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OLD TESTAMENT PROMISES AND NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. —  March 20, 2012 — 7 Comments

Though dispensationalists hold a distinct and elevated status for Israel in God’s kingdom in the future, the Bible actually sees prophecies regarding Israel coming to fulfillment in the church. This creates serious problems for the dispensational system in that they sing:

My hope is built on nothing less
than Scofield’s notes and Moody Press.

Not only do we learn that Old Testament prophecies regarding Israel are fulfilled in the Church, but we even see that old covenant promises for Israel apply to the Church. The new covenant Church is the recipient of old covenant Israel’s blessings.

For instance, when Paul speaks to the Gentiles in his Epistle to the Ephesians, he reminds them that “formerly” they were “at that time” in the past “strangers to the covenants of promise” (Eph 2:12). That is, in their past they were devoid of God’s “promise.” But no more! “But now in Christ Jesus you who were formerly were far off have been brought near” (Eph 2:13). Interestingly, Paul is citing Isaiah 57:19, which was a promise of future blessing to Israel given though she was currently in sin. In Isaiah 56:1 through 66:24 Isaiah is focusing on the shame and glory of Zion, that is to be followed by her glory. Yet Paul applies a promise from Zion in Isaiah 57:19 to the Gentiles in Ephesus.

In Galatians 3:29 he refers to the foundational promise to Israel contained in the Abrahamic Covenant. He applies that promise to the Gentiles: “if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.”

The new covenant Church is not an aside, an intercalation in God’s major plan, a parenthesis in redemptive-history (as dispensationalism claims). Rather she is the direct recipient of God’s full blessings — even the promises from the Old Testament because all God’s promises are “yea” and “amen” in Christ (2 Cor 1:20). New covenant Christians are “heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ” (Rom 8:17).

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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.

7 responses to OLD TESTAMENT PROMISES AND NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH

  1. Great article Ken I think God for you . He used you and and others to see this .

  2. Hi,
    I’m just a little blown away that you can separate the two references you make to the gentiles being partakers of the blessings of Israel, from the rest of scripture which plainly says the gentiles SHARE the blessings promised to Israel – there are references to it in Ephesians Chapter 2 – the very chapter you reference.

    Read verse 14 – (Christ) has made BOTH (Gentile & Jew) one. This theme carries on through the rest of the chapter. Every verse is pertinent to it. In verse 19 Paul says “Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners” – and to what? Why, to “the commonwealth of Israel” and “the covenants of promise”. Note the plural “covenants”, btw – Israel is stated to be the recipient of both Old and New covenants, sharing the New with gentiles whom Christ has made one with the commonwealth of Israel.

    Have you not read Romans Chapter 11? “I say then, has God cast away His people? (Notice “His people”) Certainly not! For I also am an Israelite… Once again, every verse is pertinent. Then in verse 11 Paul points out that to provoke them (the Jews) to jealousy, salvation has come to the Gentiles. Read the next verse where Paul speaks of the fall and failure of Israel and looks forward to their fullness, doing what he can by any means to provoke to jealousy those who are his flesh and save some of them (verse 14).

    Verse 15 is particularly meaningful and profound, hinting at that time in God’s future timeline when the dead will rise – an event to be triggered, you will notice, by Israel’s acceptance – something we know can only come when they recognise their Messiah and repent.

    [That is covered very fully in prophecy - along with everything that will happen in the last days, "the time of the gentiles", Ezekiel 30:3, which is our time - and culminating in Israel's mourning for "Me whom they pierced", Zecharaiah 12: 10. "Yes they will mourn for Him as one mourns for his only son, and grieve for Him as one grieves for a firstborn."

    How the Jews can fail to recognise that truth in their own scriptures is beyond me, but the Bible plainly says that the day is coming when they WILL. "In that day a fountainb shall be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for uncleaness." Zecharaiah 13:1.]

    With that background in mind read verses 17 and on in Romans 11, and notice that we Gentiles were grafted in to the olive tree that is Israel, SOME of the branches having been broken off that we, being branches from a wild olive tree, might be grafted in. And notice that we are warned in v 18 not to boast against the branches that were broken off, remembering that we do not support the root, but the root supports us.

