Monday, April 21, 2008

Further Thoughts on 'Future Israel' III

Let us repeat, we are at one with DR. Horner regarding a future restoration of the Jews to the Land of Israel, and to faith in Messiah. Wherein we differ is that we see no reason to postpone this conversion to the time of Our Lord's Second Advent, thus divorcing their conversion from the preaching of the Gospel, and we see no reason to believe that a rebuilt temple will ever stand in Jerusalem.
Why do we speak of a future restoration of Israel to the Land? Are they not already there? Certainly the Jews are in Israel, and they possess Jerusalem. But they can scarcely be said to possess it in peace, and we see no reason to believe they shall ever possess it in peace so long as they refuse to recognise the Prince of Peace as their Messiah. As for the Temple, if the Book of Hebrews means anything, it means that the types and shadows of the ceremonial law have passed away for ever in the one sacrifice of Christ, once offered. A new temple and new sacrifices would be utterly alien to the book of Hebrews, unless the dualistic dispensationalists are right in saying that the book of Hebrews was for the Church Age only.
We know that Dr. Horner and others contend that the temple of Ezekiel must be a literal, physical edifice, and that terrible earthquakes will prepare the way for its construction (our readers must know that the Ezekiel Temple is far too large to fit onto the Temple Mount. We think this a good reason to doubt that it is a literal temple at all). Yet Horner has also said (on Iron Sharpens Iron) that the sacrifices of Ezekiel's Temple will be commemorative. This is no-where in the text, and if the temple is literal, so the sacrifices must be. We would rather forgo the physical Temple completely than start on the road that leads to Gordon's contention that the blood of bulls and of goats was able to put away sin.
This contention for a restored temple, and dualistic dispensationalism, are, in our opinion, responsible for the eclipse of the hope of the restoration of Israel among the Reformed in the present day (we contend that many Reformed Christians still think that the Scofield-Darby brand is the only form of dispensationalism). They believe that the restoration of Israel is bound up with a theology that separates the Church and Israel for ever (for it only affirms a new earth for Israel, and a new heavens for the Church), and that rob them of the New Testament. This is an unfortunate mistake, and one Barry Horner, thankfully, does not make.

We know that there are many Reformed and other exegetes who are willing to consider a restoration of Israel to faith without a restoration to the Land. Unlike Dr. Horner, we are unable to find it in our hearts to call such 'Anti-Jewish', but we think them highly inconsistent. The Land and the People cannot be separated in the Abrahamic covenant. Admit a continuing prophetic purpose for one, and it follows that such a purpose continues for the other. Abraham was promised a posterity who would possess the Land, and 'the gifts and the calling of God are without repentance." Which gifts and calling? While it is quite correct for a preacher to use these words to refer to the perseverance of God's elect, that is in realty an accommodation, not the intent of the Apostle. No, he speaks of the gifts and calling of Abraham, the choice of the people and the gift of the Land. The curse is that they be separated from the land, the blessing of the covenant is that they be restored to it, and we believe that just as the Jews have known for centuries the curses of the covenant, so the day is coming when they shall be fully restored to the blessings.
Let us ask this: How would The world know that Israel, as a nation, had been restored to the favour of Jehovah, unless by the restoration of the Land, not in the present precarious state, but fully?
In order to avoid confusion, let us say that we believe the present nation of Israel has a right to exist, and ought to be protected against her enemies. But the present state of Israel is, in our opinion, merely a foreshadowing of the restoration that is to come.

For those interested in the topic, our first choice would be Steve Schlissel's 1990 edition of David Brown's classic work on the Restoration of the Jews, re-titled Hal Lindsey and the Restoration of the Jews, available from Eden. Errol Hulse's excellent more modern work on the subject (Third edition, Worthing, Walter, 1982), is sadly out of print, but you may be able to find second-hand copies on the internet.

God willing, next time we shall conclude.

[Illustrated: The old Borough Synagogue, London, originally built for James Wells as the Surrey Tabernacle Baptist chapel]

9 comments: said...

While I hesitate to get myself into a protracted debate when I am so busy (and you are too, no doubt) your interpretation of Hebrews regarding the Temple is far from a settled matter. A more nuanced view of Hebrews is possible. Also, I'd be loathe to see your exegesis of Ezekiel 40-48.

Anyway, while I admit this is a less than winsome way to introduce myself, I really am sure we have far more in common than this little disagreement would suggest.

I am reviewing Horner's Future Israel at my blog. I invite you to come and see:

Derek Leman

Highland Host said...

I came, I saw, I went away again.

I understand that a lot of people want a rebuilt temple. The trouble is, unless you're a dualistic dispensationalist, you have the problem of what to do with the sacrifices. No-where does the Bible say that they are memorials. It could have used the term 'thank' offerings'. Instead we read of 'sin-offerings'. So the one arguing for the restoration of the temple either goes against the literal meaning (selling the pass, so to speak), or he falls into the errors of E.W. Bullinger (inspiration for The Way International), and radically separates Jews and Gentiles for all eternity.

