Video + Notes on “Israel” Response to Peter Helland Discussion

I made a video response for this video:

Here’s my response:

Below are the notes I put together analyzing the discussion, if you’re more of a reader. Enjoy!

This is a video response to “Israel – Beloved Enemies?” By Peter Helland with his guests Matt, Gus, and Mike.

Toward the end I had a bit of difficult understanding what question was being answered; there was a bit of meandering around a few particular axes that desperately need grinding, with Gus sort of enjoying the show and Matt offering a middle way or a specific point occasionally. If I’ve read folks correctly, Gus seems like a mainline Roman Catholic, Matt seems closer to the sort of Calvinist reformed tradition, Peter is simply an anti-Zionist nondenominational Christian, and Mike is a dyed in wool assemblies of God man.

My name is Isaac, and I will shortly be Roman Catholic, but I was a fully committed Evangelical and have a Master of Divinity from a Pentecostal-ish institution, Harvest Bible University, just so you’re aware of my background.

I think my main contribution should be to approach the question of what Israel actually is. We obviously know that natural Israel is what it is – Ethnic Jews or Samaritans who derive lineage from the original 12 tribes. So far, so good. However, Israel as an entity isn’t necessarily as clean as that.

[Gal 6:11-16 ESV] 11 See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand. 12 It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. 13 For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh. 14 But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. 15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

“Israel of God.” Phew. I don’t think I’ve ever heard a sermon or homily on that, although I think I probably should have by now. This refers to those who are fully within the new, what you might call “dispensation,” to perhaps poke a little at Gus who pointed out how these pesky dispensationalists are creating a bunch of new stuff that isn’t necessarily warranted. I sympathize with him to a large degree.

“Israel of God” in Galatians 6 cannot refer to natural Israel, simply because Paul himself is excluding them within the passage. Ok, so “Israel” the word is not exclusively for natural Israel although that is the typical usage. Next:

At about 40 minutes along in the “Israel – Beloved Enemies?” video, Mike goes on a tear about the “sister verse” to Deuteronomy 7:6, and that’s a term I like because too often biblical expositors are not referring enough back to the old testament when they comment on new testament statements, and it leads them to interpret things said in the new with wild abandon. Anyway, Deuteronomy 7:6, and I’ll read the subsequent verses so the sense is as close to the context as possible:

[Deu 7:6-8 ESV] 6 “For you are a people holy to the LORD your God. The LORD your God has chosen you to be a people for his treasured possession, out of all the peoples who are on the face of the earth. 7 It was not because you were more in number than any other people that the LORD set his love on you and chose you, for you were the fewest of all peoples, 8 but it is because the LORD loves you and is keeping the oath that he swore to your fathers, that the LORD has brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the house of slavery, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.

Mike appears to maintain this promise to the current day as an exclusivist claim about the specialness of Israel. I agree to some degree, but the details are as important as they always are. The crux is how I think Mike was interpreting “All Israel will be saved.” I’ll get to that verse, but let me point out another set of “sister verses”:

[Exo 19:5-6 ESV] 5 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel.”

This set of verses is linked with:

[1Pe 2:9-10 ESV] 9 But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 10 Once you were not a people, but now you are God’s people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.

WOAH, wait a moment. He just called the church – the composite of believers, Jew or Gentile – a chosen race. That’s interesting. Let’s go on to the “All Israel will be saved” verse:

Here is the verse:

[Rom 11:25-26 ESV] 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. 26 And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”;

To me the issue of which member of the trinity “The Deliverer” is, is entirely immaterial to the theology here. Just wanted to get that in.

Perhaps it was clear to others, but to me it is a bit opaque: does Mike read that verse to mean “All ethnic Jews,” or “Those Jews who come into the church in a special way at the end” will be saved? Because I think the first of those is a dangerous heresy that feeds Christian Zionists, but the second is a gem from the scriptures.

Ok, let me return to the “Israel of God” concept. That concept wore on me years ago, and caused me to read Romans 11 more times than I can remember. Romans 11 is Paul making the same argument about 5 different times in 4 different ways using both words and Old Testament verses as well as the pattern of the olive tree. But the message of the chapter is the same message. So let’s look at the olive tree portion of the exposition.

So you have this olive tree representing natural Israel. Many of those branches were broken off, meaning the portion of natural Israel “who was blinded” – these are “the rest who was hardened,” in verse 7. But you have those natural branches which remained, these are the “elect” who obtained it. Those were the Jews who were chosen out of natural Israel to know the message of Christ. Christ says to his disciples:

[Jhn 15:16 ESV] 16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.

But those branches that were broken off…

[Rom 11:23 ESV] 23 And even they, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God has the power to graft them in again.

Their re-grafting is conditional. If they do not continue in their unbelief. I’m finally getting to my point. Here it is: “All Israel will be saved” in the statement is placed within a chronological framework.

