Monday, March 10, 2014

True Israel

Below is a set of premises and a conclusion that Dispensationalist Michael J. Vlach has attributed to non-Dispensationalists. Let us look at them and then see why they are true.

Premise 1: Israel was God's chosen nation and servant in the Old Testament.
Premise 2: Jesus now fulfills Israel and is the true Israel.
Premise 3: As the true Israel, Jesus assumes and fulfills national Israel's mediatorial role.
Premise 4: All who are in the true Israel—Christ Jesus, are also Israel.
Conclusion: There is no future role for national Israel in the plan of God.

According to Michael J. Vlach, the Dispensationalist who came up with the above, he says that Dispensationalists agree with the first two premises. Because of this, we will only address them briefly. But the rest we will look at a little more closely. As Justin Taylor said, "The New Testament authors understood Jesus to be the culmination of the Old Testament. He is the Last Adam, true Israel, the suffering servant, the son of David, the faithful remnant, the ultimate prophet, the reigning king, the final priest."

Premise 1: Israel Was God's Chosen Nation and Servant in the Old Testament
This premise needs no addressing as, from as far as I can tell, everyone agrees to this fact. So I'm not going to waste any space demonstrating what can be seen from a simple reading of the Old Testament.

Premise 2: Jesus Now Fulfills Israel and is the True Israel.
Matthew 2:15 quotes from Hosea 11 in the Old Testament, calling this a fulfillment found in Christ: "Out of Egypt I called my son." When we turn to Hosea 11 and read, there is nothing prophetic or predictive about this chapter. It is not talking about Christ Jesus, because Jesus never sinned, but about national Israel. After verse 1—"Out of Egypt I called my son"—it goes on to tell us all the ways in which national Israel had sinner. So how can this possibly be a fulfillment of Christ? I do not know. What I do know is that my Bible quotes it as a fulfillment found in Jesus.

When national Israel was wandering around in the desert for 40 years, they were supposed to learn that "man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord" (Deut. 8:3), which they never did. Jesus, after spending 40 days in the desert, quoted this passage to Satan (Matt. 4:4). Just like Adam, Israel failed at what they were called to do. Just as Jesus is the Last Adam, He is also the True Israel. Since Dispensationalists agree with this, we will not say too much more on it.

Premise 3: As the True Israel, Jesus Assumes and Fulfills National Israel's Mediatorial Role
With regard to this premise, Michael J. Vlach has said, "this position is not supported by Scripture." Excuse me?!? I suggest you pay better attention to your reading of the Bible, sir, because this position is fully supported by Scripture. He claims "It is assumed more than proven." His declaration is far from the truth.

"And they shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all will know me, from the least to the greatest of them" (Heb. 8:11; cf. Jer. 31:34). The only thing different pertaining to the "new" covenant is this verse. Something is going to cease that pertains to teaching and the knowledge of the Lord. It has to do with a form of teaching that occurred among the covenant people of the Lord. The passage is stated negatively: "They shall not." In the Old Testament, it was the Levitical priests who had a unique relationship with the Lord. It was their duty to teach their fellow citizen and brother: "... So the Levites shall be Mine" (Num. 3:12); "And of Levi he said, . . . They shall teach Thine ordinances to Jacob, and Thy law to Israel. They shall put incense before Thee, and whole burnt offerings on Thine altar" (Deut. 33:8, 10); "True instruction was in his mouth, and unrighteousness was not found on his lips; he walked with Me in peace and uprightness, and he turned many back from iniquity. For the lips of a priest should preserve knowledge, and men should seek instruction from his mouth; for he is the messenger of the LORD of hosts" (Mal. 2:6-7). Something changed.

"For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim. 2:5). Christ Jesus is the only mediator between God and men. It is not Mary, it is not the Pope, it is not a priest, and it is not—nor will it ever be—Israel! The role used to belong to Israel, but since they failed as mediators, Jesus fulfills the role of a mediator. Israel as mediator was a shadow of what was to come. The fulfillment is found in Christ. We will not return to shadows of the fulfillment—ever! They were imperfect. The perfect has come, is here, and shall remain. We have no need of imperfect shadows, as the author of Hebrews informs us. That Dispensationalists miss all this is a crying shame. It is as plain as the nose on their face. Why can Dispensationalists not understand this? Why do they prefer their flawed and erroneous interpretations to the plain understanding of Scripture as it is written? This perplexes me greatly.

