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New Wine for the End Times
The Church is Israel
The position taken by the New Wine System is that the Gentile Church is grafted into Israel. Thus, Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled literally in Israel. But the New Testament Church is a part of that same Israel.
This is different from the traditional covenantal system where the Church is a continuation of Old Testament Israel. The new covenant makes the old covenant obsolete. But it's also viewed as a continuation of the system of covenants in the Old Testament. And those Old Testament covenants are reinterpreted to be completely spiritual in nature. Or in some cases, a natural form of Christendom is considered to be the kingdom of heaven even before Christ returns. Thus, it can be stated that the Church replaces Old Testament Israel. The doctrine of the Church replacing Israel was the high majority view of both Catholics and Protestants for most of church history, up until dispensationalism began around 1830. The Church is viewed as a continuation of the system of covenants between God and man. Thus the Church is a continuation of Israel.
The traditional covenantal system also sees the Church as a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy about Israel. Thus, covenantalism and preterism go hand in hand. The preterist sees prophecy as very allegorical. Almost everything is fulfilled in the first coming of Christ and in the Church. Everything is centered on going to heaven or hell when you die. So there is no need for a Messianic earthly reign of Christ. The Messianic age, a very central theme of Old Testament prophecy, is viewed allegorically as the Church age. When Christ returns, we immediately have the resurrection and then the new heavens and new earth. Since the dead are believed to already be in heaven or hell, the resurrection is seen as simply the start of eternity, perhaps with bodies instead of just being spirits.
The New Wine System, on the other hand, views Gentile believers as being very much a part of Old Testament Israel. We are grafted into Israel. There is no reinterpretation of the Old Testament. The purpose of Israel has not changed. There is no need to use allegorical methods to reinterpret Old Testament Israel in any way. Israel will literally reign over the nations here on earth when the Messiah comes. Gentile believers reign along with Jewish believers. There is no difference between Jews and Gentiles. We will both reign with the Messiah over the nations.
The New Wine System places heavy emphasis on Gentile believers being grafted into Israel. This distinguishes the New Wine System from dispensationalism, and at the same time effectively disproves dispensationalism.
Probably the most fundamental core aspect of dispensationalism is that it distinguishes Israel from the Church. The Church is considered to be a "parenthesis" between two different dispensations of Israel. The pre-tribulation rapture is seen as necessary in order to remove the church so that God's purpose can be re-focused back towards Israel. Dispensationalists believe the church stays in heaven and Israel remains on earth during the millennial reign of Christ.
If we are grafted into Israel, then how can Israel and the Church be separate and distinct? Most dispensationalists tend to think of the vine as being Jesus Christ instead of Israel. The Gentiles believers could be grafted into Jesus Christ. But were the Jews broken off the vine of Jesus Christ? Of course not. So Paul's olive tree (vine) of Romans 11 cannot simply be Jesus Christ. The vine must be Israel. The natural branches are Jews. And the wild branches are Gentiles.
To dispel any doubt, we must look at context. What is the vine in the context of the Old Testament? What is the vine in the context of the New Testament? And what is the vine in the context of Romans 9-11?
Romans 9 begins with Paul presenting a doctrinal problem. Then he provides the answer for his problem. How could Israel have rejected the Messiah? Did God's word fail?
Romans 9:4-7 ESV They are Israelites , and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. (5) To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (6) But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel, (7) and not all are children of Abraham because they are his offspring, but "Through Isaac shall your offspring be named."
God's word did not fail because not everyone who is descended from Israel (Jacob) belongs to Israel (the promise of a nation). Not all who are descended from Abraham are considered Abraham's children according to the promise. Does this mean that those who “belong to Israel” includes Gentile believes? I think the answer is yes because later we find that we are grafted into Israel. Then, Paul explains election. Only the elect are heirs to the promise given to Abraham. And that promise is Israel, a promise of a royal people, a holy nation, which has not yet been completely fulfilled (1 Peter 2:9-10, Exodus 19:5-6).
In other words, Old Testament election and New Testament election are exactly the same. Paul continues his explanation of election to be in Israel from verse 9:7 down through verse 9:23. Paul states that Gentiles are also included in the election. Both Jews and Gentiles are elected to be in the holy nation of Israel.
Romans 9:24-26 us, whom he also called , not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles? (25) As he says also in Hosea, "I will call them 'my people,' which were not my people; and her 'beloved,' who was not beloved." (26) "It will be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' There they will be called 'children of the living God.' "
Next, Paul addresses the issue of the remnant of Israel. Remember that at this point in time, there were relatively few Gentile believers. There were many more Jews, both believers and unbelievers, than there were Gentiles who were believers. So even with Gentile believers included, the elect was only a small remnant of all the descendants of Israel (Jacob) at this time. Also, note that the words "will be saved" here would mean to be given eternal life in the future.
