Answering the 95 Theses Against Dispensationalism (19) – Theses 75-79

75. Despite dispensationalism’s “plain and simple” method that undergirds its millennial views, it leads to the bizarre teaching that for 1000 years the earth will be inhabited by a mixed population of resurrected saints who return from heaven with Jesus living side-by-side with non-resurrected people, who will consist of unbelievers who allegedly but unaccountably survive the Second Coming as well as those who enter the millennium from the Great Tribulation as “a new generation of believers” (Walvoord).

Response: The “former dispensationalists” among their number ought to have been able to explain this “problem” to their brethren on the Council.

1. Concerning the “unaccountability” of unbelievers in the Millennium Robert Thomas writes: “…the battle of 19:19-21 resulted in death for all those not faithful to the Messiah.  However, the redeemed but nonglorified population on earth survives the battle, enters the Millennium (cf. 11:13; 12:13-17), and reproduces offspring some of whom do not become saved as they mature.  These unredeemed will comprise Satan’s rebellious army at the Millennium’s end.” – Revelation 8-22: An Exegetical Commentary, 410-411.

2. Those who enter into the Millennium will be those who do not take the mark of the Beast and who escape the death in the Tribulation.  These will be protected in some way (cf. note the contrasts in Rev. 14:14-20) before the Second Coming (see 2 Thess. 1:7-10).  The details are not supplied on just how this will transpire, but the indications are clear enough that it will happen.  There is no problem here.

3. What one thinks is bizarre in these matters is rather subjective.  In heaven we shall be among all sorts of weird and wonderful creatures for example.  Perhaps from our perspective the future may seem a little fantastic.  That does not make it false.  For our part, we think it bizarre that God could say what He said in Gen. 12:1-3, 7; 15:7-21; Isa. 62; Jer. 33:15-26; & Zech.8:1-8, etc., etc., and not mean it!

76. Despite dispensationalists’ claim to reasonableness for their views, they hold the bizarre teaching that after 1000 years of dwelling side-by-side with resurrected saints who never get ill or die, a vast multitude of unresurrected sinners whose number is “like the sand of the seashore,” will dare to revolt against the glorified Christ and His millions of glorified saints (Rev 20:7-9).

Response: What is bizarre is that these people have forgotten the sinfulness of sin. The Book of Numbers ought to fix the problem.  Seriously though, the problem is not with the sin issue, but with a lack of belief that the Bible means what it says.  The fact that these men cite Rev. 20:7-9, interpret it literally and then reject their own interpretation is the real problem.

77. Despite the dispensationalists’ fundamental principle of God’s glory, they teach a second humiliation of Christ, wherein He returns to earth to set up His millennial kingdom, ruling it personally for 1000 years, only to have a multitude “like the sand of the seashore” revolt against His personal, beneficent rule toward the end (Rev 20:7-9).

Response: To put it plainly, this is pious nonsense.  In the first place, Christ’s humiliation was His divestment of Divine privileges and “taking upon Himself the form of a servant”; His reliance upon the Spirit, and His submitting to abuse and cruel death.  Nothing of the sort is involved in the Millennial Kingdom.

When Christ comes “to be glorified in His saints” (2 Thess.1:10), He will be acknowledged as “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Rev. 19:16).  He will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Psa. 2:6-9; Rev. 12:5), and they shall worship Him (Zech. 14:16).  We sense no humiliation here.

As far as the great revolt at the end of the Millennium is concerned, we ask how Christ will fail to be glorified in the final destruction of Satan and his hordes?

In company with Covenant theologians generally, the authors of the 95 Theses are interpreting the Bible with preconceived notions of what must be the case.  These kinds of arguments are unconvincing to Dispensationalists because they lack objectivity and logical force (e.g. they cannot actually point to a logical fallacy – even though occasionally CT’s misconstrue rejection of their cherished opinions as violations of the law of non-contradiction).

78. Despite the dispensationalists’ production of many adherents who “are excited about the very real potential for the rebuilding of Israel’s Temple in Jerusalem” (Randall Price) and who give funds for it, they do not understand that the whole idea of the temple system was associated with the old covenant which was “growing old” and was “ready to disappear” in the first century (Heb 8:13).

Response: Hebrews 8:13 is an allusion to Jeremiah 31.  We realize the Nicene Council do not believe either Jer. 31:31-32 or Heb. 8:8-13 is referring to a future Israel (even though Jer. 31:33 ought to make any CT think twice), because, after all, they have concluded that the church is “the new Israel.”  Thus, whatever God promises in the OT to Israel by way of land, earthly king, priesthood and temple (please read Jer. 33:14-26!) can be summarily dismissed.

It is true, as Randall Price, being a sober writer, admits, that perhaps many who give money to the Temple Fund do not understand that the Temple they will build will be constructed, it appears, only by agreement with the Antichrist (cf. Dan. 9:26-27), who will have his own uses for it (Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:3-4; cf. Rev. 11:1-2 with 13:11-15).  But nothing in Hebrews precludes a rebuilt Temple, either in the Tribulation or the Millennium which follows it.

