Rights and wrongs in the relationship between the Old and New Covenants and how we define The People of God
In this 3-part series I'm treating two types of what is often called Replacement Theology. It's not the term I would choose, but it seems to be the one in use. In parts 1 & 2 I wish to lay out what I believe to be the Biblical view and in the final part I wish to critique what I view to be a terrible perversion of the Biblical teaching.
The relationship between the Old and New Testament
Who is Israel? Depending on how you answer this question will determine how one views the Jewish people of today,
and it also answers the twofold question of what is the Church, and is there a continuity for the people of God between the Old and New Testament? Are there two peoples of God, or just one people manifested in two historical forms.
Most Christian theologies which incorporate some kind of vision of the Jews and the Eastern Mediterranean land of Israel in their eschatology, their theology of the end-times, do so in a Church-based construct. That is to say, the Jews may have a future role in God's plan, but ultimately their place is within the Church. Many in the past have looked for a great Jewish revival based off one possible reading of Romans 11. Others have viewed the restoration of the Jewish homeland as a sign of the impending Apocalypse. But again, it was always the Jews coming into the Church, not revived or restored in order to be Jews.
Dispensational theology goes further in that insists that God has two peoples and two plans. The original plan was for the Jewish people and the Coming Messiah. When Christ appeared and was rejected by them suddenly the plan changed. God went to a plan B, namely the cross. Suddenly salvation would be by grace through faith and extend to the Gentile nations. Previously, the Old Dispensationalism taught, the Jews were saved by works, by the keeping of the Temple-code and sacrificial system, and as the Scofield Bible taught, the cross was an afterthought, a reaction to the Jewish rejection of Christ as Messiah.
Modified in the 1960's Dispensationalism abandoned the plan B language and instead began to teach that it wasn't a reaction on God's part, but the unveiling of a hitherto un-prophesied event…the Church age.
Whether old or new, Dispensationalism still maintains Judaism as a valid religion. Completely misreading the main themes of Galatians and Hebrews they insist that once the Rapture happens and the mostly Gentile Church is removed, the plan of God will revert to His original people…the Jews.
Thus for this system it is imperative that the Jews be in the land of Israel as that is the venue of their activities, with the centralized shrine at the Jerusalem temple. This is also the impetus in this movement to focus on the groups acquiring building materials and making all the other preparations necessary for the Jewish restoration.
Some of their teachers, like Hal Lindsey have actually accused those who reject their theology as being anti-semitic, because we don't believe God's Word sanctions or even addresses the matter of a Jewish return and/or revival.
Contrary to this delayed Jewish physical Kingdom, I assert Christ established a spiritual Kingdom, physically manifested in the Church, and only the regenerate people of God are even capable of seeing or comprehending it. Dispensationalism essentially says that the Kingdom-expectation of the Pharisees was correct, they just didn't recognize Jesus as the One. But we read in John 6.14-15:
14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.
15 When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone.
This verse directly refutes the old Dispensational position and led to them abandoning the Scofield doctrine. Ryrie and others helped bring about the New Dispensationalism held by most today. But they fail to realize their whole system collapses, their eschatological system is ruined. They just bump the physical kingdom to the post-2nd Coming period. They've missed it. The hope of the Pharisees for worldly empire was wrong.
They system also collapses if the distinction between Jew and Gentile is removed. They will admit it is removed during the Church Age, but as soon as the Rapture (the secret or invisible Coming before the 2nd Coming) happens, then Judaism (Plan A) is back on the table.
Contrary to this, the New Testament clearly teaches that God has always had one people and one plan. In the New Testament era, the gates were opened to include the Gentiles and it is abundantly clear from Galatians 3, the age of tutelage, the period of law, has passed away. Rather than the Church being a parenthetical period as Dispensationalism teaches, it is in fact the Mosaic epoch that served a temporary or parenthetical purpose. Hebrews contrasts the inadequacy of the temporary, imperfect, and typological nature of the Mosaic Covenant with the supremacy of the perfect and eternal Covenant over which Christ is Lord.
Ephesians 2 says,
11 Wherefore remember, that ye being in time past Gentiles in the flesh, who are called Uncircumcision by that which is called the Circumcision in the flesh made by hands;
12 That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world:
13 But now in Christ Jesus ye who sometimes were far off are made nigh by the blood of Christ.
14 ¶For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us;
15 Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace;
16 And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby:
17 And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.
18 For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.
19 Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God;
20 And are built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ himself being the chief corner stone;
21 In whom all the building fitly framed together groweth unto an holy temple in the Lord:
22 In whom ye also are builded together for an habitation of God through the Spirit.
Teaching us that wall of partition is broken, there is one people of God…the Church. The place of Jews in the New Covenant is to join the Church. Notice we were strangers from the Covenants (plural) or promise (singular).
All the Covenants whether pertaining to the land, temple, law, or even the identity and existence of the Jewish people as a people, pointed to one thing…Jesus Christ. He is the Promise.
18 But as God is true, our word toward you was not yea and nay.
19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us, even by me and Silvanus and Timotheus, was not yea and nay, but in him was yea.
20 For all the promises of God in him are yea, and in him Amen, unto the glory of God by us.
(2 Cor. 1.20)
All the promises of the Old Testament were fulfilled typologically in things like land, kingships, and laws. But ultimately they were all about one thing…Christ. As Ephesians tells us, all the covenants, even the New Covenant are about Christ. There is a substantial unity, but a disunity in form and in terms of chronology.
To suggest that some of these things…temple, land etc… can find fulfillment in something other than Christ is to directly contradict Paul's message.
What about the promises to Israel?
First of all Christ is Israel.
When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt. (Hosea 11.1)
The people of the Old Covenant, the Jewish people were a type, a picture, a symbol, a shadow of a heavenly reality, of Jesus Christ. He is Israel.
Joshua 21.41-45 tells us:
41 All the cities of the Levites within the possession of the children of Israel were forty and eight cities with their suburbs.
42 These cities were every one with their suburbs round about them: thus were all these cities.
43 ¶And the LORD gave unto Israel all the land which he sware to give unto their fathers; and they possessed it, and dwelt therein.
44 And the LORD gave them rest round about, according to all that he sware unto their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; the LORD delivered all their enemies into their hand.
45 There failed not ought of any good thing which the LORD had spoken unto the house of Israel; all came to pass.
Dispensationalists refuse to accept this, insisting the promises have not been fulfilled. They're eternal, they insist. They cannot be repealed. They were eternal in the ultimate sense….in that they point to Christ. The forms and types, like the Jewish identity, the land, the temple, were temporary and conditional. They were warned to obey or else it would be taken away.
As individuals they were saved by grace through faith, just as we are. Paul labours to prove this in Romans 4. But as a people(which was a form, a pre-picture of Christ), their covenant status was conditional and thus subject to change.
43 Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
44 And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.
45 And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.
A short summary....The identification of the Kingdom, its nature and principle are key to understanding this problem. If this is not defined correctly, it will lead to difficulties in understanding the New Testament teaching regarding the identification of the people of God. But even more critically, Dispensationalism views the land of Israel as the end itself, not a typological picture of the True Israel, the Heavenly Paradise, Christ Himself.
Further elaboration in part 2.....