THE APPLE OF SCOFIELD’S EYE
In this and
the next several issues of our newsletter, I will consider the
biblical role of Israel in Scripture and prophecy. Few theological
and eschatological issues parallel in significance that of Israel.
This is especially of interest to us in our "Dispensationalism
in Transition" newsletter because Israel is the key to the
outworking of dispensational theology -- whether of the progressive
(Bock, Blaising, Saucy) type or the revised (Ryrie, Walvoord,
Pentecost) type. In fact, the role of Israel is THE constant in
the evolving system of dispensationalism which is, as we say,
FOR THIS SERIES
In this series
I will seek to accomplish three tasks that should be of interest
to our readers:
(1) As we
study the matter of Israel and Scripture we will learn something
of the serious internal difficulties rupturing (not "rapturing"!)
the dispensational camp. This, then, will accomplish an important
historical purpose. Dispensationalism is the leading evangelical
theology today in terms of market presence -- though most of it
is due to its unsightly offspring, Lindseyesque apocalyptic dispensationalism,
from which academic progressives (wisely) demur: "It is not
correct simply to identify the popular apocalypticism of Hal Lindsey
with dispensationalism" (Blaising, DIC, 15n).
(2) As we
study the matter of Israel and Scripture we will highlight a foundational
problem endangering all brands of dispensationalism. This, then,
will serve as an important apologetic tool. The ongoing debate
between dispensationalism and covenantalism is important for both
the development of the theological systems and, ultimately, the
integrity of the Christian faith. "Iron sharpens iron."
(3) And as
we study the matter of Israel and Scripture we will grow in our
understanding of the redemptive-historical nature of Scripture.
This, as I say above, is an important theological matter. If we
are to live in terms of a Bible-based Christian worldview, big
questions such as this are extremely important. Paul’s method
of epistolary instruction was to lay down the theological principles,
then build the practical and exhortational on that basis (see
Paul’s famous "therefore" clauses, e.g., Eph. 4:1; Rom.
will be introductory to the series. I am a big believer in laying
foundations before building a case.
RECOMMENDATION FOR THIS SERIES
As I begin
this introductory issue, I would like to recommend two very important
and extremely helpful books. I highly recommend these to those
interested in this issue (and surely anyone downloading this newsletter
will be interested!). Theology students should be building a personal
research library. Of course, you can borrow ANY book you want
for free by simply calling your public library and asking for
the "Inter-library Loan" department. They can secure
hard-to-find works and bring them right to your library. But the
diligent theologue will want to build his own library with purchases
of important works. Don’t be like Ring Lardner’s friend, of whom
Larnder once commented: "He took me into his library and
showed me his books, of which he had a complete set."
purchase idea may not be a good idea for revised dispensationalists,
though: Who would want to buy "1980s: Countdown to Armageddon"
now? Or: "88 Reasons Why the Lord Could Return in 1988?"
And you know what’s going to happen to Lindsey’s latest: "Planet
Earth 2000: Will Mankind Survive?" These quickly become dated
and embarrassing. Why waste money on them? (As H. L. Mencken once
said: "There are two kinds of books: those that no one reads
and those that no one ought to read." Of course, many do
buy these books, after all: When a book and a head collide and
there is a hollow sound, is it always from the book?)
the books I will be recommending below so essential to the question
of the theological and eschatological significance of Israel that
I will begin requiring them for courses I teach at Bahnsen Theological
Seminary (714-572-9846 or INTERNET: BahnsenSeminary @compuserve.com).
These have been extremely helpful for bolstering my understanding
of the issues and in preparing this present series. The books
Peter W. L.
Walker, <Jesus and the Holy City: New Testament Perspectives
on Jerusalem> (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1996).
