have a Divine Right to Palestine?
A partial response to
and a partial review of
The Coming Apocalypse
A Study of Replacement Theology vs.
God’s Faithfulness in the End-Times
by Dr. Renald E.
Published by The
Friends of Israel, Bellmawr, NJ
USA © 2009
Rev. David H. Linden
Presbyterian Church, Las Cruces,
Sincere Christian friends express to me their sober concern
that we are ignoring or even resisting the plan of God if we do not support the
State of Israel and its claim to the land
of Palestine. They are
convinced that the Scriptures make very plain that Israel
has the right to the Palestine,
even beyond its current borders. This is asserted based on God’s covenant with
Abraham. They are persuaded that when God promised it to Abraham, He promised
it to them. After all, they are Israel!
The “to them” is very important in this discussion.
I disagree with this viewpoint, a view widely held in
evangelical circles. Perhaps I should have said ardently held! A dear brother recently
gave me the book by Renald Showers, The Coming Apocalypse. The paper
that follows is drawn mainly from my response to my friend. I now make
available to all my Biblical reasoning on this subject. The Coming Apocalypse
insists that those of my persuasion are wrong. The author and a number of
others have labeled our position as “Replacement Theology” – though Dr. Showers
never gives an example of anyone advocating the notion that the church replaces Israel in God’s agenda. We are
guilty of a view we do not hold! The communication back and forth has not been
of high quality.
I urge my fellow Christians to weigh carefully Bible
passages which cause many brothers like me to view the members of God’s
believing church as genuine citizens of God’s Israel. Further, we ought to
consider Israelites who reject Christ as apostates to their heritage. They are not
beneficiaries of the promises to Abraham as long as they are in unbelief. Their
presence in Palestine (or Judea and Samaria) is not a divine
fulfillment of a promise to Abraham. It is a huge mistake to consider those
descended from Abraham as legitimate heirs of promises to Abraham if they
reject Abraham’s God. If they do not believe they are not Abraham’s children. “…Not all who
are descended from Israel
belong to Israel,
and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring…” (Romans 9:6,7).
Now there, you have some idea of what the issue is. I do not
expect that after reading this that all my friends will agree with me. They
might, I hope, have a slightly better idea of why some of us do not embrace the
view that the current nation of Israel
has a divine right to Palestine.
Here again are some key elements in my response:
o All who believe in Christ have become citizens in God’s Israel. There
is only one Israel
which they enter as fellow-citizens. That identity is whatever and whoever God
defines as Israel.
today is composed of the children of Abraham who share his faith in the God of
Israel, the true and living God. This Lord God is the Father, the Son and the
Holy Spirit. The God of Abraham is not
recognized by the State of Israel.
o Israelis who do not believe are apostates who have deserted the
faith of Abraham.
o Those who do not believe in our Lord have rejected their
spiritual heritage and therefore cannot have any of its benefits as long as
they refuse to believe in Christ.
o When they do believe they will receive benefits which far
outstrip possession of a small piece of land less than 9,000 square miles in
Weakness #1: The Book misstates the view it seeks to
One of the weaknesses in The Coming Apocalypse is that Dr.
Showers does not present the view he seeks to refute in a way which is
recognizable to anyone supposedly holding it. The way to refute a view is to be
certain to deal with the actual view one is disagreeing with. He needs to show
that we actually adopt a replacement
view of Israel.
He cannot do so, but neither does he try. He just assumes that replacement
theology is our position. Whether or not we really believe in the replacement of
is a matter he should check out before writing such a book.
I do not believe that God is in any way unfaithful to His
promises to Abraham. Of course, God cannot be unfaithful. The issue is: who does
God indicate will benefit from His faithful promises? I do not believe that He
has replaced Israel with the church.
Rather we have been brought into God’s Israel, while unbelieving Jews have
departed from it. In a more stern way of
putting it: for their rejection of Christ they have been expelled by the Lord
from His holy nation. I refer not to the very limited number of Jews who
pursued Jesus’ crucifixion, but those who have rejected Him by rejecting the
gospel message about Him. The branches of unbelieving Israel have
been broken off so that they are no longer in the olive tree (Romans 11). When
they believe, and only when they believe, Jews and Israelis will be brought
the people of God, among those believing Gentiles already grafted in. The Lord Who
had made great promises to them did not spare them when they rejected His
gracious word and His Beloved Son. Unbelieving religious leaders were left out
of God’s kingdom while repentant prostitutes entered (Matthew 21:31,32).
Gentiles will sit down with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, while those, whose
privilege and spiritual heritage it was to be children of Abraham, end up in
hell (Matthew 8:8-12). We should have been accused of “inclusion theology”.
