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)

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)

Israel and Their Return to the Promised Land

 Below is a link to a long but very interesting article about the return of Israel to their land and how it relates to the second coming of Messiah.

 The article is by Reggie Kelly, a close friend of Art Katz.

 Art Katz’s understanding of Israel’s future received a lot of opposition, particularly from Messianic believers in Israel.  While many of them saw only good things ahead for the Jews and Israel, Katz understood there are still some very disturbing things to come.

 After reading and listening to a lot of ideas about Israel I have come across two major, contradictory viewpoints from those who DO recognise that Israel as a nation has a future in God’s purposes.

 One sees the restoration of Israel and the increasing number of Jews turning to Messiah as the forerunner of worldwide revival.

 The other view (as seen by Art Katz) is not so optimistic about the immediate future. He saw another exile from the land during the great tribulation/ time of Jacob’s trouble. This period would be relatively brief (3 ½ years) and would end with the return of Jesus, when HE would bring His people back to their land, from which they would never again be uprooted.

 For some time I have understood there will be a period in history that will eclipse the horrors of the holocaust. Through the ministry of Art Katz, and also articles like the one below, I have been encouraged that I have not been on the wrong prophetic track.

 There is a lot in this article to consider and many supporting references to thoroughly check.

 http://the.mysteryofisrael.org/2010/08/28/will-jews-be-expelled-again-from-their-land/

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this post is another from my former blogspot site.

Israel: refined not redefined

(This is a re-edited combining of two articles previously posted to my blogspot site.)

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Several months ago I read the following question:

“Lets say hypothetically Israel the nation was wiped of the map. What would that mean to everyone?”

This is my answer to that question:

It should mean nothing to those who look to the truth of God’s word instead of to the world’s political map.

Israel as nation WAS wiped off the map for almost 2000 years – and was restored in 1948.

Their long absence from the map is one of the reasons for the creation of replacement theology. With Israel gone, the church needed to give meaning to the many scriptural promises made to Israel, so they assumed that the church had replaced Israel in God’s plans.

They overlooked the clearest meaning that Israel’s existence did not depend on man’s political “realities”, but on God’s promise. And HIS promises are kept and fulfilled according to HIS timing.

Even if the present day political nation of Israel is wiped off the map again, it would merely mean that Israel will be restored to the land again at some future point in accordance with the prophetic promises given by God.

We should not confuse today’s political nation of Israel with the Israel of God. God’s Israel takes into account people descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob no matter where they live. Despite the creation of the nation state, the majority of Israel remains in exile. One day that exile will end and God’s Israel will be totally returned to the land He promised them and they AS A COMPLETE NATION will recognise their Messiah, Jesus and will enter the new covenant through faith in Him.

Replacement theology (mentioned in the answer I gave above) has become a very popular viewpoint in the church today

Two of the proof texts favoured by the promoters of replacement theology are:

Rom 2: 28-29 A person is not a Jew who is one only outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit

And

Rom 9: 6-8 For not all who are descended from Israel are Israel. Nor because they are his descendants are they all Abraham’s children. On the contrary, “It is through Isaac that your offspring will be reckoned.” In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of the promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.

But to use those texts as support for their theology, the replacement promoters need to totally ignore the clear context of those texts.

Regarding Romans 2:28.

Go back several verses and you will read in verse 17:

“ Now you, if you call yourself a Jew; if you rely on the law and boast in God…”

It is specifically addressed to Jews who were trusting in their blood heritage and their relationship to the law. Paul was saying their heritage was not enough. It was not addressing gentiles and saying they have been made Jews through “circumcision of the heart”. It was addressing Jews, saying that MORE than heredity and law observance were needed to be part of God’s people. An inward change worked by the Spirit is necessary.

Regarding Romans 9.

When Paul writes “not all who are descended from Israel are Israel.” He is referring to a faithful remnant of the descendants of Abraham Isaac and Jacob.

The statement is excluding SOME of those descended from Israel – it is NOT a statement intended to include others who are not descended from Israel.

It is not a statement that redefines what Israel means. It is a statement that refines what Israel means.

It does not shift the identity of Israel from one group to another – it narrows down the identity of Israel from a wider inclusive ethnic group to a smaller specific section of that wider group.

