Gospel of the Kingdom: What about Israel?

 “Your Kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven”.

“…they asked him, “Lord, are you at this time going to restore the kingdom to Israel?” He said to them: “It is not for you to know the times or dates the Father has set by his own authority”

The teaching of “replacement theology” is not new. It was stirring in the very early years of the church and it is possible that the book of Romans was written to address this issue with the climax of Paul’s argument coming in chapters 9-11 and particularly in chapter 11.

“Did God reject His people? NEVER!!!”

Romans was written to a church that had for a time been made up totally of gentile believers after all Jews had been forced out of Rome by the emperor Claudius. When Nero came to power he allowed the Jews to return, and Jewish believers had difficulty being accepted back into a church that considered their exile had been evidence that God had forsaken the Jews.

The idea that the church has replaced Israel as God’s people because of Jewish disobedience is categorically refuted by Paul in Romans. When he wrote NEVER in Romans 11, the word used was the strongest possible negative exclamation available to him in the Greek language (meganoita!).

Paul also clearly attacks the smugness of those who considered themselves as being those people who had allegedly replaced Israel in God’s affections. (“Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either”).

While Romans addresses a very early incarnation of “replacement theology” there can be no doubt that it is a belief system that refuses to go away, and it is widely held today; despite the historically unprecedented “resurrection” of a long dead nation (Israel) and its language (Hebrew) only 60 years ago.

Why should there be such contention over Israel and its continuing role in God’s purposes? Why are so many determined to dismiss Israel’s relevance despite the events of recent history in which a nation, totally dead and gone as a political entity, returned against the odds to become one of the world’s most powerful military forces; and to become a nation constantly at the centre of world attention. Has there ever been a time since 1948 when Israel, a tiny nation, has not been in the news? Would there be such a continuing obsession with a mere political entity, no matter how unlikely the renewed existence of that entity after 2000 years may seem?

In a previous post I addressed the matter of the “millennium” in Old Testament prophecies. Almost every Old Testament prophet foretold of a time when the nations would be ruled by a King from the throne of David in Zion. The issues of Israel’s continuing importance and the rule of this King are very much linked. It is therefore not surprising that “replacement theology” often goes hand in hand with “amillennialism” – a theology that denies the literal earthly reign of Christ after His return.

Israel is very much tied up with end time events and Satan knows that. He thought he could prevent fulfilment of God’s purposes by leading men to crucify Jesus – but his “victory” was short lived. Satan knows that God’s plans for THIS creation are heading towards an earthly kingdom ruled by God’s Son from the throne of David. Satan knows that the establishment of that earthly kingdom begins with him (Satan) being imprisoned and stripped of his deceptive power, and will end with him being thrown into the lake of fire. It’s not surprising that he would try to prevent the establishment of that kingdom by removing Israel. And it’s not surprising that he would cause so much confusion about the events that mark his final destruction.

I tend to think that Satan’s attempt to destroy Jesus was to prevent the establishment of the Kingdom of Israel under the rule of the Messiah. By killing the Messiah, Satan thought he could stop the kingdom. But God’s plan involved an unexpected twist. The Messiah would come twice, first as a sacrifice then secondly as King to rule over the nations from His throne in Zion.

Satan’s misunderstanding played right into God’s hands. Instead of destroying God’s plans, the death of Jesus FULFILLED them. Satan knows he can no longer prevent God’s Kingdom by destroying the King, so his attention becomes focused on the nation from which the King will rule over the earth.

By turning the church against Israel Satan is trying to kill two birds with one stone. It turns the church away from God’s purposes while trying to rid the world of Israel. The final part of that attempt will come when the beast (Antichrist) launches a massive “final solution” to rid the world of both church and Israel.

Paul made it clear that Israel has not been replaced by anyone. There are many statements in Romans 11 that should dismiss any doubt about Israel’s continued importance to the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob: the God of Israel.

But true to form, one of the clearest promises made specifically to Israel about its ongoing part in God’s purposes is most often quoted and applied to the church in a most inappropriate way.

“…for God’s gifts and his call are irrevocable”.

Instead of applying this to Israel, it is usually applied to disobedient “Christians” who still SEEM to be displaying Spiritual gifts. Implying that disobedient Christians can’t lose what they have been given – while Israel is portrayed as having lost their inheritance because of their disobedience. What a complete twisting of the context and the intended application of that promise regarding God’s relationship with Israel!

So what are we to do with Israel? Should Christians throw unconditional support behind the current political incarnation that goes by that name? Is that what God would have us do? Or does God require that we expect the same standard of righteousness that HE demands from HIS Israel?

It is clearly the latter – and the only way they can attain that standard of righteousness is through faith in His Son, their Messiah.

I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has come in. And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: “The deliverer will come from Zion; he will turn godlessness away from Jacob. And this is my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” Rom 11:25-27

(This article originally posted on my blospot site 20 October 09)

An Experiment in Manipulation

I’ve been testing my drawing skills, mostly as a planning tool – to try out ideas on paper first instead of rushing ahead with paint on canvas.

After finishing this sketch I scanned it and had a look at the differences I could create by manipulating the colours. I like these results much more than I like the original sketch. I’m wondering whether to use one of the altered images as the basis for a painting.

