Israel – Interpretation and Abraham Covenant

Jupp, I’m back on the blog as I have missed. There has been some hectic day here in the Philippines from establishing some money to give out Bibles to new believers (who do not have Bibles) to speak at La Salle University in Manila who took a lot of preparation and a helping hand to a “small” pastor, (which is larger than Most pastors I’ve met), near Manila landfill. And in between, and also important — an introvert also need to have some time to recharge the social batteries too.

Previous post regarding Israel Israel – Carnal or Spiritual? , if the hope of Israel was spiritual or carnal, and although many answers should be obvious already, is it still some Christians who do carnal works to promote what they believe in, namely that Israel as a state today is promised by God to the Jews, and that “their presence in their ancient land is a reminder to us of God’s faithfulness to his promises that are fulfilled before our eyes.” [Quoted from the introduction of a Norwegian book “The Dream of Messiah,” by David Østby and Joseph Østby].

That said, I will add that Israel and those who live in the area, all have equal access to human rights as other nations have. I don’t utters in any form that some countries or groups of people should disappear or move in favor of another. I will express peace and equality.

My blogposts are intended to illustrate the truth of the dark side of Christian-Zionist distorted vision and the requirements they claim is rightfully, taken from God’s Word.

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation.

Copyright © 2011 The Zondervan Corporation.

Well, let me then begin with criticism and say that those who suggest to interpret prophecy and scripture through news headlines, as some Christian-Zionists do, fail because they do not see the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testaments. What the New Testament do is to fulfill and nullify the Old Testament. Christians should read the Scriptures with Christian eyes, interpret the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament and not the other way around. Thats why I explained in “Israel – Carnal or Spiritual?” that it is important for a new convert to go through the cross first (full understanding of what the cross did) before turning to study the Old Testament.

How would you, for example indicated Col. 2:16-17?

“Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. 17 These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ.” (Col. 2:16-17. ESV).

What I want to show here is that Paul uses here such kind of interpretation when he interprets the Old Covenant, he suggests the Old Covenant in light of the New Covenant. Exsamples elsewhere, could be Heb. 8:1-6 and Hebrews. 10:1.

Old Covenant often speaks in form of shadows, images and prophecies and these find their true fulfillment in the New covenant. The question is not whether the promises of the Covenant is to be understood literally or spiritually. The question is whether it is to be understood in relation to the Old Covenant shade or in the form of the New Testament reality. This is where I find the Christian-Zionists fail to recognize, the basic assumption for the interpretation of the Old Covenant.

One example can be when God provides for Israel in the wilderness by giving them manna from heaven, water from a rock and a snake on a pole. All these images find their reality and fulfillment, not in more manna, more water or a higher stake, but in the salvation of the Lord Jesus Christ, who in the Old Covenant forms only were a shadow.

But what have this to do with the promise land? Well, the same principle applies also here. The promises of the land serves as revelation shadows, pictures, prophecies, waiting for God’s future purposes. This applied not only to a small group of people, the Jews, but the whole world, and was finally, really and fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world.” (Heb. 1:1-2. ESV).  

We find that Christian Zionist like to start in Gen. 12 with God’s Covenant for His people, maybe because it fits better in their theory. But God’s plan and thought behind a place/country for his people started actually in Gen. 2 where a garden (land) was planted, a paradise that would extend throughout the Earth, because Earth is His (Exo. 19:5, Ps. 50:12, Isa. 66:1, Jer. 27: 5). Notice that God planted a garden, which we can compare with the seeds that are planted in us Christians and a garden is growing. The parable of this seed and this kingdom of heaven can be found in Mat. 13:31 and Luke 13:19, a kingdom who will grow larger than other plants. I do not think the God’s blessings to the people was limited to a small garden planted eastward in the Eden, but to grow and fill the whole earth (Gen. 1:28), a commandment we find in the Great Commission (Matt. 28:18 -20).

Unfortunately, this land was lost by the fall, nevertheless, God did not changed His plan to give people a land and a foretaste of the heaven, so Abraham receive this foretaste of heaven in Gen. 12, reflected in the imagery of the promise given to him (Gen. 12:1). God is more specific and indicates the expansion of the country in Gen. 15:18 and in Gen. 17 is the promise repeated and elaborated. These promises are also shown to Moses in Exo. 3:8 with description of a land where milk and honey is flowing.

Now, we have to understand that this was images and paradigms (model, pattern) and had to wait until the New Testament for its real fulfillment of the promise. Israel is indeed a great country, I have been there, but it did not floats literally of milk and honey and never did, but figuratively the heavenly Jerusalem flows surely of milk and honey.

The land in Old Testament was not finally in itself. If it was, what would then be the intention that the tabernacle was not suppose to have any particular locality on earth in God’s plan for reconciliation. The whole thing pointed to Jesus Christ who would “tabernacle” among His people through the Holy Spirit. The old sacrificial system could never atone for sin but it was a shadow of the ultimate sacrifice of the sinless Son of God, Jesus Christ and the work He did. The promise of a land to Abraham was something Abraham should experience in paradise and was not a promise of a permanent and everlasting possession of the Middle East.

