Most evangelicals believe that God said the nation of Israel will exist forever, therefore its national and political boundaries must be fully restored before Jesus returns. But what if the “Israel” that the Bible refers to in this context is not a specific nation with geographical boundaries, but all who are the people of God?
About 80% of evangelicals believe that the nation of Israel is still God’s chosen land, and thus is what we should watch in terms of the end times, the wrath of God, etc. One view, known as “Christian Zionism” is the belief that the nation of Israel is still central to God’s plan – that the Jews are still God’s chosen people, that the land that was given to the nation of Israel by God is still their land by divine right, and that anyone who tries to take it away from the Jews will incur the wrath of God.
But there are important things at stake here in these “twisted scriptures” beyond the fact many Christians are obstructing peace in the Middle East. Misinterpreting what the Bible says about the nation of Israel can have huge ramifications for how we think about (and therefore present) God, the Gospel message, Jesus, and so on. Today, Greg makes four points to clarify how these scriptures got so “twisted”, and what they really mean for all of us.
First, the Old Testament was a conditional covenant. For example, in Deuteronomy 28, God said, “If you do not carefully follow all the words of this book… then I will scatter you…”. In Jeremiah 17, God tells Israel, “Through your own fault, you will lose the inheritance I gave you…”
Second, ALL of the promises of God ARE fulfilled in Jesus! HE is the faithful Israel – not a nation of people, but the Savior of the people! 2 Corinthians 1:20 tells us that no matter how many promises God made to Israel, they are all “yes” in Christ Jesus, and our job is to say “Amen” to that! This means there are no promises that God made to Israel which are still awaiting their fulfillment – Jesus IS the fulfillment of them all! For example, Isaiah 49 says, “you are my servant Israel, in whom I will display my splendor…” In the New Covenant, this prophesy was ascribed to Jesus several times, including by Simeon, who God promised would not die until he saw the fulfillment of God’s promises come to us.
Third, in Romans 4, Paul points out that the promises of God come to all of Abraham’s descendants through faith – not location, not law, not genetics… In Galatians 3 we see that there is no longer Jew nor Gentile, rather we are all one in Christ Jesus. Faith and Christ – these themes run all the way through chapter 11, where he ends his argument in the same way he began – by contrasting the nation of Israel and it’s “hardening” with a people of faith who have submitted themselves to a Savior. Two basic premises of the New Covenant are that Jesus IS the embodiment of Israel; and that, like Abraham, the true Israelite has always been the person of faith.
Four, the Old Covenant included a certain people, on a certain land, with a certain law to live by, which was enforced by violence. This covenant was intended from the start to be provisional – to set the stage for what more was to come. Hebrews 8:7 says, “For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.” And verse 13 says, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.” The New Covenant is not for a certain people, on a certain land, with a certain law to live by, and is not to be enforced by violence.
After 1000 years of living under foreign oppression, Jesus came to the nation of Israel, yet He refused to restore the nation of Israel. He never mentions their land, or that they should take it back, etc. Instead, his message is basically this: “That exclusivity stuff, that land stuff, that law you can’t keep, that violence – how’s all that working for ya? Are you willing to try something different? My Kingdom is not for a particular people, nor a particular land, it’s for all. It’s not about rules, but grace. And it’s not enforced by violence, but it exists in peace and love. Follow me.”
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25 thoughts on “Twisted Scripture: Joshua 14:9”
I absolutely love this sermon. I grew up in a home that believed strongly in the rapture. Once I learned YEARS later it wasn’t true then I started to examine more surrounding it including the view of Israel.
Now…looking back and even at recent sermons talking about the prophecies surround future Israel I am just in awe that I ever actually fell for this stuff. It’s so saddening to me to see so many fall prey to the teachings that zionists teach on involving Israel…
Ditto what Jeremy said. Been there, done that.
What should get “left behind” is the message of the rapture.
Just when I try to take you seriously, here come the fruitless biceps, etc. waisted energy.
This is one of those monumental contentious issues that in some ways permeates nearly every aspect of Western culture; from foreign policy to philosophical/religious ideology. Israel is and has been [in its ethnic morphology] an integral part of the grand metanarrative Middle Eastern, as well as European civilization. It’s supposed strategic importance to Saudi Arabian oil and regional security has fueled endless debate and often acts as a catalyst for regional conflicts.
It is often argued that Premillennial Dispensationalism is a persuasive evangelical theology that reinforces a conservative structural framework designed to endorse “Zionist” agendas. There obviously is some truth to this, in that it has often been used as a political tool or football, kicked around to sequester the ideological fidelity of the electorate. In a nutshell – support Israel at all costs because it will hasten the return of Christ to commence his Millennial Kingdom!
