Does God Have a Plan for Ethnic Israel as a Nation Still?


Does God have a plan for ethnic Israel as a nation still?

Recently the pastor of the church where we attend said that we don’t have to a pay attention to Israel nor should we support them. He said in an email to me that he is 100% correct about that. He believes that Israel was rejected by God when the New Church age happened, following Jesus dying on the cross so that we can be forgiven if we believe John 3:16. He called his believe something, but I don’t recall the exact title. I am wondering what you think about this. The Bible says that God “will bless those who bless Israel and that He will curse those that curse Israel”. I personally think God’s promises to Israel are “forever” when the Bible says “forever.” What do you think?

Hi Marie,

I would have to disagree with your pastor on this question. Your pastor believes in replacement theology also called supersessionism. It’s interesting you bring this up. I just preached on Ephesians 2:11-18 last week. The sermon can be heard if you go to our website at: http://www.harvestmn.com. This passage can be used by supersessionists if they ignore other passages. God is creating one people of God, but He is definitely not finished with Israel yet. Romans 11 teaches us that Israel for the most part rejected Jesus as Messiah and so are in some sense cut off (Acts 3:17-26), but are still “beloved” in some sense. Romans 11:28-29 states: “As regards the gospel, they are enemies of God for your sake. But as regards election, they are beloved for the sake of their forefathers. For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.” This passage has to be referring to unbelieving Israel because it says they are enemies right now, but they are “beloved” because of God’s election of them as an ethnic people and as a nation. Some people misinterpret the last verse as referring to spiritual gifts, but the context reveals God is talking about His calling of Israel.
A study of the Old Testament reveals that God always has a remnant of faithful believers, but it also discloses that He has an end times plan for His people, Israel. Zechariah 12:10 and Psalm 118:22-23 uncovers that God predicted that His people would reject their Messiah but would realize their sin at the end of time. See my book The Uniqueness of the Bible pages 116-122 for a detailed analysis of these passages. Zechariah 12:10 specifically says, “And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn.” This is a promise to ethnic Israel as a nation, which is why it says God will pour out a spirit of grace “on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem;” this phrase refers to ethnic Israel as a nation. It says when God pours out a spirit of grace, they will “look on me,” clearly referring to God, but then says “on him whom they have pierced,” clearly referring to Jesus and His crucifixion. The New Testament teaches us that Jesus is God and so the sentence makes sense. Ethnic Israel as a nation will recognize that Jesus is God and is their Messiah. They will mourn over the fact that they rejected their Messiah just as the prophecies predicted. Zechariah 13:1 divulges that this repentance will result in forgiveness, so they actually become Christians. It uses the same phrase, “house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem,” to show who is forgiven. The context of chapters 12-14 reveal that it is referring to the end of time as the phrase “on that day,” referring to the Day of the Lord, discloses. 12:9 tells us why your question is so important. It says, “And on that day I will seek to destroy all the nations that come against Jerusalem.” When we reject the truth that God still has a plan for ethnic Israel we set ourselves up for harm, at least as a nation.
In my quiet time this morning I read Jeremiah 30:9-11:

But they shall serve the LORD their God and David their king, whom I will raise up for them. Then fear not, O Jacob my servant, declares the LORD, nor be dismayed, O Israel; for behold, I will save you from far away, and your offspring from the land of their captivity. Jacob shall return and have quiet and ease, and none shall make him afraid. For I am with you to save you, declares the LORD; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished.

This passage is speaking about the exile of Israel in 586 BC and their return from exile in 539 BC, but it refers to David their king, which is a reference to Messiah and so must also be speaking of the future of Israel even after the time of Christ. What we see is a pattern found throughout the Old Testament. Israel is rebellious (Deuteronomy 9:4-6) and God disciplines them, but He will never ultimately reject them. I don’t take this “ask the pastor” request as a coincidence. I just preached on this subject last Sunday and I just read the passage in Jeremiah this morning. I preach expositionally, which means verse by verse through books of the Bible, so I couldn’t have just picked a topic I like to preach on. I also read through the Bible verse by verse for my quiet time and just happened to land on Jeremiah 30 this morning. God is saying something, and I believe it is the fact that He cares for ethic Israel as a nation. Pray for the peace of Jerusalem!
God bless,
Larry

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What should we do about Isis?


