Friday, 9 June 2017

Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology & the Apostles' Doctrine

I'm not sure that DISPENSATIONALISM, nor strict COVENANT THEOLOGY, deal with Bible-prophecies about Israel satisfactorily.
Bible-Prophecies sometimes mentioned the theme of Israel's regathering after captivity (the rebuilding of their Temple, Levitical priesthood, sacrifices and feasts), and the theme of the coming of Messiah, and of the age to come - all in the same prophetic passages. Almost like it was all meant to occur together.
Dispensationalists deal with that by insisting that a Jewish/Levitical age is still required in future, in connection with the second coming, in order to fulfil Bible-Prophecy.
A problem with that is it conflicts with New Testament theology, which teaches that the Law has passed away and that the new covenant is everlasting.
It implies - and Dispensationalists actually say this - that the Gospel is something largely unforeseen, rather than the fulfilment of Israel's promised salvation. Something merely inserted in the interim while we wait for God to get back to really fulfilling prophecy for Israel.
When you think about it, it would also imply that Jesus was too early in history to be Messiah - because the Messianic prophecies occurred in the same passages of Scripture as the prophecies about restored Levitical worship in Israel.
That's more like the Orthodox Jewish view of Bible Prophecy than the Apostles' doctrine!
But I'm not satisfied with the way strict Covenant Theology deals with it either. Strict Covenant Theology spiritualises the identities, subjects, objects, locations and themes in Bible Prophecy to the extent that Bible-prophecies about Israel are taken as never having been about physical Israel at all, but instead as entirely about the Church.
That means that adherents of strict Covenant Theology are stumped trying to cite a single Bible-prophecy which definitively meant Messiah had to minister in the physical land of Israel at all, or that the Gospel had to be "to the Jew first and also to the Greek". Because that would mean conceding a physical rather than spiritual (covenantal) meaning for 'Israel' - and that's untenable to them.
But that would mean we couldn't use physical facts - such as Jesus' place of birth and ministry - as proof that He fulfilled the details of Messianic prophecy.
It would mean our Gospel-claim is based on personal, ethereal or spiritual claims, rather than on objective, physical, geographical facts as well.
But that's not the way the Apostles used Old Testament Prophecies (about Israel)!
The Apostles' claim was that there had indeed come the fulfilment of God's promises concerning Israel - literally, on the ground in Israel, among Israelis, for Israelis - as objective historical and physical facts - without needing to alter or spiritualise identities in prophecy in order to make that claim.
God had already regathered Israel from captivity; their Temple was already rebuilt; Levitical sacrifices were already restored - and in that historical setting, Messiah came, to Israel, as required by Prophecy.
They claimed Jesus fulfilled the Messianic prophecies - they were eyewitnesses.
And they said He's coming again.
That was the Apostles' take on Bible-Prophecy. The Apostles' doctrine. Called the Gospel.
So unlike Covenant Theology, the Apostles took prophecies which said 'Israel' to mean Israel - while prophecies which meant Gentiles said 'Gentiles'.
And unlike Dispensationalism, the Levitical themes were taken as already-fulfilled, not future.
Jesus Messiah was crucified, buried and rose again, as prophesied.
All of this fulfilled God's promises to Israel. Jews were the first to hear this good news.
Then afterwards, the Gentiles received the same good news. Not a different good news inserted merely as an interim - but the same good news.
Believers were made one new man - not two separate plans. But it had to happen in Israel first.
There's no other name to call on for salvation but the Name of Jesus.
Keeping Moses' Law won't be necessary in future, and isn't necessary in the present, even if it was still possible which it isn't.
And Jesus is coming again! His second coming will come.
That I think sounds a bit more like the Apostles' doctrine - their take on Bible-Prophecy - the Gospel.

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