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DOES “ISRAEL MEAN ISRAEL”?

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  Leave a comment
Israel in Dictionary

As I continue an analysis of Israel in Scripture, I come now to the dispensational claim that the word “Israel” must be interpreted as literally speaking of ethnic Jews. Let us see if this so.

Though Ryrie dogmatically affirms “Israel means Israel” via his literalistic hermeneutic, he does so on the basis of a principle which he inconsistently applies. Elsewhere he fails to demand that “David” means “David.” He cites Jeremiah 30:8–9 as proof of Messiah’s millennial reign: “They shall serve the Lord their God, and David their king, whom I will raise up unto them.” Then he says: “The prophet meant what he said — and what else can we believe.” He cites also Hosea 3:4–5, where “David their king” will be sought in the millennium, then comments: “Thus the Old Testament proclaims a kingdom to be established on the earth by the Messiah, the Son of David, as the heir of the Davidic covenant.” This is literalism?

We may find other passages in the New Testament that illustrate how the church fulfills prophecies regarding Israel. As premillennialist Craig Blomberg comments: “the church of Jesus Christ [is] the ultimate fulfillment of many promises to Israel, symbolically depicted as Israel.” Unfortunately for premillennialism though, Blomberg notes: “recognizing that in some spiritual sense the church does fulfill the role of Old Testament Israel, historic premillennialists live with tension and are criticized by both dispensationalists and amillennialists for their apparently selective approach.”


God Gave Wine (by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.)
A biblical defense of moderate alcohol consumption
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


Citing Amos 9:11–12 James says God is rebuilding David’s tabernacle through the calling of the Gentiles (Ac 15:15ff). In Romans 15:8–12 Paul notes that the Gentiles’ conversion is a “confirming of the promises to the fathers.” And at least one of the verses Paul presents serves as proof of Christ’s Messianic kingdom rule (Ro 15:12). In Acts the preaching of the gospel touches on the very hope of the Jews, which was made to the fathers (Ac 26:6–7). The promises did not set forth a literal, political kingdom, but a spiritual, gospel kingdom. Psalm 2 begins its fulfillment in the resurrection of Christ — not at the second advent (Ac 13:32–33). The idea of the church is not racial; it represents a purified Israel (Ro 2:28–29), not a wholesale adoption of the Jewish race. Ryrie’s argument is irrelevant; the church fulfills Old Testament prophecy.

Regarding the “parenthesis” or intercalation view of the church, I note above that some Old Testament prophetic passages apply to the Gentiles’ calling in the New Testament. Consequently, they speak of the church. Another illustration is Paul’s use of Hosea 1:9–10 and 2:23. In Romans 9:24–26 Paul interprets these very strong Jewish-contexted verses as referring to Gentile salvation in the church’s new covenant phase.

Neither should we deem the new covenant era, international church as a mystery “completely unrevealed in the Old Testament,” as Ryrie does. Certainly the revelation’s clarity increases in the New Testament, and the audience who hears it expands, but the revelation itself was given in the Old Testament. Is not Isaiah clear? “In that day there will be a highway from Egypt to Assyria, and the Assyrians will come into Egypt and the Egyptians into Assyria, and the Egyptians will worship with the Assyrians. In that day Israel will be the third party with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth” (Isa 19:23–24). We see this also in Zechariah:
And a mongrel race will dwell in Ashdod, / And I will cut off the pride of the Philistines. / And I will remove their blood from their mouth, / And their detestable things from between their teeth. / Then they also will be a remnant for our God, / And be like a clan in Judah, / And Ekron like a Jebusite. (Zec 9:6–7)

We must understand for whom the revelation was a mystery. Ephesians 3:3–6 reads: “By revelation he made known unto me the mystery . . . which in other ages was not made known unto the sons of men, as it is now revealed unto his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit; that the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of His promise in Christ.” In Romans 16:25–26 Paul points out that the “mystery” of Gentile salvation is hidden only from the Gentiles (which in Eph 3 Paul calls “the sons of men”), not from the Old Testament prophets — for he defends his doctrine of the mystery by referring to “the scriptures of the prophets.” He speaks of “the revelation of the mystery, which was kept secret since the world began, but now is made manifest, and by the scriptures of the prophets, according to the commandment of the everlasting God, made known to all nations for the obedience of faith.” Paul declares that the “mystery” is “now made manifest” to “all nations” — not just to Israel.


God’s Law Made Easy (by Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.)
Summary for the case for the continuing relevance of God’s Law
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com


In Luke 24:44–47 the Lord teaches that it was necessary for him to die in order to fulfill Scripture in bringing salvation to the Gentiles: “All things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me. Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures, and said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behooved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day: and that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations.”

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Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr.

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Ken is a Presbyterian pastor and the author or co-author of over thirty books, most on eschatology. He has been married since 1971, and has three children and several grandchildren. He is a graduate of Tennessee Temple University (B.A., 1973), Reformed Theological Seminary (M.Div., 1977), and Whitefield Theological Seminary (Th.M., 1986; Th.D., 1988). He currently pastors Living Hope Presbyterian Church (affiliated with the RPCGA) in Greer, SC. Much of his writing is in the field of eschatology, including his 600 page book, He Shall Have Dominion: A Postmillennial Eschatology and his 400 page, Before Jerusalem Fell: Dating the Book of Revelation (his Th.D. dissertation). He contributed chapters to two Zondervan CounterPoints books on eschatological issues: Three Views on the Millennium and Beyond (edited by Darrell L. Bock) and Four Views on the Book of Revelation (edited by C. Marvin Pate). He also debated Thomas D. Ice in Kregel's The Great Tribulation: Past or Future? His books have been published by American Vision, Baker, Zondervan, Kregel, P & R, Greenhaven Press, Nordskog, Wipf & Stock, and several other publishers. He has published scores of articles in such publications as Tabletalk, Westminster Theological Journal, Evangelical Theological Society Journal, Banner of Truth, Christianity Today, Antithesis, Contra Mundum, and others. He has spoken at over 100 conferences in America, the Caribbean, and Australia. He is a member of the Evangelical Theological Society and a Church Council Committee member of Coalition on Revival.

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