It pinpoints the faithful remnant AMONG the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. It is not transferring attention outside of those descendants.

It’s like saying that not all born into a Christian family are Christian – only those who have their own faith in Jesus.

Painting Influences (part 3)

I have found inspiration in the work of  a few Jewish artists. While not necessarily religious in practice, they can’t avoid the presence of God in their culture and references to Him are addressed in their work.

My interest in Jewish art was increased through reading Chaim Potok’s two “Asher Lev” novels. They are the story of a Jew from an orthodox family who struggles with the contradiction his extraordinary artistic talent creates in his life. His art appears to pull against everything he and his family believes but he feels compelled to use his talent to portray his own perception of truth.

There are probably many parallels between the struggles of the fictional life of Lev and actual Jewish artists, who have played a role in modern art history.

One who interests me is Marc Chagall, who often used a collection of seemingly unrelated symbols in a single painting but somehow made them fit together. I’ve tried a couple of times to paint something inspired by him but every attempt seems to take a different direction and the end result has nothing in common with his work. But that’s a good thing. His work provides a spark to start a project but the resulting painting isn’t a mere copy of what he did.

My most recent painting started out with his work in mind but took on its own life the more I worked on it.

see photo here:  https://onesimusfiles.wordpress.com/2012/07/18/painting-in-progress/

Currently a favourite artist is Samuel Bak, a holocaust survivor whose work is strongly influenced by his childhood experiences. He is another with a personal collection of repeated symbols. Perhaps his most moving/challenging are those he has based on this well-known photo:

Some of Bak’s paintings inspired by the photo are in an exhibition catalogue that can be downloaded from this link  http://www.puckergallery.com/pdf/Bak.Icon.2008.pdf

I have been reading a little about Bak and his paintings and have seen a video featuring him. There are several to be found on youtube.
Bak starts his work with detailed drawings on the canvas. That is something I haven’t tried yet, but I am keen to give a go to see what I can achieve with a more structured approach. So far my painting method has been very organic, trial and error, seeing what works and what doesn’t as I paint. It can be a frustrating experience, but when things start to work out it is very satisfying. On the occasions when I have tried to plan what I’m going to do it has never worked out the way I hoped, so I have mostly avoided planning too much beyond starting with a very basic idea. That idea sometimes doesn’t survive but will transform into something else as I paint.

Painting Influences (part 2)

Before moving on I need to back-track a little to mention Colin McCahon who should have been included at the beginning of my story. I was introduced to his work by Chris who helped me start this journey. I saw McCahon’s painting Victory Over Death 2 in the National Gallery of Australia on my first visit. It’s the kind of painting to which the word “awesome” can genuinely be applied. (Forget the modern, inappropriate over-usage of that word).

It was hung in the perfect position as close to eye level as a large canvas (2 m x 6 m) can be. And I spent a long time in front of it. Unfortunately it has now been relocated to a higher wall where it’s not as easy to see up close. But I always pay it a visit when I go to the gallery.

http://www.mccahon.co.nz/cm001502

Prior to my first year of painting I knew nothing about the history of art. I knew the names of the most famous painters and was familiar with a few well-known paintings, but beyond that I was clueless. Along with my personal attempts at artistic expression I started to research various artists and art forms.

My strongest interest has been towards art exploring biblical themes and I’ve looked for artists whose work includes aspects of that interest. Two of those I found are:

 Mazalit Chetzrony Tabib  Mazalit Chetzrony Tabib  http://www.mazalit-art.com/Eng/

Carol Bomer  http://www.carolbomer.com/

The inspiration of these artists is perhaps most seen in this painting I did around the time I came across them.

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This is a painting I later changed slightly – but probably came away with a poorer result.

Mazalit Chetzrony Tabib, a Jewish artist, uses a vocabulary of symbols that are repeated in her work, such as a childlike images of  houses, and ladders. This gave me the idea of re-using symbols of my own, something I had been doing with the “Y” shape but hadn’t done with anything else.

In the painting above I used the clock face for the first time, something I have repeated in most paintings I’ve done since.

Painting influences (links for part 1).

While I would have liked to use illustrations of these artists within my previous article, I didn’t want to breech copyright, so if anyone is interested here are links to some  paintings by the artists mentioned.

In future parts of my “Painting Influences” I’ll try to include links within the articles.

