What is the place of Israel in the End Times?

Last week, I recorded a video discussion with historian Martyn Whittock, which arose out of questions he had about Israel and the End Times in the New Testament. The video is quite long, so here I offer a summary of my comments on the main questions that we explored.

What is the meaning of the term ‘Israel’ in the gospels?

In the gospels, the term ‘Israel’ has a consistent meaning—the nation of Israel, having a distinct ethnic identity, called to live in obedience to the commands of God in Torah, and dwelling in a specific geographical region. Thus in the opening chapters of Matthew we read of a rule who will ‘shepherd my people Israel’ (Matt 2.6), and Joseph is told to return to the ‘land of Israel’ (Matt 2.20).

Of the three ‘synoptic’ gospels, Matthew has the strongest focus of Jesus’ ministry being directed only to these people living this land; he has been sent ‘only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel’ (Matt 15.24) and he therefore sends his disciples out on mission only to them (Matt 10.6, 23). However, whilst in the ‘land of Israel’ he encounters a ‘centurion’ who has faith, who is not ‘in Israel’, that is, not part of the people of God even though living in the land (Matt 8.10). This is part of Matthew’s repeated anticipation of a wider ministry of Jesus’ followers, starting with the epiphany to the Magi, continuing through Jesus’ encounters with those who are not part of Israel, and reaching full expression in the command to ‘go to all nations’ in the Great Commission (Matt 28.19).

‘Israel’ is also used in relation to the people of God in the Old (First) Testament, as in Jesus’ summary of the law in Mark 12.29, ‘Hear, O Israel…’ quoting from Deut 6.4.

The gospel of Luke also has a focus on ethnic/physical Israel, but it is expressed in different terms from Matthew, principle by recounting key actions of the story in the city of Jerusalem. Thus the main elements of the Lukan birth narratives are set in Jerusalem, and the language of ‘Israel’ features prominently, particular in the Benedictus and prophecies relating to John the Baptist (Luke 1.16, 54, 68, 80).

Like Matthew, Luke includes Jesus’ encounters with those outside Israel, but from the beginning anticipates the wider mission in the words of Simeon: ‘a light for revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of your people Israel’ (Luke 2.32). In Acts, the language of ethnic/geographical Israel continues to be used, often with reference to the Old Testament—but the references stop abruptly at Acts 13.23, as the second half of the book focuses away from the Jewish mission led by Peter and instead on the gentile mission led by Paul.

Come and join my teaching morning on Zoom on 28th October 2023 on the The End of the World and the ‘end times’ here.

What is the meaning of the term ‘Israel’ in the writings of Paul?

Paul clearly uses the term Israel in the same way numerous times. He emphasises his own credentials as part of Israel in Phil 3.5, though of course, coming from Tarsus, he is part of the Israel diaspora who did not live in the land of Israel. In Eph 2.12, he classifies humanity into the two categories of Israel and gentiles, those who are ‘near’ and those who are ‘far’ respectively, but both of whom have been reconciled with God and therefore with one another into ‘one body by the cross’ (Eph 2.16).

He also repeatedly uses the term to refer back to the people of God in the Old Testament, to him and his readers simply ‘the Scriptures’ which he now assumes are the Scriptures not just for Jews but also for gentiles who are in Christ, and the story of Israel has now become their story through their faith in the Jewish messiah Jesus (see Rom 10.19, 21, Rom 11.2, 7, 1 Cor 10.18, 2 Cor 3.7).

But Paul also uses ‘Israel’ with a quite different meaning: all those who are ‘in Christ’, who by the Spirit have proclaimed ‘Jesus is Lord’ (1 Cor 12.3), who have ‘called on the name of the Lord’ (Rom 10.13), which in the Old Testament was the Lord, the God of Israel, but is now the Lord Jesus, through whom all are saved (Acts 4.12).

The clearest example of this comes at the end of Galatians, where Paul says:

And for all who walk by this rule,

peace be upon them and mercy,

even upon the Israel of God. (Gal 6.16)

Some commentators argue that the second kai (which I translate here as ‘even’) indicates that Paul is adding a second group, ethnic Jews, to the first group ‘all who walk by this rule’ in his blessing, so that he is using Israel in the same ethnic way here. But there are many reasons why I don’t think this is a plausible claim.

Firstly, the saying has a chiastic structure, with those receiving the blessing at beginning and end, and the blessing in the middle. Secondly, what is the rule that Paul is asking people to follow, set out in the previous verse? Precisely that ‘Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation’! The ‘rule’ of life that Paul is commending is precisely that Jew and gentile are one in Christ (just as he sets out later in Eph 2), and it would be bizarre if he now distinguishing these groups. Thirdly, this is in fact his whole argument in Galatians, that neither Jewish nor gentile followers of Jesus are superior to one another, nor need to conform to the pattern of life of the other.

The reading that fits most easily into the rhetoric of Galatians is that “the Israel of God” “consists of all those, Jew and gentile alike, who believe in Jesus the Messiah” (Peter Oakes, Galatians Paideia, p 192, citing Tom Wright).

