The following is Philip’s blog with my critique inserted in blue…
A response to Graeme Carle, “Promised Land or Not?” December 31, 2017
Recently Graeme Carle published his opinions on Israel and the promised land here. In his post he challenged anyone from Laidlaw College or Carey Baptist College to respond. I am taking up the challenge, although I represent neither college. The opinions are my own.
Graeme starts with Romans 4:13, “For the promise that he would inherit the world did not come to Abraham or to his descendants through the law but through the righteousness of faith.” We all know that Abraham was promised not the world but a small slice of territory at the eastern end of the Mediterranean, But here, Paul, in line with his recognition that God’s promise of descendants to Abraham is expanded to include not just ethnic Israel but everybody who has faith, also recognises that in Christ the promised land is expanded to include the whole world. Graeme claims, “Abraham and Jesus haven’t yet inherited the whole world to share with us have they?” Graeme is wrong. He hasn’t noticed that the most frequently quoted Old Testament text in the New Testament is Ps 110:1, “The Lord says to my lord, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies your footstool?” The New Testament authors read this verse as saying that Jesus is seated at the right hand of God, ruling not just the whole world, but the entire universe with the power and authority of God. Sometimes it is combined with Ps 2:7-8, “I will tell of the decree of the Lord: He said to me, ‘You are my son; today I have begotten you. Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage, and the ends of the earth your possession’.” In the Psalm that can be classed as ancient Near Eastern royal court hyperbole. But with Jesus it is the reality. Jesus has inherited not just the kingdom ruled by David to whom this Psalm originally applied, but the ends of the earth. Wherever the people of God are found is the promised land. The gospel has reached as far as New Zealand – the ends of the earth from the perspective of the Hebrew post – and since the people of God are found living there, the promise has indeed been fulfilled in Christ. Just as the Book of Joshua shows the people of God taking the promised land for God’s people, so the Book of Acts shows the people of God taking the ends of earth for God’s people. Philip, don’t we have common ground in inaugurated eschatology? Of course Jesus received “all authority… in heaven and on earth” in 30 AD but He didn’t and won’t receive the whole world until “the end of the age” – that’s why He wants us making disciples in the meantime (Matt 28:18 & 20).
Remember His parable for those who ‘supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately… ”A nobleman went to a distant country to receive a kingdom for himself, and then return…”’ (Luke 19:11-27). When the nobleman returns, having received the kingdom, he rewards his servants but orders, “…these enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, bring them here and slay them in my presence” (v. 27). Sound like Ps 110:1?
Daniel’s prediction of the stone kingdom illustrates this perfectly – established in and by Jesus in 26 A.D., the stone has grown to become a great mountain (Heb 12:22) which, as you say, includes us here in the ends of the earth. However, it won’t ‘fill the whole earth’ (Dan 2:35) until all other kingdoms are judged at the seventh and last trumpet when He returns:
“The kingdom of the world has become the kingdom of our Lord and of His Christ; and He will reign forever and ever!”1
This is the whole point of our much quoted Ps 110:1, Philip – our Lord Jesus is sitting waiting until He receives the whole world. You need to include the Biblical ‘until’s in your hermeneutics.
Graeme then turns to 2 Cor 1:20, “For in him (Christ) every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” The sense of the verse seems clear to me – whatever promises God made to Israel in the past, they find their fulfillment in Christ. Or as Murray Harris writes in his NIGTC commentary on this verse, “God’s promises all find their ‘Yes’ of fulfillment in Christ; he forms the climax and summation of the divine self-revelation” (p. 202). The verse has no verb in Greek (Greek grammar does that at times), and one needs to be supplied in English. Our translations all supply a present tense verb, but Graeme is unhappy with this, so he decides that it needs a future tense verb. Occasionally New Testament verbless clauses need a future tense verb in English, but it is always clear from the context (see 1 Peter 4:17; Heb 6:8; 1 Cor 15:21). It is not clear in 2 Cor 1:20 though. There’s no doubt that all the promises find their fulfillment in Christ but we’re clearly not yet enjoying our resurrection bodies, are we, but aren’t we both glad they’re promised?! Isn’t that clearly in 2 Cor 1:20?