For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ
Jesus that are in Judea. For you suffered the
same things from your own countrymen as they did from the Jews, who killed both
the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out, and displease God and oppose
all mankind by hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be
saved – so as always to fill up the measure of their sins. But God's wrath has
come upon them at last! (1Thessalonians
wrote that, but there is nothing anti-Semitic in his heart as Romans 9:1-3
shows. Nevertheless, he is
uncompromising in defending God’s wrath. God’s rejection of rebellious sons is
not God breaking His word. He has not been unfaithful to one Israelite in hell.
They were the ones unfaithful. If we deny Him, He will deny us (2 Timothy 2:12).
Instead, God remains faithful to Israel and has, as is His right,
invited in people off the street when those first invited failed to appear at
the wedding banquet. See the parable in Matthew 22. If the modern nation of Israel
rejects Christ, and it does, it has no claim on the blessings of God or on any
element of His promise to Abraham, including the land. The promises have never
been abrogated and will not be. The original recipients of those promises were
the Jews. In modern Israel,
their offspring has so far declined God’s condition, and so they forfeit the
covenant benefits. Therefore we should not say the land is theirs by divine
right. Stiff-necked rejecters have been booted, while the unexpected have been
brought in (Isaiah 52:15, Romans 15:21).
is faithful to Israel
as He defines it. We cannot let the current nation Israel founded in 1948, an apostate
nation, define for us what God has in mind when He speaks in His Word of
Israel. We should not assume that the nation or people who claim that title
have the right to it. Israel,
in Biblical terms, is the people of God, the real God, the Holy Trinity, the
God of Abraham. Many Israelis do not even profess themselves as believers in a
personal God at all, and no faith of any kind is required to be a citizen of Israel.
This debate should be settled by the way Scripture presents and defines Israel. All of God’s promises (including a return to
the land) are in Christ. There are no exceptions. “All the promises of God find their Yes in him” [Christ] (2 Corinthians 1:20). Thus when the modern state of Israel rejects
Christ they reject the promises united to Him, which means all of them.
not the view of anyone I know who holds to covenant theology that any promises
to Abraham are in any way retracted, so that Israel would be replaced by the
church. Our view is that a vast multitude of Israelites have gone to perdition;
they have left Israel.
Only a remnant chosen by grace has remained, but that remnant did remain and
that is what true Israel
is, those who have remained plus those who are added. Of the others, God can
say, and He has, “You are Lo-Ammi, Not my people” (Hosea 1:9).
said they are not all Israel
are of Israel
(Romans 9:6). That is a sentence to chew as we see God’s plan unfolding. What
did Paul mean by Israel?
Those who are Israel in the
flesh, but not in faith, are not real Israel. Failing to accept that
simple truth is the primary error in Dr. Showers’ book. Anyone who believes is
united to Christ and is therefore included among the children of Abraham. “And if you
are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise” (Galatians
3:29). It is that simple: Those who are Christ’s are heirs, and those who are
not Christ’s are not. That is the point the God of Israel had Paul make.
Christians are Abraham’s offspring while the people of Israel in the Eastern
Mediterranean are not unless they believe in Christ. In God’s
definition, a true Jew is one inwardly (Romans 2:28,29). A Jew’s biological link
to Abraham does not determine his status. Jesus warned rebellious Jews that God
could make children of Abraham out of stones, if He so chose: “And do not
presume to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father,' for I tell you,
God is able from these stones to raise up children for Abraham” (Matthew 3:9). A person could be the offspring
of Abraham and yet have the devil as his father (John 8:37-44).
Weakness #2: The Book ignores relevant texts
great weakness in this book is that the author does not address the specific
Biblical passages which bring us to the view of Israel we have adopted. Had he done
so, he would have encountered great difficulty holding to his views. Yes, we
have a different view, but if we are wrong, Dr. Showers should show how we are
mistaken in at least some of the many Scriptures which lead us to our
conclusions. I will now review some of them.
1. John 10 In John 9 the unbelieving leaders of Israel
rejected a new believer in the Lord, the man born blind. Then Jesus spoke of Himself as the Good
Shepherd, and how He cares for His flock, and even how one becomes a member of
it. The man born blind believed (John 9:38); the leaders did not. They had cast
(John 9:35) a true Israelite (John
1:47) out of their flock, but the
Good Shepherd admitted him to His.
The rejecters of Christ remained in their guilt (John 9:41). The Good Shepherd is different from the
abusive shepherds of John 9. Their definition of Israel explicitly included the
requirement to reject Christ (John 9:22). We should not make the same mistake. Dr.