David E. Holwerda,
<Jesus and Israel: One Covenant or Two?> (Grand Rapids:
with an interest in biblical theology and eschatology must face
the question of the role of Israel in the plan of God. All evangelicals
agree: God’s redemptive purpose in the Old Testament focuses on
Israel as his special people. But all evangelicals do not agree
on the answer to the questions: What is Israel’s PRESENT role
in the new covenant era? What is God’s prophetic purpose for Israel
in the FUTURE? These are important issues, which, if unresolved,
wholly undermine one’s understanding of Scripture. These are issues
separating dispensationalism from all other forms of evangelical
is a post-doctoral treatise written under a fellowship at Tyndale
House, Cambridge. He was urged to pursue this work after some
lectures he gave on the New Testament and Jerusalem in 1984. As
far as I can remember from reading his book, he never mentions
dispensationalism (only in America do you have to mention dispensationalism).
But the utility of the book for dispensational analysis is unsurpassed.
The work strikes hard and deep at the root of all dispensationalism:
the role and identity of Israel. And in addition it sprays Roundup
in the hole from which revised dispensationalism is dug.
broached in <Jesus and the Holy City> include: What is the
biblical significance of Jerusalem? What was Jesus’ attitude toward
the city and its temple? Did the New Testament writers see Jerusalem
as being affected by the coming of Jesus? How should Christian
view Jerusalem today?
theme of the book focuses on Jerusalem, Walker necessarily deals
with the three-fold realia of Israel: its city, land, and temple.
Each chapter analyzes the biblical-theological perspectives of
select New Testament writers on these three issues. And anyone
who knows anything of the dispensational debate will instantly
recognize the significance of these issues. With careful precision
and clarity of expression Holwerda’s <Jesus and Israel>
shows that Christ is the fulfillment of Israel. His chapters study
Jesus in relation to Israel, the Land, the Temple, and the Law.
His sixth chapter then considers the question: "A Future
for Jewish Israel?" He holds a very postmillennial-like view
as found in Murray’s commentary on Romans. In his final chapter
he inquires whether Israel as a nation with a temple-centered
worship will arise again in fulfillment of the plan of God.
theological analysis Holwerda shows us the remarkable correspondences
between the history of Israel and the life of Christ. These are
not accidents of history, but are indications of Jesus’s functioning
as God’s true Israel. Page after page of the Gospel record exhibit
Jesus as the fulfillment of Israel. For instance, the Old Testament
promises of the regathering of Israel to the Land are fulfilled
in the gathering of the Jews in Christ, i.e., in salvation. With
a wealth of biblical research we are brought to a greater appreciation
of the depth and glory of the Scriptural story of Christ, as well
as to the meaning and purpose of Israel.
we live in the nineties. Consequently, Political Correctness with
its Siamese twin Religious Correctness move me to issue:
TO THIN-SKINNED DISPENSATIONALISTS
If Fuzzy Zoeller
can be castigated for the light-hearted remarks he made about
his friend Tiger Woods winning the Masters golf tournament, I
suppose I had better brace myself for potential feedback regarding
my understanding of Israel. With some apocalyptic dispensationalists
like Lindsey out there, my views (as the views of Holwerda and
Walker) will undoubtedly be used to discredit me. (See Lindsey’s
incredible <The Road to Holocaust>, 1989. Better yet: Don’t
In the course
of our study I will be showing that God has fulfilled the Israel-hope
in Christ and the Church. Racial Israel has lost its distinctive
status and special privilege: They will no longer be exalted over
the gentiles and given special treatment by God. Although, as
mentioned above, Israel does have a glorious future wherein they
will return to the favor of God and rejoin the historical people
of God -- but this is only by conversion to Jesus Christ through
the same means as anyone else.
to Holocaust>) and Thomas Ice (<Biblical Perspectives>
newsletter, Jan.-Feb., 1992) charge that "supersessionism"
is morally reprehensible, being anti-Semitic. Supersessionism
is the theological perspective that sees the Church as replacing
Israel in the plan of God. Lindsey, Ice, Dave Hunt, and others
cry out in alarm that supersessionism leads to the persecution
of Jews, and charge non-dispensationalists with a moral perversity
that threatens historical danger paralleling that of Hitler’s
Third Reich (Lindsey’s first reference in his book was a citation
from the writings of Adolf Hitler).