Isis

I was recently asked what I thought the solution to Isis was. My first response was the gospel. The ultimate problem with this world is that people’s hearts are corrupt. Jesus is the only one who can change people from the inside out. The New Covenant promises a new heart that will follow after God. My friend responded that our country would not be able to respond in the way I am suggesting. I said, “Oh, you are asking how our country as a nation should respond.” I then suggested that there are three major problems that must be understood and faced before making a decision.
First, we need to understand that if we stop Isis, other radical Islamic groups will sprout up like Hydra’s head being chopped off sprouted several more heads. The reason radical Islamic groups will continue to manifest themselves is because radical Islam is true Islam. The extremists as we call them are the faithful followers of the Qur’an and Muhammad. Explicit statements in the Qur’an such as Surah 9:5 command them to do what they are doing:

So when the forbidden months are passed, so kill the polytheists wherever you find them, and take them [as captives], and besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush, so if they repent [convert to Islam] and perform the prayer and give the legal alms, so leave their way free. Surely Allah is forgiving, merciful.

Moderate Muslims suggest that there are also peaceful surahs and that the Jihad surahs are only advocating self-defense. I wish this were true. Surah 2:256 does state, “No compulsion in religion.” But what does this mean? What the radical Muslims know is that this was an early surah given when Muhammad hoped the Qurash people would accept his religion. Once he was forced out of Mecca and fled to Medina, he received new revelations that rescinded this one. The Qur’an teaches the doctrine of abrogation (Surah 2:106). Earlier surahs are abrogated by later ones. Surah 2:256 cannot be speaking of defensive war only because surah 2:216-218 teaches that in defense, war is permissible even during the forbidden months. The Qur’an clearly teaches that Muslims are to fight the infidels until Islam rules over the entire world. Even moderate Muslims want Shariah law enforced when possible. What Westerners do not understand is that Islam is not just a religion. It is a religious ideology that encompasses their entire worldview. It is true that most Muslims are relatively peaceful, but this does not mean that they are the ones who correctly interpret the Qur’an. The fact is that there is a large minority of Muslims who are not peaceful (perhaps 30-40% in the world) because the Qur’an is not that difficult to interpret. It is not like the Bible, in that it was written by only one person and in only one genre. It is mostly made up of direct commands from Allah; it is fairly straightforward in what it says. Because of these facts, we will always have radical Islamic extremists in large numbers threatening the U.S.
Second, if we decide to fight Isis we need to decide who we will arm to help us in this battle. At first this might seem to be an easy answer – arm the enemies of Isis. But this is not as easy as it seems. Most of the Muslim world hates the U.S. Even after Isis burned alive a Jordanian soldier they captured and put the execution on YouTube, a large percent of Jordanians still support Isis. Isis’s cause is obviously being funded heavily by those throughout the Arab world that embrace their ideology. We can see this by how many other radical Muslim groups exist with large amounts of weapons such as Al Qaida, Boko Haram, Hezbollah, Hamas, Taliban, etc. How can all of these groups be thriving without massive support? How can there be substantial support unless a large percent of Muslims embrace their cause? Who can we really trust? There is another doctrine taught in the Qur’an and the Hadith called Taqiyya. Surah 3:54 states, “They deceived, and Allah deceived. And Allah is the best deceiver (makara).” The Hadith in Bukhari 49:857 and 84:65 teach that it is acceptable and good to lie to your enemy. If it is okay to deceive infidels (non-Muslims), then how do we know the Muslims are being honest with us? Our dealings with Karzai the former president of Afghanistan is a case in point. He took a lot of money from us and our allies, but in the end deceived us and was caught making deals with the Taliban. The greatest danger of our troops while we were in Afghanistan came from Afghani soldiers who turned and killed our soldiers. Who to support is not an easy decision to make.
Third, any help against one group of Muslims disrupts the balance of power in the region. Until we realize the difference between Sunni and Shia Muslims, we will not be able to properly determine how to fight our enemy. There are radical Islamic extremists in both factions of Islam. Iran is predominately Shia and is currently attempting to build atomic weaponry. Israel correctly recognizes that Iran is the greatest threat to the region. Iran is working with Lebanon (Hezbollah) and Syria (Bashar al-Assad) because they are all Shia Muslim. Yemen just fell to insurgents who are allies with Iran and are Shia Muslim. Iraq is predominantly Shia, but was controlled by the Sunni until Saddam Hussein was taken out under the Bush administration. We should expect Iraq to form a coalition with Iran. If Shia Muslims gain too much power, things could go very bad for Israel. But Isis, Boko Haram, Al Qaida, Muslim Brotherhood and the Taliban are all Sunni Muslim. When we fight Isis we help Syria, where Assad has slaughtered thousands of his own people, even using chemical warfare. In this war we may end up trying to fight just enough to hurt one enemy but not enough to help the other enemy; the question is, “Is this a good strategy for war?”
In reviewing these problems I am not suggesting that we shouldn’t try to stop Isis. Isis is evil and has declared war on us. Our government is responsible for protecting our citizens and helping our allies, especially Israel, which is our greatest ally in the region. But how do we stop Isis? The answer has to take into consideration all three of the factors above, lest we fight ignorantly and thus ineffectively. I still think the greatest weapon is the gospel. As Christians our primary loyalty is to our Lord, not our country. We must pray and send missionaries to other countries and share the gospel to Muslims in our own country. Evil hearts cannot be changed by politics. At the same time, I believe we should be involved in politics. Our nation should be involved in world affairs. But we must be careful not to confuse the two. We fight, even go to war, to defend ourselves from those who have declared themselves as our enemy. As Christians we seek to convert Muslims by sharing the gospel, the truth in love. We love our enemy in hopes that they will become our friend, but we also protect our families from those who would seek to harm them.

