A Biblical Response to Varieties of Zionism – Part 1

A Biblical Response to Varieties of Zionism – Part 1

by Michael Sullivan

Introduction

In this series of articles, we will turn our attention to answering very important theological and political questions regarding modern Israel.  Is modern Israel Biblical Israel and does she have any prophetic significance today?  Should modern Jews be considered “God’s people” having some divine right to steal, kill and conquer in the middle east according to the OT and NT?  Were all of the “in the land” promises fulfilled in the OT and were they typological of being fulfilled spiritually “in Christ” today in the new covenant age?  Are most modern Jews today in Israel biologically related to Abraham?  And if modern Israel does not fulfill the land promises in the Bible, then when and how were these prophecies fulfilled?  Was 1948 a miraculous gathering of biblical Jews into land or simply an ungodly Talmudic Zionist Rothschild project? 

The Constituent Elements of Israel’s Old Covenant World / Heavens and Earth

We will begin this series by looking at the physical typological constituent elements that formed Israel’s old covenant world or “heavens and earth,” and how they pointed to the spiritual new covenant anti-types or true realities “in Christ.” 

When God delivered the Hebrews out from the bondage of the Egyptians and established His covenant with them, He “established the heavens” and “laid the foundations of the earth” (Isa. 51:15-16).  Of Isaiah 51:15-16, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge accurately states:

“…‘Heaven’ and ‘earth’ are here put by symbolic language for a political universe. That is, that I might make those who were but scattered persons and slaves in Egypt before, a kingdom and polity, to be governed by their own laws and magistrates.”[1]

And probably the greatest Reformed and Puritan theologian of all time likewise agrees that the creation of the heavens and earth of Isaiah 51:15-16 is Israel’s old covenant world:

“Then we must consider in what sense men living in the world are said to be the ‘world,’ and the ‘heavens and earth’ of it. I shall only insist on one instance to this purpose, among the many that may be produced, Isa. 51. 15, 16.  The time when the work here mentioned, of planting the heavens and laying the foundation of the earth, was performed by God, was when he ‘divided the sea,’ verse 15, and gave the law, verse 16, and said to Zion, ‘Thou art my people,” – that is, when he took the children of Israel out of Egypt, and formed them in the wilderness into a church and state.  Then he planted the heavens, and laid the foundation of the earth, – made the new world; that is, brought forth order, and government, and beauty, from the confusion wherein before they were.  This is the planting of the heavens and laying the foundation of the earth in the world.”[2] 

God’s covenant community became His special creation, world or heavens and earth.  But what constituent elements made up this world?  What did citizenship look like in her old covenant kingdom which was a type of the Messianic prophesied new covenant kingdom to come?

To be a part of Israel’s world or heavens and earth, one was born a physical descendant of Father Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 17: 6; 21:12; 26:3-4; 28:14-15).  After eight days an infant boy needed to undergo physical circumcision and a baptism/washing for purification (Gen. 17:10; Lev. 12:3).

As one grew up being a citizen of the old covenant kingdom creation, his or her faith and worship were inseparably connected to residing in a physical promised land (Gen. 15:18-21).

In the promised land, citizens of Israel’s kingdom were required to offer up physical sacrifices (Lev. 4:35, 5:10).  These sacrifices required a physical priesthood from the sons of Aaron and the tribe of Levi who were sanctified or set apart for this purpose through the sprinkling of blood and washing/baptism (Ex. 6:18, 20; 28:1; 29:4, 20-21; Lev. 8:6, 22-29).  They were to offer up sacrifices for their sin and that of the people (Lev. 4:3-35).

This physical sacrificial system and priesthood was to be conducted within the physical structure of a tabernacle or temple (Ex. 25-40; 1 Kings 6-8). Although God wanted to be Israel’s King over His Kingdom, He allowed her to have a physical king to sit on a literal throne in Jerusalem (1 Sam. 8).  Ultimately, the Messiah would come as King and sit on the Davidic throne and rule from heaven (cf. 2 Sam. 7:10-13; 1 Chron. 17:11-14; 2 Chron. 6:16; Jer. 23:5; 30:9; Isa. 9:7; 11:1; Acts 2:33-36).  