Showers allows a nation to be viewed as Israel when it rejects Christ, the
Son of David.
John10, speaking of us who are not descended from Abraham, the Lord said He had
other sheep which were not of that
sheepfold. He thereby predicted that salvation would come to Gentiles, and it
has. But such believers do not constitute a second fold. Whoever believes
enters the only one there is. So it is one
flock and one Shepherd. Israel
is not replaced. There is simply no other legitimate fold than the one
consistent with the “one flock, one Shepherd” doctrine the Lord announced. His
flock (people) or fold (place) is cleansed of unbelievers, and it has been
greatly enlarged as Gentiles are added to it by faith (Romans 4:11,12). (Isaiah
54 takes on the same theme of an enlarged tent, one that encompasses Gentile
nations.) The bad shepherds defined Israel
their way; in John 9 the man born blind was expected to share their unbelief.
In John 10 Christ defined His Israel in terms of faith.
2. Ephesians 2:11-22 Gentiles who did not know the God of
Israel were not part of it. They were alienated from the commonwealth of Israel.
They were strangers to the covenants of promise. They had no hope; they were without
God in the world. Their problem was that they were separated from Christ.
Once they believed, Gentiles, though far off at one time,
have been brought near by the blood of Christ. Because of the cross they too
have access to God. The message of peace came to Gentiles as well as Jews. When
the gospel is accepted, Gentile believers are no longer strangers and aliens
from the commonwealth
of Israel but citizens in
it. Note that I am not saying in any way that Israel
has been replaced, but rather that God
has added a multitude of non-Jews
(i.e., not biological Jews) to Israel.
I am now a citizen of God’s Israel,
the singular household of God, since Scripture does not present us with two.
How could we ever be united to the King of Israel (and we have been united to
Christ) and not be citizens of His kingdom? We cannot have Christ as our
Husband and still be aliens in His household. He has only one, the household of
faith (Galatians 6:10).
goes further; he says we former Gentiles are members with our Jewish brothers
of a household built on a foundation with Christ as its cornerstone. The
apostle refers to Isaiah 28:16 where we are told that this temple has its
foundation in Zion: “… thus says the Lord
GOD, ‘Behold, I am the one who has laid as a foundation in Zion, a stone, a
tested stone, a precious cornerstone, of a sure foundation: 'Whoever believes
will not be in haste.'…” I have
never heard a dispensationalist point out that the church is God's temple with
its foundation in Zion.
It does not fit with their doctrine.
Ephesians 3:6 we learn that Gentiles are “fellow heirs, members of the same body,
and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel. ” “Members
of the same body” (one body, note, not an additional one) means this new temple
has Gentile members! The building is a holy temple composed of believers
elected from every class and race and place. The church is not distinct from
that temple with its foundation in Zion.
that temple, the new Israel,
the remnant kept alive, the surviving Israel
(Isaiah 1:9 & Romans 9:29) when God’s axe brought faithless Jerusalem to destruction
in 70 AD (Luke 3:9).
as an acorn becomes an oak, the small nation of Israel in the Old Testament has
expanded so that it is now in every nation rather than one. (See Isaiah 54:3).
The Holy One of Israel is now called the God of the whole earth (Isaiah 54:5).
Oaks and acorns do not look alike, but in God’s surprising development a
transformation occurs. We do not believe that oaks replace acorns; they simply
come from them.
3. Hosea 2
& Romans 9:23-26
Through Hosea, the Lord promised He would call and bring His
wayward people back to faithfulness to Him. As idolaters they were not in heart
His people when they were confessing false gods. The Apostle Paul (whose
theology was from Christ, according to Galatians 1:11,12) added to Hosea’s
prediction that this calling of Israel
back from being “not my people” was a
calling extended to Gentiles as well. Here again Paul made Jew and Gentile
together to be members of the people of God. (Compare Hosea 2:13-23 with Romans
9:23-26.) Hosea does not mention the inclusion of Gentiles, but the Apostle
taught that the people of God in Hosea’s prophecy, i.e., Israel, would include believing
4. 1 Peter 2 These Biblical connections run all over
the place. Peter says that God’s temple/God’s church is now being built of
living stones. Peter also quotes Isaiah 28 and interpreted that text the same
way Paul handled it in Ephesians 2. The church is God’s new temple. Peter wrote
after Pentecost (in the “church age”) and describes the church in 1 Peter 2:9 as
race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession…” Peter
used words spoken to Israel
in Exodus 19:5,6. The church has not replaced the holy nation of the Old
Testament; it is its continuation. Jerusalem would not live under Christ’s protection so
their house was left desolate (Matthew 23:37,38), and all that remained (the
remnant again) is the household of God which Paul refers to in Ephesians 2, one
with Gentiles admitted to citizenship in Israel. Note that both Paul and
Peter interpreted Isaiah 28 to mean that the church
of Christ has its foundation in Zion.
