Living Without Walls

In the early years of my interest in the dispensational interpretation of Bible prophecy I was captivated by the possibility that Ezekiel 38-39 predicted an imminent war against the modern state of Israel. Most of us are familiar with this prophecy, which predicts an alliance of nations coming against “My people Israel,” who have been regathered from the nations back to their homeland.

In my book Red Moon Rising my timeline hinged on connecting the events in Ezekiel 38-39 with the Rapture and the beginning of the Day of the Lord as I saw described in Revelation by the sixth Seal and first four Trumpet judgments. The parallels are there and it does seem clear that John the Revelator made conscious use of the apocalyptic descriptions found in Ezekiel 38-39. However, over the years as my study of the New Testament has deepened my faith in the literalistic dispensational model has been almost entirely shattered. I now recognize that the best interpreters of the Old Testament “kingdom” prophecies are the writers of the New Testament, and Jesus and the Apostles simply do not hold to the literalistic view upheld by dispensationalists. I now view the great sweep of the Bible’s end-times predictions more like one great parable, meant to obscure the truth just as much is it is meant to reveal the truth to sincere seekers (see Matthew 13:10-17). I am far from arriving at a dogmatic and precise view of the future such as I once held, but I do believe that I am on the right track when I connect the Great End-Time Parable with the biblical predictions of a New Exodus.

highkingWhat if Jesus Christ Himself is recognized as our best Teacher of what will take place during the “End Times”? What if we made His Word our foundation, and then moved forward carefully from there? This is the position taken by Dean Davis in his book The High King of Heaven. He comes from an amillennial perspective but he shows how this is supported by the very words of Jesus. Does this mean I have completely adopted the amillennial view? No, the amillennial view is not without problems, so I don’t think I can say that. It simply means that I am no longer smug and self-assured about what I think the Bible teaches about the future. I am humble enough to expand my horizons and to give an honest look at interpretations that I once completely dismissed without a second thought, such as amillennialism.

I must say that dispensationalism, as a package, does make sense if you can accept the underlying assumptions. In the same sense amillennialism makes sense. Yet it is hard for me to completely dismiss a future earthly millennium or a future seven year tribulation. I’m still working it out…

Consider once again the predictions of Ezekiel 38-39. If we simply allow the New Testament to place this event on our future timeline many of us will arrive at the same position that is now held by Bible prophecy scholar Chris White. He says that these events must take place at the end of the earthly millennium according to Revelation 20:7-9.

Back in the 1980s and 90s it was widely taught that Ezekiel 38-39 must be pre-millennial. But that was before the Wall was built surrounding the West Bank. Here is a picture of the town of Bethlehem today:

bethlehem-wall-houses

This modern-day reality in Israel, combined with the continuous cycle of Jewish/Palestinian violence, completely contradicts any possible near-term fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39.

Ezekiel 38:10-16 “Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day, thoughts will come into your mind, and you will devise an evil scheme (11) and say, ‘I will go up against the land of unwalled villages. I will fall upon the quiet people who dwell securely, all of them dwelling without walls, and having no bars or gates,’ (12) to seize spoil and carry off plunder, to turn your hand against the waste places that are now inhabited, and the people who were gathered from the nations, who have acquired livestock and goods, who dwell at the center of the earth. … (14) “Therefore, son of man, prophesy, and say to Gog, Thus says the Lord GOD: On that day when my people Israel are dwelling securely, will you not know it? (15) You will come from your place out of the uttermost parts of the north, you and many peoples with you, all of them riding on horses, a great host, a mighty army. (16) You will come up against my people Israel, like a cloud covering the land. In the latter days I will bring you against my land, that the nations may know me, when through you, O Gog, I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.

WBwall

I know that there are many good bible scholars who do their best to explain away the present reality in Israel and still maintain a belief in the imminent fulfillment of Ezekiel 38-39. But I cannot. Forget it, the facts on the ground are simply too concrete.

Yet for me the whole thing remains an enigma, because I also recognize that the post-millennial view of Ezekiel 38-39 has major problems as well. But I am fine with that!

Perhaps those of us who have been captivated by “End Times” must pass through a period of LESS clarity on end-times events before we can receive the wisdom of God that will lead us to the truth.

 

AN AERIAL VIEW OF ISRAEL'S  SECURITY BARRIER IN EAST JERUSALEM

The Market Marches On

The US Dollar is once again solidifying its place as the foundation of the global economy as it has steadily gained in value over the last four months. It is truly the currency of the New World Order, with its imagery of the phoenix, the pyramid, the all-seeing-eye, and the motto of Novus Ordo Seclorum.