79. Contrary to dispensationalists’ expectation of a future physical temple in the millennium, wherein will be offered literal animal blood sacrifices, the New Testament teaches that Christ fulfilled the Passover and the Old Testament sacrificial system, so that Christ’s sacrifice was final, being “once for all” (Heb 10:10b), and that the new covenant causes the old covenant with its sacrifices to be “obsolete” (Heb 8:13).

Response: A careful examination of the future Temple described in minute detail in Ezekiel 40-48 (which detail is allegorized away by CT’s) will reveal, among other things, that there is no Day of Atonement; no Levitical High Priest; and no Veil cordoning off the Holy Place.  The clear differences between the services of the First and Second Temples and that of Ezekiel’s Temple caused the Jews many headaches in accepting the canonicity of Ezekiel.  The Mosaic Covenant was temporary and has been done away with by the New Covenant in Christ.  But the Millennial Temple has a function within the New Covenant (have you read Jer. 33:14-26 yet?)  See also Ezekiel 37:15-28; Zech. 14:16-21, and Mal. 3:2-6!

I fully realize that non-dispensationalists will not allow these plain texts to be read at face value, but will force them into strange molds through their misunderstanding of the teaching of the New Testament.  This will be addressed more below.

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25 comments

  1. Andrew,

    I believe the New Covenant was inaugurated by Jesus Christ, but it awaits final fulfillment (it was made with Israel and Judah) until the Millennial Kingdom. The New Covenant is the means by which God can fulfill His unconditional covenant to Abraham.

    The Church enters into the blessings of the New Covenant due to its union with Christ and Gen. 12:3 (cf. Gal.3). But this does not do away with God’s promise to Israel (as Jer. 31:33 makes clear).

    Jeremiah 33:14-26 was cited to show that Theses 78 and 79 do not hold water. The promises are to both the Davidic and the Levitical lines and have plainly never yet been fulfilled (and this is not the only place which speaks to it). To have a functioning priesthood one has to have a Temple. This Temple is described in Ezekiel 40-48. This unalterable promise from God would, if it were taken at face value, prevent anyone from making the claims made in these theses. Anyone disagreeing with Jer. 33:14-26 had better be able to explain what God means in the context and how His language (which is about as unambiguous as language can get) was understood.

    Perhaps I was not as clear as Jeremiah was! Thank you for your question. I hope this helps.

  2. Dr. Henebury –

    Thank you for the full reply.

    I agree that the New Covenant has been inaugurated and that it is the means by which God fulfills his covenant promises to Abraham. I also agree that Gentiles enter the New Covenant by union with Christ.

    Galatians 3 teaches that Christ is the promised seed of Abraham in whom the promise to Abraham is fulfilled. As Christ is the seed of Abraham, those that are “in Christ” are joint heirs with Christ.

    I also believe that Christ is the son of David and those that are “in Christ” will rule and reign with Christ.

    I also understand that Christ was born under the law (Old Covenant) and fulfilled all it’s legal obligations (and bore away it’s curse) so that all that are “in Christ” inherit it’s blessings.

    Christ is the fulfillment of all the promises (2 Cor 1:20).

    1. Andrew,
      I am happy to try to help you better understand the position of what might be termed (for want of a better term), “scholarly Dispensationalism” (provided we understand I only mean to focus on its less populist backers). But I should say up front that I do not intend to read your articles and respond point by point. I shall indeed read them, but I shall only reply to specific issues which you raise here (with your permission, I may treat them on the blog itself when necessary).
      Covenant theology tends to be very deductive in its formulations and its thinking. I try deliberately not to infer things until I think I know what the bible is saying. To put it in a maxim: “You can’t know what the Bible TEACHES until you know what it SAYS.” This is the perspective I shall be coming from. Here are my thoughts on your comment:

      The key text in regard to this issue in Gal. 3 is verse 8: “And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.” Thus, Paul cites the part of the Abrahamic covenant which pertains to the Gentiles (Gen. 12:3). Our access into these blessings is, as you say, through the New Covenant (which is another reason I do not believe the N.C. is yet to be initiated). Thus, we are seed of Abraham through faith via the provision of Gen. 12:3.
      This does nothing to affect the other elements within the Abrahamic covenant which pertain to his descendants (e.g. land – Gen. 12:7).

      You will notice right in the context that Paul says that covenants cannot be annulled or added to (Gal. 3:15). He then identifies the “Seed” of Gen. 12:7 as Jesus Christ. The promised Seed of Abraham inherits the land promised in the text. Thus, Paul can use God’s faithfulness to His promises to show that justification is not via law but through faith (Gal. 3:2-9, 22-24).
      There is nothing here to cause one to conclude that only this one aspect of the A.C. is fulfilled literally. Its literal fulfillment is the reason for Paul’s use of it.

