All Israel, Part 2 – Historical Introduction

I-Historical Introduction

There is hardly a more debated subject in the world today, than the one related to the events unfolding in the Middle East, surrounding the state of Israel. The Middle East has always been the central focus of the world, for it is the place where human history began, as is documented in the beginning pages of Scripture (Gen. 2:8-14). Since the dawn of time that part of the world has been the place of the rise and fall of many people in many nations. There is one nation of people who have figured most prominently in all this, the Hebrews. The Hebrew people came into existence from the humblest of origins in the same exact area where the rest of post flood human society began (Gen. 11:27,28). God sent Abram of Ur, to the land of Canaan which is now called Israel (Gen. 12:1-3). It was not to him however, but to his descendants that Canaan was promised as a possession (Acts 7:2-7). Since Abram’s descendants entered Canaan, to the present time, world history has been centered around that place and those who have laid claim to it. Most of the Old Testament is about God’s dealing with the Jewish people, and their tumultuous relationship to Him in that land.

Jesus Christ the Son of God, and Savior of His people was a Jew from that region. It was there that the Christian church was born after the death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God. This is the place which has often been called the “Holy Land” in which Christians and Moslems have fought for control. Today, this place is called the state of Israel, and is occupied by the people who are believed to be the descendants of those ancient Jews that God gave the land to. Due to the obvious importance of this region in Bible history, its no wonder that Christians have been inclined to think of modern events there, as all related to some future plan of God. Of course, every event in history is the direct providence of God, no matter where or when anything takes place. But whether there is a specific purpose for Jewish people involving the present state of Israel, as revealed in Scripture, is the concern of what this study seeks to determine.

There are many doctrinal issues that Dispensationalism teaches that will not be the main focus of this present study. Instead, it will be a specific enquiry into whether Christians should believe that God has a plan for the Jewish people in the future, in reference to the present state of Israel. It will be necessary however, to address some of the Dispensational positions in the course of this enquiry. But the purpose here is more concerned with what Christians in general think, and not just Dispensationalists. As previously pointed out in the preface, there are current opinions about the Jewish claim to Israel which are aside from any of those which Dispensationalists have taught. Until more recently, Jews have frequently been unfairly maligned and persecuted by so-called Christendom, because of their rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. However, current events in the Middle East, interpreted through certain Scripture texts, have led many Christians at present to adopt a more favorable attitude toward them.

Things began to change considerably for world Jewry within the last one hundred years, largely as a result of two world wars which led to the eventual re-occupation of the now present state of Israel. In fact, a belief by Christians in the future re gathering by God of the Jews, goes back even farther than that. In the early part of the 19th century there were certain ideas to this effect, which began to circulate among British Christians on the return of Jews to what was then called Palestine. The idea of God’s future favor toward ethnic Jews came about largely by the circulation of a book entitled the Coming of Messiah in Glory and Majesty. The book was written by a Spanish Jesuit Priest named Manuel Diaz Lacunza (1731-1801). Lacunza was a converted Jew who went by the name Juan Josafat Ben-Ezra. His book was translated from Spanish into English by a Scottish Presbyterian minister by the name of Edward Irving (1792-1834), and published in Britain in 1826.

The book put forth the notion that prior to the literal return of Jesus Christ to this earth, the Jewish people would be restored to their once ancient homeland in the Middle East. The Lord would come and sit upon a throne in reconstituted Jerusalem. He would then go forth conquering the world for the Jewish people. There were several Bible conferences that began in 1826, on the subject of end time prophecy. Prior to the publication of this book, Christians had never believed there to be any future restoration of physical Israel revealed in the Bible. It was always believed that the promises of God to Israel had their fulfillment in the Christian church. Even Premillenialists in the early church, who interpreted prophetic teaching literally, did not believe there to be any future plan of God for a restored Jewish kingdom in Palestine. But the novelties introduced by this book to that effect had far reaching consequences in 19th century Britain, and eventually America too.

These prophetic conferences all focused on this one underlying theme of a restored future state of Israel. It was believed by those who attended the meetings, that these end time events were going to take place in the very near future to them. Also, they would be accompanied by miraculous signs. Edward Irving vigorously promoted the idea that the Pentecostal gifts such as prophecy, tongues and healing were already making their appearance at the time, indicating the authenticity of the conference teaching.[1] There were two main conferences. The first was the Albury conference that met from 1826 to 1830. The second was the Powerscourt conference that met from 1831 to 1833. These conferences were also influential concerning several fringe movements such as Seventh Day Adventism, and The Watchtower Society, also known as Jehovah’s Witnesses. The most prominent one however, was the Plymouth Brethren, whose founder John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), attended these meetings.[2]

A-Christian interest in Jews

The widest circulation among mainstream Christians of this view concerning the earthly salvation of Jewish people, came from the writings of J.N. Darby. Darby developed the Dispensational theological system, which makes prophecy, and especially future Jewish prophecy, the main feature of the teaching. Darby blended his prophetic views with basic Christian teaching, which in turn, produced a hybrid version of it. J.N. Darby was really the only one that took an interest in the prophetic conferences, to have any semblance of Christian orthodoxy. All of the others who attended those conferences, all ended up founding or joining various pseudo Christian cults. These others were all somewhat limited in their numbers and influence as well. But this was not so with the followers of J.N. Darby. Darby, along with others close to him, founded a sect which called itself the Plymouth Brethren, named after the place of their origin in England.