Romans 9:27-29 Isaiah cries concerning Israel, "If the number of the children of Israel are as the sand of the sea, it is the remnant who will be saved; (28) for He will finish the work and cut it short in righteousness, because the LORD will make a short work upon the earth." (29) As Isaiah has said before, "Unless the Lord of Armies had left us a seed, we would have become like Sodom, and would have been made like Gomorrah."
Throughout chapter 10, Paul talks about what it takes to be part of the elect. What does it take to be a part of the righteous? We must have faith in the Messiah of Israel. The remnant of Israel are those who have faith in Jesus Christ. Then Paul makes the point that there is no difference between Jew and Gentile.
Romans 10:11-13 For the Scripture says, "Whoever believes in him will not be disappointed." (12) For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. (13) For, "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Thus, the elect of Israel is whoever calls on the name of the Lord to be saved. In verses 11:1-11, Paul returns to the issue of the remnant. What Israel (Jacob) did not obtain, the chosen ones (Gentiles) obtained. The rest of Israel was hardened (verse 11:7). Salvation has come to the Gentiles in order to make the rest of Israel jealous (verse 11:11). Then Paul speaks about his hope that his own people will accept Christ. What is the "root" in the following verses? Is it Israel or Christ? The "first fruit" is the resurrection of Christ. The "promise" of Israel is that resurrection. The promise is a holy nation that will inherit eternal life.
Romans 11:12-16 Now if their fall is the riches of the world, and their loss the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fullness? (13) For I speak to you who are Gentiles. Since then as I am an apostle to Gentiles, I glorify my ministry; (14) if by any means I may provoke to jealousy those who are my flesh, and may save some of them. (15) For if the rejection of them is the reconciling of the world, what would their acceptance be, but life from the dead? (16) If the first fruit is holy, so is the lump. If the root is holy, so are the branches.
The majority of the Jews were not believers. They were broken off of the olive tree. Those Jews were never in Jesus Christ. But they were in Israel. This is why God’s word did not fail. Paul is saying God’s word did not fail because the true Israel are the ones who have faith in the Messiah of Israel. Thus, the olive tree (vine) must be Israel. The root, on the other hand, is the Messiah. The resurrection of Christ is the firstfruits of the harvest of Israel. Christ is the root because Christ is the King of Israel. Everything flows from Christ. There is no difference between Jew and Gentile. We all take our salvation (life) from Christ. Since we are grafted into Israel, we are a part of Israel. Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled literally (not allegorically or figuratively) in Israel, which includes Gentile believers.
Romans 11:17-18 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them, and became partaker with them of the root and of the richness of the olive tree; (18) don't boast over the branches. But if you boast, it is not you who support the root, but the root supports you.
Notice that we are grafted in among them. They were already in the vine of Israel. Now we are there together with the remnant of the Jews. Consider this when you read the following verse from Ephesians.
Ephesians 2:12 NIV Remember that at that time you were separate from [the Messiah], excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.
Back in Romans 11, Paul continues his olive tree metaphor. The Jews were broken off from Israel by election. Paul says the Jews were hardened. (Look back to verse 11:7.) Now Paul is saying that the hardening is not permanent. The Jews will be grafted back into Israel. When does this take place? It takes place when "the fullness" of Gentiles have come into the vine of Israel. After the Jews are unhardened, all of Israel (both Jewish and Gentile) will be saved. This word "saved" is future-tense. All of Israel will be resurrected into eternal life.
Romans 11:25-26a For I don't desire you to be ignorant, brothers, of this mystery, so that you won't be wise in your own conceits, that a partial hardening has happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in, (26) and so all Israel will be saved.
At this point it should be clear that the Gentiles are not some kind of "parenthesis" between two dispensations of Israel. We are all grafted into the same Israel. We all share in the same purposes of God, which is to reign with the Messiah, and to bring righteousness to the nations, when the Messiah comes.
Are there other passages that speak of Israel as being the vine? In the Old Testament, the vine is Israel in Psalm 80:14, Isaiah 5:1-7, Jeremiah 2:21, 6:9, and Hosea 10:1. In the New Testament, Jesus uses the vine in a parable about Israel (Matthew 21:33-41, Mark 12:1-9, and Luke 20:9-19).
Jesus said, "I am the vine and you are the branches" (verse 5). Many dispensationalists will try to use this chapter to say that the vine of Romans 11 is Jesus and not Israel. This is done despite all the context or Romans 9-11 and despite the fact that the Jews are broken off of the vine. Were the Jews broken off of Jesus Christ? Remember that even in Romans 11, Jesus is the root while the tree is Israel. The Messiah is the King of Israel. You cannot separate Israel from the Messiah. When Jesus said he is the vine, he was also saying that he the Messiah.
The King is often thought of as being the same as the kingdom. The Messiah of Israel is Israel. Refer back to section 3.10 titled, "Out of Egypt I Called my Son." Israel is a promise of a holy nation. You can't have a holy nation without the King of that holy nation. So Israel is not completely fulfilled until Christ returns and reigns as King of Israel. Those who are in Christ are in Israel. And for those who are in Israel, there is no difference between Jew and Gentile.