 Ian Fairweather

http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=115653

http://www.deutscherandhackett.com/node/18000007/

 

Fred Williams

http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=36745

http://artsearch.nga.gov.au/Detail.cfm?IRN=36995

Painting influences (part 1)

Painting is one of the most rewarding and frustrating things I’ve done. It’s more than a year now since I started my artistic journey. Over that year I’ve learned a lot and I think my paintings have been improving. Hopefully in another year I’ll be able to say that again.

My approach to painting has changed and adapted as I’ve tried new things and found inspiration from several different artists. The journey started with encouragement from my friend Chris. He paints scripture text and he convinced me to try the same. I found it wasn’t easy to do effectively. While I have abandoned attempts to paint nothing but scripture, my paintings are all inspired by it.

 

My first interest was abstract painting. I tended to look at nothing else when I visited galleries and I tried to apply myself to that approach. I came across a few artists that appealed to me more than others. I liked the work of Ian Fairweather and his style was an influence on what I see as my “breakthrough” painting: “Pierced”

With that painting I attempted a larger work for the first time, and I used a big sheet of cardboard (Fairweather’s prefered painting surface). I started to scrub paint onto the surface, blending colours as I went instead of trying to paint neatly and keeping colours totally separate.

This painting was a bridge between attempts at painting bible words and a move to more abstract work. The foundation of the painting was the word “PIERCED” – referring to the crucifixion and in particular the prophetic account of it found in Psalm 22 “They have pierced my hands and feet” – words that I incorporated into the painting. I also masked off the rough shape of a man with arms outstretched which is visible in the middle section of the canvas, over the top of the “Y“ , a common feature in most of my work.

When I finished this painting I immediately revisited the idea, using a slightly smaller canvas (instead of the cardboard). The result was a painting featured in a local art exhibition earlier this year.

 

Around this time I visited and exhibition of Fred William’s work at the National Gallery of Australia in Canberra. William’s main success came through his landscape paintings, many of which initially appear to be entirely abstract, but those with familiarity of the Australian bush and outback soon see how well he captures them in paint.
Those I find most effective portray the landscape as if seen from the air. Not long after seeing his work for the first time I saw a TV show in which a helicopter flew across the arid Australian inland, the ground below was exactly the same in effect as William’s paintings.

I tried to paint something similar, with an idea based on the people of Israel crossing the river Jordan to enter the land God had promised to them. My “aerial shot” depicts the people walking across the dry land between the parted sides of the river. The golden Ark of the Covenant stands on the now dry river bed.

In the distance is the city of Jericho, soon to be captured by the Israelites. From one window hangs a scarlet thread – the sign displayed by Rahab to give protection to herself and her family after she helped protect two Israelite spies who were sent to check out the city prior to the arrival of the rest of the people.

What is the REAL problem?

Recently I posted some thoughts relating to an article on Andrew Strom’s blog. Several accusations levelled against Andrew in comments following his article included terms like “socialist” and marxist”.  Here I offer a few of my own thoughts about the use of those terms.

“Socialism” “Marxist” “liberalism”etc. are the evil straw-man enemies that people have been conditioned to throw around whenever the “American way” and American spiritual mythology is questioned. It dates back to the 1950s and McCarthyism – when a onetime ally (Communist Russia) came to be more valuable as an enemy to be feared and abhorred.

Socialism is deemed evil because the idle poor allegedly devote themselves to handouts from the rich – removing their responsibility and motivation to work.

This of course differs greatly from Capitalism and its support of an idle rich whose wealth is maintained through the work of the poor. (And if the local poor expect too much payment for their labour, the rich can always outsource their work to nations where poor labourers can be “hired” for practically nothing).

NEITHER of these political ISMs is the answer. But also NEITHER of these political ISMs is THE problem.

THE problem is GODLESSNESS – which is not only the denial of God (as in communist Russia), it is also the adoption of OTHER things in place of a God who we may profess to acknowledge (as in the USA).

We can sing God’s praises with our lips while displaying Godlessness with our attitudes and actions.

The elevation of ANY political ideology is one such act of godlessness. The idolising of any nation is equally an expression of Godlessness.

God requires ALL of our allegiance – not just the bit left over after we’ve stood hand over heart saluting the flag of an earthly kingdom.