Darby traveled to Canada and America spreading his novel doctrines far and wide. The popular American Evangelist Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899), adopted this Dispensational system from Darby, with its peculiar teachings about a future state of Israel. Another Evangelist named Cyrus I. Scofield (1843-1921), incorporated Darby’s teachings into the famous study Bible which bears his name. The Scofield study Bible appeared in 1909 and its use spread far and wide throughout many Christian denominations. As already mentioned, and for reasons that will be explored later in this essay, prior to the 19th century, Jews in different locations throughout Europe had undergone intermittent periods of persecution. This provided futurists like Darby and others fertile ground upon which to encourage Jews with the notion of a future state in Palestine.

The Plymouth Brethren was not the only Christian denomination to take an interest in the Jewish people. In 1839 a minister in the Church of Scotland name Robert Murray M’Cheynne (1813-1843), along with three others traveled to Palestine to investigate and report on the Jews living there. The result of this journey was that a mission board was set up by the Church of Scotland to Evangelize the Jews that lived there. What this interest toward the Jews of Palestine had to do, if any, with the prophecy conferences by Presbyterians in Scotland outside of Edward Irving’s circle, is unknown. The Covenant system of theology that undergirds Presbyterianism, focuses on only one purpose of God as it concerns salvation. Historic Covenant Theology teaches there is only one group of people for whom Christ died, His church made up of Jew and Gentile alike (Rom. 1:16).

Beginning in the 19th century, in the providence of God, there were Jews who began to be drawn into the Christian church. As a rule, this was not something that previously happened with any regularity. Since the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD, and the subsequent scattering of the Jewish people, the church ceased to see Jews of any number come to Christ. One amazing example of this moving of God’s grace toward the Jews, was in the conversion of a man named Alfred Edersheim (1825-1889). Edersheim was an Austrian Jew who graduated from a Hebrew school and was educated in the Talmud and the Torah. After immigrating to Hungary, Edersheim came into contact with John Duncan (1796-1870), a minister in the Church of Scotland, and was converted to Christ through his witness. Edersheim became a minister of the Church of Scotland in 1846, and went on to become a missionary to the Jews in Romania. Another prominent Jewish convert of John Duncan’s in Hungary was Adolph Saphir (1831-1891). Saphir was converted in 1843, and in 1854 became an Irish Presbyterian minister and a missionary to Jews as well.

B-Religious interest turns political

There had never been an interest on the part of Christians to encourage a resettlement of Palestine by Jews. This all changed in the 19th century due to both the Protestant and Enlightenment movements. With these movements came a change of attitude toward the Jewish people. Throughout the early and middle ages of the common era, Palestine was viewed as the Christian Holy Land. Jews were those who rejected and murdered their Messiah and the Savior of Christians (Acts 2:22-24). With this underlying antagonism against Jews, they were often the objects of persecution by so-called Christian nations for centuries.[3] Protestantism adopted better thinking about the place of Jewish people in the world. This in turn, made them much more interested in God’s purpose for them in the kingdom. Protestantism was also responsible for the modern mission movement with its view that all people need redemption. The Reformation was responsible for a renewed interest in the Bible. This in turn sparked an interest within the church to bring the gospel to the world. Jews were everywhere throughout the world and yet, remained outside of the Christian church in those lands where they lived and coexisted with Christians.

The Protestant Reformation brought an interest in the study of the Hebrew language, and Jewish culture. In light of this, Christians began to delve more deeply into what the Bible taught about the place of Jews in redemptive history. In the 19th century there was an interest in trying to understand what God’s purpose was, if any, for Jewish people in the latter days. This would lead to the Christian Zionist movement in Britain.[4] There had been since the Protestant Reformation several competing Eschatological views, which gave way to a vigorous debate over such passages of Scripture as the eleventh chapter of Romans. Was there a time at some future date in which God would bring the Jewish people back into His favor? This question sprang forth from Paul’s statement “For I do not desire, brethren, that you should be ignorant of this mystery, lest you should be wise in your own opinion, that blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25).[5]

The second question followed the first, and it went like this, how will this come about? Scripture seemed to offer the answer with these words “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The Deliverer will come out of Zion, And He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; For this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.” (Rom. 11:26). Paul said “Israel will be saved.” So it has been reasoned, that Paul must have meant not only the Jewish people of the Old Testament, but the Jewish people who now live in the nation of the same name. The reasoning goes like this. The restoration of Israel as a nation must be what God had in mind in this text. So the logical solution to the first question is yes, God will favor the Jewish people as a covenant nation once again. If this is the case that there must be a return of Jews to the Holy Land, then there must be a political aspect to it. And so it was reasoned, that Israel must be resettled. This is where the Enlightenment came in.