The central-core principle of dispensationalism is the separation of Israel and the Church. Dispensationalism and the pre-tribulation rapture go hand-in-hand. One does not survive without the other. There is no specific verse that states the rapture of 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17 happens before the tribulation. On the contrary, a very similar event is described in Matthew 24:31. If not for the dispensational argument of the pre-tribulation rapture, it would be understood that Jesus and Paul were talking about the same gathering of the elect. And verse 29 of Matthew 24 explicitly states that this gathering happens after the tribulation.
However, dispensationalism argues that God must remove the Church in order to switch over from the Church back to Israel. The rapture is required in order to make this switch. The millennial reign of Christ is said to be the seventh dispensation. The major argument for two separate gatherings of the elect, one as described by Jesus and the other as described by Paul, is so that God can switch to another dispensation. That's why dispensationalists consider the separation of Israel and the Church to be imperative.
Dispensationalists will sometimes confuse disbelief in the pre-tribulation rapture with disbelief in the rapture at any time. One dispensationalist asked me what I do with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17. I only stated that the verse does not say whether that gathering happens before or after the tribulation. But one could turn the question around. What does the dispensationalist do with 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17? It's true that the verse does not set the timing of the rapture in relation to the tribulation. But it does set the timing of the rapture in relation to the resurrection. The rapture must happen after the resurrection. According to Revelation 20:4-6, the first resurrection occurs after the great tribulation. Therefore, the rapture must also occur after the great tribulation.
There is absolutely no evidence for two separate resurrections of the elect. Jesus several times speaks of the resurrection on the last day. This strongly suggests only one resurrection. But even if there were two resurrections, the resurrection after the tribulation is stated to be the first resurrection.
The pre-tribulation rapture hangs on dispensationalism. Dispensationalism hangs on the pre-tribulation rapture. Dispensationalism hangs on the separation of Israel and the Church. Once it's realized that we are grafted into Israel, and that the rapture must occur after the first resurrection, which is after the tribulation, then the whole dispensational house of cards collapses.
Here is a series of verses that demonstrate that the Church is Israel. Try to read these verses the way an ancient Jew would have read them.
Matthew 3:9-10 Don't think to yourselves, 'We have Abraham for our father,' for I tell you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. (10) "Even now the axe lies at the root of the trees. Therefore, every tree that doesn't bring forth good fruit is cut down, and cast into the fire.
Matthew 8:10-13 When Jesus heard it, he marveled, and said to those who followed, "Most certainly I tell you, I haven't found so great a faith, not even in Israel. (11) I tell you that many will come from the east and the west, and will sit down with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the Kingdom of Heaven, (12) but the children of the Kingdom will be thrown out into the outer darkness. There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth." (13) Jesus said to the centurion, "Go your way. Let it be done for you as you have believed." His servant was healed in that hour.
Luke 13:16 Ought not this woman, being a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan had bound eighteen long years, be freed from this bondage on the Sabbath day?"
Luke 13:28-29 There will be weeping and gnashing of teeth, when you see Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and all the prophets, in the Kingdom of God, and yourselves being thrown outside. (29) They will come from the east, west, north, and south, and will sit down in the Kingdom of God.
Luke 19:8-9 Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, "Behold, Lord, half of my goods I give to the poor. If I have wrongfully exacted anything of anyone, I restore four times as much." (9) Jesus said to him, "Today, salvation has come to this house, because he also is a son of Abraham.
John 8:39-41 They answered him, " Our father is Abraham." Jesus said to them, "If you were Abraham's children, you would do the works of Abraham. (40) But now you seek to kill me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God. Abraham didn't do this. (41) You do the works of your father." They said to him, "We were not born of sexual immorality. We have one Father, God."
John 8:44 You are of your father, the devil, and you want to do the desires of your father. He was a murderer from the beginning, and doesn't stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks on his own; for he is a liar, and its father.
John 8:52-53 Then the Jews said to him, "Now we know that you have a demon. Abraham died, and the prophets; and you say, 'If a man keeps my word, he will never taste of death.' (53) Are you greater than our father, Abraham, who died? The prophets died. Who do you make yourself out to be?"
John 8:56-58 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day. He saw it, and was glad." (57) The Jews therefore said to him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?" (58) Jesus said to them, "Most certainly, I tell you, before Abraham came into existence, I AM."
Romans 9:3-8 For I could wish that I myself were accursed from Christ for my brothers' sake, my relatives according to the flesh, (4) who are Israelites; whose is the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the service, and the promises; (5) of whom are the fathers, and from whom is Christ as concerning the flesh, who is over all, God, blessed forever. Amen. (6) But it is not as though the word of God has come to nothing. For they are not all Israel, that are of Israel. (7) Neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children. But, "In Isaac will your seed be called." (8) That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are counted as a seed.