      We are “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), but not heirs to provisions not made with us. We are heirs of glorification in the context of Romans 8. We shall rule and reign with Christ, but where and how is not divulged in Scripture, so I don’t see that we can say much about it. I am sure we shall not all be ruling and reigning over the restored nation of ethnic Israel (which, as you will agree, would be absurd).

      If you believe the Church inherits the blessings of the Mosaic Covenant you will have to explain what those blessings are. I’m afraid I don’t follow you here, and I should not like to put words in your mouth.

      Finally, 2 Cor. 1:20 simply says that all the promises of God in Him are Yes and Amen. In context this seems to be referring to our security (vv.22-23), not to the OT covenants. To throw this verse over the biblical covenants in their specifics and their entirety is, I submit, to give it a task it was never meant to perform.

      1. Dr. Henebury –

        Thank you for taking the time to respond to my questions and post a gracious and full response. I do appreciate your response, I do take your teaching to heart, and I promise to meditate on these things as I study. Though I do not (yet?) agree with your conclusions, I don’t have your wisdom or years of study, so I hope to be as open minded and considerate as possible. Regarding your comment about not to infer structures upon the scriptures which the scriptures themselves do not support – that is exactly what I am trying to do.

        > “But I should say up front that I do not intend to read your articles and respond point by point.” “Paul cites the part of the Abrahamic covenant which pertains to the Gentiles (Gen. 12:3).”

        Yes, I agree, though Paul doesn’t say only part of the blessing comes upon Gentiles. You agree we are Abraham’s seed (children). Why does only part of our inheritance belong to us?

        > “This does nothing to affect the other elements within the Abrahamic covenant which pertain to his descendants (e.g. land – Gen. 12:7).”

        I think an adopted child is a descendant as much as a physical child is. Besides, isn’t Gen 12:7 exactly what Paul is quoting in Gal 3:16 when he says, “He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.”

        > “There is nothing here to cause one to conclude that only this one aspect of the A.C. is fulfilled literally. Its literal fulfillment is the reason for Paul’s use of it.”

        I believe it will be literally fulfilled, to all of Abraham’s seed, in the millennium, and more importantly in the eternal state.

        > “We are “joint heirs with Christ” (Rom. 8:17), but not heirs to provisions not made with us.”

        But isn’t this exactly my point. No promises or covenant were made with Gentiles. We have always been strangers and foreigners to those promises and covenants. Now, by being ‘in Christ’, we are fellow citizens and of the household of God. This is a mystery not before known (though hinted at) in the Old Testament. It isn’t that the church replaces Israel, but rather Israel is enlarged by inclusion of Gentiles. Even during the Old Covenant (Sinaitic), Gentiles could be engrafted into Israel, what characterizes this age is that Gentiles are engrafted in much larger numbers.

  3. Regarding Jeremiah –

    Wasn’t it during Jeremiah’s days that the Judeans were carried off into Babylonian captivity. By using an historical grammatical approach to Jeremiah, wouldn’t Jeremiah’s readers understand the return from captivity to be the return from Babylon and repopulation of Palestine? Understanding Jeremiah this way, I understand him to say that the Hebrew people will return to their land and God will make a New Covenant with them. After he made this covenant with them, He engrafted Gentile believers into this New Covenant Israel (Ephesians 2 and Romans 11). In this way, Israel ceases to be, is now, and ever will be. If I am wrong, where is Israel today? Where is the Temple and sacrifices?

    1. I must rush this reply a bit (I’m off on a camping weekend with my family!), but here are some thoughts:

      1. Don’t forget the important matter of prophetic fore-shortening, whereby a prediction which may seem closer to final fulfillment than it actually is (e.g. Isa. 9:6-7; Mic. 5:2). Sometimes the first and second advents are inclosed within the one prophecy (e.g. Isa. 61:1-3, which Jesus cuts off in mid sentence in Lk. 4).

      2. It is evident that the specifics of Jer. 33:14ff. were not close to being fulfilled in Ezra and Nehemiah’s time. But what was fulfilled was their return to the promised land after 70 years.
      (It would take up a lot of space to catalog all the promises which await to be fulfilled). But I don’t think the returning remnant, especially those who wept when they compared temples (Hag. 2:3) ever imagined they were looking at the gargantuan structure spoken about in Ezek. 40-48. Nor do I think they believed they were witnessing what Jeremiah predicted in Jer. 33. If they did, why did they not call Jerusalem “Jehovah-Tsidkenu” (cf. Ezek. 34:6) like the prophet said? Why did they not set up David’s line as king? It was because they knew that Jeremiah was speaking of a still future day (like those one reads about in Isa. 2, 11, 54 etc.).

      3. Though the people (i.e. readers) returned to their land (it is an anachronism to call it Palestine – which comes from the time of Hadrian), they were not the recipients of the New Covenant. They knew this was yet future (Ezekiel’s statement of the NC makes this clear. (See Ezek.36:22-37:28!).

