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Did Jesus Give Away the Land of Israel to Christians (Matthew 5:5) Part 3

Introduction

I could not contain my excitement when I entered Bible College in Dallas, Texas in 1971. I looked forward to learning New Testament Greek, studying the Jewish Scriptures and the New Testament, and researching multiple schools of theology. Attending Bible College was a dream come true. And it was, for the most part.

I devoured every class offered in Bible and theology. I signed up for Leviticus and Hebrews to better understand the connection between the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Covenant.

Hermeneutics or Biblical Interpretation was one of many required courses. My professor was a graduate of the Dallas Theological Seminary (DTS). Yet, he took pride he had rejected the dispensational theology he learned at DTS. In other words, he became a replacement theologian. He did not affirm God has a plan for the nation of Israel other than the need for individual Jewish people to accept Yeshua.

As the professor unraveled his theology in class one afternoon, he proudly announced he is a spiritual Jew. In fact, in an arrogant tone, he declared he was a “true Jew.” I almost fell out of my chair. I did not believe my ears.

According to the teacher, God wiped His hands of the nation of Israel. Presently, the Lord formed a “new nation of Israel” made up of Gentiles removed from Jewish tradition and culture.

According to my professor, God has no interest in the physical land of Israel or in preserving the Jewish nation as He promised to Abraham. All the references to the land and the Jewish nation in Scripture are realized in the Church. I was nauseous. I wanted to bolt from the classroom.

I ended up in my car after class, trembling and shaking. Questions bombarded my brain. Was God lying to Abraham about the Jewish nation to issue from his loins? Can God be trusted not to give mixed messages in His promises? Do my Gentile brothers in the Lord truly know what is contained in the Jewish Scriptures? What does replacement theology do with the many prophecies that guarantee the nation of Israel possession of the land forever? Was I in the wrong faith? How could I look at these Texas Christians and think of them as Jewish?

Why do I share this story? Truly, my encounter with this professor who espoused Replacement theology set me on a lifetime journey of disproving this teaching that is harmful to a proper understanding of God’s commitment to Israel. Hence, I have undertaken this series of articles on the use of Matthew 5:5 or the third beatitude by replacement theology advocates to remove Israel from the proper focus of God’s eternal plan for His cherished people.

Since Yeshua quoted Psalm 37:11 in Matthew 5:5, the Bible student must grasp the context of this Psalm to comprehend how Jesus was using this passage. In the last article, we looked at five themes of Psalm 37. Now we will dig into the passage itself as it leads up to verse 11,  “But the meek shall inherit the land and delight themselves in abundant peace” (ESV).

Was Jesus removing the land of Israel promised to the Jewish people and handing it off to the “meek”? Of course, the meek, according to RT, refers to Christians. However, since followers of Jesus are a spiritual people whose citizenship is in heaven, the “land,” according to RT, now refers to heaven, not the geographical strip of land in the Middle East adjacent to the Mediterranean Sea.

After studying ReplacementTheology since 1971, I have concluded this is not a study of an impractical issue but a defense of the truthfulness of God’s character. Can His word be trusted? My concern in every article I have written and every sermon I taught on this subject is the veracity of God’s character and His word in light of the shadow cast by RT on the Church. This same burden drives my passion for writing this series of articles.

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Did Jesus Give Away the Land of Israel to Christians? (Matthew 5:5) Pt 1

Photo courtesy of The Holy Land Christian Ecumenical Foundation

Most evangelical supporters of the modern state of Israel MUST become familiar with the biennial conference Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC). This symposium is organized by Palestinian Christian pastors and leaders in conjunction with Bethlehem Bible College, a non-denominational Evangelical school located in the West Bank and a source of anti-Zionist propaganda. The major mission of this controversial forum is stated in the “About” Section of the CATC website, “We are a community of evangelical Christians who believe that following Jesus with integrity means that our lives are formed by our love for God, the teaching of the Bible and a fearless life of discipleship in the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict”.

On the surface the Christ at the Checkpoint mission statement appears acceptable. The commitment to apply Christian principles to navigating and addressing the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is appealing to Christians who want to reflect the principles taught by Jesus. To clarify their viewpoint regarding the Middle East conflict, the CATC “About” field continues, “We feel compelled to address the injustices that have taken place in the ongoing conflict between Israel and Palestine, particularly the Palestinian lands under occupation.”

