Does Israel 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. Showers

Published by The Friends of Israel, Bellmawr, NJ USA  © 2009


Rev. David H. Linden

University Presbyterian Church, Las Cruces, NM  USA




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. True 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 area.


Weakness #1:  The Book misstates the view it seeks to refute.


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 Israel 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 into Israel, 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 2:14-16, ESV)


Paul 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).


God 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.  


It is 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).


Paul 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


The second 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.


Then in 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).


Paul 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.


In 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. It is 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).


Just 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 Gentiles also.


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 “a chosen 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 Israel in chapter 6, Paul in 2 Corinthians 7 opens by saying to the Corinthian church, “since we 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 another Jerusalem, 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 Israel. 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 enlarged.


So 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.


The 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 of Israel all who believe. Peter was right to refer to all who believe as a holy nation.


Every 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.


In 2 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.”


How 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.


Such 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


I 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.


Dr. Showers’ reference to Leviticus 26 on p. 66 and its application to modern Israel  


Leviticus 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.


Furthermore, 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 restore Israel 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 safety. 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 32:37-41).


God says, “What 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 us [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 bolt.


A recent book on eschatology by a reformed scholar, Dr. Cornel Venema, says:


The 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 concerning Israel, 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:

Advocates of Covenant Theology adopted Replacement Theology in relationship to the nation of Israel. 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. (p.17,18)


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 saved.


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 this observation:

Simon 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.[1]


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! (Ephesians 2:11-22)


[1] Bad Christian theology regarding the "Holy Land" contributed to the tragic cruelty of the Crusades in the Middle Ages. Lamentably, bad Christian theology is today attributing to secular Israel a divine mandate to conquer and hold Palestine, with the consequence that the Palestinian people are marginalized and regarded as virtual "Canaanites."(Deuteronomy 20:16-18). This doctrine is both contrary to the teaching of the New Testament and a violation of the Gospel mandate (Matthew 28:19). In addition, this theology puts those Christians who are urging the violent seizure and occupation of Palestinian land in moral jeopardy of their own bloodguiltiness. Are we as Christians not called to pray for and work for peace, warning both parties to this conflict that those who live by the sword will die by the sword? (Matthew 26:52) Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ can bring both temporal reconciliation and the hope of an eternal and heavenly inheritance to the Israeli and the Palestinian. Only through Jesus Christ can anyone know peace on earth.