The nations do not go to Israel for mediation; they go to Christ! He provides salvation. It is His name salvation is available through. It is through Him that you come unto the Father. Jesus said, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). Jesus is our mediator—not national Israel! That any Dispensationalist would miss this or deny it is incomprehensible to me.

Premise 4: All Who Are in the True Irasel—Christ Jesus, Are Also Israel
This premise is so easy to prove and simple to understand that it is almost laughable how Dispensationalists deny it. Dispensationalists claim to read the Bible "literally," yet every time you examine their doctrines you find that they do not pay attention to the literalness of Scripture. It seems they try to read the Old Testament literally, while ignoring the literalness of the New Testament. The New Testament was in the Old Testament concealed; the Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed. The New Testament illuminates and explains the Old Testament. Dispensationalists claim we are not allowed to spiritualize the text, yet any educated Bible student will see that Jesus and the Apostles did it frequently. Where Jesus and the Apostles spiritualized their quotations from the Old Testaments, Christians are to hold to those interpretations. If Jesus and the Apostles gave an interpretation of a text that was different from the "literal" understanding of the Pharisees and Jews at that time, then we need to accept the interpretation given us by Jesus and the Apostles. Dispensationalists would benefit from reading their Bibles backwards. Read the New Testament several times over until they understand it inside and out. Then read the Old Testament and see how the New Testament illuminates it and explains it. Their problem is that they are committing the same eisegetical interpretations as that of the Pharisees.

For example: The Pharisees were looking for a literal, physical kingdom. The Dispensationalists are looking for the same. But what did Jesus say? At the beginning of Jesus' ministry, He announced, "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand" (Mark 1:15). What time is He referring to? For the good student of the Word the answer is simple. Daniel had predicted four empires: Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome. Then, "in the days of those kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom" (Dan. 2:44). In the days of which kings? In the days of the Roman kings. Jesus later said, "There are some of those who are standing here who will not taste death until they see the kingdom of god after it has come with power" (Mark 9:1). This is a reference to Pentecost. When the Pharisees asked Jesus about this kingdom, the one they perceived would come literally and physically, He stated clearly to them, "The kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed" and "behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst" (Luke 17:20-21). He said to Pilate, "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36). For people who claim to read the Bible "literally," why can Dispensationalists not grasp the words of Christ?

The exact statement of the fourth premise can be seen when you read Romans 11:17-24—literally! Paul divides national Israel into two groups: believing and unbelieving. According to Romans 2:28-29, the broken off branches—the unbelieving group—are not true Jews. According to Romans 9:6-8, the broken off branches—the unbelieving group—do not belong to Israel. There is a distinction made in Romans 11 between true Israel and false Israel, between spiritual Israel and fleshly Israel. Just as the Old Testament had prophesied, which Paul calls a "mystery," believing Gentiles are grafted in with believing Jews; in to the true Israel. Expansion theology. If Gentiles are grafted in to the true Israel (the believing group, the remaining branches), what does that make them? True Israel! The New Testament everywhere quotes from and alludes to the Old Testament, applying the literal text of these quotations to finding their fulfillment in the church. 1 Peter 2:9-10 is a classic example of this.

Further proof concerning this fourth premise is evidenced from what Paul had to say in the letter to the Galatians. "Therefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham" (Gal. 3:7). "Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, 'And to seeds,' as referring to many, but rather to one, 'And to your seed,' that is, Christ" (Gal. 3:16). "And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise" (Gal. 3:29). See Ephesians 2:11-22 for more.

Conclusion: There is No Future Role for National Israel in the Plan of God
All four premises, provided by a Dispensationalist to summarize the beliefs of non-Dispensationalists, are true. Therefore, the conclusion must also be true. The fact is, there is no future role for national Israel because national Israel is nothing! Where do you see Israel anywhere in the New Testament? It is all about Christ! Christ was the final sacrifice to end all sacrifices. Dispensationalists claim that in their future millennium we will return to sacrifice "as a memorial." Why in the world would you return to an imperfect shadow of the fulfillment when you have the fulfillment before your very eyes?!? Furthermore, if they read the passages "literally" that they quote in regard to this false and erroneous teaching, they would see that they state very clearly that they are "sin offering[s]" that "make atonement." There is nothing "memorial" about these sacrifices!!! Why would anyone take Dispensationalism seriously when they do not take the Bible seriously?