      4. With respect, you have not interpreted the Olive Tree correctly. The tree is not Israel or “New Covenant Israel” (which is described and defined in Jer. 31 & 33 and the Ezekiel passage above). Both Israel and the Gentiles in Rom. 11 are called “branches” not the root or tree itself. The root in the context appears to be the covenant promises to the Patriarchs (the “fathers” of Rom. 11:26-29).

      5. Your question about Israel is answered by pointing to the nation in unbelief in Israel today. If you mean the remnant, they are presently incorporated into the Church as per Rom. 11:5, but Israel shall have a future for itself outside the church as per Rom. 11:24f. (those Jews in the church will inherit the churches blessings and will not be part of the future Israel). The Temple is yet future, as are the sacrifices. See my answers to 78 & 79 above.

      I hope this helps you to understand my position.

      Your brother,

      Paul

      1. Dr. H. –

        Thanks again for taking the time to post such a thoughtful and well reasoned reply.

        Regarding #s 1-3, you have given me much to meditate on and study. I’ll prayerfully consider these. I must admit, I do not have the learning to provide and equally well reasoned response.

        #4. This one seems dubious to me, but I’ll study it in some more detail. Clearly, if the passage is read as I read it, it overthrows much of your system, so I will read a dispensational exposition critically (but with an open mind).

        #5. So, as the nation of Israel continues to exist before God forever, would you say the true Israel today are those Hebrew believers who are in the church? We cannot say that the secular nation of Israel is the same as the Old Covenant nation can we? I guess this is the point that confuses me most. What defines Israel today? When I think Israel, I think of the people who entered covenant with God at Sinai. Those who rejected the covenant were rejected from being Israelites. With a remnant of true Israelite believers, the New Covenant was established, and then the Old Covenant ended. Some Hebrew people are in the New Covenant today, but all will be at some point in the future. So, continuing to refer to these Hebrew peoples today as Israel is confusing to me. What makes them such? This is why I asked whether the Old Covenant, in your mind, continues somehow.

  4. Regarding point #79, it is disappointing to see the opponents of dispensationalism continue to repeat the same statements over and over as if nobody had ever addressed them. This business of millennial sacrifices has been addressed numerous times, but the CTs continue to act as if nobody had ever spoken to it!

    The issue is pretty simple:

    1. Did the OT sacrifices contribute to the salvation of any individual throughout history in the smallest degree? [No.]

    2. Did Christ’s work on the cross “add to” the work already accomplished by animal sacrifice in the OT? [No.]

    3. Will sacrifices in a future millennial temple either add to or take away from the completed work of Christ? [No.]

    In a similar way that animal sacrifices previous to Christ’s work on the cross contributed nothing to individual salvation and the redemption of the elect, neither will future animal sacrifices take away from the completed work of Christ. http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/Book_of_Revelation/commentary/htm/topics/temple.html#4.16.5.10.2

    CTs inability to understand any need for future animal sacrifices is in part due to their denial of the millennial kingdom: where sinful unredeemed people remain in the midst of the physical presence of a holy God.

  5. Mr. Garland –

    Do you believe the Old Covenant is still in force? Do you believe the Old Covenant were a shadow of the things to come?

    It sounds like what you are saying is that the Millennial sacrifices will be a presentation of Christ’s once for all sacrifice in a way that will be pleasing to God?

    By the way, Dispensationalism has a millennial kingdom, but so does Premillennialism. The difference between CTers and Dispys is not whether there is a millennial kingdom, but whether there are two peoples of God or one? Is there one olive tree in Romans 11 or two?

  6. Hello Andrew,

    1. No I don’t believe that the Old Covenant is still in force. (I’m assuming by “the Old Covenant” you mean the Mosaic Covenant since there are many covenants, Rom. 9:4; Eph. 2:12). How you could read the link I provided and conclude that such might be my position demonstrates to me that you are not reading very carefully.

    2. I am not saying that millennial sacrifices are memorial. Some hold that view, I do not. The passages clearly state that they are efficacious (atoning), not purely memorial. My link made this very clear.

    3. For a careful, detailed study of Romans 9-11, including a careful identification of the various parts in Paul’s analogy of the olive tree, see http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/11.htm and especially this diagram: http://www.spiritandtruth.org/teaching/Romans_9-11/09_Romans_11_16-24/webshow/09_Romans_11_16-24.htm Paul makes it clear that it is the “root” which provides the nourishment to the Body of Christ–this is the promises to the fathers, and especially Abraham (Gen. 12:3) who is the father of the faithful (Gal. 3:7,29).

    I find it interesting that those who deny the distinctiveness of the Church and Israel would appeal to passages within the strongest 3 chapters in Scripture which were written, in part, to illustrate just the opposite: that God has a continued work with national Israel. Note especially Romans 11:26-28, where “Israel” is said to be enemies of the gospel.