The Millennium: Failed Prophecies and Lost Faith

 For most of my Christian life “The Millennium” was a mysterious 1000 year period beginning after the Great Tribulation. The religious tradition to which I belonged paid lip-service to the reality of a future “millennium”, but never offered any teaching about it. Therefore the only thing I knew was what I read in Revelation and that didn’t say very much. Even the word “millennium” seemed to take on a mystical character that took it outside the realm of concrete reality.

My first informed introduction to the topic came a few years ago through teaching by David Pawson. At first I thought that most of what he was saying was based on speculation like the majority of popular teaching on end times. But if that was the case it would be out of character for him. He always makes a strong issue out of sticking with the clearest and simplest meaning of the biblical text. Was he abandoning this approach while tackling this topic?

Pawson rarely gives convenient chapter and verse bible references for his hearers to “look up”. He encourages the practice of searching the scriptures rather than checking references; and over time I started to find confirmation of his teaching as I read through the Old Testament prophets. I was surprised how much of their writings applied to the promise of an earthly rule by Israel’s Messiah.

Recently I came across a former believer (and now professing atheist) who claimed that Jesus had failed to fulfil many OT Messianic prophesies. It seemed that this understanding might have played a part in him losing his faith. An honest assessment of his view would see the legitimacy of his conclusion, but ONLY on the condition that Jesus’ time on this earth was over and that there was no further opportunity for the prophecies to be fulfilled.

Most Christians look forward to a “second-coming” of Jesus, but how many have given any thought to WHY He will return to earth? Why is it necessary? What will it achieve that could not be achieved by him remaining in heaven? Is He returning merely to bring everything to an immediate end prior to judgement? If that is the case, then what about those unfulfilled Messianic prophecies? Has God given up on them? Was He lying when He gave those words to the prophets? Or are those events still pending?

Many try to spiritualise John’s prophecy about a 1000 year period in which Jesus rules with His saints. But is it merely coincidence that John describes the very same situation that almost all of the Old Testament prophets predicted? If the prophets’ predictions were valid (which believers MUST accept if we deem that they were prophetic messages from God) then could those prophets have been predicting the very same thing that John foresaw? If so, the events they describe in their prophecies will give us a picture of life during the millennium period, filling in the detail missing from John’s account in Revelation. And the former believer’s claim of failed Messianic prophecies would be clearly premature. There is still plenty of time for the Lord to fulfil His prophesied Messianic promises.

(This article originally posted on my blogspot site on  23 Sept 2009)

Painting Influences (helpful blog)

I found an interesting blog.

The owner is a sculptor, and while I have no personal interest in sculpture, I found his articles have relevance for any kind of art form. He gives very wise and practical advice about the work of an artist.


Some of his articles confirm what I said in “painting influences (part 4) about inspiration coming from DOING the work. See in particular his article “Art is not a talent”


Where Has My Talent Gone?

At one time I had no trouble drawing.

As a child I had an (overly) ambitious desire to be an animator for Disney and I spent a lot of time copying Disney characters from comics.  I also illustrated stories that I’d written.

I enjoyed it and was pleased with the results.

Somewhere along the way I stopped. Maybe it was when my parents moved the family from England to Australia. I don’t remember doing very much art work after that – apart from the school art classes that I didn’t enjoy. I probably wasn’t happy with the way I’d been forced to do art instead of the woodwork class I’d listed as my first preference. And we weren’t really TAUGHT art – we were left with materials and expected to get on with it by ourselves. My own efforts didn’t seem to be appreciated by the teacher.

I returned to drawing in my 20s. I’m not sure why. Maybe it was linked to homesickness because I started to draw scenes of Derbyshire in England where I’d spent my childhood. I’d use photos from magazines and books as source material. I was happy with the results and framed two or three of the drawings. Only one of them seems to survive. I found it again a few months ago – a drawing of a Norman Church in the town of Melbourne, South Derbyshire.

Another surviving drawing was a portrait of my daughter, aged around three. I framed that one and gave it to my parents. They displayed it for many years but I haven’t seen it for a long time. I’m not sure where it is anymore.

The last drawing I recall from this time was a “poster” advertising a film I’d made with my church youth group. The film based on a section of Luke’s gospel managed to incorporate Noah’s flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah and “the rapture” (a dodgy theological interpretation I no longer hold).

I’m sure I still have the poster somewhere but so far have been unable to find it.

For some reason I again lost interest in drawing and it was another ten years before I picked up a pencil for artistic reasons. When I did it was to illustrate letters written to penfriends. 

They were mainly cartoon-like self-portraits depicting experiences (real and imagined) that I was describing in the letter. One I recall was a response to a female friend who had told me she would be spending Christmas in the spa pool, sipping champagne. In reply I drew myself sitting in my family’s small fishpond drinking Guinness from a bottle through a long straw.

 Now back to the present.

I want to draw again but have been disappointed with my recent attempts. Maybe my expectations are too high – after all, practice makes perfect and it’s been a long time since I practiced.

I know I have a problem with patience. I like to be able to DO things without having to learn them, without having to develop the talent through consistent and patient application.

The fact that I USED to draw may have increased the problem, as if I feel like I’ve done the work in the past and shouldn’t have to return to learning the basics again. But it seems like I can’t avoid doing that. I just need to push myself to overcome a reluctance to fail in my early attempts.

The Gun Lobby Has Opened My Eyes!

If we’d only listened to the gun lobby many “Cold War”  fears would have been made redundant.

Nuclear weapons don’t kill people, people kill people.

Likewise GW Bush would have lost his excuse to invade Iraq. WMD don’t kill people…