(For a useful setting out of all the options for reading this verse, see Scot McKnight, Galatians, NIVAC, pp 302–304).

We can see Paul mixing these two sense of ‘Israel’ in Rom 9.6; though most English translations say something like ‘For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel’, Paul simply says οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραὴλ οὗτοι Ἰσραήλ, ‘For not all from Israel are Israel’. The first word is the sense of Israel as an ethnic and cultural group; the second sense is Israel as the true people of God, saved by him in their response of faith to his offer of life. He goes on to elaborate: ‘not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring’, that is, ethnic lineage does not guarantee you are part of the people of God. (Note how close this is to John’s teaching in Matt 3.9, and Jesus’ in John 8.39).

Here Paul is recapitulating his earlier argument in Romans. In Romans 1, he has rehearsed classic Jewish critiques of pagan gentile culture, pivoting around the greatest offence in Jewish eyes of gentile approval of same-sex sexual relationships. But in Romans 2 to 3, he turns the other way, and shows from the scriptures how Jews themselves are also guilty of sin. He sums this up in Rom 3.23, ‘for all have sinned…’, not meaning so much ‘each individual person’ as ‘both gentile and Jew.’ Writing to a mixed and conflicted Jewish-gentile community, he is pointing out that both Jews and gentiles stand condemned, and are therefore both in need of and recipients of God’s grace in Jesus.

A key part of his argument is found in Rom 2.28–29:

A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code.

The true ‘Israel’ of God is not comprised of those who are outwardly descended, nor of those who perform the outward signs of obedience, but those for whom obedience springs from a change of heart, including those (gentiles) who do not have the law, but are ‘a law unto themselves’ (Rom 2.14) by doing what is right. Note again how close this is to Jesus’ teaching in Matt 5, and his whole approach to Torah—mere outward observance is not the most important thing. And Paul in Romans 4 draws on the example of Abraham, who without the law had faith in God and was considered righteous, the father of all who trust in God.

What is the meaning of ‘church’ and how does it relate to ‘Israel’?

Because the Christian Church has quickly become non-Jewish, it is very common to contrast both terms ‘Christian’ and ‘church’ with ‘Jews’ and ‘Israel’. But the New Testament does not permit this!

The word translated ‘church’, ekklesia, occurs in the gospels only in Matt 16.18 and Matt 18.17. But it is used throughout Acts with reference to the gathering of believers (see Acts 5.11, 8.1, 9.31, 11.22 and so on)—and in this part of Acts, these people are all Jews! The use of the term in Acts 7.38 points to its origins; in Greek culture the ekklesia was the gathering of citizens in a polis to make decisions, but in the Greek OT the word was used for the ‘congregation of the sons of Israel’, that is, the people of God. So the term ‘church’ in the NT signals continuity with the Israel of God, not contrast.

Luke uses the term 23 times in Acts; in the first half, it refers to Jewish believers in Jesus, but then as the gentile mission unfolds, and Luke shifts his focus from the ministry of Peter to Jews to the ministry of Paul to gentiles, the term then refers to these new mixed Jewish-gentile congregations. It is in one of those, in Antioch in Acts 11.26, that the believers are first called Christianoi, likely a term of mockery by outsiders for this new group that they cannot make sense of. Jews they knew; pagans they knew; but they struggled to make sense of this new group whose membership bridged this most fundamental of divides in the ancient world. (The term only occurs elsewhere in the NT in Acts 26.28 and 1 Peter 4.16).

In narrative form, this then matches Paul’s unfolding argument in Romans. Non-Jewish believers in Jesus have not replaced or displaced the people of God, but have been graciously incorporated into the Israel of God by the overflowing grace of God that is found in Jesus. Jesus is the Jewish messiah, but he is the Jewish messiah for the whole world; ‘salvation is from the Jews’ (John 4.22) for it is for the world. We find this expressed in the shape of Revelation 7: John ‘hears’ the number who have been saved from judgement by receiving the seal of the living God, and they are numbered (144,000) from every tribe of Israel; but he then turns and ‘sees’ who these people are, and they are ‘a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language’. The counted Israel of God is now an uncountable number from all nations, in fulfilment of the promise to Abraham (Gen 13.16) which is fulfilled only in Jesus.

And we can see that the apostles understood this to be the fulfilment of the whole OT narrative. Israel was originally intended not to be a people with a priestly caste within them (that only happened after the sin of the golden calf in Exodus 32), but originally for the whole people to be a ‘kingdom of priests’ (Ex 19.6, applied to all believers in Jesus in 1 Peter 2.9 and Rev 1.6). Now, priests mediate between God and people, so Israel’s tasks was to mediate between God and the nations, to be a ‘light to the nations’ (Luke 2.32) and to draw the nations to God’s temple presence in Jerusalem (Isaiah 2.1–3). This is now fulfilled in Jesus, who himself is the light of the world (John 8.12) and the temple presence of God amongst his people (John 2.21), as are those who ‘in Christ’ (who are both light, Matt 5.14, and his temple, 1 Cor 3.9, 16, 1 Peter 2.5).