Another item of note is that Apple Corporation has just set a new value record. On Thursday, November 13, it reached a new market cap of $666 billion dollars. Yes, the greatest and wealthiest merchant in the history of the world is now worth over $666 billion and climbing… and its symbol is a perfect picture of the forbidden fruit.

If you have kept up with my research on Babylon the Great you will understand that there is a great transformation from Genesis to Revelation as mankind’s rebellion against God comes full circle. Eve’s lusting after a single fruit is transformed into her lusting after all the “fruits” of the global marketplace, which in the end prove to be only temporary and worthless. The fruit itself transforms into the commodities of the global marketplace, whereas the role of the tempting serpent is picked up by the merchants of Babylon who are the world’s great men. In the end Babylon plays its role as the world’s great end times Maximum Temptation Delivery System to perfection. Again, please recognize the seriousness of the fact that Babylon’s greatest merchant is symbolized by a fruit with a bite taken out of it. If you recognize that God speaks to us through signs and symbols then you can’t dismiss this specific connection and what it says about our global society today.

appleidol

I truly believe that the most powerful “secularizing” trend over the past two hundred years has been the triumph of the merchants and the rise of the marketplace to take over virtually every aspect of society and human relations. The “love of money” which the Bible identifies as the “root of all evil,” has been promoted and defended as the proper foundation of a “free” society. At the same time virtually everyTHING and everyONE has been transformed into a commodity to be bought and sold for profit (see Rev. 18:13).

It strikes me as absurd that so many Christians will agitate and complain about every negative social trend that has emerged in the modern world, yet at the same time they cling to this thing called CAPITALISM and embrace it as that “pot of gold” at the end of the rainbow.

rainbowquest3

In the early 1990s a man by the name of Francis Fukuyama wrote a book called “The End of History.” It became a best-seller and was embraced by Wall Street and the US foreign policy establishment. Fukuyama was rejoicing at the fall of the Soviet Union and declaring that modern mankind had reached an end-point to history. “Where else can we go, now that it is clear that there is no alternative to our modern society based on democracy and capitalism?” It was a triumph of the human spirit led by the USA, he said, and a global utopia was just around the corner!

However, this promised market-based utopia is never realized, while at the same time the world faces ever-increasing lawlessness. In response to this a typical prayer from the worldly American church goes something like this:

“Oh God, save us from the evils of abortion, homosexuality, pornography and everything else that the commodification of sex has brought us… Save us from the evils of consumerism, advertising, and the trashing of Christmas… Save us from the big banks that have won a monopoly over the commodity of money… Save us from the politicians who only obey the lobbyists and their billionaire backers… Save us from the forces that want to legalize and commodify all forms of drug use and from the effects of “legal” drugs that claim to offer the panacea for a society filled with broken people… Save us from the military industrial complex that reaps record profits through the commodification of warfare and the deaths of our children… Save us from our churches that are run on ‘business plans’ that resemble mini-corporations… (etc, etc…) But Oh God, thank you so much for showing us that CAPITALISM is the greatest expression of human liberty! Thank you for showing us the true way! Thank you for helping us export our “way of life” to the four corners of the world! Now help us, dear God, as the enemies of Capitalism become angrier and more bold! Help us HOLD THE LINE as we continue to promote your heavenly vision of maximum freedom for markets and merchants that is the end-point of your heavenly system of CAPITALISM!”

The prayer above is the end-times prayer of the blind and pathetic Laodicean Church, and I hear it echoed ceaselessly from too many pulpits and throughout Christian media. It’s simply a prayer that is prayed by a people who have been deceived and seduced by Babylon’s propaganda. Truly the Laodicean Church is a church that has made her comfortable home in Babylon the Great, and this Church only gets passionate when she must fight to maintain her way of life that is completely devoted to feeding the flesh.

We are taught that capitalism is a perfect match for democracy but the truth is that democracy and capitalism have always been unwilling partners. History shows that only deeply imprinted propaganda or bald-faced totalitarianism can support a capitalist society for very long. The very process of “pure” capitalism, based as it is upon competition and self-interest, leads only to the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer. Human history proves this fact, which contradicts the hollow utopian promises espoused by economic libertarians. With more freedom for markets and merchants wealth inequality increases and the people, turning to the ideals of democracy, cry out for the government to do something! … Which of course leads to SOCIALISM.

