Does the modern State of Israel fulfil biblical prophecy?


Every time the situation in Israel-Palestine hits the news, for Christians one of the issues that emerges is whether or not the modern State of Israel is a fulfilment of biblical prophecy. To address this, I offer here two resources. The first is some extracts from Colin Chapman’s Grove booklet on whether texts in Ezekiel are fulfilled in the modern State of Israel (previously published when the booklet first came out); the second is a selection of extracts from a recent article by Gary Burge assessing the claims of Christian Zionism.


The main prophetic text appealed to is the later chapters of Ezekiel, particularly Ezekiel 39. But in order to understand whether there is connection between these texts and events in the modern world, we need to look carefully at what Ezekiel says, how it was understood, and most importantly of all, how the writers of the NT understood these passages in relation to the ministry of Jesus.

Colin Chapman, who has written widely on the subject of the Middle East, engages with just these questions in the latest Grove Biblical booklet B 87 Prophecy Fulfilled Today? Does Ezekiel Have Anything to Say About the Modern State of Israel? He starts by noting that this question has been a concern of Christians for nearly 400 years.


It is in discussion about the fulfilment of prophecy in recent history that there is most division among Christians. Since the time of the Puritans in the seventeenth century many have believed that prophecies in Ezekiel and the other prophets concerning the return to the land and the restoration of Israelwould one day be ful lled literally. This view is generally known as ‘restorationism.’ And since the beginning of the Zionist movement in the 1880s many Christians have been convinced that these prophecies—together with biblical promises about the land—were being fulfilled.


To engage with this question, the first thing Chapman does is to put Ezekiel and his prophecy in its context—when Ezekiel was writing, what was the situation, and what questions he is seeking to address.


Ezekiel’s first task was to explain to his people that the fall of Jerusalem and the exile were God’s judgment for the ways in which they had broken the covenant. God had taken away four of the most fundamental and significant gifts included in the covenant—the land, the city of Jerusalem, the temple and the monarchy. Having explained the reason for the exile, in the second part of the book Ezekiel gives his people hope for the future (chapters 33–48). Not only will they be able to return to their land, but they will see that God is going to do something radically new in and through the restoration of the land, the city, the temple and the monarchy.

But when we look at the history of the people in the land after the return and in the next four centuries, it is hard to see much evidence of the national and spiritual renewal and revival that Ezekiel had envisaged. It was not surprising, therefore, that in the intertestamental period people began to dream of a time when God would intervene in miraculousways to ful l the visions of the prophets. Some of these hopes centred round the gure of a messiah, who would be either a supernatural figure coming on the clouds or a military figure overcoming oppressive foreign rulers and restoring Israel’s independence.

These were the kind of hopes of a better future that were held by many Jews in the first century, and summed up by Luke in expressions like ‘the consolation of Israel’ (Luke 2.25), ‘the redemption of Jerusalem’ (Luke 2.38), ‘the one who was to come’ (Luke 7.18) and ‘the one who was going to redeem Israel’ (Luke 24.20). People must have thought, ‘If the visions of Ezekiel and the other prophets have hardly been fulfilled in the history of the nation until now, surely God has to intervene in a dramatic way to demonstrate his faithfulness to his promises!’


Chapman’s central chapter then looks at seven major themes that are associated with the restoration from exile, particular in Ezekiel 34 to 37, and to see how these themes are taken up in the NT. These themes include God acting through a shepherd-king, the hallowing of the name of God, enjoying prosperity in the land, cleansing from sin, the gift of a new heart leading to obedience, a covenant of peace, and God’s temple presence among his people. The most pertinent of these relates to the land.


The promise to bring exiles back to the land looks at first sight as if it has no echoes in the NT. But scholars like N T Wright have argued that Jesus’ use of OT texts concerning the return from the Babylonian exile—taken mostly from Isaiah—suggests that Jesus saw his people as still in a state of exile, and announced that he was going to lead them out of exile. The clearest examples come in his address in the synagogue in Nazareth (‘The Spirit of the Lord is on me…’ Luke 4.18–19, quoting Isa 61.1–2), and his response to the disciples of John the Baptist, in which he describes his healing miracles in the poetic language used by Isaiah to describes the exiles returning to the land (‘The blind receive sight, the lame walk…’ Luke 7.22, quoting Isa 35.5–6).10 It may seem strange to include the words of Jesus about the Son of Man sending his angels to ‘gather his elect’ (Mark 13.27) in this context. But since the word angelos can be translated as either ‘angel’ or ‘messenger,’ it is perfectly possible that Jesus could be speaking about the proclamation of the gospel as a way of gathering the elect into the kingdom of God…

NT writers use OT terminology about the land (in particular the word ‘inheritance,’ kleronomia) to speak about what all believers possess in Christ. Thus Paul in his farewell address to the Ephesian elders, echoing Joshua’s farewell address (Josh 23.1–16), speaks about ‘the word of his [God’s] grace, which…can give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified’ (Acts 20.32). Peter speaks of how all believers experience ‘new birth into a living hope…and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade—kept in heaven for you…’ (1 Pet 1.3–4). The Letter to the Hebrews was addressed primarily to Jewish followers of Jesus, who might have been expected to hold onto the hope that promises and prophecies about the land would one day be fulfilled in a very literal way. But the writer gives no hint of any expectation of a literal fulfilment, and instead develops the theme of the land in a completely new direction. He speaks of the land as ‘that rest,’ saying that ‘We who have believed enter that rest’ (Heb 4.3). And traditional Jewish hopes about Jerusalem for the writer are no longer centred on the actual city of Jerusalem: ‘But you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, the city of the living God…to the church of the first born…to God…to Jesus the mediator of a new covenant…’ (Heb 12.22–24)…

Christians generally have no difficulty in seeing most of these themes of Ezekiel’s prophecy—about the Davidic shepherd-king, the sanctification of the name of God, the nations knowing that he is God, cleansing from sin, the gift of a new heart and of God’s Spirit, the covenant of peace and God’s sanctuary being among his people for ever—as being fulfilled in the coming of Christ. If the themes concerning the nation and the land can also be related to Jesus and to everything that is offered to every human being through him,it becomes much harder to believe that prophecies about the people and the land are in a special category, separate from all the other themes of Ezekiel’sprophecy, and therefore demand a literal fulfilment.


In the final section of the booklet, Chapman turns the lens the other way around, and asks whether the modern creation of the State of Israel actually matches what Ezekiel predicted—and he expected the return to be marked by peace, by repentance (in fulfilment of the conditions set out in Deut 30), and with all the other features noted above—which are notably absent from the current situation. And in contrast to Ezekiel, when Jesus talked of the destruction of Jerusalem in Mark 13, Matt 24 and Luke 21, he make no mention of the possibility of return and restoration. And Luke’s gospel is the one that sets out most clearly that all the promises of restoration are met in Jesus.


Ezekiel’s visions of the restoration of Israel led to a glorious climax in the temple in which God was going to ‘live among the Israelites for ever’ (43.7) and in the city whose name would always be ‘The Lord is there’ (48.35). If we believe, therefore, that it was uniquely in Jesus that God has come to live among us, we should not be looking to see the fulfilment of Ezekiel’s visions either in the twentieth-century return of Jews to the land, or the establishment of the state of Israel, or the present city of Jerusalem or in a future millennial reign of Jesus in Jerusalem. Perhaps Ezekiel, the priest turned prophet, was using the only language and imagery that were available to him at the time (related to the land, the nation, the city and the temple) to hint at something much more glorious than a return to the land, the revival of the nation and the restoration of a building. Perhaps God was using him to prepare his people and to open their minds for what it would mean when, ve centuries later, ‘the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us’ (John 1.14) and ‘God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself’ (2 Cor. 5.19). And the Book of Revelation tells us that the best is yet to come—not in the land or in Jerusalem, but in ‘the new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God’ and in ‘a new heaven and a new earth’ (Rev 21.1–4).


This booklet will be of interest to anyone trying to make sense of the current situation, and wanting to relate it to Scripture in any way. The claim that Ezekiel prophesied the existence of the modern State of Israel is made by many, and this booklet is an essential tool in assessing whether than claim is valid.

You can order the booklet for £3.95 post-free on the Grove website, or purchase an e-book PDF delivered by email.



For a second resource, I turn to Gary M Burge, who is a theologian in the Christian Reformed Church in the US, and in 2019 wrote this helpful assessment of Christian Zionism.


