These people [preterists] have caused a resurgence of the old anti-Jewish attitude that reigned in the Church for a good part of the centuries from the early 5th century Theologian Augustine until the beginning of the 19th century. Basically this was a period in which Bible prophecy was interpreted allegorically. Augustine initiated this practice in his monumental work called The City Of God.
Preterists = Last Days Scoffers
Is God Finished with Israel?
By Hal Lindsey
Seeds of Holocaust
Many prophecies about the days immediately preceding the Messiah Jesus’ Second Coming are being fulfilled before our eyes. One of the most disturbing of these prophecies concerns a movement within the Church that would mock teaching about the imminence of Jesus’ coming. They will also scorn prophetic teaching about God restoring Israel as His special covenant people and the rebirth of their nation in the land of their fathers.
These people are variously called Preterists, Dominionists, Kingdom Now, Post Millennialists and/or Amillennialists. They believe that most of the Book of Revelation, Matthew chapter 24, etc., have already been fulfilled.
These people have caused a resurgence of the old anti-Jewish attitude that reigned in the Church for a good part of the centuries from the early 5th century Theologian Augustine until the beginning of the 19th century. Basically this was a period in which Bible prophecy was interpreted allegorically. Augustine initiated this practice in his monumental work called The City Of God.
Using this method of interpretation enabled Church Theologians to transfer the unconditional covenants made to Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and their descendants to the Church. Israel was viewed as forever rejected because of disobedience and rejection of Jesus as Messiah. According to the Preterists, the Church replaced Israel in God’s plan. All of the covenants were transferred to the Church. Any hope of God restoring Israel to their ancient homeland and being reborn as a nation was branded as Jewish arrogance and falsehood.
To the ‘Preterists’, the modern state of Israel is an imposter and the Jews have no right to be in Palestine. According to them, the United States should not be helping Israel to usurp Muslim land. At the very least, the U.S. should help the Palestinians get a state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Warning to Israel’s Enemies
What the prophet Micah predicted about the Israelites in the last days sounds very applicable to what the Preterists are saying:
Do not rejoice over me, O my enemy. Though I fall I will rise; Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me. I will bear the indignation of the Lord Because I have sinned against Him, Until He pleads my case and executes justice for me. He will bring me out to the light, And I will see His righteousness. Then my enemy will see, And shame will cover her who said to me, “Where is the Lord your God?” My eyes will look on her; At that time she will be trampled down, Like mire of the streets. It will be a day for building your walls. On that day will your boundary be extended. It will be a day when they will come to you From Assyria and the cities of Egypt, From Egypt even to the Euphrates, Even from sea to sea and mountain to mountain. And the earth will become desolate because of her inhabitants, On account of the fruit of their deeds. (Micah 7:8-13)
Clearly, this prophecy is about the time just preceding the coming of the Messiah to fulfill the covenants concerning the land promised them. It predicts the “extending of Israel’s boundaries”. It is at a time when the whole earth is judged in the process. These factors are clearly part of the Tribulation prophecies about the events surrounding the Messiah’s coming.
The prophecy speaks of Israel’s enemies taunting her while she is under God’s discipline. They will say, “Where is the Lord your God?” believing that God has forsaken Israel forever. They will rejoice over Israel’s calamity. But these enemies refuse to see that the same prophets who predicted Israel’s discipline also predicted her restoration.
There are two kinds of people who fit this description. First, the Muslims. Second, the Christian Preterists. Both view the Jews as forsaken by God and finished as a people and nation.
Paul’s Warning to Anti-Jewish Christians
The early Church was developing an anti-Jewish attitude. This is evident by many references the Apostle Paul made in his Epistles. It was especially in view when Paul wrote his Epistle to the Romans.
In Romans chapter eleven, Paul delivers a dire warning to Christians who become anti-Jewish. He does this in the form of an allegory.
The chapter begins with a question concerning the minority of Israelites who have not stumbled in unbelief. Paul writes, “I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew …” (Romans 11:1-2)
Paul’s second question concerns the majority of Israelites who have stumbled in unbelief, “I say then, they did not stumble so as to [permanently] fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous. Now if their transgression be riches for the world and their failure be riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be!” (Romans 11:11-12)
So Paul answers his major question, “God has not rejected His people, has He?” in two ways. First, God’s rejection of the Israelites is not total (verses 2-10). Second, God’s rejection of the Israelites is not permanent (verses 11-29).
The Great Olive Tree Allegory
Read carefully Paul’s argument for Israel’s future in this allegory of the Olive Tree:
If the part of the dough offered as firstfruits is holy, then the whole batch is holy; if the root is holy, so are the branches. If some of the branches have been broken off, and you, though a wild olive shoot, have been grafted in among the others and now share in the nourishing sap from the olive root, do not boast over those branches. If you do, consider this: You do not support the root, but the root supports you. You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I could be grafted in.” Granted. But they were broken off because of unbelief, and you stand by faith. Do not be arrogant, but be afraid. For if God did not spare the natural branches, he will not spare you either. Consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off. And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again. After all, if you were cut out of an olive tree that is wild by nature, and contrary to nature were grafted into a cultivated olive tree, how much more readily will these, the natural branches, be grafted into their own olive tree! (11:16-24 NIV)
Identifying The Symbols
It is important to note the difference between an allegory and a parable. A parable is designed to convey one basic point. But an allegory is designed to convey many truths with point-by-point analogies. Let us identify the important symbols of this allegory.