On the flip side however, there is a well-documented history of horrific anti-Semitic pogroms and persecutions stealthfully brought about by the teaching of Supersessionist & Replacement theology. Why is it always the case that once the ideological ball starts rolling in that direction – Jews start getting attacked? I would say this issue in some ways, has less to do with “Twisted Scripture” and more to do with the heart of Spiritual Warfare.
I’m 90% on board with everything Greg just said but let’s remember, we are “the branch grafted in” as well and that “The Tree”, is by no means dead – just ask my Messianic friends and colleagues who grew up in Israel and lost family members in the Holocaust.
I agree wholeheartedly with Greg. It’s always been about faith and not works or the flesh. It was Rahab’s faith that saved her, and also Ruth’s faith that God used to fulfill his plan. The bible is full of examples of things God did and people he used that seemed contrary to the law, but that fulfilled his purpose. Hosea marrying a harlot and being a faithful husband, Tamar playing the harlot, etc. When you try to put God in a box you miss the point that God is a spirit and they that worship him must worship him in spirit and in truth. I’ve been a missionary in quite a few countries and cities and know for a fact that the only thing that matters is Jesus, and I’ve been accused by other so called Christians of heresy because I don’t follow the law as they interpret it. Only those who truly love and try to follow Jesus are the true Israel, not those who say lord, lord and don’t do what he says, to take up your cross and follow him
It’s possible this topic could use more than one sermon and maybe a Q&A that includes Paul Eddy. This idea of Jesus being the true Israel is pretty new material for me even though here In Canada I think there is less emphasis on Christian Zionism. Thanks for the teaching Greg and the informative comments from others!
Podshioner in Canada
I disagree with Greg but he’s entitled to be wrong. I follow TF Torrance and his brothers on this subject. TF Torrance’s book “The Mediation of Christ” has a solid section on the the Father’s unfinished business with Israel and how to look at it big picture. TF Torrance’s youngest brother David Torrance’s book, “Israel God’s Servant: God’s key to the redemption of the World” is most excellent.
Having said that, this issue will work itself out in another decade or two one way or another and we’ll all see who was right… haha.
Setting theology aside for a minute and speaking just in terms of demographics, a long term “Jewish State” is highly unlikely without clear and overt divine intervention or, worse, covert and nefarious action on the part of Israel. In chess parlance, best case scenario, the Christian/Zionist group will be checkmated within 20 years or so for the simple reason that the birth rate of Arab-Israeli’s exceeds that of Jewish- Israeli’s and that doesn’t include the millions of Arabs in the West Bank and Gaza.
Israel will eventually find themselves a minority in their own land… unless God intervenes which as I said the Zionists are betting on or Israel is forced to commit human rights atrocities to reduce the Arab population. The Zionist group will no doubt interpret atrocities as Gods sovereign intervention.
Pragmatically speaking, Israel won’t commit political or demographic suicide, the demographic reality is like a gun to the head of the Israeli parliament. It is extremely unlikely that Israel will ever annex the West Bank and Gaza. Why would they? Short of genocide or deportation, that would only accelerate their demographic demise.
The rub is, a two state solution is anathema to the Christian/Zionist camp because they need to see the original borders somehow returned to Israel because of the historic Abrahamic covenant. Unless of course they annex and immediately deport millions of Arabs or there are millions of Arab casualties in a regional war, Israel will never incorporate the West Bank and Gaza.
So, barring biblical style miracles… which is the Zionist trump card, a two state solution is the ONLY solution that will preserve a Jewish State long term but a two state solution undermines the land covenant held onto so dearly by the Zionists… this is where the belief that this rising political tension will ultimately lead to a series of wars comes into play.
Zionists cite scriptures like Psalm 83, Isaiah 17 and Ezekiel 38-39. As these intense regional wars happen, Israel kicks their enemies asses and God allows Israel to get their asses kicked before finally intervening on their behalf. This set of conflicts ultimately leads to the physical return of Jesus Christ where he touches down on the Mt. of Olives and, as the prophet Zechariah lays out, “they will see him who they have pierced”, like Joseph taking off his gentile clothing to reveal himself to and reconcile with his brothers who rejected and for all intents and purposes killed him.
It’ll be interesting to see how this all plays out. We all need to guard ourselves against antisemitism, pray for peace and reconciliation and do our part to advance the kingdom where we are.
I would like to suggest reading a paper by Jonathan Bernis. He is the voice of Jewish Voice International. This gives another perspective on this subject. The title of the paper is, “What Messianic Jewish Leaders Should Discuss With The Christian Church about the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict”. It contains much more than the title suggests.
Wow. How beautiful!