    So rejoice that in verse 24 Paul points out that if we were cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are natural branches, be grafted into THEIR OWN OLIVE TREE. Rejoice because this event is the culmination of the ages for which the church and the whole earth groans, and signals the return of the Redeemer, theirs and ours.

    • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 22, 2012 at 6:30

      Marlene:
      Thanks for your note. I am afraid, though, that you have misunderstood my article. My point is to counter dispensational arguments for a special, dominant, exalted future for Israel. I point out that Paul puts Jew and Gentile in one new body, so that God only has one people, which we know today as the “Church.” Dispensationalism says God has two people, and that he will one day exalt Israel over all people in the world.

      I am very much aware of Rom 11. In fact, it is a key passage in my postmillennialism. It also shows that God only has one people. It shows this by explaining that Gentiles are merged with Israel in the covenant promises. But those covenant promises are available only in Christ and through faith in Christ. They are not reserved on the basis of racial distinction.

      I hope this helps!
      Ken Gentry

      • Bless you Kenneth, thank you for your explanation. That is certainly not what came across to me when I read your original post. Obviously we agree on the things that are most important in all this, but I think we probably still have a slight point of difference. I would explain it this way:

        While I don’t see a special exalted dominant future for Israel which is over and above the church, I do see that God’s dealings with Israel as a nation are concurrent with His dealings with the church and will result not only in a national mourning by Israel when they recognise their Messiah, but in a great rejoicing for the whole church when as a nation they accept salvation at His hand and become part with the church, and that the geographical nation of Israel will be the place in all the world from which Christ will rule in the Millenium. And I see that while the church is one people, it is made up of two people: Jews and gentiles. Just like partners in a marriage become one, but each have distinct identities nonetheless.

        I think the composition of the New Jerusalem says it best:

        “Also she had a great and high wall with twelve gates, and twelve angels at the gates, and names written on them, which are the names of the twelve tribes of the children of Israel… Now the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and on them were the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” Rev 21:12,14

        Every blessing Kenneth. See you in the New Jerusalem.

      • Kenneth L. Gentry, Jr. March 26, 2012 at 6:30

        Thanks for your thoughts, Marlene. Much appreciated in terms of clarity and cordiality!

        Actually, though I believe God is finished with Israel as a geo-political entity, I do not believe he is finished with Israel as an ethnic entity. As a postmillennialist I believe that the gospel will win victory throughout the world and among all peoples. Since Israel is an ethnic people, I believe they too will be saved. But my difference with dispensationalism is: (1) They will be saved on the same principle as everyone else: believe in Christ and you will be saved (Rom 1:16). Not: be a Jew and wait until God deals with you in a special way. (2) They will not have a dominant future, but will be one of the many peoples who will live in this redeemed world (Isa 19:19-25). (3) That Israel’s OT prophecies involve fulfillment in an expanded definition of Israel, that is, through the NT Church (Eph 2:12-22). (4) That God only has one people in history, not two (Rom 11:17-24).

        The Rev 21:12, 14 passage is doing what much of Revelation does: referring to OT Israel as the beginning of God’s people in history and the NT Israel (the Church) as the final fulfillment of God’s people.

      • Look a bit further back to see the context. Paul’s quoting Isaiah when he was speaking to a group of Jews (Acts 28:17, 21-23). I think he quoted it directed towards the unbelieving Jews (because some of them did believe as stated in verse 24). Jesus quoted this same passage, or portions of it, in Matthew 13:14-15, Mark 4:12 and Luke 8:10. It’s also included in John 12:40-41. Although in this case it’s followed with nevertheless, many even of the authorities believed in him which goes along with Paul’s point in Acts, also seen in Romans 11:1-8 (where he quotes this passage again in verse about the elect obtaining it, but the rest were hardened. Consider Acts 13:48b too. So you may not know in advance who will believe but your efforts to share the truth with the people of Western Europe are not in vain. The story doesn’t end at the end of your conversations with them. Press on.

  3. Isn’t it also pertinent the fact that there are no pure Jews left in the world, let alone the ‘man’ created nation of Israel. If there aren’t any pure Jews, how then can the modern nation be the same as the Israel of old? Especially when it was the United Nations who created the state of Israel and not the Father of Glory?

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