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#1 John Buckle

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Posted 29 August 2017 - 10:25 AM

File Name: Romans 11 17, Israel, the Church & the Olive Tree
File Submitter: John Buckle
File Submitted: 29 Aug 2017
File Category: Books
Author: Dr. George Gunn
theWord Version: 3.x - 4.x
Suggest New Tag:: Olive Tree


As we think of the theme “Defending Premillennialism,” naturally we think of the theological category of eschatology. But I think that premillennialism is more than merely a feature of eschatology, and we can approach this topic from a slightly different angle. I remember some years ago, when, regretfully, a very bright student of mine adopted the post-trib rapture position. I gave him all my best arguments both against post-trib and for pre-trib. But, alas, Doug Moo had gotten to him first, and he could only see the Scriptures through the post-trib lens of Douglas Moo’s interpretation. However, there were still one or two things that bothered him – not about the rapture, per se, but about what a post-trib rapture implied about other eschatological events. He asked me one day about what was bothering him the most. “Pastor Gunn,” he said, “I know the Bible describes a millennial reign of Christ. I accept it because it’s what the plain sense of Scripture teaches. But for the life of me, I can’t see the point of a 1,000 year earthly reign of Christ.” My now post-trib student had come to view theology through the soterio-centric glasses of reformed theology (I think Moo actually refers to his position as “Modified Lutheranism,” rather than reformed). And from a salvation based theology, why should there be a millennium, once Christ has come to effect His great plan of redemption through His cross work? I relate this incident, because it illustrates the essential difference in how a reformed theologian views God’s working in the world and how a dispensational theologian views God’s working in the world. To the reformed theologian, everything revolves around God’s redemptive program and the outworking of the Covenant of Grace, and there is no real need for a millennium. But the dispensational theologian understands that God has many purposes in His creation, all leading to the glory of God. For the dispensationalist, God is doing much more than bringing about salvation for the elect. The dispensationalist comprehends that God is working in order to administer all His purposes. These purposes include not only the salvation of the elect, but also his plans for the angels, the family, the nations, and Israel. One of the great characteristics of dispensational theology is this ability to think administratively. The dispensations (i.e., administrations) are the means by which God administers His purposes in the world.[1] So much of the Bible’s message does deal with soteriology, that it is tempting to think that the Bible’s central message is soteriological. And, to be sure, soteriology is a great theme, maybe even the greatest theme, in the Bible. But it is not the only theme in the Bible.
A great deal of confusion exists today about how the church relates prophetically to Israel. Is the church the NT extension of Israel? Does the church replace Israel in God’s program? Is the church the true Israel? A growing number of Christians today believe that there is no real Biblical reason for Christians to be supportive of the nation of Israel or to view the Jewish people as having any special place in God’s prophetic future.
Just for the record, I believe that we should be supportive of the nation of Israel, and that the Jewish people do have a special place in God’s prophetic future. And this is based in large part upon what I believe about how the church relates prophetically to Israel.
Is this important? Yes. I believe it is tremendously important. First, because of the promise in the Abrahamic Covenant that God will bless those who bless the chosen descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Second, because getting this right, is the only way to understand correctly the meaning of the blessed hope, the expectation that Christ could appear at any moment to take us to the Father’s House. Third, because it adequately explains why there must be an earthly millennial reign of Christ.
Romans 11:17 (“You … were grafted in among them”) is widely misquoted and misunderstood resulting in a faulty understanding of the relationship between Israel and the church. Romans 11:11-24 speaks about God’s faithfulness to His promises. It is given as both an encouragement to believing Jews and a caution to believing Gentiles not to despise the Jews. There is also an important practical application from this passage: If God is faithful to His promises to Israel, then we should not lose heart in thinking that he will fail in any way to fulfill His promises to us. Faulty conclusions about the meaning of Romans 11:17 include the following: “A transfer of covenant privileges from Israel to the church.”[2] “Gentile Christians must remember that they are grafted into a Jewish faith, and that when they are grafted into the

Old Testament people of God, they accept not only Israel’s spiritual history as their own but also Jews as in some sense their siblings….”[3]

[1] Covenant theologians also speak of the “dispensations” of God. But in their theological scheme, the dispensations are merely ways in which God administers the Covenant of Grace. For the dispensational theologian, this is too limited a scope for explaining much of Scripture.

[2] D. A. Carson and Douglas J. Moo, An Introduction to the New Testament, Second Edition (Grand Rapids:

Zondervan, 2005), 392.

[3] Craig S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1993), Ro 11:9.

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