Enlightenment thinking was more than anything a political philosophy. Political freedom was the currency of the Enlightenment, so, freedom for the Jews according to their reasoning, meant an independent state of their own. Jewish restoration theory especially took roots among the upperclass in England. One of those most interested and influential in this was Anthony Ashley Cooper (1801-1885), the Earl of Shaftesbury and an Evangelical Christian. Lord Shaftesbury used his position for many philanthropic and religious causes, and this matter of the Jews became his concern too. Lord Shaftesbury lobbied the British government toward assisting the Jews of England in their restoration to Palestine. Palestine was at that time under the control of the Ottoman Empire. Lord Shaftesbury encouraged the British government to lobby on behalf of the Jews who lived there, for protection from political oppression.

The report that Robert Murray M’Cheynne brought back from Palestine about the Jewish condition there was printed in the newspapers in England as well as Scotland. In August of 1840 the London times reported that Lord Shaftesbury had called on the British government to determine 1-Jewish opinion of restoration, 2-Jewish readiness to live in Palestine, 3-How soon Jews would be ready to go, 4-Whether Jews would pay for their own passage, and 5-Whether Jews would be willing to live under Ottoman rule, if protected by Britain, France, Russia, Prussia, and Austria-Hungary. In the mid 1850’s a convenient situation existed in Palestine which lent itself to the prospects of a restored Jewish nation. The Crimean war waged and the future of the Ottoman Empire was in doubt. There was no Arab nationalism to be seen in Palestine and the population there was scattered and small in total numbers.

The willingness of Lord Shaftesbury and others to push the Jewish cause for independence in Palestine within the British government, is very telling in its scope. The last of the published points in the London Times article reveals the fact that the British government had designs on territory under the possession of the Turkish government. And the mention by Shaftesbury of other countries participating in this endeavor suggests a far wider interest than just the British. On the one hand, Jews were living in and scattered across every country in Europe, making Jewish restoration of international interest. On the other hand, the Turks were historically the adversaries of Christian Europe. As Moslem occupiers of the Holy Land, the Turks were considered persona non grata by Christians and Jews alike. If the renewed state of Israel was a biblical, Christian ideal then support of the Jews to that end amounted to victory over the Moslem infidel.

Another important figure who took a personal interest in the Jews having a homeland was L.Laurence Oliphant (1829-1888). Oliphant was a British MP and an Evangelical Christian who echoed support for Lord Shaftesbury’s efforts. Oliphant published a book called ‘The Land of Gilead’ (1880) that urged Parliament to assist Jews in migrating from Europe to Palestine. In his book, Oliphant recommended that the current Arab inhabitants simply be forcibly displaced or herded onto reservations like American Indians. The British government was successful in achieving many concessions from the weak Turkish government over Palestine. Through various agreements related to the protection of trade routes from India, the British were able to secure access to the region. The result was that numerous assistance organizations were established by the British government for the Jewish inhabitants there by the end of the 19th century.

The end of the Ottoman empire came as the result of the allied victory in World War I. The British empire obtained control over the entire Middle East, and the region of Palestine became a British protectorate. This and subsequent events in the 20th century were what lead to the rise of the modern state of Israel. This was accomplished in no small measure by the religious and political support of many Christians in Britain, Europe, and America throughout the previous century. The history of the establishment of the state of Israel in 1949 is often looked at as a consequence of the holocaust in Germany and Europe. Although it certainly did act as an immediate catalyst, in fact, there had been a great deal of preparation for it, going back for more than a hundred years before by Christians.

C-Jewish desire for a homeland

It would be a mistake to think that the state of Israel came into existence purely out of Christian interest alone. The early part of the 19th century witnessed the beginning of interest on the part of Jews, to return to what they considered their ancient homeland. Jews viewed themselves then, as they still do today, as people who are perpetually discriminated against at the hand of all Gentiles. This complaint gave a rise in the 19th century to the restoration movement among Jews known as the “Zionist Movement.” Whether this mentality concerning all Gentiles is true or not, and to what extent if any, will not be the concern here into the legitimacy of the modern state of Israel. It was the desire of many Jews in Europe in the 19th century to have a strictly Jewish state of their own. This desire was expressed in numerous books and publications by Jews.

