Adapted From: Lewis Sperry Chafer (Systematic Theology: Vol. IV; C3)

BIB-LICAL REVELA-TIONWith respect to primary application, Israel occupies nearly four-fifths of the text of the Bible.The Church with respect to primary application, occupies slightly more than one-fifth.
(2) THE DIVINE PUR-POSEEvery covenant, promise, and provision for Israel is earthly.Every covenant or promise for the Church is for a heavenly reality, and she continues in heavenly citizenship when the heavens are recreated.
(3) THE SEED OF AB- RAHAM In view of the fact that Abraham is not only the progenitor of the nation of promise but is also the pattern of a Christian under, it is significant that there are two figures employed by Jehovah respecting Abraham’s seed—the dust of the earth (Gen. 13:16), and the stars (Gen. 15:5; cf. Heb. 11:12). The extent of this Abrahamic covenant is expressed in Romans 4:16: “That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all.” Aside from Ishmael’s line and the children of Kiturah concerning whom there is no revealed divine purpose, the children of Jacob, or Israel, and without reference to Esau, are counted as the physical seed (cf. Gen. 22:2; Heb. 11:17) of Abraham; for with these God has made covenants respecting their earthly privilege.Contrariwise, the heavenly seed of Abraham are not progenerated by Abraham, but are generated by God on the efficacious principle of faith; and, because of the truth that this faith was exercised specifically by Abraham (Gen. 15:6; Rom. 4:1-3, 17-24), those of like faith are Abraham’s spiritual seed. It is written, “So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:9). A vital distinction is drawn by the the Apostle between Israel after the flesh and that portion of Israel within Israel who are saved.Those who are saved are styled “the Israel of God” (Gal. 6:16), and the statement that “they are not all all Israel, which are of Israel” ( Rom. 9:6) is a reference to the same distinction. The use of these passages to prove Israel and and the Church to be the same is deplored in the light of the truth which these Scriptures declare.
(4) BIRTHIsraelites become what they are by physical birth. They are each one begotten by parents and their inheritance is transmitted by human generation.Christians become what they are by spiritual birth. They are begotten directly by God and are therefore His legitimate offspring. Their inheritance is immediate in that each is a child of God.
(5) HEAD-SHIPAbraham is the head of the Jewish race, and they are properly designated as “the seed of Abraham.” Though born of Gentile stock, Abraham was set apart by God to the high honor of being the progenitor of the elect earthly people.Over against this it may be said of Christians, though when magnifying the element of faith they are called “Abraham’s seed” (Gal. 3:29), God is their Father and by the Spirit they are joined to Christ and He, the resurrected Lord, is their new federal Head.
(6) COVE-NANTSGod has made unconditional covenants with His earthly people. He will yet make a new covenant with them when they enter their kingdom. That new covenant will govern their conduct and will supersede the Mosaic covenant of the Law (cf. Jer. 31:31-33; Deut. 30:8). This new covenant for Israel will be in four parts.These four features are the present blessings of the Church. This heavenly people are sheltered under a new covenant made in His blood. It is individual in its application and everlasting. It is individual in its application and everlasting. It guarantees every divine grace upon those who believe in Christ in Christ as Savior.
(7) NATION-ALITYIsrael belongs to the earth and to the world-stem. Though above all nations in Jehovah’s reckoning, they are still in the world as one of its nations.Over against this and forming the strongest contrast is the fact that the Church is composed of all nations, including Israel, and sustains no citizenship here, but instead the believers are strangers and pilgrims.
(8) DIVINE DEAL -INGThe fact that, in the present age, Israelites, like Gentiles, are shut up to their individual responsibility respecting claims of the gospel, doubtless misleads those who do not consider the wide range of human history which the Bible covers. They fail to realize that the present divine arrangement is exceptional and that God has in other ages dealt with nations—especially Israel—as a whole. The present arrangement is restricted to the one age in which responsibility is altogether personal.
(9) DISPEN-SA-TIONSThe earthly people, though their estate may vary, are present in the earth in all ages from the beginning in Abraham on into eternity to come.The Church is restricted to the present dispensation. The dispensation now operative itself is characterized by her presence in the world. It was introduced for her sake; and is therefore unrelated to that which goes before or that which follows.
(10) MINIS-TRYIsrael was appointed to exercise an influence over the nations of the earth (cf. Ps. 67:1-7), and this will yet do perfectly in the coming age; nevertheless there was no missionary undertaking and no gospel proclaimed. Israel maintained her self-centered worship. She faced inward toward the tabernacle or temple and all her benevolence was consumed on her own worship.Immediately upon her formation, the Church is constituted a foreign missionary society. It is her obligation to face outward and to those of her company is given the task of evangelizing the people of the earth in each generation. 
(11) THE DEATH OF CHRISTThat nation which demanded the death of Christ and who said by their officials, “His blood be on us, and on our children,” is guilty of that death; yet they will be saved as a nation on the ground of that sacrifice.A present and perfect salvation to the praise of God is the portion of the Church through the offering of the Lamb of God.
(12) THE FATHERTo Israel God is known by His primary titles, but not as Father of the individual Israelite.In distinction to this, the Christian is actually begotten of God and has every right to address Him as Father.
(13) CHRISTTo Israel, Christ is Messiah, Immanuel, and King with all that those appellations imply.To the Church, Christ is Savior, Lord, Bridegroom, and Head.
(14) THE HOLY SPIRITOnly in exceptional instances and for unusual service did the Holy Spirit come upon an Israelite, and the Spirit withdrew as freely as He came, when the purpose was accomplished.The strongest contrast is to be seen here, in that the Christian is indwelt by the Spirit; in truth, he is not saved apart from this relation to the Spirit (Rom. 8:9).
(15) A GOVER-NING PRINCI-PLEFor fifteen centuries the Law was Moses was Israel’s rule of daily life. It is written: But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children, to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments” (Ps. 103:17-18).
Unlike this, the members of Christ’s Body, being wholly perfected in Him, are under the beseechings and directions which grace provides.
(16) DIVINE ENABLE-MENTThe law system provided no enabling power for its achievement. That system is declared to have failed because of the weakness of “the flesh” to which it was evidently addressed (Rom. 8:3).To the Church, however, as certainly as superhuman requirements are laid on her members, so certainly as superman requirements are laid on her members, so certainly supernatural power is provided for every demand. It is on this account the Apostle could say “Sin shall not have dominion over you.” The reason, of course, is that “ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14).
(17) TWO FARE-WELL DIS-COUR-SESSeveral days before His departure from the world, Christ addressed a farewell discourse to the nation of Israel which contemplated her future and that in its relation to His return (Matt. 23:37-25:46).Quite removed from this snd wholly different in all its features, Christ, the night before He was put to death, gave His parting message to the Christians. When these two addresses are contemplated side by side, it is seen that the widest distinction are indicated between Israel and the Church.
(18) THE PRO-MISE OF JESUS’ RETURNAs seen in His words specifically addressed to Israel, Christ returns as her King in power and great glory, at which time she will be gathered from every part of the earth by angelic migration into her own land (Deut. 30:1-8; Jer. 23:7-8; Matt. 23:31). Over against these great events promised to Israel is the return of Christ for His own Bride, when He takes her with Him into heaven’s glory (John 14:1-3). The contrasts between these two situations may be drawn out to great lengths and with equally great profit.
(19) POSI-TIONIsaiah declares, But you, Israel, my servant, Jacob, whom I have chosen, the offspring of Abraham, my friend; you whom I took from the ends of the earth, and called from its farthest corners, saying to you, “You are my servant, I have chosen you and not cast you off”; fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand (41:8-10). Though individuals in Israel attained to great usefulness, as did the prophets, priests, and kings, yet they never reached a higher distinction than when they were servants of Jehovah.
Contrariwise, the individuals who compose the Church are forever in Christ and are members in the family and household of God.
(20) Christ’s Earthly ReignThose of the elect nation are appointed to be subjects of the King in His earthly kingdom (Ezek. 37:21-28).Those who comprise the Church are to reign with the King as His Consort in that kingdom (Rev. 20:6).
(21) PRIEST- HOODThe nation of Israel had a priesthood.The Church is a priesthood.
(22) MARRI-AGEAs a nation, Israel is likened by Jehovah to His wife—a wife untrue and yet to be restored (Jer. 3:1, 14, 20; Ezek. 16:1-59; Hos. 2:1-23; Isa. 54:1-17; cf. Gal. 4:27).In marked distinction to this situation respecting Israel, is the revelation that the Church is to Christ as one espoused and to be married in Heaven (2 Cor. 11:2; Rev. 19:7-9).
(23) JUDG-MENTSIt is clearly predicted that Israel must come into judgment (Ezek. 20:33-44; Matt. 25:1-13).It is clearly declared that the Church will not come into judgment (John 5:24; Romans 8:1).
(24) POSI-TION  IN ETER-NITYIn his enumeration of the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem the writer to the Hebrews asserts that there shall be those present who are identified as “the spirits made perfect.” Such can easily refer to the saints of the OT who, while in this life, were styled just men. This designation occurs upwards of 30 times in the OT and always with reference to those who were in right relation to God.In this same enumeration of the inhabitants of the new Jerusalem there is recognition also of the “church of the firstborn” (Heb. 12:22-24).
CON- CLU- SIONIn concluding this extended series of contrasts between Israel and the Church, it should be observed that, in certain respects, there are similarities between these two groups of elect people. Each, in turn, has its peculiar relation to God, to righteousness, to sin, to redemption, to salvation, to human responsibility, and human destiny.They are each witnesses to the Word of God; each claim the same Shepherd; they have doctrines in common; the death of Christ avails in its own way for each; they are alike loved with an everlasting love; and each, as determined by God, will be glorified.

Book Review on “The Day Approaching” by Amir Tsarfati


Hope for The Approaching Days Ahead

Book Review by Dr. David P. Craig 

The subtitle of this book is An Israeli’s Message of Warning and Hope for the Last Days. If you have read Amir’s first book (this is his second) or ever heard him speak – you know how passionate he is for the good news of Jesus and the promises of God to his chosen people. In this book he outlines “The Day Approaching” which is a biblical term that encompasses more than one specific day. It’s more like many days over a period of time. 

He writes, “The Day is approaching. This is the Day when Jesus will rapture His church from the earth to meet Him. This is the Day of the Lord’s judgment on sinners and the discipline of His people, Israel. This is the Day when Jesus will set foot upon the Mount of Olives, coming a second time to dwell on earth with His creation. This is the Day of the rule of the King of kings from His throne in Jerusalem. This is the Day of Satan’s confinement, and of his eventual release and mankind’s rebellion. This is the Day of the Great White Throne judgment, when the sheep and goats will be separated. And it is the Day of the new heaven and earth, where we will enjoy the presence of the Lord forever.”