I cannot stress enough the importance of the Jew understanding his covenant with God in connection with the temple, and the city of Jerusalem being a cosmos or “heavens and earth.”  Amillennialist scholar, G.K. Beale, correctly points this out, saying

            “…that ‘heaven and earth’ in the Old Testament may sometimes be a way of referring                to Jerusalem or its temple, for which ‘Jerusalem’ is a metonymy.”[3] 

The Jew understood his covenant, city, temple and land to be a heavens and earth filled with the light of Torah while the Gentile nations were outside the covenant relationship lost in outer darkness, needing to come in the gates of the city for conversion.  If a Gentile wanted to renounce his gods and follow Yahweh and become a citizen of old covenant Israel, he likewise would undergo a physical circumcision, baptism/washing and offer up sacrifices – after which time the Rabbis would pronounce him a “new creation” and he would then be a part of the “heavens and earth” of Israel.    

According to the OT prophets, Israel in her last days would reject her Messiah/Groom and God would cause the old covenant heavens and earth kingdom or people to pass away and He would establish a new covenant heavens and earth or people.  Under the new covenant, man was about to be transformed.    

The Spiritual New Covenant Birth

Jesus chided Nicodemus for not knowing His Scriptures when He said that in order for one to be a part of His Kingdom he or she needed to be “born again”, “born from above” or “born of water even the Spirit” (John 3:2-10).  According to the OT and NT, did Jesus ever undergo a “firstborn” or type of born-again experience, and to what OT Scriptures could He have been exhorting Nicodemus on? 

Paul in Acts 13 references Psalm 2:7 and establishes that Christ’s resurrection was when the Father says to the Son, “You are My Son, today I have begotten you” (cf. Acts 13:26, 30-32; Ps. 2:7).  

Christ’s resurrection is described as Him being the “firstborn” or “first fruits” from among the dead ones.  That is, while Christ was physically raised (as a “sign”), He was not the first to rise from physical death, but He was the first to overcome the spiritual death that came from Adam and the death the old covenant system could only magnify but not overcome. 

Our Lord was “…put to death in the flesh but made alive in the Spirit” (1 Pet. 3:18).  That is, Christ was put to death under the weak old covenant system of flesh but was the first to be raised in the glorious new covenant system of the Spirit of which He is the Head and Trailblazer for His posterity.    

In Acts 3 we learn that Israel had entered into her “last days” of Joel 1-3 in which the Spirit would be poured out.  In Ezekiel 36-37 we learn that at this time God would establish His new covenant with Israel by sprinkling clean water on her and giving her citizens a new heart.  That is, Israel would undergo an individual and corporate body new birth or resurrection.  When Jesus says to Nicodemus that he should have understood what He meant by him needing a new covenant birth by “water even the Spirit,” He is referring to the promise of Ezekiel 36-37.  

The Spiritual New Covenant Circumcision and Baptism

Paul, both in Galatians and Colossians, is battling the Judaizers and their Gentile proselytes who were seeking to influence the Church.  He is concerned over the Christian Jews and particularly Gentiles who put their faith in Christ and does not want them to go back under the “bondage of the elements” of the old covenant world (Gal. 4:3, 9; Col. 2:8, 20).  The first Christian Gentiles were probably Gentile proselytes Paul had preached to in the synagogues.  They had been circumcised and were being placed under the elements of the old covenant world as were the Jews. 

Paul taught that their “citizenship” was in heaven and that they were not to place their minds and hopes upon the things of the earth or, better translated, “land” (Col. 3:1-2, Greek ge) – as in the old covenant land of Palestine – as the Judaizers and their Gentile proselytes were doing.  

Paul informs them that not only was their new covenant citizenship spiritual, but so was their circumcision and baptism that was necessary to become a citizen:

In him (not “in the land” of the OC world) you were also circumcised. It was not a circumcision performed by human hands. But it was a removal of the corrupt nature in the circumcision performed by Christ. This happened when you were placed in the tomb with Christ through baptism/union/induction. In baptism you were also brought back to life with Christ through faith in the power of God, who brought him back to life” (Col. 2:11-13 GWT).

Paul is consistent – new covenant salvation “in Christ” involves a SPIRITUAL “putting on of Christ” (Gal. 3:27), undergoing a SPIRITUAL circumcision (Cols. 2:11), and a SPIRITUAL baptism (Gal. 3:27/Col. 2:12/Eph. 4:5), which are necessary to place us into the SPIRITUAL corporate “ONE Body” or SPIRITUAL “Jerusalem from above” (1 Cor. 12:13; Gal. 4).   

No doubt Jesus and Paul have Ezekiel 36-37 and Isaiah 52:1-2, 15in view here when it comes to entering into Israel’s spiritual new covenant salvation:  1)  being spiritually circumcised 2)  being spiritually sprinkled / washed / baptized in order to enter 3)  the spiritual New Jerusalem.  