Christian Zionism is a political theology with 19th-century roots. It took on its full form following the birth of modern Israel in 1948. It is a political theology because modern Israel, in this view, is not like other countries: it is the outworking of God’s plan foretold in the Scriptures, and therefore modern Israel’s political fortunes have profound theological and spiritual consequences…

The spiritual root of Christian Zionism is dispensationalism, whose themes have fully permeated many American churches. Dispensationalism was born in the 1800s as an attempt to divide human history into a series of seven biblical categories (or dispensations) of time: the eras of Adam, of Noah, and others. We live in the era of the church, followed by the end of time. Dispensationalism embraced a pessimistic view of history, thinking the world was coming to its end and judgment day was near. As a result, it became sectarian, separating itself from mainstream society, calling sinners to repent and be saved from the impending catastrophe…

Christian Zionism takes the land promises of God in Genesis 12, 15, and 17 and applies them to the modern state of Israel. To Christian Zionists, this promise of land inheritance is permanent and unconditional. Therefore, despite Israel’s own declared intention of being a secular state (and despite Israelis’ low religious participation), modern Israel still benefits from a 4,000-year-old promise. For Zionists, the Abrahamic covenant is still active regardless of whether Israelis believe in God or not. In the Christian Zionist view—and this is key—the covenant of Christ does not replace or supplant the Jewish covenants.

Reformed theologians believe something decisive happened in Christ. His covenant affected not simply the covenant of Moses, making a new and timeless form of salvation, but also every other Jewish covenant, including Abraham’s covenant. Christ fulfills the expectations of Jewish covenant life and renews the people of God rooted in the Old Testament and Judaism. Thus, Jesus is the new temple, the new Israel.

In Galatians 3:16, the apostle Paul writes, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring; it does not say ‘And to offsprings,’ as of many; but it says, ‘And to your offspring,’ that is, to one person, who is Christ” (NRSV). Paul argues from the singular noun in Genesis to show that the promises to Abraham point to Christ. Christ is the locus of the promise of land! The promises to Abraham have been realized in Christ. He holds everything Judaism desired, and knowing him gains access to such promises.

Jesus’ homily in John 15 says the same. The Old Testament image of Israel is that of a vineyard filled with vines rooted in the soil of the Holy Land. You can see this outlined beautifully in Isaiah 5. But Jesus upends this. We see a vineyard again, but now we learn that there is one vine—Christ—and the only concern is not on gaining access to the land but being attached to him.

To think Christianly about land and promise is to think differently than Judaism. The New Testament changes the spiritual geography of God’s people. The kingdom of God is tied to neither an ethnicity nor a place. Because the early Christians understood this, they carried their missionary efforts to the entire world. God loves Ephesus just as much as he loves Jerusalem. Indeed, God loves the entire world and all its people equally.

Reformed theologians are not convinced the promises to Abraham can be used politically today. The work of Christ is definitive. There is one covenant, and it is with Christ. In the zeal to promote and protect modern Israel, has Jesus been demoted?

Still, some might ask if emphasizing the centrality of Christ’s covenant leads to the dismissal of Judaism and its covenants. Would this lead to anti-Judaism in the church?

No. Christ and his church are deeply rooted in Judaism. As Gentiles, we are grafted into the Jewish tree of Abraham (Rom. 11:13-24). Jesus was Jewish, and it is through the Hebrew covenants that we understand our own covenant.

Christ does not replace these covenants; rather, he fulfills them and enables the birth of God’s kingdom, which includes both Jews and Gentiles. Reformed theology does not split Israel and the church; it finds rich continuity between them. Paul did not “become” a Christian; he realized the deepest meaning of his Jewishness when he chose to follow Jesus. This new, category-changing event at the heart of Christ’s work cannot be diminished. It is central to New Testament faith. Some have misused this teaching and promoted a dreadful anti-Semitism. But this misuse does not mean we dismiss what the Scriptures teach. Judaism deserves our respect, and anti-Semitism should be rejected outright as an utter corruption of the gospel.


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79 thoughts on “Does the modern State of Israel fulfil biblical prophecy?”

  1. Very timely, and I agree completely.

    To read Ezekiel today -viewed through the lens of Christ as presented in the New Testament- as a prophecy still awaiting fulfillment in the real-world state of Israel is to criminally misread both.

    The only reason such an idea maintains a grip on (let’s be frank) a particular subset of American evangelical Protestantism is because it is politically expedient to do so.

    Mat

    Reply
  2. Thank you for this. I agree. The answer to the question for Christians is No.

    It may be worth adding that even for Jews who are Zionist and observant, including Orthodox, the question of whether the modern State as anything to do with End Times is debated, rather than a given. Jonathan Sacks would be among those who say: it may be; let us see. A Jewish religious Zionist is, as such, one who believes in the self-determination of the Jewish people in the form of a national home, both because real-life history has proved the necessity for this, and because it is intrinsically a good thing to be utterly free to live Jewishly in the Land; that’s something to make the most of.

    The debate “hides in plain sight” in the variations of the liturgical prayers for the State of Israel. (The prayer is also sometimes put in ways which include the non-Zionist and the anti-Zionist. Here it becomes a prayer for the IDF. That’s not because militarism is lauded. It’s rather because even an anti-Zionist will want those Jews who are in the Land to be safe and protected.)

    Any Christian can of course be a Zionist as a political stance, and there’s a strong case for saying they should be (using the core definition only, not how the word is used is polemics).

    There is also a Zionism for Christians which can come from another, theological place. Catholic scholar Gavin D’Costa argues for a minimalist Catholic Zionism. It’s based on the idea that in Catholic thought the fact that Gd’s covenant with Israel (Jewry) is not revoked has come to mean the affirmation of rabbinic Judaism as an expression of that covenant. Indeed, in the above, the difference between the covenants *superseded* and the covenants *fulfilled* must have some real content: there must be a Jewish Israel which is (in Gd’s eyes) not superseded by the Church. It follows that the heart-beat of Revelation which Jews rightly honour still has force. And in that Revelation, there is no doubt that the Land is a divine Gift to the People (conditionally, though), and is a character in its own right. Christians (in this argument) can affirm this theologically as well as pragmatically. But! But nothing to do with End Times (unless and until such End Times unfold).

    Reply
  3. Excellent. Thank you Ian.
    Daniel was told to seal up the prophesy, that is, to the time of Christ’s Birth.
    & John was told his prophesy was not sealed.
    A good rule of thumb would be to only see prophesy in the OT as far as Jesus’ Ascension.
    Then only read Revelation as relevant to the immediate present. To stand fast. To trust that He holds the future.

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  4. I’ ve encounter what may be termed Christian Zionism teaching and somewhat simplistically it sees
    1 theology of land as being being set in the material world and a return to the land of the diaspora is necessary.
    2 the temple prophesied in Ezekial has yet to be physically built. It is unfulfilled prophecy.
    3 the church is considered by some as subscribing to replacement theology, rather than being grafted into.
    That (mostly charismatic teaching) did have some influence on my thinking until I encountered reformed theology; in particular that Jesus is the embodiment of scripture fulfilled covenants, prophecy, types, patterns, themes shadows, types/antitypes all along the longtitudinal scriptural canon flow. He is the true temple, true vine, true shepherd, true place of sabbath rest, true shalom, true Israel ( Son) true bread, true (new) wine, true exodus ( from death to new -eternal life) true righteousnes, true atoning sacrifice, true lamb, true scapegoat, true high priest, true saviour, true way, true Truth,
    true king, true prophet, true inheritance, true resurrection, true Ascension, true presence of God, true Shekinah Glory and more,
    Don’t we just love him as we know and set or hearts, desires on him.

    Reply
    • Geoff

      I hear what you are saying and I am glad that fulfilment is found in Christ. However, there are things that although fulfilled through Christ are not Christ. The church for example is not Christ. There are other things that have objective existence that are not Christ though they may exist in Christ.

      Reply
      • Hello John,
        Is not the church the body of Christ, the bride of Christ (together with Jewish believers) in union with him, the *called -out* ones with the remnant of Jewish believers, or as the reformed of old would say *old testament saints* who looked forward to the Promised One. We see in the rear view mirror, even as we look ahead to the consumation.
        I’d suggest that this is the place where continuity and discontinuity between the Old and New meet. Or as Steve more memorably puts it, the mid point of an hour glass.
        I, too, have concern that the church’s attitude can result in rejection of the nation state of Israel, even as zionism sees 1948 as a turning point in history a crucial to the end times and return if Christ. I’ve encountered open hostility in the church to the Jews and the nation state of Israel, let alone far from balanced media reporting, and peoples who would like it come to an end.
        For someone who was raised, trained and steeped in USA dispensationalism but came away from it, with some wrestling, to a reformed position see Baptist Dr Sam Storms book, Kingdom Come. In it he sets out the main eschatological positions and draws out a conclusion from scripture, a conclusion you may disagree with (amillenialism), but as he does he dispells dispensationalism.
        That book also was instrumental in my change of mind. It’s worth reading, or studying, over 350 pages with citatiions.

