this issue I will continue our inquiry into the Progressive Dispensational
view of the land promises to Israel, especially those associated
with the new covenant which was given while Israel was in exile
from the land. The classic new covenant passage upon which I will
focus is from Jeremiah 31, though there are other new covenant
promises elsewhere in the Old Testament as I noted last month.
for Progressive Dispensationalists, Jeremiah 31 associates Jewish
restoration and land promises with the new covenant. In fact,
Jeremiah specifically addresses the new covenant to the geo-politically
divided and exiled houses of Judah and Israel. Oftentimes we note
only verses 31-34 of this glorious chapter, but verses 35-40 deserve
our attention, as well:
the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--  not
according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the
day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land
of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband
to them, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will
make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD:
I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts;
and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No
more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother,
saying, ĎKnow the LORD,í for they all shall know Me, from the
least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will
forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.
 Thus says the LORD, Who gives the sun for a light by day,
the ordinances of the moon and the stars for a light by night,
Who disturbs the sea, and its waves roar The LORD of hosts is
His name):  If those ordinances depart from before Me, says
the LORD, then the seed of Israel shall also cease from being
a nation before Me forever.  Thus says the LORD: If heaven
above can be measured, and the foundations of the earth searched
out beneath, I will also cast off all the seed of Israel for all
that they have done, says the LORD.  Behold, the days are
coming, says the LORD, that the city shall be built for the LORD
from the Tower of Hananel to the Corner Gate.  The surveyorís
line shall again extend straight forward over the hill Gareb;
then it shall turn toward Goath.  And the whole valley of
the dead bodies and of the ashes, and all the fields as far as
the Brook Kidron, to the corner of the Horse Gate toward the east,
shall be holy to the LORD. It shall not be plucked up or thrown
down anymore forever."
We must remember
the significance of the land promises in the covenantal-dispensational
debate. According to Trinity Evangelical Divinity Schoolís Bruce
Ware (who is a Progressive Dispensationalist):
biblical scholars and theologians uniformly affirm that the new
covenant constitutes a high point in Godís redemptive and restorative
program. Despite this recognition, however, several questions
remain. For example, what is the nature of this new covenant?...
How will this new covenant be implemented? With whom is the new
covenant made? Do Israel and the church both participate in the
<same> new covenant?" (Ware, "The New Covenant
and the People(s) of God" in <Dispensationalism, Israel
and the Church> edited by Craig A. Blaising and Darrell L.
Bock , p. 68. Hereinafter: DIC.)
We must recall
Wareís comments on geo-political Israel; he issues a vitally important
challenge: "What do we make of the territorial and political
aspects of the new-covenant promise that clearly states that God
will restore Israel to its land in prosperity and productivity
and unite it again as one nation (Israel and Judah) whose center
of rulership is Jerusalem?" (DIC, p. 93) This is especially
important in that the geo-political realities are attached to
the new covenant itself.
what the Lord promises upon giving the new covenant: Israelís
future before God is as sure as the stability of heaven and earth
itself, as certain as the regularity of the seasons (vv. 35-37).
In fact, "the city" (Jerusalem) shall not only be re-built
(v. 38), but it will be measured (a sign of careful marking out
for definition and protection) to its full extent (v. 39).
Not only so,
but the entirety of Jerusalem will be "holy to the Lord"
(v. 40). Remarkably even Jerusalemís "whole valley of the
dead bodies and of the ashes" will be holy (v. 40a). That
is, God will work such a wonder as to sanctify even the places
that in the past were ceremonially and sanitarily unclean! The
"valley of the dead bodies" is the Valley of Hinnom
where refuse was dumped outside the city -- a place unspeakably
filthy. A constant flame lit the valley as the burning trash there
served as an illustration of the endless torments of hell itself:
the New Testament Greek word "gehenna" ("hell")
means "Valley of Hinnom."
We may not
lightly pass off these marvelous promises. They surely were near
and dear to the hearts of the Jews of old, and certainly seem
to offer a quite glorious vista to the future. The Progressive
Dispensationalist (and old line dispensationalists) quite naturally
employ this passage in their apologetic for a regathered millennial
Israel. How may we respond to such? What does God teach us here?