Larry Siekawitch

Test for Adultery


Numbers 5:11-31: How is this didactic and how could it work?

Great question. First of all, didactic simply means to instruct, but it is sometimes used in the sense of teaching or moralizing excessively. In the passage on the test for adultery some would use “didactic” in the second sense and criticize the test. At first, the passage does seem to be a little bizarre. There is no scientific explanation for how dust can make some sick and others not sick depending on whether the person committed adultery or not. But if God ordained the test, He could bypass any scientific difficulties. The passage is to be understood in the context of a theocracy (Israel was a nation under the direct control of God as King), and is a trial by ordeal. God gave the test to Israel and made sure the results registered properly in each case. We cannot use this same test today, because we are not under a theocracy and God has not ordained it as a proper test for this time. It is not a general moral principle, but rather a specific test for a specific time – Israel under the old covenant. God had a specific plan for Israel and the Old Testament reports that plan. He also has a general moral plan for all of humanity, which He relates throughout the Bible. The specific plan that entailed judicial, ceremonial and sacrificial laws only pertained to the Israelites in the theocracy of God’s covenant with them. Now He has a New Covenant as related in the New Testament offered to everyone; God’s people are now transnational. God’s moral laws do not change, because His moral character never changes (James 1:17), but the specifics of His plan have changed from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant as the book of Hebrews brings out (see Hebrews 7:12).

Hope this helps,

Pastor Larry

Are all premillennialists Calvinists?


Curt asks,
John MacArthur once preached a sermon titled “All pre-mills are Calvinist”, in which he talked about Romans 11, how a study of God’s restoration of Israel to salvation before the millennium makes all men Calvinist.

As I read a few of your papers online, I see that you believe in the free will of man that chooses God before he is saved, rather than God choosing man (Calvinism).

And at the same time, you seem to believe in a pre-millennium in which Israel will be restored as detailed in Ezekiel 36-38, without choosing the put their faith in Christ.

The salvation of Israel to return to Christ, as in Romans 11, is not by their own will, but so the world will know that the Lord keeps his promises. How do you reconcile these differences?

Hi Curt,
First I would say that I do not believe we choose God before He chooses us (Eph 1:4). I do believe people have a genuine free will, but unless God first draws us we cannot and will not come to Him (John 6:44). I am a premillennialist, and I do look forward to the salvation of Israel because I believe God still has a plan for them, which has begun to unfold since 1948. I do not believe the salvation of the Jews is apart from their free will. When the Bible says “all Israel will be saved” this does not mean all Israel without exception, but rather refers to a large number of the Jews who will freely choose Christ once they realize He is the Messiah (Zech 12:10). Romans 11 is in the context of Romans 9:6b which states, “For not all who are descended from Israel belong to Israel.” Literally it says “not all those from Israel are Israel.” In saying all this, I do not pretend to know how to reconcile all the differences. As I state in my paper on Election found in our website under “resources” there is great mystery involved in the question of election. God is wonderful in the old sense of the word, full of wonder; He is beyond us and incomprehensible. Back to MacArthur: MacArthur also is not a typical Calvinist. He is a four point Calvinist like Calvin was, denying limited atonement. He also believes God loves everyone, even the non-elect. He wrote an excellent book called The Love of God that relates this view. I disagree with his premise that all premillennialists are Calvinists. Is MacArthur a Calvinist? How many points do you have to hold to in order to be a Calvinist? I see myself as a 3 point Calvinist (I also reject irresistible grace). Am I a Calvinist? Many Puritans held to similar views as mine. Once we agree that there is mystery in the idea of election, I think we can say any believer can be a premillennialist irrespective of his or her view on election.
Hope this helps,
Larry

What About Pentecost?