5. 2 Corinthians 7:1 After quoting a number of promises made to
in chapter 6, Paul in 2 Corinthians 7 opens by saying to the Corinthian church,
have these promises…” Writing to a church with Gentiles in it, Paul
uses “we” because all believers have been granted title to Israel’s promises. My
dispensational teachers stressed that promises made to Israel were not made to the church.
Somehow they missed the texts that taught the opposite.
6. Galatians 4 and Hebrews 12 In Galatians 4:21-31 there are two sons
(Isaac & Ishmael) from two women (Hagar & Sarah) who correspond to two
Jerusalems. One Jerusalem,
the visible one on the map of that day, was in spiritual bondage. There is
the one above with Christ, which is not visible to human observation. In
Hebrews 12:22-24, it is also called the heavenly Zion and the church of the firstborn. Only
one of these Jerusalems is the mother of us all. That Jerusalem includes Gentiles and excludes Jews
who do not believe. The only body of believers there is is the church, and Paul
indicates by his quotation in Galatians 4:26,27 that Isaiah 54 refers to the Jerusalem above. We are
part of it by faith in Christ. Some might say that that is replacement, but it
is a simple matter of distinguishing the true Jerusalem from the apostate one.
7. Jeremiah 31:31-34: The new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah A new covenant was promised. It would be made
with the house of Israel.
Covenant language is retained (I will be their God, and they shall be my people.)
This new covenant had two key benefits: a new heart (sanctification) and
forgiveness of sins (justification). Dispensational teachers must really struggle
to maintain their Israel
vs. the church teaching here, because we all know that the Lord Jesus referred
to the cup in the communion service as the new covenant. "This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my
blood” (Luke 22:20). But that new covenant was to be made with the house of
Gentile Christians are properly admitted to the Lord’s Table, where they
rejoice with members of the same body in the new covenant made with Israel, and
this new covenant includes them. Israel has not been replaced but
who is this Israel?
It would be those who were there at the table with Him, the apostles of His
church. Instead of twelve tribes, the remnant would be led by apostles, twelve
in number, to show continuity and solidarity with Israel of old. Just as apostate
Judas was removed from being one of the twelve, so too, apostate Israel would be removed from true Israel,
but believing Israelites such as Paul (Romans 11:1) would remain. God has not
rejected His people, not one soul. He simply rejected those who were not His
people any longer. He has preserved real Israel and enlarged it.
ministry of Christ’s first coming (see Isaiah 9:1,2 with Matthew 4:12-16)
resulted in a nation enlarged, “You have enlarged the nation” (Isaiah
9:3). Judaism’s rejection of Christ greatly reduced the nation through the
Roman slaughter of Jerusalem
in 70 AD. How then was the nation enlarged? – by admission into the true nation
all who believe. Peter was right to refer to all who believe as a holy nation.
time we sit at the Lord’s Table, we are marked as those who have entered into
the new covenant made with the house of Israel. That covenant was neither
promised nor made with any other body but Israel. We participate in the
communion service because we are authorized by the Lord to do so. God has
brought us into that promised covenant. He considers us as His people too,
while those who reject Christ are not the house of Israel. We should ask, in light of
how the Lord referred to Jeremiah 31 and the new covenant in Luke 22, what is
this house of Israel?
Who is in it? Just as all redeemed persons are entitled by grace to eat at His
table, Gentiles who are in Israel’s
covenant have become His people.
Corinthians 3:6, Paul, the minister of the gospel, refers to himself as a
minister of the new covenant. Jeremiah 31 is quoted or referred to in other
places such as Hebrews 8, and our Lord Jesus is the Mediator of it (Hebrews
12). Paul knew very well that it was a promise to Israel, yet he applied it to the
church. In doing so he was not in error.
He knew the new covenant is the blessing of the gospel extended to us.