        Reply
        • Hi Geoff

          Thanks for your thoughtful response with much of which I agree. In am UK based and like you was raised in dispensationalism. I no longer am a dispensationalist in terms of its main distinctives. I, have not yet bought into full amillenialism, but remain at the moment in Ladd’s Historic Premillennialism. I have not read Storms book but have read a number of articles he has written.

          I agree Christ is the focal point of fulfilment but just how fulfilment is reconfigured around him I think is still open to debate. I think the church is the eschatological messianic community gathered in Christ that will ultimately be composed of all God’s people… the new Jerusalem.

          Yet I remain uncertain about aspects of the future.

          Reply
      • Bingo

        All the promises of God being Yes and Amen in Christ Jesus does not invalidate, annul and end the reality of specific unconditional promises given by God to Abraham Isaac & Jacob of land given to their seed in perpetuity – Jesus is the guarantor – proof God is true to his promises not a substitute for the specific promise fulfilment

        Reply
  5. Hi Ian

    I find myself in somewhat of a halfway house. Broadly I agree with what you say. Yet I remember that Jerusalem would be trampled on by the Gentiles until… I find some OT texts hard to interpret in any other way than relating to Jerusalem in the future – especially in books like Zechariah. I may be mistaken in these. (Zech 12,14).

    I certainly don’t think Christians should take a position that Israel is right, come what may. However, I am more concerned at the antisemitism that lies behind much hostility to Israel. Other countries do much worse and no eyebrow is raised. That Israel alone is treated with opprobrium suggests an anti-Semitic impulse.

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    • Hi John,
      Zech 12:9 ‘On that day I will set out to destroy all the nations that attack Jerusalem.’
      Rule of thumb– All OT prophesy points to Jesus fulfilling the law & prophesy. This verse tells me that we are in the period of time in which Jesus is going out to destroy the nations’ rebellion with his Gospel.
      I think the OT and the NT are like an hour glass. all the prophesies of sand have to pass through Jesus first and then down into the pile at the bottom. ALL OT scripture is fulfilled in Him. Everything that looks like it is yet to be fulfilled is just pictures in the clouds… which clever people use to gain a following…I’m thinking of Schofield and Darby.

      Reply
    • “I certainly don’t think Christians should take a position that Israel is right, come what may. However, I am more concerned at the antisemitism that lies behind much hostility to Israel. Other countries do much worse and no eyebrow is raised. That Israel alone is treated with opprobrium suggests an anti-Semitic impulse.”

      This is a big generalisation…^^

      Can antisemitism lie behind criticism of Israel? Of course, occasionally quite brazenly so. But the majority? That’s much harder to say and it would be difficult to back up. For a start intent is a very difficult thing to measure, and the media as we know can easily distort, often unintentionally (though sometimes not), a particularly vocal minority into having a much louder voice than it might well deserve.

      To be clear, I am not saying you are wrong per se, but my observation is there’s a worrying trend to treat criticism of Israel as de facto antisemitic unless otherwise justified, when there is plenty of objective criticism of Israel that gets lost in the fog of lazy accusations and undue caution.

      On the subject of Israel being singled out, I would contest that there is a lot more criticism of China than there is of Israel, despite many of the crimes being committed by the two nations being readily comparable (in type if not scale). The crucial difference is that while we accept that China is aloof and thoroughly dismissive of any international leverage on how it behaves internally, we see Israel (a broadly progressive, liberal democracy*) as somehow much more ‘like us’ than China, so we more readily expect it to engage and listen, and that empathy drives the news cycle that gives it prominence. It’s not as simple as Israel being ‘singled out’ on the count of antisemitism.

      Reply
      • Hello Mat,
        I’d suggest that there are substantial differences between Israel and China, not the least the nation neighbours and the nexus of religious beliefs centred around Jerusalem and Temple Mount.
        And certainly Israel is not beyond criticism.
        But as we sit here in our comfort zones, I find it almost incomprehensible how people living in open death and destruction on both sides continue.
        Maybe I’d have greater understanding if I’d lived through the Blitz, Battle of Britain, the Holocaust and the levelling of German Cities, Hiroshima

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        • I was generalising too, Geoff. 😉

          I stand by my broader point. The biggest international criticisms of China (bar emissions, which I grant Israel has very few issues with) are;

          1. Intentional displacement of people, arguably ‘cleansing’.
          2. Illegal occupation of land/territory.
          3. Government repression/deliberate sidelining of it’s own people.
          4. Open defiance of some aspects of international law.

          All of which are the principle complaints about Israel. My point in saying so was not to illustrate that Israel is the same as China in some way (they have far more differences than similarities), but to highlight that Israel is not uniquely singled out for doing these things. Criticism of them is near-universal and reasonably widely reported.

          And, for the sake of clarity, China is hardly the only example I could used.

          Reply
          • My point in saying so was not to illustrate that Israel is the same as China in some way (they have far more differences than similarities), but to highlight that Israel is not uniquely singled out for doing these things.

            And yet no one — not even the harshest critics of the Chinese Communist Party, those who think the world, and not least China, would be a much better place if the CCP fell apart tomorrow — suggests that China is an illegitimate state; that all its territory was ‘stolen’; that it should not have the right to defend itself, if attacked by murderers and terrorists; or that it have no right to exit.

            All these things are said about Israel. Why?

            [For the record, I don’t think it’s anti-Semitism — or at least not just anti-Semitism, and at least when it comes from the West. Rather I think it’s trendy Western self-loathing that has identified Israel with ‘colonialism’. It’s a hatred of ‘us’ that sees Israel as an extension of ‘us’ in a place where ‘we’ have no right to be.]

          • “All these things are said about Israel. Why?”

            I think because it’s easier to say the state is somehow ‘invalid’ than to do the difficult work of separating out the legitimate sovereignty of a nation from it’s illegitimate actions….

            Not all of Israel’s territory was stolen, but some was.
            Not all of Israel’s military action is unjustified, but some is.

            By making it as black-and-white as possible it is far easier to pressure people into taking sides, which the cynic in me says is the really reason people don’t care about the nuance.

            “Rather I think it’s trendy Western self-loathing that has identified Israel with ‘colonialism’. It’s a hatred of ‘us’ that sees Israel as an extension of ‘us’ in a place where ‘we’ have no right to be.”

            I think you’re onto something here.

          • And, for the sake of clarity, China is hardly the only example I could used.

            I think you should have used another example, then. Because China is a totalitarian state that has been credibly accused of genocide; whereas there is no credible accusation of anything like as serious against Israel, which is a democracy, yet still people fling baseless slanders like ‘apartheid state’ at Israel.

            No matter how you might caveat that ‘they have far more differences than similarities’, you must realise that drawing the comparison at all is succour to the slanderers of Israel.

            I seriously suggest you make your comparison to another state instead. Right now.

          • I think you’re onto something here.

            Indeed. As so often, supercilious, smug Western ‘intellectuals’ are acting as the ‘useful idiots’ of the most repellent, most evil forces on the planet.

          • “Apartheid state” is hardly a ‘baseless slander’ as you put it; it is very much still debated.

            https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_and_the_apartheid_analogy

            I personally don’t like the phrase because (and I agree with you on this at least) it’s an intentional provocation by those who use it. But that Israel segregates based on race and effectively treats the Arab racial groups within its borders as second class citizens is well established by almost every human rights group and something accepted by most national and transnational governments/organisations. Constitutionally this shouldn’t be the case of course, but the reality is plainly different.

            On the demand that I withdraw my comparrison with China, I accept and apolgise. It was not my intent to suggest that Israel is guilty of genocide when it plainly isn’t, thought I think you reading something I didn’t say.

            I was not trying to play a relativistic game, I was simply suggesting that Israel is not uniquely singled out for criticism of particular crimes, and crimes of the type I listed above are near-universally reported on. Is that fairer at least, even if you still disagree?

            Are Israels crimes often exaggerated by opponents? Of course. But they aren’t (usually) invented.

          • On the demand that I withdraw my comparrison with China, I accept and apolgise. It was not my intent to suggest that Israel is guilty of genocide when it plainly isn’t, thought I think you reading something I didn’t say.