    Clearly, our posts are now getting off-topic and this is not a forum for setting forth all the differences between covenant and dispensational theologies.

    In closing, I would also suggest that asking questions like, “Do you believe the Old Covenant is still in force?” and “Is there one olive tree in Romans 11 or two?” is hardly a way to gain a serious hearing among people who have studied the scriptures carefully for years.

    1. Mr. Garland –

      You are correct, I didn’t read the link you posted. Your post seemed to be challenging someone who questioned #79, which is not me, so I didn’t read your response to that person. I’m curious about your view of Romans 11, so I will read your articles on that.

      Your view of millennial sacrifices being atoning is to me *shocking*, so I will read that one also. I’m sorry I posted follow-up questions without first reading all you had to say on the subject.

      “I find it interesting that those who deny the distinctiveness of the Church and Israel would appeal to passages within the strongest 3 chapters in Scripture which were written, in part, to illustrate just the opposite: that God has a continued work with national Israel. Note especially Romans 11:26-28, where “Israel” is said to be enemies of the gospel.”

      If, by distinctiveness between the Church and Israel, you mean differences between Old and New Covenant, I certainly agree that there are tremendous differences.

      Regarding Romans 11:28, yes Paul said ‘they’, referring to the sons of Jacob, are enemies of the gospel. The ‘they’ in this instance refers to Hebrew descendants of Jacob do they not? I don’t see how this makes the point that there is a nation in the world today, outside of the Body of Christ.

      “In closing, I would also suggest that asking questions like, “Do you believe the Old Covenant is still in force?” and “Is there one olive tree in Romans 11 or two?” is hardly a way to gain a serious hearing among people who have studied the scriptures carefully for years.”

      I take from this that you are a man of some reputation in the church and that you see me as a pest. I’m sorry if my questions are a distraction or not worth your time. You certainly have more learning than I do and you’ve used your gifts to edify the body of Christ and I honor (I Tim 5:17) you for that.

      I do thank you for your time. I’ll read what you’ve written and I’ll consider it prayerfully.

      1. Andrew,

        I shall give some responses to your questions on the main blog (DV) later in the week. I am happy to engage these points as I think they are important and sincerely put. I do not write as one who is out to “convert” you. These matters, though important, are not what I call Category 1 (C1) issues like the Trinity or the Substitutionary Atonement. None of us (certainly not I) have a perfect grasp of the Bible, so I appreciate you testing me on my beliefs.

        Paul

  7. Hello Andrew,

    Feel free to call me Tony 🙂

    In response to several of your points:

    1. “Your view of the millennial sacrifices being atoning is to me *shocking*”

    How so? Isn’t this what the passages describing the millennial temple with its ordinances say (Eze. 43:20,26; 45:15,17,20). It’s my view only because it is what God said through Ezekiel. When we attempt to construct a systematic theology, we have to incorporate all that God has said on a matter–whether we like it or not. In this case, it is God who says the sacrifices will be for “atonement,” so I have to accept that and work it into my understanding of Scripture.

    The fact that millennial sacrifices are “atoning” is no more shocking than the fact that OT sacrifices were “atoning.” Neither one contributes to or takes away from the work of Christ on the behalf of sinners. This is where I believe you may be having trouble: you are connecting the animal sacrifices with the work of Christ and they are two completely separate things. As I stated previously, in the same way that the OT sacrifices were efficacious (for atonement) yet did not contribute one iota to the coming work of Christ, so too the millennial sacrifices will be efficacious (for atonement) and not take away one iota to the finished work of Christ.

    2. In response to Paul, you asked, “What defines Israel today? When I think Israel, I think of the people who entered covenant with God at Sinai. Those who rejected the covenant were rejected from being Israelites. With a remnant of true Israelite believers, the New Covenant was established, and then the Old Covenant ended. Some Hebrew people are in the New Covenant today, but all will be at some point in the future. So, continuing to refer to these Hebrew peoples today as Israel is confusing to me. What makes them such?”

    The Scripture makes them such. Look at Paul’s use of the term “Israel” in the passages of Romans:

    A. “But Israel, pursuing the law of righteousness, has not attained to the law of righteousness” (Rom. 9:31)

    B. “Brethren, my heart’s desire and prayer to God for Israel is that they may be saved” (Rom. 10:1)

    C. “But to Israel he [God] says: ‘All day long I have stretched out My hands to a disobedient and contrary people.’ ”

    D. “What then? Israel has not obtained what it seeks; but the elect have obtained it, and the rest were blinded” (Rom. 11:7)

    E. “Blindness in part has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in” (Rom. 11:25)

    F. “And so all Israel will be saved . . . concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sake” (Rom. 11:26-28)

    In the immediate context of the passages in question, we see Paul (inspired by the Holy Spirit) call the *unbelieving Jews* who rejected Christ “Israel” no less than 6 times in passages where there is no possibility of interpreting the term as being the obedient Jews (the believing remnant, “true Israel,” the “Israel of God”) or Gentile believers–who Paul is primarily addressing. You may find it confusing to think of them as Israelites, but God disagrees. 🙂

    3. You said, “Regarding Romans 11:28, yes Paul said ‘they’, referring to the sons of Jacob, are enemies of the gospel. The ‘they’ in this instance refers to Hebrew descendants of Jacob do they not? I don’t see how this makes the point that there is a nation in the world today, outside of the Body of Christ.”