Yes, socialism is a terrible evil that oppresses and dehumanizes people, but we must understand that it is merely a derivative of capitalism, which is the FOUNDATIONAL EVIL from which socialism springs. Today on the far right, and from within the comfortable upper-middle-class leadership of the American Church, we hear that the best remedy for America right now (and indeed for the world) is MORE CAPITALISM!We must return to the system of free enterprise that made us great in the first place, they say. But the promises of capitalism are hollow. The end-point of pure capitalism is not “heaven on earth,” but riches for the few and slavery for the many, as we can read within God’s commentary on “The End of History” that is given to us in Revelation 18.

My God, Church, wake up! Capitalism turns LAND itself into a mere commodity to be accumulated by the wealthy few and exploited for profit, which was something that God clearly prevented in the simple economy of ancient Israel, and in his disbursement of the various people groups to their lands (Acts 17:26). Within capitalism this sordid process of “capital accumulation” is SANCTIFIED and goes directly against what God Himself took clear steps to prevent!

Capitalism promotes a role for government that only protects the merchants and their markets, and leaves everyone else at their mercy. “Property Rights” and the “Sanctity of Contracts” are the bare bones of the ideal libertarian government. In this scheme creditors thrive and debtors languish. This was also something that the Lord expressly prevented by his system of debt forgiveness in Israel every seventh and fiftieth year. But today the greater mass of society and the world’s several hundred so-called “representative democracies” are all in DEBT! To whom, you ask? Well, they are in debt to the rich! There has never been such a massive discrepancy between rich and poor, or between debtors and creditors, in the history of the world! Again, by embracing “capitalism” as our LIFE SYSTEM we have in fact SANCTIFIED a process that God Himself took clear steps to prevent!

This situation is simply the logical endpoint for a world that has witnessed the strategic empowerment of “Maximum Freedom for Markets and Merchants” that has been the goal of capitalism from the beginning. We can blame politicians, bankers, or global CEOs all we want, but they are simply playing out their logical role and function in this great end-times system that is ruled by Babylon, the Great Whore. We can get angry at bankers, or at politicians, or at “SOCIALISM!” all we want, but until we deal with the underlying system that is strangely based on FREEDOM, we will go nowhere.

“They promise them freedom, but they themselves are slaves of corruption. For whatever overcomes a person, to that he is enslaved.” (2 Peter 2:18-19)

It is time that we experience within ourselves a holy discontent with the man-made structures of the world, especially those structures that we have been deceived into embracing! There is only one Life System that can offer any hope to the human race today, and it is the Life System taught by Jesus Christ as part of His vision of the Kingdom of Heaven. This was never meant to be a message only pertaining to the after-life, and it was never intended to be a mere Belief System competing with other religions. Jesus came to deliver to us a new Way of Life, and to create a New Race entirely capable of living that new life by the power of the Holy Spirit! Everything we need to become the people that God created us to be can be gained if we simply seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness. This is what we must be passionate about!

Book Review: “False Christ” by Chris White

Several months ago I had the pleasure of reading Chris White’s provocative and well-researched book, False Christ: Will the Antichrist Claim to be the Jewish Messiah? At the time I recommended the book through my newsletter list, but I did not promote it elsewhere. Looking over the course that my studies have taken I now feel that it is time to highlight this book and dig in to some of the new ideas that Chris White brings to the table.

If you are like me then your interest in  end-times was probably first shaped by Dispensationalism and from the ideas that have come from of Darby, Scofield, Ryrie, Walvoord, Moody Bible Institute and Dallas Theological Seminary. The biggest dispensational success stories have been Hal Lindsey and Tim LaHaye, whose popular and best-selling ideas have shaped our expectation of the future. We have been taught that God’s end-times plan revolves around Israel, that as Christians we must wholeheartedly support the modern state of Israel, and that some day soon the rapture will remove the Church from the earth, after which the Lord will finally show himself to Israel, save them from the Antichrist, and redeem the final generation of Jews in a last amazing rescue. Regarding the Antichrist, we have been taught that he will be the greatest anti-Semite that has ever lived, that he will trick Israel into signing a covenant, but then he will turn against Israel and carry out mass genocide against Jews prior to Christ’s rescue.

Chris White comes on the scene in his study of the Antichrist and argues very persuasively that the Antichrist in fact rises to power as the savior of Israel, who will be wholeheartedly accepted by Israel as their champion, because of his successful wars on Israel’s behalf against her Islamic enemies!

You can order the book, or you can watch an 18-minute video of the most important points here.