This means that the ‘Church’ does not replace ‘Israel’, nor are there ‘twin track’ destinies for Jews and Christians—if so, then Jesus would not be the saviour of Jews, which would then contradict everything the New Testament says about him. Christians have not superseded Jews, nor has the ‘church’ superseded ‘Israel’. But Jesus as God’s final revelation of himself, his final word to his people, has superseded the law, Torah. Where in the OT, the land of Israel and obedience to Torah was the place of both blessing and obligation, the place and means by which God’s people knew his presence and were formed into a holy people, now it is ‘in Christ’ that these things happen. And this is true both for Jews and gentiles. The law still has value—Paul repeatedly appeals to Torah in his writing to largely gentile groups!—but it now has a supporting rather than a primary role. The point of Torah, and the whole OT, is to teach us and form us in the likeness of Christ.

What about Romans 11.26?

The Authorised Version translates Romans 11.25–26 as ‘blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved…’ Many people have taken the ‘so’ here to be temporal—there will come a time when this will happen—and ‘Israel’ to mean ethnic Jews. Thus they believe that in the ‘end times’, there will be a mass turning of Jews to faith in Jesus, and this will be associated with a return of Jews to the physical land of Israel.

But there are multiple problems with this reading. The first is that there is no other expression of such an idea elsewhere in the NT; it is in Jesus that the promises of return are fulfilled. And Jesus’ words to his fellow Jews are ones of judgement for those who did not respond to him (Luke 19.44). The second is that the idea of a mass turning to faith contradicts everything that the OT has said about God’s people (they have not all been faithful) and Paul’s own argument (not from Israel is Israel).

But the main problem is the grammar of the verse itself. In 1611, the word ‘so’ meant ‘in this way’ and not (as we use it today) ‘then’ or ‘this much’. The Greek term οὕτως means ‘in this way’, and that meaning is reflected in most modern translations. (The same issue applies to reading John 3.16; the emphasis is not on ‘how much’ God love the world but ‘in this way’ God loved the world.)

These verses are confirming all that we have seen in the story of the OT, God’s intentions for Israel and the world, the fulfilment of this in Jesus, the resultant gentile mission as an integral part in this, and the goal of the two (Jew and gentile) becoming one Israel in Christ. The failure of many Jews to respond to the good news of Jesus the Jewish messiah has meant that this gracious invitation to be the life-giving priestly people of God has overflowed to include people from all tribes, languages, peoples, and nation. The partial hardening of (ethnic) Israel has meant that all of God’s intended ‘Israel’, both Jew and gentile, have received salvation.

What about all the other ‘end times’ issues in the video?

For an overview of issues around the kingdom of God, the preaching of Jesus, the gift of the Spirit and the ‘end times’, see my Grove booklet Kingdom, Hope, and the End of the World.

For an exploration of the ‘end of the world’ language in Matthew 24, see this article.

For a discussion of the so-called ‘rapture’ and whether we should be ‘left behind’, see this article or join in the discussion in this video.

For the meaning of 666 and ‘the mark of beast’ see this article.

For a fuller exploration of whether Israel has a right to the land, and whether the modern state of Israel fulfils biblical promises, see this article.

You can watch the video here:

NOTE: I am giving notice that from 16th August I will no longer allow anonymous comments. All are welcome to publish under pseudonyms if you wish, but you will need to make yourself known to me from then if you wish to continue commenting.

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49 thoughts on “What is the place of Israel in the End Times?”

  1. I have an 1831 copy of the Baptist Minister, Joseph Tyso’s book called :

    “An Inquiry after Prophetic Truth relative to the Restoration of the Jews and the Millenium”.

    Joseph Tyso’s study of the Scriptures led him to believe that the Jews must return to Palestine
    before the return of the Lord Messiah Jesus to this earth.

      • Thanks, Ian and Martyn –

        The question I would have asked is how do you think the rest of currently hardened Israel (the Jews) are to be saved (in Christ), as mentioned in Romans 11:26-29 – and will this happen after, or before, the second coming of Christ? From the text, it looks as if there may be a mass conversion of Jews to their Messiah, after Jesus returns.

        Also, may 2 Thess. 2:3-4 possibly point to the building of a new Temple in Jerusalem (before the coming of Christ) in which a future Antichrist figure (“the lawless man”) – 2 Thess. 2:3) – installs himself in “the Temple” (Gk. “ton naon”) of God (2 Thess. 2:4). As I understand it, when Paul first introduces the Church or an individual believer as a temple, he does not use the definite article.

          • I’m not a dispensationalist.

            In that era the Lord will reach out his hand a second time to reclaim the surviving remnant of his people from [Arab lands]… he will assemble the scattered people of Judah from the four quarters of the earth.

            Could you give a better description of the Zionist era in so few words? In the lifetime before 1948 the Jews returned to the Holy Land from all parts of the world – a second return, following the return from Babylon 2500 years before which was from one place. And in 1948 most Jews living in Arab lands fled to the new Israeli State, facing reprisal for the events of that year. Really, you couldn’t fit it any better.