    These “sons of Jacob” which you refer to, as mentioned above, are called by the Holy Spirit “Israel”– the same ones whom the Deliverer will turn to God: “He will turn away ungodliness from Jacob; for this is my covenant with them…” This covenant is with the same people whom the Mosaic Covenant was made with: national Israel. The Holy Spirit knows nothing of the distinction you are trying to hold to between the unbelieving “sons of Jacob” and “Israel.” The idea that descendants of Jacob and Israelites are somehow different entities is not supported by Scripture.

    4. You mentioned, “I take from this that you are a man of some reputation in the church and that you see me as a pest.”

    Not so. The fact is I’m practically unknown. My point was not an attempt to elevate myself as if I’m beyond interacting with anybody on any topic, but that if you are going to attempt to get into theology with others who are serious about the topic, there is a certain level of due diligence required out of all consideration. Why should people spend the time and effort to attempt to interact on subtleties of God’s Word when one of the parties infers the other holds views that border on the bizarre (e.g, the Mosaic Covenant is still in force when many passages clearly say otherwise: e.g., Deu. 31:16,20; Jer. 31:32; Ps. 78:10,37). Indeed, the New Covenant is predicated upon having broken the Mosaic Covenant. To hold that the Old Covenant remains in effect is akin to denying the work of Christ and admitting that Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane went unheard (Mtt. 26:42). All this to say that one should given another the benefit of the doubt on such issues unless and until the person has provided some solid evidence they might hold such strange ideas. I have not. So what I was saying is, if you expect to be taken seriously, take others seriously and read what they have to say before responding or inferring they have missed some very basic things which practically everybody and anybody sees and accepts as being taught in Scripture.

    I would encourage you to make a careful survey of the use of the term “Israel” throughout the New Testament, and especially in Romans 9-11. You will see that Israel refers to Paul’s “brethren, my countrymen ACCORDING TO THE FLESH” (Rom. 9:3-4). Any view that posits that these are somehow different than the “Hebrew descendants of Jacob” (as you put it) faces an uphill battle against the clear revelation of God.

    – Tony

    1. Dr. Garland –

      A hasty response for you.

      > “The Holy Spirit knows nothing of the distinction you are trying to hold to between the unbelieving “sons of Jacob” and “Israel.” The idea that descendants of Jacob and Israelites are somehow different entities is not supported by Scripture. …I would encourage you to make a careful survey of the use of the term “Israel” throughout the New Testament, and especially in Romans 9-11.”

      How about we start at the beginning of Paul’s argument then and let Paul define his own terms for us?

      “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel: Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called. That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed.” (Rom 9:6-8)

      From this then, I conclude that Paul has at least two uses for the word Israel: 1) physical sons of Jacob, and 2) those “true Israelites” who are the elect seed and the true children of promise. I can think of two other uses in the Old Testament: 1) the nation of peoples (mostly Hebrew, but with non-Hebrews mixed in if they would join the covenant), and 2)the Northern Kingdom after the civil war. So, we must be careful when we use the word (or read it) to define what we are talking about.

      As an illustration, when we refer to the French, what do we refer to? Peoples of French ethnic descent? Peoples who are citizens of France (though they may not be ethnicly French? People who are citizens of a French Territory outside of France? Yes to all. Our context must make it clear what we mean.

      Dispensationalism has a mantra that ‘Israel always means Israel’. I agree with that as far as it goes, but what does the Dispensationalist mean when he says it. He means that ‘Israel always means Hebrew’. According to the Apostle Paul, that definition is insufficient. Paul defines two uses for the word Israel for us and it would be wise for us to distinguish them.

      So, when Paul refers to Israel not having attained to righteousness, not being saved, being disobedient, being blind, etc., he is referring to those who are, most likely, the ethnic descendants of Jacob (Israel), who, though they are the physical/fleshly descendants are not children promise or the chosen seed. Your own quote of Romans 9:3 confirms this – “my countrymen ACCORDING TO THE FLESH”. You rightly emphasized that Paul delimits what connotation of the word Israel he is using. Paul’s prayer (and yours and mine) is that they will be saved – and we know they will.

      1. Hi Andrew,

        My points still stand: “Israel” always refers to people who are physical descendants of the man Jacob. Some are the “true Israel” or “Israel of God” — that is they are both physical descendants and of the faith. The others who are not of faith are also referred to as “Israel” (as the numerous uses from Romans 9-11 I’ve already given prove. There is no third category which you’ve tried to assert: people who are “physical descendants of Jacob” who are not referred to as “Israel.”