The crux of the argument lies in Chris’s analysis of Daniel 11:36-45, which shows the Antichrist defeating armies to the north, and armies to the south, before triumphantly establishing his capital in Jerusalem itself. Of course the enemies to the north and south of Israel are today Islamic. After defeating these enemies Daniel gives no hint that the Antichrist must war against Israel, or that his sweeping through Israel is an invasion. No indeed, the AC may even ride through Tel Aviv on his way to Jerusalem in a ticker-tape parade, for all we know!

For Chris White, support for the idea that Israel’s leaders will embrace the Antichrist also comes from the words of Jesus Himself in John 5:43,

I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. (John 5:43)

The reality is that the early Church fathers almost unanimously agreed that the Antichrist would in fact be Jewish. Chris shows that Irenaeus, Hippolytus, John Chrysostom, Methodius, John Damascene, and many more, held this view. Now I know that in many circles the earliest Christian writings are dismissed as unorthodox and of little value, but over the years I have come to value them more and more. After all, these were the men who were discipled by the disciples. They weren’t just “book taught” in a seminary! The earliest of them lived their lives with the Apostles, who in turn lived their lives with the next generation, and so on. I think the discipleship tradition carried far greater weight at the beginning than it does now, when sola scriptura is the final word, and Irenaeus and Hippolytus traced their lineage right back to the Apostle John.

Now the Jewishness of the Antichrist is debatable, as even Chris concedes, and at least two church fathers thought the AC would be the resurrected Roman emperor Nero, yet even these early theologians believed that Nero would somehow gain the trust of the Jews as an expert in their Law, and be embraced by the Jews as a whole.

This brings the subject back to my own personal theory on the identity of the AC being the resurrected Nimrod. Somehow I see how this potential outcome could be compatible with the Antichrist being embraced by the modern state of Israel.

Consider for a moment the fact that at the birth of Christ the name Yeshua (a form of the verb “to save”) was a very popular name at the time within Israel. There were all kinds of different men running around with the name “Yeshua” in first century Israel. Now let’s take a look at the social subconscious at the time of the founding of the modern nation of Israel, as explained at a blog called “The Jewish History Channel.” This blog highlights the fact that a generation ago the name “Nimrod” was a very popular name among Israel’s secular political leadership. The fact that Nimrod was an enemy of God was actually the reason for its popularity among these anti-religious Jews! Here are some of the blog’s concluding words:

… “Nimrod” has become a fairly common male name in present-day Israel. In the 1940s, bestowing it upon a newborn child was something of political statement. In the present generation, however, it is taken simply as a name like any other…

Does this strange social trend reveal something going on under the surface of modern political Israel? I don’t know for sure but it certainly seems to support my own research into the identity of the AC, who may in fact play an end-times role in Israel that is far outside the popular evangelical Lindsey/LaHaye paradigm.

Thank you Chris White for thinking outside of the box.

The True Fulfillment of God’s Promise to Abraham

In the OT the Jews knew they were the chosen people and they lived under the promise of Genesis 12:3, “I will bless those that bless thee and curse those that curse thee…” This was an amazing promise of protection to Abraham and his seed, but this promise found an end in Jesus Christ: “… and in thee shall all families of the earth be blessed.”  

Jesus Christ was the ultimate Chosen Person and the truth is that those who bless Jesus will be blessed and those that curse Jesus will be cursed, regardless of their genetic background. Furthermore, if you are “In Him” and have your name written in His Book of Life then you are Chosen as well. However, in the New Covenant God’s Chosen People don’t get to walk around like the OT Jews did saying, “We are the Chosen People! Don’t mess with us!” No indeed, in the New Covenant Jesus turns this promise into an obligation. Instead of having a smug self-righteous attitude we are to walk in humility and extend to others the very blessings that Jesus extended to us.

In Matthew 25 Jesus transforms the promise of Genesis 12 into an obligation that rests upon His true Chosen People. We are called to love those that are least loved in this world, and to identify the hungry, the thirsty, the sick, the strangers, the naked and the prisoners as Jesus Himself. Then those that bless Jesus will be blessed and inherit the Kingdom, whereas those that curse Jesus will themselves be cursed and cast into eternal darkness:

When the Son of man shall come in his glory, and all the holy angels with him, then shall he sit upon the throne of his glory: And before him shall be gathered all nations: and he shall separate them one from another, as a shepherd divideth his sheep from the goats: And he shall set the sheep on his right hand, but the goats on the left. Then shall the King say unto them on his right hand, Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. Then shall the righteous answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, and fed thee? or thirsty, and gave thee drink? When saw we thee a stranger, and took thee in? or naked, and clothed thee? Or when saw we thee sick, or in prison, and came unto thee? And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Then shall he say also unto them on the left hand, Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels: For I was an hungred, and ye gave me no meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me no drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me not in: naked, and ye clothed me not: sick, and in prison, and ye visited me not. Then shall they also answer him, saying, Lord, when saw we thee an hungred, or athirst, or a stranger, or naked, or sick, or in prison, and did not minister unto thee? Then shall he answer them, saying, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye did it not to one of the least of these, ye did it not to me. And these shall go away into everlasting punishment: but the righteous into life eternal.  (Matthew 25:31-46)

