The Greatest Disincentive To Believing That There Are ‘Signs of the Times’
Donald Cameron, Clovenfords, Scotland
A liberal device called ‘Preterism’
In my previous article we saw how a liberal device called ‘Preterism’ renders obsolete in the eyes of many the most important ‘signs of the times’ in God’s prophetic calendar. The events of AD 70 are supposedly fulfilled as also the Olivet Discourse and much of the book of Revelation, leaving us in a prophetic limbo. Another closely associated and even more widespread device to detract attention from the vast number of ‘signs of the times’ which necessarily relate to the nation of Israel, is the claim that any unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies predicting Israel’s ultimate restoration should only be interpreted allegorically to the Church and as fulfilled in it.
Whatever else we may conclude, one thing is absolutely certain; this Replacement Theology (RT for short) and Israelology (belief in Israel’s future) cannot both be correct. Either God has finished forever with Israel as a nation or He has not. We cannot sit on the fence.
So, let us start with the New Testament
If the church is forever to replace Israel, there can be no better place to find confirmation than the beginning of Acts. The Lord Jesus had the ideal opportunity to inaugurate Replacement Theory at His ascension when the disciples asked, ‘Lord, wilt thou at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?’, Acts 1. 6. Yet, His indirect answer indicates that their attention needed to be focused elsewhere and leave God to look after the ‘time of restoration’ Himself.
We find Peter a few weeks later getting on with those priorities, crying, ‘Repent ye therefore, and be converted, and he shall send Jesus Christ whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth His holy prophets’, Acts 3. 19-21. The NKJ Version correctly uses ‘restoration’ rather than ‘restitution’ as the Greek is the same as in Acts 1. 6. Here we learn that:
- An ultimate restoration of Israel, the timing of which is in God’s hands, is not denied;
- An interim period, during which Christ is to remain in the heavens, had just started;
- What had just started on earth was the church, and thus the church age;
- There will be a restoration of all ‘prophesied things’ when Christ leaves heaven and returns to earth;
- Therefore a restoration on earth, as opposed to heaven, is guaranteed.
Now let us move forward about thirteen years
In Acts 15. verses 14 to 17 we read, ‘Simeon (Simon) hath declared how God at the first visited the Gentiles, to take out from them a people for his name. And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, after this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David that is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: that the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, upon whom My name is called’ (italics mine). This quote from James confirms that:
- God, according to His own plans, had inaugurated a prolonged interim period when He would call out from the Gentiles a special people, this we know to be the church of this current dispensation;
- Israel was not to be abolished from God’s plans, merely suspended from its previous central position in them;
- God recognizes the distinction between Jews and Gentiles throughout these declarations of His prophetic programme, even beyond the church age;
- When the Lord Jesus returns He will rebuild, not destroy the temple. How foolish such teachings as ‘that the Lord Jesus returned in AD 70, are made to look in the light of this;
- David’s collapsed tabernacle and throne are clearly on earth. In Acts 2. 34 we read ‘David is not ascended into the heavens;
- The return of the Lord Jesus will not mark the end of the world and a general judgement, a concept held by amillennialists, but will restore on earth something that has long been in ruins.
Thus we have the most striking New Testament authority that the unfulfilled Old Testament prophecies concerning Israel are yet valid and are due to be fulfilled after the church age. So, where in the Old Testament do we find the teaching that Israel is to be cast aside by God and later restored? We will look at a few of the very many passages available and we will be struck by the fact that none of these references can make sense as a predicted restoration of a cast-aside church, although the church has every right to learn lessons and apply spiritual principles.
Now let us turn to the Old Testament
In Deuteronomy chapter 28 God gives the conditions for His rejection of His people and in Deuteronomy chapter 30 He gives conditions for restoration. These are reaffirmed in Solomon’s dedicatory prayer in the temple. There is no hint of restriction to a single restoration. This means that the return of Judah-cum- Benjamin-cum-Levi from Babylon does not exhaust these promises of restoration. We can find other references in the historical books and the Psalms.
Enter the prophets
But once we enter the prophets at Isaiah, we are overwhelmed by evidence both of the awfulness of the impending long term setting aside of the nation and her capital and of the certainty of a glorious restoration on this earth and in the original locations. Read through the prophetic books again with this theme only in view, and you will be thrilled by the constant confirmation of how all is underpinned by the immense divine love which tempers the inevitable judgement. You will appreciate what a scurrilous attack Replacement Theology is on the very nature of God. ‘Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God. Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins . . . say unto the cities of Judah, “Behold your God!” Behold, the Lord God will come with strong hand, and His arm shall rule for Him’, Isa. 40. 1, 2, 9, 10. That has yet to happen, and happen it will. This is not, nor can it be, the church.