Amir writes from an Israeli perspective and from a premillennial and pretribulational position. He makes a careful distinction between Israel and the Church. His writing is clear, his explanations are logical and well articulated, and he cogently and carefully leads the reader to our hope in Jesus and the good news of his life, death, burial, resurrection, and return throughout the book. 

He answers many questions related to the “Day Approaching,” Here are some of the questions he raises and answers in this book: Did Jesus describe our Time? How can we interpret the seventy weeks in Daniel? What do the seven major feasts in the Old Testament point to? Are the Festivals Fulfilled? Does God still have a plan for the Nation of Israel and its Land? Where is God in Israel today? Will there be a literal Millennial Kingdom? What will we do during the Millennium? Why do we even need a Millennium? 

I highly recommend this book as an excellent introduction to eschatology (the study of the last days or end times). Amir writes for beginner’s but even those who are well versed in eschatology will learn amazing insights (especially about Israeli culture, history, and their future) by reading this offering.

A Comparison of Covenant Theology and Dispensational Theology



By Dr. Bruce Ware

These are both movements that really affect a large swath of the evangelical Church with Covenant Theology affecting so much of the Church in the Reformed tradition and Dispensationalism largely through the first study Bible that came out, The Scofield Reference Bible (that was the only one when I was growing up; my folks had the Scofield Reference Bible). It made a big impact on Dallas Seminary and all of its graduates when Dallas was putting out so many pastors for Bible churches and independent Baptist churches. The Bible school movement was largely Dispensational. Moody Bible Institute and most of the Bible schools around the country were Dispensational. Some other seminaries that were Dallas-influenced are Talbot Seminary, Biola University (it used to be Bible Institute of Los Angeles and that is where Biola comes from; J. Vernon McGee and a number of people connected with Biola were Dispensational), Western Seminary (where I went) used to be a Dallas clone and it was Dispensational. So many areas in evangelical life in North America were affected by it.

We need to take a brief look at these two views. One heartening thing I will tell you at the beginning is it is one of those wonderful areas where, though there was such disagreement forty years ago, to the point where there were strong accusations being made by both sides about the other, today there has been a coming together of these movements by sort of progressives of both sides. With Modified Covenantalists and Modified Dispensationalists, the differences between them now, among those Modified groups, is minor in significance. It is not that much to worry about, to be honest with you. It is one area where godly, humble biblical scholarship and theological reflection has resulted in both sides being willing to acknowledge the excesses of their traditions and make changes. The result of that has been to come together in a marvelous way. If you want to read something that talks about this well, Dr. Russ Moore wrote his dissertation on the changing theological positions of Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology as that affects socio-political action. But in order to get that “as it affects” part, he had to do quite a bit of theological ground work in describing what was going on in these two movements. A large portion of his dissertation relates to mega-changes, and the mega-shifts that have taken place in both of these movements. It is very well done.

A. Covenant Theology

1. General Description – Two Broad Covenants

Covenant theology holds, in terms of its basic understanding of Scripture, that we should understand the Bible as portraying fundamentally two covenants: a Covenant of Works and a Covenant of Grace.

In the Covenant of Works, God made a covenant with Adam in the Garden, according to Covenant Theology. Namely, if you obey me and follow me and resist eating of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil; if you stay away from that, if you don’t eat of that tree and follow me in obedience, then you will ultimately receive life. Covenant theologians have seen this as something more than the life of Adam then. It is not just a continuation of his life in the garden temporally, but what we would speak of as eternal life. They propose that there must have been a probationary period in which this testing was undertaken. Had Adam passed the test (who knows how much longer it might have been; maybe two more days and the test would have been over; we just don’t know), then he would have received eternal life because of his works. But if Adam failed the test, if he were to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden, then we know from the text, in the day that you eat from it you will surely die (Gen 2:17). So death for disobedience; life, presumably a better life, a greater that the life he had now for obedience.

Covenant theologians acknowledge that the first part of this, the promise of life for obedience, is not stated explicitly in Scripture. But they think that it is implied by the negative statement, “If you eat of it you will die”. If you don’t eat of the tree, then you would receive the gift of eternal life. If that is the case, then it must be something different than what you have now, and if that is the case, there must be a probationary period. There must be a time period after which this would be given. All of that follows from what they know to be the case; namely, there is command given that if you eat of the tree you will die. The other part of it is spin off from that.

We all know that Adam failed the test and brought death upon himself and all of his progeny. Romans chapter 5 tells us that in Adam all sin and deserve his death. So we learn from Paul in Romans 5:12 and following that all die in Adam’s one sin.

In order to save sinners, God brings about another covenant. This is not a Covenant of Works because sinners could never work to make the payment necessary to satisfy a holy God on account of the offense that has been committed. The guilt is too great, and the offense is too serious. Another Covenant of Works (work it off now, pay your dues, pay off your debt) won’t work for human beings, for sinners. God inaugurates, instead, a Covenant of Grace, whereby his Son will pay the penalty for sinners, and those sinners in exchange will receive the righteousness of Christ. It is quite a deal for sinners. We give Christ our sins and he gives us his righteousness.

Double imputation is part of this understanding as well. Our sin is imputed to Christ, so he pays the penalty for our guilt and it is charged against him even though he doesn’t deserve to pay it. That’s what imputation means at that point; our sin is charged against Christ, and his righteousness is imputed to us; it is credited to our account by faith – justification.

How much of the Bible does the Covenant of Works cover, what does it span? The Covenant of Works covers Genesis 1, 2 and part of Genesis 3 where the sin takes place. What about the Covenant of Grace where sinners now cannot be saved by works? If they are going to be saved it has to be by grace? Genesis 3 to Revelation 22. The point of this is that it leads Covenant theologians, in the traditional understanding, to think in terms of the broad sense of the holistic nature of virtually all of the Bible, from Gen 3 on, which is most of the Bible. Basically, the whole Bible fits under this Covenant of Grace notion. This leads to, in Covenant Theology, a strong sense of uniformity throughout the Bible, that is a strong sense of continuity. There is one thing God is doing from the sin in the garden and on, that is he is providing for human sin and saving the people. The Covenant of Grace spans both Testaments; it spans Israel and Church. In that sense, it leads to a unified sense in all of Scripture: Old and New Testaments together.

2. Covenant Hermeneutic

Because of this sense of unity that takes place, the hermeneutic of Covenant Theology tends to see in Scripture a unified teaching in both Testaments. So there is less of a notion in Covenant Theology that new things come about in divine revelation at new periods of revelation, rather there is more of a notion of simply amplifying or explaining with grater clarity or precession what has been there from the beginning. So for example, in Covenant Theology there is much more a tendency to look back in the Old Testament and see the same kinds of things as you do in the New Treatment. I’ll give you an example of that; some of you know that I teach an elective on the doctrine of the Holy Spirit. The older Covenant theologians (some of the more recent ones, Richard Gap and Sinclair Ferguson have not have gone this route) would tend to see everything that is true of the of the Holy Spirit’s work in the New Testament, his indwelling, his sealing, his empowering that is true for New Testament believers, is also true for Old Testament believers because of this uniformity idea. So if you ask the question what is new at Pentecost or new in the New Covenant? It is more a sense of extension of coverage than it is qualitative experience in the lives of true believers. God will extend this to the ends of the earth: Jerusalem, Judea, and Samaria. To the ends of the earth means extending this beyond the boundaries of the restricted members of the people of God. It is going to go public, nationwide, worldwide. My view is that this is a mistake to think this way. Instead there is a radical new happening when the Holy Spirit comes at Pentecost that the Old Testament actually prophesied and predicted was going to happen that would make a tremendously different change to the people of God. So you really have to have, it was once this way but now is this way. There really is a change, a marked qualitative kind of change that takes place in the coming of the Spirit in the New Covenant than in the Old. This is a more Dispensational way of thinking. Take a text like Romans 8:3-4

“For what the Law could not do [under the law this didn’t happen, the Law couldn’t do this], weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending his Son in the likeness of sinful flesh [we are talking history now, at this point in history, when Christ comes], and as an offering for sin, Him condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might now be fulfilled in those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” (Rom 8:3-4) So that looks to me like we ought to read it as under the Law things were one way, but now that the Spirit has come, Christ has come, things are different. But if you read the Old Covenant writers on the Holy Spirit, you will find a very strong urge to assume that New Testament teachings about the Holy Spirit must be true of Old Testament saints as well.

A similar thing might be said of Christology. There is a very strong sense of trying to see as much as possible of Christ in the Old Testament. Luke 24 makes it very clear that Christ taught concerning himself from the Law, the Prophets and the Writings (Luke 24:27).

It is a matter of which texts, what they are saying, and to what extent. There is a tendency in Covenant Theology to see more than what others might see from other traditions. The main point I am trying to stress here is that with this Covenant hermeneutic there is a tendency to see uniformity of content between the Testaments.

3. Israel and the Church

One of the places where this becomes both the clearest and most decisive in terms of separating covenant and Dispensational views is how Covenant Theology understands Israel and the Church. Here again, with the basic hermeneutic of uniformity, Covenant Theology would view true Israel as the people of God, that is, true Israel, saved Israel as the people of God and the Church as the people of God. There is really one people of God in both Testaments, both saved by faith, both serving the same God, both the special objects of God’s saving love. Israel really could be thought of and spoken of as the Old Testament Church. The Church in the New Testament can rightly be thought of as New Testament Israel. So we have Old Testament Church, that’s Israel, and we have New Testament Israel, that’s Church. So there really should not be seen significant differences as they are the people of God. Granted Israel is also ethnic and the Church is multiethnic. But apart from that difference, as it relates to nation and ethnicity, we ought to understand the people of God, as believers, constituting the same group of people.

What about promises made to Israel that seem to relate to a time in the future; for example, Israel coming back to her land, or her ultimate salvation by God. What about promises that look like they are eschatological in the Old Testament, and are not fulfilled at any particular point in history in the Old Testament or New Testament period? What do we say about those promises that relate to Israel? God makes the promise, I’ll take from your lands where you have been and I’ll bring you back to your land and you shall have one God, and I will reign over you, and I will destroy your enemies. All of these promises given to Israel, what should we do with those? In Covenant Theology, there is a very strong tendency to go in the direction of saying those promises made to Israel are fulfilled in the New Testament Israel – the Church. So the Church becomes the object of those promises.

In Covenant Theology there is a very strong tendency to see Old Testament promises as coming straight forward and being fulfilled in the Church. So the land promises (you will be back in your land) shouldn’t be understand as literal land; there is not going to be a day when the ethnic people of Israel occupy literal geography; that is not the point of those promises. It is rather that they will have their kingdom, and it is a spiritual kingdom.

So the promises to Israel are to be fulfilled in a spiritual manner in the Church. When it talks about the Jews being saved, we are all Jews. Remember Paul in Romans 2 says, we are circumcised in Abraham. We are, by faith, part of the seed of Abraham in Galatians (Galatians 3:16). We should understand that all of us are Jews spiritually because we are tied in through Christ, through the seed of Abraham. After all, the promise in Genesis 12 was that through Abraham all the nations in the world will be blessed. (Genesis 12:3). So we are tied in.