8. Jeremiah 31:35-40:
The promise of Israel’s
continuity Jeremiah 31
continues in its very next words by promising that the offspring of Israel
would never cease to be a nation (verses 35-37). Dr. Showers does quote some of
Jeremiah 31. That chapter adds that the city of Jerusalem would be rebuilt and, note
carefully, “… It shall not be uprooted or
overthrown anymore forever.” In
other words, Israel
is secure in the promises of God, and it would have unbroken continuity. We
then must ask how the city of Jerusalem
could be destroyed in 70 AD in such a severe judgment that it had no survivors
at all. The believing remnant knew from Christ when to flee the city (Matthew
24:15-22). God had said in Jeremiah that Israel would never cease to be a
nation. That the secular state of Israel was founded in 1948 admits a
great break in the nation’s existence, a very long one – almost 19 centuries. Jerusalem was uprooted. No city in all of history
has been overthrown the way Jerusalem
was. This was a slaughter of Jews by the Lord Himself, using the Romans as His
tool. (Compare Isaiah 10). Jeremiah 31:38-40 promised that God’s city would be
rebuilt, and it was after the Babylonian captivity. But the promise of Jeremiah
was that God’s city would be rebuilt never to be destroyed again. It would be “sacred to the LORD. It shall not be
uprooted or overthrown anymore forever.”
then can such explicit and detailed assurance of continuance as a nation, of
safety for the people, and invincibility for the city fit with what actually
happened? The answer is that all of God’s promises find their “yes” in Christ
and only in Christ (2 Corinthians 1:20). The city would find protection only
under His wings (See Luke 13:34; and 19:41-44). But the nation of Israel, like
Esau, threw away their birthright, their promised protection, and their Lord
Who desired to shelter them. Jesus said that the stones of the temple would not
remain one on another (Matthew 24:2). The promise in Jeremiah 31 guaranteed standing
walls. That old Jerusalem was uprooted proves
that it was no longer the city of God.
The promise like all the benefits of the new covenant applies only to the city
that accepts the Savior. That city is the New Jerusalem, of which we in Christ
are members already (Galatians 4:26 & Hebrews 12:22). The City of God has for walls only
salvation (Isaiah 26:1).
9. Psalm 87 Here we find Egypt
(for Rahab is poetic for Egypt)
and Babylon, two fierce oppressors of Israel.
The Philistines were an internal pest within Israel’s boundaries and a constant
threat. King Saul died in battle with them. Then we read of Tyre
in Phoenicia, the source of
Baal worship entering and corrupting Israel. Lastly, there is Cush,
a distant nation of fierce warriors (Isaiah 18:2). In Psalm 87, the city of God receives these
assorted enemies as if they were native born. God, the builder of His Zion,
includes them. He is pleased to have them “among those who know me.” This is
the kind of glorious graciousness being shown to those Gentiles. Paul liked to
speak of God’s grace in choosing Gentiles as fellow heirs with elect Israelites
(Ephesians 1:6 & 3:6). The Lord
records these aliens “as born in Zion”.
In this way the Most High establishes His nation. The city God founded on Zion contains Gentiles,
included and recorded with the same rights as those native born. He graciously
tampered with Zion’s
Department of Vital Statistics, and no one may overturn His decision. Psalm 87
helps us understand Israel
as God defines it.
inclusion of Gentiles irked many Jews as in Acts 13:44-48. Messianic Jews today
should be challenged not to behave as their forefathers by defining Israel
in such a way that it refers only to the biological children of Abraham. In
Matthew 20:1-16 those who were early at work in the vineyard felt abused by the
master’s generosity to those who arrived late. Any definition of Israel
smaller than God’s diminishes the grace of God and thereby displeases Him
greatly. This sin needs to stop. The
brothers at Friends of Israel should take this to heart.
A Summary of the Nine Texts
therefore assert from a wide array of Scriptures that God has not replaced Israel.
He retained in it all true believers and added to it a vast number of new ones.
The Jerusalem of heaven is our real mother, not
the divided city of strife in Palestine.
We drink the cup of the new covenant in Jesus’ blood, which covenant was first
announced only to Israel.
We may do so, because we are eternally united to Christ the King of Israel. We
are His bride, and as His own we are now part of the holy nation over which He
reigns. In Christ we have become genuine children of Abraham, no longer aliens,
no longer strangers, but fellow-citizens in the commonwealth
of Israel, with new birth certificates
that say we were born in Zion.
The Christian Church has its foundation in Zion. Christ has added other sheep to the
flock and fold of Israel,
but there is one flock only and no other. So the fold of Israel is His
church. In having Christ we have everything, including admission to His people,
while unbelieving Israel in blindness has lost all until that day when the Lord
opens their eyes again and makes them true Israelites by faith in Christ. (Isaiah
54, Hosea 2, Galatians 4, Jeremiah 31, Luke 22, 1 Peter 2, Galatians 3,
Ephesians 2, Psalm 87, Isaiah 28, John 10, Romans 11, John1, Romans 2)
Dr Showers has committed the chief transgression which makes
any work unscholarly. I say this because those he disagrees with can justly
claim that he has misrepresented our position.
