Strange and unbelievable as it may sound in the ears of the Reformed believer who believes all the Scriptures, it is nonetheless a fact that Dispensationalism teaches that the Kingdom, spoken of in the prophecies of the Old Testament, is in its very essence a Jewish National kingdom. In this kingdom the Gentile Christians do not share!
Yes, strange thus to teach! This is not a rightly dividing of the Scriptures, explaining the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament, nor is it the fruit of explaining the less clear passages of the Bible in the light of the more clear passages of Holy Writ, but it is the very teaching of Jewish rabbinism. The Jewish Targums, oral and written interpretations and paraphrases of the Old Testament prophecies, give this Premillennial interpretation. In a footnote in Volume I, page 78, Dr. Alfred Edersheim gives the following illuminating information. The very understandably Jewish interpretation speaks of the national restoration and the future glory of Israel in an exclusively Jewish sense. Not a word is said about the future salvation of the Gentile world. The futuristic interpretation which holds that the promises of Israel’s restoration all refer to the time of the future Millennium is cut out of the same pattern as that of the teachers in the Mishna. The Mishna is the “whole of the oral law which had come into existence up to the end of the second century A.D.” (Vol. V, page 2904, The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia).
It is instructive, indeed, to notice the following from the pen of Edersheim: “It is worth while to trace, how universally and warmly both Eastern and Western Judaism cherished the hope of Israel’s return to their own land. The Targumim have repeated reference to it.”
In this connection we have the following footnote by Edersheim:
Notably in connection with
(both in the Pseudo-Jon. and Jer. Targum);
Isaiah 14:29; Jeremiah 33:13; Hosea 14:7; Zechariah 10:6.
It would be well worth the reader’s time and effort to look up these prophetic utterances in his/her own Bible. For, as Edersheim affirms, “it cannot be doubted, that in this respect the Targums represent the views of the Synagogue at the time of Jesus.”
However, some good, solid Bible reading and study of the prophecies proves quite otherwise. It will prove that the restoration of Israel into their own land was the beginning of the restoration of all the elect, both Jew and Greek, into a better country, that is an heavenly (Heb. 11:13-16). God is not ashamed to be called the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, for He has prepared for them a city. Such is the hope of Israel’s complete restoration (Acts 1:6; Acts 3:21). This is not an afterthought on the part of God, but, as Peter says, they are the eternal verities “which God hath spoken by the mouth of the holy prophets since the world began” (Idem verse 21).
Only by some clever exegetical juggling can one attempt to prove that the Old Testament Scriptures in their promises concerning the Restoration of Israel, did not have the elect Gentiles in mind too as being a part of the Israel of God, fellow-members in the commonwealth of Israel (Eph. 2:11-22).
If we proceed on the exegetical principle that the Holy Spirit interprets His own Word, which He spoke as the Spirit of Christ in the prophets in the Old Testament (interprets these later to the New Testament prophets) we have no problem in understanding the somewhat less clear utterances in the Old Testament.
We have such a notable case in the aged Simeon, spoken of in Luke 2:29-32. The essence of this we can sum up briefly: that it speaks of the salvation which the aged prophet has seen when he sees the forty-day old baby in the arms of Mary at the temple. This was at the occasion of Jesus being “presented to the Lord” according to the law of Moses in Leviticus 12:1-8; it was the rite connected with the “firstborn” son’s being holy to the Lord (Ex. 13:12, 15). This is the Savior, firstborn, in Whom salvation is prepared before the face of all the people of Israel. But this “people” is contextually both the people out of Old Testament “Israel” and also of the “Gentile” world. Hence, it is first the Jew and also the Greek; Japheth shall dwell in the tents of Shem (Gen. 9:27). It will be such that Christ is to be “the light of the nations and the glory of thy people Israel.”
What should not escape our attention is that the Holy Spirit is “upon Simeon”; this is not a mere personal confession of an aged Old Testament saint, who stands in the morning of the latter days, but this aged Simeon is a prophet, the mouthpiece of God. Do we not read in Luke 2:26 that “it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord’s Christ?” And do we not read that “he came by the Spirit into the temple” and being in that state of being led by the Spirit he uttered those memorable words concerning the Christ: His suffering, death, and the exaltation for the falling and rising again of many in Israel? And would His crucifixion at Calvary not be as a sword passing through the soul of Mary, as well as the “sign” of contradiction by unbelieving members of the commonwealth of Israel?
Now these words are a remarkable commentary of the Holy Spirit on His own words in Isaiah 49:6ff.
