Recovering Evangelicalism – Seeking a Justice-based peace in the Middle East –

I don’t get it

It will be obvious to my many readers, (or ‘my reader’), that there are many things I don’t understand. For instance, ‘eschatology’; lots of Christians today seem to think it’s a recent invention. “Hey Folks, Look Out, we’re in the Last Days; didn’t see that coming did you?”

But the NT writers  know about eschatology, including Paul if his answer to the Thessalonian Christians is anything to go by. But it’s also there in the gospels, “be ready” (Matt 25). So, then, if Paul wanted us to be ready for ‘the End Times’; and there’s lots of evidence he expected it soon; why don’t we hear him saying to the Jews, “hurry up and get back to Israel so Jesus can come back”. If the NT record is anything to go by the idea never crossed his mind. “Jesus is the Messiah, follow him”, time and again, but never, “haste ye back to Jerusalem”.

If having Jews back in the land of the holy one was that important we’d expect to see a mention of it in the writings of the Christian New Testament. But there’s not even a whisper of a hint. Get it?

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Comments on: "I don’t get it" (2)

  1. Hi Dave, you are partially right. Clearly Paul never said “hurry up and get back to Israel so Jesus can come back.” The disciples indeed asked Jesus “will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” showing they knew that was God’s job, not theirs. Jesus replies; “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” That is, their job is to preach the Gospel. The restoration of Israel is the Father’s to bring about by his own authority. Importantly, Peter, who was there when the disciples asked this question, and when Jesus answered it, speaks to the “men of Israel” in Acts 3; “Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord, and that he may send the Christ, who has been appointed for you–even Jesus. He must remain in heaven until the time comes for God to restore everything, as he promised long ago through his holy prophets.” (Acts 3:19-21). Here, it is their repentance which will hasten the coming of the Lord, and the restoration of everything promised through the holy prophets. So, did the prophets promise the restoration of Israel? clearly yes. See Ezekiel 37 etc etc etc. See also Romans 15:8 for a word from Paul. “For I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the Jews on behalf of God’s truth, to confirm the promises made to the patriarchs.” Were the Patriarchs promised the Land of Israel? See Psalm 105:6-11; “O descendants of Abraham his servant, O sons of Jacob, his chosen ones.He is the LORD our God; his judgments are in all the earth. He remembers his covenant forever, the word he commanded, for a thousand generations, the covenant he made with Abraham, the oath he swore to Isaac. He confirmed it to Jacob as a decree, to Israel as an everlasting covenant: “To you I will give the land of Canaan as the portion you will inherit.” So, God will restore Israel, he may use some Christians in that process – who are we to tell God how to do things – but our fundamental task in the present is to preach the Good News to everyone throughout the Earth.

    • Hi Colin, had I been a betting man I’d have put money on Acts 1 being quoted back at me. Actually though, the disciple’s question doesn’t show that ‘they knew that was God’s job’ (the restoration); it’s a direct question to Jesus. Further, Luke is at pains to show they’ve completely misunderstood what Jesus has been teaching. Acts 1 verse 3, Jesus has been ‘speaking about the kingdom of God’. The kingdom of God, or of heaven, has been the main thrust of Jesus teaching throughout his ministry, not a scintilla of a mention of a ‘kingdom of Israel’. Taken at face value such a ‘kingdom’ must contradict Jesus teaching, see e.g. Matt 8:11. In the whole NT the phrase ‘kingdom to Israel’ appears just once, at Acts 1:6., so we’d best be very careful not to put too much weight on it. Jesus’ reply to the question is effectively, “none of your business”.
      Peter, in Acts 3 speaks of the ‘universal restoration’, the restoration of everything. How does Peter conclude his ‘sermon’? ‘You are the descendants of the prophets and of the covenant that God gave to your ancestors, saying to Abraham, “And in your descendants all the families of the earth shall be blessed,”’ What is in view here is not the ‘gospel’ beginning at Gen 12, but that beginning at Gen 1.
      As to Ezek. 37 (and all the etc.s) clearly, if David is to be king over them we are in very different circumstances than exist today in SoI. You reference Ezekiel 37: what of chapter 36 where we read (v.33) ‘On the day that I cleanse you from all your iniquities, I will cause then towns to be inhabited, and the waste places shall be rebuilt…’ I doubt you’d claim that happened in 1948, but, if it is still future, and implicitly you think ch.37 is, what can it possibly mean following the advent of Messiah; is He not the ‘son of David’?
      Psalm 105 is in praise of God’s faithfulness, and it is evidently pre-division. It includes at the close these words, “that they may keep his statues and observe his laws.” That’s what they were supoosed to do,that’s the covenant. If 105 praises God’s saving acts Psalm 106 recites Israel’s wrongs. Nor is Ezekiel straightforward, ‘O house of Israel … You have broken my covenant with all your abominations’.
      Taken in the round and based on the kingdom teaching we have from Jesus, what the Hebrew scriptures look forward to is the wholesale redemption of God’s good creation. This is exactly what Paul is looking to in Romans, including the verses to which you refer, ‘I tell you that Christ has become a servant of the circumcised on behalf of the truth of God in order that he might confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy … and again Isaiah says, “The root of Jesse shall come, the one who rises to rule the Gentiles; in him the Gentiles shall hope,”’
      What promise given to the patriarchs could give hope to Gentiles? Isaiah 10 ends strangely, as does Isaiah 19. Who are ‘God’s people’? It is very clear that at the very least they are only a subset, a remnant, of Israel, an ‘Israel’ that includes many ‘foreigners’. What does God say? “… I have chosen (Abraham) that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice, so that the Lord may bring about for Abraham what he has promised him”. That is the way of hope for all, that is the good news, the gospel of peace. There is no place in the New Covenant for earthly kingdoms with imperialist designs. There is one king and one kingdom where neither Jew nor Gentile has a superior, exceptional place, for all who are in Christ are one.

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