I will start
by making some initial general observations that must be taken
into consideration in the dispensational-covenantal debate. Then
I will begin a more formal exposition of the biblical theological
question before us.
should note that even if we take the geo-political promise here
in a way similar to the dispensationalist, it does not necessitate
a dispensational millennium ruled over personally by Christ returned
to the earth.
postmillennialists -- especially older ones -- allow for a regathered
Israel in the final stage of the outworking of the present redemptive
kingdom. For instance, David Brown, a vigorous opponent of premillennialism,
expected such in his <Christís Second Coming: Will It Be Premillennial?>
(1891). So does present day reconstructionist postmillennialist
Steve Schlissel in his <Hal Lindsey & the Restoration of
the Jews> (1990). Thus, "proving" the point of a
re-gathered Israel does not prove dispensationalism.
postmillennialists by the very requirements of their system expect
a glorious redeemed future for Israel -- since we expect the same
for ALL nations.
establishes a future glorious acceptance of Israel by God in Romans
11 (see: John Murray, <Romans>, 1965 and Gentry, <He
Shall Have Dominion>, 1997). Nevertheless, Romans 11 expects
Israelís conversion on the same order and to the same status as
all other Christians: Israelís future glory comes upon her as
an ETHNIC entity rather than a GEO-POLITICAL one. (As an aside,
to charge reconstructionist postmillennialism with anti-Semitic
tendencies -- as do some low wattage dispensationalists -- is
surely in defiance of the facts.)
observations aside, let us now consider:
Early in Israelís
covenantal history her promises were strongly tied up with an
increased SEED and a particular, well-defined LAND. We find the
seed and land promises in the Abrahamic Covenant repeated in various
places in Genesis, beginning in Genesis 12. The land aspect of
the promise has a direct bearing on the geo-political question.
-- and important -- prophetic metamorphosis occurs later in Israelís
history though. This re-orientation develops after she is established
in the land and especially approaching and around the time of
the exile: her hope becomes more narrowly focused and concentrated.
The Jewish hope begins to re-center upon not just the land, but
the city: Jerusalem. Numerous prophetic passages highlight the
Jerusalem focus of Israelís later hope. I will cite a few from
Isaiah. This whole re-focusing of her hope from land to city is
significant for understanding the geo-political realities and
for the development of a truly biblical theology, as I will show.
"Comfort, yes, comfort My people! says your God.  Speak
comfort to Jerusalem, and cry out to her, that her warfare is
ended, that her iniquity is pardoned; for she has received from
the LORDíS hand double for all her sins."
"So the ransomed of the LORD shall return, and come to Zion
[Jerusalem] with singing, with everlasting joy on their heads.
They shall obtain joy and gladness; sorrow and sighing shall flee
"And they shall call them The Holy People, the Redeemed of
the LORD; and you shall be called Sought Out, a City Not Forsaken."
then, eventually comes to the forefront of the prophetic hope
as the favorite symbol and clearest expression of the kingdom
of God. In terms of redemptive hope and prophetic imagery, the
city receives the pre-eminence because it is the special place
where God dwells: "For the LORD has chosen Zion; He has desired
it for His dwelling place: This is My resting place forever; here
I will dwell, for I have desired it" (Psa. 132:13-14).
is so evident to the inspired psalmist that Jerusalem is distinguished
from all the cities of the earth -- and even of the land! -- as
Godís own city: "Great is the LORD, and greatly to be praised
In the city of our God, in His holy mountain" (Psa. 148:1)."There
is a river whose streams shall make glad the city of God, the
holy place of the tabernacle of the Most High" (Psa. 46:4).
"Glorious things are spoken of you, O city of God!"
such a city -- the very "city of God"! -- is called
"holy" (Neh. 11:1, 18; Isa. 48:2; 52:1; Dan. 9:24).
This glorious city, in fact, is destined to be the very place
of Godís throne: "At that time Jerusalem shall be called
The Throne of the LORD, and all the nations shall be gathered
to it, to the name of the LORD, to Jerusalem. No more shall they
follow the dictates of their evil hearts" (Jer. 3:17). As
I noted above, Jeremiahís new covenant itself mentions the CITY
being sanctified even in its unclean parts (Jer. 31:35-40). A
city represents civilization; Jerusalem as the holy city represents
holy civilization. I will argue that Jerusalem represents, therefore,
the kingdom of God among men.
prophetic future is so glorious that historical Jerusalem is not
large enough to contain Godís covenant blessings. Consequently,
symbolically her tents and cords must be enlarged. Isaiah 54:1-4
O barren, you who have not borne! Break forth into singing, and
cry aloud, you who have not labored with child! For more are the
children of the desolate than the children of the married woman,"
says the LORD.  Enlarge the place of your tent, and let them
stretch out the curtains of your dwellings; do not spare; lengthen
your cords, and strengthen your stakes.  For you shall expand
to the right and to the left, and your descendants will inherit
the nations, and make the desolate cities inhabited.  Do not
fear, for you will not be ashamed; neither be disgraced, for you
will not be put to shame; for you will forget the shame of your
youth, and will not remember the reproach of your widowhood anymore."
