“Restoration” Promises to National Israel
I have just read your series defending amillennialism (Standard Bearer, Jan. 1, 1995-Dec. 15, 1996) and have benefited very much. However, I have a few questions.
Can we not hold amillen-nialism and still look for certain “restoration” promises to national Israel to be fulfilled? The Puritans themselves were partially responsible for opening the door for Israel to come back to their land, because they understood that God would restore the nation according to Romans 11.
By restoration, I do not mean by any other way than through the means of the gospel. While there is sure to be apostasy toward the end times, is there not room for aRomans 11 “life from the dead” revival? By this I do not mean Christian Reconstruction, but simply revival—the world seeing the Jews coming to Christ and the Holy Spirit using that to open ears to the gospel?
I am not challenging you. I think I agree mostly, but I do not know how to reconcile a couple of other things. Isaiah 60:10: “In my wrath I struck you, but in my favor I have had mercy on you”—to say that this and similar passages apply only to spiritual Israel is confusing. How do we reconcile such verses with God’s new creation church—did He ever strike them or forsake them and promise to receive them back?
And finally, Zechariah 14 has all the nations coming against Israel, and the Lord fighting on their behalf. How might that chapter apply in light of the New Testament?
What is the reason that national Israel is still around today if God has no “national” intentions for them? By all odds, they should have disappeared long ago.
Again, I am starting to consider myself an amillennialist, but I have researched quite a bit, and no one seems to address these issues.
Yunnan, PR China
Yours are penetrating questions. Nor is there any reason why you should not feel free to challenge me.
There is no fundamental objection to the idea that towards the end God will convert a greater number of racial Jews than He has converted at any one time throughout the present age. If this is to be the case, Romans 11is the chapter that foretells it. In this case, these Jews will be converted by the same gospel that brought us Gentiles to faith, and the Jews will be added to the church, not established as a restored kingdom of Israel.Romans 11 teaches that Israel will be grafted into the one olive tree.
Against this view, however, is that it invariably is part and parcel of a postmillennial doctrine of the last things. So it was for the Puritans; so it was for those who adopted the Savoy Declaration; so it is for those in the Reformed churches who maintain it today. Second, a widespread conversion of Jews at the end is not the teaching of Romans 11:26, probably the chief basis of the view. Verse 26 does not say, “And then all Israel shall be saved,” but, “And so (that is, in this way) all Israel shall be saved.” Paul teaches that individual Jews, like himself, are continually being saved throughout the New Testament era—elect Jews—and “so” all Israel, that is, the true Israel of God according to election, shall in the end be saved, just as the fullness of the Gentiles is also saved.
Your suggestion that “national Israel” has a future, however, is simply erroneous. Nor does the return of Jews to Palestine in our time have any biblical significance whatever. The kingdom of God has been taken from the Jews and given to the Gentiles as a spiritual kingdom consisting of the reign of Christ by the gospel in the hearts and lives of believers and in the true church (see Matt. 21:43). Speaking to believers, that is, the New Testament church, Peter says, “Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people,” etc. (I Pet. 2:9). What held true of Old Testament Israel now holds true of the New Testament church, because the New Testament church is the reality, the fulfillment, of Old Testament Israel.
Palestine has no significance biblically whatever. The New Testament reality of that land is the spiritual rest, milk, and honey of dwelling with God by faith in Jesus Christ, which the elect believer enjoys now in beginning and which he shall enjoy perfectly in the Day of Christ in the new world (see Heb. 11:10, 16). No Jew living in Palestine, now or ever, enjoys Canaan by virtue of the fact that he inhabits Palestine. I am in Canaan, who lives in Western Michigan, not because I live in Western Michigan, but because I am in Christ by faith, who is God’s Canaan. The “Holy Land” is not that sliver of ground on the east side of the Mediterranean, but wherever Jesus Christ is by His Word and Spirit (see Heb. 4).
As for Isaiah 60:10, Zechariah 14, and all the other similar prophecies of the Old Testament concerning Israel, the fundamental question is this: Who is Israel? The answer must be determined from the gospel of the New Testament! God’s Israel is, and always was, His elect people in His elect Son and Servant, Jesus Christ. In the New Testament time, they are the believing, confessing church made up of elect Jew and (mostly) elect Gentiles. Old Testament Israel was the immature church; the church is Old Testament Israel come to maturity (Gal. 3; 4:1ff.). The believing church is the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16).
According to Isaiah 60:10, God smote His church in wrath in the cross of Christ. In that same cross of Christ, God had mercy on the church in His favor.
According to Zechariah 14, at the end the forces of Antichrist shall attack the church, as amillennialism, and amillennialism alone, teaches in light of the New Testament.
Here we face the question of the literal or spiritual interpretation of Old Testament prophecy. Those who insist on a restoration of national Israel also insist on a literal interpretation of Old Testament prophecy, as though the New Testament did not show that all Old Testament prophecy is spiritually fulfilled in Christ, His spiritual salvation, and His spiritual people, the Spirit-filled church (II Cor. 1:19, 20).
Regarding Zechariah 14, notice where the literal interpretation gets those who insist on it. Shall there be again an earthly keeping of the feast of tabernacles, as though believers do not really keep that Old Testament feast by faith in Christ and as though the apostle never said that all such Old Testament ceremonies are “weak and beggarly element” and a “shadow of things to come” (Gal. 4; Col. 2)?
Must we go up to earthly Jerusalem to worship the King at peril of not receiving rain, as though Jesus never said, “The hour cometh, when ye shall neither in this mountain, nor yet at Jerusalem, worship the Father” (John 4:21)?
And shall men again do earthly sacrifice in a carnal temple of brick and mortar, as though the book of Hebrews did not teach that Christ has offered the one and only sacrifice that abolished all earthly sacrificing of animals?
“National Israel” is not “still around.” “National Israel” disappeared in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70 even as it had had the kingdom of God taken from it on a Friday afternoon outside Jerusalem when one Jesus was hanging on a cross. The kingdom of God then took a new, far more glorious form in the church out of all nations on the day of Pentecost. What is “still around” is the race of Jews. God has two main purposes with it. One is dreadful, as history demonstrates: to show in it His awful wrath against an unbelieving, rebellious people. This is a warning to us believing Gentiles. Behold, the severity of God. The other purpose of God with the race of Jews is lovely: to gather out of the physical descendants of Abraham still today, and to the very end, elect children, so that in the end “all Israel” shall be saved. Behold, the goodness of God.