            Thank you. I accept that that was not your intent; but I hope you understand that given that Israel has, baselessly, been accused of genocide and such other slanders, it needlessly muddies the waters to use as your example a state which (almost certainly) is guilty of genocide; especially if, as you claim, there are many other examples you could have used.

            Out of interest, which of those other many examples would you like to use instead? If there are many then presumably you shouldn’t have any trouble coming up with another one.

            I was not trying to play a relativistic game, I was simply suggesting that Israel is not uniquely singled out for criticism of particular crimes, and crimes of the type I listed above are near-universally reported on. Is that fairer at least, even if you still disagree?

            It’s fair, but again, I’d be interested in knowing which country you would like now to use as your example which has its ‘crimes’ universally reported on as much as Israel.

          • I’d be interested in knowing which country you would like now to use as your example which has its ‘crimes’ universally reported on as much as Israel.

            I’d still be interested.

    • However, I am more concerned at the antisemitism that lies behind much hostility to Israel.

      That is concerning, but also is simply the criticism of a country which is, after all, just defending its citizens and its own right to exist. How, for example, would you expect the UK to react if it were the IRA, or ISIS, firing rockets and sending suicide bombers into Croydon, rather than Hamas sending them into Tel Aviv?

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      • ‘How, for example, would you expect the UK to react if it were the IRA.. firing rockets and sending suicide bombers into Croydon’,

        They would broker a peace deal with those terrorists who murdered thousands, and then put them in power over the disputed land.

        Reply
        • They would broker a peace deal with those terrorists who murdered thousands, and then put them in power over the disputed land.

          Fair enough. Perhaps I should have asked, how would you hope they would react.

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  6. Ian, I really appreciated the clarity of this article. Very helpful indeed, and something I’ve had lots of questions about over the years. The New Testament references here are particularly clear.

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  7. Another general comment I made earlier ..somewhere.
    Ezekiel’s Temple has no heights mentioned…or not much. Therefore it is a plan. This plan came to fruition as Jesus the New Temple. Herod’s temple was not commissioned by the Lord neither did the Shekinah Glory bless it (as he did previously to both Tent and Temple). But Jesus was endorsed by the Glory at the transfiguration.
    The plan of Exekiel’s Temple if looked at with East at the top looks somewhat like a king on a throne with the Mediterranean sea under his feet. That’s why symbolically there is no door on the west. His feet are on the sea. The Spirit came in from the top (east) and remained. This was the star of Bethlehem. We enter and leave by the left or right (north and South). We make an offering of our lives on the heart (altar). When Jesus comes again the New Temple will be full and complete, a cube.
    I could go on but I’ll stop by saying if one sees the temple of Ezekiel as something yet to be built then you are saying Jesus has not yet fulfilled all prophesy. He has. He is the New Temple and we are the sacrifices.

    Reply
    • “Ezekiel’s Temple has no heights mentioned…or not much. Therefore it is a plan.”

      This is an excellent observation.

      Reply
      • Not my observation but I can’t remember where I read it. Ian???
        Noah’s Ark, The tabernacle, The Promised Land, Solomon’s Temple all had three dimensions. Zerubbabel’s was only a poor repair and Herod’s was not commissioned by the Lord. Herod’s Temple had no spiritual significance except to represent the dreams of man’s idea of holiness. Therefore I think Ezekiel’s Temple plan is an inspired vision of Jesus himself.
        It would be interesting to find out how much time elapsed between each plan and it’s realisation. Nearly 2000 years since John’s NJ.

        Reply
    • I think Jesus is the sacrifice. He is both Temple (the presence of God) and the sacrifice (the alter). I think this is what John alludes to when he highlights the blood and water pouring from His pierced side/heart.

      Reply
      • Yup, Peter, agreed.
        We are not the sacrifices, Christ is, as fulfilment in his multi-dimensional roles, including Christ as God and as man keeping covenant, in our stead,
        uni -laterally, in furtherance of the OT principle of a life for a life, but in the crucifixion it is the (in)finite life of the GodMan for the finite life of fallen humanity in which we play no part, other than killing him. Perhaps even an echo of Cain and Able.
        And believers are the temple of God, the dwelling place of God, by the Holy Spirit, individually and collectively in community.

        Reply
        • Good morning Geoff and PC1
          Verses like these (below) point to the fact that in this age sacrifice and offering still have to be made:
          Romans 12:1 Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God – this is your true and proper worship.
          Romans 15:16 He gave me the priestly duty of proclaiming the gospel of God, so that the Gentiles might become an offering acceptable to God, sanctified by the Holy Spirit.
          If Ezekiel’s Temple is Jesus. We are in it, coming in from the north or south gate, his left and right, as he walks upon the sea of history towards the west.
          A dispensationalist looks at the sacrifice in the temple of Ezekiel and concludes that when the temple is built sacrifices will resume. I see it fulfilled already in every Christian coming to Christ.
          Which is best? Assume there are unfulfilled prophesies to do with buildings and rituals that Christians have no part in or to see that we are an integral part of it already. Vision: See Christ on the cloud reaping the harvest in a ‘sea’ of wheat moving down the page of history; from east (eden, beginning) and west. From Asia (the dawn) to the end of time.

          Reply
          • ‘Morning Steve,
            Thank you for clearing that up. I trust it is clear that we don’t disagree over the main burden of the article.
            Without delving into the detail of the context of the Romans scriptures you cite, the first 11 chapters set out gospel indicatives followed by the response of imperatives which relate to sanctification, holiness, whilst continuing with the (OT – Hebrew – bearing in mind Paul’s target audience of Romans) devotional language of sacrifice and offering to God.

  8. How can Jewish people believe they are God’s Israel when they rejected, and continue to reject, God’s Messiah? Objectively, it doesnt make sense.

    Reply
  9. The second half of the article sounds very close to replacement theology, which I don’t think is biblically supported. One does not have to be a ‘Christian Zionist’ to answer “Does the modern State of Israel fulfil biblical prophecy?” in the affirmative.

    As I understand it, the question asks whether the Bible leads one to expect Israel to be reconstituted as a nation-state before Jesus returns. The answer is clearly yes, as witness Jesus’s warning that Jews (understood) living in Judaea should flee to the mountains (Matt 24:16).

    The sign of the fig tree is all about the reconstitution of Israel. Jesus will come back before the generation dies out which sees the fig tree rejuvenate.

    God promised the land to the physical descendants of Abraham on only one condition – circumcision. Do the Jews therefore have a right to the land? Clearly not, since he expelled them from the land for rejecting their Messiah, and this they still do. So many will be killed and others exiled (Luke 21:24). Christ will lead them back into the land himself (Ezek 20:42). Recognising him and repenting, they will then have the right of possession restored to them. The rights of the Palestinians will also be respected (Ezek 47:22).

    Reply
    • The problem being, of course, that the divine gift of the land as part of the Covenants was only a ‘deposit’ so-to-speak; the full inheritance for Gods people is ultimately the whole of creation, not just a small part of it in the middle east.

      Arguing that God will restore a temporal kingdom to Israel, with defined borders, when God’s kingdom is already partially inaugurated and includes the entire created order is like obsessing over getting change from a £5 note when you have £∞ in the bank.

      Reply
      • Apologies if that comes across as patronising Steven. I was aiming for ‘pithy’ but appear to have missed.

        However one squares the circle of what’s going on in passages like Matthew 24 and Mark 13, I am not convinced that it’s envisaging as an-yet-unfulfilled prophecy for a future earthly Jewish kingdom. Without wanting to be too sycophantic about it, I broadly agree with Ian that to talk about what will be restored and when is to miss the point of the passages and what they’re actually pointing towards.

        Obligatory ping-back to an article from last year.

        https://www.psephizo.com/biblical-studies/the-coming-of-jesus-in-mark-13/

        Mat

        Reply
    • In haste, a few points:

      – the concept of the nation-state as conceived today is very recent in historical terms.

      – I’m very unclear as to how fleeing to the mountains is a prediction of the restoration of Israel in the land. There is nothing about returning when things are better! This part of what Jesus says probably relates to the Jewish war and siege of Jerusalem.

      – Deuteronomy, inter alia, has clear indications that disobedience will lead to loss of the land, e.g. Deuteronomy 28:15-68. As, indeed, happened with the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel and later the Kingdom of Judah.

      – Romans seems to tell me that physical descent from Abraham is not the key. Romans 9:6-8 seems clear on this.

      – If physical descent from Abraham is key, then the descendents of Ishmael and Esau are also included in the promise.

      Reply
      • The concept of the nation-state as conceived today is very recent in historical terms.
        This seems to me a quibble, since my point does not rest on exact identity between an OT/NT understanding of a self-governing Israel with control over its own territory and the modern concept of a nation state. I was using shorthand.