Graeme wants to make the verse say “There is one more promise that won’t happen for a couple of thousand years, for then Israel will get its land back.” Is this unreasonable? There are quite a few promises that won’t happen for even longer, e.g. ‘according to His promise we are looking for new heavens and a new earth’.2
The problem with this is that the New Testament nowhere states specifically that Israel will ever get its land back. This problem is of your own making, Philip – you’ve simply failed to contextualize the N.T., as I tried to point out in A Colloquium and Its Book. With the exception of Revelation, the entire New Testament was finished before Israel lost their land. The land simply wasn’t an issue until after they lost it. Their losing Jerusalem and the land had to be predicted as a future occurrence in Luke 21:24, along with their eventually regaining it, as always promised, from the Gentiles. ‘Every one of God’s promises that is a “Yes”‘ in Christ includes one that Israel’s punitive exiles will always end in restoration:
“I will remember My covenant with Jacob, and I will remember also My covenant with Isaac, and My covenant with Abraham as well, and I will remember the land. For the land will be abandoned by them…while it is made desolate without them. They, meanwhile, will be making amends for their iniquity [in exile]… Yet in spite of this, when they are in the land of their enemies, I will not reject them, nor will I so abhor them as to destroy them, breaking My covenant with them; for I am the LORD their God” (Lev 26:42-44, emphasis added).
During the Babylonian exile, Israel had to be reminded of this promise:
“Thus says the LORD, who gives the sun for light by day and the fixed order of the moon and the stars for light by night… ‘If this fixed order departs from before Me …then the offspring of Israel also will cease from being a nation before Me forever… If the heavens above can be measured and the foundations of the earth searched out below, then I will also cast off all the offspring of Israel for all that they have done” (Jer 31:35-37, emphasis added).
Notice, Jeremiah reaffirms this Levitical promise immediately after predicting the New Covenant in vv. 31:34.
As long as heaven and earth exist, God will not cast off even unbelieving Israel as a nation, despite “all that they have done”. Jesus included this promise when He said, “I did not come to abolish but to fulfill… until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke will pass from the Law…” (Matt 5:18). This is why Paul could confidently repeat it in Rom 11:11, 28-29, and why Jesus specified that the Gentiles would only trample Jerusalem underfoot “until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled” (Luke 21:24) – they both knew Israel will always be a nation, always be restored to their promised land, until heaven and earth pass away. Contextualisation, Philip.
Graeme has noticed the state of Israel and wants to find New Testament support for it being the beginning of the end times. So he misreads to Scripture to make it say that. Or not. See above.
Next Graeme turns to Rom 11:1-2 to support his claim that God’s promises have not failed. He misquotes that text too. He writes, “I say, then, God has not rejected his people, has He, May it never be … God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew …” (Rom 11:1-2). My problem is with the ellipse that Graeme inserts in the middle of his quote. The paragraph that encompasses Rom 11:1-5, without Graeme’s ellipse reads like this (with some italics added to show what Graeme has omitted):
I ask, then, has God rejected his people? By no means! I myself am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin. 2 God has not rejected his people whom he foreknew. Do you not know what the scripture says of Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? 3 “Lord, they have killed your prophets, they have demolished your altars; I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” 4 But what is the divine reply to him? “I have kept for myself seven thousand who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” 5 So too at the present time there is a remnant, chosen by grace.
Paul’s evidence that God’s promises have not failed is not connected with the last days gathering of the people of God to the promised land, which is never mentioned in Romans 11 (or anywhere else in the New Testament). Rather, it is that Paul is “an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, a member of the tribe of Benjamin” and a follower of Jesus, part of the remnant chosen by grace. That is why Paul can say that God is faithful. God has not cast off his people, for the gospel remains open to Jew and Gentile alike, and Jews like Paul were (and still are) becoming believers in Jesus. Fair point, Philip. You’re right. In vv. 1-5, Paul is clearly saying that God is fulfilling His promise of salvation in the Jewish remnant. I’m not sure when you accessed my article but I may have corrected it after you had, to add v. 11 where Paul addresses the issue of unbelieving Israel, i.e. ‘according to the flesh’, and holds on to the promises of Lev 26:44: “I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be!” He spells out what this means in vv. 28-29:
From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Is this in any way unclear? Even though the Jews of Paul’s day are ‘enemies of the gospel’, not only unbelieving but actively attacking the message, they are still ‘beloved for the sake’ of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Lev 26:42) and “the covenant with their ancestors, whom I brought out of the land of Egypt” (Lev 26:44). The ‘gifts’, which include the land, and ‘the calling of God’ to trust in Messiah are ‘irrevocable’, i.e. will never be withdrawn, until heaven and earth pass away. They, of course, are only saved if they repent and come to Him as called (Rom 8:28).