Either Hebrews is Temporary, which is somewhere neither of us want to go, or the sin-offerings have been done away with for ever.
The way I see it, Ezekiel 40-48 is a problem for both sides. I do not pretend to have it completely figured out, but I prefer to interpret prophetic visions by the plain words of apostles, not the other way around.

Now, if we can put that on the back burner, so to speak, and allow that time will make clear which of us is right, then in fact we have much in common, for we agree that God has not finished with Israel, not with ha 'am, nor ha'aretz.

I'm just not going to be soliciting funds for a new Temple any time soon, just supporting ministries that seek to preach the true Messiah to Israel. said...

No time to get into a protracted debate, but it's just possible that you do not understand the sacrifices at all (I don't think you do). The purpose of the Levitical sacrifices was not subsumed by the cross. The cross and the levitical sacrifices serve completely different purposes. You might not for example Paul's continued offering of sacrifices, even sin offerings, as explicitly stated in Acts 21. I'm just saying that you are looking at this like a Christian (complete with 2,000 years of flawed interpretation of the temple and sacrifices) instead of as a Jew.

Derek Leman

Highland Host said...

So, then, what is your understanding of the OT sacrifices? In Hebrews it seems to me that the author makes Christ the fulfilment of those sacrifices? Can you direct me to any literature presenting the viewpoint you hold to be correct? (pref. online)

Evangelical books said...

"I'm just saying that you are looking at this like a Christian (complete with 2,000 years of flawed interpretation of the temple and sacrifices) instead of as a Jew."

Hi Mr. Leman,

Last I checked, Highland Host is a Christian, not a Jew - and I am very thankful for that!

Question for you: How can you and I as sinners be right with God? Did Jesus' death accomplish anything?

Sorry, but to me, rebuilding the Temple will not deal my sin problem (and yours) adequately.

evangelicalbooks said...

Evangelical books:

I never said that temple sacrifices did anything for your sin or mine. They have a purpose though, and an important one. It's a huge subject and just mentioning it briefly could leave more questions that answers. According to both Leviticus and Hebrews the sacrifices were not for personal forgiveness. They were to cleanse the temple so God's holiness could dwell there. In my view, there will be a need for that purification again when the glorified Jesus dwells in Jerusalem and the world still has sin in it (prior to the Final State).

I know Highland Host is not a Jew. But thanks for the reminder. My point was that 2,000 years of reading the Old Testament as a non-Jewish book has not served Christendom well (as Barry Horner demonstrates cogently).


Highland Host said...

Derek. I investigated your site and discovered your interpretation of the sacrifices. I must say, it deals very nicely with all the objections to the restoration of the Temple sacrifices by neatly removing them from the realm of personal sin. Very clever. I am not sure that you are not over-simplifying matters (but will be going away to investigate this point) by referring ALL sacrifices to ritually cleansing the Temple, but there you go. As I say, I will be investigating the fact in the Scriptures. Let me clarify my point. I know that there were sacrifices to cleanse the Temple. I am just not sure that this is all they were for, or that this is what all the sacrifices were for.

By 'Jewish' do you mean modern Rabbinic Judaism, Second Temple Sadduceeism, Pharisaism, Esseneism, or First Temple Judaism?

Personally I too am concerned about those who try to read the OT as though it were not Jewish, although my experience is that, in fact, the anti-Jewish tend not to read the OT at all. They are descended from Marcion, and have kinship with the 'German Christian' movement of the 1930s. I am just not sure that modern-day Rabbinic Judaism is the right lens through which to view the OT. In this I follow the advice of my Hebrew tutor, who is a worker with Christian Witness to Israel and knows Judaism far more than I do (in fact he teaches it at a seminary). said...

Highland Host:

I am glad to see, despite our differences in perspective, that we have more in common than I first realized. If I have been a tiny gadfly urging you to be kind to Israel in your interpretation of Hebrews and other scriptures, I am content. If you have challenged me to integrity in interpretation, I know I need to be reminded constantly.

There is no such thing as Judaism divorced from its modern context. The myth of a pristine pre-rabbinic Judaism is just that, a myth. Judaism has always been as diverse as Christendom. The Torah has always been a book that required the community to interpret and apply it. "Biblical" Judaism no more exists than "Biblical" Christianity.

It would be very complex to dissect your statement about rabbinic Judaism not being the proper vehicle through which we should interpret the OT.

Let me simply say, I am only asking that the OT be interpreted as though God's covenant in Genesis 12 is eternal and unchanging. I recommend R. Kendall Soulen on this point.

Derek Leman

Highland Host said...

You will notice my reference to the Sadducees, Essenes and Pharisees. Of course I don't believe in a pristine Second Temple Judaism (or a united one, which is where the New Perspective comes a cropper).

I have ever sought to be kind to Israel in my interpretation of the Scriptures. You will note that my comment about modern-day Rabbinic Judaism is based not on my own authority, but on a man with decades of Jewish ministry and study of Rabbinic Judaism behind him. This is a man who knows the Rabbis very well, and who agrees that Israel will be fully restored.

Since modern Rabbinic Judaism rejects Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah, it's obviously mistaken, isn't it?

Oh, and I wrote an essay on Genesis 12 at Seminary, so I have studied it.