What about the reign of Christ over nations? This is not a political military reign; it is a spiritual reign as people from every tribe and nation are brought into subjection to Christ. So in Covenant Theology there is a very strong tendency to see, basically, Israel and the Church as equated spiritually.

One place that you see that Reformed Baptists differ is with pedobaptism. In Presbyterian, Anglican, and the majority of reformed theology, they hold to pedobaptism. Here the same thing is happening; Israel circumcised their people as a sign of the Covenant and we are the new Israel. The difference is that our sign of the Covenant is a sign that is Christological in nature because we have been brought together in Christ; everything in the Old Testament pointed to him. Christ has now come, so the sign of the Covenant changes to baptism as a mark of Christ’s death and resurrection. Just as Israel’s sign of the covenant was given to infants, so the Church’s sign of the Covenant should be given to infants. Honestly, the strongest argument for pedobaptism (in my judgment) is a theological argument; if you try to argue texts, you run out quickly. In a used bookstore in Springfield, Illinois (we were visiting there as a family to look at all of the Lincoln memorabilia that was there), I spotted a rather sizable book on the shelve; the spine was pretty fat. It said on it, All That The Bible Teaches About Infant Baptism. That was the title of it. Wow, I thought, this is a thick book; it is impressive. So I took it off of the shelf and opened it up and it was an empty book. It was just all blank pages. They were charging something like $18 for it, so I didn’t buy it, but I wish I had. I would like to have a copy of that book. The argument is really a theological one: Israel, Church, sense of unity, and hence a very strong case is made on theological grounds for pedobaptism.

One question is: How do they understand a more unified sense of the Holy Spirit’s work in the Old Testament when it looks as though in the Old Testament there are these special works with selective people? What they argue, in particular, are primarily theological arguments. These people had to be regenerated. How does regeneration take place? We know from John 3, it must come from the Holy Spirit. So you see how this works; these people exercised faith didn’t they? Where did faith come from? It must have come from the Holy Spirit. So it is a theological argument that utilizes what the New Testament says the Holy Spirit does. It sees those same actions or similar actions in the Old Testament and concluded that Holy Spirit must do these things as well. It is a very important question of how to account for Hebrews 11, the faith chapter. How do you account for a Daniel and a Joseph who exercised tremendous trust in God through very difficult experiences? It is a very good question, and I think that we just have to work very hard in the Old Testament to try to understand what is said there and what is happening there and take seriously the notion that something new takes place. Roman 8:3-4, says, “In order that the requirement of the Law might now be fulfilled in those who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. Those are remarkable words. Or in Galatians 3 (Galatians 3:24, to be precise) the Law is a tutor to lead us to Christ. It is a tough question; I’ll admit it. I think that are some things that can be said, but it’s why this theological reasoning is persuasive to a number of Reformed people. The problem is so many Old Testament texts indicate the selectivity of the Spirit at work in the Old Testament and then there are specific texts that promise a future day that matches New Testament reality. Ezekiel 36:27 says, “I will put my Spirit within you and cause you to walk in my statutes, you will be careful to observe my ordinances.” You read that and realize the holiness that He requires of his people will come about when the Holy Spirit comes and works in them. Think of 2 Corinthians 3:3, the letter written on their hearts by the Spirit. This is New Covenant.

B. Dispensationalism

1. General Description – Progressive Revelation

Dispensationalism is an understanding of the Bible, of biblical history, that notices and points to distinguishable Dispensations or administrations of God’s purposes, will, and relationships with people in general and particularly his people.

The key idea in Dispensationalism is progressive revelation. This is the bottom rock notion in this understanding of reading the Bible. Progressive revelation means, essentially, that God provides revelation at a particular time and that revelation provides certain commandments, requirements, warnings and promises. Some of those commands, warnings, and promises may continue beyond when that revelation is given, beyond the next period when great revelation is given. Or some revelations may stop at that particular point. When new revelation comes with Noah, or then with Abraham, or with Moses (think of these periods where new great revelation is given), some things continue on, and some things continue all the way through. Obey the Lord your God; that is from the beginning right to the end. In the revelation given to Adam in the garden, the command, “You shall not to eat of the fruit of the knowledge of good and evil for in the day you eat of it you will die,” (Gen 2:17) doesn’t apply to you and me anymore, specifically as a commandment. Where is that tree? How could you eat of it? You can’t. So it applies to Adam very much so. When revelation comes, there may be new things that start up that were not here before.

Noah is told that he can eat animals; that is part of the statement made to Noah after the flood. He can eat these animals (Genesis 9), but he cannot kill human beings (I take it that continues). I don’t find vegetarianism theological defensible. Both because of what God says to Noah about eating animals (which I assume continues), and certainly the prohibition of killing humans continues. Nor do you find it defensible in light of Israel, in what they are permitted to eat. And Jesus who pronounced all foods clean is obviously talking about unclean foods, which would include pork. So I guess you can have a bacon or a ham sandwich.

The point is that with progressive revelation, you see some things that are new which continue only for a time, and there are other things that might start, ones that weren’t here before, which continue all the way through, and some things which are just for that time period itself. This, then, amounts to different dispensations, different ways in which God administers his relationship with people. The most obvious example is the Mosaic Covenant and the New Covenant. We now have in this time period these laws that relate to the sacrificial system; and it is clear that they last until Christ comes who fulfills what they are pointing to: the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. When God’s Lamb comes, then you don’t have to keep taking your lamb to the priest to be slaughtered. When the High Priest reigns, you don’t need a priest any longer. So here we have in this time period laws that are very relevant, extremely relevant, in exact literal detail. Fulfilling those Laws is extremely important in this time period, then when Christ comes they end. You don’t take a lamb; you don’t go to the priest; the priest doesn’t have to prepare himself for the Day of Atonement. All of these things that were there before are done. This is the main idea of Dispensationalism. It is progressive revelation. When revelation comes you need to notice what things have quit what was revealed before, what things start that weren’t revealed before and what things endure. Whatever you come up with in that time period marks that particular dispensation as the revelation of God in that time period.

2. Dispensational Hermeneutic

This notion of progressive revelation has lead Dispensationalist to interpret the Bible, to look at biblical history and interpret where you are in the Bible, very differently than the way Covenant theologians look at the Bible. The tendency in Covenant Theology is to look for uniformity; there is one Covenant of Grace that spans virtually the entire Bible. So there is a tendency to see this uniformity; there is one people of God. In Dispensationalism the mindset is very different. It is instead to notice discontinuity, differences in how God relates to people depending on the revelation that is given at that particular time. It is much more attuned to the discontinuities between various dispensations and to respect those, to be careful not to interpret something in this dispensation as you are reading it from a different time period. So you are not being respectful of what it means here. Charles Ryrie no doubt overstated it in his book, Dispensationalism Today, but he gave this threefold sine qua non (a Latin phrase meaning without which there is none) of Dispensationalism or the essential markings of Dispensationalism. One of them is a literal hermeneutic. He didn’t mean you interpret poetry literally. John kicked the bucket means that John died; that is the way you are supposed to interpret it. He didn’t mean literal in the sense of ignoring metaphorical poetic meanings or terms. What he meant by that is, when reading the Bible, understand what an author intends to say within the historical context of when he is writing it, so that you don’t read back into it things from the future or read forward of things in the past. You take care to read it within its own dispensation. That is what he meant by literal hermeneutic; to understand what the author meant then and there as he spoke at that time.

3. Israel and the Church

A literal hermeneutic has led to, in particular, the way Israel and the Church are evaluated. It is clear in Dispensationalism that Dispensationalists insist upon seeing Israel as Israel and the Church as the Church. There is a strong discontinuity between the two. The Church starts as Christ built it. Remember Jesus said in Matthew 16:18, “I will build my Church.” Therefore, we shouldn’t talk about it in the Old Testament, even though the term ekklesia is used in the Septuagint (it is not being used in the technical sense, it just means a gathering of people together). We shouldn’t talk about Old Testament Israel as the Church. Jesus said, “I will build my Church, the gates of Hell will not prevail against it. Wait in Jerusalem until the Spirit comes” (Acts 1:4), “And when he comes he will anoint you with power” (Acts 1:8). So Pentecost is the beginning of the Church. We shouldn’t talk about Israel as the Old Testament Church nor should we talk about the Church as the New Testament Israel because Israel is an ethnic national group and we are multiethnic; we are multinational. It is confusing to talk of the Church as Israel.

So as it pertains to these promises we talked about under Covenant Theology, what do you do with the Old Testament promises that particularly relate to Israel? How do understand these when God says through the prophet Ezekiel in Ezekiel 36:24, I will take you from the lands where you have been and bring you back to your land. And he goes on to say at the end of Ezekiel 37 that the Messiah will reign as your king; David will reign as your king. What do you do with these promises that relate to a future for Israel where the Messiah is reigning over his people in the land, the nations are subjected to the Messiah, and there is peace on earth; what do you do with these?

If these promises have to do with Israel, instead of seeing them fulfilled in the Church (because the Church is not Israel), you see them fulfilled at a future time when God will finish his promised work with Israel. There is a sense in which the premillennial view for Dispensationalism is supported because of Old Testament promises to Israel whether or not you have Revelation 20. Revelation 20 is a really nice extra to have because it gives you the exact time period, a thousand years. It makes it crystal clear that this comes after Christ has returned to earth and he reigns upon the earth for this thousand year period. That is nice to know all that, but we didn’t need Revelation 20 to know there had to be a time period in the future after Christ returned for God to finish his work with Israel. Why? Because these promises back here talk about land, Messiah, Jerusalem. According to a literal hermeneutic, what did Ezekiel, Isaiah, and Zachariah mean when they said “Jerusalem”? What did they mean when they said “in your land”? What were the authors intended meanings of these terms: land, Israel, Messiah, and other nations? They understood those things to be referring to physical realities. Have they happened yet? Has Messiah come? No. Is Israel in her land? Hence all the hoopla over 1948; this is when Dispensationalism just went nuts because here we have what appears to be (of course people said it much stronger than that back then) God’s movement to begin the fulfillment of bringing Israel back to her land to fulfill all of these promises. Then there were all kinds of speculation that came in terms of date setting and that kind of stuff.

In my judgment, Dispensationalism has far more merit as a Biblical Theology than its popularizers have allowed it to have in public perception. The popularizers went too far; they extended it into the unknowable. It was speculation but stated as fact. This has hurt the Dispensational movement, in my view.

So for dispensationalists, God is going to come back and wipe out the nations and save Israel, that will happen during the tribulation and he (The Messiah) is going to reign in Jerusalem over his people in the Millennial period fulfilling Old Testament promises.