Romans 10:12-13 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich to all who call on him. (13) For, "Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved."
Colossians 3:9-11 Don't lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old man with his doings, (10) and have put on the new man, who is being renewed in knowledge after the image of his Creator, (11) where there can't be Greek and Jew, circumcision and uncircumcision, barbarian, Scythian, bondservant, freeman; but Christ is all, and in all.
Galatians 3:16-18 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn't say, "To seeds," as of many, but as of one, "To your seed," which is Christ. (17) Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ, the law, which came four hundred thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect. (18) For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.
Galatians 3:26-28 For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus .
Galatians 3:29 - 4:1 NIV If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (4:1) What I am saying is that as long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a slave, although he owns the whole estate.
Acts 10:45-47 NIV The circumcised believers who had come with Peter were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on the Gentiles. (46) For they heard them speaking in tongues and praising God. Then Peter said, (47) "Can anyone keep these people from being baptized with water? They have received the Holy Spirit just as we have."
(Why were they astonished?)
Ephesians 2:11-13 Therefore remember that once you, the Gentiles in the flesh, who are called "uncircumcision" by that which is called "circumcision," (in the flesh, made by hands); (12) that you were at that time separate from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of the promise, having no hope and without God in the world. (13) But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off are made near in the blood of Christ.
Philippians 3:3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.
Ephesians 3:6 that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, and fellow members of the body, and fellow partakers of his promise in Christ Jesus through the Good News.
Ephesians 4:4-6 There is one body, and one Spirit, even as you also were called in one hope of your calling; (5) one Lord, one faith, one baptism, (6) one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in us all.
Ephesians 4:25 NIV Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.
1 Peter 2:9 But you are a chosen people , a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
James 1:1 NIV James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes scattered among the nations: Greetings.
Revelation 2:26-27 He who overcomes , and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations. (27) He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father:
(This verse in Revelation is part of a letter to a Gentile church. According to this verse, who rules in the millennium? Who did the ancient Jews believe would rule in the Messianic age?)
Revelation 21:10-13 He carried me away in the Spirit to a great and high mountain, and showed me the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, (11) having the glory of God. Her light was like a most precious stone, as if it was a jasper stone, clear as crystal; (12) having a great and high wall; having twelve gates, and at the gates twelve angels; and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel . (13) On the east were three gates; and on the north three gates; and on the south three gates; and on the west three gates.
(There are no gates into the New Jerusalem for Gentiles.)
There are quite a few New Testament passages that quote Old Testament passages, in which the New Testament author is using an Old Testament prophecy to prove that those who believe in Christ have fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy. These Old Testament prophecies can always be argued to be about Israel. In other words, the New Testament references to these prophecies must be about the Church, yet the Old Testament are about Israel. Here are some of the Old Testament prophecies about Israel, which according to New Testament authors, are at least partially fulfilled in the Church.
Hebrews 8:8-13 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34, which is explicitly stated to be about Israel, and applies it to the Church. This is the largest quote of the Old Testament in the New Testament.
Hebrews 8:8-13 For finding fault with them, he said, "Behold, the days come," says the Lord, "that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; (9) 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; for they didn't continue in my covenant, and I disregarded them," says the Lord. (10) "For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days," says the Lord; "I will put my laws into their mind, I will also write them on their heart. I will be their God, and they will be my people. (11) They will not teach every man his fellow citizen, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. (12) For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness. I will remember their sins and lawless deeds no more." (13) In that he says, "A new covenant," he has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and grows aged is near to vanishing away.
(According to this verse, who is the new covenant made with? Are we included?)
Romans 9:23-26 applies Hosea 1:10 to the Church.
Romans 9:23-26 and that he might make known the riches of his glory on vessels of mercy, which he prepared beforehand for glory, (24) us, whom he also called, not from the Jews only, but also from the Gentiles? (25) As he says also in Hosea, "I will call them 'my people,' which were not my people; and her 'beloved,' who was not beloved." (26) "It will be that in the place where it was said to them, 'You are not my people,' There they will be called 'children of the living God.' "
1 Peter 2:9-10 applies Exodus 19:6 to the Church.
1 Peter 2:9-10 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God's own possession, that you may proclaim the excellence of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light: (10) who in time past were no people, but now are God's people, who had not obtained mercy, but now have obtained mercy.
Acts 15:14-18 applies Amos 9:11 to the Church.
Acts 15:14-18 Simeon has reported how God first visited the nations, to take out of them a people for his name. (15) This agrees with the words of the prophets. As it is written, (16) 'After these things I will return. I will again build the tabernacle of David, which has fallen. I will again build its ruins. I will set it up, (17) That the rest of men may seek after the Lord; All the Gentiles who are called by my name, Says the Lord, who does all these things. (18) All his works are known to God from eternity.'