But there is more: On the back cover, Dr. Ryrie calls this book a
rebuttal. He should not. By not dealing with the Biblical reasoning of those he
seeks to correct, Dr. Showers never engages in a real rebuttal. The subtitle of
the book is “A Study of Replacement Theology vs. God’s Faithfulness in the End
Times”. The book claims that covenant theology has adopted replacement
theology, but it does not study
covenant theology; it barely touches upon it. The only way to have a proper
debate is to face squarely the viewpoint being opposed. This he never even
begins. In the end of his book it lists the Scriptures he refers to
(pp.116-118). His one mention of Jeremiah 31:37 does not reply to the problem I
say he has with that chapter. But he deals with none of the nine Scriptures
I have brought up in this article.
The Coming Apocalypse is an unconvincing book. It may please those
already committed to his view. It is a book that might convince those not
familiar with the Bible.
reference to Leviticus 26 on p. 66 and its application to modern Israel
26 is a vital text to consider. Beginning with v.14, the chapter warns of
dreadful consequences if Israel
will not listen. The modern nation Israel does not listen. One result
is that the Lord will devastate their land. But, the good news is that if they
will confess their iniquity (v.40), the Lord will remember His covenant with
them (v.42), and that includes the land. Israel has not confessed their sin.
Yet for all their terrible resistance to repentance the Lord promises that He
will not break covenant with them (v.44). My concern is that Showers quotes
only v.44 about the Lord not breaking covenant. But, and this is a big but,
there is no mention in the entire book that I can recall which admits that for Israel
to enjoy covenant blessings they must repent. God does not promise them the
land while they are in rebellion. Throughout the Bible a return to the land was
a benefit that came from a return to the Lord, as in Isaiah 35:8-10. They lost
the land because of sin, and it will not be restored until sin is confessed.
many dispensationalists are in the awkward position of lending moral and
political support for a return to the land without a return to the Lord. Note
Jeremiah 30:9,10. The prophet Jeremiah presented the eventual return to the
land as a time of peace: “Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none
shall make him afraid” (Jeremiah 46:27). There are Bible prophecy teachers who somehow
overlook repentance as a requirement for a return to the land. They also
overlook the prediction of peace within the land when the return occurs. The Israel in the Middle East,
living behind walls and subject to terrorism, does not live in peace and safety.
The current situation does not fit Biblical predictions of its security. To
support his position, Showers must be very selective in what texts he
references as support for his teaching. To prove us wrong about Israel, Dr. Showers should address the texts
about the multitude of mankind being included in Israel, such as Jeremiah 12:16. I
have given only a few examples in this response. In all the predictions of a
return to the land, Showers needs to show where God has ever promised to
in an unrepentant condition to the land. He can find no such Scripture. He has
not dealt with the difficulty in Leviticus 26 for his view. There are things
there that hopefully might give him second thoughts. Jeremiah 32 also combines Israel’s return
to their land in safety with a change of heart. It is a terrible thing to
disconnect what God has joined.
I will surely
gather them from all the lands where I banish them in my furious anger and
great wrath; I will bring them back to this place and let them live in
They will be my people, and I will be their God. I will give them singleness of
heart and action, so that they will always fear me for their own good and the
good of their children after them. I will make an everlasting covenant with
them: I will never stop doing good to them, and “I will inspire them to fear me, so that they will
never turn away from me. I will rejoice in doing them good and will assuredly
plant them in this land with all my heart and soul” (Jeremiah
right has my beloved in my house when she has done many vile deeds?”
(Jeremiah 11:15). I ask what right do
the Jews have in God’s land when their vile deeds include their continuing
rejection of the Son of David as their King and Savior? The Lord does not
recognize an unbeliever’s rights.
What troubled me many years ago
In 1961, I was in my final year in a Bible Institute, a
dispensational school. Only days were left. The course on eschatology was
becoming clear to me. I reasoned that if the church and Israel are two
distinct entities in different divine programs, always remaining distinct, then
I had to settle one last question. I raised my hand and asked the godly teacher
(now in heaven with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) if the church and Israel
would rise in the same resurrection at the rapture of the church. How could
they if the coming of the Lord is first of all for the church and not for Israel? My teacher concurred that they would not rise
together. The bodies of Old Testament saints would have to wait in their graves
for seven more years. I said to myself, “Ah, I understand!” My next thought was unsettling; I was not
sure I liked it! Why should I rise with Christ when the dead in Christ rise in
the rapture, while Daniel and Moses and David and Abraham will not? The oddness of it all remained and perplexed
me. Paul says in 1 Thessalonians 4 that the dead in Christ will rise first.