        It seemed to me that you were trying to make the point that there is no basis for referring to unbelieving Jews today as national Israel. Yet, as I’ve shown, Paul clearly does so. Moreover, numerous passages in the Old Testament show that Israel will be gathered in unbelief prior to accepting Messiah Jesus. But they remain “Israel” even when gathered in unbelief.

        I only see two uses of “Israel” in the Scripture: (1) Jewish descendants of Jacob who are “true Israel” and have faith in Jesus; (2) Jewish descendants of Jacob who are “Israel” according tot he flesh–but not the “Israel of God.” There is not a single Gentile in either category.

        Its really a very simple Venn diagram which is much like a bagel with two concentric circles. The outer circle surrounds all Jews (physical descendants of Jacob)– “Israel.” The circle within this circle is the “Israel of God” which includes Jews who have faith in Jesus. Between the inner circle and the outer circle is the “not all Israel who are of Israel”. This are not the “Israel of God” yet they remain “of Israel” (descendants of Jacob). Not a Gentile to be found anywhere in either circle and both are denoted as “Israel.”

        The passages are plain enough and denying the physical existence of a nation called “Israel” in our time simply because they are in unbelief is simply counter to Paul’s entire thrust in Romans 11. Paul’s prayer is for “Israel” that they may be saved–these are Jews who are in unbelief. Denying that they are Israel is not productive to an understanding of what God has said.

  8. Great discussion and good points, Paul and Tony… I linked this post to Andrew last week after he asked a few basic questions at my blog, especially since this article dealt specifically with those questions, and so it worked out well for further discussion here.

  9. Andrew,

    I am writing this while waiting for a lecture to download. I just want to challenge you gently to show me how the Olive Tree in Rom. 11 can be the either the Gentiles, the Church or Israel. It seems to me that the Gentiles are the “wild branches,” Israel (in disobedience note) are the natural branches. The church I don’t see in the argument Paul is making, which has to do with God’s faithfulness to His chosen people.

    Perhaps you could clarify why you are having difficulty accepting this point?

    Regarding point #5 I shall post something soon.

  10. One point of clarification. When I said, “I only see two uses of “Israel” in the Scripture” what I should have said was, “I only see two uses of Israel in the Scripture in relation to people in our day.” I, of course, understand the term was used to describe the Northern Kingdom (vs. “Judah”) in the Old Testament. But my understanding was that we were talking about what the term “Israel” means in our day–not 2700 years ago.

  11. Dr. G –

    A few follow-ups:

    > “The others who are not of faith are also referred to as “Israel” (as the numerous uses from Romans 9-11 I’ve already given prove.”

    Yes. They are descendants of Jacob (Israel). They are Paul’s brothers in the flesh (‘children [of Abraham] of the flesh’, but they are not children of God or of the promise (Rom 9:6-8). One day, all the descendants of Jacob will be engrafted back into their Olive Tree, but today they are blinded and are children of Satan.

    > “There is no third category which you’ve tried to assert: people who are “physical descendants of Jacob” who are not referred to as “Israel.”

    I’m not asserting that. The descendants of Israel are ethnic Israelites. They are not the promised seed or of the true nation of Israel unless they are believers.

    > “I only see two uses of “Israel” in the Scripture: (1) Jewish descendants of Jacob who are “true Israel” and have faith in Jesus; (2) Jewish descendants of Jacob who are “Israel” according to the flesh–but not the “Israel of God.”

    In the NT – Yes!

    > “There is not a single Gentile in either category.”

    Regarding the nation of Israel then: 1) is it your understanding that no Gentile ever became a member of the geopolitical nation of Israel and 2) no Gentiles ever proselytized to the Israelite faith? Also, do you believe that an Israelite was never cast out of the camp (or ceased being an Israelite) for sin?

    > …denying the physical existence of a nation called “Israel” in our time simply because they are in unbelief is simply counter to Paul’s entire thrust…”

    I don’t deny that there are Israelites today, if by Israelite you mean physical descendants of Jacob. Of course there are! My question is whether those that are not children of promise (whom Paul says are NOT ISRAEL) are in fact citizens of the Holy Nation. I say they are not. They have been pruned. One day they will turn and be converted and be graffed back in.

  12. Hello Andrew,

    >> “The others who are not of faith are also referred to as “Israel” (as the numerous uses from Romans 9-11 I’ve already given proven.”

    > Yes. They are descendants of Jacob (Israel). They are Paul’s brothers in the flesh (‘children [of Abraham] of the flesh’, but they are not children of God or of the promise (Rom 9:6-8). One day, all the descendants of Jacob will be engrafted back into their Olive Tree, but today they are blinded and are children of Satan.

