Contrasting Views on Israel and the Church

What’s your view on John MacArthur’s teaching on Israel?

We share MacArthur’s pre-millennial futurism and therefore agree on Israel’s corporate, national calling and election, and millennial destiny.

We agree that a remnant of penitent survivors of the great tribulation will be ‘‘born’ into holy, millennial nationhood ‘in one day’ (Isa 66:8; Eze 39:22; Zech 3:9), when “they shall look upon Me whom they pierced” (Zech 12:10; Mt 23:39; Ro 11:26; Rev 1:7). This will fulfill the glorious type of Joseph’s self-disclosure and reunion with his estranged brethren (Mic 5:3-4).

So on Israel’s distinctive election and destiny as an integral part of the everlasting covenant, we are quite agreed. We further agree on Israel’s unique stewardship over the literal Land of promise in the future millennial kingdom.

Where we differ, rather radically, is MacArthur’s view of the church as a separate people of God, occupying a parenthesis between Pentecost (the church’s presumed ‘birth day’) and the pre-tribulation rapture, which they place a full seven years (Daniel’s 70th week; Dan 9:27) before Jesus’ return to destroy the AC.

In contrast, we see every born again Jew and gentile as belonging to one unified people of God in Christ. In contrast, MacArthur sees the born again saints of the tribulation period, with all the Jews who come to faith after the supposed pre-trib rapture, as NOT belonging to Christ’s body. Rather, he sees all who are saved during the tribulation and beyond as belonging to a completely separate and distinct people of God. Even though blood washed and born again, they are NOT to be reckoned as part of the body of Christ.

In contrast, we would see the church of this present age in continuity with what Paul calls, “the remnant according to the election of grace”, the elect children of the Spirit in every generation. This was and remains the “Israel within Israel”, so to speak. And as Paul would speak of “Israel after the flesh” (1Cor 10:18), we would hold that there has always been an “Israel after the Spirit” (Ro 9:2:28-29; 9:6), the ‘Israel within Israel’, the true “Israel of God” (Ro 9:6; Gal 6:16). This is the part of the good olive tree that was never cut off but remain connected to the root and sap, which is to say those in living union with the Holy Spirit, who did in fact indwell the OT righteous (1Pet 1:11 et al).

Though not yet ‘revealed’ as the body of Christ, or the ‘one new man’, it is into this “true” (NOT “new”) ‘Israel of God’ (the “holy seed”; Isa 6:13), that the living gentile members of Christ have been ingrafted to become fellow-heirs with all the saints, equal citizens of the household of God and the commonwealth of Israel, the true seed of Abraham, the true circumcision (Phil 3:3), royal priesthood and holy nation (1Pet 2:9), and “the people” (Ro 9:24-26; 1Pet 2:10)

Theologically speaking, how can one be “in Christ” and NOT be “in Israel”? As the born again spirit belongs to a body that is not yet resurrected, yet no less claimed for future resurrection, we believe the body of Christ is an organism that exists internally within Israel. Regardless of how it’s ranks may swell with countless numbers of gentile believers, the organic union remains. The Lord’s Jewish humanity qualifies all who are in His body to inherit all things promised in the everlasting covenant made exclusively with Israel.

The gentile believer is no less part of the good olive tree, grafted “IN AMONG” (Ro 11:17), and therefore covenantally bound to natural Israel, as distinct but not separate, just as the living branches are distinct but never separate from a deep sense of identification with what touches the nation, whether for weal or woe until the day when the whole of the tree will have only living branches.

Saved Jew and saved gentile are needfully distinct for the sake of all the purposes that God has invested in causing and preserving that distinction. Yet, they are no less one.

Inextricably intertwined, they share a common hope and destiny of glorious inheritance of all things in Christ, albeit with certain temporary distinctions necessarily maintained for the unique demonstration and purpose that God has invested in preserving the visibility of the distinction for the sake of His mystery and the full outworking of His purpose, both now and in the millennium to come.

Like the prophets and the righteous remnant of Israel, and like Jesus and His Jewish apostles, the true body of Christ is spiritually and covenantally bound to even the spiritually dead nation, waiting for the day when every Jew on this earth (without exception; Jer 31:34) will be saved, and therefore no less a living member of Christ’s body (see Isa 4:3-4; 45:17, 25; 54:13; 59:21; 60:21; 61:9; 65:23; 66:22; Jer 31:34; 32:40; Eze 20:40; 37:25; 39:22, 28-29; Zeph 3:13, 15, 19-20; Zech 8:23; 14:16-19, et al). This amazing phenomenon of millennial covenant fulfillment is what Paul is envisioning when he says, “and so then ALL Israel shall be saved …” (Ro 11:26).

So to conclude: we believe the church, so far as it is the true and living members of Christ’s mystical body, is in a relation to the blinded nation, it’s fortunes and fate, it’s experiences in history and it’s millennial destiny, in the same way the weeping prophets, and all the righteous remnant were related. Bound in covenant and hope, the righteous stood in a relation of priestly identification and intercessory travail, knowing that when the veil over the heart of this one nation is removed, it will be removed from all nations (Isa 25:7; Eze 39:21-23; Rev 10:7), so that not only will Israel know abiding peace and security in the Land, but all nations will beat their swords into plowshares and study war no more. So in this way, the body of Christ is a kind of first fruits and forerunner of what an all saved Jewish nation will be to the nations during the millennium.

A distinct millennial position and calling implies nothing of any thought of superiority, since the Jewish part of the body of Christ will be servants of all, a broken and contrite nation of priests, a kind of corporate “Ebed Yahweh” (Isa chaps. 40-55) to the nations. The only difference will not be one of superiority but of stewardship, just as a husband’s headship implies no superiority but only a distinction in authority and role.

Israel will be exalted in that day and the nations will be required to recognize the free and sovereign prerogative of God to choose as He will choose. There are a number of OT scriptures that show that not all nations will be equally willing, nor have the same delight in Israel’s exalted position in the millennium, so that then as now, God’s right to elect on a basis wholly independent of merit will be the calculated ‘rub’, divinely intended to test the heart concerning the very nature of grace.

We see this envy in Satan’s fall, in Cain’s envy against Abel, in Saul’s envy of David, and in so many instances throughout scripture, but especially in Jacob’s special love for Joseph and how this, together with Joseph’s prophetic dream of exaltation, stirred the greatest envy in the hearts of his brethren, even unto murder, despite the grief this would cause their father.

So it is now, and so it will be then in some quarters during the millennial earth. Election will always test the heart, exposing any presumption of claim on God’s freedom to give what He will, to whom He will, in the time of His own choosing, invariably on a basis utterly free from anything in, of, or from man that might move Him by anything outside His own free decision in grace. (compare Ps 102:13; 110:3; Gal 1:15-16).

I see this as the primary purpose for why God first set apart one distinct, miraculously preserved nation. It was ‘primarily’ to make this one great, openly visible demonstration of public exhibition in real, space time history on this earth. That is the free and incontestable sovereignty of His election, completely apart from human merit or deserving (Ro 9:11, 16).

As I see it, THIS is ‘a’, if not ‘THE’ primary purpose for the millennium. I think John MacArthur, perhaps more than others, would tend to agree.

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