The term Zionism was and is a political designation for the ideological position of the state of Israel.[6] This movement which arose in Europe was primarily political in nature and not religious. The Jews of Europe saw themselves as a political group as much, if not more, than a religious one. The blend of religion with political status is what defines Jewish culture more than anything.[7] In the 1840s Zionist groups sprang up across Europe that were called the “Lovers of Zion.” A determined effort on the part of these groups was established, to encourage Jews to emigrate to Palestine in order to revive a Jewish state there. These early efforts however, lacked any single cohesive plan or ideological stance necessary to the pursuit of such an undertaking.

The plan and ideology for the state of Israel was to come through the man considered to be it’s true founder, Theodor Herzl (1860-1904). Herzl was a journalist who was deeply affected by a particular scene he witnessed in France over the trial of a Jew accused of espionage. A mob outside the trial chanted “Death to the Jews.” Herzl, being horrified by this determined in his mind that there was a need for an independent Jewish state. Other sporadic occurrences such as this were not that uncommon in Europe. Situations such as this, with the accused spy or some other notorious figure, would frequently result in an anti-Jewish outcry. Theodor Herzl wrote a book called ‘The Jewish State’ (1895) in which he proposed the entire plan and rationale for such a state. Herzl immediately enjoyed the full support of the Lovers of Zion groups, and with that the Zionist movement went into full swing.

At first, Theodor Herzl approached a number of wealthy Jews such as Baron Von Hirsch (1831-1896) and Baron de Rothschild (1849-1915) seeking their support, but it was to no avail.[8] At this point it is necessary to consider a number of issues concerning the Zionist movement. While there was certainly at times anti-Jewish sentiment, and even acts of violence against Jews in Europe in various locations, this was not true of the experience of all Jews. There had been many wealthy Jewish bankers and industrialists in Europe over the course of several hundred years. Those who were successful like the Hirsch and Rothschild family, never desired, nor lent any help in the early formation of the state of Israel. In fact, it would be fair to say they even hurt their fellow Jews, by their many political maneuvers in Europe which the average Jew took the blame for. The average Jew on the other hand, did well economically in Europe as a rule. So the idea of leaving home to emigrate to some barren desert in the Middle East had little appeal to many who were living a middle class life. The vast majority of Jews also considered themselves as Europeans, rather than Israelis.[9]

Theodor Herzl then turned to Christian religious and state leaders in order to gain legitimacy for his cause. This approach gained him a certain amount of public notoriety, along with his various books and publications. Herzl even attempted to appeal to the Sultan of Turkey to grant Palestine to the Jews under his authority, but was heartily rebuffed. Herzl was instrumental in the formation of several Zionist congresses that were held in Basel, Switzerland from 1897 to 1902. These congresses developed the means of establishing a Jewish state through the formation of several projects, the Jewish Colonial Trust, the Jewish National Fund, and the movement’s newspaper “Die Welt”(The World). The object of these congresses was the passing of laws that would facilitate the establishment of the Jewish state.

It is important to note that Herzl and the Zionist movement were not interested in a religious state. Herzl himself did not even practice the Jewish faith, and many of Europe’s Jews were atheists and Marxists. As already mentioned, being Jewish is viewed as something that is cultural. The Jewish religion is regarded as a part of their culture rather than belief in God by the majority of Jews. This is why most Jews naturally think that non Jews out of necessity belong to one organized religion or another. The fact that Theodor Herzl was not motivated by religious reasons for a Jewish state was underscored by his eventual attempt to find another location for it other than Palestine. Herzl appealed to the British government to give the Jews the Island of Cypress which had come under their control. The British instead offered the Zionists Uganda as the possible place for a state which never materialized. One very important element of Herzl’s idea of this Jewish state was his proposal for the removal of the inhabitants of wherever that place might end up being.

An opponent of Theodor Herzl, but also a contributor to the Zionist cause, was a man named Asher Zvi Hirsch Ginsberg (1856-1927). Unlike Herzl and many of those involved in the Zionist movement, Ginsberg was interested in the spiritual aspect of Zionism rather than the political. Jewry across the globe was scattered and divided in many respects. Asher Ginsberg believed that the return of Jews to Palestine was necessary in order to unite them in their historic identity as messianic people. Ginsberg believed that Herzl’s political ideal fell short of the true reason for Israel, and would fail as a result. In fact, several early attempts to establish settlements in Palestine through the purchase of land from the Arab inhabitants, did come to failure. Asher Ginsberg visited Palestine to analyze the situation and was greatly disheartened by it. Ginsberg felt that a Jewish cultural center needed to be established in Palestine if it was to become a success. So Ginsberg pushed for the establishment of Hebrew as the national language in his pursuit of this culture.