prophecy continues. The very next verse explains that her expansion
is due Godís kingship over ALL the earth: "For your Maker
is your husband, the LORD of hosts is His name; and your Redeemer
is the Holy One of Israel; He is called the God of the whole earth"
(Isa. 54:5). The God of the whole earth cannot be confined to
one geographical city. Nor may his blessings!
many Old Testament promises of blessing upon Israel/Jerusalem
include the nations of the world. In fact, the very first promise
directly related to Israel, the Abrahamic Covenant, does so: "I
will make you a great nation; I will bless you and make your name
great; and you shall be a blessing. I will bless those who bless
you, and I will curse him who curses you; and in you ALL THE FAMILIES
OF THE EARTH shall be blessed" (Gen. 12:2-3). See the following
samples also: Gen. 22:18; Psa. 22:27; 86:9; Isa. 5:26; 19:18-24;
45:22; 49:6; 60:1-3; Jer. 16:19; Mic. 4:2; Zech. 8:22-23 Mal.
prophetic irony the image expressing Israelís hope narrows from
the land to a much smaller city. Consequently, this city requires
an enlargement for the full blessings of God. After all, he is
the king of the whole earth and graciously includes the gentiles
in his blessings. The nations of the whole earth will be gathered
into this "enlarged" city of Jerusalem! By way of example,
note the following:
"To declare the name of the LORD in ZION, and His praise
in JERUSALEM, WHEN THE PEOPLES ARE GATHERED TOGETHER, and the
kingdoms, to serve the LORD."
"At that time JERUSALEM shall be called The Throne of the
LORD, and ALL THE NATIONS SHALL BE GATHERED TO IT, to the name
of the LORD, to Jerusalem."
"MANY NATIONS shall come and say, Come, and LET US GO UP
TO THE MOUNTAIN OF THE LORD, to the house of the God of Jacob;
He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For
out of Zion the law shall go forth, and the word of the LORD from
"Yes, many peoples and strong NATIONS SHALL COME to seek
the LORD of hosts in JERUSALEM, and to pray before the LORD."
new covenant itself, though expressly directed to "the house
of Israel and the house of Judah" (Jer. 31:31) is applied
by Christ and the apostles to all who believe so as to include
people from all nations. We see the new covenant presented in
the Lordís Supper to all who believe: Matt. 26:28; Mark 14:24;
Luke 22:20; 1 Cor. 11:25; 2 Cor. 3:6; Heb. 8:8, 13; 9:15; 12:24.
Therefore, Jerusalemís dimensions are prophetically enlarged because
she will be swelled by an influx from all nations.
We can see
the legitimacy of this type/anti-type methodology a little more
easily by paralleling it with a more familiar and obvious Old
Testament prophetic image. Several Old Testament prophecies speak
of David arising to rule Godís people. Most evangelical commentators
(even dispensationalists) agree that this imagery actually portrays
Christ, Davidís greater son. Those passages include:
"But they shall serve the LORD their God, and DAVID their
king, whom I will raise up for them."
"I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed
them--My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd.
And I, the LORD, will be their God, and My servant DAVID a prince
among them; I, the LORD, have spoken."
My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one
shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My
statutes, and do them.  Then they shall dwell in the land
that I have given to Jacob My servant, where your fathers dwelt;
and they shall dwell there, they, their children, and their childrenís
children, forever; and My servant DAVID shall be their prince
"Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the
LORD their God and DAVID their king. They shall fear the LORD
and His goodness in the latter days."
typological imagery commonly employs well-known Old Testament
entities to portray greater New Testament realities. Just as David
stands for Christ (who is so much greater!), so Jerusalem, the
city of God, stands for a larger reality: a sanctified world overflowing
with a godly civilization. Godís promises are universalized, breaking
the Old Testament constrictions. (Remember, this does not leave
Israel out. In postmillennialism the promise of redemption will,
in fact, overwhelm the Jewish people -- who are presently in rebellion
against God -- wherever they are: in Israel or New York City.)
This is why
the New Testament re-orients various Old Testament land-based
promises to suit a world-wide expansion. For instance:
promise of inheritance in the land becomes an inheriting of the
world: "For the promise that he would be the heir of the
WORLD was not to Abraham or to his seed through the law, but through
the righteousness of faith" (Rom. 4:13).
commandment promises Godís blessing "in the land" (Deut.
5:16). But Paul expands it to the whole earth: "Honor your
father and mother," which is the first commandment with promise:
that it may be well with you and you may live long on the EARTH"
(Eph. 6:2-3). (See John Calvinís exposition of this passage.)
that "the meek shall inherit the land, and delight themselves
in abundant prosperity" (Psa. 37:11 NRSV), becomes for Jesus
a world blessing: "Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit
the EARTH" (Matt. 5:5).