Consistent with their position, dispensationalists say that the OT saints are
not in Christ. Thereby they run into a huge problem, because we can either be
in Christ or in Adam (Romans 5). There is no alternative. OT saints are saved
because they too are in Christ. That latter insight dawned on me later. Back
when I was 19 years old, it was this teaching of a divided body of Christ, with
some saints raised and others left, that jarred me loose from the views of my
family, many friends and esteemed teachers. Then one day I read this verse: “And all these [OT saints], though commended through their faith, did not receive
[in their day] what was
promised, since God had provided something better for us, that apart from
[NT believers] they [OT
saints] should not be made perfect” (Hebrews
11:39,40). Classic dispensationalism has been noted for defining Israel
apart from us and us apart from them. This distinction is contrary to many very
clear statements in Scripture. The notion of Father Abraham remaining in his
grave was the first piece of loose yarn on which I pulled. Eventually, the
entire dispensational position unraveled.
I accept Dr. Showers as a brother in Christ, forever
precious to the Lord, and thus to be esteemed by us all. I disagree with his
book. In Christ we are the Israel of God as surely as we are His people, for He
does not have two peoples or two brides. Therefore we in Christ have been
admitted into His Israel. The nation called Israel,
34 degrees east of London,
is still in denial of the King of Israel. They are not God’s Israel. Romans 11 makes us long for
the day when the Lord removes the veil on their hearts (2 Corinthians 3:12-16)
and brings a vast number of unbelieving Jews to repentance and faith. When God
shows that mercy, they will be grafted in with us. Then all the elect will be
fruitful branches in the same tree. When that happens, the rule will not change,
because there will still be one flock and one Shepherd. A lovely difference
will be that we will no longer need to speak of a remnant apart from the rest
of Israel, for all Israel will be saved, not just the remnant but the whole
A recent book on eschatology by a reformed scholar, Dr.
Cornel Venema, says:
Old Testament background … extends the promise of salvation to all the peoples
of the earth. However, it is important to note that this promise always
included the continuance and fulfillment of God’s saving purpose for Israel. The
promise was not that God would forsake his people Israel, substituting the other
nations as the object of his saving love, but that he would include all the
nations under the canopy of his saving mercy.
(Emphasis added, The Promise of the Future, p.128)
Venema’s statement is the opposite of replacement. He says
God has neither forsaken nor substituted. Dr. Ryrie has read enough to know
that we do not believe in replacement. Or at least he should know. We do not
believe God has substituted the church or other nations for Israel.
(Substitution is another word meaning replacement.)
Venema also says of Romans 11:26 (“all Israel will be
saved”) that “the
most likely reading of this passage is one that takes it to teach the future
ingathering and conversion of the totality of the people of Israel” (The
Promise of the Future, p.138). God has not rejected His people even though
for the most part, the sentence of blindness still rests upon them, though many
Jews have been saved in recent times. I think Romans 11 teaches that when the
Lord extends His promised mercy to them again, their long defection will turn
into a blessed surge of repentance, confession, and faith in a conversion so
widespread we will say, “Finally, finally, all Israel has come to Christ”. This
transformation of the people of Israel
will be brought about by the spread of the gospel. That is our strategy. Their
acceptance again by our Lord will be like life from the dead (Romans 11:15).
I hope how Dr. Showers presents the teaching of his brothers
will stand out to you clearly. He says:
of Covenant Theology adopted Replacement Theology in relationship to the nation
As a result, they claimed that, because Israel
on the whole rejected Christ as its Messiah, God forever
rejected the nation of Israel
as His people and replaced Israel
with the church.
Thus the church was now the Israel of God and the inheritor of the blessings He
promised to national Israel.
His statement is very inaccurate. Our brother in Christ
gives pages of quotations in his book of what people have said about the Jews
since the time of Christ, and connects them to terrible anti-Semitic statements
and actions. It is surprising that in attempting to correct living evangelical
brothers that he does not include one reference to any current spokesman (i.e.,
a recognized advocate of covenant theology) affirming replacement theology. So
I have a double objection: we are guilty without any evidence being offered,
and what we are supposedly guilty of we do not actually believe. Wow! I have
shown why we view non-Jewish believers as fellow-citizens of the commonwealth of Israel. We believe it because that is
what Ephesians 2:11-22 tells us. Dr. Showers ignores this and the other texts I
have provided. He then claims that we hold views we don’t. That is an
especially poor piece of reasoning, research, and writing. In the spirit of
fair play and integrity Friends of Israel should review what they have published.
I have quoted Venema because I have that book with me in New Mexico. My library is still in boxes or
I would have given other quotations to show that we are being misrepresented.