          • I know you are not. I should not have said ‘dispensationalist’ which I think is an anachronism. it was the power of Christian Zionism.

            But of course read in context that is not a prediction of the people going into exile, returning to the land, the Messiah coming, them failing to recognise him, then being expelled again, then 2000 years later coming back to the land.

            That is a prediction of the completion of the return from exile. The chapter is applied by Matthew to Jesus and his ministry. It is a bizarre artifice to claim this predicts the modern (secular) State of Israel.

            As I say in the video: where in the NT is any expectation at all that, after the judgement of God predicted by Jesus, there will be yet another return to the land? There is none whatsoever, since the return of God’s people to him, and the drawing of all the nations to ‘Jerusalem’, God’s dwelling temple place, is fulfilled in Jesus and the gentile mission. They are very clear about that.

          • Ian,

            I consider it bizarre that the people of Judah (i.e. Jews) have returned a second time to the Holy Land, this time from all parts of the world (i.e. not just from Babylon), in living memory, and a prophecy which states that the people of Judah will return a second time, from all parts of the world, is dismissed as being unrelated. Please consider it possible that this is a warning flag about your endtime hermeneutic.

            Christian Zionism was a mainstream belief in English churches in the Victorian era and it had very little to do with dispensationalism. Christian Zionism was a common belief of the Puritans, whose influence flowed into wider English evangelicalism after the 17th century.

            Please would you address the questions I’ve asked elsewhere on this thread: Jesus Christ is going to return bodily to this world on a definite (albeit unknown) date on our calendar – so, where is he going to come back to, and why there and then?

      • Jesus makes zero mention of homosexual acts being a sin, yet it is clear that He did, as He was a first century Jew. Ditto same-sex marriage.

        I think your argument about the NT being silent is actually in danger of elevating the NT above the OT when, surely, all Scripture is inspired?

  2. Thank you for this. I watched the original video.

    I’d like to pitch a ‘wondering’ from a different direction.

    I wonder how Jewish people both then and today actually (emotionally) feel about having their God, their nation’s name, and their religion ‘culturally appropriated’ by ‘revisionists’, both in the 1st Century and today?

    I can’t trace Jewish ancestors in my family tree (though we’re all part Jewish genetically). But I’m trying to get myself inside the heart and mind of someone who identifies as ethnically Jewish, about how the Christian message appears to them, and whether they have feelings that their own faith has been usurped in a way.

    There is also the historic and sometimes contemporary additional alienation from the Gospel because of the terrible anti-semitism associated with some Christians through history.

    How does it all feel to have had their religious faith culturally appropriated (as they may well view it)?

    I had involvement with CMJ in the 1980s, and I believe that Jewish people have a continuing and distinctive relationship with God, and God’s dealings with them. We were at the time exploring the possibility of taking on the Headship at the Anglican School in Jerusalem, but in the end we decided against it because of our responsibilities for our widowed mothers.

    But I have always regarded Jewish people as distinctive and exceptional, while from a Christian position believing all peoples and communities are hugely precious to God. Is it understandable that Jewish people take offence at Christianity for ‘hijacking’ their faith and traditions, and for the scourge of anti-semitism through the ages?

    • There are too many suppositions, Susannah.
      1 That Ian’s article amounts to replacement theology. It doesn’t.
      2 That Ian’s article amounts to supersessionism. It doesn’t.
      3 That anyone agreeing with the Ian’s theological position is an anti-Semite or would condone it. By no means.
      4 That Christianity and the NT is a revision of the OT. It isn’t. There is continuity and discontinuity.
      5 The last question could be addressed to Messianic Jews who see Jesus, God incarnate as fulfilment of all the Old covenants, promises, patterns, types, sacrifices, exoduses, festivals, feasts, figures, shadows, redemption, restorations, sovereignty.
      And it is a question that pierces the heart of St Paul.
      6. Ultimately, it is the question that relates to the Triunity of God. And that does distinguish between Judaism and Christianity, and for that matter all other religions.

      • Dear Geoffrey;

        ‘Messianic Judaism’ is not a theologically homogeneous movement.

        Many Messianic Jews are Unitarian in their theology, believing that the Father, alone, is the only true God.

        • As a Messianic Jew myself, I have yet to meet another one who is Unitarian rather than Trinitarian. If Jesus is not God, then we are among the most miserable of men, to paraphrase Paul. Thanks be to God, Jesus (Y’Shua in transliterated Hebrew) is our God and so we can still say the Lord our God, the Lord is One.

    • Susannah –

      How do religious Jews feel about having their God ‘culturally appropriated’ by ‘revisionists’ ?

      Observant Jews recite the Amidah prayer three times a day, which references God as “Father”; for example :

      ” Forgive us our Father for we have erred…” (Blessing 6); and ” Bless us our Father all of us…” (Blessing 19).