Herzl and others desired German to be the common language among Jews. In Europe the Yiddish language was known and spoken by all Jews, and is basically a Germanic dialect. Herzl and his followers wanted the Jewish state to be European in character. When Ginsberg visited the settlements in Palestine, he noted those Jewish settlers there were disposed to treat their Arab neighbors badly, and to look upon them as “Desert Donkeys.” This kind of an attitude was similar to what Jews themselves were accustomed too experiencing in Europe, and Ginsberg felt this was a serious mistake. He recognized that if a state were to be successful in Palestine, the time would come when there would be serious opposition to it. Without a spiritual and cultural purpose, and the type of preparation that would unite the Jews, it would be doomed to eventual failure.

D-The providence of God

At this point it is good to consider that there was certainly a dual purpose at work concerning these efforts toward a future state of Israel. There were two entirely different movements involved in this one purpose. There is oftentimes a tendency on the part of men, to assume that the fact that anything that comes to pass from their efforts, out of necessity it must be right. A case in point is what happened in America through what is called “Manifest Destiny.” This principle supposed that whatever happened in the spread of American dominance across the frontier was meant to be, and therefore is right. A similar sort of principle was at work in the case of the Jewish state that became Israel in 1949. Manifest Destiny is nothing less than the providence of God at work in history, even if men often attribute it to other things. The acts and purposes of men are irrelevant as it concerns providence, and there is no such thing as fate.

Our sovereign God works providentially in nature, bringing to pass what He has eternally decreed. The state of Israel did in fact come into existence through many providential circumstances. Every one of these circumstances was the means of God to accomplish His ends. But to suppose that Israel’s existence as a state is therefore biblically legitimate, simply because there was so much inevitability at work, is a false way to interpret history. What matters in understanding providence is to determine what the Bible has to say about it. Many Jews did believe in the rightness of their cause based on the Old Testament concept of promise and fulfillment from God. They believed that God favored them today as His covenant people. This belief was mixed with the attitude of exceptionalism, as well as a need for preservation. Christian Zionists however, were the ones who believed that God has as of yet, many unfulfilled prophecies for them as the nation of Israel.

The question then can be stated like this concerning these two distinct movements toward the creation of the nation state of Israel. Was such a diverse movement as this indeed the fulfillment of Scripture? And, did providential circumstances that led to the creation of Israel, affirm Scripture? It is a foregone conclusion to many Christians today, that Israel is indeed, the fulfillment of Scripture. It is also true, those things that happened in the 20th century that led to the actual establishment of Israel as a state, commanded most of world opinion in its favor too. The legitimacy for the state of Israel in the worlds eyes came about as a result of World War II and the Holocaust. The Holocaust as history tells it, was an attempt by Adolph Hitler to eradicate the entire Jewish population from the planet. The commonly accepted narrative is that six million European Jews were deliberately slaughtered as a result of Nazi hatred of those people.

Following the horrible images of the liberated prison camps, and the specter of dead and dying Jews, the world eagerly accepted the premise that the Jews needed a homeland. To most people the matter does not go far beyond this one historical event, and the exodus to Palestine that followed. There is revisionist evidence that challenges a great deal of what has become the accepted facts surrounding the Holocaust.[10] This is not a question that is relevant to us here. There can be no doubt that a great many Jews died as the result of specific hatred directed toward them as people by the Nazi’s. World War II, the Holocaust, and the rise of Israel as a state were all acts of God’s providence in the 20th century. Because of this, the opinion that most Christians tend to have today, whether they are Dispensationalists or not, is that Scripture does indeed support these events as fulfilled prophecy.

The problem that Christians now face is that providence continues to unfold in the Middle East in reference to Israel sixty five years later, and the outcome is anything but what was supposed. From a purely human perspective the outcome should have been predictable. The mass exodus of Jews into Palestine after World War II required the Arab inhabitants be evicted in order for Israel to exist. Manifest destiny has not worked in Israel the way that it worked in America. The Arab inhabitants have not cooperated with this plan, any more than the Canaanite’s did, more than three thousand years ago. The conflict which now rages in the Middle East over Israel threatens to draw the whole world into world war once again. Perhaps, to the Dispensationalist this is a good thing, for it would suit their prophetic ideas well. But for Christians who do not subscribe to the Dispensational plan, a second look at Scripture should be on the agenda.

The reason this should be done is that up until now nothing but blind support has been given to this program by Christians, based on flimsy Scriptural evidence. Does the phrase “All Israel will be saved” (Rom. 11:26) suppose that the Jews had the right to do what they did? This might suit the ideas of the Dispensationalist, but it should not suit the thinking biblical Christians. Salvation is a matter of God’s sovereign purpose and grace. God does not need to herd Jews into a national context in order to save them, if indeed that is what the text is saying. A construct has been put upon this text in Romans that leads to the conclusion that it does.[11] The fact that Jews have lived in close proximity to Christians throughout the world, has been God’s witness to them for centuries. If they shun that witness in order to pursue this ideal of an earthly estate, where does salvation come into the picture?