There probably are some teachers out there who say the kind of thing we all
disagree with, but if so those people ought to take Romans 9-11 very seriously,
especially chapter 11. Speaking of Abraham’s Jewish descendents, all Israel will be
I wish that more of these brothers would pay more careful
attention to the strange positions they fall into. Note this example: Renald
Showers speaks of the promised land reaching to the Euphrates,
the boundary of the land promised in Genesis 15:18. That is so. Then he holds
that the Promised Land, presumably all of it, is now properly Israel’s. Israel ought to have it. What a
strange view of the Christian faith this would be to the Arabs who live in Lebanon, Syria,
Jordan, and Iraq. If he
really believes that, let him say so. He does not suggest the logical result of
his view, but I do. He has given in his book all the elements that demand that
conclusion. I hope John Hagee is not urging this on our leaders in Washington. Such
teaching is a terrible distraction from our true message, the gospel, which IS
our word to all who live between the Wadi of Egypt and the Euphrates in Iraq, a
stretch now comprising five nations. We have one truth. If the message of our
God is that Israel in its
unbelief must nevertheless have now all the land promised to Abraham, then this
should be declared in Damascus as well Texas. But that is not
so. What an enormous distraction from the gospel such a proclamation would be!
Arabs from Cairo to Baghdad are urged and welcome to come to
Christ, and that must be our emphasis
and focus. And when they do, the sons of Ishmael will discover that they have
become true citizens of God’s Israel,
according to the apostle in Ephesians 2.
Abraham will have
the land, and all the children of Abraham with him. By the grace of God, we are
in that number. He promised the land and God does not break His word. He has revealed
that He will fulfill it by giving to Abraham and his descendents the world
(Romans 4:13). The Lord can expand a promise. Expanding is not breaking. God
has not rescinded His promise. That He could never do. He has certainly
enlarged it far beyond what we would ever ask or think (Ephesians 3:20). Before
Christ was born Isaiah said this would happen, “But you have increased the nation, O LORD, you have increased the
nation; you are glorified; you have enlarged all the borders of the land” (Isaiah 26:15).
Yes, we are surprised at
the grace of God, but let us not limit the grace of inclusion in “the commonwealth of Israel” (Ephesians 2:12) to the
biological children of Abraham. The meek
shall inherit the earth (Matthew 5:5) and Israel will be composed of many
nations and peoples added when they come to Christ. They are then attached to
the House of Jacob (Isaiah 14:2). Membership in Israel is expanded, and the new
borders are the ends of the earth. Dr. Showers’ book reduces what God has
expanded in both people and territory.
In an open letter The People of God, the Land of Israel, and the Impartiality of the
Gospel, initiated by Knox Theological Seminary, Ft. Lauderdale, FL we read
Peter spoke of the Second Coming of the Lord Jesus in conjunction with the
final judgment and the punishment of sinners (2 Peter 3:10-13). Instructively, this same Simon Peter, the
Apostle to the Circumcision …, says nothing about the restoration of the kingdom
to Israel in the land of Palestine… . Instead, as his readers
contemplate the promise of Jesus' Second Coming, he fixes their hope upon the
new heavens and the new earth, in which righteousness dwells (2 Peter 3:13).
Today, men like John Hagee emphasize the land belonging to
the modern State of Israel as vital Biblical truth. Yet the Apostle Peter,
whose chief assignment was to be an apostle to the Jews (Galatians 2:7), says
not a word about it, nor does any writer in the New Testament. That open letter
mentioned above emphasizes that our message to Jew and Gentile alike is the
gospel and nothing more. Hagee is off message. That open letter also adds a
word of warning about the bloodshed in the on-going conflict over there.
We are being challenged more lately that if we are not
dispensational pre-millennialists, then we are not consistently reformed.
Lately, the thermometer has been turned up a little. When we have enough correction
(which I conclude is really error) directed to us or about us, we may understandably
issue a mild response. This paper is a partial review of Dr. Showers’ book and
also a little rebuttal of things of things I have heard from John Hagee. They
need to review carefully how the Lord defines His graciously expanded Israel.
I fear that what God has enlarged, they are reducing back to the days when a
Gentile accepted in Israel
was rare. In the evangelistic ministry of Paul, the Lord’s agenda to include
Gentiles shocked many Jews in Acts 13:44-52. They did not want Gentile dogs
allowed in, but God did. Christ died for us too and has delivered on His declared
intention to bring us in (John 10:16). He has been bringing in sheep not
traceable to the loins of Abraham and making us one flock under one Shepherd as
recent additions to His nation and people (2 Peter 2:9,10). Praise His holy and
gracious Name for such love and salvation for those once so far away!