C. Modifications of both Dispensational and Covenantal Understandings

What has happened, essentially, is that the notions that Israel equals the Church or Israel is totally separate from the Church have been challenged by both representatives in the Covenantal tradition and representatives in the Dispensation tradition. Both have come to see that a better model is one in which there is continuity and discontinuity together. Something like a screen between the two rather than a complete equation or a complete separation of the two. Some things can pass through (hence the screen), yet there are differences between them.

One the Covenant side there has been a recognition, for example, that we really should think of a future for Israel. There was a time when very few Covenant theologians would deal with Romans 11 (Roman 11:17, 23, 24, 26) where Paul talks about the olive tree and the natural branches were cut off and the unnatural branches were grafted on. But a time will come when he will graft the natural branches back on to the tree; that is Israel. That analogy is so helpful. How many trees are there in that analogy? One. How many kinds of branches? Two. Do you have one people of God or two? If you mean one people in Christ, then there is one. If you mean specifically designated Jewish people, for whom God has specifically promised salvation, verses the rest of God’s saved people, then it is two. How else do you understand the natural branches and the unnatural branches? Doesn’t Paul continue to think of the people of God as comprised of Jews and Gentiles? At the moment, most of those Jews are not saved; there is a hardening that has taken place. That is how he describes it in Romans 11. This hardening has taken place, so the Gospel has gone to Gentiles, but the day will come when he will graft the natural branches back on. Who are those people? They are Jews; they are going to be saved. So Paul says, all Israel will be saved. It was difficult for Covenant theologians and Covenant interpreters (a few did but not many) to see that as ethnic Israel. But increasingly in this more modified understanding, you are finding more and more Covenant theologians, people from the Covenant tradition acknowledging that, yes, this is what Paul means; he means that there will be some kind of future salvation of Jews – literal ethnic Jews. Whether this has to happen in the way Dispensationalist conceive it in a tribulation period where vast persecution takes place, tremendous destruction of people and material well-being in everything across the world, and at the same time massive conversions of Jews to Christ, or whether it happens in this age through some kind of evangelistic effort is really beside the point. That is a secondary question. Where there is much more agreement among Dispensationalists and Covenant theologians (in the Modified groups) is that it does look like there is future salvation of Israel.

Dispensationalists have changed. I think it might be fair to say that they have done more changing than the Covenant side. I think that is correct. In other words, Dispensationalists have recognized a bit more that has needed to be changed in their views and tradition than has necessarily been the case in with Covenant theologians.

I will give an example of this. In fact, I have written an article on this in the book that Darrell Bock and Craig Blaising edited entitled, Dispensationalism, Israel and the Church: The Search for Definition. I have a chapter in there on the New Covenant. Here is basically what I talk about in there. In the old view for Dispensationalism, Israel is one thing and the Church is another and you can’t mix the two. Here you are, reading your New Testament and you hear Jesus say, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Cor 11:25). And Paul says, I am a minister of the New Covenant (2 Cor 3:6). And Hebrews speaks of the Old Covenant is taken away, and the New Covenant has come (Heb 8:13). The New Covenant is the Covenant for the Church, the Old Covenant is the Mosaic Covenant, the Covenant for Israel.

What do you do with how Jeremiah 31-34 relates to the New Covenant for the Church, the New Covenant that Paul talks about in 2 Corinthians 3, where he says he is a minister of the New Covenant? How do you relate Jeremiah 31 to that? There is a real problem with that because Jeremiah 31 (Jeremiah 32:31) says, “Behold, days are coming when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.” In traditional Dispensationalism, Israel is one thing, the Church is another and here you have this statement about a new covenant with the house of Israel, so what relation does this Jeremiah 31 New Covenant have to do with the 2 Corinthians 3 New Covenant, of which Paul is a minister? Jesus says, “This cup is the New Covenant of my blood”(Luke 22:20), and Paul in 1 Corinthians 11:25 repeats that, so what is the relation between the two? The dispensational answer is that they are two separate Covenants. Traditional Dispensationalism had a two New Covenant view. Because Jeremiah 31 had to be for Israel, whatever Paul is talking about, whatever Jesus is talking about, and (here is where it get really messy) whatever Hebrews is talking about has got to be a different covenant.

Now why did I say that, here is where it gets really messy in reference to Hebrews? Because Hebrews 8 and 10 quote Jeremiah 31 twice (Hebrews 8:8,9; 10:16) in making the point that the Old Covenant, the Mosiac Covenant is done away and New Covenant, to quote Jeremiah 31, “has taken its place”. Even despite that, they maintain this difference. This is how strong the theological commitment was to two peoples, Israel and the Church; keep them separate and don’t confuse them. It was so strong that even with Hebrews starring at them quoting Jeremiah 31, they insisted on two different Covenants. The text won with Progressive Dispensationalists (That is what they are called). Craig Blaising, who taught here for years, is one of the main leaders of this movement. He and Darrell Bock at Dallas are the champions of Progressive Dispensationalism. They argue that we have got to say that the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31 is the Church’ New Covenant. What else would Jesus be referring to? The phrase, New Covenant, is only used one time in the Old Testament; it is in Jeremiah 31. Hebrews quotes it and says the old has passed and this has come in its place. So we have got to understand this is to be the Church’s New Covenant. In my article here is what I proposed: Are we to say then that everything that Jeremiah 31 talks about is fulfilled now in the Church? In other words, should we do this sort of an interpretation of Jeremiah 31; in which we have an Old Testament promise and we draw the arrow straight forward and say Jeremiah 31 is fulfilled in the Church period? I say no. Rather, I think that we draw an arrow forward and we draw an arrow to the future; we draw both. What allows for a “both and” answer? It is both in some sense fulfilled in the Church and in some sense fulfilled in the future. This is the theology of one of the strongest opponents of Dispensationalism: George Eldon Ladd.

Ladd is the one who really faced the evangelical church with this “already not yet” theology. We understand biblical eschatology as being fulfilled in a preliminary partial way, but are still awaiting the complete consummation, complete fulfillment.

This is a different topic; I’ll come back to New Covenant. How do answer the question has the Kingdom of Christ come, or is the Kingdom of Christ here? “Yes but,” or “Yes and no.” Don’t you have to say both? Is the Kingdom of Christ here? Yes, Colossians 1:13 says, We have been transferred from the dominion of Satan into the Kingdom of his beloved Son. In Matthew 12, Jesus casts out a demon, and the Pharisees said he casts out demons by Beelzebul (Matthew 12:24 ). But he says in response, “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, then the kingdom of God has come upon you” (Matthew 12:28). So has the kingdom come? Yes. But what does the New Testament call Satan at various points? The god of this world (2 Cor 4:4), the ruler of this world (John 12:13), and the prince of the power of the air (Eph 2:2). When you read Isaiah 9:6, 7, have you ever asked yourself the question, has this happened? “For a child will be born to us, a son will be given to us; And the government will rest on his shoulders; And his name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. And of increase of his government there will be not end to establish it and to uphold it from this day forth and for ever more for the zeal of the LORD of hosts will accomplish this.” Has this happened? Did you read the paper this morning? Something tells me we are not there yet. This was exactly John the Baptist’s problem. This is huge to get this. John the Baptist in Matthew 11 sent his disciples to ask Jesus, “Are you the appointed one or shall we look for another?” (Matt 11:3). This is an incredible question, an unbelievable question. John the Baptist witnessed the dove descend on Jesus (John 1:32), and was told, “The One upon whom you see the dove descend, this is my son; follow him (John 1:33). John the Baptist baptized Jesus (Matthew 3:13-16). John the Baptist was the one who said, “He must increase, but I must decrease” (John 3:30) and, “I am not worthy to untie the thong on his sandal” (John 1:27). He said, “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). This is John the Baptist who now in prison says, I’m not sure if this is the anointed one. What has happened?

John knows his Old Testament. This is the problem; he knows the promises that relate to the Messiah. When the Messiah comes, guess what the Messiah is going to do? Isaiah 9:6, 7 says he is going to reign over nations. Read the prophecies of the coming of the Messiah. Incredible devastation to unrighteousness; he is going to destroy those who stand against him; he is going to exalt Israel. Here is the forerunner of the Messiah in prison. What is wrong with this picture? That is what John is thinking. So he thinks, maybe this isn’t the Messiah after all. Consider the angst that he must have been going through in prison, the huge spiritual struggle he must have been facing for that question to come out of him, of all people.

Jesus’ response is brilliant. “Go tell John what you hear and see: the blind see, the lame walk, the deaf hear, and poor have the Gospel preached to them” (Matthew 11:4, 5). Jesus is quoting Old Testament prophesies about the Messiah. So the point is, John, don’t miss it; the Messiah is fulfilling prophecy; I am the Messiah. But not all prophecy, not all now, it is “already and not yet.” Is the kingdom here? Already and not yet. Yes and no, you have to say. Yes, in some things; no, in others.

Back to the New Covenant, how do we see the New Covenant fulfilled? Already in the Church; in some aspects, in a preliminary partial way, we enter into this new covenant, but even a reading of Jeremiah 31 will show that not all of it is fulfilled yet. Because it says, “I will put my Law within you and you won’t have to teach each one his neighbor, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them (Jer 31:33, 34). That hasn’t happened yet. We have teachers in the Church appointed by God to tell people about God, teach them about the Lord. We have the gift of teaching in the Church for that very purpose. So it hasn’t happened yet.

Everyone acknowledges that there has to be an “already not yet.” It includes, in my view, an already in this age predominately gentiles (who were not even given the New Covenant, it was given to Israel) who get in through the seed of Abraham: Jesus. That is our avenue. They get in as Jews, well granted through faith in Christ, they will be brought to faith in Christ, but no other ethnic national group is promised, “I am going to save you.” God promises that to Israel though; they will be saved as a whole ethnic group. Not Babylonians, not Assyrians not anybody else, but Jews will be because God chose them. It is clear in Deuteronomy 7; God chose them, and he is going to save them. When that happens, the New Covenant God made with Israel and Judah is going to be fulfilled. You watch; God will keep his word

Blessings on You.

Dr. Bruce Ware

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Dr. Robert L. Saucy on The Distinction of Israel and the Church




Much discussion has centered around the relationship of the church and Israel. Some biblical interpreters, emphasizing their similarity, view them essentially as one people of God (Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology, p. 571; cf. also the Roman Catholic position stated in the Dogmatic Constitution on the Church of Vatican II, Walter M. Abbott, ed., The Documents of Vatican II, pp. 24-37). The term Israel represents not a national people but the spiritual people of God. Therefore, the members of the church are considered to be New Israel. Spiritual Israel was related to national Israel in the Old Testament but it has now been enlarged to become a universal spiritual work in the church. The Israel of the Old Testament is thus superseded by the church, and the prophecies concerning the nation of Israel are, for the most part, no longer literally applied to the nation but rather to the church now and in the future.

