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Thursday, August 18, 2011

Secular Israel in Biblical Prophecy: Ezekiel

Stephen Sizer recently posted a sermon by the late John Stott “The Place of Israel? There is nothing unusual about Stott’s position: 

  “… true Israel today is neither Jews nor Israelis, but believers in the Messiah, even if they are gentiles.

Is the setting up of the State of Israel a fulfillment of the prophecy?  Well, I cannot go into this in a detail.  I can only say this:  Some people think so.  Especially dispensationalists, as we call them.  There may be some here.  They say in effect that the prophets promised that the Jews would return to the promised land.  They even delineate the boundaries that the Jews would occupy in the promised land.  Those promises were not fulfilled in the Old Testament literally, so we look for a fulfillment in the future.  It is a reasonable view to hold, and many do hold it.  And we regard them with respect and love.”

“The Old Testament promises according to the apostles are fulfilled in Christ and in the international community of Christ.  The New Testament authors apply the promise of Abraham’s seed to Jesus Christ.  And they apply to Jesus Christ the promise of the land and all the land which is inherited, the land flowing with mild and honey, because it is in Him that our hunger is satisfied and our thirst is quenched.  A return to Jewish nationalism would seem incompatible with this New Testament perspective of the international community of Jesus.”

Both Stott’s position and the “dispensationalists” present difficulties. The claim that the NT invalidates the promise of ethnic Israel’s return to the land makes Ezekiel a false prophet. Israel and the Land are not metaphors in Ezekiel.  On Stott’s position which is shared by a large number of theologians and biblical scholars, Ezekiel’s view of the future is reduced to nonsense.  
In Ezekiel we find a prophet who was under an exceedingly strict constraint to speak only what the Lord God told him to speak and only when the Lord God told him to speak. The prophetic utterance is introduced over and over again by an elaborate expression of the Divine command to speak and the Divine seal on the words spoken. In this manner the promise of restoration to the land is given the highest level of authority. The promise of return to the land is not contingent. It is a unilateral proclamation of what the God of Israel intended to accomplish for His name sake. The return to the land is to serve as a manifestation of the Glory of God.  
On the other hand, against the prevailing “end times” notion that something biblical happened in 1948, I have not found anything (so far) in Ezekiel about a secular nation of Israel, a return to the land in unbelief. Later on I will take a look at the dry bones (Ezekiel 37) argument presented by some mid-20th century dispensationalists. 


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