It’s perhaps the most significant question one can ask today regarding biblical prophecy. The inquiry draws a line in the sand, with each group holding fast to what they believe.
The question is this: Will the Lord restore a glorious kingdom to Israel during Jesus’ thousand-year reign upon the earth?
Most pastors today would answer “no” to that question. They believe God rejected the nation of Israel after the Hebrew people crucified His Son. As a result, the Father transferred his physical kingdom promises for Israel to the church, albeit in a spiritual sense.
This is replacement theology. Because these pastors believe that the church has replaced Israel in God’s prophetic program, they see no scriptural significance in the reemergence of Israel as a nation. As a result, they do not believe we live in the last days, nor do they recognize the signs of the rapidly approaching Tribulation period.
On the other side of the line stand those of us who believe that God’s covenants with Israel remain in effect to this day. We believe that Israel’s miraculous reappearance as a nation is highly significant for understanding the last days; it has opened the door for the fulfillment of a host of other biblical prophecies that we see coming to life.
I absolutely believe the latter group has the words of Scripture on their side. Once a pastor or teacher messes with God’s Word by dismissing the clear intent of prophetic passages, which is necessary to hold to any version of replacement theology, it opens the door to apostasy as others follow their lead in ignoring the clear intent of other biblical texts.
I believe it’s dangerous to hold to any view of the end times that dismisses God’s promises regarding a restored Israel in the last days.
Why am I so convinced that Israel remains the key to unlocking biblical prophecy even though it’s unpopular to do so, even among many who claim to believe the Bible?
It’s because of…
The Original Intent of the Authors of Biblical prophecy
In order to cross the bridge to arrive at replacing Israel with the church in God’s prophetic program, one must retrofit the original intent of the authors of biblical prophecy with interpretations that would have been foreign to them at the time they wrote.
We all agree that Christ fulfilled all the prophecies for His first coming according to the authors’ intent. Since that is the case, what makes the prophecies regarding His return to earth so different? Why must we disregard the words of the text in the latter approach?
Isaiah 9:6-7 is a classic example of how the deniers of a kingdom for Israel employ differing means of interpretation in the same passage. Everyone agrees that the opening words of this passage received a literal fulfillment. Jesus came to earth as a baby. We can take the descriptive names of the Lord in verse 6 at face value; they mean what they say.
However, a great many pastors tell us that we cannot take the words about the Messiah sitting on the “throne of David” literally. These words don’t mean what they say, they tell us, because He will not rule over a physical kingdom.
When Gabriel appeared to Mary to tell her about the birth of Jesus, he confirmed a literal understanding of the entire text of Isaiah 9:6-7:
“He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
What other way could Mary have possibly understood Gabriel’s words if they did not signify a physical kingdom of Israel with her Son reigning on the throne of David just as Isaiah prophesied? So not only is a literal understanding of the entire passage of Isaiah 9:6-7 consistent, it fits with the message that Gabriel gave to Mary in announcing the birth of the Savior.
Replacement theology requires that one change the clear sense of the words both Isaiah 9:6-7 as well as in Luke 1:32-33. Why would we do that?
God’s “Everlasting” Covenant of the Land
The words of Psalm 105:7-11 state that God’s covenant of the Land with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is an “everlasting covenant.”
God’s promise of the Land for Israel remains in effect because we have not yet reached the end of “everlasting.” Do you recognize the inherent risk for us as New Testament saints of saying that a promise of God is no longer valid when He said it would be in place “forever”?
Consider also the words of Jeremiah 31:35-36 regarding the future of Israel:
“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, who stirs up the sea so that its waves roar—the Lord of hosts is his name: ‘If this fixed order departs from before me, declares the Lord, ‘then shall the offspring of Israel cease from being a nation before me forever.'”
Since the fixed order in the heavens remains in place, the “offspring of Israel” remains a nation in God’s sight.
Could the Lord be any clearer regarding the permanent place of Israel in God’s prophetic program? I don’t think so.
In Scripture, “everlasting” means “everlasting”! I cannot understand how anyone can look at Jeremiah 31:35-36 and Psalm 105:7-11 and then claim that the church has replaced Israel. I don’t see how it’s possible to do that. And these are just two of a multitude of passages where the Lord promises to restore Israel to a place of greatness in the future.
The Repeated Promises of the Restoration of a Kingdom to Israel
In Acts 1:6, the disciples asked Jesus this question:
“Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
Jesus responded with these words:
“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.”
The exchange between the disciples and Jesus tells us much about the permanence of God’s promises to Israel.
- The disciples believed that the Lord would restore a kingdom to Israel based on repeated Old Testament prophecies that say exactly that (i.e., Jeremiah 30:3, 32:44; Zephaniah 3:20; Amos 9:14).
- Jesus did not disagree with the premise of their question regarding the future restoration of a kingdom for the nation of Israel; He only told them that their timing was off.