Heb. 11:10-16 must be the only legitimate interpretation of the Pact to Abraham for Christians:

For he looked for the city which has the foundations, whose builder and maker is God. 11 By faith, even Sarah herself received power to conceive, and she bore a child when she was past age, since she counted him faithful who had promised. 12 Therefore as many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as innumerable as the sand which is by the sea shore, were fathered by one man, and him as good as dead. 13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them and embraced them from afar, and having confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth. 14 For those who say such things make it clear that they are seeking after a country of their own. 15 If indeed they had been thinking of that country from which they went out, they would have had enough time to return. 16 But now they desire a better country, that is, a heavenly one. Therefore God is not ashamed of them, to be called their God, for he has prepared a city for them.” (Heb. 11:10-16)  

abraham-starsHeaven is not allegorical or non-literally, but the opposite. Heaven is actually the perfect true state of reality. The heavenly city, Jerusalem, like the patriarchs saw, was not a misty foggy ethereal idea. It is the ultimate reality that we only have a taste of in our present condition.

Non of my Christian friends have trouble seeing the fulfillment of the promises/covenant in the person of Jesus Christ and the work He did. But in the interpretation of the covenant with Abraham, you can’t take one aspect and separate it from the other aspect of the same covenant. First of all, God blessed all people from all nations in Him, second, drawn them into a covenant with God which, thirdly, there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Greek, but all members of a holy people saved by grace. Now, how can then someone take the promise of the country and put it in a completely different category and say it be possessed solely by the Jews?

Christian Zionists argues that this promises of land, according to God, should be a perpetual possession, but we can not translate “all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession.” (Gen. 17:8) literally, it will put us in a contradiction in line with milk and honey as I described above. If you want to interpret this literally, there are some questions you must answer: Should the Levites “chosen to carry the ark of God, and to minister to him forever.”? (1. Chron. 15:2) Was Aaron and his sons literally “to burn incense before Yahweh, to minister to him, and to bless in his name, forever.” ? (1. Chron 23:13). Should the temple, or that God said: “In this house, and in Jerusalem, which I have chosen out of all the tribes of Israel, will I put my name forever:”? (2 Chron. 33:7). Are these being fulfilled literally on earth or figuratively in Christ and the church?

We can also notice that the Christian Zionists continue to use the term “The Holy Land” of Israel today. We know from the Bible that no place is holly except for those places where the Lord is present, as Ex. 3:5 illustrates for us when God said, “Don’t come close. Take off your sandals from off your feet, for the place you are standing on is holy ground.”, for only He is Holy. When God now does not have the temple in Israel, which he tore down in 70 AD, as a dwelling place any longer, but rather dwell in the Christians which have now become “…a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession,… “ (1.Pet. 2:9), Israel may not be called “The Holy Land” anymore.

Another argument heard among Christian-Zionists is that because Jews never literally occupied the land that was promised to Abraham, from the Nile to the Euphrates, this promise will be fulfilled in the future. This involves not only the West Bank, but includes the entire Middle East. Again contradictions, and they ignoring the way the Old Covenant writers understood God’s promises to Abraham.

To Joshua God affirms “Be strong and of good courage; for you shall cause this people to inherit the land which I swore to their fathers to give them.” (Jos. 1:6). The question is whether Israel inherited it?, and in the book of Joshua we find the answer.

“23 So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that Yahweh spoke to Moses; and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. The land had rest from war.”(Jos. 11:23). 

“So Yahweh gave to Israel all the land which he swore to give to their fathers; and they possessed it, and lived therein. 44 Yahweh gave them rest round about, according to all that he swore to their fathers: and there stood not a man of all their enemies before them; Yahweh delivered all their enemies into their hand. 45 There failed not anything of any good thing which Yahweh had spoken to the house of Israel; all came to pass.” (Jos. 21:43-45). 

Pretty strong statements if you ask me. They had already received the whole country, all that God had promised them, and not just a small piece. To say that certain promises are not fulfilled is a product by self made thoughts, for Joshua says explicitly that “Not one word of all the good promises that the Lord had made to the house of Israel had failed.”

Other evidence that Israel had already received what God had promised can we find in Nehemiah who look back at the first exile and confirms in a praise to God the fulfillment of the promises to Abraham.

“Moreover you gave them kingdoms and peoples, which you did allot after their portions: so they possessed the land of Sihon, even the land of the king of Heshbon, and the land of Og king of Bashan. Their children also multiplied you as the stars of the sky, and brought them into the land concerning which you did say to their fathers, that they should go in to possess it.” (Neh. 9:22-23).  

I often sit back surprising to see that there is a good reason to believe Old Covenant saints had a knowledge of salvation truth who was far greater than we might easily decide from our own assumptions today (see e.g. John 8:56, Gal 3:8). One thing can be quite sure; faith of Abraham, Moses, Joshua, and Daniel, have never been surpassed.

(Is Abraham, the father of faith, really distant from me than other Christians today? It is remarkable to see how many Christians and liberal religious spirits in our own time who see it as a given that they know more about God than Abraham, God friend, just because they live some thousand years later).

What do you think?

Bible verses was taken from WEB (World English Bible), KJV and ESV.

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