The Jews of Israel have enjoyed tremendous support from Christians for a very long time. Yet, Israel is no friend of Christianity. Most Jews, whether in Israel or elsewhere in the world today, are atheists. Any adherence to religion on the part of most Jews is mostly cultural in nature. In Israel it is illegal to proselytize Jews. Overt Christian missionary activity results in arrest and imprisonment. The Jews of today in Israel and the world hate Jesus Christ as much, if not more than they ever did in the past. Therefore, the advent of Israel as a nation for the purpose of some future Christian movement is completely counterintuitive to biblical logic. Of course, God in His sovereignty could save everyone in Israel, or any nation wholesale if He chose to, but that is not the way it is taught in Scripture. Christ told the church to “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you” (Matt. 28:18,19). But following His ascension Christ also said “But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth” (Acts 1:8).

In the case of the Jews, they were in the midst of the church as the Diaspora in various Christian lands, but have now been made conveniently insulated. Not only has support for Israel made it hard to Evangelize them, but it has turned world opinion away from Christ as well in the process. It is not that the world is waiting with open arms to receive Christian missions, but the negative connotations created by American Christian support for Israel is profound. This is especially true of the many Moslem nations that surround Israel. Christian support for the nation state of Israel is perceived by the world as an endorsement of all that they do. This effectively shuts off possibilities concerning missions to Moslems throughout the world.

A serious misconception has occurred on the part of most Christians about the words contained in Romans chapter 11. This is especially true of verse 26. God’s providential dealings with those whom He saves is always in reference to His covenant. The Apostle Paul quotes Is. 59:20,21, and 27:9 in the 26th and 27th verse of Romans chapter 11, in support of his statement about Israel’s salvation. In this quotation Paul brings God’s covenant promise to Israel into focus. The Dispensationalists downplay the importance of God’s covenant promise with Israel in order to magnify His supposed dispensational purpose with them. This is how they arrived at their conclusion about the propriety of establishing a modern day state for Jews. The year 1949 was pivotal to the dispensational scheme. But as it has already been seen, the state of Israel didn’t come into being overnight just because of the Holocaust.

Israel as a nation was in the works for more than a hundred years before it actually happened. The Dispensationalists were some of the most ardent advocates of this end, which makes Israel’s establishment almost a self fulfilling prophecy. On the other hand, those who reject the claims of Dispensational prophetic interpretation have a much harder road to travel when it comes to reconciling these matters. Paul makes it clear that the Israel that is saved is made so, because of covenant promises that God has made. God’s providences are contained within His covenant promises, not the other way around. This makes every one of God’s providential dealings in history, subservient to what He has promised to do for those whom He has given His promises. Otherwise, God would be tied to something apart from Himself; He would be acting after the fact in everything.

This is an important point to make, because the system of Dispensationalism views God’s promises as something He makes in response to what people do. This makes God’s purposes subservient to His promises. The purposes and promises of God are one in the same thing in essence, even though they may have distinct applications. Another way to look at it is this. If God decrees all things which come to pass, and He does, then His providential actions must be subordinate to any promises that He has made. Providence is impersonal, but promises are not. The good news of the gospel is not an act of providence but a personal promise to those whom God saves. God decrees’ His promises, and all of His actions are relegated to them.

God’s promises relate to His purpose, which is behind all of His providential dealings with His people. The proper order of things then is 1-God’s eternal purpose or decree, 2-God’s promises in reference to that purpose, and 3-God’s providences which He accomplishes to ensure that points 1 and 2 come to pass. Therefore, the providential circumstances surrounding the Israel of Paul are defined by the nature of God’s covenantal promise to them. Several things then need to be determined from Rom. 11:26,27. 1-What is meant by all will be saved, 2-Who is the Israel of God that will be saved, and 3-What is the nature of the covenant promise to these people. Another question needs to be added to these three which arises from verse 25 of Romans chapter 11. It needs to be determined what the times of the Gentiles is, in reference to the fulfillment of God’s promise. This is a key matter for the Dispensationalists, and it cannot be brushed over lightly.

E-The intention of God

A mistake which Dispensationalists make along with many other Christians is to overlook the significance of two important things in New Testament interpretation. The first is, that every time the inspired writers of the New Testament quote an Old Testament passage, their use of it defines the true meaning of it. Dispensationalists are often guilty of tying the meaning of an Old Testament verse, which is quoted in the New to the Old Testament and Israel. There are many instances in the New Testament,[12] in which the apostles have quoted an Old Testament verse, in a manner that is different from what it would appear to be from the Old Testament. Examples of this will be taken up in following essays. To force an Old Testament understanding on a New Testament text, when quoted by apostolic authority and inspiration, is to distort the proper interpretation of it.