Acts 2:1,16-21 applies Joel 2:28-32 to the Church.
Acts 2:16-21 But this is what has been spoken through the prophet Joel: (17) 'It will be in the last days, says God, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh. Your sons and your daughters will prophesy. Your young men will see visions. Your old men will dream dreams. (18) Yes, and on my servants and on my handmaidens in those days, I will pour out my Spirit, and they will prophesy. (19) I will show wonders in the sky above, and signs on the earth beneath; blood, and fire, and billows of smoke. (20) The sun will be turned into darkness, and the moon into blood, before the great and glorious day of the Lord comes. (21) It will be, that whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.'
The Church is referred to as the Bride of Christ (Matthew 9:15, 22:1-14, 25:1-13, Mark 2:19-20, Luke 5:34-35, John 3:29, Revelation 19:7, 21:2, 21:9, 22:17). The wedding banquet includes Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Matthew 8:10-13, Luke 13:28-29.) In the Old Testament, Israel is the Bride of Yahweh (Ezekiel 16). Some Dispensationalists have even argued there are two Brides. One Bride is for Christ and one Bride is for the Father. The Bride of Christ remains in heaven with the Father, and the Bride of the Father remains on earth with Christ, according to the theory. But with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob remaining in heaven, they would not be a part of the Bride called Israel which is described in Ezekiel 16. Bottom line is that there is only one Bride, and it’s the Bride of Christ. This includes the Bride of Ezekiel 16, making Israel be the Church.
Jeremiah 3:14 NIV "Return, faithless people," declares the LORD, "for I am your husband. I will choose you-- one from a town and two from a clan-- and bring you to Zion.
This list is not exhaustive. When New Testament authors spoke about the Church, they quoted Old Testament prophecies about Israel. When we observe this, there should be two conclusions. The first conclusion should be that the Gentile Church is grafted into Israel. The second conclusion should be that Old Testament promises will continue to be fulfilled in Israel, which is the Church.
Progressive Dispensationalism has come about in part as a result of this observation. But they need to recognize that it’s only reasonable for the pattern of the Church fulfilling Old Testament prophecies to continue to be fulfilled in the Church, even in the millennium. Just as God’s word did not fail when ethnic Israel rejected Christ, God’s word will not fail when the rest of the Old Testament prophecies are fulfilled in the Church. This is because the Church is Israel, and sole heirs to the promises given to Israel. But remember that the Gentile part of the Church does not replace Israel. We are grafted into Israel.
A number of theologians have had difficulties with dispensationalism and the pre-tribulation rapture. They desire to interpret Scripture as literally as is reasonable, and have difficulties with the allegorical approaches that are used by preterists and amillennialists. These theologians have often taken the historic premillennial position, which is strongly associated with the late George E. Ladd. He is well known for addressing issues about the kingdom of heaven. He argues that the kingdom of heaven and the Davidic covenant is partially fulfilled here and now in our hearts, but will be literally fulfilled in the millennium.
Nevertheless, Ladd is rightly criticized for not addressing the nature and purpose of the millennium itself. In other words, one could argue that the kingdom of heaven is partially fulfilled now in our hearts, but that it will be literally fulfilled in heaven. One can assume that our earthly existence in this age is solely for determining our eternal destiny of heaven or hell. If that were true, then where is the need for an earthly millennial reign of Christ? Yet those who interpret Scripture more literally cannot deny the Old Testament teaching of an earthly reign of the Messiah. So historic premillennialists such as Ladd simply must accept the earthly kingdom of heaven without reconciling its purpose.
One central question that must be addressed by historic premillennialists is the nature of Israel in relation to the Church. Historic premillennialists do not consider themselves to be dispensational. Thus, they do not completely separate Israel from the Church. Dispensationalists say that people in the Church remain in heaven during the millennium and that Israel remains on the earth. The purpose of the millennium, according to dispensationalism, is to fulfill God's promise to Israel. Historic premillennialists would say that we all remain here on the earth. So the distinction between Israel and the Church becomes far less defined than it is in dispensationalism. Historic premillennialists tend to refer to the Church as a "spiritual Israel." (Some dispensationalists also use this term.)
In his book, "The Last Things", in chapter II titled, "What About Israel," George E. Ladd writes (emphasis mine):
In the first chapter we established the principle of biblical hermeneutics: the Old Testament must be interpreted in the light of the new revelation given in Jesus Christ. What does the New Testament teach about Israel? If the Old Testament sees the future salvation of Israel, does the New Testament reinterpret these prophecies so radically that they are to be fulfilled spiritually in the church? Is the church the new and true Israel? Or does God still have a future for his people Israel?
We are fortunate to have in the inspired Scripture a lengthy discussion of this theme in Romans 9-11. Paul first expresses his heart-felt concern and love for his kinsmen after the flesh. He says, "I have great sorrow and unceasing anguish in my heart" (Rom. 9:2) for Israel because they have rejected Jesus as their Messiah.