Genesis 12:3 does not apply to the physical descendants of Abraham now that we live in the time of the New Covenant. The physical has been transformed into the spiritual and Jesus has ironically flipped it in Matthew 25. It is no longer a promise, but an obligation and a mandate for those who claim to be God’s people to love those who need God’s love the most.

New Exodus Dialogues, Part 3 – The Israel of God

New Covenant Israel is made up of those who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ as their Redeemer, regardless of their genetic background. The true “Israel of God” is therefore made up of both Jews and Gentiles united in “one new man” (Ephesians 2:15). This was also taught by Jesus Himself in John 10:14-16:

I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for the sheep. And I have other sheep that are not of this fold. I must bring them also, and they will listen to my voice. So there will be one flock, one shepherd.

Jesus is clear that “sheep” outside of Israel will be brought into God’s flock, and Jesus Himself is the shepherd of this one new flock. Paul discusses this controversial issue at great length in the book of Galatians, doing his best to clarify that physical circumcision is no longer important in the New Covenant where the boundaries of God’s restored covenant people are no longer dictated by the Law of Moses, but by faith in Jesus. Paul ends his letter by referring to all those who believe in Jesus as “the Israel of God.”

This definition of the “Israel of God” is disputed by dispensationalists who teach that “Israel” always means the genetic descendants of Abraham, and therefore the “Israel of God” must mean genetic descendants of Abraham who also believe in Jesus. Yet as far back as John the Baptist, who warned the Pharisees that God could raise up stones as children of Abraham (Matt. 3:9 ), this narrow view of “Israel” was rejected for the coming Kingdom Age.

Here is how Bible scholar Alistair Donaldson deals with this particular issue in his short and concise book, The Last Days of Dispensationalism, pages 17-19:

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…in the Ryrie Study Bible notes for Galatians 6:16, [Charles] Ryrie explains the meaning of the phrase “the Israel of God” in this way:

the Israel of God. I.e., the Christian Jews, those who are both the physical and spiritual seed of Abraham.

Ryrie has in this explanation given the word Israel a meaning that betrays the demands of his literal principle of interpretation. He has in fact redefined the meaning of the word Israel by restricting its referents to only those who are both bloodline descendants of Abraham and are Christians. Non-Christian Israelites and Israelites not physically of Abrahamic descent are excluded. This is not the normal or plain everyday use of the word Israel. Not only has he violated his own interpretive principle and his claim to the consistent application of it, he also appears not to have considered how the immediate literary context clarifies for readers how Paul is using the term “the Israel of God” in this instance —a meaning quite different to what Ryrie suggests. When the context provides meaning in this way we are not at liberty to supply a different meaning. Context reveals that believing Jews have already been included in the words “all who follow this rule.” To follow Ryrie’s interpretation would have us read the verse [Gal. 6:16] as follows:

“Peace and mercy be upon Christian Jews and Christian Gentiles —that is, all who walk by this rule— and upon the Christian Jews.”

This makes no sense and in fact makes the phrase under discussion completely redundant. The sad irony here is that the passage containing this phrase is concerned to show that neither circumcision nor uncircumcision (i.e. being Israelite are non-Israelite) is of any relevance. For Ryrie to impose such a distinction is counter to the purpose of the text in that it sets up a distinction whereas the text seeks to remove such a distinction.

It seems that Ryrie’s interpretation is concerned to maintain his commitment to the dispensational distinction between Israel and the church and yet to do so he has had to sacrifice his commitment to the basis of his belief system, that is, a consistently applied literal hermeneutic.  It appears out of the question for Ryrie to consider the possibility that “Israel” in this context could be a reference to all believers—a legitimate understanding whereby the phrase functions as a clarifying descriptor of the “all who walk by this rule”.  If Ryrie was to be faithful to the literal, normal, and everyday usage principle, he in fact should understand the word Israel as a reference to Israel the nation, but this would have the meaning of pronouncing blessing on Christian Israelites, Christian Gentiles, and upon “the Israelites”—yet “the Israelites” would include the Christian Israelites already mentioned.  Again the phrase “the Israel of God” becomes unnecessary.  Further, it would see Paul pronouncing blessing on the very people he has, in the context of the entire letter to the Galatians, excluded from blessing—that is, those who regarded circumcision as an identity marker of the people of God.  In effect Paul would be extending a blessing to as many as walk by this rule (of circumcision not counting for anything) and as many as don’t follow this rule (circumcision counts for something)—and would therefore be both nonsense and contrary to his entire line of reasoning.  The “normal usage” meaning is just not possible in this use of the word Israel.  Its intended meaning or referent must be found by other considerations.