Part of this mistake which Dispensationalists make is to presume that a verse which is given to two seemingly different groups of people, one in the Old Testament, and one in the New Testament, has two entirely different meanings. This assigns to God a sort of split personality in His words and dealings with people. God is not duplicitous nor does He ever change (Mal. 3:6). The understanding of God’s words is something that is different between the two Testaments. It is not that Christians are now more capable than Jews were. On the contrary, it is the purpose of God to reveal His intentions to His people in every age, but He has done it progressively. So it has now become the responsibility of the Christian church to reconcile, by proper methods of interpretation, all the words that God has spoken in the past. According to the progress of redemption, Jews don’t interpret Scripture for Christians, but it is the other way around. There is therefore, a consistency contained in Scripture, in the verses given to Old Testament saints, which have been restated again in the form of quotation. These are to be interpreted in light of the New Testament church.

The second matter of importance, in interpreting Old Testament verses quoted in the New Testament, is closely related to the first, which is context. When God gave His words to His people under the Old Covenant, the understanding they were given, was according to the context of their situation. The same is true in the New Covenant. How do we reconcile this, but by understanding the unity between God’s purpose and the promises to His people in every generation? (Ps. 90:1). The Old and New Testaments are not to be studied as though they were independent of each other. When a passage of the Old Testament is applied in the new, it must be understood in reference to its immediate context. The same is true of each verse meaning in the Old. Dispensationalists believe that God said things to His people in the Old Covenant which was supposed to make no sense to them whatsoever, nor have any application. Now in the New Testament all of a sudden, thousands of years later, a meaning is obtained. This defies biblical logic, for there is but one meaning in everything God has ever said, even though it may be applied in multiple ways.

To say there is multiple meaning in Gods words is an utterly false idea, for the saints of old were justified by faith the same as the saints in the New Testament (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4:1-3). Faith requires understanding of truth (Rom. 10:14,15). To think that God sent His prophets to say things to His people that they were not supposed to understand, or be edified by, is false. This does not mean that the saints of old had perfect understanding of what the prophets said about the future, it simply means that what was said to them was for them first. The presence of sin is what render the minds of men blind concerning the intention of God in His word. (Is. 6:8-11). Sin accounts not only for blindness in seeing the will of God, but hardness of heart in receiving it. This is why the Jews for the most part, could not see the purpose of God in their providential circumstances, even when it was spelled out plainly to them by the prophets.

The beauty of the New Testament is that it explains the Old Testament, and it does so in terms of New Testament realities. This is why the apostles quoted the Old Testament so liberally. In the very chapter in which the apostle Paul speaks of Israel being saved, he ends it with a doxological exclamation of the wonder of God’s mind and ways (Rom. 11:33-36). Greater clarity of these Old Covenant promises was given to Paul, which resulted in such exclamations as these. God brought it all into context for Paul, and it is now the duty of this present generation to understand that context which Paul expressed in his writings. This is not done by reverting back to the Old Covenant era and it’s understanding of things, but by looking at the whole of Scripture in order to arrive at a proper conclusion.

Paul wrote these words in Romans chapter 11, in the same context of the two chapters which preceded it. It will be necessary then, to consult and examine chapters 9-11 to determine what is being said in verses 25-27 of chapter 11. There are keys in these three chapters, that will help us in interpreting whom it is, that is the Israel of God spoken of in Romans chapter 11. The rule of context places a heavy burden on this passage and this question. What is the nature of the covenant given to Israel in the Old Testament? This will prove or disprove the biblical legitimacy of the present state of Israel. After all, isn’t that what all the war and bloodshed are about in the Middle East today? It is imperative that this is done, because there are so many, serious world impacting issues that are presently taking place in the Middle East. It is unsound to harbor false notions about an ancient claim to a piece of territory, in which war and bloodshed are taking place, if indeed, it is not a legitimate biblical position.

Notes:

[1] Edward Irving started out well as a Presbyterian minister. After reading the book by Lacunza, and hearing similar ideas from a friend, he began to depart from his earlier beliefs. Eventually, Irving was accused of teaching heresy concerning the person of Jesus Christ, saying that He was capable of sinning, though He had not done so. Irving was condemned as a heretic and put out of the Scottish Presbyterian church. He then founded a fringe denomination called the Apostolic Catholic church which promotes his teachings to this day. Edward Irving is also credited with being the founder of modern day pentecostalism.

[2] There are conflicting reports about J.N. Darby’s association with Edward Irving. Detractors of Darby and his views certainly want to place him alongside Irving, due to him being a notorious heretic. A book entitled ‘A Historical Sketch Of The Brethren Movement’ was written by one of its own, H.A. Ironside, and sought to distance him and them from Irving for obvious reasons (p23). The way Ironside does this is by issuing the report that Darby attended one of the two conferences which Irving did not. This was the Powerscourt, rather than the Albury conference. Both conferences however, were interested in the very same teachings on Israel. This conference was hosted by a Lady Powerscourt, who was indeed in attendance at the Albury conference. The link to Irving therefore, still remains along with the other false teachers, through the shared opinion of a futuristic claim to the restored Jewish state of Israel.