Jerusalem transformís into a glorious, expanded, multi-national,
trans-cultural entity, wherein neither Jew nor Greek are distinguished.
the promise to Jerusalem in the Old Testament is of a renewed
character: "For behold, I create new heavens and a new earth;
and the former shall not be remembered or come to mind. But be
glad and rejoice forever in what I create; for behold, I create
Jerusalem as a rejoicing, and her people a joy" (Isa. 65:17-18).
passage portraying the redemptive transformation wrought in Jerusalem
is Isaiah 65:17-25. In that glorious scene we have a sweeping
picture of the full extent of the coming gospel economy, a reality
established by Christ at His first coming. This is a redemptive
economy, a godly civilization that will gradually so transform
the world ethically and spiritually that it is here portrayed
as a "new heavens and a new earth" and a new "Jerusalem
as a rejoicing" (Isa. 65:17-18).
conception involves both a re-created "Jerusalem" and
"people" (Isa. 65:18-19). Interestingly, in Galatians
6 Paul speaks of the new creation in the context of a transformed
"Israel of God" existing in his own day (not in some
future earthly millennium): "For in Christ Jesus neither
circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but a new creation.
And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be
upon them, even upon the Israel of God" (Gal. 6:15-16; cf.
In this same
epistle Paul urges a commitment to the presently existing "Jerusalem
above" (cp. the heavenly Jerusalem, the church of Jesus Christ,
Heb. 12:22) rather than to the cast out Jerusalem that now is
(the historical capital city of Israel, soon to be destroyed,
Jerusalem is the bride of Christ that comes down from God to replace
the earthly Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2-5). This transformation begins
in the FIRST CENTURY: it is to "shortly come to pass"
because the "time is near." Immediately after the revelation
of the new Jerusalem (Rev. 21-22), John writes: "Then he
said to me, These words are faithful and true. And the Lord God
of the holy prophets sent His angel to show His servants the things
which must shortly take place" (Rev. 22:6). "And he
said to me, "Do not seal the words of the prophecy of this
book, for the time is at hand" (Rev. 22:10).
With the shaking
and destruction of the old typical, localized Jerusalem in A.D.
70, the heavenly, re-created, anti-typical new Jerusalem replaces
her. As the writer of Hebrews relates it: Godís "voice then
[at Mt. Sinai] shook the earth; but now He has promised, saying,
Yet once more I shake not only the earth, but also heaven. Now
this, Yet once more, indicates the removal of those things that
are being shaken, as of things that are made [i.e., the Levitical
ritual system, Heb. 9:11, 24], that the things which cannot be
shaken may remain. Therefore, since we are receiving a kingdom
which cannot be shaken, let us have grace, by which we may serve
God acceptably with reverence and godly fear" (Heb. 12:26-28).
of glorious elevated conditions in Jerusalem, conditions continuous
with the present order. This is evident in that despite the ethical
glory and influence of the new Jerusalem, birth, aging, death,
time, sin, and curse are not totally eradicated: "No more
shall an infant from there live but a few days, nor an old man
who has not fulfilled his days; for the child shall die one hundred
years old, but the sinner being one hundred years old shall be
accursed" (Isa. 65:20).
language in Isaiahís reference to the new Jerusalem shows that
national exile and disinheritance caused by rebellion will be
a thing of the past -- just as Jeremiahís new covenant promises.
Instead, covenantal inheritance will prevail: "They shall
build houses and inhabit them; they shall plant vineyards and
eat their fruit. They shall not build and another inhabit; they
shall not plant and another eat; for as the days of a tree, so
shall be the days of My people, and My elect shall long enjoy
the work of their hands" (Isa. 65:21-22). This reverses covenantal
curse language (which Isaiah spoke so much about): "You shall
betroth a wife, but another man shall lie with her; you shall
build a house, but you shall not dwell in it; you shall plant
a vineyard, but shall not gather its grapes" (Deut. 28:30;
cf. Zeph. 1:13; Mic. 6:15).
This all begins
in the renewal of creation and covenant effected by Christ in
the first century. The glorious blessings for Jerusalem -- the
city alluded to in the Jeremiahís famous new covenant passage
-- are growing in seed form since the times of Christ.
Dispensational system is unnecessary in light of both Old Testament
and New Testament biblical theology. It is not only unnecessary,
but contrary to the true progress of New Testament theology. Progressive
Dispensationalismís "progressive" nature is a remarkable
and welcome development within dispensational theology, but it
does not go far enough.
is more. A deeper analysis of the Jerusalem imagery of Scripture
looks behind the scenes even of a universal church. But we will
have to await next month for that!