        I’m very unclear as to how fleeing to the mountains is a prediction of the restoration of Israel in the land.
        So you should be. Whatever gave you that idea? The passage in question does, however, predicate Jews living in the land before the speaker returns.

        This part of what Jesus says probably relates to the Jewish war and siege of Jerusalem.
        Obviously not. That war took place just 40 years later. Jesus is expressly talking about events leading up to the close of the age, after a period subdivided in Matt 24:4-8 into (i) Jews looking for other Messiahs, (ii) the hearing of wars and rumours of wars, presumably when the Jews are not in the land (NB “the end is not yet”), (iii) a period of international war(s) – (iii) being but the beginning of the birth pangs. He then goes on to describe the last days.

        Romans seems to tell me that physical descent from Abraham is not the key. Romans 9:6-8 seems clear on this.
        You do not make clear (in your haste) why that passage seems clear on the question. Paul is talking about who counts as Israel spiritually. Indeed he begins by saying ‘the word of God has not failed’, so why suggest that the promise in Gen 17:8 about being given the land is nullified. If only you had started a couple of verses earlier! ‘My brothers are Israelites and to them belong … the covenants … and the promises.’ Paul completes his argument in Rom 11, which includes the key point that the Gentiles are grafted into Israel’s olive tree, not the Israelites grafted into the Gentiles’ tree.

        If physical descent from Abraham is key, then the descendents of Ishmael and Esau are also included in the promise.
        It seems you have not read Gen 17 carefully enough. Ishmael and Esau were circumcised but were not heirs to the promise. The promise was to Abraham and his seed, which excluded Ishmael (Gen 17:20-21).

        Reply
  10. Does anyone care to care to comment on the Luke 21 text

    (ESV) and Jerusalem will be trampled underfoot by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.

    It is the ‘until’ that I’m interested in. It seems to imply a time when earthly Jerusalem will no longer be trampled on by the gentiles. Is Jerusalem still trampled on by the Gentiles? The time of gentile power gives way to the coming of the kingdom of God and the stone cut out without hands crushing all gentile powers. We’re looking at the second coming.

    Are we to envisage the salvation of Israel immediately preceding or accompanying the Second Coming.

    To further complicate matters Rev 11 says …for it is given over to the nations, and they will trample the holy city for forty-two months.

    Is this a reference to earthly Jerusalem or a symbol for the church, the new Jerusalem? I’m inclined to the latter.

    Reply
    • Luke 21 is the equivalent of Matt 24, and Luke 21:20-24 in particular the equivalent of Matt 24:15-22. Luke is writing to a Gentile readership, for whom references to Daniel would have meant nothing, so at this point he adds material that Matthew omitted, referring nonetheless to the same critical juncture. It is all in the future.

      The ‘until’ is not referring to Jerusalem post 1968. Jerusalem still has a sizable Arab population, and – ignoring the Covid interruption – is trodden every year by millions of Gentile tourists. I agree with you that Rev 11 does connect to the Luke passage, though the verb is ‘tread’ (pateo), not ‘trample’ (katapateo, tread down). As in Luke 21:24, the holy city in Rev 11 is the earthly Jerusalem (Rev 11:8).

      Reply
      • Thanks Steven.

        The ‘until’ on the surface of things seems to be the time when the stone cut out without hands destroys gentile rule and the kingdom is given to the saints of the most high (Dan. 2).

        Reply
        • More or less, though ‘times’ is actually a verbal allusion to the ‘time, times and half a times’.

          I agree with your suggestion re Gog/Magog, provided a line is drawn at Ezek 39:16. The rest of the chapter links with Rev 19.

          Reply
          • Hi Steven

            I think ‘times of the Gentiles’ refers to the whole time when Israel, or perhaps better, the people of God, is subject to gentile rule. It is succeeded by the kingdom of God – the rule for which the people of God await.

            I do see your point re the unclean feast and Rev 19. It is another conundrum to me. I’d expect it in Ch 20.

    • Hello John.
      Luke 21; Mat 24:4-31

      This is from Sam Storms, Kingdom come:

      ” There will not be any unprecedented global catastrophes or unparalleled calamities that will point people to the return of Jesus. Rather, people will be immersed in the routine affairs of life. It will be like the days of Noah. The world will be completely off-guard by the coming of Jesus…
      [Destruction of Temple]
      “It may well be that the future events associated with the second advent of Christ at the end of the age are *Prefigured* by the destruction of the temple and city in AD 70. James R Edwards in the Gospel according to Mark argues “that the events surrounding the destruction of the temple and the fall of Jerusalem are a Type and Foreshadowing of a final sacrilege before the eschaton,”

      “Thus, the temple is understood as a microcosm of the cosmos, so that its destruction becomes a prophetic or proleptic paradigm for what will occur in the macrocosm at the close of history.

      “The mistake many make, however, is in trying to project the historical details of the year 70 into a comparable and proportionate conflagration in literal, historical Jerusalem at the end of the age.

      “They want to suggest that essentially everything that literally happened in the period 33-70 will literally happen again on the same scale in the same part of the world: Palestine.

      “They fail to recognise that the events of70 are at most a prototype or microcosmic scale of what will occur on a macro -cosmic scale when Jesus returns.

      “In other words, the events of 70 may well portray in a localised way what will happen globally at or in some way associated with the second advent….
      “… may function as a local, micro-cosmic foreshadowing of the global macrocosmic events associated with the parousia at the end of history.

      ” The period 33-70 conceivably, then, provides in its principles (though not necessarily in all particularities), a template against which we are to interpret the period 70 – parousia….

      “…. The prophecy, therefore, is designed to tell the disciples then (and now us) that the temple is no longer and never shall be again, where you go to meet God.
      “The temple is no longer, and never shall be again, the place of God’s dwelling….the place where blood sacrifice is offered…the place where forgiveness of sins is found…the place where you go to hear God’s voice and to earn about who he is,

      “All these things are now found in Jesus alone. He is the true temple. He is the person and place of sacrifice where forgiveness is found and God’s voice is heard and God’s glory and presence are encountered… so when the temple was raised… everything the temple symbolised and achieved is now found in King Jesus who rules over all the universe.
      “There has been a regime change. The temple is dethroned. Jesus is enthroned”

      Footnote;
      ” Notwithstanding the presence on the temple site of the Dome of the Rock, a way may be found for a Jewish temple to be built in its place. But it will never be the locus of God’s presence or glory or redemptive grace.
      “Should it be built it would standas an affront to the incarnation. life, death, resurrection. asenscion, and enthronement of the Son of God, the true and final temple of God.”

      As to Rev 11;2 Storms simply see the holy city as the people of God.

      Reply
      • Geoff

        Thanks for such a detailed response. I can see that a future destruction of Jerusalem could well be different. I can see it may involve some desecration of the church at that time. I can see the holy city in Rev 11 is probably the church since inn ch 21 it is the holy city.

        An issue for me is whether Israel the nation features in Revelation or not. Are the possible references to Israel all symbols for the church. I do think at the moment some refer to the church. Ie. 144.000. I confess I find it difficult to see Israel as a nation there though. I remember Israel is yet to be converted. I’d expect some reference to this.

        I’m not convinced that because life is going on as normal catastrophic events are not happening. Both can exist side by side.

        For example the bowls of wrath in Revelation, which seem to be within the time frame of the beast, are clearly catastrophic. From the churches point of view the reign of the beast is catastrophic.

        I take the reign of the beast to be the beast (Daniel’s fourth beast) in its manifestation in the head that was slain yet lives..Daniel’s little horn. Although most writers I read (outside dispensationalism) view the 31/2 years/42 months as symbolic of the whole church age I can’t presently see that. Firstly this time period appears to lie in the future when John wrote which puts it some time beyond the ascension. Secondly, and more significantly, John places it firmly in the reign of the beast as does Daniel. The time frame seems to be a literal 42 months as in Daniel. In my view much of Rev 4-20 belongs to that future time period.

        This raises questions of how to understand Rev 4-20. At the moment I tend to see John (or Jesus) as pulling together biblical prophecy into one final revelation. In his first advent the End had begun and since it has begun it cannot be long until it is completed. Ch 4-20 are the elements that have yet to play out as the Lamb brings history to a conclusion.

        Revelation does not envisage the many centuries of ordinary church life (save in the seven churches) but looks only to the events of the end which play out in a larger scale what has been true during its history. Is this not what Jesus does in Matt 24. He describes many events that will be characteristic of the age but then jumps to the end (prefigured in the destruction of Jerusalem) which will be a time of great trauma before Christ comes.