However, after listening to the CATC talks posted online, one notices the lecturers are quick to condemn the Jewish state, but are strangely quiet about the atrocities committed by the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank and the Hamas government in Gaza. Dexter Van Zile, a writer for C.A.M.E.R.A. (Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting and Analysis), reflects in an article about the CATC gatherings, “all the problems and suffering associated with the Arab-Israeli conflict are placed at the feet of Israel, America and the West while the misdeeds of Palestinian leaders are ignored.”

The Role of CATC in Denying God’s Promises of the Land to Israel

Checkpont West Bank
Ahmad Al-Bazz

In this article the alleged injustices occurring in the Palestinian territories will not be addressed. Rather, our goal is to deal with the underlying agenda of CATC in questioning and opposing any theology that advocates a divine plan for Israel’s future.

CATC’s adversarial position concerning theologies that are supportive of Israel is stated as follows ” . . . we reject theologies that lead to discrimination or privileges based on ethnicity. Worldviews that promote divine national entitlement or exceptionalism do not promote the values of the Kingdom of God because they place nationalism above Jesus.” Any attendee at CATC is soon made aware the majority of speakers do not believe the God of the Bible has a plan for the nation of Israel that includes both the title and possession of the Promised Land.

In contrast, one who maintains God DOES have a future plan for Israel believes the divine program for the Jewish nation has NEVER been based on ethnicity. The Lord’s planned blessings for Israel is founded solely on His elective choice as seen in Deuteronomy 7:6-8:

The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping rthe oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Deuteroomy 7:6-8 (ESV)

The true intent of the CATC conferences can be missed in the slew of many messages that obfuscates their agenda. From the One for Israel website this intention is spelled out:

The conference claims to be “theology in the service of peace and justice” but its true purpose is to fundamentally change the way that Evangelicals in the West read the Bible in order to fundamentally change their political stand regarding the Arab-Israeli conflict-and through them, to affect their political leaders. Instead of reading the Bible in its historical and cultural context in order to understand what the inspired prophets and apostles communicated as the Word of God, organizers of CatC want us to read the Scriptures only “in the shadow of the occupation”, that is, filtered through the Palestinian Arab’s POV and political aspirations. 

https://www.oneforisrael.org/bible-based-teaching-from-israel/christ-at-the-checkpoint/

Of course, the leaders involved in CATC will demonstrate a desire for Israel and the Jewish people to experience salvation through Yeshua. Still, the denial of God’s promises of the land to the nation of Israel lies at the heart of the CATC agenda.

The Role of CATC in Altering the Fingerprint of the Nation of Israel

It is tempting to only see CATC as an evangelical effort to right injustices and to take a stand for the oppressed Palestinians. Yet we must keep at the forefront the deeper aim of CATC as stated by a One for Israel position paper: “to sway Evangelical believers worldwide away from belief in the eternal promises of God to Israel by slandering the Jewish people and delegitimizing the Jewish state . . . “

fingerprint
Free photo 2737531 © Andy Brown – Dreamstime.com

The Jewish News Syndicate chimes in with a similar understanding of the theological underpinnings of this evangelical anti-Israel effort, “CATC includes a heavy emphasis on replacement theology, which teaches that the Christian church has replaced Israel or the Jewish people regarding the plan, purpose, and promises of God. Adherents of the theology believe that the Jews are no longer God’s ‘chosen people’.” Those who hold to any form of replacement theology are asking its adherents to believe the fingerprint of Israel in the Jewish scriptures has been altered. Like a thief who uses acid or a surgical technique to change his fingerprints, these RT theologians have attempted to file off the fingerprint of Israel from Old Testament promises so that the nation’s identity is replaced with that of the Church.

In Palestinian replacement theology, some of their theologians see the land of Israel as a type of heaven and not a geographical destination; many opt for a replacement theology in which the Church is the spiritual “New Israel”. A growing number of New Testament theologians hold the promises given to Israel are now fulfilled in Jesus. He is the goal of the Old Testament prophecies and He is the “new Israel”.

The variations of Replacement Theology are manifold and cannot be covered in this piece in their entirety. Yet the essential conviction of RT that replaces the nation Israel with the NT Church and the land with spiritualized interpretations will be discussed throughout this article. In addition, every attempt will be made to address the passages cited by Replacement Theology that are used to diminish the commitment of the God of Israel to His nation.