      Cf. Sirach 23:1 “O, Lord, Father and Ruler of my life…”

      Such Jews would object, as they see it, to the misrepresentation of their unipersonal God by any later ideas of their God as a duality or as a trinity. As Jewish historian, theologian, Israeli diplomat, and Orthodox Jew (but personal believer in the resurrection of Jesus), put it :

      “Whoever knows the development of the history of dogma knows that the image of God in the primitive Church was unitary, and only in the second century did it gradually, against the doctrine of subordinationism, become binary. For the Church Fathers such as Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian, Jesus is subordinate to the Father in everything, and Origin hesitated to direct his prayers to Christ, for as he wrote, that should properly be to the Father alone”.

      “Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine”, p. 39 .

      • Postscriptum :

        Pinchas Lapide – Author of “Jewish Monotheism and Christian Trinitarian Doctrine”; and Jewish historian, theologian, Israeli diplomat, Orthodox Jew (but personal believer in the resurrected Jesus as God’s gift to Gentiles).

    • ‘I wonder how Jewish people both then and today actually (emotionally) feel about having their God, their nation’s name, and their religion ‘culturally appropriated’ by ‘revisionists’, both in the 1st Century and today?’

      The Jesus movement was one of several splinter movements within Second Temple Judaism. They were all Jews.

      So I think what you are asking here is: how did some Jews feel about other Jews? The NT appears to say: there was some serious opposition from some quarters, whilst others were convinced and joined the movement.

    • Susannah, Thank you for this. My wife who lived and worked in Israel and who currently has a prominent role in a UK branch of CMJ has read your article ,which has touched her deeply mainly because, unlike other contributions, your attitude exhibits empathy and sensitivity. The primary objective of CMJ is (and always has been) the evangelization of the Jewish people. Without going into details, it does so with great sensitivity and a close rapport with the local communities. Indeed it is wholly aware of the corporate identity and social foundations that are so necessary for such work ; unlike various types of westernised, individualised evangelicalism. Above all, its primary goal is to convince Jewish people that Yeshua (Jesus Christ) is their Messiah. Sadly, this is not helped by repeated efforts to undermine the idea that the God who brought them into being as his covenant people now desires to atomise their existence in order that they “come to Jesus just as ‘I’ am” – wrapped up in my sanctity, my piety, my superior knowledge -me,me,me! Yes Lord!
      “How odd of God to choose the Jews. ” Surely He must have known there was a better way ? ? Just think of how ‘plan B’ has made a difference Aaagh!!!

      • Colin, I hope your wife finds continued blessing in her life and service with CMJ. As you say, CMJ has always set out to build community, and not simply parachute in from outside just to proselytise. I found something very much blessed about the organisation (in those days it was based in St Albans), including some signs that were given. I remember the practical and Spirit-listening manner of John Chorlton, and I should have loved to serve at that school in Jerusalem. The ethos seemed steeped in alongsideness and neighbourliness, and respect for everybody. That was the point I was trying to make: respect for the Jewish people, and the sensitivity Christians owe them. We have a lot we can learn, and we can be blessed through listening, sharing, respecting, and being grateful for Jewish inheritance, brilliance, and the faith of Abraham. I will always remember a picture I had back in those days, when I was praying, of an open hand and my first thought was that was like a human hand waiting to be given grain, but then I felt God say ‘No. This is my hand, and it is open… to give grace, to offer friendship.’ God’s hand remains open to the Jewish people, and God wants to give grace – and fellowship, faith on their journeys, and God has a covenant with them.

    • Dear Susannah;

      If you get time, can you have a look at the video I’ve posted below, to Ian – and start watching at the 29 minute mark? Ian likes Dr. Larry Hurtado – and I do, too.

      God bless.

    • @ Susannah

      Happy Jack’s father was raised an Orthodox Jew – his father being a rabbi. He converted to Catholicism during WWII for a number of reasons, some he shared, others he kept private. He was proud of his Jewishness but carried an air of sorrow with him. His family ‘shunned’ him; to them he was dead. He also prayed that ethnic Jews would turn and recognise Christ as their Messiah.

      From a religious perspective, his views about the secular nation state of Israel were not positive – he was opposed to political Zionism, seeing it as a an attempt to ‘force God’s hand’. Once established as a state, he supported Israel’s right to exist and defend herself, but not to expand and not to treat others whose homes were there unfairly. As for Christian Zionism, it’s best if HJ doesn’t quote him! Messianic Judaism and Jews for Jesus, he described as “nisht ahin nisht aher” – neither one thing nor the other.

      In terms of the role of Israel in “end times”, his answer: “Who but God knows?” He took an interest in the development of Catholic thinking before and after Vatican II and broadly agreed with the tentative framework set out in the Catholic Catechism.

      HJ has to say his father would disagree that Christianity hijacked the Judaic faith. For him, Christianity was the fulfilment of Judaism. HJ’s father always saw his Christian faith and Catholic ritual and practices, as him being a “religious Jew”, as well as an ethnic Jew.

  3. Let’s keep it simple. Jesus Christ is going to return to this world on a definite albeit unknown date on our calendar. Where is he going to come back to, and why there and then?

    • Anton –

      Don’t forget the golden rule – Keep it simple !