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Jesus is the Messiah of Israel, the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, the Davidic King, who today rules over the heavenly Jerusalem. You can’t be “in Him” and yet be “out” of Israel. Is this view properly called “replacement theology”? Not a chance! It’s not about Gentiles or “the Church” replacing Israel, rather it is all about Gentiles coming in and adding to Israel, expanding its borders so that God’s salvation may encompass all the nations of the world!

 

 

New Exodus Dialogues, Part 2 – Resurrection

In the Old Testament the hope of resurrection was a central component of the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL and the prophets looked to the resurrection as a one-time event at the end of the age. However, in the New Testament we find that Jesus was the first to fulfill the promise of resurrection for Israel as the first-fruits of the resurrection of the righteous (Acts 26:23, 1 Cor. 15:20). Jesus paved the way for the two-part resurrection of all who would put their faith in Him. Every believer first experiences a SPIRITUAL resurrection by being born again when they are inhabited by the Spirit of God (John 5:24, Romans 8:11), yet we also look forward to the total PHYSICAL resurrection that will yet take place at the very end of the age.

When we read the book of Acts we find that the Apostles recognized and preached that the end of the age had come! The Kingdom of Heaven was at hand and Jesus Christ the King reigned from the right hand of the Father in Heaven! The age of resurrection had come, and the prophesies of the Old Testament concerning Israel’s restoration were being fulfilled in their midst. The Kingdom had arrived, yet God’s people still looked forward to the coming of the Kingdom in its fullness. There was an overlap of the ages that was not explicitly predicted in the Old Testament, as the old world was passing away and submitting to the global takeover of the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God was already, but not yet.

This simple concept of inaugurated, but not yet consummated, eschatology, is crucial to properly understanding the Kingdom of God. And of course we must understand the Kingdom because the coming of the Kingdom of God was the central message that Jesus was appointed to deliver. If we get the central message of Jesus wrong then we will completely misunderstand the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL.

Mark 1:14-15, “…Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.'”

Luke 4:42-43, “I must preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God… for I was sent for this purpose.”

Now we will turn to a brief overview of a few Old Testament texts concerning the resurrection of Israel. Within these texts it is easy to pick out the events that were inaugurated by Jesus, and those which yet remain to be consummated at the very end of the age. This commentary comes from “The Acts of the Risen Lord Jesus: Luke’s Account of God’s Unfolding Plan,” by Alan J. Thompson, Kindle edition, location 670-682:

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In Ezekiel 37 a day is anticipated when God’s people will have God’s Spirit (37:14), return from exile (37:21), be united again (37:22), experience cleansing from sin and enablement to keep God’s commands (37:23-24), and live under the reign of a new David (37:24-25). This is a time when God will fulfil the goal of his covenant promises to his people: he will dwell among them and be their God and they will be his people (37:23, 26-27). This ultimate restoration of God’s people and fulfilment of God’s promises is characterized as nothing less than a resurrection from the dead. The dry bones represent the people of Israel and the departure of their ‘hope’ (37:11). Corpses rise, new life is breathed in and God’s people will know that the Lord has spoken and that he has done it (37:13-14). As Schreiner observes, although there are complex issues in Ezekiel 37, it is clear that ‘resurrection signifies the fulfillment of God’s promises, the inauguration of the age to come — the restoration of exile and the return of Israel.

Likewise, Isaiah 26 anticipates a time when the proud city of those who do evil will be levelled to the ground in judgment (26:5); in fact this judgment will come to the whole earth (26:9, 21). In contrast to this, the city of salvation for those who trust in the Lord will be strong and characterized by peace (26:1-4, 12-15). The language of ‘your zeal for your people’ and ‘you have enlarged the nation’ (26:11, 15) indicates that God’s covenant promises are also in view here. Those who take part in this city of salvation, however, include the dead, as corpses will rise and shout for joy (26:19).

Similarly, Daniel 12 looks ahead to the time when some will rise to everlasting life and others to shame and everlasting contempt. There will be judgment for some; while others, like Daniel, ‘at the end of the days’, will rise to receive their allotted inheritance (Dan. 12:1-3, 13). Those who will be delivered are those whose names are in ‘the book'; that is, those who are in a covenant relationship with God (11:32, 12:1).

