Biblical Community – Week 32 / August 7th

Biblical Community – Week 32 / August 7th

2017Devotional 2017Devotional

“So they departed from the presence of the council, rejoicing
that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name.
And daily in the temple, and in every house, they did not cease
teaching and preaching Jesus as the Christ.”
Acts 5:41-42

The Bible is clear about the fact that the people of God are a Kingdom under the dominion of God Himself. In the Hebrew Scriptures this took the form of a theocracy. The nation was to be a holy nation, separate from all other nations and regulated by a priesthood and sacrificial system. In the New Covenant this changes as all nations are called into the household of faith and they are to be part of a gathering of believers called the ecclesia or “called out ones”. The temple is now not brick and mortar but people who have embraced Jesus’ once for all sacrifice on the cross (Ephesians 2:19-22).

Their main purpose in life is twofold:
1. To be conformed to the image of Christ….and,
2. To be witnesses to Jesus’ resurrection in the world.
Their social interaction is transformed by the power of the indwelling Savior, which in turn means that they love and care for one another. Their mutual life together has no set structure other than that they should gather regularly for the prayers (meaning many prayer meetings), bible study, breaking of bread and fellowship (Acts 2:42). This they can do in a building especially built for this purpose or they can gather in a private dwelling. Paul for instance, at one time, held meetings in a school hall (Ephesians 19:9). However, no matter how they gather their “body life” should and must be “set in order” (Titus 1:5). This means that they are under the spiritual protection of ordained elders and gift ministries designated as Apostles, Prophets, Teachers, Evangelists and Teachers (Ephesians 4:11).

The Church in every generation is subject to pressure and persecution. This may, as it did in the book of Acts, drive them together for survival purposes to live in closer proximity. That is, in shared housing of some type. The early church in Jerusalem was forced to do this (Acts 4:32-37) but elsewhere, as it took root, it structured itself differently. The style of housing is not important! Rather the purity of essential doctrine and preservation of the believing community is. It is true that a Church in persecution and living in shared housing is more holy but it is equally true that a Church living in shared housing and or in community, but free from persecution, can end up in cultic and controlling behavior. Both of these insights are worth nothing.

What matters is not the housing style but the preservation of the life and witness to Jesus. Some huge Churches, housed in big buildings, are a great blessing filled with God’s life. This we cannot deny. On the other hand, as in China, the Church has grown and multiplied in homes. Its very existence was dependent upon it. In all aspects the rule of thumb is that we should not neglect our gathering together (Hebrews 10:23-25) and we should assemble with those who uphold biblical faith and office. A Church, so called, in a house without ordained leadership is as much a problem and a contradiction as a Church in a fancy building without properly ordained leadership. Both problems exist. A Church “housed together” is a shelter from the storm but it could also be a breeding ground for manipulation and brain washing. Our calling is to read the signs of the times around us and structure the Body of Christ in a manner that enables the people of God to worship freely, be conformed to the image of Christ and bear testimony to the good news of Jesus in the world.
Malcolm Hedding.

Days of Deliverance – Week 28 / July 7

Days of Deliverance – Week 28 / July 7

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“ Blessed be the Lord, Who has not given us as prey
to their teeth. Our soul has escaped as a bird from
the snare of the fowlers; the snare is broken, and we
have escaped. Our help is in the name of the Lord Who
made heaven and earth.”

Psalm 124:6-8

There is no doubt that the context of this Psalm has to do with Israel’s deliverance from her enemies. The Psalmist affirms that the God of Israel is “on our side when men rose up against us (V2).” Not much has changed since David’s time and today Israel is once again in the “gun-sights” of her enemies. This brings the restored nation to daily vigilance but, while this is necessary, the truth is God watches over Israel to defend and protect her. Her modern history is testimony to this.

Israel’s God is deeply concerned about her spiritual condition and well being and so He allows Israel to go through trials and conflicts in the hope that she will by them hear His voice, repent and return to Him. This was ever so and we see it today as well since the God we serve is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). He will yet deliver Israel from the teeth of her enemies but she will have to learn the lesson of Who He is and what He requires of her.

