The Jews and the Gospel
Today will be my last essay on this topic. It will consist of some final random thoughts.
Random Thought #1
I have been addressing a narrow point in these essays. As I stated in the beginning, I am addressing that aspect of Preterism that says that the Jewish Age has ended. David Heddle quoted a preterist author who referred to the 70 AD destruction of Jerusalem as the "annihilation of the Jewish nation." I have presented my Biblical case for this to be wrong. I see in both the New and Old Testament a promise that the nation of Israel will again rise on the earth, that it will belong to the Jews, and that they will experience a national salvation.
Romans 9-11 contains hints that the destinies of the Jews and Gentiles are linked. For some 2000 years the Jews had the light while the Gentiles lived in darkness. Then for some 2000, the Gentiles have had the light while the Jews have lived in a partial hardening. Paul says that the salvation of the Jews, as a people, will be "life from the dead." I try not to speculate further, but then I think of the emergence of Messianic Judaism in my lifetime, and I conclude that the situation needs watching.
Random Thought #2
Some might quote these words from Paul:
For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise. (Galatians 3:26-29)
I am in Christ, but still a male. I belong to Christ, but I am a free man. I am a Gentile and not a Jew. We may be all one in Christ, but the distinctions still exist and the New Testament maintains those distinctions. For example:
- After the Jerusalem council in Acts 15, Paul carried a letter to the Gentile churches with the news that Gentiles did not have to be circumcised to be part of the community of faith. Along the way Paul hooks up with Timothy and circumcises him because his mother was Jewish.
- Paul arrived in Jerusalem carrying the gifts for the Jerusalem saints. At the advice of James, Paul makes a temple offering, pays the expenses for 4 other Jewish men taking the same vow, and does so to show that he was not "teaching all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children nor to walk according to the customs. (Acts 21:21)" and that he, himself, "also walk(ed) orderly, keeping the Law. (Acts 21:24)"
- Throughout Romans, Paul addresses Jews and Gentiles as separate entities. The gospel is for "the Jews first and also for the Greek."
My being grafted, as a wild olive branch, into a natural live tree and becoming a virtual descendent of Abraham permits me as a Gentile to participate in the blessings of Abraham's line. If in Acts 15 the issue of the day was whether Gentiles could be in the body as Gentiles, the issue for our day is whether Jews can be in the body as Jews. Until the re-emergence of Messianic Judaism in the 1970's the answer from Christendom had become, "No." We required Jews to convert, to leave synagogues, to leave their communities, and become Hebrew Christians.
Random Thought #3
The history of Christianity is full of anti-Semitic remarks and actions, none of which can be found in the New Testament.
Random Thought #4
The real divide between millennial positions is one of hermeneutics, or the rules by which Biblical truth is understood. Premillenialists rely most heavily on a grammatical-historical method and tend to read Old Testament passages at face value. Postmillennialists rely most heavily on reading the Old Testament in light of New Testament revelation freely allowing newer revelation to deepen the meaning of older revelation. Charges of "hyper-literalism" and "spiritualizing" abound. This divide is so fundamental that it makes dialog and discourse very difficult, perhaps impossible.
However, I observe that one's view of eschatology seems to have no connection with Christian life or maturity. I see no blessings withheld. I see no lack of love. I see the Holy Spirit fully working. Perhaps this suggests that each group possesses essential truths needed by the other.
I have discovered another set of hermeneutical methods that go back for centuries. I have written about it and have passed the paper among my premillennial friends and they have received it with interest. David Heddle, a preterist postmillennialist, has read it and has endorsed its reading. I cannot say that any of these people have adopted it, but given that neither side has disparaged the idea, I believe that it has promise.
What makes this interesting is that the method comes from the Jewish rabbis. What legitimizes it is that one can see where the New Testament authors used these rabbinic methods in their use of the Old Testament Scripture.
So I invite you to explore this further by clicking and reading "Hints, Allegories, and Mysteries--the New Testament Quotes the Old"
Perhaps there is a more unifying scenario that can emerge.
Random Thought #5
There are many Messianic Jewish synagogues that are delighted to have Gentile believers visit. I would encourage you to visit a few services. My family and I attended Beth Hallel in Roswell, Ga for over 5 years. It was a valuable experience. Although we left there nearly 10 years ago, I still teach a morning Bible study to a group of men from there. Knowing Judaism has, I believe, enhanced my understanding of the New Testament.
If you want to look at Messianic Judaism from more of a distance, I would recommend reading "The Messianic Jewish Manifesto" by Dr. David Stern.
Random Thought #6
I said at the beginning and I will close now by saying that I have the greatest respect for David Heddle and his blog. Although we differ on several points, we also agree on most. I read him daily and actually enjoy those times when he makes me uncomfortable and causes some shaking on issues I thought long settled. That is a good thing. It is a far better thing to read of preterism and postmillennialism from someone who holds them, than to read a critique form one's own camp.
I am glad for sites that teach. It is my prayer that many more grow up and that they become well known.
For those of you who are still studying and learning about the issues of the end-times and the place of the Jews, I hope that this study has given you some insight and convinced you that there is still a national blessing for the physical descendants of Abraham and that there is still a special place in the Lord's heart for the dispersed sons of Israel. If you have made up your mind on this issue, I hope that I have shaken your foundations just a little and given you some reason to revisit the issues.
Happy New Year! May God bless all of you in 2004. I will pick up blogging again next Monday.
<>< Test everything. Cling to what is good. ><>