      Jesus, at His Parousia, will touch down on the Mount of Olives, in accordance with the prophecy in Zechariah 14:4; whereby “Yahweh” will be represented by His Agent (‘Shaliach’) Son, Yeshua – Yahweh’s Lord Messiah ! (cf. Psalm 110:1, Masoretic Text)

  4. Ian

    Regarding ‘All Israel will be saved’ I dont quite understand how you come to your conclusion that Paul here is simply referring to the new ‘Israel’ ie all the people of God. Even if the ‘so’ should not be viewed as temporal, surely the ‘until’ is? After rereading Romans 10 & 11, the distinct overall impression given is that Paul expects, once the time of the Gentiles being grafted in ends (whenever that is?), then there will be a mass acceptance of the Jews by God, as shown by their belief in Jesus. Paul, at the time of writing, calls Israel ‘blind’ but he seems to expect that general blindness to Jesus and the Gospel to end. He is making a contrast to his current experience then to what he envisages. In other words, it wont be some Jews here and there who come to believe in Jews, but a mass grafting in of the original ‘people’. As Paul says it is ‘a mystery’ and Im not sure your definitive understanding is correct.

    So I think what Im saying is that the Israel in ‘All Israel will be saved’ is referring to the people of God, both Jew and Gentile, but that it refers to that collection only after a mass influx of Jews who come to believe in the Messiah. I think therefore that there is a temporal nature to Paul’s argument, and I think the world will be shocked once this becomes apparent. But Paul would simply say, I said that all along…

    I may be wrong!


  5. Dear Ian;

    Larry Hurtado (like Jimmy Dunn) thought that first century Christianity intrinsically developed into “divergent clusters” of different, but genuine, Christian belief – so it wasn’t only First century Judaism that was variegated, but First century Christianity was, as well (The Roman Catholic Christologist, Raymond E. Brown, for example, thought that the Gospels of Mathew and Luke present, what Brown termed, “Conception Christology”; as opposed to any literal, “Pre-existence Christology”, that we may find in John). Larry Hurtado is asked by his interviewers if it possible for Christians from such divergent belief-clusters , to get on with each other? I found what Larry Hurtado had to say, exceedingly interesting. If you get time, Ian, (and anybody) could I ask you to start watching the enclosed video (“Was Jesus God ?”) at the 29 minute mark, as Larry is asked the question, and then proceeds to answer it. I found it very illuminating. That Larry Hurtado was a good guy.


  6. Imagine the 12 disciples nascent character traits as different denominations.
    Philip=Greek Orthodox
    Which disciple fits the Fundamentalist, Dispensationalist, Nationalist, Right Thinking, Evangelical best??

  7. The “end of times” was the end of the Israelites as being the light of the world. It was not the end of time & space as we know it. It was basically the end of Israel as the way to God. Jesus being crucified & resurrected, and now His time had come. He replaced the Israelites as the light of the world.
    70 CE concluded the end of times as the Israelites and everything they stood for. The temple was destroyed along with the Israelites as the sons of God. Jesus replaced all of that.
    The “end of times” somehow became a “Christian” thing when the hole time it was between Israel & their God.

    • Hmmm, yes and no. I don’t see any language in the NT about Israel being ‘replaced’. Jesus renewed Israel calling her to repentance, not replacement.

      If you think the End came in 70, does that mean the New Jerusalem has already come down…?

  8. Brilliant reading as always.

    As perhaps less of a scholar than many commenters, there are some great mysteries here. As a Christian teenager I remember studying a little 20th century history, and being fascinated that modern Jews, had founded the new modern land of Israel had against the odds, and following perhaps the greatest attempt to wipe them out in history. Having read the old testament accounts of the battles to gain the promised land in the first place, and the later repeated dealings away from God leading to repeated oppressions and culminating in the destruction and decimation of Israel and Judah and the exile. Then the following return in Esra and Nehemiah (side note, I often wondered that the return did not seem to be a split nation). It all looked fantastically and fascinatingly similar to the return of the Jews to the physical land of Israel or Palestine. It was also taught at church that this was indicators of the return of Christ and that more Jews were coming to Christ than had ever before in history. This was more than 30 years ago.

    However as one having friends at uni who were orthodox Jews, I was surprised that the main identifier in our discussions was that their faith was characterised and even from my perspective defined by a total rejection of Jesus as either Christ or Messiah, and that if one of them was to associate themselves with the divinity of Christ they would be kicked out of Judaism and would no longer be considered Jewish. I quizzed church leaders at the time, and they fell into two camps.

    Either the group that would say ‘all Israel will be saved” and created a special category of person who did not need to repent and turn to Christ or even have faith to receive salvation but simply have the right genetics. I protested at the time that this denied much of the gospel. The implications of this position were that God would bless modern Israel, and woe be anyone who did not support them because they were the people of God. That if we did not we we would be under the curse in the OT.

