Earlier today I read two very opposite views concerning Israel and theology and thought someone else might find them interesting.
Our first article comes from Rev. Malcolm Hedding, of The International Christian Embassy Jerusalem:
In recent years a new form of Replacement Theology has arrived on the Christian scene called Fulfillment Theology. Like Replacement Theology it ends up contending that, since the time of Jesus, the Jews no longer enjoy a god-given national destiny in the land of Canaan. This time around it is not the Church that replaces Israel and takes over all her promises in scripture but in fact Jesus.
He fulfills in His life and redemptive work all the promises that God ever made to the Jews; even the promise that Canaan would be the everlasting possession of the Jewish people! Jesus is the Promised Land. This allows the proponents of this theory to distance themselves from the awful evil (as in the Apartheid State) and anti-Semitic consequences (as in the Christian pogroms of history) of Replacement Theology. However, they end up believing the same thing!
Much of the above is backed up by scripture but falsely so! For these people it always comes down to the same thing and that is to find a way to disinvest the Jews of any divine action or biblical significance in Israel’s modern day restoration. Once this position has been taken Israel can be viewed as any other nation state entangled in an internal conflict.
Today many Christians back this thesis and even some evangelicals are beginning to abandon their traditional pro-Israel biblical position in favor of Fulfillment Theology. Also the fact that some leading Christian academics and Ministers have thrown their weight behind it is giving added momentum to its dissemination and acceptance. Nevertheless it remains a flawed theological thesis.
When Jesus said that He came to fulfill the Law He meant just that! That is, He would perfectly fulfill in His life the moral demands of the Law on behalf of a fallen world. He would thus prove to be perfect man and would give His life on the cross so as to remove the curse of the Law from our lives. (Galatians 3:13) Jesus thus saves us by the power of an indestructible life! (Hebrews 7:16) So, in Matthew five, six and seven He was not talking about the Covenant that God made with Abraham but about the Covenant that God made with Moses! The context of these chapters proves this overwhelmingly. Jesus was expounding the inward nature of the Law and our failure to keep it. He would thus fulfill the demands of it by living in us! This is the very essence of the New Covenant. (Jeremiah 31:31-35; Romans 8:3-4) This, and only this, is what He fulfills! To suggest then that He was in some way by this statement debunking the Abrahamic Covenant is a giant leap into error!
….He was Moses’ successor but it did not abolish, in any way, the promises of God made to Israel in the Abrahamic Covenant. These promises set aside the Jewish people as the “vehicle of world redemption” and they designate Canaan as the everlasting possession of the people of Israel (Genesis 17:7-8) Indeed the writer of the book of Hebrews holds up the Abrahamic Covenant, and God’s faithfulness to it, as proof that He will not fail believers in Jesus who have been saved by the New Covenant; (Hebrews 6:13-20) this, years after Jewish rejection of Jesus’ Messianic credentials. To suggest that these promises have been somehow abolished or are fulfilled by Jesus is just not true.
The second (and opposing) article is written by Pastor Nathaniel Rhoads, of Word of Light Fellowship, Winnemucca, Nevada:
Christians who take Scripture seriously must address the question that begs asking: What is the relationship between Old and New Testaments? Is the Old for Jews and the New for Christians? Are they mostly equal—totally equal? Do we read the New in light of the Old, or the Old in light of the New? Does one contain fuller revelation?
Jesus’ words in Matt. 5:17 are crucial to understanding the relationship between Christ (the center of the New Testament) and the OT: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” So as Christ followers we don’t abandon the OT, but we value it greatly. Holding the Old together with the New accentuates God’s faithfulness (in) the fulfillment of God’s promises in Christ. Thus, Christ isn’t only the center of the NT, but of the OT! He is the center of all God’s purposes—past, present, and future (read Colossians 1:15-20 if you have any doubt about this).
Jesus said it clearly: He fulfills the Scriptures (God’s promises of old are contextualized anew and find fulfillment in Christ).
Let’s look at Paul’s speech in Acts 13 to see how he makes sense out of this. He recites Israel’s history, rooting the gospel in God’s promises to Abraham (read Acts 13:16-41). If you read carefully, Paul’s point becomes clear (and a radical point it was for traditional Jews): the promises to Abraham have been fulfilled in the resurrection of Jesus – “And we bring you the good news that what God promised to the fathers, this he has fulfilled to us their children by raising Jesus, as also it is written in the second Psalm, “ ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you.’ ” (Acts 13:32–33). Those who believe that the promises made to Abraham are yet to find fulfillment must seriously reckon with this text and several others like it in the NT. Often the objection is that the covenant to Abraham was “everlasting,” but usually this concept is misunderstood. If those promises have been fulfilled in Christ, the covenant isn’t abandoned, but its elements are redefined in the one who fulfills the promises—Christ.
Read Galatians 3:15-18, 23-39. Here Paul argues from the singular noun in Genesis 12 in the Abrahamic covenant, “offspring,” to say that the promises were made to Christ and now have been fulfilled in him. He is careful to say that this covenant isn’t annulled, but is fulfilled and we can participate in it through Christ. Christ doesn’t replace the Old, so much as he fulfills and redefines it.
So where does this leave us? Dr. Gary Burge says it quite well in his book Jesus and the Land: “Christians will find in Christ what Judaism had sought in the land.”
Notice that when Paul refers to the promises made to Abraham, he is stunningly silent about the land. Why?—because Jesus is the fulfillment of those promises. As the dwelling place of God isn’t in a physical temple, but in Christ (which Stephen makes clear and loses his life for it in Acts 7) so also the lotus of God’s promises aren’t found in territorial land claims but through participation in Christ. Jesus alone, not any plot of ground, is the life and hope of the world, and the sole place where the purposes of God come true. Indeed, place shifts from being geographical to personal: salvation doesn’t come from restoration to the Land of Promise, but from reconciliation to God through Christ. The current Middle East crisis stems from people (including Christian Zionists) continuing to pursue a territorial kingdom in the name of a God who has revealed his plan to be spiritual and global, not territorial and national….
Continued here: Fulfillment Theology, Words of Light
(Related: Dispensationalism and the Eclipse of Christ)