A preferable position sees Israel and the church as distinct phases of God’s program; not so distinct as to preclude relationship in the historical plan and purpose of God, but having a distinction which recognizes the calling and election of Israel as a nation among nations (cf. Deu 7:6-8; 10:15-17; Num 23:9) to be “without repentance” (cf. Ro 11:27-29). This does not deny the spiritual qualifications necessary for Israel to enter into the fulfillment of her promises. Physical descent alone is not sufficient to reap God’s blessings. This was already true of Israel in the Old Testament. There has always been a true Israel within national Israel, but this true Israel is a part of the nation (Compare the concept of the Servant of the Lord in Isaiah, where in many places the Servant is identified merely with Israel [e.g., 41:8; 43:10; 44:21], but in other instances it is clear that only the true Israel is involved [51:1,7]). This interpretation allows for the natural understanding of the Old Testament prophecies portraying a future for Israel as a nation. It is also consistent with the New Testament teaching of the church as distinct from Israel and yet sharing in God’s salvation program.


The New Testament never confuses Israel and the church. As opposed to the church, which is a religious body composed of individuals from all nations, the term Israel retains its reference to that people which came physically from the loins of Abraham. After the beginning of the church, Israel is still addressed as a national entity. When on the day of Pentecost Peter addresses his audience as “you men of Israel” (Ac 2:22), he is obviously referring to those of the physical nation and not the church. Similar uses of the term “Israel” are found throughout Acts, demonstrating the fact that the church had not taken this term for itself (Ac 3:12; 4:10; 5:21, 31, 35; 21:28). Paul’s prayer for “Israel” (Ro 10:1; cf. 11:1) and his references to Israel throughout the discussion of God’s program in Romans 9—11 concern his “kinsmen according to the flesh” (9:3). If “Israel” were a reference to the church, the reference to Israel’s “blindness in part … until the fulness of the Gentiles has come in” (11:25) would be meaningless.

Two references are often used against this consistent use of Israel for the nation in an attempt to substantiate that the church is New Israel. One is Paul’s statement: “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel” [Ro 9:6] (Louis Berkhof, The Kingdom of God, p. 161; Arndt and Gingrich also define Israel in this passage as “a figurative sense of the Christians as the true nation of Israel” – W.F. Arndt and F.W. Gingrich, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and Other Early Christian Literature, p. 382). An examination of the context reveals, however, that Paul is speaking only of a division within Israel. He has introduced the subject concerning his “brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh” who are identified as “Israelites” (vv. 3-4). The subsequent discussion concerns God’s elective purpose within the physical seed of Israel as illustrated in the choice of Isaac over Ishmael and the other children of Abraham and Jacob over Esau (vv. 7-13). Verse 6 then also has reference to Israel. “Those ‘of Israel’ are the physical seed, the natural descendants of the patriarchs” while in the other expression ‘they are not all Israel,” obviously the denotation is much more limited and the thought is that there is an ‘Israel’ within ethnic Israel” (John Murray, The Epistle to the Romans, 2:9). Gutbrod, linking this pasage with Romans 2:28-29, where a similar Jewish context is often overlooked, states forthrightly, “We are not told here that gentile Christians are the true Israel. The distinction at Romans 9:6, does not go beyond what is presupposed at John 1:47, and it corresponds to the distinction between Ioudaios en to krupto [a Jew inwardly] and loudaios en to phanero [a Jew outwardly] at Romans 2:28f., which does not imply that Paul is calling Gentiles true Jews” (Walter Gutbrod, “Israel” in TDNT, 3:387).

Perhaps the words most often cited for the identity of the church as Israel are those of the apostle to the Galatians: “And as many as walk according to this rule, peace be on them, and mercy, and upon the Israel of God” (Galatians 6:16). The meaning of “Israel of God” in this verse rests upon its relationship to the previous expression, “as many as walk according to this rule,” and this relationship depends upon one’s understanding of the “and” (Greek, kai) which connects them. Three different interpretations have been suggested. Lenski, expressing the view which sees the church as the Israel of God, understands kai in the explicative sense of “even.” “As many as will keep in line with the rule,’ constitute ‘the Israel of God'” (R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Paul’s Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians, p. 321; cf. J.B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of St. Paul to the Galatians, pp. 224-25). A second view clearly separating the two phrases as distinct groups is that of Walvoord, who states, “God’s blessing is declared on those who walk according to this rule (among the Galatians who were Gentiles), and also ‘upon the Israel of God'” (John F. Walvoord, The Millennial Kingdom, p. 170). According to this interpretation the kai (“and”) is used as simple copula joining two separate entities.

The third interpretation, which seems preferable, understands the use of the kai (“and”) as adding a specially important part of the whole in the sense of “and especially” (For this use of kai, see Arndt and Gingrich, p. 392). Ellicott interprets the passage according to this use as well as refuting the position of identity when he says,

Still, as it is doubtful whether kai is ever used by St. Paul in so marked explicative force as must be assigned…and as it seems still more doubtful whether Christians generally could be called “the Israel of God”…the simple copulative meaning seems most probable…St. Paul includes all in his blessing, of whatever stock and kindred; and then with his thought turning [as it ever did] to his own brethren after the flesh [Romans ix. 3], he pauses to specify those who were once Israelites according to the flesh [1 Cor. x. 18], but now are the Israel of God…true spiritual children of Abraham (Charles J. Ellicott, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians, p. 139; Eadie comments, “The simple copulative meaning is not to be departed from, save on very strong grounds; and there is not ground for such departure here, so that the Israel of God are a party included in, and yet distinct from the hosoi [as many as]” – John Eadie, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul to the Galatians, p. 470).

The truth of Burton’s statement that “there is, in fact, no instance of his [Paul’s] using Israel except of the Jewish nation or a part thereof” (Ernest DeWitt Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, p. 358), renders the possibility of that use in this verse highly doubtful (Although the term Israel is used 38 times and Israelite occurs 8 times in Acts-Revelation, the absence of a clear reference to the church in any of these instances makes one suspect the validity of this popular theological equation. The statement of R.T. Stamm almost incredibly admits to theological deduction unrelated to the evidence: “But although he {Paul] did believe that Christians constituted the true Israel, he never called the church the Israel of God, but used the word ‘Israel’ to designate the Jewish nation” [The Interpreter’s Bible, ed. Geirge A. Buttrick. New York: Abingdon, 1953, 10:590-91]. If the New Testament writers actually do make the theological equation of the terms church and Israel, it is difficult to explain their reticence to make such an equation verbally).

The context of Galatians supports the inclusion of the Israel of God among those that “walk according to this rule.” The apostle wrote to ward off the threat of those Judaizers who insisted upon mingling law with the grace of the gospel, demanding that Christians be circumcised as well as have faith in Christ. It would seem logical to pronounce peace and mercy not only upon the Gentiles who rcognize that “neither circumcision availeth any thing, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation” (Galatians 6:15), but also upon those Jewish Christians who likewise recognize this rule of grace. The special mention of Jewish believers who rejected the error of the Judaizers is logical, as it would be these among the Galatians who would be most likely to succumb.

A further motive might be also suggested for their special mention. Paul’s attack upon the Judaizers might incite antagonism on the part of the Gentile believers against all Jews. Perhaps the special mention of the Israel of God was also designed to quell any such animostiy. Additional evidence for this interpretation is found in the similarity of this statement with the conclusion of Jewish prayers: “Shew mercy and peace upon us, and Thy people Israel” (Gutbrod, p. 388, n. 135; F.F. Bruce suggests that it is “perhaps an echo of Psalm 125:5, ‘Peace be upon Israel'” [The Letters of Paul: An Expanded Paraphrase, p. 39]).

The consistent witness of Scripture is to the distinctiveness of Israel and the church. Israel is an elect nation called to witness to the glory of God as a nation among nations and serve a distinct phase in the kingdom program. The prophecies declare that she will yet fulfill this calling. The church, on the other hand, is a people called out from every nation as “a people for his name” (Acts 15:14). She also bears witness to the glory of God and serves His kingdom program along with the nation of Israel.

Having noted this distinction, it is necessary to guard against a dichotomy which fails to see the place of the church as an integral part of God’s program along with Israel and thus a coheir of the promises (Gal. 3:29). This close relationship of Israel and the church is seen in the concepts of the seed of Abraham and the new covenant.


In the call of Abraham and the covenant promises made to him, God laid the basis of His program of redemption and the ultimate establishment of His rule on earth. It was in fulfillment of the Abrahamic promises that Christ came bringing salvation and will ultimately reign as King over the earth (Lk. 1:69-79′ Gal. 3:14; Acts 3:25-26). The believers in the church as the seed of Abraham share in this promise with Israel.

The biblical use and meaning of “seed of Abraham.” The expression “seed of Abraham” has three applications in Scripture. it is used first for the natural descendants of Abraham through Jacob. “But you, Israel, are my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend” (Is. 41:8; cf. 2 Ch. 20:7; Ps. 105:6; Rom. 11:1). Jesus likewise made reference to literal descendants when He said, “I know that you are Abraham’s seed” (John 8:37; cf. Luke 13:16; 19:9). He quickly denies, however, that physical lineage is the decisive factor when He says to the same individuals, “If you were Abraham’s children, you would do the works of Abraham” (John 8:39b). As there is a true Israel within ethnic Israel, so there is a genuine seed within the physical seed. The true seed are those “not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of…father Abraham” (Romans 4:12). However, the fact that the true seed includes spiritual characteristics does not negate the reality of the physical relationship in this use of the concept. It is hardly conceivable that Abraham understood it otherwise when God made reference to “your seed after you in their generations” (Gen. 17:7) and to his son Isaac “and…his seed after him” (v. 19b; cf. 28:13-14). A second use of this terminology is for Christ Himself. “Now to Abraham and his seed were promises made and to his offspring. It does not say ‘And to offsprings,’ referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ” (Gal. 3:16). The true posterity of Abraham is ultimately embodied in Christ. He is its summation and Head, for the promise was received through Him. All who inherit the promises inherit them through Christ.

The third application follows logically upon the second. All those in Christ are also Abraham’s seed. “And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise” (Gal. 3:29). This includes all, whether Jew and Gentile, who are in Christ, and therefore in His body, the church. According to its usage, “seed of Abraham” thus has two basic significations in Scripture. It refers to a spiritual seed which is justified through Christ’s work by faith after the pattern of Abraham. It also denotes Abraham’s physical posterity through Isaac and Jacob which formed the nation of Israel. While all Israelites can be called Abraham’s seed, only those of faith are Abraham’s true seed who will inherit the promises. The primary significance is thus spiritual, and this spiritual seed is made up of true Israel as well as those outside Israel.