    Then there were those Christians who focussed on the political mistreatment of Palestinians, and the common call to fairness and justice. These saw the modern Israeli government as racist and far right authoritarian. I travelled (under the handy guise of “ministry trips”) in the middle east in the late 90s and early 2000s and found an equal amount of hatred and injustice on the Arab side, from various Muslim groups who incidentally also rejected any aspect of the deity of Christ – which also seemed their key religious identifier. I seriously met many who would, with a clear conscience kill every man woman and child who was Jewish (and a few who would then hapily start on the Christians).

    Again as a non-scholar in this area, there still seems to be an element of mystery to it, but I notice that the above has also seemed to divide on left/right political tendency.

    My conclusion was and remains that when it became too much of a focus, it’s all a bit of a distraction from the Gospel.

    I can’t see how in reading the scriptures you wouldn’t come to the same conclusion as Ian.

    • ‘I can’t see how in reading the scriptures you wouldn’t come to the same conclusion as Ian.’ Thanks. I too am puzzled, since to me the case appears to be strong, mainly because so many, many disparate elements of the biblical narrative all point in the same direction.

  9. I notice in Ian’s comments, a brief reference to Scot McKnight in relation to his commentary on Galatians and with specific regard to Galatians 6:16. This intrigues me as I have in my possession an essay distributed by ‘Patheos’ attributed to him (Scot McK) and entitled ‘Supercessionism is not Biblical”! However I’m also in possession of an essay of his in a book of which he is associate editor: entitled ‘ The apostle Paul and the Christian life’. On page 138 we get this insight into the text in question ( the general theme being his affirmation of ‘The New Perspective’. : First, Paul thinks he has established the grounds for an inclusive church, a church made up of Jews and Greeks, slave and free ——-. he wants to show that that Gentile believers don’t have to become Jews to be *in* the “Israel of God”. How different from John Stott’s revered commentary. ” ‘All who walk by this rule’ and ‘ the Israel of God’are not two groups but one, the connecting participle kai *should be translated ‘even’, not ‘and’, or be omitted*–( Incidentally,this section of his commentary has been entitled “The Church is the Israel of God.”)
    Now compare this with Mcknight’s analysis. Note the preposition ‘in’. This is radically different from Stott. It seems to imply that Gentiles are incorporated into “Israel”.
    But compare it with two relevant NT passages – Romans 11: 13f . Verse 17 refers to believing Gentiles as ‘a wild olive shoot’ grafted *in* and then it goes on to say ‘ – ‘do not boast over those branches. If you do consider this: ‘You do not support the root, the root supports you!’ – ‘For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either’ [21]. So who are the ‘natural branches? The ‘new’!srael? ‘Spiritual ‘ Israel? Paul speaks of “my fellow Jews” [11:14]
    Reference has been made here to Ephesians 2, but not to verse 12 – ‘remember that you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship *in* Israel and foreigners to the covenants of promise’. The only other reference to citizenship in the NT is Acts 22:28 where it refers to *Roman* citizenship. So what type of citizenship is being referred to in v 12? ‘Spiritual’? ‘New’?– or possibly – national?

    At the risk of boring the pants off all and sundry, I am raising one final issue: the absence of any reference to the Abrahamic Covenant!
    Once again, I refer to John Stott’s commentary on Galatians which brilliantly illumunates the theological issues undergirding this whole discussion. The issue is The Promise of God [Galatians 3: 15 – 18].
    ” To what divine promise is he (Paul) alluding? God promised an inheritance to Abraham and his posterity. Paul knew very well that the immediate, reference to this promise was to the land of Canaan —-but he also knew that this did not exhaust its meaning, nor was it the ultimate reference in God’s mind, for God said that in Abraham all the families of earth would be blessed and how could the whole world be blessed through Jews living in the land of Canaan?
    Paul realized that both the ‘land’ which was promised and the’seed’ to whom it was promised were ultimately *spiritual*! God’s purpose was not *just* to give to give the
    land of Canaan to the Jews , but to give salvation (a *spiritual* inheritance) to believers who are in Christ.” (Asterisks are, of course, mine).

    Concluding remarks
    (1) The inclusion of ‘just’ in the final sentence seems to suggest that the land might still be included ?
    (2) ‘Paul knew ‘? ‘Paul realized”? what evidence is there to support this assertion ?Or why do those who make the assumption that the paucity of reference to ‘the land’ in the NT as clear evidence of its termination seem impervious to facing up to the total absence of information concerning this ‘new revelation’ that was made manifest to the Apostle?
    (3) And what exactly is a ‘spiritual inheritance’? How does the spiritual differ from the physical, the social? Or even the political? Or should we perhaps eliminate the Song of Zechariah ; yes even the Magnificat from the pages of Holy Writ; not to mention exorcising prophecies in the OT which refer to the land?

    • Thank you for this, Colin – so much to reflect on.

      “Paul realized that both the ‘land’ which was promised and the’seed’ to whom it was promised were ultimately *spiritual*”

      I’ve been reflecting on this issue, and this:

      “And what exactly is a ‘spiritual inheritance’? How does the spiritual differ from the physical, the social?”

      When the New Jerusalem is described as coming down from Heaven, how literally should that be taken? Or is it figurative language about something beyond our mortal understanding?