In each case, the resurrection is bodily, is clearly God’s doing, is reserved for the end of the age and is associated with the onset of the age to come, the culmination of the promises of blessings for God’s people. Israel will be reunited, restored, forgiven and blessed with God’s presence. There was not, of course, an expectation that there would be any overlap of the ages. It was expected that, with the resurrection at the end and the onset of blessings for God’s people, there will be judgment for the wicked and the end of ‘the old age.’ This, we could say, was ‘the hope of Israel’.

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There are many who teach that Ezekiel 37 predicted the restoration of Israel as a nation on May 14, 1948. Yet the Apostles and the early followers of Jesus saw this Scripture fulfilled at Pentecost. Many also view Isaiah 66:8 (“Can a nation be brought forth in a day?”) as applying to Israel’s Independence Day in 1948. Yet Isaiah is clearly speaking in spiritual terms and the spiritual “sons of Zion” referred to by Isaiah can only refer to the true followers of Jesus who are citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem! The spiritual resurrection and rebirth of Israel did not occur in 1948, rather it occurred on the day of Pentecost in 33 AD!

The Apostle Peter was an eyewitness to this amazing event, when the Old Testament predictions given by Ezekiel, Isaiah and Joel, of the coming of the Spirit to Israel, marking the nation’s spiritual rebirth and spiritual resurrection, were fulfilled. Yes, indeed, a nation was born in a day! And here is how Peter described this new Spirit-filled nation:

“But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.”  (1 Peter 2:9-10)

For the early followers of Jesus the New Exodus path of salvation was a journey with a future destination, and not a point that was already arrived at, as God’s people heeded the call to come out of Babylon, making their way through the spiritual wilderness of this dark world and heading for the final promised land of the New Jerusalem. That is why Peter goes on to describe the citizens of God’s chosen nation as “sojourners and exiles” in this world.

Just as Ezekiel 37:24 predicted, the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL is right now in progress because the Davidic King now reigns from the heavenly Zion that is the final destination of restored Israel’s New Exodus! The enthronement of the Davidic King (Jesus) is acknowledged throughout the New Testament, and is emphasized by James, quoting from Amos 9:11-12, in Acts 15:16-18.

The RESTORATION OF ISRAEL has begun, but it is not yet complete. The spiritual resurrection of God’s nation has taken place, but the total resurrection of God’s people is still in the future. Even as Abraham looked to a promised land that is not of this world (Hebrews 11:10-16), we too look ahead to a promised land in the New Heaven and New Earth, which is the fulfillment of what Isaiah had to say about the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL in Isaiah 66:22.

Restored Israel is much bigger than what many of us have been led to believe. Yes, God keeps His promises, but He reserves the right to far exceed our expectations!

 

New Exodus Dialogues, Part 1

If you were to read the Old Testament alone, what would you conclude about the end of the story?

Genesis begins with the fall of mankind, and then only a few chapters later Abraham is brought into the story as the key player in the redemption of the world. The story of Abraham quickly evolves into the story of Israel, which becomes a nation under the direction and guidance of Moses. Yet it would seem that even the plan to redeem the world through Israel goes wrong near the end of the Old Testament, because we hear Isaiah and Jeremiah both pronouncing God’s judgment upon the divided kingdoms of Israel and Judah prior to the Assyrian and Babylonian captivities.

Yet the Old Testament does give us a picture of what the final result will be, not only for Israel but for all the peoples of the world. I submit to you that from the Old Testament we find that the redemption of the entire world is something that is predicted to be accomplished within God’s plan for the restoration of Israel.

Yes, the Old Testament story of the fall of man, ending with mankind’s ultimate redemption, culminates with the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL which is accomplished on a global scale through the grace and mercy of God in response to Israel’s heartfelt repentance.

This final and ultimate RESTORATION OF ISRAEL is predicted first by Moses in Deuteronomy 30:1-6. It was Moses who predicted that after Israel was scattered to the nations because of disobedience, if they turned back to God in repentance, then God would forgive them, gather them back to their land, and circumcise their hearts. Here Moses was predicting a New Exodus, an exodus not just from one nation (Egypt), but this time a global exodus from all the nations of the world.

The final RESTORATION OF ISRAEL is also predicted by Isaiah, even as he pronounced judgment on Israel during his lifetime and witnessed the Assyrian captivity. Isaiah 60-62 speaks of this ultimate restoration as well as the final two chapters of his prophetic message in Isaiah 65-66. Isaiah was very clear that the end of the age would culminate with the restoration of Israel as the climactic event for the world.