Graeme brings in one more New Testament text, Luke 21:24, “Jerusalem will be trampled on by the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled.” Graeme looks at vv. 20-24 together, which he rightly relates to the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, but then he transfers verse 24 2,000 years into the future (what warrant he for inserting this gap into the text I do not know) and suggests that the times of the Gentiles were fulfilled in 1967 when Israel regained Jerusalem. The problem with Graeme’s exegesis is that he doesn’t notice the full stop at the end of verse 24. My Greek wife says there’s no full stop there but I don’t mind you adding one, as per translation convention. Luke does not go on to say, “and then will be the times of the Jews.” This verse say nothing at all about the restoration of Jerusalem. A glance at Mark’s version of the same discourse is illuminating. Mark 13:14-23 ends like this, “And if the Lord had not cut short those days, no one would be saved; but for the sake of the elect, whom he chose, he has cut short those days” (v. 20). God, in his grace, set a limit on the duration of Rome’s war on Jerusalem. Mark explains it as the Lord “cutting short those days”, while Luke explains it with reference to the times of the Gentiles having a limit. But neither Mark nor Luke (nor, as it happens, Matthew) anywhere suggest the restoration of Jerusalem to Israel. It is simply not on their horizon. Graeme needs to take note of what the text does says and not what it doesn’t say. Unless you’ve misunderstood the phrase, “times of the Gentiles”, Philip. I see Luke 21:24 echoed in Rev 11:1-2, written after Jerusalem had been levelled and therefore yet to be completely fulfilled. We therefore have to establish the meaning of the mysterious three and a half years, perhaps the most often used but least understood O.T. metaphor in the NT with eleven references. See ‘The Mystery of Elijah’ in my Dancing in the Dragon’s Jaws.
What is significant about Graeme’s article is that apart from these New Testament texts that he misreads, he can only cite Old Testament texts about the promised land. This is because there are no New Testament texts available. Didn’t you teach contextualisation, Philip? I repeat, your fabled ‘silence’ is because there was no issue when the N.T. was written – Israel already had the Promised Land. It only became an issue when they lost it in 70 AD, about 25 years before Revelation was written, which is why Revelation is the only N.T. book that mentions it as an issue.
Graeme reads the Old Testament as though the New Testament had never been written. And to be frank, that is a faulty hermeneutic. The New Testament is just not interested in the promised land. It’s fair to say you aren’t but the N.T. doesn’t mention Israel regaining the land because they already had it. It appears just once in Heb 11:8-10, 13-16, where it is negated, as anticipating a better, heavenly country. The New Testament nowhere anticipates Israel’s return to the land in the last days. Nowhere. How about in Rev 20:9 where Satan and the nations besiege ‘the beloved city’ immediately prior to Judgement Day? There has been a change of focus from the land to Jesus.
So my question to Graeme is, “Where are you going to focus your attention? The land and a secular state with a religious name (Israel), or Jesus? I don’t believe it can be both and you need to make a choice. I know some women think men can’t do more than one thing at a time but I can: I focus on Jesus as the only answer and hope for the planet and I keep a close eye on the secular state of Israel, predicted in Rev 11:7-8, as God’s challenge to the Islamic Empire, the oldest, largest, and most relevant antichrist regime the planet’s ever seen. For more details, see my Silencing the Witnesses: Jerusalem and the Ascent of Secularism.
I look forward to your response, Philip. In the meantime, I wish you and yours a very happy and healthy 2018!