What About Pentecost?

Pastor Larry, with Pentecost upon us I’ve been considering the Holy Spirit Baptism and its relation to “power gifts” in modern times. Most Charismatic Christians only ever pray in indiscernible tongues. Scripture shows that everyone the apostles prayed for were healed totally and instantly. If Christians still have access to these gifts, why doesn’t the church see the miraculous like the 1st century Church did? Are we doing something wrong or is it something that God has taken away as cessationists believe?

Great question Michael,

When we look at the Bible, especially the book of Acts, we find some continuity and some discontinuity concerning the more supernatural gifts of the Spirit. It does appear that we have two discernable groups today concerning this question. The Pentecostal/Charismatics tend to see complete continuity between the church today and that of the Apostles, and Evangelical/cessationist churches see complete discontinuity. I think the Bible describes a balance between these two positions. Concerning continuity I would say there is no Bible verse that speaks of a cessation of the gifts taking place before Jesus comes back. Some appeal to 1 Corinthians 13:8-12, which does talk about a cessation of the gifts, but the scholarly consensus today is that the time of cessation referred to in 1 Corinthians 13 is clearly the return of Christ. “When the perfect comes” and seeing “face to face” refers to Jesus second coming. This would actually argue for the opposite of what cessationists claim. The passage actually says the supernatural gifts referred to won’t cease until Jesus comes back, because they will no longer be necessary when Jesus is with us face to face. This non-cessationist view is also backed up by Acts 2:16-21. Peter is explaining the event of Pentecost to the observers and quotes Joel chapter 2. In verse 16 he says this (the day of Pentecost with tongues, etc.) is that (the prophecy made by Joel). In verse 17 he says it will be in the last days, actually describing the very end of the last days in verses 19-20. According to this passage the last days began at Pentecost and will be finished when the Day of the Lord comes. One simply has to ask, “Have we passed the last days yet?” Dreams, visions and prophecy, along with tongues since it was included in the “this is that” by Peter, will all take place in the church during the entirety of the last days. Notice Peter is in complete agreement with Paul. Continuity is established by these two passages.
But there is also some discontinuity discernable in the New Testament. Acts elevates the Apostles as a unique group who had complete authority over the entire church and were able to perform miracles like Jesus did, instantaneous and complete. See Acts 1:2; 2:43; 4:33; 5:12-16; 9:27 and 19:11-12. The Apostles did pass on the ministry, including miraculous gifts, but they were also seen as unique. In 2 Corinthians 12:12 Paul argues for a unique ministry in the miraculous for the Apostles. The Apostles had seen Jesus (1 Corinthians 9:1; 15:7-9; Acts 1:21-22; 22:14), which was a requirement for joining this unique club. This is because the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament Apostles were considered the foundation of God’s people with Christ as the cornerstone (Ephesians 2:20; 2 Peter 3:2; 1 Corinthians 4:1; 1 John 4:6). Wayne Grudem makes an excellent case for the idea that the New Testament Apostles are the counterpart to the Old Testament Prophets and the New Testament gift of prophecy is not like the Old Testament prophecy of the Prophets; it is not The Very Words of God but rather impressions from God put in our own words that need to be tested(see Wayne Grudem, The Gift of Prophecy in the New Testament and Today). God can speak to His kids today, but He doesn’t speak in such a way that it is equal to the Bible. God can heal today, but no one can heal instantaneously everyone he or she meets, like Jesus and the Apostles could. Tongues are for today, but they need to be regulated in accordance to 1 Corinthians 14. So the Bible seems to indicate that there is some discontinuity between the original Apostles and the church today.
I think the Bible presents a balance between the Pentecostals and the Evangelicals. We can learn from both groups. The gifts are for today, but we need to be cautious and abide by Paul’s warnings and parameters in 1 Corinthians 14. We should have an expectancy and excitement about what God can do like the Charismatics tend to have, alongside recognition that God does not always heal or give everyone the same Spiritual gift. We should have both a theology of glory and a theology of suffering in the Now/Not yet of the Kingdom of God. Balance is the best.

Question on Prayer


Question on Prayer:

I want to insure that I am praying the way God wants me to. My question is, should we pray directly to the Holy Spirit? I have heard/read conflicting opinions regarding prayer. One said we must pray directly to God in all things. Another said we should pray to Jesus, and pray to the Holy Spirit for specific things, such as to be filled with the Spirits wisdom, power, etc. Could you expound on the above things as well as any pertinent information concerning prayer. I know this is rather elementary, but I am a bit confused due to the conflicting opinions.
Thanks!