His first point is that "Israel," that is, the true spiritual Israel - the people of God - is not identical with the physical offspring of Abraham. "For not all who are descended from Israel [natural seed], belong to Israel [spiritual seed], and not all are children of Abraham because they are his descendants " (Rom. 9:6-7). Paul recalls Old Testament history to prove this. Abraham had two sons, Isaac and Ishmael. However, even though the family of Ishmael and his descendants are the natural seed of Abraham, they are not included in the spiritual seed; but "through Isaac shall your descendants be named" (Rom. 7:7). "This means that it is not the children of the flesh who are the children of God but the children of the promise are reckoned as descendants" (Rom. 9:8). God chose Isaac but rejected Ishmael. Therefore the true descendants of Abraham - the true Israel - must be determined not by natural physical descent, but by the divine election and promise of God.
The implication is clear. Not all Jews of Paul's day can call themselves "Israel," the people of God, but only those who emulate Abraham's faith, and so prove themselves to be children of promise.
Ladd goes on to make a strong case that Paul is "spiritualizing" the Old Testament concept of Israel. This effectively reinterprets the Old Testament in light of the New Testament. Ladd's intent can clearly be seen in Ladd's original statement in the chapter. He says, "The Old Testament must be interpreted in the light of the new revelation given in Jesus Christ." The New Wine System, on the other hand, maintains that we must interpret the New Testament in the context of the Old Testament even if we must challenge many of the traditional views of the New Testament. Ladd recognizes the problems in spiritualizing the Old Testament. But he maintains that Israel must be spiritualized because Paul himself spiritualized Israel. After his arguments that Paul spiritualizes Old Testament Israel, Ladd writes (emphasis his):
To Dispensationalists, a "spiritualizing" hermeneutic is the most dangerous way to interpret the Old Testament. Professor John Walvoord has written that this is the hermeneutic which characterizes modern Roman Catholic, modern liberal, and modern non-dispensational conservative writers (The Millennial Kingdom, Dunham, 1959, p. 71). The present writer feels that he must adopt a spiritualizing hermeneutic because he finds the New Testament applying to the spiritual church promises which in the Old Testament refer to literal Israel. He does not do this because of any preconceived covenant theology but because he is bound by the Word of God.
If the church is the true spiritual Israel, "has God rejected his people" - literal Israel (Rom. 11:1)? Paul goes on to answer this question at some length. He hints at their future salvation in Romans 11:15, "For if their rejection [of literal Israel] means reconciliation of the world [salvation of the Gentiles], what will their acceptance mean but life from the dead?"
Ladd's arguments that Paul spiritualizes Israel are strong. But under the New Wine System, Ladd's arguments are based on a faulty assumption. The New Wine System holds that election is not just an election of salvation. God elects those who will inherit the kingdom and rule over the nations. But the nations can still be saved. Ladd's arguments are based on the assumption that Paul is talking about salvation election in Romans 9-11, with everyone else going to hell.
Paul is clearly talking about election to be a part of Israel. So if election to be a part of Israel is the same as election for salvation, then being a part of Israel is equivalent to salvation. Those who are not a part of Israel are assumed to not be saved. This really does make Israel become a spiritual expression of salvation. Under this traditional assumption, those in Christ really are a spiritual Israel.
The New Wine System, however, does not assume that election is strictly an election of salvation. We can interpret Paul as simply stating that those who will reign over the nations when Christ returns are elected. God's elect did not reject the Messiah because not everyone who is physically a descendent of Abraham are elected to reign over the nations. Therefore, Israel did not reject the Messiah. To better understand, we need a good definition for Israel.
To define Israel, we must go back to the promise given to Abraham. Abraham was promised land and descendants. And, this promise will be a blessing for all nations. Land and descendants adds up to a kingdom (or nation). It’s a promised nation. And that promised (holy) nation will be a blessing to all nations. But you can’t have a kingdom without a king. Early Israel did not have a king. Later, there were kings, but it was promised that David’s Son would be the real Messiah (King) of Israel. Since Israel, as a nation, will bless all the nations of the world, the millennial reign is the final fulfillment of God's promise to Abraham. Paul said that if we are in the Messiah, then we are heirs to that promise. That’s the promise of Abraham. This is the same as saying that if we are in Christ, that we are heirs to the promise of Israel.
Ladd is known for saying that the kingdom of God is here and now but not yet. The kingdom is partially fulfilled in our hearts, but completely fulfilled when the King returns. Israel is that kingdom. When you think of Israel, you must do so in terms of what is coming, not in terms of an Old Testament nation. Israel is partially fulfilled in our hearts. Israel will be completely and literally fulfilled when Christ returns. Israel has always been a promise, or shadow, of what is to come.