The prophet Jeremiah also predicted the final RESTORATION OF ISRAEL. His ministry was focused on the southern kingdom of Judah and he witnessed the Babylonian captivity. His prediction of seventy years of exile in Babylon is very well known, but it must also be understood that his predictions for the ultimate end-time restoration of Israel go far beyond the return from exile that was undertaken by Ezra, Nehemiah, Haggai, Zechariah, Joshua and Zerubbabel. Jeremiah had much more in mind when he predicted the regathering and restoration of Israel as the culminating end-time event (read Jer. 23 and Jer. 30-33), which would be accomplished in tandem with the catastrophic fall of Babylon described in Jeremiah 50-51.

Daniel and Ezekiel were prophets who ministered during the Babylonian exile. Daniel received a prophecy in 9:24-27 that speaks specifically of Jerusalem and God’s holy people that culminates with desolation and destruction (v.27). Daniel’s story concludes with a description of Jerusalem as the capital city of the Antichrist (11:45), which would involve the purging and refining of God’s people, culminating with the resurrection (12:2). Certainly Daniel viewed the climax of history as the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL.

Ezekiel’s predictions end the same way. The last ten chapters of Ezekiel, from 39:25 to 48:35, are all focused on God’s great end-time restoration of Israel where Ezekiel is given a glimpse of a great temple where all the nations of the world worship and where even Gentiles serve as priests. Another important point about Ezekiel is that he was shown a vision of the Shekinah Glory of the Lord leaving the Temple (Ezekiel 10, at a time prior to the Babylonian destruction of the Temple), yet he was also shown a vision of the Glory of God returning to the end-time Temple in Ezekiel 43. For Ezekiel we can be sure that the end of the story culminates with the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL.

The minor prophets of Hosea, Joel, Amos, Micah, Zechariah and Malachi, etc., also viewed the end of history as the glorious RESTORATION OF ISRAEL. Zechariah and Malachi both prophesied at a time after many of the exiles had returned from Babylon, yet they did not presume to say that the prophesies of Israel’s restoration had been fulfilled. No indeed! They still looked forward to this great move of God, and this attitude prevailed even to the time of Jesus. Yes, the seventy years of Babylonian captivity had been completed and the captives had been released, but so much more had not been accomplished, including the return of the Glory of God to the Temple and, more importantly, the heart-felt repentance of Israel that Moses had given as the crucial pre-condition for God’s restoration of Israel from the nations.

The final Old Testament writer was Malachi, and he yearned for the end-times restoration of Israel. Malachi was given a revelation that God would shortly begin the process of restoration, but with it Malachi was also given a WARNING! He wrote in expectation of the restoration of Israel (which is what all the people wanted), but he also warned the people that they needed to repent because when God appeared to begin the process He would also appear as a judge, and many of Israel’s sinners would perish as the process of restoration was put into motion:

“Behold, I send my messenger, and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts. But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the LORD. Then the offering of Judah and Jerusalem will be pleasing to the LORD as in the days of old and as in former years.
(Malachi 3:1-4)

When we turn to the pages of the New Testament we see that the prophecies of Isaiah 40:1-4 and Malachi 3:1 were fulfilled in the preaching of John the Baptist. If we can truly recognize this then we can see that John the Baptist’s ministry, from beginning to end, was all about the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL. He was the one sent by God to prepare Israel for the appearance of the Lord who would enter into history to bring about Israel’s restoration.

This truth about John the Baptist, which is rather uncontroversial, leads directly into some very controversial questions about Jesus of Nazareth, the One pointed to by John the Baptist.

If all of the Old Testament prophets focused on the restoration of Israel, and if John the Baptist focused on the restoration of Israel, and if we know that all the Old Testament and John the Baptist pointed directly to Jesus of Nazareth, then how can we NOT conclude that the entire ministry of Jesus Christ is simply all about the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL, from beginning to end, and even NOW as He sits at the right hand of the Father in heaven?

Just take a look at the two final chapters of the New Testament in Revelation 21-22. What do we see there? We see a beautiful and glorious picture of the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL, named as the New Jerusalem, with the gates of the city named after the twelve tribes of Israel and the foundation stones named after the twelve Apostles.

Yes, I think that both Old and New Testaments agree that the story of redemption culminates with the RESTORATION OF ISRAEL, which is a process that was begun about 2000 years ago by Jesus of Nazareth, and has been continuing uninterrupted ever since then.