Great question Ken. The New Testament reveals that God is Triune, in part so that we can have a dynamic relationship with all three persons of the Trinity. God wants us to know that though He is one God, He is Father, Son and Holy Spirit, three persons of the Godhead who interact with each other and desire to interact with us. Jesus taught us to pray to the Father because one foundational aspect of our relationship with God is that we are His adopted sons and daughters (Romans 8:14-17). As a good Father He protects us, guides us and loves us. The Scriptures also describe the centrality of Christ as Lord (Romans 10:9). Jesus is our Lord and Master. He is our King (Revelation 19:16) and our friend (John 15:13-15). We relate to Him as Lord by surrendering to Him our very lives. We relate to Him as King, by serving Him as loyal subjects. We relate to Him as friend and brother by drawing near to Him. Finally the Scriptures describe the Holy Spirit as our comforter (John 14:15-18) and empowerer (Acts 1:8). He lifts us up when we are down. He bonds us together in true fellowship (2 Corinthians 13:13). He gifts us and empowers us to live holy lives and to minister effectively as we seek to advance the Kingdom of God. Having said all this, I would ask a question: “Should we talk to these persons who have such a significant impact on our lives?” Of course! Remember, prayer is simply talking to God, having a conversation with the Almighty. We can talk to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit individually, because each one is a person. We can also talk to God in general because He is only One Being. Some people say “God” or “Lord” referring to God in general. At times we pray directly to the Father or the Son or the Spirit. All of this is perfectly acceptable when you understand the doctrine of the Trinity. The New Testament gives us examples of prayer to the Father and the Son, but there are no examples of prayer to the Spirit; this doesn’t mean we cannot pray to the Spirit, because it never says that we shouldn’t pray to the Spirit. Our relationship with God should be dynamic, including prayer to each person of the Trinity as we seek to relate to our wonderful, Triune God.

What is truth?


Ask the pastor:

Today I had a conversation with a relativist. Her view was that all religions have an element of truth. She made the following claims:

1) God is good, but set up evil events for the greater good. (IE: James town, Holocaust, etc) – NOTE: She was explicit that James Town was orchestrated by God for the greater good.
2) Each person is responsible for that which brings them the greatest good.
2a)Each person determines their own good.
3) Truth is a matter of perception for the individual.

So, when someone makes the above claims? How do you reason with them?

First of all I would say that most religions do have some elements of truth in them. Satan knows that mixing truth into the lies he spreads helps people more readily accept them. This does not mean that every religion is good or the same. Only Christianity tells us without error who God is and what His plan is for us.
Second, God is good, but He doesn’t cause evil. We need to understand the difference between God’s permissive and active will. He never actively causes evil, because that would make Him the author of evil. No evil can come unless He allows it though (Job 1-2). He orchestrates in the sense of allowing all that happens for the greater good. He is the grand chess master who uses our evil for His good purposes without being the cause of that evil.
Third, the next two points seem very self focused, which the Bible is not. We are responsible for what we do, but our focus should be on how we can bring God the greatest glory, not on how we can bring our own greater good. We definitely don’t determine our own good if this person means by that, that we determine what is good. Only God determines what is good – He is God and we are not. If this person means we determine bringing about our own good, then the answer is yes and no. Our greatest good comes from not seeking our own good, but rather God’s glory. Jesus said if we seek to save our life we will lose it, but if we lose our life for His sake we will gain it.
Last, truth is not a matter of perception, it is a matter of what is real. There are two major philosophies concerning what is true: 1) The pragmatic theory which states something is true if holding the belief is useful. There are four problems with this theory:
a. Though many truths are helpful some are not.
b. Pragmatist understanding can result in contradictory statements both being true. If something is useful for Dave but not useful for Susan then it is true and not true.
c. Things are not true because they are useful; they are useful because they are true (i.e. Antibiotics).
d. How do we determine what is useful? Short term or long term? If short term then lying could be seen as true. If long term then how can we ever know until years later?
2) The correspondence theory of truth is the only rational view. Truth is that which corresponds to reality. If truth were a matter of perception then the belief that the earth is flat would be true and all believed lies would be true. We are much better off getting our focus off of ourselves and trust in God’s word which is ultimate truth and our final authority in deciding what is true or false and what is right or wrong. See my book, The Uniqueness of the Bible for an extended case for the supremacy of the Bible as our final authority.

God bless,
Larry