        Having said all of that I’m not yet prepared to transmute Scriptures about Jesus standing again on the Mount of Olives into something that doesn’t involve Israel and her ultimate salvation.

        Let me raise another issue. I like the simplicity of amillennialism and I am attracted until I read Rev 20. It reads very like an age that follows the coming of Christ. The beast and the false prophet are in the lake of fire and the dragon who was cast to earth and deceived the nations through the false prophet is incarcerated. While in ch 19 Christ overthrows the nations in Rev 20 nations remain present.. ian Paul points out it is hard to see the resurrection of the martyrs as spiritual since resurrection elsewhere in the NT is bodily resurrection…. just a few points that make me hesitant about full blown amillennialism.

        Reply
        • Phew, John.
          This is not an attempt to convert you to amillenialism, and you are covering a lot of scriptural ground which is probably more book shaped than blog shaped.
          I think it is probably not correct to equate Israel with the nation state of Israel, rather than to Messianic believers. It does not correspond to a “land locked or land, geographical,” Kingdom of God”, a key central concept.I’m also reluctant to reduce worldwide believers, both Jews and gentiles to the word, church. I do not espouse replacement theology, neither does Storms.
          One of the difficulties with blog comments, is trying to be concise, to encapsulate wide-ranging theology in short form comment without do justice to the whole counsel of God.
          An example is something you picked up on as life going on as normal. This does not mean simply that everything is business as usual worldwide, but as Storms book emphasises as number of times, end times is not a matter of historical sequence, but events taking place worldwide at the same time, in parallel.

          I have to leave off now you’ll be pleased to know.

          Reply
          • Hi Geoff

            Being concise is perhaps something I need to learn. Thanks for your thoughts. I’m sure there is much about which we agree.

  11. Hi Ian

    I thought I had put up a link to articles suggesting that antisemitism lies behind much criticism of Israel presently. Did I do so and did you decide to remove it. It is your right to do so and I can understand if you did. I’m just not sure if I posted it or not.

    John

    Reply
  12. Hi Ian

    I’m commenting once again. Again I write as an inquirer rather than someone with a firm view. Ezek 38,39 seems to describe a time when Israel is dwelling in safety. If there is a time to which it more naturally applies in a dispensational/premil framework it seems to be the end of the millennium where Gog and Magog are specifically mentioned.

    Reply
    • Hi John,
      I have decided to comment again to back up my assertion that we should see all OT prophesy as being fulfilled in Him first and then secondarily in some other way.
      I’ve just read chapters 38&9. It looks like it referrers to some time in the future for us but I think it was fulfilled in Christ. I’m not sure. Anyway, as I read ch40 as a description of Jesus as the Temple I read the chapters preceding it as describing the mighty conflict between Satan and Jesus. Satan (Gog) is used in the Lord’s plan. It’s poetic language describing the titanic battle that Jesus wins on the cross. Eating the flesh and drinking the blood become the sacrament. Jesus said he was real bread and real drink. He consumed his enemy and then invites us to consume him. So the events described have already happened on the cross but still await a final display. Jesus was innocent – like an unsuspecting people living in peace. He identifies himself as The Land. See Psalm 129: ‘Ploughmen have ploughed my back and made their furrows long.’ He is The Land just as much as he is The Bread.
      Reading it this way is a comfort: It is finished; Jesus is Lord and one day all eyes will see the one they pierced.
      Trying to work out a complicated timeline and place these texts into it is difficult task and leads (I think) to a view of the bible that would be for the initiated only.

      Reply
      • Steve

        Although I agree that promise finds fulfilment and certainty in Christ I don’t think this means we must look for its fulfilment always in the first advent. Clearly there are promises in the OT that wait for a future fulfilment. For example Isaiah’s promise of a new heavens and new earth. Others are perhaps partially fulfilled presently yet await complete fulfilment in the future. Salvation is a example here.

        No doubt the Gog/Magog chapters are about a conflict with the forces of evil however Rev locates it in the millennium. This makes sense as Israel is depicted as living in ideal conditions when attacked.

        While lots of Israel’s history is recapitulated in the life and death of Christ. For instance I don’t think you can say Christ was an unsuspecting person living in peace. He knew he would be attacked.

        There is a sense in which Christ is the land. At least we are seated with him presently in heavenly places. There we receive the spiritual blessings of the land. However there is a physical land to come- a new heavens and new earth.

        I think it’s a mistake to locate everything in Christ in a way that deprives them of personal identity and place in a biblical timeline. Hard though it is we should endeavour to work out that timeline. Perhaps there are things in the Bible that take time to work out and are not obvious to all. Certainly we should avoid being obsessed by these questions.

        Over the last couple of years I have been looking a little at Isaiah, Daniel, and Revelation and have discovered how little I know. It’s humbling.

        Reply
        • Hi John,
          Thanks for your reply.
          My ‘Rule of Thumb’ is an idea I had yesterday! I noticed that in many cases the simple rule is often the right one.
          1. The Millennium
          I think we are in it already. The symbolic 1000 is always used in scripture to represent something rather than an exact time. The Greek for a thousand is often a X or + . It seems satisfactory to see the X (cross) years as the time we are in.
          2. Living in peace. seems to me to be symbolic of innocence as Jesus was. Not unsuspecting or naive. A parallel to the image of a lamb. Land of peace.
          3. As a teenager I was interested in timelines. I inherited some books from a grandfather who was a Brethren. I find the whole thing futile now in my mid 60s.
          I too have only recently started rereading scripture and am discovering new things. I hope I’m open to any ideas but I always want to see the Lord first, front and centre. So many people want to say “yeah, yeah, Jesus, I believe in him; now about how this prophesy points to the political/sociological/sexual/etc. current events.” Jesus is more than just a hero or a common denominator to ‘align’ with.

          Reply
  13. There are (at least) two aspects of this post that need to be challenged:
    First: The assertion that “the spiritual root of Christian Zionism is dispensational.”
    Two founding members of what is now called Church’s Ministry among Jewish People (CM J) were William Wilberforce and Charles Simeon. The year was 1809 – a long time before dispensationalism took off. Two of the greatest supporters of Jewish issues were Bishop JC Ryle and Charles Spurgeon; both Reformed in theology and certainly not Dispensationalists. One of the theologians of the 20th century, also Reformed and a strong supporter of Israel’ place in the biblical narrative was Thomas Torrance.
    Incidentally, CMJ still exists today .It is active in Israel and , moreover, is a bona fide organization within both the C of E and the C of I. Two further points about CMJ: it is manifestly not dispensationalist and , more significantly , it upholds as a central tenet that salvation is only through Jesus Christ – for “Jew and for Greek.”

    The second contentious issue is to be found in the paragraph beginning, “Reformed theologians believed something decisive happened in Christ.” All of the theological figures alluded to in the previous paragraph would have concurred with this. But what is not clarified in this essay is that many (if not most) of the Reformed leadership since the Reformation subscribed to what is called Covenant Theology or Federal Theology. According to this theory, biblical history is governed by two (some say three) overriding covenants; a covenant of works and a covenant of grace.
    For the purposes of brevity, both OT and NT participants in covenantal blessing are part of the covenant of grace.Or putting this another way, this type of Reformed theology views the Church as existing from the beginning of history and carrying through to the end of the age! In other words, Israel is ultimately subsumed in the Church!
    And one consequence of this is how it affects Scriptual interpretation: the grammatical – historical approach ; seeking as it does to interpret contextually; a method favoured by the Reformed insights gleaned at the time of the Reformation has , in its Covenant Theology form, more than a tendency to allow this dogma to override other factors. Thus we have examples of certain evangelical commentaries warning against “literal ” interptetations of biblical passages;particularly in relation to issues of unfulfilled prophecy and warning us off the dangers of “misinterpreting” the meaning. In order to eliminate any trace of “politics” and “racial preferences” we must follow the “spiritual” pathway. Where the passage speaks of or alludes to Jesus, however, we are definitely on that pathway. But if the passage makes reference to say Israel’s future, we must at the very least, place it on our ready made Procrustean bed for the sake of propagating the “truth.”

    In conclusion, and by way of example, I wonder how many contributing to this post are aware that words such as “everlasting”(as in the covenant promises made to Abraham and given that those promises included the land of Canaan), might no longer be construed as meaning everlasting [Genesis 17: 7,8]?

    Reply
    • Do you think the Levitical Priesthood was forever (Jer 33:18)? Or does it become obsolete with the covenant to which it belongs? Does Christ as the High Priest of a new covenant under the order of Melchesidek fulfil this promise but in a reconfigured way?