Both the church and Israel are therefore Abraham’s seed and heirs of the promise. But this does not therefore equate the church and Israel. Rather, Abraham is the father of both. Writing to the Romans, Paul states that Abraham is “the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised…And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised” (Rom. 4:11-12). Thus, as Godet explains, “There was a time in Abraham’s life when by his uncircumcision he represented the Gentiles, as later after his circumcision he became the representative of Israel” (F. Godet, Commentary on the Epistle to the Romans, p. 295). Children of Abraham may belong to one category or another, but “”children of Abraham’ are not necessarily ‘children of Israel’, for Israel is not the the only seed of Abraham” (D.W.B. Robinson, “The Salvation of Israel in Romans 9-11,” The Reformed Theological Review 26 [Sept-Dec. 1967]: 89). The members of the church are also Abraham’s seed as individuals out of all the families of the earth, while Israel is his seed as the great nation among nations “through whom the promise would eventually be held out to the rest of the nations” (Ibid).

Church participation in the Abrahamic promises. As seed of Abraham the members of the church participate in the Abraham covenant; they are “heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:29). The original promise to Abraham included this blessing upon those outside of Israel: “In you shall all the families of the earth be blessed” (Gen. 12:3), and the outworking of this promise is the subject of many of the Old Testament prophecies. The vast majority of these relate to that time when converted Israel will be a channel of blessing to all nations during the kingdom reign of Christ on earth (Is. 2:2-4; 60:1 ff.; 62:2; Zech. 8:22-23). However, with the institution of the mystery phase of the kingdom, the New Testament teaches that this blessing has already come to the Gentiles during the church age. This present blessing does not supersede or cancel the fulfillment of millennial blessings, but is rather part of that program of God which was not clearly revealed in prophecy. There are, in fact, indications of God’s turning from Israel to bring salvation to others even during this time before the restoration of Israel. He promises to provoke Israel to jealousy “with those which are not a people” (Deut. 32:21b). The apostle Paul sees this promise fulfilled in the salvation of the church (Rom. 11:11; 10:19). The participation of the church in the covenant promises made to Abraham rests, as we have seen, on the fact that these promises included blessing for all families of the earth (Gen. 12:3). When the apostle speaks of the blessing of Abraham coming on the church, he makes reference specifically  to this universal promise and not to the the national  promises of Israel. “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith” (Gal. 3:7-9).

The grafting in the Gentiles onto the root of the olive tree in Paul’s figure of Romans 11 represents the fulfillment of this universal promise. The root represents the foundation of God’s redemptive program in His covenant promises to Abraham, or perhaps Abraham himself as the father of all those sharing in the promise (It is possible also to understand the root as Christ, “the seed of Abraham to whom the promise was made” [see Galatians 3:16 ff.], and in whom it is fulfilled. Cf. H.L. Ellison, The Mystery of Israel, pp. 86-87; cf. Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, 2, 2, 285 ff.). The natural branches represent Israel, while the wild branches which are grafted in are the Gentile believers. As branches, both partake of “the root and fatness of the olive tree” (v. 17b). In that Israel is the natural branches, the tree can be said to be “their own olive tree” (v. 24). They had received the promises and covenants and growth from the root as God formed the nation of Israel as His people. But now the Gentiles in the church, as wild branches with whom God had made no covenants, are grafted in to partake of the same root. The Gentiles which were “aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenant of promise, having not hope, and without God in the world…now…are made nigh by the blood of Christ” (Eph. 2:12-13). They do not now assume Israel’s promises to become a new Israel, but they have become “fellow heirs…and partakers of his [God’s] promise in Christ by the gospel” (Eph. 3:6). “The Gentiles have been made partakers of their [Israel’s] spiritual things” (Rom. 15:27b).

As seed of Abraham in Christ, the church “participates in all He does to bring the covenant to completion” (J. Dwight Pentecost, Things to Come, p. 90). The present blessings of salvation in Christ, as well as the future glory with Him, are all the realization of the promises made to Abraham. Members of the church are “joint-heirs with Christ” of the promise (Rom. 8:17; cf. Gal. 3:29). Although this participation is not in the place of Israel in the fulfillment of her national promises, the church nevertheless participates even in these through her relationship to Christ, the fulfillment of all promises.


The participation of the church in the promises is seen especially in the blessings of the new covenant which are applied to it. Paul as a minister of the gospel of grace which brings the life-giving Spirit describes himself as one whom God has made adequate as a minister of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:6). Similarly, the writer of Hebrews cites the new covenant (Heb. 8:8 ff.; 10:15 ff.) in seeking to persuade his hearers of the superiority of Christ over the old covenant. These applications of the new covenant to the church have been variously interpreted. Some see them as evidence that the church is indeed the New Israel fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies addressed to Israel. “For the gospel age in which the living is that day foretold by the prophets when the law of God shall be written in the hearts of men (Jer. 31:33) and when the Spirit of God abiding in their hearts will enable them to keep it (Ez. 11:19, 36:26f). The gospel age is the age of the new covenant” (Oswald T. Allis, Prophecy and the Church, p. 42).

In an attempt to clearly distinguish the prophecies for Israel from those for the church, the position of two new covenants, one for Israel and another for the church, has been espoused. “There remains to be recognized a heavenly covenant for the heavenly people, which is also styled like the preceding one for Israel a ‘new covenant’…To suppose that these two covenants–one for Israel and one for the Church–are the same is to assume that there is a latitude of common interest between God’s purpose for Israel and His purpose for the Church” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, 7:98-99).

The Scriptures, however, do not reveal a separate new covenant. The blessings for the church of the indwelling Spirit and the inward law (2 Cor. 3:3-6) are the same as those promised to Israel (Jer. 31:33-34). Moreover, as has been indicated, Jeremiah’s prophecy is directly applied to believers in the book of Hebrews. The fact of only one new covenant does not, however, necessitate that the church is fulfilling Israel’s prophecy in her place. Rather, both Israel and the church share in this covenant, as in the Abrahamic covenant, for the new covenant is the realization of the salvation of the Abrahamic promise.

The promise of the new covenant. Against the background of the impeding judgment through Babylon because of the failure to keep the Mosaic covenant, God promised to “make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah” (Jer. 31:31). The essence of this new covenant was in reality nothing but the renewal of the relationship promised in the old covenant: “I will…be their God, and they shall be my people” (v. 33b; cf. Lev. 26:12; Ex. 29:45). The newness, apart from its futurity, lay in its subjective reality. Whereas the old covenant could only command response, the new covenant contained provisions to effect it. The key provisions were the gracious forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31:34) and the writing of the law in the heart through the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit (v. 33). The result of this latter provision would be the universal knowledge of God (v. 34a). Provisions of the new covenant to Ezekiel further elaborate these covenant promises: “I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God” (Ez. 36:25-28; cf. 11:19 ff.; 34:25-29; 37:26 ff.). The new covenant is also the subject of Isaiah’s prophecies concerning Messianic salvation (Is. 59:20-21). As the result of these spiritual provisions, Israel will also enjoy physical blessing.

In the contexts of the new covenant are promises of restoration to the land, which would continue forever, and multiplied prosperity (Jer. 31:36; Ex. 36:28-38). As the Abrahamic covenant looked forward to the same conditions, it is evident that the new covenant is in reality the gracious provisions for the fulfillment of the original promises given to Abraham. To him was promised a seed which would be a great nation inheriting the promised land as an everlasting possession (Gen. 12:2; 17:6-8). This connection is especially seen in the word of God spoken to Abraham concerning Israel: “I will be their God” (Gen. 17:8). As we have seen, this is, in fact, the culmination of the new covenant.

The new covenant is also related to the Davidic promises which are an amplification of the promises to Abraham (cf. Jer. 33:14-16; 20-26; Eze. 37:21-28). This same relationship is evident in the New Testament as well (Leon Morris, The Apostolic preaching of the Cross, pp. 93-94). Christ came as the fulfillment of God’s word “to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant: the oath which he swore to our father Abraham to grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, because of the tender mercy of our God, whereby the sunrise shall visit us from on high” (Luke 1:72-78). The forgiveness of sins through Christ and the coming of the Spirit are likewise connected to the fulfillment of Abraham’s covenant in the teaching of Peter (Acts 3:25-26) and Paul (Gal. 3:6 ff.). In summary, the new covenant contained the provisions for the realization of the Messianic promises which find their fulfillment in Jesus Christ, the Seed of Abraham.

Inauguration of the new covenant. The Old Testament prophecy of the new covenant connected the time of the new covenant with a coming Person. This one whom Isaiah saw as Servant of the Lord would be given “for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles” who would open blind eyes and free those who were in prisons of darkness (42:6-7; cf. 49:8). The same one is “the messenger of the covenant” in Malachi 3:1.

Christ clearly revealed Himself as that Person when in the upper room He linked His death with the new covenant. Taking the cup, He said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, even that which is poured out for you” (Lk. 22:20, ASV; cf. Mt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; 1 Cor. 11:25). In this statement Christ was telling the disciples that His death would effect the final eschatological promise of the new covenant for the remission of sins [Mt. 26:28] (It is historically inconceivable that the Jewish disciples to whom these words were spoken could have thought of a new covenant other than that of Old Testament prophecy). The writer of Hebrews later expressly stated that with the death of Christ the covenant was in force (Heb. 9:15-18). He is the “mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” (8:6).

Thus, from the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ the new covenant stands open to all who receive it. The finished work of Christ at Calvary once and for all provides the basis for all new covenant blessings. To be sure, Israel as a nation has not entered into the provisions of Jeremiah 31 and therefore the specific national fulfillment of the covenant to the “house of Israel” and the “house of Judah” awaits their future conversion. But the “messenger of the covenant” has come, and those who receive Him receive the salvation of the new covenant.

Participation of the church in the new covenant. Although the Old Testament references to the new covenant were for the nation of Israel, the members of the church also share in its provisions. Like the Abrahamic covenant which was ratified with Abraham and his national seed and yet contained blessing for Gentiles, so the new covenant as an amplification of the salvation of the Abrahamic covenant can also be applied to Gentiles.

Old Testament prophecies looked forward to the salvation of the new covenant extending also to the Gentiles. The Servant of God not only restores Israel, but God says, “I will make you as light for the nations, that my salvation may reach to the end of the earth” (Is. 49:b; cf. 42:1, 6; 60:3). This prophecy looked forward to the establishment of the Messianic kingdom at the coming of Christ when salvation would flow through converted Israel to all nations. But this salvation has now come to the church during the time of the mysteries of the kingdom between Christ’s first and second comings as an earnest or guarantee of the final fulfillment. The enlargement of the new covenant to those outside of Israel is indicated in the words of Christ Himself when at the inauguration of the Lord’s supper He gave His disciples the cup, saying, “This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many” (Mt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24). In using the word “many” in the Semitic sense of “all,” Christ for “the many” or “all” was already the subject of Isaiah’s prophecy (53:10-12) and was certainly the background for the Lord’s words at the inauguration of the memorial feast of the new covenant (Although in Greek there is a difference in polloi [“many”] and pontes [“all”], the Hebrew and Aramaic have no word for all in the sense of the sum as well as the totality. As a result, the Hebrew ha-rabbim [“the many”] is also used inclusively for “all.” Cr. Joachim Jeremias, “polloi” in TDNT, 6:536, 543-45).

