Winter 2007 Magazine: The Nation of Israel and the Temple of God Part I
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Two particular teachings can be found at the very core of Christian prophetic interpretation today–the reestablishment of the nation of Israel and the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem. Lately, Bible scholars have begun questioning if evidence to support these teachings can, indeed, be found in the Scriptures. There seems to be a growing consensus among serious students of the Word that these conclusions are based on an incorrect methodology of prophetic interpretation. There are currently three primary schools of prophetic thought–preterism, futurism, and historicism.

In the 1600s, Jesuit Luis De Alcasar founded the preterist school of prophetic interpretation–he explained Revelation by the fall of Jerusalem or by the fall of pagan Rome in 410 AD.

Today, preterists take the major prophecies that historicists have always understood to point to the future, and place them in the past. Some extreme preterists say that the Second Coming of Christ occurred in 70 AD, and see Nero as the Antichrist. Partial preterists still believe in a future Second Coming of Christ. Preterism, as opposed to historicism and futurism, has always been in the minority.

In the 1500s, another Jesuit, Francisco Ribera, developed the futurist school of thought. He taught that the Antichrist would appear somewhere near the end of the Christian dispensation and would appear in a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem–shortly before the return of the Messiah.

Modern futurists take Revelation 4-22 and place it in the future. They also take the last week of the 70-week prophecy of Daniel 9 and place it in the future, after the secret rapture of God's people, but before the seven-year tribulation. They teach that the Antichrist will be an individual, Satan, who will arise during the tribulation period, persecute the Jews, put an end to temple sacrifice in the rebuilt temple, and lead the world into a false system of worship, imposing upon them the mark of the Beast. Jesus will appear at the end of these seven years and will then rescue the world, putting an end to evil and ushering in the millennium of peace.

Some well known futurists
Dr. Samuel Roffey Maitland (1700s) discovered the teachings of Ribera and published his theology in his own books.

James H. Todd, professor of Hebrew at the University of Dublin.

John Henry Newman (1800s), an Anglican and leader of the Oxford movement eventually became a Catholic.

Edward Irving (1700s), pastored the Presbyterian Chalcedonian Chapel in London and was the cofounder of the Society for the Investigation of prophecy.

John Nelson Darby (1800s), a lawyer, pastor, and theologian, wrote more than 53 books on Bible subjects. He became one of the leaders of the English group the "Plymouth Brethren." He was one of the major contributors to Evangelical theology and has been called the father of Modern Dispensationalism.

More recently, in the 1970s, Hal Lindsey published his best selling book The Late Great Planet Earth which presented the futurist perspective on end-time prophecy.

Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins (1990s–present) are among the leading proponents of futurist theology and have popularised this theology, globally, in their Left Behind books and movies. All their works have been blockbuster successes. 

The oldest school of thought, historicism, teaches straight-forward, chronological progression. The major prophecies of Daniel and Revelation find fulfillment throughout history–from before Christ, through the Christian era, and pointing forward to and finally climaxing at the Second Coming of Jesus. Historicists also place special emphasis on the ongoing struggle between Christ and Satan within the Christian faith.

The historicist approach was practiced by Jewish Old Testament expositors before the time of Christ and they were able to accurately point out the rise of the Grecian empire and Alexander the Great through their study of Daniel 8. Likewise, the magi, in their study of Daniel and other Old Testament prophecies (applying the day year principle of prophetic time), were able to predict the time of the Messiah’s coming to this world.

Futurists almost entirely leap over the last 2000 years of Christian history–from pagan Rome’s demise, the great apostasy, establishment of the Islamic faith (the prophet Mohammed), the rise and rule of the papal system, the Dark Ages, the Inquisition and the protestant Reformation. On the other hand, historicists argue that it seems almost inconceivable that the most momentous eras of Christian and secular history (nearly 2000 years) have gone by practically unnoticed and unmentioned in Biblical prophecy. All previous eras until the time of Christ were chronologically foretold and fulfilled. Suddenly, an almost 2000 year gap is inserted, and, everything that would have been calculated according to the accurately applied day-year principle of prophetic time has been lumped into a fractional time-frame at world’s end. The majority of these events are supposed to find their fulfillment just prior to or during the seven-year tribulation period between the secret rapture and the glorious return of Christ.

