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by Mark Robinson
As the sands of time unfalteringly continue their flow, so is the history of the Jewish people. Week after week, year after year, century after century the people of Israel march on. No Pharaohs or Fuhrers, Crusaders or Muslims, persecutions or pogroms could wipe them out. Greater nations have arisen. Stronger powers have graced the world scene. Jews have been beaten, dispersed, hated, denounced, segregated, and killed. Yet they are still with us!
It is impossible to understand the Jewish people apart from their God. To attempt to make sense of their history and survival absent a divine orchestration is an insurmountable hurdle. Removing God from the understanding of this people produces a perplexing riddle, a vexing contradiction in the history of nations, a virtual unsolvable Rubik’s Cube. It is God who has called them, kept them, and will deliver them into the fullness of all His promises. Christian history, though, is littered with men who have taught that Israel is no longer God’s elect nation. It began in the early centuries of the church with the church fathers and continues today through the teaching of replacement theology. The following quote of Justin Martyr, church father in the second century, captures the essence of belief of those who hold to a replacement theology view.
“Christians had become ‘the true spiritual Israel’ because the Jews had despised and forsaken the law of God and God’s holy covenant and had hardened their hearts, refusing to see and perceive the will of God given to them through the prophets.” Anti-Semitism and Early Christianity, Lee Martin McDonald, 1993, page 223
Through the centuries men like Origen, Augustine, Chrysostom, and Calvin, among many others held this theological position. In recent evangelical history men such as O.Palmer Robertson, Gary Burge of Wheaton College, Loraine Boettner, Stephen Sizer, and Hank Hanegraff have taught that God is through with national Israel and has replaced Israel with the church.
In March, 2012 Bethlehem Bible College in Bethlehem, Israel is hosting a conference where dozens of U.S. theologians, ministries, and others plan to convene. In preparation for the conference the “Bethlehem Call” manifesto has been released. One writer states, “The Bethlehem Call defines Israel as an ‘illegal regime’ and a ‘crime against humanity’, it promotes ‘international boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns’ against Israel, labels the more neutral Churches as ‘accomplices in crimes against humanity’ and attacks Christian Zionism as ‘a crime and sin as defying the core of the Gospel’.” One of the key distinctive of this meeting is the emphasis on replacement theology and is believed and taught by many of the scheduled speakers.
Are these men correct in their understanding? Is Israel no longer God’s elect nation? If God’s promises to Israel are null and void, what about His promises to believers? Can God abrogate His promises to believers as these men say He did with national Israel? If national Israel is no longer God’s elect, are the veracity of Scripture and the character of God called into question?
ISRAEL: CHOSEN OF GOD
“For thou art an holy people unto the LORD thy God: the LORD thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth.” Deuteronomy 7:6
“But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend. Thou whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, and called thee from the chief men thereof, and said unto thee, Thou art my servant; I have chosen thee, and not cast thee away.” Isaiah 41:8-9
The Scriptures are abundantly clear that God chose Israel for a special purpose. No other nation can make this claim. In fact God, through the prophet Amos, speaking of Israel, said, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth…” Amos 3:2.
Israel would be His chosen people for a national purpose. The type of Israel’s choosing is physical and national. It has nothing to do with individual Jewish people going to heaven because they are Jewish. It is national in the sense of what would come through the people of Israel as a nation, and physical in the sense that there are concrete, physical promises that will be accomplished through this people.
God’s calling and purpose for Israel is still operative today. His promises are irrevocable as we are told in Romans 11:29, “For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.” Israel has been chosen by God. And since the nation is chosen it obviously must be for a purpose. What is that purpose and how does it affect Jew and Gentile?
ISRAEL: CHOSEN FOR A PURPOSE
The Bible contains at least three basic purposes for God’s choosing of the Jewish people. The influence of these purposes would not be just nationally, intended only for the benefit of the Jewish people, but would be international in scope. They would impact the entire world. Dr. Aaron Kligerman’s comments are helpful:
“…we know that Israel is a people whom God set aside unto Himself for a specific purpose, and that the inheritance of the nations are ordered in relation to Israel. Israel is called to be the heart of the nations, and the heart of Israel is her King Messiah, our Lord Jesus Christ. This gracious design of calling, blessing and protecting Israel and making her a blessing to the world was revealed to Moses…”
One of the main themes throughout Scripture is the desire of God that He be manifest to the nations of this world. God intended His Glory to be shared with the entire world. With the many pretenders to His throne and the false claims to deity among the peoples of the world, God desired that He would be known among the inhabitants of the earth.
One of the three purposes of Israel was to fulfill this calling. She was to be the light of His truth to a world in darkness. At no time did God intend for His love to be relegated to one group of people. The embracing of the God of Israel was never to be kept to one individual or a small group of people. He was to be shared by those people that embraced Him with all the people of the world. The modern day pride of the Jewish people that they are not a “proselytizing” people is foreign to the Bible. From the days of Abraham the God of Israel was to be actively shared with the citizens of this world.
Consider Isaiah’s mention of Israel as a witness of the one true God. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, and my servant whom I have chosen: that ye may know and believe me, and understand that I am he: before me there was no God formed, neither shall there be after me. I, even I, am the LORD; and beside me there is no saviour. I have declared, and have saved, and I have shewed, when there was no strange god among you: therefore ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD, that I am God” Isaiah 43:10-12. It seems that Israel was to share the truth of the God of Israel with the peoples of the world.