      Reply
  14. “Criminally” wow – that’s a lot of faithful Godly Biblical Christians you condemn there

    So is the world class scholar Daniel Block in his definitive double volume commentary on Ezekiel in the NICOT series guilty of criminality when he states “to reduce these oracles to symbolic language and to restrict their fulfilment to the NT church is to annul the hope that the prophet was attempting to restore” ?

    Reply
    • “Criminally” wow – that’s a lot of faithful Godly Biblical Christians you condemn there.

      Criminally (informal): –To a shocking degree….

      It was hyperbole, which I thought was obvious. There are a great many theological disagreements of which this one is rather minor in the grand scheme of things, and I don’t, sincerely, consider any of them worthy of litigation.

      For the record though I have read Block’s commentary (or rather, parts of it) and encountered a few other authors that make a similar argument, but it does seem to be the minority view of commentators and I remain unconvinced by it. Having said that, I am am well aware that one person cannot be sufficiently well-read to have faithfully weighed every scholarly opinion on the matter, and would welcome someone correcting me.

      My view that reading Ezekiel (as well as parts of Revelation/Daniel and the gospels) in this way is problematic and at at times illogical remains precisely that; the opinion of an internet commentator with no more authority than anyone else.

      I appreciate that’s not an apology, but hopefully you will consider is somewhat more reasonable..

      Mat

      Reply
    • “Criminally” what? I am supposed to have condemned “a lot of of faithful godly Biblical Christians -when in fact I never mentioned one.
      You’ve actually missed the central drift of this exercise: it is not to condemn anyone; rather it is to challenge a form of biblical interpration which (and I have experienced this) operates, on the one hand, by grammatical-historical exegesis and then exhorts us to follow a allegorical- spiritual approach.
      For example : examine Leon Morris’s IVP commentary on Luke’s Gospel;with particular reference to The Benedictus/The Song of Zechariah (Luke1:67f). On P 79, he says, ” We may agree that there is an authentic Jewish note —-but the song is ‘religious’ rather than political.” And on the next page vis-a vis the Abrahamic covenant: “The covenant with Abraham will be brought to its consummation. There is a “religious” aim behind the deliverance from the enemies.”
      Two observations: (1) As with “spiritual”, what is the actual meaning of “religious”?
      (2) The sentence beginning ” The covenant with Abraham —–will be brought to its consummation.” Really? Is that with or without,say, the promise of the land [Genesis 17:8] ?

      Reply
      • Colin – I was not addressing you at all – I was responding to Mat’s comment near the start of this thread in which he called zionist theology ‘criminal’. As a theological Zionist I take issue with that, and would prefer more considered and nuanced contribution.

        My concern is that such hyperbolic statements beside coming from a theological position I find Scripturally indefensible, are deeply incendiary, putting fuel on antisemitism and disdains and judges many good and Godly Christians through the centuries who are zionist on seriously considered theological reasoning.

        Again I refer people if serious about learning and exploring this important issue to read
        The New Christian Zionism, IVP, ed McDermott

        Reply
        • As the small sampling of views represented by the comments suggest, some indepth reflection on this topic would repay, and your recommendation looks like a good place to start. I don’t like supporting Amazon, but Eric Chabot’s full-length review of the book on their site is excellent itself. As he indicates, the topic is central to how we understand the Scriptures, New Testament and Old. Get it wrong, and we get the whole story wrong.

          Reply
    • Dear Simon,

      My sincere apologies for that misunderstanding of what you were trying to convey. I was assuming that,as your post followed mine, it was addressed to me.
      Incidentally, your observations were spot on! Best wishes,
      Colin.

      Reply
      • Thanks Colin – I realise my post was out of sync and you had inadvertently thought it directed to you 🙂 we actually think much alike

        Reply
  15. ps – my last post was in response to Matt’s initial post calling my theology, and millions of others, criminal

    Reply
  16. Colin

    I think I understand a little where you are coming from. My background is dispensationalism. Admittedly I have largely turned away from it but it has been a long and painful process.

    Let me give a couple of reasons I have changed. They relate to seeing the NT church as the eschatological Israel or people of God.

    1. I saw that Joel’s prophecy concerning the gift of the Spirit in the last days for Israel is said in Acts 2 to be fulfilled in the church.
    2. The new covenant made with Israel is made with the church.
    3. The eschatological Jerusalem in Isa 54 is said by Paul in Gals 4 to be the Jerusalem above to which all NT believers belong.
    4. Taking these points above it began to be clear that many OT passages are cited in the NT as being realised in the church. Check out for yourself the many times OT texts are cited by NT writers as finding fulfilment in the NT church. I began to see these references were not simply illustrating a principle but were understood by NT writers as promise and fulfilment.

    Two further points.

    The first reason that promise fulfilment is a trajectory that involves the church is that fulfilment is ultimately located in Christ. He is the seed of promise… the Abrahamic Son… God’s beloved son, the servant. In other words he is the true Israel. He is the true Vine. All God’s promises find their fulfilment in relation to him. Abraham had one offspring to whom all the promises belong and that is Christ. Every blessing resides in him. Gals 3,4 develop this fully.

    We may expect that fulfilment lies with those who are united to Christ and so it proves to be. Jesus tells Israel that the kingdom will be taken from her and given to a nation producing its fruits. See the context. He was referring to his disciples. He had deliberately chosen 12 as the nucleus of a new Israel, a new eschatological people of God, his own messianic community. Initially this new ‘holy nation’ was composed of Jews upon whom the eschatogical gift of the Spirit fell at Pentecost then they were joined by Gentiles who also received the Spirit putting them among the new covenant community. In Acts 15 this is seen as referring to the rebuilding of the ruins of the tent of David… Eph 2 puts Jew and gentile together as heirs to the covenants of promise. All is realised in Christ.

    Subsequently, of course more Gentiles were converted than Jews but Scripture sees a vast turning to God by the nation at the end of the present age.

    For reasons along these lines I came to see that the church composed of Jew and gentile, is the eschatological people of God of which the OT speaks. The OT’s eschatological Jerusalem is in turn the New Jerusalem, the Jerusalem above, the city for which Abraham looked whose builder and Maker is God.

    And speaking of the New Jerusalem, in Revelation you will find that features of it are sourced in Ezekiel’s temple. Remember when reading OT visions it is probable that they involve symbolism. Are we to literally understand a river beginning in the temple and flowing out or are we looking at symbolism. In John’s New Jerusalem are we to take its 15000 miles high walls literally or are we to look for a symbolic meaning. Indeed we are told that the bride is a city. Well it can’t literally be both. We are looking at metaphor.

    Probably most of this is irrelevant to where you are at Colin but I hope some is. From someone who is neither a dispensationalist nor a covenant theologian.

    Reply
    • John,
      You have said much here that I an unable to reply to at this point. However I will make two quick observations :
      (1) You say :” the new covenant made with Israel is made with the church.”
      In Hebrews 8, the author makes reference to Jeremiah 31 re the new covenant:
      Hebrews reiterates (a) that it is new and (b) that the old is obsolete. If that is the case, why then does it still refer to “the house of Israel and the house of Judah” and not to “the church”? In his otherwise first class commentary (“Hebrews for Everyone”) Tom Wright appears to have avoided this issue!
      (2) Re The New Jerusalem: The general issue I am trying to deal with here is not the possible conflict between literal and symbolic, rather between “spiritual” and “physical”. To give an example:when Paul speaks in I Corinthians 15:44 of the resurrection body, ” (the body) is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body”, I do not think he means by spiritual something like an ethereal “substance.”Rather, in the words of CK Barrett, ” a new body animated by the Spirit of God.” If Jesus Christ (risen) is able to partake of food, then even allowing for the symbolism of, for example, the book of Revelation then surely there must be some sense of “physicality” in the descriptions of,say, the new Jerusalem!

      PS If possible, I would love to discuss the other points you have raised.
      Blessings!

      Reply
      • Regarding Heb 8, that’s why it’s best to stick with what the Scriptures say rather than allow a modern theologian to complicate matters. The obsolete/obsolescent covenant referred to is that of the Mosaic Law (Jer 31:32). It became finally obsolete in AD 70. The new covenant replaces it and is exclusively a covenant for Israel and Judah. Jesus came for the lost sheep of Israel, and it was with his 12 Jewish disciples that he instituted the covenant at the Last Supper. We enter that covenant as wild olive shoots grafted into the cultivated olive tree that is Israel. There is no separate Gentile ‘New Jerusalem’. But Jer 31:31-40 has yet to be fulfilled for present-day Israel (Messianic Jews aside). God is simply saying that it will be. Verses 35-40 could hardly be clearer that God has not rejected Israel according to the flesh, and that Jerusalem, when it is physically rebuilt, will never again be uprooted or overthrown.