    We are in complete agreement at this point. They are of the “synagogue of Satan” who “say they are Jews, but are not” (Rev. 2:9; 3:9). I’ve never said they were the children of God or of promise. I merely defended the Scriptural position that these are still referred to as “Israel” in many passages. I fully accept that the Scripture teaches a dichotomy where unbelieving physical descendants of Jacob are still referred to as “Israel” while at the same time being called “not all Israel who are of Israel” and those who “say they are Jews but are not.” This merely recognizes the Biblical teaching that a *true* Jew is one who is among the believing remnant. But that’s as far as it goes: these passages are not asserting that Gentiles in the faith somehow become “Israel.”

    >> “There is no third category which you’ve tried to assert: people who are “physical descendants of Jacob” who are not referred to as “Israel.”
    > I’m not asserting that. The descendants of Israel are ethnic Israelites. They are not the promised seed or of the true nation of Israel unless they are believers.

    Was it not you who said (above),

    “Those who rejected the covenant were rejected from being Israelites. …
    continuing to refer to these Hebrew peoples today as
    Israel is confusing to me. What makes them such?”

    How else is someone to interpret this statement? These unbelieving “Hebrew peoples” (as you put it) are physical descendants of Jacob who have rejected Christ. You said that continuing to refer to them as Israel was confusing and asked for proof why they should be referred to as such. I merely pointed out that it is Scripture that repeatedly uses this terminology when referring to Jews in disbelief. Again, you may find it confusing, the Holy Spirit does not. 🙂

    >Regarding the nation of Israel then: 1) is it your understanding that no Gentile ever became a member of the geopolitical nation of Israel and 2) no Gentiles ever proselytized to the Israelite faith? Also, do you believe that an Israelite was never cast out of the camp (or ceased being an Israelite) for sin?

    I’m not sure what this has to do with our original topic (that “Israel” is used repeatedly to describe unbelieving descendants of Jacob)?

    Obviously there were many proselytes to the Jewish faith (e.g., Ruth 1:16; Acts 2:10). However, I don’t believe that any Gentile ever truly became a “Jew” in the fullest sense of the term. To do so would require a change in physical descent. Now there is one mention (Esther 8:17) which states that “many of the people of the land became Jews [yahadim]”. The concise HALOT interprets this as, “pretend to be a Jew.” The HALOT interprets it as, “pose as a Jew.” Other resources take it to mean “declare oneselves Jews,” “to become a Jew in fact or in fraud.” It would seem that there have always been Gentiles who have adopted the Jewish faith and, among those, some who attempted to be as Jewish as is feasible aside from being born of Jacob. Also, those Jews who disobeyed aspects of the Law were clearly “cut off.” So to answer your questions above in the order given: 1) no, and 2) no, and 3) no.

    >> …denying the physical existence of a nation called “Israel” in our time simply because they are in unbelief is simply counter to Paul’s entire thrust…”
    >I don’t deny that there are Israelites today, if by Israelite you mean physical descendants of Jacob. Of course there are!

    Above, you maintained that referring to unbelieving Jews (“Hebrew peoples”) as “Israel” was confusing and asked why they should be referred to as such. Now you say you don’t deny that physical descendants of Jacob are “Israelites.” Is this not a contradiction? Or have you changed your view as a result of our discussion?

    > My question is whether those that are not children of promise (whom Paul says are NOT ISRAEL) are in fact citizens of the Holy Nation. I say they are not. They have been pruned. One day they will turn and be converted and be graffed back in.

    I don’t think either Dr. Henebury or I would take issue with this statement. Paul calls them “Israel” repeatedly, but also clearly differentiates that they, in another way, are “not Israel” — they lack the faith of father Abraham. They are of the “synagogue of Satan” and among those “who say they are Jews but are not.” There is no possibility that they could be considered “Holy.” The two primary uses of holiness concern being set apart (they are not among the elect remnant who believe) and being considered faultless (they are not covered by the blood of Christ and stand condemned in their sins). Paul’s use of the analogy of being “broken off” couldn’t say it more strongly. I think we are in agreement on this aspect.

    In closing, I’ve responded to the two main items which caught my attention: 1) You said that my statement that millennial sacrifices were “atoning” was *shocking*. I pointed to the passages where the Holy Spirit (through Ezekiel) says they are atoning–these are not my words. 2) You questioned why unbelieving Hebrews should be called “Israel” and that it was “confusing” to do so. I pointed to Romans where Paul–when talking about unbelieving Hebrews–repeatedly calls them “Israel.” Not my words, but Paul’s.

    I don’t have the time to undertake an extended interchange concerning all the various subtleties about what is or is not a Jew or whether Gentiles adopted Jewish practices and to what extent. That was never my intent in responding to this post on the blog. I’ve merely been concerned to uphold the clear teaching of Scripture that millennial sacrifices, like the OT animal sacrifices before Christ, are atoning and yet neither contribute to nor take away from His work on the cross and that “Israel” is still a valid term we can use today to refer to unbelieving descendants of Jacob. That’s all I really wanted to underscore.

    – Tony

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