with Israel (Eze. 39:23).
In this prophecy, God calls Israel “my people” (Eze. 38:14, 16). The land is called “my land” (Eze. 38:16), referring to Jehovah God, and “the land of Israel” (Eze. 38:18, 19) and “their own land” (Eze. 39:28).
It is perfectly obvious that God is not finished with Israel, though she is presently apostate, that she will return to the land, be restored to God and to the place of His blessing, and her enemies will be punished.
It is impossible to apply this prophecy to the church without doing grave injustice to the principle of the literal interpretation of Scripture.
Daniel’s 70 Week Prophecy
Daniel’s 70 Week prophecy says that God is not finished with Israel (Daniel 9:24-27).
This great prophecy gives a complete summary of God’s program for Israel from the Babylonian Captivity until the return of Christ. The 70 weeks are weeks of years, or 490 years, as it is clear from the fulfillment so far.
During the 70 weeks, God’s judgments upon Israel will be completed and Christ will return to bring in the kingdom. The angel tells Daniel that the prophecy pertains to his own people, the Jews, and to the holy city, Jerusalem (Da. 9:24).
The first 69 weeks (483 years) extended from the time that the commandment was given to rebuild Jerusalem after the Babylonian captivity to the time of Christ’s first coming. The commandment to rebuild the walls of Jerusalem was given by Artaxerxes the king of Persia, and is described in Nehemiah 2:1-8. (The same king gave the commandment to rebuild the temple 13 years earlier as described in the book of Ezra, but Daniel 9:25 speaks particularly of the rebuilding of the city wall.) Daniel’s prophecy describes three great events that occurred in this time. First, Jerusalem was rebuilt (Da. 9:25). The rebuilding of the city streets and walls in troublous times is described in the book of Nehemiah. Second, Messiah was “cut off, but not for himself,” meaning that He died on the cross for man’s sins (Da. 9:26). His death was substitutionary. Third, the city and temple were destroyed (Da. 9:26). This occurred in AD 70 when the armies of Rome destroyed Jerusalem.
After that there will continue to be wars until the time of the end (Da. 9:26). This describes the Roman Jewish wars, but it also describes the last 2,000 years of Israel’s history. Even today, though Israel is back in the land, she has had no peace, and she will have no peace until she repents and receives her Messiah, Jesus.
The last week, or seven years, of Daniel’s prophecy remains to be fulfilled (Da. 9:27). Between the 69th and 70th weeks is the church age, which is called a “mystery” because it was not revealed to the Old Testament prophets (Eph. 3:3-6). The church age is like a valley that the Old Testament prophets did not see lying between the peaks of the first and second coming of Christ. Paul describes the church age as the time of Israel’s blindness in Romans 11:25-27.
The last week (seven years) of Daniel’s prophecy is divided into two parts (Da. 9:27). At the beginning of the seven years, the Antichrist will make a false peace covenant with Israel. It is at this time that the Jewish temple will be rebuilt in Jerusalem. Revelation 11 describes it being measured (Re. 11:1-2) at the very time when the Two Witnesses will prophesy in Jerusalem. Mid-way through the seven years the Antichrist will break this covenant and desecrate the temple by exalting himself as God. Compare 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4. This event marks the beginning of the 3.5 years of Great Tribulation. Jesus calls this event “the abomination of desolation” (Mt. 24:15).
This prophecy sees Israel, Daniel’s people, continuing to the time of the Antichrist. It teaches us that the Antichrist and his program does not pertain to the church; it pertains to Israel and to her land and temple.
Hosea 3:4-5 says that God is not finished with Israel. This passage plainly describes the fall of Israel followed by her return and the re-establishment of the Davidic kingdom.
“For the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice, and without an image, and without an ephod, and without teraphim: AFTERWARD shall the children of Israel return, and seek the LORD their God, and David their king; and shall fear the LORD and his goodness in the latter days” (Ho. 3:4-5).
This is the Bible’s teaching about Israel and her future in a nutshell. Israel would rebel against God’s Word, be judged, abide many days without a king or a sacrifice or a priesthood (e.g., no kingdom and no temple), then the same Israel will return, repent, and be restored and blessed. The restoration will occur “in the latter days.”
Amos also says that God is not finished with Israel.
“Behold, the eyes of the Lord GOD are upon the sinful kingdom, and I will destroy it from off the face of the earth; saving that I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob, saith the LORD. For, lo, I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among all nations, like as corn is sifted in a sieve, yet shall not the least grain fall upon the earth. All the sinners of my people shall die by the sword, which say, The evil shall not overtake nor prevent us. In that day will I raise up the tabernacle of David that is fallen, and close up the breaches thereof; and I will raise up his ruins, and I will build it as in the days of old: That they may possess the remnant of Edom, and of all the heathen, which are called by my name, saith the LORD that doeth this. Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that the plowman shall overtake the reaper, and the treader of grapes him that soweth seed; and the mountains shall drop sweet wine, and all the hills shall melt. And I will bring again the captivity of my people of Israel, and they shall build the waste cities, and inhabit them; and they shall plant vineyards, and drink the wine thereof; they shall also make gardens, and eat the fruit of them. And I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the LORD thy God” (Am. 9:8-15).
This is another of the many Old Testament prophecies of the restoration of Israel after her worldwide dispersion. It is clear and precise, and only by doing violence to the language can it be made to describe anything other than a restoration of the nation Israel.
Consider some of the lessons from a literal interpretation of this prophecy:
God will judge Israel severely for her sin, but He will not utterly destroy her (Am. 9:8).
Israel will be sifted among the nations, but not the least grain will fall to the earth (Am. 9:9). God has had His eye upon Israel and has been in control of her wanderings, though she is in a condition of disobedience and spiritual blindness.