The theme of divine comfort is picked up again in Isaiah chapter 49 verses 13 to 15, ‘The Lord hath comforted his people, and will have mercy upon his afflicted. But Zion said, “The Lord hath forsaken me, and my Lord hath forgotten me”. Can a woman forget her sucking child, that she should not have compassion on the child of her womb? Yea, they may forget, yet will I not forget thee’. To believe Replacement Theology is to believe God has acted against His own nature and forgotten Israel. ‘Thy Redeemer the Holy One of Israel. For the Lord hath called thee as a woman forsaken . . . for a small moment I have forsaken thee; but with great mercies I will gather thee’, Isa. 54. 5-7. Should this refer to the church we need to ask, ‘When was the church forsaken?’ She has never been, and that because she’s seen in her entirety from birth to consummation, between the past rejection and future restoration of the nation of Israel.
An uncomplimentary description of apostate Israel
Israel is often encountered in the prophets as being ‘unfaithful’ to Jehovah. It is an appropriate description for God has counted her constant affairs with idolatry as adultery, see Jeremiah chapter 3 verse 6. But note well, that while adulterous Israel is wooed back to be forgiven and restored, the harlot church, Mystery Babylon, is to be destroyed, Rev 19. 2. Yet God says to the nation, ‘Return, O backsliding Israel, saith the Lord, for I am married to you’, not ‘will be married’, as of the church whose bridal day is yet to come. The text continues with the future blessedness of Jerusalem and reunion of Judah with Israel, Jer. 3. 14-19. The church does not fit in here at all and probably would not want to fit, as the prophet goes on to refer to Israel’s departure as being like that of a ‘treacherous wife’.
To make out that this is the church would be to be very obscure indeed!
The adulterous Israel is a major theme in Hosea. Far from casting her off forever, God says, ‘I will have mercy upon her that had not obtained mercy; and I will say to them which were not my people, “Thou art my people”. And they shall say, “Thou art my God” for the children of Israel shall abide many days without a king, and without a prince, and without a sacrifice but afterward shall the children of Israel return and seek the Lord their God and David their king; and shall fear the Lord and His goodness in the latter days’, Hos. 2. 23; 3. 4, 5. One really requires to read the whole book. How can you construe that the church was once God’s people, before being deprived of that status, only to regain it in the latter days? Of course not. As the prophets eloquently testify again and again, this is the nation of Israel.
The church’s status is even more wonderful, so let us not grudge Israel hers. Time and time again we have confirmation of the long interval in which the church was grafted into the space left by the broken off olive branches. We are warned by Paul not to be wise in our own conceits and the Replacement Theology position is just that, being ignorant that, ‘blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in’, Rom. 11. 25. Oh, the arrogance of defying God regarding His multiple promises to restore the nation of Israel!
Amos records God’s words, ‘Yet I will not utterly destroy the house of Jacob saith the Lord, for lo I will command, and I will sift the house of Israel among the nations, and I will plant them upon their land, and they shall no more be pulled up out of their land which I have given them, saith the Lord thy God’, Amos 9. 8, 15. The timing of Israel’s restoration is to coincide with the global earthquakes that occur before the Lord returns. For instance, the Gulf of Aqaba, the tongue of the Egyptian Sea is to disappear, Isa 11. 15, and the Mount of Olives will split from east to west, Zech. 14. 4. Geologists have long demonstrated how perfectly God has arranged for precisely these things to happen. Augustine and his twenty-first century followers may spiritualize this for the church if they want, but is it not much simpler to believe the Bible and its simple statements as to these things?
The Replacement Theology argument is a circular one
Those who support RT see the church age going on to the end of the world. They do not believe in the rapture of the church, followed by the great tribulation ending with Christ’s coming in power. Neither do they believe in a subsequent glorious earthly millennium reign. Therefore, understandably, they see no place for a restored Israel and see the church age going on to the end. Were they to consider why the prophets, the Olivet Discourse, the Book of the Revelation and many more scriptures devote so much time to Israel, they might also begin to take God’s promises literally and might review their prophetic perspective. They might too begin to observe the signs of the times and even begin to look up, knowing that ‘their redemption draweth nigh’, Luke 21. 28. Oh that we too spent more time heeding this injunction of our blessed Lord Jesus! ‘The Spirit and the bride say, come . . . Even so, come, Lord Jesus’, Rev. 22. 17-20.