The perspective on Israel by CATC organizers is well stated by Palestinian Salim Munayer, head of Musalaha a non-profit organization which works towards reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians. In response to a concern about God’s promises of the land to Israel, Munayer responded,

“CATC interprets them via a new “theology of the land”. This theology teaches that “the blessing of the Promised Land has been stretched over the whole earth.” God has gifted every people with a homeland, on condition that they behave morally. The Jews behaved immorally and lost their land to the Palestinians. If the Jewish people will become moral, God will let them share the land with the Palestinians (italics mine).

https://news.kehila.org/the-controversial-christ-at-the-checkpoint-a-beginners-factual-guide/

The Role of Christians in Grasping Israel’s Role in God’s Plans

Most non-RT scholars will argue against the general theological statements which support the stance God has replaced Israel with the Church. Yet when texts used by RT proponents to support their theology are carefully examined, we discover the tedious work of exegesis of these verses has oftentimes been neglected. Two results are noticed:

RT is built on a foundation of poorly interpreted biblical texts.

blowing up balloon

Throughout the Tenach God is inflating Israel like a giant balloon with blessings and promises concerning the future of the nation. To defend the position that sees the continuation of God’s promises to Israel, the proponents take into account the many texts that support this position.

For example, according to Psalm 2:6 and Zechariah 14:6-7 the Messiah will rule from Jerusalem during the Messianic kingdom. The nations of the earth will come to Zion to worship the Messiah King of Israel (Isaiah 61:10). Because of God’s commitment to Israel, the nation is preserved by Him throughout the ages. In the Hebrew scriptures and post-biblical history, the “balloon” nation almost floats above all attempts to wipe them out by the enemies of God’s chosen people.

In contrast, Replacement theologians use their anti-Israel doctrine to deflate the special position Israel has in the Word of God. These advocates fail to interact honestly with the many Old Testament passages that reinforce God’s continued relationship with Israel.

For instance, most conservative biblical scholars view Ezekiel 37:1-14, the Valley of the Dry Bones, as a prophecy of the regathering of the Jewish people to the land of Israel and the ensuing spiritual regeneration of the Jewish people. RT interpreters view Ezekiel 37 as referring to the gathering of redeemed people-Jews and Gentiles-into the church. The latter interpretation ignores the details of these fourteen verses in favor of a general interpretation that is indifferent to the specifics of the prophecy. Ezekiel 37:12 declares to a scattered Israel throughout the earth, “And I will bring you into the land of Israel.” Where is this geographical location God promises to bring the replacement “new Israel” (the Church) to?

By the time we get to the NT, these RT teachers have redefined Israel or ignored the promises God gave to the Jewish nation. This is because these scholars have built their theology on poorly interpreted passages from the Hebrew Bible regarding Israel.

RT often overlooks the entire scope of OT prophecies about Israel.

RT maintains if an OT prophecy regarding Israel’s future is not mentioned again in the NT, the passage is to be ignored. Oddly, these neglected specifics of OT prophecies about Israel form the greatest argument against Replacement Theology.

It is true Ezekiel 37 is not mentioned in the New Testament. However, where does it teach in the New Covenant scriptures that Ezekiel 37 is no longer applicable because the text is not mentioned in the NT?

The NT does not mention God’s covenant promise to Noah in Genesis 9:11 to never destroy the earth with a worldwide flood again. Because this commitment to Noah is NOT repeated in the NT, does that mean God can once again destroy the earth with a universal flood?

The “Israel” of RT is an Israel devoid of the important connection to the Hebrew roots of the nation. Israel has become gentilized and christianized according to these scholars. It is an Israel unrecognizable to the Old Testament student and to the majority of Jewish people.

However, the most confusion initiated by Replacement Theology is seen in the way they interpret many passages in the NT about Israel. One important passage often misinterpreted by RT is Matthew 5:5, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (ESV). This is not a text most Christians would associate with a denial of God’s promises of the land to Israel.

In contrast to popular belief, Matthew 5:5 has become one of the major New Testament passages used by Replacement theologians to prove the New Testament does not teach the land of Israel is promised to the Jewish people.

Some biblical scholars who have bought into Palestinian replacement theology contend in this verse Jesus is removing the land of Israel from the Jewish nation and giving the land-figuratively-to His followers-the Church. In essence, Yeshua is universalizing the Abrahamic promises to Israel to spread out over the entire gentile world and is excluding Israel save for the Jewish believing remnant in Yeshua.