Throughout the Christian era (particularly among Protestants), the historicist method has always been used. The only exception being the last 150-200 years where the methodology has become divided between the historicist and futurist views (preterisits making up a small fraction).

Some of the most well known historicists have been John Wycliffe, William Tyndale, Martin Luther, Ulrich Zwingli, John Wesley, Sir Isaac Newton, John Calvin (some of histories greatest students of Scripture and leaders of the Reformation), John Bunyan, Charles Spurgeon, Richard Baxter, Edward Bishop Elliott, Dr. Martin Lloyd Jones, and Richard Bennett.

It is important, before we embark on our study, that we understand the context in which the teachings of a reestablished nation of Israel and a rebuilt temple in Jerusalem are couched. Clearly, from what has already been stated, these doctrines form a vital part of futurist thought. It is believed that the nation of Israel, in a literal sense, through the blood-line of Abraham, are still God’s chosen people. They will, during the seven year tribulation, after the rapture of faithful Christians, play a vital role in final events and will return to the Lord once again. Part of this process will involve the rebuilding of the temple in Jerusalem and the reintroduction of the sacrificial system to be terminated by the Antichrist (Satan) when, in the middle of the seven years of tribulation (Daniel 9:27), he sets himself up as God and sits in the temple of God (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). They will then realize their error in rejecting the Messiah will accept Him and become a major part and great witness to prepare other people for Christ when He returns with His people at the end of the tribulation period.

A study into the full ramifications of the modern secret rapture doctrine and all its connected teaching could fill an entire book. But, in the study we will conduct here, we will at least be able to take a critical look at what the Word of God reveals concerning these two major issues under question.

The Nation of Israel
One of the major flaws in the nation of Israel doctrine is the literalizing of that which is, in a primary sense, meant to be spiritual. Two thousand years ago, when the Christ came to this world, the Jews were expecting a Messiah who would free them from the Romans and reestablish the kingdom of Israel. After the death of Christ, on the third day, the disciples were lamenting their loss.

But we trusted that it had been he which should have redeemed Israel: and beside all this, to day is the third day since these things were done (Luke 24:21).

In Acts 1:6, just before Christ’s ascension, the disciples asked if Christ would free them from Rome:

When they therefore were come together, they asked of him, saying, Lord, wilt thou at this time restore again the kingdom of Israel?

The issue is little different today. This time, the vast majority of the evangelical Christian world is looking for the literal restoration of the nation of Israel.

Israel's Name
In order to understand the whole concept of the nation of Israel, we must go back to the origins of the name and the primary role that Israel was to play in furthering the cause of God in this world. It all began with God’s promise to Abraham and the name He gave to Jacob, which would finally become the name for the whole nation chosen of God.

The book of Genesis recalls Jacob’s nighttime ordeal with the Lord at the river Jabok. He desperately tries to make things right and receive the blessing of the Lord before his meeting with his brother Esau, whom he had deceived into selling his birthright. Following is the record of that account:

And [the Lord] said Let me go, for the day breaketh. And [Jacob] said, I will not let thee go, except thou bless me. And he said unto him, What is thy name? And he said, Jacob. And he said, Thy name shall be called no more Jacob, but Israel: for as a prince hast thou power with God and with men, and hast prevailed (Genesis 32:26-28).

The victory referred to in the above text was not a physical victory over God–this would be impossible. The name Israel was given to Jacob to signify his spiritual victory over his past life of deception. In this sense, he prevailed with God. It signified his spiritual birth as a new man, a prince of God. The name Jacob means "deceiver" or "crook." The name Israel means "prince of God."

Israel Prefigured Christ
The nation of Israel was called to be a spiritual people. Their primary purpose for existence was to keep the truth about God alive and to prepare the way for the Messiah that was to come. The nation of Israel, in their existence as a nation, in the religious system they practiced, and in their very name, prefigured the Messiah, Jesus Christ. In Him, the nation of Israel, a spiritual nation, found its complete fulfillment. Their dispensation looked forward to this fulfillment in Christ and now, in the Christian dispensation and under the new covenant (really a ratification of the original), we look back to the fulfillment of our spiritual calling in the person of Jesus Christ.