        The unilateral covenant with Abraham to give his descendants the whole land, from the Nile to Euphrates, is distinct from the covenant with Moses, and will be fulfilled at the same time as Jer 31 is fulfilled.

        Reply
        • Steven

          I largely agree with what you say. The difference is I think semantic. The new covenant is made with the church because the church is the eschatological Israel composed of Jew and gentile. Gentiles as you say are grafted in. Or we may say the Abrahamic covenant ultimately blesses the Gentiles because in Christ they become sons and heirs just like believing Jews.

          I wanted to stress that the trajectory from promise to fulfilment is from Israel to the church (the eschatological people of God composed of Jew and gentile).

          Reply
        • Steven

          Paul writes

          13 For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith.

          Here the promised land to Abraham seems to be the whole world. Since his main offspring is Christ or Messiah I think a number of OT passages could be found that show he inherits the world. Ps 2:8 being one. His kingdom is universal and so too is his land. Abraham looked for a heavenly country and city as do we. Together we shall inherit. Ultimately it is a new heavens and new earth.

          At least that is my present understanding.

          Reply
      • First the new covenant. It is indeed made with Israel and Judah. When Jesus inaugurated it at the first ‘Lord’s supper’ those present were Jewish. But as with the other covenants Gentiles who were strangers to the covenants of promise were brought in (Eph 2). The new covenant (the basis of the Kingdom) belongs to all God’s people in this first stage of the completed kingdom. To say ‘made with the church’ is really to say ‘made with eschatological Israel and the Gentiles who through faith share in her blessings’.

        I come from a dispensational Open Brethren background for which I have much to thank God. Eventually I rejected the absolute divide between Israel and the church and the pre-trib rapture. The pretrib rapture fell first for I really struggled to see it in Scripture and say verses expressing the opposite (to my mind). Then I gradually realised that the relationship between the OT and the NT was one of promise and fulfilment. I saw frequently verses in the OT referred to in the NT in a context of fulfilment.

        I saw how Jesus in choosing 12 was consciously reconstituting Israel around himself. Or if you will the 12 were the basis of a restored eschatological Israel to which Gentiles would be added. They would constitute the new ‘congregation’. It would be in direct continuity with the old ‘congregation’ but also in discontinuity as it belonged to fulfilment (the age of the new covenant, Spirit, Kingdom) or maturity not promise or childhood (Gals 4). New wine requires new wineskins.

        Spiritual as you say is not ethereal. It is to be animated by the Spirit. The church is the eschatological community of the Spirit. This does not deny physicality. It is possible the new Jerusalem has physicality however we need to remember in Rev 21 the new Jerusalem is firstly a metaphor for the people of God living in community under the rule of God. Also any literal city cannot look like the city described in Rev 21. What we have in Rev 21 are various metaphors to describe the future of God’s people in a redeemed renewed society.

        Back to the eschatological people. Isa 54 describes eschatological Jerusalem. Paul tells us in Gals 4 that this is ‘the Jerusalem above’ to which both Jew and gentile in the church belong. Both OT saints and NT saints are looking for the same city.

        Another helpful text for identifying the messianic community (the church) is when Jesus says in Lk 12. ‘Do not be afraid little flock it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom’. Here again we see the sons of the kingdom are those who believe in Christ… Jew and gentile (Cf Matt 13). Jesus speaks of Gentiles coming from the east and west and sitting down with the patriarchs in the kingdom banquet while the sons of the kingdom are cast out (many from Israel). (Matt 8). Jews eating with Gentiles and Jews cast out! (Isa 25).

        When we grasp that the church is eschatological ‘Israel and the Gentiles’ then the absolute distinction between Israel and the church disappears. Further the church is then not Israel forsaken but Israel fulfilled. All of this is ‘in Christ.’ Christ is the Son of Abraham, of promise, in whom ultimately the salvation of all is found.

        The eschatological restoration has begun with the arrival of Messiah.

        PS. I realise I said a fair bit of this already… sorry.

        Reply
  17. In discussing ‘Israel’ is it not important to take into account Jesus’ own apparent view on the matter?

    In John 8, he is very dismissive of those who claim to be ‘children of Abraham’ simply because they are physical descendants of him. He makes it very clear, true children of Abraham, and logically therefore heirs of any promises made by God in OT times, would believe Him and His message, because of who He is. Thus any Jewish person who rejected Him, was not a true child of Abraham from God’s pov, and therefore would not realise any promises made by His prophets before the Messiah.

    I therefore find any talk of the ‘nation’ of Israel pretty meaningless when it comes to the Jewish people as a whole.

    Peter

    Reply
  18. Greeting and Blessings from Sri Lanka.

    Thank you very much for this post. Agree wholeheartedly.

    Sadly, this is another topic that the “Church of CHRIST’ is divided and confused about.

    GOD richly bless you.

    Reply
  19. The roots of Christian Zionism are emphatically not in dispensationalism. That many dispensationalists are Christian Zionists does not make the case in logic. The roots of Christian Zionism are in a correct view of the covenants. Too many Christians speak of the “Old Covenant” and the “New Covenant”. I speak joyously of the New Covenant in Christ, but the Old Testament contains several covenants and it is only the Mosaic covenant which is fulfilled in Jesus Christ. The Abrahamic covenant, promising Canaan to Abraham’s descendants through Isaac and Jacob (if you read Genesis closely), remains in force. That gentile believers in Jesus are ingrafted into this covenant does not exclude Jews from it, for the Abrahamic covenant is not dependent on personal faith – salvation alone is dependent on that. To exclude Jews would be for God to break His promise. Anybody who doubts this contention ought to remember that there is another covenant in Genesis (with Noah) promising no second flood. If you bundle all of the Old Testament covenants into one and then say that they are all fultfilled in Christ, you ought to start worrying when it rains. Just as the Jews were exiled to Babylon for 70 years, they were exiled from Canaan/Palestine for 1800 years, and we alone know what for – denial of Messiah Jesus. But duration does not alter theology, and we should see exile as the exception and occupation of Canaan as the rule. Look at Isaiah’s prophecy (11:11-12) that God’s hand will a second time recover a remnant of his people… he will… gather together the dispersed of Judah from the four corners of the earth. That describes exactly what has happened in the last 150 years: Jews have come back to the Holy Land from all parts of the world, whereas the first return of a remnant was from Babylon. Too many Christians suppose that the prophecies of exile and return in the Old Testament all refer to the Babylonian exile, but Isaiah’s prophecy cannot, and many others are ambiguous. This prophecy came true after 2500 years. God never forgets a promise.

    Reply
      • Because the return under Nehemiah was from one place, not from the four corners of the world (ie, from all parts) as Isaiah prophesied; and because the return under Nehemiah was the first time that there had been a return, whereas the return from all parts is a second return – again as Isaiah says.

        It is extraordinary that the Jews have retained their cultural identity in an exile that lasted 1800 years; all other peoples thrown off their ancient lands lost their cultural identity via intermarriage or persecution. What has God in mind for them? We are told that Jesus will return bodily to this world at Jerusalem, in a replay in reverse a of a video of his
        Ascension in Acts 1:11. What will be the state of Jerusalem at that time, and what will trigger His return?

        Reply
        • I here you on Isa 11. It is worth reflecting however on Matt 8.

          (ESV) 11 I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, 12 while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

          In the OT the ingathering was often from Israel. Isa 43. Here Gentiles are gathered in and Jews are outside.

          Reply
  20. A comment from an article by Chris Wright. Re Hebrews

    ‘Basic to its argument is that in Jesus Christ we have in reality all that was equally reality for Old Testament Israel. The reference to ‘shadows’ (8:5 etc.) does not imply that all the great phenomena of Israel’s life (such as land, law, temple, priesthood, monarchy) were unreal or only a kind of pretence.29 They were indeed real factors in the relationship which then obtained between God and his people. Moreover, they were filled, by the promise and the prophecies, with extended meaning in the light of what God would do in the future for and through Israel. Hence, to talk of what we have in Christ being ‘better’ (as Hebrews repeatedly does), is not just ‘replacement theology’, disparagingly so-called. It is more like ‘extension theology’. In the same way the new humanity in the Messiah must be understood not as a radically new Israel, but rather as Israel redefined and expand’. Or perhaps ‘fulfilment theology’.

    Reply

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