This article is so important to us as Christians as it shows us the nature of God – God is reliable, consistent and can be trusted with our lives! It also addresses the problem of Replacement Theology, which implies that God is not consistent or trust worthy and will help you know God more.
During the firsthalf of World War II General Douglas MacArthur was forced to leave thePhilippines in the Pacific Theater by the Japanese. Upon his departure he made a promise to the Philippinopeople: “I will return.” GeneralMacArthur, through the strength and power of the American military was able tokeep his promise. If humanity canmake and keep promises of rescue and deliverance, how much more will our greatGod keep the glorious and incomparable promises He has made in His Word! Indeed, He has told us that He will oneday return and fulfill the great and many promises about the glorious future instore for those who know Him as their Savior.
Why are promisesimportant to God? Promises areimportant to God’s plan for history, because God keeps His word. History is a record of God’sfaithfulness to keep His promises. Thus, God delights in making seemingly impossible promises so that He,through the most difficult circumstances, demonstrates that He keeps Hispromises. Think of God’s record offaithfulness next time you are tempted by circumstances to go back on yourword. There are three greatpromises that God has made to His people that I want to examine in this article. These promises are Israel’s permanence,Christ’s second coming, and eternal life to all believers.
Promise of Israel’s Permanence
Scripture makesit clear that God’s integrity in history revolves around His chosen peopleIsrael. It is through Israel thatGod has chosen to leave His mark through out history. It is through Israel that God gave His Law, founded anation, caused His presence to dwell, mediated His Word, and sent the Savior ofthe world. It will be throughIsrael in the future that God will work to preach the gospel through out thewhole world, invoke the second coming, reign for a thousand years in Jerusalem,and place His eternal glory. Thus,God’s promise to Israel is that they have an eternal permanence in history andthroughout eternity (Jeremiah 31:35-36). Without Israel, the second coming cannot take place, since they must bethere for this glorious event to occur.
Most Americanevangelical Christians today have a high view of Jews and the modern state ofIsrael because of the positive influence of the dispensational premillennialview that national Israel has a future in the plan of God. Yet, there are those within Christendomwho deny that Israel has a permanent place in the plan of God. This view is known as replacementtheology.
What isreplacement theology? Replacementtheology is the view that the Church has permanently replaced Israel as theinstrument through which God works and that national Israel does not have afuture in the plan of God. This isalso known by the term “supersessionism.” Some replacement theologians may believe that individual Jews will beconverted and enter into the church (something that we all believe), but theydo not believe that God will literally fulfill the dozens of Old Testamentpromises to a converted national Israel in the future. Reconstructionist patriarch, R. J.Rushdoony uses the strongest language when he declares,
Thefall of Jerusalem, and the public rejection of physical Israel as the chosenpeople of God, meant also the deliverance of the true people of God, the churchof Christ, the elect, out of the bondage to Israel and Jerusalem, . . .
Afurther heresy clouds premillennial interpretations of Scripture-theirexaltation of racism into a divine principle. Every attempt to bring the Jew back into prophecy as a Jewis to give race and works (for racial descent is a human work) a priorityover grace and Christ’swork and is nothing more or lessthan paganism. . . . There can be no compromise with this vicious heresy.
As it should be,the nature of Israel’s future has become a watershed issue in biblicalinterpretation that has caused a polarization of positions that we findtoday. Today most Reformedinterpreters do not believe in a national future for Israel, even though manyhave held such a view over the last 400 years. Why? Early inthe systemization of any theological position the issues are undeveloped andless clear than later when the consistency of various positions are workedout. Thus it is natural for themature understanding of any theological issue to lead to polarization ofviewpoints as a result of interaction and debate between positions. The earlier Reformed position includeda blend of some Old Testament passages that were taken literally (i.e., thoseteaching a future conversion of Israel as a nation) and some that were not(i.e., details of Israel’s place of dominance during a future period ofhistory). On the one hand, as timepassed, those who stressed a literal understanding of Israel from the OldTestament became much more consistent in applying such an approach to allpassages relating to Israel’s destiny. On the other hand, those who thought literalism was taken too farretreated from whatever degree of literalness they did have and argued that thechurch fulfills Israel’s promises, thus there was no need for a national Israelin the future. Further,non-literal interpretation was viewed as the tool with which liberals deniedthe essentials of the faith. Thus,by World War II dispensationalism had come to virtually dominate evangelicalswho saw literal interpretation of the Bible as a primary support for orthodoxy.
After World WarII many of the battles between fundamentalism and liberalism began towane. Such an environment allowedfor less stigma attached to non literal interpretation within conservativecircles. However, today, as we seea decline in literal interpretation within Evangelicalism as a whole, we see anerosion among Evangelical scholars for support for modern Israel.
TheModern State of Israel
The fact that thelast 100 years has seen a world-wide regathering and reestablishment of thenation of Israel, which is now poised in just the setting required for therevealing of the Antichrist and the start of the tribulation, is God’s grandindicator that all of the other areas of world development are propheticallysignificant. Dr. Walvoord says,
Ofthe many peculiar phenomena which characterize the present generation,: fewevents can claim equal significance as far as Biblical prophecy is concernedwith that of the return of Israel to their land. It constitutes a preparation for the end of the age, thesetting for the coming of the Lord for His church, and the fulfillment ofIsrael’s prophetic destiny.