The “root” of the tree is symbolic of the Patriarchs in possession of the covenants and promises with which God created the Nation of Israel and through which salvation was brought to the world.
The “cultivated olive tree” symbolizes the place of blessing through those covenants and promises. Whoever is in the olive tree partakes of those covenants and promises. Whichever group (composed of either Israelites or Gentiles) is predominant in the tree becomes God’s preeminent corporate vessel for evangelizing the world.
The “natural branches” symbolize Israel as the covenanted national people physically descended from the Patriarchs.
The “wild olive branches” symbolize the Gentiles as a corporate people. The symbol emphasizes that the Gentiles are unnatural partakers in Israel’s covenants and promises. Indeed, Gentile salvation is clearly presented as dependent on Israel’s covenant relationship to God, since their “root: and “their tree” give us salvation and not vice versa.
The figure of “grafting wild branches into the cultivated olive tree” symbolizes a corporate group being placed into the covenant blessings and established as the principle channel for God’s work on earth. Gentiles could be saved in the old economy – but they had to become Jews, since they were God’s chosen representatives. Now the reverse is true. An Israelite can be saved in the new economy, but he must come to a Church in which Gentiles are the predominant and the chosen representatives of God on earth. They do not have to become Gentiles, but they do cease being Jews. God sees three kinds of people on earth in this economy according to 1 Corinthians 10:32, “Give no offense either to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God.” When either a Jew or a Greek (meaning Gentile) believe in Jesus as Savior, they become one in Christ in the Church of God.
Paul’s argument in this chapter is how the Israelites will return to their place of preeminence as God’s chosen representatives on earth.
God is the Husbandman who supernaturally removes or grafts in the Israelites and the Gentiles.
The allegory of “branches broken off from the tree” symbolizes the corporate removal of a group from the place of God’s covenant blessing.
There are two points that must be kept constantly in mind in interpreting the ‘olive tree allegory’. First, this allegory does not have in view individual Israelites or Gentiles, but rather each general group as a whole. Second, All through this inspired allegory, the Church and Israel are presented as two distinct programs of God.
Theologian Everett F. Harrison writes clearly about this all-important issue, “Paul treats the Gentile element in the church as a unit, addressing it as ‘you’ (singular in the Greek). This should not be understood on an individual basis as though Paul were questioning their personal salvation. The matter in hand is the current Gentile prominence in the church made possible by the rejection of the gospel on the part of the nation of Israel as a whole.”
Preeminence Is Precarious
The main point of this allegory to the Roman Christian’s attitude of anti-Jewishness is, “Gentiles beware, because your predominance in God’s community will come to an end just as the Israelites’ did – and for the same reason.”
From the call of Abraham until Israel’s official rejection of Jesus as the Messiah at the time of His triumphal entry to Jerusalem (commonly known as Palm Sunday), the nation of Israel was God’s special chosen representative to bring His message to the world. Israel was the recipient of God’s revelation and the focus of His special grace. Though a few Gentiles were saved during this period, Israelites were predominant and preeminent in His plan.
But from the birth of the Church at the Advent of the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost the situation has been reversed. The Church, which is called God’s holy nation, has replaced the Nation of Israel as God’s channel of blessing for the world. In the Church, Gentiles are predominant and preeminent as God’s chosen representatives. During this age, Israel’s covenant blessings are conveyed on the believer through personal union with Christ Himself. God’s special grace is now focused on the Gentiles.
I was surprised to find that even Postmillennialist John Murray admitted the following as he commented on Romans chapter eleven:
The root is surely the patriarchs. Furthermore, in verse 28 (unbelieving) Israel are said to be “beloved for the father’s sake.” In the one case it is the consecration belonging to Israel, in the other it is the love borne to Israel. But booth are derived from the patriarchal parentage … This fact of consecration derived from the patriarchs is introduced here by the apostle as support for the ultimate recovery of Israel. There cannot be an irremediable rejection of Israel; the holiness of theocratic consecration is not abolished and will one day be vindicated in Israel’s fullness and restoration.
Paul specifically warns the Gentiles as a group in God’s program to not be arrogant against the fallen Israelites, “But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.” (11:17-18)
We Gentiles are only grafted in to Israel’s covenants though our union with Christ. It is considered an ‘unnatural’ arrangement. Our salvation does not depend upon a covenant made with us, but upon a covenant made with the Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and all their descendants.
And if we Gentiles should boast that Israel was broken off in order that we might be grafted in, Paul replies, “Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; for if God did not spare the natural branches, neither will He spare you.” (11:20-21)
Just as the Israelites were judged because apostasy took over the nation, even so God is going to judge the Gentiles when the predicted apostasy takes over the Church.