As the old children’s song goes: “Father Abraham had many sons, many sons had father Abraham. I am one of them and so are you…” Its theology is unquestionably biblical. In Romans 4:1-16, the Apostle Paul explains that Abraham is “the father of us all.” True believers in the Old Testament were saved in the same way that true believers are saved in the New Testament— by faith, and by faith alone. Adoption into God’s family is achieved not through having the right family name, ethnicity, land of birth, or residence. Neither are men and women the children of Abraham and the children of Israel because of physical attributes (Rom. 2:28-29) or lineage descent (Rom. 9:6-8). True Israel is faithful Israel, and only faithful Israel inherits God’s promises (Gal. 3:7, 16, 29). National Israel has no part in the inheritance of those promises. They are for faithful Israel only. Faithful Israelites are those circumcised in their hearts, those who have trusted in the Messiah: "Circumcise then your heart, and do not be stiffnecked" (Deut. 10:16). This is the way God has always fulfilled His purposes in saving His people.

As Burk Parsons said, "True Israel is faithful Israel because they have faith in the only faithful Israelite who has ever lived—Jesus the Messiah. Only Jesus completely fulfilled all of the Father’s righteous laws for Israel. As the only faithful Israelite, Jesus is an Israelite according to the flesh, and He enjoyed all the benefits that come from being born into the nation that possessed the oracles of God. As the faithful Israelite Jesus is the true Israel because He is the true Son of God." All who are united by faith alone to Christ Jesus are the true "Israel of God" (Gal. 6:16).

When the New Testament makes reference to "Scripture" or "the Scriptures," it is speaking about the Old Testament. On the road to Emaus, what did Jesus teach His disciples from the Scriptures? Did He teach them about Israel and how everything is about Israel? No! He taught them how they all pointed to Him!!! "Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures" (Luke 24:27). All of Scripture is about Jesus. Not Israel! When you read your Bible, you should be looking for Jesus on every page.

As Justin Taylor said, "Jesus is the true Israel, and the church becomes the Israel of God as it unites to True Israel. The same is true for ethnic Israel, whom God has not abandoned. But their only hope is to be united with Jesus, the ultimate suffering servant."
...Jesus had become a remnant of one. He was the embodiment of faithful Israel, the truly righteous and suffering servant.

Unlike the remnant of the restoration period, he committed no sin (Isa. 53:9; 1 Pet. 2:22).

As the embodiment of the faithful remnant, he would undergo divine judgment for sin (on the cross), endure an exile (three days forsaken by God in the grave), and experience a restoration (resurrection) to life as the foundation of a new Israel, inheriting the promises of God afresh.

As the remnant restored to life, he becomes the focus of the hopes for the continued existence of the people of God in a new kingdom, a new Israel of Jew and Gentile alike.

As the nucleus of a renewed Israel, Christ summons the “little flock” that will receive the kingdom (Dan. 7:22, 27; Luke 12:32) and appoints judges for the twelve tribes of Israel in the new age (Matt. 19:28; Luke 22:30).

The church is viewed as the Israel of that new age (Gal. 6:16), the twelve tribes (James 1:1), “a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession” (Ex. 19:6; 1 Pet. 2:9).

A sinful nation, Israel could not suffer vicariously to atone for the sins of the world. The sinfulness of the nation made it unacceptable for this role, just as flaws would disqualify any other offering. Only a truly righteous servant could bear this awful load.

—Tremper Longman III and Raymond B. Dillard,
“Isaiah,” An Introduction to the Old Testament, 315.
 Michael J. Vlach, like all Dispensationalists, denies the literal reading of the text and the plain understanding of what it indicates. He denies 1 Timothy 2:5 as ruling out mediatorial functions for Israel by saying, "The context of 1 Tim 2:1–6 is salvation." What does he think the mediatorial function of Israel was prior to Christ? A pizza delivery system? National Israel was unsuccessful in their mediatorial functions. They were an imperfect shadow of what was to come. Jesus mediates all affairs between men and God now, so what purpose would an imperfect shadow have in returning to mediation? National Israel is nothing!!! Jesus is "all in all" and fulfills everything! He is True Israel in every sense of the term; and we, being in Him, are the "Israel of God."