The church thus enjoys the eschatological salvation of the new covenant. Full and final remission of sins is a reality for those in Christ (Eph. 1:7). The life-giving Spirit has come to indwell (2 Cor. 3:3-6) and work out the righteousness of the law in every believer (Rom. 8:2-4). No longer is the knowledge of God connected with the mediation of priests and prophets, but all are taught of the Spirit (1 John 2:27).


This brief study of the church and Israel reveals that the two are distinct, and yet both have a part in the outworking of God’s program. Prior to the launching of the church, God began His kingdom program through the elect nation of Israel. During this time of the mysteries of that kingdom, when Israel has temporarily been set aside and with her the full blessing of the world, God is calling out a people for His name from all the nations, and He is building the church. The church has therefore been grafted into the great promises of blessing which are foundational to God’s total salvation program which had prior to this time been covenanted only to Abraham and Israel. This engrafting is not to replace Israel nor to fulfill her specifically national prophecies. In this regard it is interesting to note that none of the physical blessings attendant upon the realizations of the new covenant for Israel are cited in the New Testament with regard to the church (cf. 2 Cor. 3:6-7; Heb. 8:8-13 with Jer. 31:31-40; Ezek. 36:24-38). Rather, both Israel and the church share in their distinctive phase in God’s program as the people of God through whom He will be glorified.


Robert Saucy

ROBERT LLOYD SAUCY (B.A., Westmont College; Th. D., Th. M., Dallas Theological Seminary) is a distinguished professor of systematic theology at Talbot Theological Seminary. He previously served as president of the Evangelical Theological Society and addresses that group frequently. He is author of numerous books, including The Church in God’s Program, The Bible: Breathed from God and The Case for Progressive Dispensationalism, and is the editor of Women and Men in Ministry: A Complementary Perspective. He also wrote the “Open But Cautious View” in Are Miraculous Gifts for Today? Four Views, edited by Dr. Wayne Grudem. His shorter works have appeared in many journals including Bibliotheca Sacra, Grace Theological Journal, andJournal of the Evangelical Theological Society. He also was one of only three scholars who worked both on the original 1971 translation of the New American Standard Bible as well as the 1995 update. Dr. Saucy resides in Anaheim, California.


(As someone who is both an Augustinian and a Premillennialist in the ilk of S. Lewis Johnson, John Hannah, John MacArthur, Steven Lawson, Erwin Lutzer, John Feinberg, Robert Saucy, James Montgomery Boice, Donald Grey Barnhouse, C.I. Scofield, J.N. Darby, Thomas Ice, Eric Raymond, and several others – I highly enjoyed and unflinchingly endorse Barry Horner’s book “Future Israel” and his response to it below…I certainly hope that those of a Pelagian persuasion will continue to move into the Augustinian camp in their soteriology, and those in the replacement theology camp will move into the pre-millennial realm in their eschatology – May Barry Horner’s Tribe increase! – DPC)

I. Introduction

To begin with, let me supply some brief background material concerning myself. Over the years as a pastor, my area of specialty has been that of John Bunyan and his setting in the turbulent seventeenth century (Refer to I am an Australian, Sovereign Grace in doctrine, and premillennial in my eschatology. This is important since a large part of those with Reformed and Sovereign Grace convictions, with whom I am well acquainted, are quite strenuously amillennial. As a result they have tended to be a- Judaic or anti-Judaic in their eschatology, which is merely indifferent or militantly opposed to the Jews and modern Israel. Specifically I am premillennial, sympathetic with dispensationalism, and restorationist regarding the divine destiny of the Jews and Israel, that is concerning their eschatological return to the land as a nation. Then will follow their climactic conversion to Jesus as their Messiah at His return, when “they will look upon Him whom they have pierced” (Zech. 12:10). At the same time, Christ’s church having been raptured and gathered together, there will follow His messianic, millennial reign from Jerusalem over a renewed earth. At that time Israel will be gloriously elevated from its humiliation. Israel does indeed have a glorious future (Refer to

II. The challenge of two questions concerning Israel during the church age.

Over ten years ago, while a pastor in North Brunswick, New Jersey, and having access to the fine library of Princeton Theological Seminary, two questions challenged me in expounding through Ezekiel, Hosea, Zechariah, and Romans.

A. First, does God have a covenantal interest in the unbelieving Jewish people today, along with the nation and the land, which is as distinct from the believing Jewish remnant. The answer, which I now believe to be beyond serious challenge, came with a strong impression in my study of Romans 11, but especially v. 28. “From the standpoint of the gospel they [the unbelieving Jews] are enemies for your [the Gentiles’] sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice [the election, τν κλογν, tēn ekloēn – Most commentators believe that here “the election,” especially in the light of the logic of vs. 26-28, is concerned with the elect nation, according to the sovereign calling and promise of God. Though Lenski, true to his amillennialism, believes that here Paul writes about the remnant of v. 5] they [unbelieving Jews] are beloved for the sake of the fathers.” Unbelieving Jews today remain God’s “beloved enemies.” For a sample of this contemporary unbelief, consider Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, who I greatly respect and certainly esteem way beyond the preceding Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert. Nevertheless he writes in his enlightening volume, A Durable Peace: Israel and its Place among the Nations:

The final guarantor of the viability of a small nation in such times of turbulence is its capacity to direct its own destiny, something that has eluded the Jewish people during its long centuries of exile. Restoring that capacity is the central task of the Jewish people today (Benjamin Netanyahu, A Durable Peace, p. xxiii).

However, in spite of all of the Jews’ carnality today, they remain God’s elect people. And this being the case, for the Christian they should also be “beloved,” even if they remain militantly opposed to Jesus as the Christ.

B. The second question that challenged me was how Christianity in general, over the centuries, had treated the Jewish people. The answer came to me as if being hit over the head with a mallet of truth. Various authors, whether liberal, conservative evangelical, Roman Catholic, Eastern Orthodox, Reform or Orthodox Jewish, even secular, came up with the same basic assessment. The church, especially after the Bar Cochbar rebellion of 135-136 AD and the influence of Marcionism, then the united patristic voice from Justin onward, but especially the authoritative formulation of Augustine, led to centuries of humiliation toward the Jew, and right on through the Reformation up to today. So having read and heard of many amillennialists who boasted in their Augustinian eschatology, it suddenly became shamefully clear that they had nothing to boast in. Indeed, their trumpeted belief in replacement theology and supercessionism, via centuries of vaunted proclamation that the church is the new Israel, was something that they ought to weep about! Hence, a vital principle came as a result, and it is this. A good eschatology cannot produce unethical fruit of the magnitude that has come about by means of replacement theology. This blot upon Christianity in general is the result of bad eschatology that has made the Jews fear, and not be jealous, as Paul exhorts should be the case. It is at this point that historic amillennialism is proven to be fundamentally flawed.

Some have attempted to avoid the painful truth of history in this regard by declaring that they would only discuss the issues, with regard to the Jews, by considering the exegesis of Scripture. Yes, we regard what God means by what He says as of vital, fundamental importance. However church history is the response, the lifestyle of Christianity that is derived from biblical truth, and cannot be disregarded, especially in terms of broad movements. We sense that some, in knowing the truth, would prefer to avoid it. We also believe that the right embrace of biblical truth ought consistently to result in biblical virtue. However ungodliness evident in a professing Christian is recognized as hypocrisy. Orthodoxy cannot be divorced from orthopraxy. Hence centuries of church history up to today, the disgraceful record of it all, should cause us to blush in reflecting upon an eschatology that is so terribly stained and so inconsistent with practical righteousness, especially as Paul exhorts us in Romans 11.

III. The publication of Future Israel, October, 2007.

Initially Future Israel was accepted for publication by Paternoster Press in England.

However I became unhappy about the editing process and asked for a release from the contract. Among other things, an editor suggested that one comment be taken out because Colin Chapman, a leading supercessionist who lived nearby, would not like it. However I am particularly grateful to David Brickner of Jews for Jesus who, at this stage, suggested approaching Broadman & Holman. How grateful I am for this new arrangement that worked out so well. They proved to be in sympathy with the basic thesis. Certainly the commendation of John MacArthur was helpful, though there was no collusion. He was preaching on this very matter while the manuscript was being edited. Then, through a friend, we had mutually sympathetic communication.

Certain other thrusts within Future Israel worth mentioning.

A. The importance of a Judeo-centric eschatology. The early church was Jewish. According to Eusebius, the first fifteen bishops at Jerusalem up to 135 AD were Jewish, and surely restorationist in their eschatology. They all proclaimed the gospel from Jewish Scriptures concerning a Jewish Savior, who will return while still being Jewish. As an example refer to Matthew 5:5 – Blessed are the gentle, for they shall inherit the earth [τν γν, ten gen],” which should more likely read, “the land.” Of course, by way of application, “the earth” is appropriate. A helpful booklet would be David Stern’s Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel. Also consider the prophetic revelation of the reversal of roles when the humiliation of the Jewish people will be followed by their exaltation after their conversion and participation in the millennium (Isa. 60:14; Zech. 8:22-23; 14:1). It seems that the Gentile Christian ought to joyfully accept this, but in fact many may not like this prospect.

B. The importance of a Judeo-centric hermeneutic. Over the centuries, a Gentile- focused hermeneutic has predominated within Christendom. However a Judeo- centric hermeneutic is the answer to the problem that we Gentiles have had when attempting to understand, disparate in meaning, quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament (e.g. Matt. 2:14-15; cf. Hos. 11:1). This difficulty caused George Eldon Ladd to suggest the need of “re-interpretation” of Old Testament prophetic passages by means of a Christo-centric hermeneutic. However the Hebrew writer of the New Testament can quote the Old Testament, giving it an applicatory, nuanced shade of meaning, as with Midrash, without at all nullifying the literal meaning of the original Old Testament passage (David Stern, Restoring the Jewishness of the Gospel, pp. 31-33). This principle will also help in our understanding of such passages as Acts 2:16-21, cf. Joel 2:28-32 in context, and John 19:37, cf. Rev. 1:7; Zech. 12:10 in context.

C. The importance of the continuity of replacement theology before and after the Reformation. Modern replacement theology is not a recent phenomenon (Refer to R.E. Deprose. Israel and the Church. Waynesboro, GA: Authentic Media, 2000; Michael J. Vlach, The Church as a Replacement of Israel: An Analysis of Supercessionism. Ph.D. diss., Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary, 2004). It goes back as far as the second century, especially after Gentile bishops took the ascendency after 135-136 AD, the result being development of Gentile dominance that ignored the exhortations of Paul in Romans 11. So the Reformation, in general, perpetuated replacement theology according to the authoritative legacy of Augustine. Thus Martin Luther, an Augustinian monk, John Calvin, Francis Turretin, Patrick Fairbairn, Herman Bavinck, and Geerhardus Vos, to name but a few of this eschatological lineage, exercised tremendous influence over Protestantism. They perpetuated the eschatology of Augustine, and thus at best the indifference of a-Semitism.

