Will the Jews Be Restored to Their Land?

Some dispensationalists teach that the Jews will one day return to their land en masse.  They believe that the OT prophecies about Israel in the future must be taken “literally” (e.g. Isaiah 11:11-12, Hosea 3:5, etc.).  It’s not quite that easy or simple, however.  I appreciate A.A. Hodge’s arguments against a future return of the Jews to Palestine:

1st: The New Testament is entirely silent on the subject of any such return, which would be an inexplicable omission in the clearer revelation, if that event is really future.

2nd: The literal interpretation of the Old Testament prophecies concerned in this question would be most unnatural, (1) Because, if the interpretation is to be consistent, it must be literal in all its parts. Then it would follow that David himself, in person, must be raised to reign again in Jerusalem, Ezek. 37:24, etc. Then the Levitical priesthood must be restored, and bloody sacrifices offered to God, Ezek. 40. to 46.; Jer. 17:25, 26. Then must Jerusalem be the center of government, the Jews a superior class in the Christian church, and all worshippers must come monthly and from Sabbath to Sabbath, from the ends of the earth to worship at the Holy City, Isa. 2:2, 3; 66:20–23; Zech. 14:16–21. (2) Because the literal interpretation thus leads to the revival of the entire ritual system of the Jews, and is inconsistent with the spirituality of the kingdom of Christ.  (3) Because the literal interpretation of these passages is inconsistent with what the New Testament plainly teaches as to the abolition of all distinctions between the Jew and Gentile; the Jews, when converted, are to be grafted back into the same church, Rom. 11:19–24; Eph. 2:13–19. (4) Because this interpretation is inconsistent with what the New Testament teaches as to the temporary purpose, the virtual insufficiency, and the final abolition of the Levitical priesthood and their sacrifices, and of the infinite sufficiency of the sacrifice of Christ, and the eternity of his priesthood, Gal. 4:9, 10; 5:4–8 Col. 2:16–23; Heb. 7:12–18; 8:7–13; 9:1–14.

3rd: On the other hand, the spiritual interpretation of these Old Testament prophecies—which regards them as predicting the future purity and extension of the Christian church, and as indicating these spiritual subjects by means of those persons, places and ordinances of the old economy which were typical of them—is both natural and accordant to the analogy of Scripture. In the New Testament, Christians are called Abram’s seed, Gal. 3:29; Israelites, Gal. 6:16, Eph. 2:12, 19; comers to Mount Zion, Heb. 12:22; citizens of the heavenly Jerusalem, Gal. 4:26; the circumcision, Phil. 3:3, Col. 2:11, and in Rev. 2:9, they are called Jews. There is also a Christian priesthood and spiritual sacrifice, 1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Heb. 13:15, 16; Rom. 12:1.

This is a longer discussion to be sure, but Hodge’s points are certainly worth thinking about when asking and answering this question about eschatology!

The above quote is found in Archibald Alexander Hodge, Outlines of Theology (New York: Robert Carter & Brothers, 1863), 454–455.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

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The Rapture and 1 Thessalonians 4

Some Christians believe in a two-fold coming of Christ.  They say the first coming is a rapture where Jesus will quietly and secretly take his people and they will simply disappear from the face of the earth.  The Scripture used to back up this theory is 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18.  For example, verse 17 says, …then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air… (NASB).   Much more could be said on this, but I like William Hendriksen’s brief critique:

“Dispensationalists like to stress the statement, ‘and the dead in Christ will rise first.’  They interpret as if the entire passage were somewhat on this order: ‘And the dead in Christ shall rise first; then, a thousand years later, the dead not in Christ shall rise.’

“However, nowhere in the entire paragraph does Paul say, ‘then the dead not in Christ shall rise.’  Paul is thinking only of believers, of no one else.  He is drawing a contrast between the dead in Christ and the still living in Christ.”

“On the one hand there will be those believers who at Christ’s coming will already have died.  On the other hand, there will be the survivors, children of God who will still be living on earth.  What the apostle is saying, then, amounts to this: ‘Don’t worry about your dear ones in the Lord, who have already died.  In no sense at all will they suffer any disadvantage when Jesus returns.  On the contrary, those who are still alive on earth will have to wait a moment until the souls of those who died have re-inhabited their bodies.  In that moment of waiting the survivors will be changed in the twinkling of an eye.  Then together, as one large multitude, those who formerly constituted the two groups will go forth to meet the Lord.”

Also, as far as a “secret” rapture goes, Hendriksen points out verse 16 in 1 Thessalonians 4:

“Note the words: ‘For with a shouted command, with a voice of an archangel and with a trumpet of the God the Lord himself will descend from heaven.’  This has been called ‘the noisiest verse in the Bible.’  It surely indicates that the coming of the Lord will be public and audible.”

William Hendriksen, The Bible on The Life Hereafter (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1959), 183-184 (emphasis in original).

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54015

The Rapture and A Cosmic Dog Whistle

In A Case for Amillennialism, Kim Riddlebarger gives a great biblical refutation of the secret rapture that dispensationalists teach.  Here’s one paragraph of that section.

“One of the most telling criticisms [of a secret rapture] is the language used by Paul in 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18, the very passage used by dispensationalists as a proof text for two comings of Jesus Christ and the secret rapture.  Three times in the passage, Paul used terminology to convey the idea that Jesus Christ’s return to earth will be accompanied by divine announcements which are clearly universal in nature.  In verse 16, Paul mentioned that ‘the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.’  The whole thrust of the three-fold announcement is that God himself will proclaim the return of Jesus Christ so loudly that the whole world will hear.  Not only so, but the world will also witness the subsequent catching away of believers (v. 17). 

If dispensationalists are correct in saying that this coming is secret, then only believers will hear the divine declaration.  As my colleague, Rev. Ken Jones, so aptly puts it, this turns the thrice-repeated announcement of Christ’s return into something akin to a cosmic dog whistle.  It is another example of a text where the champions of literal interpretation cannot take the key passage literally.  What is worse, if dispensationalists are correct about a secret rapture, then Jesus does not have two advents but three.”

As I’ve said before, I really like this book and highly recommend it.  This quote is found on page 143 of A Case for Amillenialism.

shane lems