- Jesus diverted their attention to the task at hand, that of spreading the Gospel, but He never equated the church with the kingdom that the disciples asked Him about, never.
- The word “restore” points to something that previously existed; it cannot signify something new such as a spiritual kingdom, i.e., the church.
- The New Testament never equates the church with the kingdom of Israel.
One pastor roared with laughter when I began using Acts 1:6-7 in my case for a restored Israel. That pretty much ended the conversation. Another pastor sternly rebuked me when I questioned why he equated the church with the restored kingdom of Israel.
The scoffers will take issue with God’s promise to restore a kingdom to Israel. Jesus, however, did not do so, and neither should you. The disciples’ timing was off but not their belief in the repeated Old Testament promises stating that God would restore a kingdom to Israel.
The Lord’s Honor as a Promise-Keeping God
Given the history of the Jewish people, one might ask this, ‘Why would God bless His people with a future glorious kingdom?’
Ezekiel 36:22-38 provides the answer. It’s all about the Lord’s honor as a promise-keeping God. Pay close attention to what He says in verses 22-23:
“Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes.”
The Lord must preserve His honor as a covenant-keeping God. He cannot renege on His promises to Israel, or to King David for that matter. He must “vindicate the holiness of” His “great name.” He will do that by restoring Israel to a place of greatness in His kingdom.
Ezekiel 36:29-38 describes a future and glorious restoration of Israel that the world will not see on full display until after Jesus returns to the earth after the Tribulation period.
I say this because:
- A normal understanding of the words tells us the Lord has not fulfilled the full extent of the passage.
- The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit promised to Israel in verse 27 couldn’t have become a reality until after Pentecost (see John 16:5-6), which places the fulfillment of the physical promises after the start of the church.
- The blessings that result from God’s work in the hearts of the Jewish people are totally physical in nature (Ezekiel 36:29-38). Only since 1948 do we get a sense of how God intends to bless the Land.
- One cannot apply the words of Ezekiel 36:22-38 to the church without doing incredible damage to the clear intent of the passage. If the words of Scripture mean anything, and they do, these promises apply exclusively to Israel.
Please, please do not let anyone tell you that the words of Ezekiel 36:22-38 apply to the church. That’s simply impossible.
All the Other Kingdoms in Daniel Are Physical
I’m always amazed when I hear a preacher equate the final kingdom in the book of Daniel with the church. All the other kingdoms mentioned in the book of Daniel are physical realms with a king. What makes anyone think that the Lord’s kingdom in the book of Daniel will be different from all the others?
Please know with utmost confidence that the church is most certainly not the rock that destroys the kingdoms of this world (Daniel 2:34-35, 44). It’s an instantaneous destruction, not a gradual one, as demanded by those who believe the rock is the church.
In Matthew 26:64, Jesus places the fulfillment of Daniel 7:13-14 at the time of His Second Coming. The final kingdom is absolutely not the church; it’s the promised millennial reign of Christ.
Jesus believed He would receive the kingdom of Daniel 7:13-14 when He returns to earth. Why would anyone claim otherwise?
Replacement Theology Opens the Door Wide for Further Apostasy
I believe that replacement theology, the teaching that God has transferred His covenant promises from Israel to the church in a spiritual sense, opens the door wide for further apostasy to enter the church.
Once a pastor employs a method of interpretation that ignores the clear sense of the words in a prophetic context, it always leads to others dismissing the true intent of other biblical texts.
Those that dismiss the prophetic significance of Israel’s reemergence as a nation also remain blind to the numerous converging signs telling us that we live in the last days. They don’t see the threatening storm clouds of the seven-year Tribulation as well as the certainty of God’s judgment on America and the rest of the world that’s also right at our door.
For more about the clear and present danger of replacement theology, please see my book: The Triumph of the Redeemed – An Eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times.
Israel Is the Key to Understanding Biblical Prophecy
Israel unlocks biblical prophecy. If your pastor regards the prophecies concerning Israel as literal, you will likely hear references to the end times and Jesus’ appearing in his messages.
If he believes God’s kingdom promises to Israel now belong to the church in a spiritual sense, you will not hear anything about the “blessed hope” of Jesus’ appearing.
Just as the Lord will surely keep His promises to the nation of Israel, so He will keep His solemn Word to us. Jesus is coming for His saints before the wrath of the Day of the Lord begins (1 Thessalonians 4:13-5:11), and He will most assuredly take us to the place He’s preparing for us in His “Father’s house” (John 14:1-3).
Jesus promises eternal life to those that believe in Him (John 3:15, 10:27-19). Just as “everlasting” means just that for God’s promise of the Land to the descendants of Jacob, so “eternal life” signifies unending glory for us as New Testament Saints.
We have a joyous hope that’s truly beyond our imagination.
My book, The Triumph of the Redeemed-An eternal Perspective that Calms Our Fears in Perilous Times, is available on Amazon. In it, I go into more detail regarding God’s promises to Israel and why He most certainly will restore a kingdom to the nation in the future.
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