[3] There is a natural spiritual hostility which exists between Jesus and every generation of Jews that reject Him (John 1:11). This has unfortunately, often led to overt persecution on the part of organized religion and the states they reside under against them. Crusaders to the Holy Lands in the Middle Ages killed many Jews. Inquisitions like that which happened in Spain came about for the same reason. The truth of the matter is however, that Jews make no bones about their visceral hatred Of Jesus Christ and Christianity. Christians today, who are disposed toward Jews for the sake of an eschatological state of Israel, often claim it is false to call Jews murderers of the Son of God. The Scripture however, assigns blame to both Jews and Romans in the crucifixion of our Lord, and ultimately to every sinner (Rom. 3:23). Teaching in the church which overly denounces the Jewish position, for its complicity in this, has often led to less than honorable attitudes on the part of Christians since the Middle Ages. As Jesus hung on the cross dying, He prayed the Father to forgive those who had done this to Him (Luke 23:34). Christians should follow the example.

[4] The word Zion is used in Scripture in reference to Jerusalem, the city of David (II Sam. 5:7). Zion is also the spiritual Jerusalem prefigured in the Old Testament, which is now applied to the Christian church by the writers of the New Testament (Heb. 12:22; I Pet. 2:6). The term Zion is often used today in reference to the modern state of Israel. Since that is the case, the term Christian Zionism has come to mean Christian support for the state of Israel, either in a spiritual, or a material way, or both.

[5] Most Reformed commentators answer this question in the affirmative in their comments on this text. See B.H. Carroll, Charles Hodge, Frederic Godet, John Gill, Matthew Henry, Matthew Poole, Robert Haldane. John Calvin, however, does not, but has a take on it that is similar to that of our own. Some commentators say “all Israel” is national Israel. Others say it represents a large body of the Jewish people, who will someday embrace Jesus Christ as the Messiah. Calvin stands out as saying “all Israel” is the totality of God’s redeemed people, made up of Jew and Gentile alike.

[6] Zionism to Jewish people means the re establishment of national Israel. This is the motivation that undergirds all that has taken place in that part of the world, since 1949, between Jews and their neighbors in the region. The idea of a two-state occupation of the land was never in the mind of Jews since Israel’s founding as a nation. This is simply a political ploy designed to obtain international support for their cause to exist there as a nation. It also justifies perpetual conflict between them and their neighbors. Zionism to a Jew means redemption. But it is a redemption that is national and earthly, rather than individual like that of Christianity.

[7] Jews identify themselves primarily as a culture. They combine religion, nationality, and philosophy together as a single coherent ideal. This is why a Jew can be either a believer in God or an atheist, a political conservative or a liberal, and yet, still be a Zionist.

[8] Baron Von Hirsch did involve himself and his money in aiding persecuted European Jews to emigrate to other locations such as Argentina. No mention is made of his support for the Zionist cause. Baron de Rothschild had many international financial interests, none of them included helping his fellow Jews.

[9] This same way of thinking today, is what account for only 40 percent of the worlds Jews living in Israel. Two things however, are at work in this. First, dual citizenship is afforded all Jews in the world by the state of Israel. This means that Jews can emigrate freely to Israel, or stay in their country of origin and still be considered Israeli. The second thing is, many Jews who do not want to emigrate, give their material and political support unselfishly to the state of Israel. This accounts for a large, powerful political lobby for Israel in America and abroad.

[10] It is often said that truth is the first casualty of war. It is also an undeniable fact that the victors always write the history. Keeping these two things in mind, any objective reader should be aware that the same principle applies here to the details surrounding the Holocaust. First, it should be pointed out that there have been several holocausts perpetrated by governments in the twentieth century. Three that come to mind is the mass slaughter of Armenians by Ottoman Turks, the large-scale forced starvation of Ukrainians by Joseph Stalin, and the mass slaughter of Cambodians by the Kmer Rouge Communists. Concerning the Jewish Holocaust, there is a great deal of historical information surrounding it which gives a fuller picture of what and why this took place. Oftentimes, simplistic analysis is offered in such horrible circumstances as those, to further political agendas. This is certainly the case with international Zionism.

[11] The difficulty Christians face in this matter arrises from the argument made in the book of Romans chapter 11 by the apostle Paul. There is no question that he is presenting a polemic against the notion that God has permanently cut off all Jews from His kingdom. This is why there seems to be such strong support for the views most of the Commentators have taken on verse 26.

[12] There are more than two hundred Old Testament Verses that are quoted in the New Testament by Jesus and the apostles. There are thousands of allusions made as well to things said in the Old Testament that are not direct quotes.

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