Friday, June 29, 2007

Israel Versus the Church

Israel Versus the Church

Whether America, as, arguably, a Christian nation, owes its support to the nation of Israel depends on which of God’s promises to Israel still apply to the nation of Israel and which apply to the body of all believers now known as the church.

Eschatology is the biblical study of end times, but what one's conclusions depend on a larger picture of history. Before proceeding, I'd like to define the two main branches of this big picture. The definitions don't come from theological sources, but they suit my purposes for this discussion.

Dispensationalism labels a set of beliefs about God’s historical time line for revealing Himself to and redeeming man that states that God dispenses the awareness of His grace through different seven different periods called dispensations. As examples, the majority of the Old Testament times included the dispensation of The Law through the Jewish priesthoods, distinct from the New Testament age of grace with its priesthood of all believers, the Tribulation’s period of judgment, and the Millennial reign of Christ on earth.

Amillennialism labels a set of beliefs that sees a consistent continuum between the Old Testament believers and the church. It sees no need for a coming rapture, Tribulation, or Millennium since it treats related passages as symbolic. Some argue that this view has greater credibility because it has by far the longer history. On the other hand, others argue that the historical view has a lower credibility because its lineage traces back through an apostate Roman Catholic Church that whose greatest interest lay in maintaining and exercising power through continuing the Jewish tradition of a separate, theocratic priesthood.

Dispensationalism holds that several types of covenants existed between God and Israel.

Physical promises concerning territory and rule over the land;
Spiritual promises concerning how Israel, as a priesthood, could represent God to the world, culminating in birth of Messiah Jesus;
Spiritual promises concerning two ways of salvation: perfection and grace.
Extreme Dispensationalists believe that, when Christ restores faith to Israel, He will restore the priesthood, as well. A moderate and dominant view, however, sees the restoration of the priesthood, the Temple, and sacrifices as resulting from Jewish efforts apart from God's command or blessing. The moderate view recognizes that Christ’s death and resurrection obviated the Old Testament Law and priesthood. Dispensationalists believe that the promise of salvation by grace applies to both Israel and to the Church and that the symbolism of the ceremonial law instructs us concerning salvation. They do not believe, however, that God will apply all promises to Israel in the Millennium because God applied some of them to the Church. Only God’s promises concerning territory, rule, and giving saving faith to Israelites will apply at that time. Old Testament believers and the Church unite as one, distinct from physical Israel; and God will fulfill His promises to both.

Amillennialism teaches that the promises to Israel actually apply to all believers. The promises to the Jews concerning territory and rule, therefore, have allegorical or spiritual meaning, rather than geopolitical, that apply to the Church rather than to physical Israel.

As relates to this article, then, I reason as follows: Two views relate America, a nation with a Christian heritage, to Israel: The historical view holds that the promises to Israel actually apply the Church. Those promises that appear to apply to Israel the nation allegorize spiritual truths fulfilled in Christ’s relationship with His church. Israel’s rejection of the Christ resulted in God’s rejection of Israel and its judgment by Roman military campaigns in the second half of the first century and the first half of the second. National Israel, being outside the body of believers, is therefore irrelevant to current affairs between God and His church.

On the other hand, the contrasting view, dominant among evangelicals, holds that promises to Israel concerning faith and salvation belong to the Church, whereas promises to Israel concerning earthly rule and prosperity will apply to Israel when God restores it to orthodox faith in the Millennium. They also apply commandments to the gentiles to America: specifically, Genesis 12:3 “I will bless those who bless you, and whoever curses you I will curse; and all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” This they see as a command to America to support modern Israel. If one realizes, however, that modern Israel continues in apostasy and, therefore, continues under God’s judgment, they should also realize that active support for Israel weakens the chastisement that God has placed upon it. Even a dispensationalist, then, can feel comfortable with forgoing loyalty to and support of national Israel.

Moreover, since Israel has repeatedly demonstrated (especially in 1967) its ability to fend for itself – or as an alternate explanation, God has fended for Israel – as well as demonstrated its ability to prosper without massive subsidies from American taxpayers, America’s aid to Israel seems superfluous.

Neither camp, therefore, owes allegiance or support to Israel. Christians need not feel guilty if America reduces its extravagant aid to Israel.

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Bizet: Carmen and L' Arl├ęsienne Suites

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