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Modern Israel: An Impostor?
Israel - Middle East
Friday, August 22, 2014
Alf Cengia

On Monday morning (as is usual for me) I was staring at my laptop screen, contemplating what to write about. I was toying with an idea based on an experience I'd had the previous week. As I was chewing it over, I heard my wife complaining that another of her Christian-themed emails was summarily relegated to her Google Spam Folder.

The missing email was from the Christian Coalition of America (CCA) and the article's heading was Taking Israel Out of the Bible. One doesn't need to spend time discussing Google spam conspiracy theories when faced with ready examples of the phenomenon of excising Israel.

So that settled it for me. I took it as a sign to proceed.

The CCA article discussed the denial of modern Israel's prophetic relevance, hermeneutics and Replacement Theology. It was a decent summary of the situation found among non-premillennial proponents within the church.

This is something that we've been accustomed to seeing from preterists, postmillennialists and amillennialists. But what can we say about Neo-Premillennialists who deny modern Israel's prophetic and/or secular legitimacy? I've seen a troubling trend in this direction.

Craig Blomberg once prepared a talk alleging that dispensationalism inappropriately privileges Israel. Blomberg insisted that Christ's second coming was not contingent to Israel's presence in the land. He commended Gary Burge's efforts in chiding Israel's oppression the Palestinians. Yet Blomberg failed to provide evidence of this oppression, or make a biblical case for his assertions.

He's not alone.

Last week I exchanged brief words with another man who is well-known and influential in some prophecy circles. I came across him around 2008 and (with reservations) found some of his ideas interesting. I was advised that we shouldn't be smug in our personal understanding. Our goal should be humility as there are so many ideas out there. I agree.

But here's the Big Red Flag.

His hermeneutical methodology is to go deeper, beyond the literal interpretation of the dispensationalism he was raised on. Apparently a literal reading of prophecy (especially OT) actually disguises the truth and contributes to eschatological confusion. Sound familiar? It does to me!

It's like having your own Magic Bible Decoder Ring. Plug in a result you want to find in a verse and the Magic Ring will decode it for you....however way you prefer.

That's how so-called New Age teachers reinterpret Scripture. They begin with a presupposition which departs from the plain-sense meaning, and then look for hidden clues supporting it. We are admonished to challenge such a methodology (Acts 17:11) and take OT prophetic texts literally (Luke 24:25-27).

On his website, this fellow insists that the church is the continuation of Israel. It is understood that God made a New Covenant (NC) with Israel (Jer 31:31); therefore he argues the church must be the "true Israel" in order to benefit from the NC. Zechariah 2:11 is cited as proof that many Gentiles will become Israelites. Yet he reads into the text what he presumes true.

As Paul Henebury points out, the reason the church isn't mentioned in Jeremiah is because it was still a mystery. There is no biblical warrant to assume the land promises made to Israel under the NC are automatically transferable to the church, or that Gentiles must become Israelites to benefit from the NC.

Zech 8:23 tells us that Gentiles will grab hold of a Jewish man saying, "Let us go with you, for we have heard that God is with you." Isaiah 19:25 states in that day God will say, "Blessed is Egypt My people, and Assyria the work of My hands, and Israel My inheritance." There is no incorporation of Egypt and Assyria into Israel as Israelites. They are distinct to Israel, yet still God's people.

This person questions whether we (the U.S.) should give "these Jews weapons" and support their violence against the former inhabitants of the land. He questions the Jewish claim to the land given that they have been apostate and ethically "out of covenant with God", since they "claimed" to be a nation in 1948.

Can you see where this is heading? Israel has no right of defense because it is the oppressive, unethical new-kid-on-the-block.

In this contradictory narrative, Israel is an illegitimate state, even if certain prophecies need to be fulfilled by it today. But any prophecies fulfilled are negative. For example, there must be some Jewish presence because a Jewish Temple must be rebuilt in order for the Antichrist to enact the Abomination of Desolation.

He's sure of that because he's studied it. One wonders how he could be certain since his scheme has the literal interpretation ostensibly disguising the truth.

Yet Israel's right to the land is unconditional and eternal (Jeremiah 7:7; 25:5; 31:31-37 and Amos 9:14-15). It is the enjoyment of it which is conditional. In Leviticus 26:27-33, God warned Israel that the consequences of disobedience would be discipline (see also Deut 4:40). They would be scattered among the nations.

However, in Leviticus 26:44-45, God said He would not reject them and would remember His covenant with them. God has not cast off His people whom He foreknew (Rom 11:1-2) because the gifts and calling of God are irrevocable (Rom 11:28-29).

Scripture demands an end-time presence of Israel in the land. God promised to return the Jewish people in unbelief in order to purify them (Ezekiel 20:33-38; 22:17-22; 36:24-24; 37:1-4; Hosea 5:15). Zechariah also demands Israel's presence in the land as the nations come against it (Zech 12:3, 9; 14:2-5, 16).

We also observe that God did not make a covenant with Israel's neighbors. If Israel is unethical then what do we say of Hamas, the Palestinian Authority and the other Islamist regimes? Do they have a greater claim to the land?

Dispensationalists are often accused of privileging Israel to the point of idolatry, and not focusing on the Gospel of the kingdom.

The proper response to the former allegation is to note that modern Israel isn't perfect but that God loves it and plans to redeem it. Two of the most balanced treatments of this subject can be found in David Baron's Israel in the Plan of God and Michael Rydelnik's Understanding the Arab-Israeli Conflict.

As for the latter point, it might be observed that focusing on delegitimizing Israel is also detrimental to the Gospel of the kingdom. It essentially rejects what God clearly says about Israel's redemption. We might inquire what motivates such behavior.

God has used Assyria as the rod of His anger to chastise Israel (Isaiah 10:5). He doesn't need Christians to do that for Him. God also held Assyria accountable for it.

We would do well to remember that.

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Losing Myself

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