The sinners of Israel who do not believe God’s Word will perish (Am. 9:10). They are the national seed of Abraham, but that does not mean they are saved or will be saved. Those who do not repent will not be saved.
But Israel itself will be restored. The tabernacle of David will be raised up and built as in the old days (Am. 9:11). This will occur when Christ returns and sits on the throne of David, ruling Israel and the whole world.
The restoration of the house of David will be accompanied by blessings on the land (Am. 9:13-15). The prophecy pertains to a land. And note that God twice says it is “THEIR LAND.” As we have seen, God gave it to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. God said to Jacob, “And the land which I gave Abraham and Isaac, to thee I will give it, and to thy seed after thee will I give the land” (Ge. 35:9-12). To national Israel belongs the land that was promised to Abraham. Compare Genesis 12:7; 13:14-17; 15:7. In 1 Chronicles 16:13-16, David affirmed that Abraham’s covenant passed through Isaac and Jacob to Jacob’s children, national Israel, and that the promise includes the inheritance of the land.
Words could not be more clear and simple to understand, and this is the consistent testimony of the entire Bible. The same Israel that turned from God and was judged and scattered among the nations will be restored to her own land, the very land upon which she lived in ancient times, and she will live in that land and be blessed in that land, and the Son of David will restore the Davidic kingdom and rule and reign over it. This is the teaching of the Bible from the Pentateuch to Revelation.
Amos’s prophecy is cited by James in Acts 15.
“And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom my name is called, saith the Lord, who doeth all these things” (Ac. 15:15-17).
Here James quotes Amos 9:11 and gives a general reference to Amos 9:12 without quoting it exactly. His simple point is that the Old Testament prophets foresaw God’s blessing on the Gentiles. This was the subject in question at the Jerusalem conference.
James does not say that Amos 9 is fulfilled in the church or that God is finished with Israel. For that, it would have been necessary that he interpret the kingdom prophecies allegorically or spiritually, but instead he interprets Amos literally. Since he cites the part of the prophecy about the salvation of the Gentiles as literal, there is no reason to believe that he was looking at the restoration of the house of David as anything other than literal.
If the apostles had believed that the church has fulfilled such prophecies, this would have been the ideal place to have made that perfectly clear, but they did just the opposite.
The Lord Jesus taught that God is not finished with Israel. Consider four examples:
In Matthew 23, after Christ condemned the Pharisees and their false traditions and false works religion, He said to the Jews of that day and to Jerusalem, “Behold, your house is left unto you desolate. For I say unto you, Ye shall not see me henceforth, TILL ye shall say, Blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord” (Matthew 23:38-39). Note the word “till.” Christ promised judgment upon Israel. He prophesied that their temple would be desolate. But the judgment wasn’t going to be permanent. It has an end, and it will end when Israel repents. This repentance is described in great detail by the prophet Zechariah (chapter 12).
In Matthew 24, Christ continued this same teaching. The temple of His day would be destroyed so that there would not remain “one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down” (verse 2). The visitor to Jerusalem can still see the “Titus stones” that were thrown from the temple mount in AD 70 and crashed to the street below at the south end of the western wall. And Jesus prophesied of the rise of the Antichrist spoken of by Daniel, who will stand in a rebuilt Jewish temple (Mt. 24:15). And then those who are in Judea will flee (Mt. 24:16). Jesus is prophesying of the Israel that exists today, the Israel that occupies the hills of Judea and is preparing to build the third temple. Christ is prophesying of modern Israel. He says she will still be under God’s judgment in the end times and will endure great tribulation (Mt. 24:21). He prophesies of false Jewish christs that will rise, and we know that many of them have already risen (Mt. 24:24-26).
In Matthew 24, Christ is teaching the same literal truths about Israel that all of the prophets describe. He doesn’t describe Israel’s conversion in Matthew 24, but that is described in many other prophecies. All of the prophecies give the same literal plan for Israel: rejection of Jesus as Christ, dispersion, judgment, conversion, restoration.
What about Matthew 21:43?
“Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.”
If this verse were isolated, it could teach that God was finished with Israel and that the church has replaced Israel, but it cannot possibly teach that since Christ Himself said that He is not finished with Israel. He said they would not see Him TILL they repent (Mt. 23:39).
Christ always described a literal physical kingdom on earth. He said “They shall come from the east, and from the west, and from the north, and from the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God (Lu. 13:29).
Christ gave the parable in Luke 19:11-27 specifically to teach that the kingdom of God would not come at that time but would come after the king would go into a far country and then return (Lu. 19:12). After he returns, he will reward his servants and judge his enemies. This describes the church age followed by the establishment of an earthly kingdom, exactly as we see throughout Scripture.
Acts 1 also tells us that Christ taught that the kingdom of Israel will be restored.
After His resurrection, He spoke to the disciples “of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God” (Ac. 1:3).
It is obvious that the kingdom Christ taught them about was the kingdom promised in Old Testament prophecy and that He had not taught them that the church has replaced Israel, because just before He ascended, the disciples asked, “Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom to Israel?” (Ac. 1:6).
They believed that Israel’s kingdom would be restored, they just didn’t know when.
Christ’s reply makes it doubly clear that they were all on the same page about the future of Israel’s kingdom. He said,
“It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power. But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Ac. 1:7-8).
If the disciples had still misunderstood Christ’s teaching about Israel’s kingdom, this would have been the perfect time to have corrected their thinking. But Christ didn’t say, “You are confused; there is no restoration of Israel’s kingdom.” Instead, He told them that the timing of the re-establishment of the kingdom is God’s business, and they need to focus on their own business in this present time, which is preaching the gospel to the ends of the earth.
(For more on this subject, see What about Steven Anderson?, which is available as a free eBook from www.wayoflife.org.)
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