As Greg always emphasizes – It’s all about the Jesus looking God. Rob Dalrymple’s new book – These Brothers of Mine – deconstructs the theology around christian zionism, showing how Jesus is the fulfillment of all the OT promises – including the Temple, the People and the Land.
Thanks for your courage Greg to present such a controversial, but needed, message.
Podrishioner in California
It is very difficult as a 21st century Believer, to sift through not only the intricate theology, but the smoke screen of popular culture, political propaganda and doctrinal rhetoric that often impedes a clear vision of Jesus, His Divinity and Messiahship.
One’s cultural context is important though and from a Midwestern liberal [open-minded] evangelical point of view, the following book by Rabbi Itzhak Shapira might seem to be pre-requisitely in tandem with the likes of “Four Blood Moons” – [ad nauseam ‘nut-ology’] but rather, presents a distinctive frame of reference for understanding who “Yeshua” really is.
The Return of the Kosher Pig Discussion – YouTube
▶ 11:48 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3fbwJZQIia0
“You are my servant. I have chosen you and not rejected you” (Isaiah 41:9)
“Only if the heavens above can be meaured and the foundations of the earth below be searched out will I reject all the descendants of Israel because of all they done declares the Lord.” (Jeremiah 31:37)
“Since there is only one covenant of Grace and only one people of God, the separation of the christian from the jew represents the greatest schism there could be… The Christian Church is obligated to witness to Christ and proclaim the gospel to Israel. The Church can only do so by taking seriously the divine election and mission of Israel itself to the world and by incorporating the distinctive witness of the Christian Church WITHIN it. “ TF Torrance
Hans Joachim Schoeps, the Jewish theologian, has written, “The Messianism of Israel aims at that which is to come, the eschatology of the Gentile church at the return of him who has come. Both elective covenants confront the ebb and flow of the finite world in the shared expectation that the decisive event is still to come – the goal of the ways of God that he travels with mankind in Israel and in the Church. The church of Jesus Christ has preserved no portrait of its lord and savior. If Jesus were to come again tomorrow, no Christian would know his face. But it might well be that he who is coming at the end of days, he who is awaited by the synagogue as by the church, is one, with one and the same face.”
I’m really glad you brought up TF Torrance. I’ve come across his ideas quite a bit online and really like his proactive stance on the harmony between Theology and Science. He wrote quote a lot about the mutual integration between the disciplines and didn’t see them as polemically antagonistic.
I think we’re definitely on the same page when it comes to the need for The Church to re-embrace to a greater extent is Judaistic heritage and not foster a greater soteriological disconnect by so easily redefining the nature of “The Tree” of Faith. NT Wright gets into this in his “New Paul” hermeneutics, But again, that may or may not necessarily mean supporting Israel as a physical nation corporately – which is really the sticky issue! The two often get potentially intertwined and conflated (?) And I say that with the deepest reservation due to the inherent complexity and sensitivity of all involved.
When you say –
“The church of Jesus Christ has preserved no portrait of its lord and savior. If Jesus were to come again tomorrow, no Christian would know his face.”
Wow, I sure hope that’s not true! Many of us are wide of the mark in certain areas for sure, but nevertheless we hold a deep and abiding faith in the beauty and power of The Cross to redeem our lives and to heal a broken world through the power of self-sacrificial love. As one grows and is more conformed to the image of His Son daily, we become ever increasing aware of just how “peon-esque” and limited our comprehension is of the full picture. You gain a firm footing in one spiritual territory only then to be completely be blown away by the gaps in your knowledgeable practice in others. In this life, can we ever really know every facet of His incredible infinite FACE as it surveys and sustains all of creation and humanity through the eons? But praise God he knows every molecule that makes up mine!
Certainly, there would have been expected some timely post-Joshua 14 or sequel to buttress against the predictable accusations of “replacement theology”, “Christian triumphalism”, etc. (One would have expected this from a “sermon” advisory committee.)
The Twisted Scripture series is too valuable to pull this kind of punch
Overall, some reprieve on the subject is urged as obviously the pulpit exegesis was restrained by the enormous challenge of comprehensive presentation despite the traditional Sunday sermon constraints.
Thankfully, Psalm 122.6 was not cited: “Pray for peace in Jerusalem. May all who love this city prosper… (NLT)” The Hebrew shalah has been “twisted” enough by flagrant misuse and abuse as an incentive to gain material reward among many of the cited “80-percent of evangelicals” although unfortunately the pollster(s) was unidentified. “Polls”, it must always be reminded, can “say” anything for the people who buy and sell them.
The bottom of that “80-percent” will drop out when the lines reappear at the gas pumps, as in the 1970s!