There is no real difference between a king and the kingdom. The word of the King is the Law, and the Law is the government of the Kingdom. So the King is the Kingdom. Christ (the King) is the Kingdom. Christ is Israel. Israel is the promised kingdom. Old Testament Israel was a shadow of the government that will come. But Old Testament Israel did not have the Messiah to reign over them. New Testament Israel is a shadow of the Law, written on our hearts. New Testament Israel has Christ in our hearts, but we do not have the earthly government. When Christ returns, we will have both, a complete fulfillment of the promise of Israel. Israel will be a blessing to all the nations.
This is a fundamental way of thinking which is important for the understanding of Scripture. For example, Matthew quotes Hosea saying, “Out of Egypt I called my Son” (Matthew 2:15, Hosea 11:1). Matthew uses this quote to say Jesus was the Messiah because he came out of Egypt. But when you go back to the quote in Hosea, it’s clearly talking about Israel being called out of Egypt. Was this really a prophecy? Israel had already come out of Egypt. And why did Matthew use it as an unfulfilled prophecy of the Messiah?
If it's generally understood that Israel itself is a promise (prophecy) of a kingdom, and if it's understood that you can’t have a kingdom without a king, then it all makes sense. Israel was called out of Egypt. But that must be only a partial fulfillment because you can’t have a kingdom without a king. For Israel to be called out of Egypt, both the people and the king must be called out of Egypt.
Under this system, there is no need to spiritualize Israel. The definition of Israel does not change from the Old Testament to the New Testament. The mystery of God, revealed in the New Testament, is that Gentiles can be elected to be included in the promise of Israel. Paul uses the metaphor of the vine to explain. Gentile believers are grafted into the vine of Israel. We are grafted into the promise given to Abraham, making us children of Abraham since we are heirs of the promise. Israel is in the future for both the Old Testament and the New Testament. Everything that has come before is a shadow of the coming Israel.
Those who are in the vine of Israel are those who will reign with the King when the Kingdom comes. So it matters not whether you are talking about Old Testament saints or New Testament saints. Israel is those who will reign during the millennium. And not all the Old Testament people are Israel. (Not all Israel is Israel.) Israel is that holy nation that will reign over all other nations. Israel is Christ. The Gentile Church is grafted into Israel. The Church is the assembly of God's people, both Jewish and Gentile, who are elected to reign with Christ.
Amillennialists have long known that Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel have been fulfilled in the Church. New Testament authors have shown this fulfillment without the use of allegories. Fulfillment, however, can be considered to be a partial fulfillment just as the kingdom of heaven is here partially in our hearts.
In the “IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament”, by Craig S. Keener, pg 136, the section about Mark 1:14-15, Keener writes:
The Jewish people recognized that God ruled the universe in one sense now, but they prayed daily for the day when his kingdom or rule would be established over all peoples of the earth. Then, they believed, everyone would submit to God. Because the Gospels affirm that Jesus must come twice, they recognized that the kingdom comes in two stages: God’s future rule is established in the lives of those who obey him in the present, and over all the world when Jesus returns. John [the Baptist], however, was not yet in a position to make this distinction.
Preterists, on the other hand, tend to force all Old Testament prophecies to be already fulfilled, even if it requires difficult-to-understand allegories in order to show their fulfillment. These allegories are such that the Old Testament authors and audiences would never have interpreted Old Testament passages as such.
For example, in Zechariah 14:16, the survivors of the nations who will have attacked Jerusalem will be required to go up to Jerusalem, year after year, and worship at the Feast of Tabernacles. Amillennial preterists just can’t see this happening, because they don’t believe in the millennium. Consequently, they invent very creative allegories to make Zechariah 14 apply to Christ’s first coming.
The New Testament authors, who have applied the Old Testament prophecies of Israel to the Church, did not have to resort to elaborate allegories. But they did allow for partial fulfillment. Complete fulfillment waits on the second coming of Christ. Therefore, we should allow this pattern of Scripture to continue, and should allow for Old Testament prophecies about Israel to be literally and completely fulfilled in the Church, when Christ returns.
As we have seen, the Old Testament promises are for those who are in Christ, and not for ethnic Israel. The promise is for the One Seed, which is Christ, and we are in Christ. Thus, the promises to Abraham, which were fulfilled partially in Old Testament Israel, will be fulfilled literally and completely in the Church when Christ returns.
Galatians 3:29 If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.
God’s promise to Abraham has three parts: (1) a holy nation, (2) a huge number of descendants, and (3) the land of Israel.
Genesis 12:1-3 Now Yahweh said to Abram, "Get out of your country, and from your relatives, and from your father's house, to the land that I will show you. (2) I will make of you a great nation. I will bless you and make your name great. You will be a blessing. (3) I will bless those who bless you, and I will curse him who curses you. In you will all of the families of the earth be blessed."
Genesis 46:3 He said, "I am God, the God of your father. Don't be afraid to go down into Egypt, for there I will make of you a great nation.
