Thursday, September 15, 2016

Future Israel: Before You Become a Amillennialist (pt 4)

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Dr. Barry Horner's book Future Israel is a very helpful read when it comes to understanding eschatology and the place of national Israel. The following is a selection taken from his personal introduction (which is well worth the price of the book)...

"When all has been said and done with regard to the three major schools of eschatology, the real, overshadowing central issue concerns the person of Jesus Christ. It is the new covenant which He has established by His blood, and His present reign at the right hand of the Father, that should dominate our thinking and not some distinctive scheme of prophecy. So Reformed amillennialist George Murray commented, “It is Christ, rather than the Hebrew people, who is the subject of the Old Testament prophets.” (4) And of course, all the major schools of prophecy would heartily agree at this point, so that nothing in fact would have been trumped at all. The reason for this is simply that amillennialism, postmillennialism, and premillennialism are all based on their future perspective of history as it will be climaxed at the second coming or parousia of Jesus Christ that crowns the redemptive work of His first coming. In this sense, Jesus Christ is clearly central to all three perspectives, whatever their disagreements might involve. However, that being said, it must be borne in mind that the Lord Jesus Christ remains the quintessential Jew. We would even dare to say that He has lost none of His essential Jewishness. However, Murray continues, “To be sure, the nation was sovereignly chosen by God as the channel through which His oracles might be given to the world; but God no longer deals with them as a chosen nation.” (5) How incomplete is the allusion here to Rom 3:2 that ignores Rom 9:4 concerning those who “are [present tense] Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the temple service, and the promises.” For a professing Calvinist such as Murray to suggest that Israel has lost its election is not only astonishing, but it also flies in the face of Paul’s further explanation that “regarding the gospel, they [unbelieving national Israel, no the remnant] are enemies for your [the Gentiles’] advantage, but regarding election [the election, ten eklogen], they [unbelieving national Israel] are loved because of their forefathers [Abraham, Isaac and Jacob]” (Rom 11:28). How then can Jesus Christ be exalted when He, “the King of the Jews” (John 19:19), who declared that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22), has His Jewish brethren permanently and nationally defrocked?

Of course, the great difficulty here in dealing with this subject is to maintain a calm spirit that is respectful of opposing points of view while unashamedly pressing home the truth without apology. I do not hesitate to confess my disturbance at that opinion, held by many Calvinists (though by no means at all), which declares that the Jew today, on account of stubborn unbelief, is covenantally and eternally persona non grata in the sight of God. Perhaps most disturbing of all in this regard has been an evident form of theological anti-Judaism among a considerable number of those holding to Reformed convictions.

This matter will be documented and addressed with some detail. In conversation, quite a few by their derogatory manner have inferred that they would be delighted if the Arabs would push Israel into the Mediterranean Sea, repossess Palestine, and thus vindicate their eschatology! (6) I strongly believe that a true child of God will have a distinctive, persistent (though often anguished) love for the Jewish people notwithstanding their unbelief. Such an attitude follows the example of the apostle Paul, whose fervor endured repeated suffering at the hands of their hard-hardheartedness and obstinacy. It is significant that when Paul deals with his “countrymen by physical descent” in Romans 9-11, this subject, involving such ultimate national glory, stimulates his passions as do few others.

Many years ago I asked a representative of a leading Reformed publisher why they had not published any volume in sympathy with the premillennialism, even though Amillennialism and Postmillennialism had been well represented. The response was that the reprint of a premillennial volume by J. C. Ryle was being considered, and so some hope was raised through subsequent years saw it diminish. Later, in correspondence with that same person, further enquiry was made but no encouragement was received that a book from a premillennial perspective might arise. Hence, this volume is dedicated to the elucidation of the premillennial perspective, especially as it focuses on national Israel, that has been ignored, belittled, and distorted in Calvinistic, Reformed, and Sovereign Grace circles.

A most important matter that needs to be clarified at this juncture concerns the crucial distinction that must be appreciated between the overriding significance of Israel in the Word of God and relatively less matters of eschatological concern, as with regard to the Antichrist, the great tribulation, the rapture, etc. The nature and role of Israel in the Bible, in both Testaments, is transcendentally more important that the aforementioned details, though they may necessarily call for serious consideration of lesser proportions. Furthermore, with regard to Israel we are not dealing with a doctrinal emphasis that has little relationship with significant Christian ethics. Quite the contrary, as our study will unquestionably prove, the wrong perception of Israel and the Jews by Christians, biblically speaking, has produced consequences of horrific proportions during the history of the Christian Church in all its strands. Such a shameful legacy, perpetuated during the illustrious Reformation and on wards, is still prevalent in substantial degrees in many Calvinist, Reformed, and Sovereign Grace environments.

The reader who is disturbed by such a charge is simply asked to hold back judgment until the following evidence is weighed. This unethical consequence will be pressed home in succeeding chapters. While the process may be painful, nevertheless it is hoped that the end result will be the fruit of genuine repentance evidenced by heartfelt love for God’s beloved “enemies” (Rom. 11:28), they being every Christian’s kinsmen through faith in Abraham’s God (Gal 3:29).

If a Christian’s eschatology produces an indifference, detachment, or even antagonism towards things Jewish, though there continues to be manifest unbelief within national Israel, there is most likely something fundamentally wrong with that eschatological expression. True doctrine, rightly comprehended, does not produce bad attitudes, especially that which is so obviously un-Pauline. It ought to be a shame for any professing Christian to lack that apostolic compassion for the Jews which never diminished, even when Paul eventually reached Rome (Acts 28:17-22). Hence, where this unsavory attitude prevails, even with a mere facade of token respect for the Jewish people, there is need for a return with freshness to the only final source that can resolve an issue having such profound moral implication, that is to the objective, truthful, inscribed Word of God. The major part of the book contends for the present and future hope of national Israel according to theological synthesis based on biblical exegesis that receives particular focus in chapter 10. Here exposition deals with Rom. 11:1-32, Gal. 6:16, Eph. 2:11-22, Phil. 3:2-3, Heb. 8:7-13, and 1Pet. 2:9-10. Chapters 9 and 11 also deal with Scripture in some detail. In addition, a number of appendices are included that underpin the overall theological argument."

Related articles: Not So Fast: Before You Become an Amill. (pt 1).


(4) G.L. Murray, Millennial Studies (Grand Rapids; Baker, 1948), 57

(5) Ibid.

(6) For instance, S Sizer has disparagingly stated that “the present brutal, repressive racist policies of the State of Israel would suggest another exile on the horizon rather than a restoration.”  Whose Promised Land: Israel and Biblical Prophecy Debate between Neil Cornell (CMJ & ITAC) and Stephen Sizer, Guildford Diocesan Evangelical Fellowship, St. John’s, Woking, Surrey 18th March 1997    

(,org/articles/debate.html);  Internet accessed May 2007.  Also consider the haunting intimation of Chapman: “I don’t believe that the State of Israel is ‘of God’ in the sense that it is the fulfillment (or even the preliminary stage in the fulfillment) of all that God promised and predicted in the Old Testament about the future of the land and its people.  I would go further and suggest that for Christians to interpret these events simply as the fulfillment of prophecy represents a kind of regression.”  C. Chapman, Whose Promised Land? (Tring, Herts, England: Lion Publishing, 1983), 227.