Also, it should be cautioned that Anabaptism (as shown by internet search) continues to reverberate with its own post-Reformation tremors. All we Protestants “doth protest too much” whenever “antisemitism” is voiced in our direction. Thus, our shoe-size must be checked for the proper fit.
Finally, some rhetorical niggling against Reflection Question No. 3: “What are some practical things I could do to help me shift my focus from the nation of Israel to the ‘true Israel’ – those who put their faith in God through the Messiah, Jesus Christ?” Surely, it is NOT an “either/or” issue − is it?
No, it should always be reminded, the “Old” Testament psalmist sings that God has not and will not “forget Jerusalem” (Psalm 137), nor will Jesus disavow his heritage when acknowledging the Kingdom heirs as “righteous ones” in the Final Judgement because they favored “the least of these my brothers and sisters…” (Mat. 25.40)
And dancing-on-the-heads-of-theological-pins-notwithstanding, Paul excruciated and was “willing to be accursed─cut off from Christ” for the salvation of “the people of Israel”. (Rom. 9.3)
Please, more twist-ology.
Dave, TF Torrance is my favorite theologian, along with his brothers and many of their students. Wrt recognizing the face of Jesus, I find that quote from a Jewish theologian to be fascinating…. I agree with him… I know the messiah they await is Jesus… and he’s right, I don’t know what he looks like… maybe he’ll physically look like the image on the shroud of Turin. The point is, both Jews and Christians await the decisive event… the coming/second coming of Messiah. Here’s an excellent debate between Michael Brown and Gary Demar on this important topic.
Sounds Really Good!
Can anyone please explain, for the sake of my husband who is stuck from seeing what Greg is getting at, those 2 scriptures Ex 38-39 regarding Magog invasion ( hubby says it hasn’t happened yet, and Isaiah 17 – when Damascus is destroyed in a day, which he believes also hasn’t happened yet. If someone could give their take on these scriptures – I would be grateful. Hubby still believes Jesus is coming back, church will be removed, then God’s face will turn to the nation of Israel…. and the Jews, 144,000 etc etc, and he bases it on these 2 prophecies which, IHO, haven’t happened yet.
There’s quite a lot of disagreement among Jesus loving people about these things, that’s one reason there are nearly 40,000 denominations.
Wrt Damascus for instance, there is some evidence that Isaiah 17 was fulfilled 2,800 years ago. Here’s one article.
But there isn’t 100% academic agreement among “scholars” either. There isn’t 100% academic agreement that Jesus rose from the dead and there’s still a flat earth society.
I think people want to get a handle on stuff like this because we like to have control of our lives. “Knowing ” what to expect or what current events “add up to” provides that… but it’s an illusion.
IMO, it can paralyze or distract us from living within the flow of the kingdom of God as it breaks into our world through our lives. “I don’t know” is a good answer to give people sometimes. More important that eschatology is loving the people right in front of us and showing them Jesus by how we live and love and not to get so uptight about non-essential doctrines.
The fact is we don’t know with absolute certainty. Even Greg Boyd acknowledges he could be wrong about stuff. We read, study, apply ourselves or listen to others who supposedly have read and studied more than we have and we make the subjective decision to believe something or not.
Here’s a great quote from GK Chesterton’s book “Orthodoxy”,
“Imagination does not breed insanity… Exactly what does breed insanity is reason. Poets do not go mad; but chess-players do. Mathematicians go mad… but creative artists very seldom. Poetry is sane because it floats easily in an infinite sea; reason seeks to cross the infinite sea, and so make it finite. The result is mental exhaustion… To accept everything is an exercise, to understand everything a strain… The poet only asks to get his head into the heavens. It is the logician who seeks to get the heavens into his head. And it is his head that splits.”
One word. Brilliant
Mark Levin radio program might save somebody here… 😉
Thank you for this sermon, Greg Boyd. It has been helpful to me.
James, Dave and caucazhin: Please consider this post by Frank Viola:
Whenever I listen to one of Greg’s sermons, a prayer seems to get answered. Something that I was confused about seems to get straightened out.
This time, it is with understanding how the OT is obsolete. I never understood the relationship God depicted of violence in the OT to win the land, etc; it was difficult to read the OT and get the message we are meant to get out of it now that Jesus has come. And Greg explains this so very well.
Of course those Jews who call upon the name of the Lord and recognize their Messiah at the end of the age will be saved. Why do you have to make it more complicated than it is? Why quibble about “all” when the Lord knows what is meant by all? Of course, believing Jews will die calling for their Messiah to come and rescue them, but they shall be saved just the same. And why do you cite the extreme cases so that you can mock us, instead of arguing with the reasonable voices out there? Try arguing against Dr. Arnold Fruchtenbaum, for example.