As we look at the Bible evidence that follows, we will see how wonderfully this truth is revealed in God’s plan for His chosen people. In Exodus we read the words that God commanded Moses to speak to Pharaoh:

And thou shalt say unto Pharaoh, Thus saith the LORD, Israel is my son, even my firstborn: And I say unto thee, Let my son go, that he may serve me: and if thou refuse to let him go, behold, I will slay thy son, even thy firstborn (Exodus 4:22-23).

We see here that the names the Father uses to refer to His Son, Jesus Christ, are used with reference to the nation of Israel–the physical seed of Abraham. Take note of the other examples that follow:

Thou hast brought a vine out of Egypt: thou hast cast out the heathen, and planted it (Psalm 80:8).

But thou, Israel, art my servant, Jacob whom I have chosen, the seed of Abraham my friend (Isaiah 41:8).

For Jacob my servant's sake, and Israel mine elect, I have even called thee by thy name: I have surnamed thee, though thou hast not known me (Isaiah 45:4).

When Israel was a child, then I loved him, and called my son out of Egypt (Hosea 11:1).

When we read about Christ in the Gospels and carefully examine the testimony of the New Testament authors, we see how consistently the spiritual purpose of the nation of Israel is fulfilled in Jesus Christ and is continued in the Christian Church. The above references to the nation of Israel are, indeed, prophetic statements to the Messiah that was to come. We find a prime example of these prophetic fulfillments in the Gospel of Matthew:

And when they were departed, behold, the angel of the Lord appeareth to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and his mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I bring thee word: for Herod will seek the young child to destroy him. When he arose, he took the young child and his mother by night, and departed into Egypt: And was there until the death of Herod: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called my son (Matthew 2:13-15).

This was the fulfillment of the prophecy made in Hosea 11:1. This event in the life of Christ was prefigured in the experience of the Nation Israel and now fulfilled in Christ. Some incredible examples of this can be found throughout the Gospel of Matthew and in the other Gospels too:

Genesis 45:5 – Joseph dreams and goes to Egypt to preserve his family.
Matthew 2:13 – Another Joseph dreams and goes to Egypt to preserve his family.

Exodus 4:22 – Israel leaves Egypt and God calls it "my son."
Matthew 2:15 – Jesus returns from Egypt and God says, "I have called my son."

Exodus 14:22 – Israel is baptized unto Moses in the Red Sea (1 Corinthians 10:2).
Matthew 3:15-17 – Jesus baptized to fulfill all righteousness.

Numbers 14:33 – After coming through the Red Sea, Israel wanders in the wilderness for 40 years.
Matthew 4:1-2 – After Jesus’ baptism, He is led into the wilderness for 40 days.

Deuteronomy – At the end of the 40 years, Moses writes the book of Deuteronomy.
Matthew 4:1-11 – After 40 days in the wilderness, Jesus is tempted and resists Satan, quoting three Scriptures from Deuteronomy.

Psalm 80:8 – God calls the nation of Israel a vine that He brought out of Egypt.
John 15:1 – Jesus declares, "I am the true vine."

Christ and His Church are Israel's Fulfillment
In the Old Testament, the name Israel is applied to one man signifying his victory over sin. In the New Testament Jesus becomes the one man who overcame all sin. In Matthew 12:16-19 Jesus quotes Isaiah 42:1-3 and applies it to himself. Exodus 4:22 speaks about the nation Israel as God’s firstborn. In Colossians Paul speaks of Christ the Firstborn. Isaiah 41:8 calls Israel the "seed of Abraham." Galatians 3:16 says, "Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ."

The calling of ancient Israel is fulfilled in Christ. The Christian Church, God’s new nation, continues to fulfill that spiritual calling of Israel the nation as it looks back to its confirmation in the birth, life, work, death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, and in its recognition of the present ministry of Christ as our High Priest and King.

Exodus 19:6 – The nation of Israel is called a "kingdom of priests, and an holy nation."
1 Peter 2:9 – The Christian Church is called "a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people."

To be continued.

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