(which I will be presenting and defending in this series) in no
way implies that Jews should be either verbally taunted, socially
ostracized, economically deprived, or physically persecuted. Indeed,
the evangelical supersessionist believes they should be treated
with respect ("love your neighbor as yourself") and
should be evangelized ("Go, disciple all nations, baptizing
them") -- like every other non-believing person.
of the most helpful books exposing the error of the dispensational
charge is one intended to do the opposite. Dan Cohn-Sherbok, a
Jew who teaches Jewish theology at the University of Kent, Canterbury,
England, has written <The Crucified Jew: Twenty Centuries of
Christian Anti-Semitism> (Eerdmans, 1992). He argues that "the
seeds of anti-Semitism were sown in Christian sources and nurtured
throughout the history of the Church" (p. xiv). To this Lindsey
and Ice would give a hearty "Amen." And certainly many
Christians have been guilty over the years of treating the Jews
in a less than Christian manner -- much like the Jews treated
the Christians in the New Testament (Acts 8:1ff).
for Lindsey and Ice, a closer reading of Cohn-Sherbok shows his
complaint is not against reformed theology and for dispensationalism.
The "sources" which he charges with anti-Semitism are
non-other than the New Testament itself! Note the following citations:
2 the development of Christian anti-Jewish attitudes is traced
in detail. According to the writers of the Gospels, Jesus attached
the leaders of the Jewish nation for their hypocrisy... In proclaiming
this Christian message Paul stressed that the Jewish nation had
been rejected by God, and the new covenant had superseded the
old.... In these various ways the New Testament laid the foundations
for later Christian hostility to the Jewish nation. The New Testament
tradition served as the basis for the early Church’s vilification
of the Jews...." (CJ, p. xv).
referred to these unbelievers [Jews] as hypocrites, blind fools,
and serpents.... Such a view of the Church — in opposition to
the official leaders of the nation — was a starting point for
the tragic history of Christian anti-Jewish vilification and attack"
(CJ, pp. 14-15).
the Jewish leaders are depicted as rejecting and killing Jesus,
whereas the first believer was a Roman centurion (Mark 15:39).
The Good Samaritan is contrasted wit the faithless Jew (Luke 10:33).
The gentiles will come from all places to sit at the Messianic
banquet while the sons of the Kingdom will be cast into outer
darkness" (p. 18).
What is the
horrendous immorality that led Christians to persecute Jews? The
declaration that Christianity is the true religion that alone
can promise salvation: "In common with other groups at this
time, the early Christians believed themselves to be the true
Israel in opposition to official Judaism, and such a conception
provided the basis for the subsequent repudiation of Judaism and
the vilification of the Jews.... [T]he Jewish faith was seen as
a stage on the way to Christianity rather than as an authentic
religious experience with its own inherent validity" (p.
"sin," therefore, is claiming the Jews were responsible
for crucifying Christ, then having the nerve to preach that salvation
only comes through (the Jew) Jesus Christ. If that is anti-Semitism,
then I am guilty. And I urge you to guilty, as well. This is simply
liberalism in racial dress. Or, from Lindsey and Ice’s perspective,
it is blatant error due to simplistic analysis. (One thing that
bothers me about apocalyptic dispensationalism is that so many
of its adherent went to college. Unfortunately, some people go
to college to drink deeply from the well of knowledge; some go
only to sip; and too many go there only to gargle.)
So then, we
will be analyzing the dispensational view of Israel, showing it
to be erroneous. We will learn something of the distinctive principle
of all brands of dispensationalism, the debate over Israel between
progressive dispensationalists and revised dispensationalists,
and the biblical conception of Israel and the people of God. Stay