Let it be borne in mind that Isaiah 49:6ff was written centuries before there was any Jewish interpretation of these in the Mishnah and later in the Talmud. Both the Mishnah and the Talmud are the products of men who did not believe that there was salvation predicted in the Scriptures. Paul says such of these in Acts 13:27. Writes he, “For they that dwell in Jerusalem, and their rulers, because they knew him not, nor yet the voices of the prophets which are read every sabbath day, they have fulfilled them in condemning Him.” And this spiritual ignorance is perpetuated in the Jewish writing after Christ in the Mishnah, Talmud, yea, also all the Jewish application of the law, as recorded in their Halakah.
They did not know the Scriptures and the prophets, yea, did not know Moses’ writing from Genesis to Deuteronomy. They did not know that Jesus is the Lord of Glory (I Cor. 2:7, 8). The reason? They have a vail of blindness over their minds. Even to this day, when unbelieving Israel reads the Scriptures “the vail is upon their heart” (II Cor. 3:14, 15).
Now it ill behooves those who profess to believe in Jesus Christ, and Him crucified, to perpetuate this erroneous interpretation which knew neither Christ nor the “voices” of all the prophets! This is what premillennialism does, knowingly or unknowingly. Pray, may it be the latter.
But let us then attend to the prophecy in Isaiah 49:6ff. It is good, at the outset, to notice that the same “voices of the Prophets” are heard in Genesis 15:15 as well as in many passages in Isaiah. We refer to such passages as Isaiah 40:5; Isaiah 42:6; Isaiah 46:23, 30; Isaiah 52:10. Nor should we overlook the wonderful gospel of Isaiah 25:6-8. We could call attention to such wonderful Messianic Psalms as Ps. 22:22ff; Ps. 87:1-7; and to others.
However, let it be observed that the Holy Spirit in one grand sentence in Luke 2:31, 32 gives us the key to the understanding of all the prophecies. The Bible is then not any longer a closed, dark book; the prophecies are then very lucid and clear. We then can understand the burning hearts of the travelers to Emmaus, when Christ opened to them all the Scriptures, beginning at Moses, the Psalms, and all the Prophets.
We cannot enter into a detailed exegesis of each of the texts which we have quoted. It ought to be clear that if Isaiah 49:6ff refers to the gathering in of the Gentiles, the islands of the sea, through the instrumentality of Old Testament Israel, then this is the teaching of the Bible. It is then the clear Biblical hermeneutics of the Spirit of Christ. All we need is one clear Scripture passage as the key to understand all Scripture passages. Notice what Jesus says of this hermeneutical principle in Mark 4: 13. There Jesus, the infallible Teacher, says, “Know ye not this parable? and how shall ye know all parables?” The prophecies are not a hodge podge of contradictions, but the one interprets the other.
And so we can thus proceed with attempting to understand the clear and lucid teaching in Isaiah 49:6ff.
Here we have but to believe and listen. And in that order, too.
We desire to learn from this passage that the Holy Spirit indeed before preached the glad tidings that the Gentiles too should be saved by grace, and should be justified without works of law (Gal. 3:8). It was not a mere afterthought on the part of Christ to turn to the Gentiles. It is Satan’s lie that the Old Testament prophecies did not speak clearly of the salvation of the church. Millennialism needs this reconstruction of the prophetic teaching to maintain that salvation and the kingdom life is for natural Israel in the literal land of Palestine.
In Isaiah 49:1 we read a most wonderful exhortation from the lips of the Servant of the Lord, Who was called from the womb, from the bowels of His mother. The words, “Listen, O isles, unto Me and hearken ye people from afar,” is really the keynote of all the prophetic utterances from Isaiah 49 till Isaiah 57. It is as Dr. Young says in his commentary on this verse: “As the isles are to hearken unto Him so our attention is to be directed unto Him throughout this section.”
It would seem that this prepares us for the worldwide proclamation of the Gospel. It anticipates and includes the words of Jesus to His disciples on the Mount of Olives, where in answer to the question of the disciples, “wilt Thou at this time restore the kingdom of Israel?” Jesus answers and says, “It is not for you to know the seasons which the Father hath put in His own power, but ye shall receive power of the Holy Ghost coming upon you; and ye shall be witnesses unto Me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth” (Acts 1:6-8).
The kingdom, promised to David, is here given to his Son, Jesus Christ; it is the kingdom which was “near” when Jesus began to preach and to teach in His state of humiliation; it has come now, in His state of exaltation at the Father’s right hand.
(to be continued)