Arthur Kac speaks to the primacy of this calling for the nation of Israel.
“As far back as two thousand or even three thousand years ago, the Bible taught that universal justice and human brotherhood will come when God will be made supreme in the hearts and affairs of men and nations. To declare this message to the nations was the divine purpose in the creation of Israel. Apart from this mission, Israel’s distinct existence has no meaning. And in the light of this mission Jewish history, past and present, can be best understood.”2
We live in a world of shifting sand of ideological thought. The foundations of our society are based on the illusionary concepts of evolutionary teachings and the amoral, at best, teachings of secular humanism. Homes and lives are shipwrecked because of these twin pillars of educational bankruptcy. The world cries for a solid word, a message of hope that doesn’t change in a changing world.
With the entrance of sin into the world through Adam’s transgression in the Garden of Eden mankind has become thoroughly degenerate. Left to his own man has no hope of arriving at answers in this sin sick world. He is in desperate need of a message he can trust.
Into this vacuum has come a message of hope – a standard that will not change – truth, yesterday, today, and forever. God recognized the need for an objective standard by which men could have an infallible rule of life and practice. For this purpose God raised up the Jewish people. They would be the repository of God’s word. They would be the human instruments through which God would communicate his love and truth for the humanity of planet Earth.
Hear what Romans 3:1-2 says on this matter. “What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision? Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.” God committed His Word to the Jewish people. He used the Jewish people to write the only written communication this world has from God.
When the head of the human race, Adam, made his disastrous choice of disobeying the command of his Creator, his progeny would be sentenced to a life of heartache, toil, disease, and the accompanying pains of sin. Most importantly, relationship and fellowship with God would be short-circuited.
The door to the possibility of man ever again communing with God would not be shut though. God determined and planned to send a Savior into the world to redeem us back from the slave market of sin in which we had fallen.
For God to accomplish His plan, He set apart a people through whom He would accomplish His goal. Abram, or Abraham as he would eventually be called, and his descendants would be the center of God’s redemptive plan for the world. History, from God’s perspective, would be focused around the Jewish people. Ultimately, the redemptive history of Israel would reach its pinnacle in the Crown Jewel of the nation, the Messiah, when He died for our sins and rose from the grave.
God’s promise of the Redeemer would come through Abraham’s son Isaac (Genesis 17:19) and his grandson Jacob (Genesis 28:10-14). Jacob would have twelve sons who would become the twelve tribes of Israel. The promise of the Redeemer would come through the tribe of Judah (Genesis 49:10), and the family of David (Psalm 89) would be the blessed family of that tribe through whom Messiah, our Redeemer, would come. God’s redemptive plan for Jew and Gentile would come through the Jewish people.
ISRAEL’S CALLING IS IRREVOCABLE
Israel is still God’s elect! This does not mean that He doesn’t have other elect groups (such as the ecclesia, His church), but God’s calling of Israel is secure. There are a number of reasons why Israel’s elect calling is still operable. Here are three.
1. Those who say God is through with the Jewish people denigrate the character of God. Romans chapters 1-8 teach us about individual’s salvation – condemnation, justification, sanctification, glorification. God’s promise to those who have been saved, justified, and that we will ultimately go to heaven, glorified, is based on His character and promise. In Romans 9-11 we learn about God’s promises to Israel. The thrust of these 3 chapters is that His promises to Israel are just as secure as His promises to saved people. God will protect, preserve, and bring to conclusion His plan for the nation of Israel, just as He will for saved individuals.
2. The fulfillment of all the purposes of God choosing the Jewish people remains to be realized in the future. God confirmed His choosing of Israel through unconditional covenants that won’t be fulfilled until Jesus returns at the end of the Tribulation. Ezekiel 36:19-28 speaks directly to this. In this passage God says He will perform what He has promised “for His holy names sake.” This passage in Ezekiel tells us that the Jewish people were sinful and rebellious but God will accomplish what He has promised because of His character and faithfulness.
3. The destruction of the Jewish people, and God’s promises to them, require the destruction of the universe. No less than 3 times is this stated by Jeremiah (31:35-36; 33:20-21; 25-26). For those who say God has annulled His promises to the Jewish people it requires they first destroy the universe. Just as it is completely impossible for man to destroy the universe, so it is completely impossible for God to negate His promise to the Jewish people.
TRUTH TO PONDER
Why do so many in the Christian world hold to a Replacement Theology view that denigrates the character of God, disannuls His promises to Israel, and can result in anti-Semitic thoughts and, too many times, actions?
It is impossible to answer why in every instance, especially when these views are held by born again Christians who say they love the Word of God and base their beliefs upon it. But, it is clear to me that one basic reason comes to the forefront. This is another attempt of Satan in his war against God to destroy God’s plan. Those who hold this view are unwitting, at best, tools of Satan in his war against God’s truth.
I challenge all who hold to the unbiblical position of Replacement theology to repent of their position, embrace the truth of God’s unconditional calling and election of national Israel, and to repudiate all who continue to hold this Satanic doctrine that denigrates the character of our wonderful, faithful, holy God!
1. Bernard B. Gair, The Gospel and the Jew: Some Collected Writings of Aaron J. Kligerman, (King Brothers, Inc., 1969), p. 78
2. Arthur W. Kac, The Spiritual Dilemma of the Jewish People: It’s Cause and Cure, (Moody Press, 1963), p. 10.
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