Since Matthew 5:5 is not only in the famed Sermon on the Mount and one of the first times Jesus supposedly refers to the land of Israel in His teaching, one can see why understanding this passage is so essential.

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Not All Israel Is Israel Part 3

The controversy over God’s continuation of Israel as a viable nation despite their rejection of Jesus as their Messiah looms large in the Christian church.

Most followers of Jesus are not even aware of the various Christian theologies regarding the Jewish nation.  Yet when uninformed evangelicals are exposed to such anti-Israel beliefs such as Replacement Theology (the view that Israel is no longer God’s elect people but replaced by the Church), these Christians are conflicted over what they are  hearing and what the Bible teaches.

As a representative of Replacement Theology (though he prefers the term “Fulfillment Theology”) Gary Burge, New Testament professor at Wheaton College, in his book Whose Land? Whose Promises?  the author states, “Abraham can become the father of many nations because when Gentiles share in Abraham’s faith, he becomes their father too (Romans 4:16).  Physical lineage, therefore, has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith (emphasis mine). The ‘land of Israel’ is likewise spirtualized now to include the entire world” (pg. 182).

geneology

The key concept to focus on from Burge’s theology is, “physical lineage  . . . has been spiritualized into a lineage based on faith.”  Israel  is no longer a physical nation, according to the Wheaton professor, but has become a spiritual entity that one enters into by faith  in Christ not by physical heritage through Abraham. If the physical seed has been “spiritualized” then the “physical” is no longer relevant, hence the physical nation of Israel is moot to God’s spiritual program.

The glaring mistake Burge makes is twofold:  first, the physical lineage of a member of the nation of Israel never implied the individual within the nation  has a relationship with God, and second, within the physical nation of Israel there has always existed a spiritual remnant of Israelites who remained faithful to God.  These two truths do not redefined the nation of Israel, but describe the reality of a spiritual remnant within the physical Jewish nation.

In contrast to Gary Burge’s fulfillment theology which pushes aside God’s plan for the physical nation  the Apostle Paul  teaches that Israel still exists as a nation even after the first coming of the Messiah. In Romans 9:3-4a Paul pleads, “For I could wish that I myself were cursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my people, those of my own race, the people of Israel.” To Paul, “those of his own race” are “the people of Israel” quite alive and not replaced by or fulfilled in the New Testament church.  (more…)




Not All Israel is Israel Part 2

To many students of the Bible Paul’s comment in Romans 9:6 that “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel” (NIV) sounds very strange.  Is Paul saying the part of Israel that is “descended from Israel” is no longer part of the nation known as Israel?  Then that would mean the only people who are actually Israelites are Jewish people who believe in Yeshua as Messiah  and the “not all who are descended from Israel ” group are no longer members of the Jewish nation.  Yet if you follow that logic, any examples of the NT apostles addressing the segment of the Jewish nation who have not accepted Yeshua as Messiah as  still “Israel” makes no sense.

Check out these examples from the New Testament:

Acts 2:22: “Fellow Israelites, listen to this:

Acts 2:29:  “Fellow Israelites, I can tell you confidently that the patriarch David died and was buried, and his tomb is here to this day.”

Acts 2: 36: “Therefore let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Messiah.”

Acts 3:12: “When Peter saw this, he said to them: “Fellow Israelites, why does this surprise you?”

Acts 3:17: “Now, fellow Israelites, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did your leaders.”

Acts 4:10:  “then know this, you and all the people of Israel: It is by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom you crucified but whom God raised from the dead, that this man stands before you healed.”

No wonder Christians are befuddled by Paul’s reference to two Israel’s in Romans 9:6.

Twelve Tribes of Israel

Twelve Tribes of Israel

 

In light of Paul’s head-scratching use of the phrase, “”not all who are descended from Israel are Israel”, Christian theologians come up with explanations that confuse the issue even more.

My favorite explanation is the one that states unbelieving Israel has been replaced by the Church.  This is called “replacement theology.”   In this theological system,  “Israel” that accepted Yeshua is none other than the Church.  Rather than create clarity, Replacement Theology (aka disguised as Fulfillment Theology or Transformation Theology or Promise Theology) contributes more fuzzy thinking since the reader of the New Testament is forced to think “Church” when he reads the term “Israel”. Try to think “Church” in reading Romans 11:26,  “and in this way all Israel will be saved.”  Thanks, but no thanks.  (more…)




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