Deuteronomy 2:25 This day will I begin to put the dread of you and the fear of you on the peoples who are under the whole sky, who shall hear the report of you, and shall tremble, and be in anguish because of you.
Deuteronomy 4:6-7 Keep therefore and do them; for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the peoples, who shall hear all these statutes, and say, Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people. (7) For what great nation is there, that has a god so near to them, as Yahweh our God is whenever we call on him?
Exodus 19:5-6 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice, and keep my covenant, then you shall be my own possession from among all peoples; for all the earth is mine; (6) and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation.' These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel."
1 Peter 2:9-10 applies Exodus 19:6 to the Church.
1 Peter 2:9-10 NIV But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light. (10) Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.
Old Testament Israel was a great nation under David and Solomon for a short while. But God’s promise to Abraham remains to be fulfilled in a much greater way through the One Seed, and therefore through those who abide in Christ. God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled literally in the Old Testament, so we can reasonably assume the promise will also be fulfilled literally through the One Seed. Therefore, those who abide in Christ, and thus overcome all sin, will rule over all the other nations of the world.
Revelation 1:5-6 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of the kings of the earth. To him who loves us, and washed us from our sins by his blood; (6) and he made us to be a Kingdom, priests to his God and Father; to him be the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.
Revelation 2:26-27 He who overcomes, and he who keeps my works to the end, to him I will give authority over the nations . (27) He will rule them with a rod of iron, shattering them like clay pots; as I also have received of my Father:
Revelation 5:9-10 They sang a new song, saying, "You are worthy to take the book, and to open its seals: for you were killed, and bought us for God with your blood, out of every tribe, language, people, and nation, (10) and made us kings and priests to our God, and we will reign on earth."
That nation will be the real holy and great nation, a nation of kings and priests, which will rule the world. Thus, the greatest fulfillment of this promise to Abraham is through the One Seed Christ Jesus, and through Christ Jesus the promise will be literally fulfilled in the Church when Christ returns.
Genesis 13:16 I will make your offspring as the dust of the earth, so that if a man can number the dust of the earth, then your seed may also be numbered.
Genesis 15:5-6 Yahweh brought him outside, and said, "Look now toward the sky, and count the stars, if you are able to count them." He said to Abram, "So shall your seed be." (6) He believed in Yahweh; and he reckoned it to him for righteousness.
Genesis 22:17-18 that I will bless you greatly, and I will multiply your seed greatly like the stars of the heavens, and like the sand which is on the seashore. Your seed will possess the gate of his enemies. (18) In your seed will all the nations of the earth be blessed, because you have obeyed my voice."
Old Testament Israel was a fulfillment to God’s promise of a huge number of descendants for Abraham.
Deuteronomy 1:10 Yahweh your God has multiplied you, and behold, you are this day as the stars of the sky for multitude.
2 Chronicles 1:9 Now, Yahweh God, let your promise to David my father be established; for you have made me king over a people like the dust of the earth in multitude.
Hebrews 11:12 Therefore as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as innumerable as the sand which is by the sea shore, were fathered by one man, and him as good as dead.
But God’s promise to Abraham remains to be fulfilled in a much greater way through the One Seed, and therefore through those who abide in Christ. God’s promise to Abraham was fulfilled literally in the Old Testament, so we can reasonably assume the promise will also be fulfilled literally through the One Seed. Therefore, those who abide in Christ, and thus overcome all sin, will inherit eternal life. They will be counted as the true descendants of Abraham.
Romans 9:7a Neither, because they are Abraham's seed, are they all children.
Genesis 12:7 Yahweh appeared to Abram and said, "I will give this land to your seed." He built an altar there to Yahweh, who appeared to him.
Genesis 13:14-15 Yahweh said to Abram, after Lot was separated from him, "Now, lift up your eyes, and look from the place where you are, northward and southward and eastward and westward, (15) for all the land which you see, I will give to you, and to your offspring forever.
Genesis 15:7 He said to him, "I am Yahweh who brought you out of Ur of the Chaldees, to give you this land to inherit it."
Genesis 15:18 In that day Yahweh made a covenant with Abram, saying, "To your seed I have given this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.
Genesis 17:8 I will give to you, and to your seed after you, the land where you are traveling, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession. I will be their God."
Old Testament fulfillment was literal, but partial. Therefore, the final literal and complete fulfillment must be through the One Seed. Those who abide in Christ, and thus overcome all sin, will inherit all the land in the Middle East. Jerusalem will be the capital of the world, and we reign as kings and priests with Christ. Of course that does not mean we will all be dwelling in the land promised to Abraham. We will dwell in the New Jerusalem, which is Paradise, in orbit around the earth.
Revelation 2:7 He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the assemblies. To him who overcomes I will give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the Paradise of my God.
Revelation 3:12 He who overcomes, I will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he will go out from there no more. I will write on him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, the new Jerusalem , which comes down out of heaven from my God, and my own new name.