D. The importance of not confusing the bilateral Mosaic covenant with the unilateral Abrahamic covenant. It is astonishing to find that leading scholars promoting replacement theology are so confused at this point. An example would be from W. D. Davies, Emeritus Professor, Duke University, who is widely quoted by scholars in support of Replacement Theology.

In this way [of universalizing in Christ the covenant made with Abraham], “the territory” promised was transformed into and fulfilled by the life “in Christ.” All this is not made explicit, because Paul did not directly apply himself to the question of the land, but it is implied. In the Christological logic of Paul, the land, like the Law, particular and provisional, had become irrelevant (W.D. Davies, The Gospel and the Land, p. 179).

The unilateral nature of the Abrahamic covenant, in which the land is such an intrinsic component, is simply ignored or incorporated within the bilateral Mosaic covenant. Yes, the Jew and the Gentile only have hope of salvation, through Jesus Christ since He is the promised seed of Abraham, which promise is one of pure sovereign grace. Yet this same promise upholds the distinction between Jew and Gentile within the one people of God (Romans 11).

E. The importance of diversity within unity. It is astonishing that while there is diversity within the unity of the Godhead, diversity with the twelve tribes of Israel within one nation, diversity according to spiritual gifts within the one body of Christ, yet Augustinianism is so adamant that there cannot be diversity with Israel and the church distinctively comprising the one people of God. Scripture knows nothing of a future clone-like homogeneity, and especially within the economy of the Millennium. There, Moses and David and Elijah and Paul will still be their own individual selves. This is one of the great strengths of Premillennial and Dispensational eschatology.

F. The importance of Romans 11. It is written by a highly educated Messianic Jew.

1. Paul declares himself to be “an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin,” v. 1. He really means it, and not with some tongue in cheek attitude. He also confirms it, again using the present tense, in Acts 21:39; 22:3. As a Benjamite he asserts both demographic and territorial association. Consequently he upholds Jewish ethnicity, nationality, and territory.

2. The remnant according to God’s gracious choice is Israel’s guarantee of a future, v. 5. But God is not ultimately satisfied with a remnant, as the climactic development indicates in vs. 12, and v. 15 which surely alludes to Ezekiel 37. So v. 26 is also climactic. It is not, “And so/in this manner Israel is being saved,” through the accumulation of relatively small additions to the remnant over the centuries; rather it is, “And so/in this manner all Israel will be saved [future tense of σζω, sozo], in a consummate sense.” It is this climactic grandeur of the saving power of the gospel, especially the final triumph of mercy toward Israel, that so excites Paul. However the Augustinian suppresses this because of centuries of a misplaced eschatology.

3. The Christian church is built upon the Jewish remnant. This is something to ponder in the light of the arrogance of the mainly Gentile church over the centuries. Paul seems to suggest this very point in v. 18. The New Covenant was anticipated in the upper room before Jewish disciples (Luke 22:19-20). Then it was cut, according to Jeremiah 31:27, before “the house of Israel and the house of Judah,” that is a large number of Jews gathered in Jerusalem. So the initial, believing remnant branches that sprouted from the cultivated olive tree were wholly Jewish. The Gentiles were later grafted in according to pure grace. For this reason they have no reason for “conceit,” v. 20.

4. So Paul is primarily addressing Gentile Christians who need exhortation about a bad attitude toward the Jews. Rather they ought to make them jealous, vs. 11, 14. Yet over the centuries the Christian church has pompously ignored this exhortation while claiming to be the new spiritual Israel. Paul’s stern warning in vs. 17-20, concerning arrogance, has been largely ignored. Perhaps during the last of the last days a gentle and sympathetic spirit will come to the fore from repentant Gentiles; if it does, evangelistic outreach toward the Jewish people is certain to accelerate and flourish.

5. The significance of v. 28 that indicates God’s covenantal interest in unbelieving national Israel, and its related connection with v. 26. Here is clinching proof that God continues to have unfailing interest in unbelieving Israel today that is comprised of His “beloved enemies.” Further, working back from v. 28 to v. 27, then v. 27 to v. 26, it becomes virtually incontestable that “all Israel” refers to the eschatological saving of the nation of Israel (Matt Weymeyer has well exegeted this point in, “The Dual Status of Israel in Romans 11:28,” The Master’s Seminary Journal. Spring 2005, pp. 57-71). And all of this is because of “the sake of the fathers,” Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, which promises are irrevocable, v. 29.

6. The significance of vs. 30-32 concerning the mercy of God being poured out upon Gentile and Jew. There is surely Gentile arrogance in the suggestion that Israel has lost its covenant relationship with God on account of disobedience concerning the old Mosaic covenant, while the New Testament church boasts in the sovereignty of grace through faith alone. But here: “God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all,” v. 32. The “these” of v. 31 cannot refer merely to the remnant, but to the unbelieving nation.

IV. Responses:

A. The response to Future Israel has been overwhelmingly favorable. None of those who have responded unfavorably have attempted to deal with the essential arguments. In England, Steven Sizer, a rabid supercessionist, reluctantly agreed in March of this year to provide a review for Evangelicals Now. He wrote: “O dear. I really don’t want to have to review this unpleasant little book but those nice people at Evangelicals Now have asked me to, so I will, eventually” (Refer to the Stephen Sizer web site:, November, 2009). As of today, no review has been forthcoming.

B. There have been many blog responses such as from Dr. Sam Waldron, Professor of Systematic Theology at Midwest Center for Theological Studies. Staunchly Reformed Baptist and amillennial, he commented: “I had to pray for grace and patience not to fire it across the room. . . . [I] had over three weeks [during a trip overseas] to calm down and regain my sanctification.” A month later, because I had upheld God’s distinctive, contemporary covenantal regard for unbelieving national Israel, and at the same time am critical of Gentile bias, therefore I was said to be guilty of “a kind of reverse racism. . . .This kind of language seems to be somewhat ‘racist’ in its own way. It conveys prejudice against Gentiles. It is like Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s rantings against ‘White America’ which have been all over the news lately (Refer to the Mid-Western Center for Theological Studies web site. blog/?-p=307 Not currently accessible). Is Paul guilty of “reverse racism” in Romans 1:16?

C. However what a delight it was to receive an email from Jeroen Bol, the Netherlands (Holland). He has bought fifty copies of Future Israel and distributed them to Christian leaders in Europe. More recently he has described some of the positive effects of this outreach, specifically some who have been persuaded to embrace a Judeo-centric eschatology.

V. Reflections.

A. The importance of Judeo-centric ministry. In Horatius Bonar’s significant book, Prophetical Landmarks, he makes the vital introductory comment:

The prophecies concerning Israel are the key to all the rest. True principles of interpretation, in regard to them, will aid us in disentangling and illustrating all prophecy together. False principles as to them will most thoroughly perplex and over cloud the whole Word of God (Horatius Bonar, Prophetical Landmarks: Concerning Christ’s Premillennial Advent, p. 228. Also go to

By way of illustration, only a month ago I conducted a seminar on the issues raised by Future Israel at Twin Cities Bible Church, St. Paul. A week before, my daughter in San Jose told me of a forthcoming gathering at Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, titled An Evening of Eschatology. Dr. John Piper chaired the meeting which included three other participants. They were, Jim Hamilton (professor of New Testament at Southern Seminary in Louisville), premillennial, Sam Storms (pastor of Bridgeway Church in Oklahoma City), amillennial, and Doug Wilson (pastor of Christ Church, Moscow, Idaho), postmillennial. Having arrived at St. Paul, the pastor told me that he attended the meeting. He concluded, that to be quite frank, those who attended would probably have left more confused upon leaving than when they first arrived. However there appears to be a reason for this. I watched the whole two hour session on the internet and was surprised to note that in all of it, there was not so much as one mention of Israel or the Jews, whether with regard to Scripture, history or the present. Horatius Bonar was right! Israel is central to eschatology.

B. The importance of Judeo-centric godliness. While being critical of the ethics of amillennial Augustinianism, we also need to consider the ethics of restorationist premillennialism and dispensationalism. We are by no means blameless, even if more eschatologically biblical. So Peter exhorts us: “Since all these things [with regard to the coming day of the Lord] are to be destroyed [dissolved] in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness” (II Pet. 3:11). It is godly ethics emanating from our eschatology, not prophetic glibness and sensationalism, which pleases God. Certainly it is more likely to make our Jewish friends and enemies both jealous and curious.

C. The importance of Judeo-centric evangelism. I have often heard the suggestion: “Let us put aside our eschatological differences and agree to focus on the evangelization of the Jews.” It may sound a good proposal, but how can the Augustinian honestly face it? Will he tell the Jew that after believing in the Lord Jesus as his Messiah, then he will be absorbed into the Christian church and lose all of his Jewish identity? Surely in Paul declaring that he remained an Israelite, he never disowned Jewish ethnicity, nationality and territory in all of his outreach to the Jews. Rather he proclaimed to them “the hope of Israel” (Acts 28:20). Could the Augustinian evangelize in Israel and tell the Jew that in reality, which is in the sight of God, the land is now passé, an anachronism? It takes a Judeo-centric eschatology to reach out to the Jews and at least gain their attention.

Hence there is the need for opposing replacement theology on account of the cause of Jewish evangelism; it saps the life out of it. The modern awakening of evangelism, especially directed toward the Jewish people, commenced toward the end of the nineteenth century. Ever since, up to the present time, this flourishing movement has had premillennial, dispensational, restorationist underpinning. I also believe that Christian restorationists made a significant contribution toward the formation of the modern state of Israel. By and large, the Augustinians opposed it. Where is there one missionary agency today, based upon Augustinian eschatology, which thrives in its distinctive outreach toward the modern nation of Israel and the Diaspora? Why is this so? Because the Augustinian gospel results in Jewish converts losing their Jewish identity while the Gentiles retain their distinctiveness. Believe me, I say this while being a happy and contented Gentile.

Hence the answer for today is the proclamation of the gospel, to both Jew and Gentile, in its full Jewish context. The reason is that, “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). I believe that God will especially be pleased to honor this priority.

About the Author: Dr. Barry Horner, an Australian, is a graduate of George Fox College and Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Oregon. His Doctor of Ministry degree from Westminster Theological Seminary in California focused on the biblical/theological content of The Pilgrim’s Progress as well as its validity as an appropriate means for the communication of the Word of God. Ordained in Melbourne in 1976, Barry has pastored churches in Australia and the United States. The reflections above are from his excellent book in the New American Commentary Studies in Bible and Theology entitled: Future Israel. B&H Group, 2007. The article above is adapted from

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