God Vow’s To Restore Israel As His Representatives
Paul writes, “Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in; for God is able to graft them in again. For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more shall these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?” (11:22-24)
The logic of God’s argument is irresistible. If He could graft “Gentile wild olive branches” into the cultivated olive tree against nature, then He can certainly graft the “Israelite natural branches” back into their own tree.
God’s Time Table Revealed
Paul warns that this whole affair is part of one of God’s greatest mysteries. He warns Gentiles not to be ignorant concerning this mystery that involves God’s overall plan for the Gentiles’ role in His program.
Paul writes, “I do not want you to be ignorant of this mystery, brothers, so that you may not be conceited: Israel has experienced a hardening in part UNTIL the full number of the Gentiles has come in.” (11:25 NIV)
Israel has suffered a partial hardening only UNTIL the FULL NUMBER of Gentiles are saved. There is a point in the near future when the last Gentile God chose to be saved fills out the pre-arranged number. That will be the button that ignites the blast off of the Church into heaven.
What Happens Next?
Paul reveals the next stage of God’s mystery after the full number of Gentiles is saved, “And so all Israel will be saved, as it is written: ‘The deliverer will come from Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.’” (11:26)
When it says, “All Israel will be saved,” it has to be viewed in the light of Paul’s definition in Romans chapter nine. Paul writes, “But it is not as though the word of God has failed. For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel; neither are they all children because they are Abraham’s descendants, but: ‘through Isaac your descendants will be named.’ That is, it is not the children of the flesh who are children of God, but the children of the promise are regarded as descendants.” (9:6-9)
Paul shows that even Isaac and Rebekah’s twin sons were not both true Israelites. Isaac was a believer and therefore was in the chosen line. Esau was an unbeliever and was rejected from the covenant’s eternal blessings.
This shows that a true Israelite has to not only be a physical descendant of Abraham, but also a believer in God’s offer of salvation. This is why John the Baptist said to the Israelites, “But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, ‘You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you, that God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham.” (Matthew 3:7-10)
But a person must have both to qualify as a true Israelite. A Gentile with faith in Jesus as Messiah is not a true Israelite. He must also be physically descended from Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. And it must be after the “fulness of the Gentiles has come in.” When an Israelite believes today, he ceases to be a Jew and becomes a member of “the Church of God.”
So once the Church is removed by the Rapture, all Israelites who believe in Jesus as Messiah will be saved and go into the Millennial Kingdom to inherit all the covenants made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Zechariah predicts the number who will become “true Israelites” in that day, ‘“And it will come about in all the land,’ Declares the Lord, ‘That two parts in it will be cut off and perish; But the third will be left in it. ‘And I will bring the third part through the fire, Refine them as silver is refined, And test them as gold is tested. They will call on My name, And I will answer them; I will say, ‘They are My people,’ And they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’”
(Zechariah 13:7-9) So one third of all living Israelites will believe and be saved. It is about these that Zechariah predicts, “And I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me [Jesus] whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him, like the bitter weeping over a first-born.” (Zechariah 12:10)
Paul concludes his argument for the future of Israel by saying, ‘“The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob. And this is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.’ From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God ARE IRREVOCABLE.” (11:26-29)
Warning To Replacement Theology
The Apostle Peter gravely warned of those who would come from within the Church in the last days, “This is now, beloved, the second letter I am writing to you in which I am stirring up your sincere mind by way of reminder, that you should remember the words spoken beforehand by the holy prophets and the commandment of the Lord and Savior spoken by your apostles. Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, and saying, ‘Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.’” (2 Peter 3:1-4)
The scoffers against literal interpretation of prophecy are legion within the Church today, fulfilling this prophecy.
Ezekiel predicted the scoffer’s words about Israel’s future in the last days, “… behold, they say, ‘Our bones are dried up, and our hope has perished. We are completely cut off.’”
To these scoffers, God replies, “Therefore prophesy, and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord God, Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. Then you will know that I am the Lord, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. And I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the Lord, have spoken and done it,’ declares the Lord.” (Ezekiel 37:11-14)
Likewise, Jeremiah warns the replacement theologians, “The word of the LORD came to Jeremiah: ‘Have you not noticed that these people are saying, “THE LORD HAS REJECTED THE TWO KINGDOMS HE CHOSE”? SO THEY DESPISE MY PEOPLE AND NO LONGER REGARD THEM AS A NATION. This is what the LORD says: ‘If I have not established my covenant with day and night and the fixed laws of heaven and earth, then I will reject the descendants of Jacob and David my servant and will not choose one of his sons to rule over the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. For I will restore their fortunes and have compassion on them.’” (Jeremiah 33:23-26 NIV)
The coming of Jesus for His Church is very near. Make sure that you are not numbered among the scoffers. But rather take the Biblical prophecies literally and seriously. Seek to help the ‘natural branches’ as much as possible to stay in security in their own land. Let’s win as many Gentiles and Jews as possible to faith in Jesus before the trumpet sounds and we launch into eternity.