John the Baptist knew his OT Scriptures when he proclaimed that, while he baptized with water in the Jordan, Messiah would baptize with the Spirit in the living waters/river of eternal life that would flow through His people (Mt. 3:11; Ezek. 36:25/Isa. 52:15; Ezek. 47/John 7:37-39/Rev. 22:17). 

This is the “ONE” spiritual new covenant baptism,

Ephesians 4:4-6: “There is one body and one Spirit, according as also ye were called in one hope of your calling; one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all, and through all, and in you all (Jew and Gentile),”

1 Corinthians 12:13:  “for also in one Spirit we all to one body were baptized, whether Jews or Greeks, whether servants or freemen, and all into one Spirit were made to drink,” 

The parallels between the two passages should be clear enough:

1).  “one Spirit,” 2). “one body” 3).  [one – spiritual] “baptism.”

Many simply cannot stop thinking about physical water when “baptism” is referred to.  But “baptism” can simply be referring to one who has believed or has been united/inducted into the doctrine and leadership of someone else such as Moses,

1 Corinthians 10:2:  “Moreover, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware that all our fathers were under the cloud, all passed through the sea, all were baptized/united/identified to Moses in the cloud and in the sea…

Of this exodus and baptism of faith, it is written, “..and they believed (Hebrew ama – “made to stand” or “to stand firm”) in the LORD and in his servant Moses [that is in the doctrine he received from the Lord]” (Ex. 14:31).  Just as it took a baptism of faith to be “in Moses,” under the old covenant, it took a baptism of faith to be “in Christ” (Gal. 3:26-27). 

Matthew 28:19 (Syriac Version – oldest and most reliable): “Go ye and teach all nations, making them to stand fast in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit.”

Of the baptism here in Matthew 28:19 Dr. Murdock writes,

            “The Syrian Christians transferred this word (baptize) from a physical to a metaphorical   sense, or used it to denote a mental and not a bodily act.” 

And Wm. J. Allison agrees,

            “…in the text under review, there is no naming of water…no command to use any      outward rite or type; but the promise of the true Baptizer immediately follows: ‘Lo, I am         with you always,’ etc.  Then they are told to ‘teach, baptizing’ (not teach and baptize as    two distinct things), which must mean, preaching only under the Divine influence, Holy     Spirit, the one Baptism shall accompany the word preached, carrying it to the souls of the         hearers with convicting power, ‘purifying their hearts by faith.’”       

Through the gospel or teaching the word, the Apostles could grant or withhold “forgiveness” (Jn. 20:23).  The Apostle Paul could be “a light for the Gentiles” bringing “salvation to the end of the earth/land [of the Roman Empire]” (Acts 13:47).  The word preached gives us spiritual “birth” and “washing” of the heart and mind (Titus 3:5; Jms. 1:8).  For more on a spiritual view of new covenant baptism see the series by Dr. Kelly Birks entitled, “Where’s the Water?”[4] 

Conclusion

In our series on responding to the un-Biblical and yet very zealous and religious Talmudic and Pre-millennial Zionists, we have begun to look at what were the constituent elements that made up the old covenant world or “heavens and earth” and then when that world/heavens and earth passed away in AD 70, what spiritual elements of the new covenant world/heavens and earth replaced it.  We can see that the old covenant world consisted of physical types and shadows focused on being “in the land” while the new covenant anti-types were spiritual and realized “in Christ.”  Having faith in Christ has produced a spiritual new covenant circumcision and baptism whereby our hearts have been set apart, washed, and made holy to serve our King!    

In Part 2 we will look more at the land promises and see how they were all fulfilled in the OT and were typological of being “in Christ” and forming the new covenant “Israel of God” “New Jerusalem” – the Church.  Stay thirsty my friend (Ps. 42) and I’ll see you in Part 2.          


[1] Jerome Smith, The New Treasury of Scripture Knowledge Revised and Expanded (Nashville, TN:

Thomas Nelson Publishers,1992), 802

[2] John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Vol. 9 (Edinburg: Banner of Truth pub., 1850), 132-135, 138139, emphasis added MJS

[3] G.K. Beale, The Temple and the Church’s Mission A biblical theology of the dwelling place of God, (Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter Varsity Press, 2004), 25

[4] Dr. Kelly Birks, Where’s the Water? http://drkellynelsonbirks.com/wheresthewater/

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