What one believesabout the future of Israel is of utmost importance to one’s understanding ofthe Bible. I believe, without ashadow of doubt, that Old Testament promises made to national Israel willliterally be fulfilled in the future. This means the Bible teaches that God will return theJews to their land before the tribulation begins (Isaiah 11:11-12:6; Ezekiel20:33-44; 22:17-22; Zephaniah 2:1-3). This has been accomplished and the stage is set as a result of thecurrent existence of the modern state of Israel. The Bible also indicates that before Israel enters into hertime of national blessing she must first pass through the fire of thetribulation (Deuteronomy 4:30; Jeremiah. 30:5-9; Daniel 12:1; Zephaniah1:14-18). Even though the horrorsof the Holocaust under Hitler were of an unimaginable magnitude, the Bibleteaches that a time of even greater trial awaits Israel during thetribulation. Anti-Semitism willreach new heights, this time global in scope, in which two-thirds of worldJewry will be killed (Zechariah 13:7-9; Revelation 12). Through this time God will protect Hisremnant so that before His second advent “all Israel will be saved”(Romans 11:36). In fact, thesecond coming will include the purpose of God’s physical rescue of Israel fromworld persecution during Armageddon (Daniel 12:1; Zechariah 12-14; Matthew24:29-31; Revelation 19:11-21).
If nationalIsrael is a historical “has been,” then all of this is obviouslywrong. However, the Bible says shehas a future and world events will revolve around that tiny nation at thecenter of the earth. The world’sfocus already is upon Israel. Godhas preserved His people for a reason and it is not all bad. In spite of the fact that history isprogressing along the lines of God’s ordained pattern for Israel, we see therevival of replacement theology within conservative circles that will no doubtbe used in the future to fuel the fires of anti-Semitism, as it has in thepast. Your view of the future ofnational Israel is not just an academic exercise.
Promise of Christ’s Second Coming
Though many may not realize its significance, the return of Jesus Christ to planet Earth is themost important event that will occur in the future. But what do we know about the coming of Christ? Is it only a heart-felt hope andhistorical hype, or do we have a clear and certain word from God on this event?
The prophetic promise of the second coming of Jesus Christ to earth is the subject of manypassages in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. What are some of the more prominent texts? They include some of thefollowing: Deuteronomy 30:3; Psalm2; Isaiah 63:1-6; Daniel 2:44-45; 7:13-14; Zechariah 14:1-4; Matthew 24-25;Mark 13; Luke 21; Acts 1:9-11; Romans 11:26; 1 Thessalonians 3:13; 5:1-4; 2Thessalonians 1:6-2:12; 2 Peter 2:1-3:17; Jude 14-15; Revelation 1:7; 19:11-21.
The most graphicportrayal of Christ’s second coming is found in Revelation 19:11-21. In this extended passage Jesus Christis described as leading a procession of angels and saints or armies in heavento claim the earth, destroy the armies of the world, and defeat the Antichristand False Prophet.
This passage shows that Christ’s return will be one that entails great physicaldestruction and many deaths. Forthose who are not Christ’s own, it will be a terrifying and terribleevent. For those of us who knowHim as their Savior, it will be a time of great joy, vindication, andanticipation.
The Bible depicts the career of Christ as revolving around two major aspects. Titus 2:11-14 speaks of Christ’s twoappearances on earth. The firstphase is related to His coming in humiliation to die for the sins of mankind. The second phase is when He will comein power and glory to reign over all mankind. Hebrews 9:28 is a single verse that explains and contrastsChrist’s two comings. The writerof Hebrews says “so Christ also, having been offered once to bear the sinsof many, shall appear a second time for salvation without reference to sin, tothose who eagerly await Him.” Jesus is coming again. Thisis a glorious promise and hope for all believers.
Promise of EternalLife
Eternal life is the gift of God given to all who believe in Jesus Christ and have accepted Hisoffer of salvation based upon His death and resurrection (John 10:10; Ephesians2:8-9). In the Bible, eternal life emphasizes a quality of life, a quality that can only be imparted by GodHimself. This life does not, ofcourse, make us God, we are and will always remain creatures, however, it is aquality of life that comes from the God who has the quality of eternality. Therefore, eternal life should not beconfused with endless or eternal existence which everyone will experience. Eternal existence will be common to theredeemed and the unredeemed, but the destinies will be very different. Christians will enter into heaven andthe presence of God; unbelievers will be cast into the lake of fire (Revelation20:11-15).
For those of us who have trusted Jesus Christ as our Savior, we are given the promise ofeternal life the moment we believe. John says, “the witness is this, that God has given us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. He whohas the Son has the life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have thelife” (1 John 5:11-13). If you havetrusted in Christ, then you have eternal life in the present that will continuethroughout eternity in heaven for the believer. Believers have the hope of eternal life in heave with ourLord for eternity.
Anyone familiar with God’s word knows that He has a wonderful plan for history and Hispeople. These are indeed gloriousand incomparable promises through which He implements His plan. What should the response of thebeliever be to God’s promises? ThePsalmist rightly advises, “What shall I render to the Lord for all His benefits toward me? I shall lift up the cup of salvation,and call upon the name of the Lord”(Psalm 116:12-13).
When we think about the significance of the glorious promises that our Lord has in store forus as His people we respond with a thankful heart. Let us remember that for the believer this present life ifthe worse things will ever be for us. But, for the unbeliever, this present life will be the best they willever experience. Let us claim theprecious promises that He has made to us in the present so that He will make usfit for eternity.