      I have stated elsewhere that I am unconvinced that there will be a ‘New Earth’ here in our solar system, or even a renewed one. I think that’s literalising things, in a similar way to the manner in which a perfect world was literalised before Adam sinned.

      I do wonder if we should understand a ‘new earth’ and a ‘new jerusalem’ as existing in a deeper dimension and reality, and state of consciousness?

      This might be termed ‘spiritual’ in that it might not be located on our present earth or physically perceived universe… but given the physical nature of Christ’s resurrection body (and our promise of resurrection) may point to a physical existence in the spiritual realm and dimension.

      My experience suggests to me that perhaps the ‘spiritual’ reality is not only ‘physical’ (as well as deeply conscious) but actually super-physical… so physical and tangible that when a person returns from a vision, the world around them seems almost 2-dimensional by comparison.

      And, after all, did not Jesus’s supernatural and risen body pass through locked doors, suggesting even more tangibility than we encounter in this passing physical world we presently live in?

      I do believe in ‘the Land’… that is, the ‘Promised Land’. I understand it as God’s heavenly country… the place where God inhabits and is present wherever you go.

      Perhaps the ‘New Earth’ and the ‘New Jerusalem’ are figurative iterations of the same principle.

      After all, we are promised a land, just as Abraham was. And until we get there, in many a very real sense we are ‘strangers in a strange land’… citizens of another – a higher – place.

      I know feelings and emotions don’t always go down well, but I personally ache for that country – the Beautiful Country. A place of eternal safety, rest and peace. A place of shining glory and sense of home. And above all, wherever you go, the loving, tender presence of God.

      I feel homesick until I am there.

      • Thanks Susannah, Much of what you have said here is a continuation of what I would have liked to have said – time and space permitting!

  10. Susannah -Colin
    There seems to be a lot of pure imagination in what you say. I think that you are perhaps building your houses on sand.
    When I was a youngster the fashion was to say whether one was pre,post or a- millenial concerning the tribulation: each one of whom could give scriptural evidences’ that thiers was the correct view.
    I was saved from such heated conjectures by reading
    Daniel CH. 12.
    12:1 And at that time shall Michael stand up, the great prince which standeth for the children of thy people: and there shall be a time of trouble, such as never was since there was a nation even to that same time: and at that time thy people shall be delivered, every one that shall be found written in the book.
    12:2 And many of them that sleep in the dust of the earth shall awake, some to everlasting life, and some to shame and everlasting contempt.
    12:3 And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever.
    12:4 But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.
    12:5 Then I Daniel looked, and, behold, there stood other two, the one on this side of the bank of the river, and the other on that side of the bank of the river.
    12:6 And one said to the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, How long shall it be to the end of these wonders?
    12:7 And I heard the man clothed in linen, which was upon the waters of the river, when he held up his right hand and his left hand unto heaven, and sware by him that liveth for ever that it shall be for a time, times, and an half; and when he shall have accomplished to scatter the power of the holy people, all these things shall be finished.
    Alongside the words of Jesus in John 16:12
    I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.

  11. I confess that I was disappointed, but not entirely surprised, that God’s prophecies in books like Jeremiah and Ezekiel about bringing Jews back from North, South, East and West seem to mean nothing to Ian.
    As a Jewish believer in Jesus (for the avoidance of any doubt, I am Jewish by birth and, like the members of the Early Church, believe that Jesus is the Son of God and Saviour of the world, both Jews and Gentiles) I am disappointed by Ian’s parroting of the approach that all prophecies are fulfilled in Jesus. Clearly they were not at the time, indeed Israel was scattered after the Bar Kokhba revolt in 135 and it was not until the 19th century that there was much serious talk of the Jews returning to the Promised Land. Funnily enough, the first Zionists were evangelical Christians like CH Spurgeon, Charles Simeon, William Wilberforce and many others, long before Theodor Herzl wrote Der Judenstaat.
    Perhaps if more Gentile Christians understood this, they would have a better view of God’s amazing faithfulness? After all, there is a prophecy in Jeremiah 31:5 about returning exiles planting vineyards in Samaria. It took around 25 centuries for that prophecy to be fulfilled when Jews, after the Six Day War in 1967, were once more able to plant vineyards in Samaria.
    I fear that far too many Gentile Christians skip over Romans chapters 9 to 11 and therefore do not take to heart Paul’s warning to them in Romans 11, especially in verse 18.

    • Andy, thanks for commenting—but I am a bit puzzled by your comment.

      ‘God’s prophecies in books like Jeremiah and Ezekiel about bringing Jews back from North, South, East and West seem to mean nothing to Ian.’ They mean everything to me—and they are clearly fulfilled in Rev 7.9. The Israel of God is from every nation, tribe, people and tongue. This is a central truth about God’s people in Jesus.

      If you are right, and the OT promises were NOT fulfilled in Jesus, why is there not one single mention of this hope in the NT anywhere?

      (And again odd that you accuse me of not attending to Romans 9 to 11 when I mention it repeatedly.)


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