  • Jews who were in unbelief were broken off.
  • Gentiles were grafted into the natural olive tree.
  • Jews of every era were re-grafted in, and there is a special re-grafting mentioned at the very end
  • All Israel will be saved. At this point, the identity of Israel is everyone who is a part of that Olive Tree. Jew and Gentile.

About that “special re-grafting”:

[Rom 11:25 ESV] 25 Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in.

An interpreter might be tempted if they have a predisposed notion of Israel’s salvation destiny to believe that “partial hardening” necessarily implies that this verse says every single ethnic Jew will be saved when this “partial hardening” is lifted. No. Paul has prefaced this with the conditional statement that “if they do not continue in their unbelief, they will be grafted in.” Not all ethnic Jews will believe. A remnant will.

Now, I beg of you to let me go on, because I think there’s a set of historical facts that change our focus entirely regarding Israel.

My argument in full is that Christianity repeated every single pattern of natural Israel and “re grew” the olive tree into what Christianity is today, complete with an exodus after Christ’s ascension, a Joshua/Judges era of an incomplete conversion of the Roman empire and a long period of essentially being an underground movement, a sudden unity of Christendom under a king, Constantine, “like the other nations” as the Israelites requested of Samuel and got Saul, some immediate successes under the Constantinople regime of Church protectors and eventual decline of that, followed by the rise of the Frankish kings of the West and the eventual coronation of the Holy Roman Emperor, Charlemagne, representing the Davidic era that restored kingship in Rome and began to centralize and fully institutionalize the church and intertwine the church’s activities with the political rulership of the Holy Roman Emperor, followed by a Solomon era of extreme wealth and eventual decadence and an inability to reform church practices because of those entanglements. This leads to the Protestant Reformation, which is a direct parallel to Jeroboam taking 10 of the tribes of Israel and the throne of David being left with the temple, the priesthood, and the teaching ministry of the Levites, while Jeroboam and the eventually named Samaritans rejected everything that had happened except from the beginning, as Samaritans only accept the Pentateuch, not the kings literature, the prophets, or the writings, and Protestants have an array of explanations as to why the Roman Catholic Church does not have teaching authority and basically at some point lost whatever authority it ever had. That led to both Roman Catholicism and Protestantism losing their political footholds in Europe to the rise of world empires, as the Jews did, to the Egyptians, the Assyrians, the Babylonians, the Persians, the Greeks, the Romans, and perhaps, although I’m working on this one, the Muslims. We are essentially in the phase that Israel was in probably a little before the Maccabean revolt, and given the events in Roman Catholicism of the past 100 years, I think that is a very good theory.

Now, given Paul’s words about the “Israel of God,” we should be very careful about always thinking of Israel as natural Israel or ethnic Jews.

Lastly, I have a little more to go into: God has given us types in the old testament that beautifully explain this “Israel of God” concept. First, Joseph.

Obviously, we’re all aware that Joseph is a type of Christ. Joseph was hated by his brothers, who rejected his visions and dreams and sold him into slavery. He was thought dead by Jacob, but in reality he was working his way up the ranks with Gentiles until he became second only to Pharaoh and became the natural savior of the world because of his vision of the seven years of plenty and the seven years of famine and because of his diligence to prepare for that time. I can imagine Mike’s ears raised up when he hears seven years.

So, his brothers are being whipped by the famine and Israel sends them to get food. They do not recognize Joseph the first time they see him. Important. The scripture even says that he initially spoke to them through an interpreter. That’s got some weight to it, if you look into it.

They go back to Israel. The famine continues to work them over. Finally, after some cajoling, Israel allows his sons to go back to Egypt – this time, the sons of Israel includes Benjamin. Also remember this. Ephraim and Manasseh, who were declared by Israel to be full sons of Israel, “As Reuben and Simeon are,” were not yet a part of Israel – only Joseph was.

So, Israel returns with Benjamin and Joseph tricks them, planting the silver cup in Benjamin’s sack. Judah offers his own life in Benjamin’s stead, and Joseph emotionally reveals himself to his brothers. At that point, the sons of Israel recognizes the one they sold into slavery and thought dead.

But Israel the man doesn’t know yet. So Joseph’s brothers go and tell him, and there’s a fascinating verse which says, “And Israel revived,” when for the longest time the scripture writer was calling him Jacob. He had backslidden into Jacob because of the perceived loss of Joseph. But it revived him to learn the truth about Joseph, the one thought dead but who was alive.

Later, Israel blesses Joseph’s sons and declares them full sons of Israel. In one sense, they are “grafted in,” as a result of Israel learning of Joseph’s true identity.

Anyway, I hope you are blessed by this feedback and you all enjoy the video. All the best.

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