It is also true as a principle that we too are caught in the “cross-hairs” of those who hate God. Indeed Paul stated that anyone wishing to live a godly life in Christ will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). This pathway is unavoidable but by it we too are brought into better alignment with the will and purposes of God. Christians are not strangers to trials and difficulties and God, by Jesus Christ, will bring them through these so that they can give testimony to the fact that the have escaped as a bird from the snare of the fowlers! Once escaped, like a bird, they will fly higher and therefore soar to greater heights in Christ.

I wish I could tell you that there is a different way but there is not. It is through many tribulations that we enter into the Kingdom of God (Acts 14:22) and so we need patience and endurance (James 1:2-3). God will help us, and always will, if we respond appropriately to Him. We should not look upon the present in all of this but upon the eternal future where we will reap an eternal weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17).

So, Israel is a living example to us of God’s faithfulness and we should not let discouragement pull us down. As David once did, strengthen yourself in the Lord since He will never leave or forsake you. After all He is the God that made heaven and earth.

Malcolm Hedding

Life in the Word and Spirit – Week 22 / May 28th

Life in the Word and Spirit – Week 22 / May 28th

2017Devotional 2017Devotional


 

                                                “So now, brethren, I commend you to God

                                                 and to the word of His grace, which is able

                                                 to build you up and give you an inheritance

                                                 among all those who are sanctified.”

                                                                                                Acts 20:32

                                                “Behold, I send the Promise of My Father

                                                 upon you; but tarry in the city of Jerusalem

                                                 until you are endued with power from on

                                                 high.”

                                                                                                Luke 24:49

 

 

Pentecost

In just a short a few weeks we will celebrate Shavuot or Pentecost which is one of the three great pilgrim festivals of the Bible, the others being Passover and Tabernacles. The Feast of Pentecost is a harvest festival plus it was on this Feast that the Torah (five books of Moses) or Word of the living God was given to Israel at Sinai, that is, fifty days after leaving Egypt, and it was on this same day that the Holy Spirit was poured out upon the waiting Disciples in the Upper Room in Jerusalem (Acts 2:1-4).

 

Pentecost is in every way a joyous celebration as it focuses on God’s “marriage” to Israel at Sinai for it is here at this holy mountain that the Lord God of Israel gives His people a Law that is rich in revelation and instruction and thereby galvanizes them into statehood. The journey of Israel in the wilderness to this climatic place and beyond is most interesting as, apart from the ritual pertaining to the priestly consecration, the focus falls upon; the pillar of cloud and of fire that hung over the camp in the wilderness; the ordination of the seventy elders; the provision of quail and the grace and power that brings forth the Temple of God or Wilderness Tabernacle.

 

The Pillar of Cloud and of Fire

The first of these, the pillar of cloud and of fire, reminds us of the heavenly call to be obedient. When the pillar was lifted, by day or by night, camp was struck and the Israelites went out to follow the cloud or fire and thereby they followed God Himself. Samuel reminds us that “obedience is better than sacrifice” (1Samuel 15:22-23) and the book of Acts tells us that God gives His Holy Spirit to those who obey Him (Acts5:32).

 

 

The Ordination of the Seventy Elders

The ordination of the seventy elders (Numbers 11:16-17) places the biblical emphasis upon delegation and ability. The “seventy” could not function until the power of God’s Spirit was upon them. The message is clear; to obey without the means to obey is obedience “still born”. For this reason Jesus told His disciples not to leave Jerusalem until they were endued “with power from on high” (Luke24: 49)(Acts 1:8). Once again the message is clear; if we have the Word of God without the Power of God we shall dry up; if we have the Power of God without the Word of God we shall blow up. But, if we have the Word of God and the Power of God we shall grow up and serve the interests of God’s kingdom on earth! Without the power of the Holy Spirit we cannot go into the world and truly build Jesus’ Church.

 

The Quail

The Quail episode recorded in Numbers11: 31-35 is also interesting because God’s supernatural provision leads to an outburst of His anger. Anger because the Israelites gorged themselves and thus behaved as if God would not be in their future. A reminder of Who we serve and that we are stewards of His blessings. Having forgotten this they died and were buried at a place called “Hattaavah” meaning, “graves of the craving.” When we abuse God’s provision and abundance we die spiritually and lose our way. Many a Christian has died at Hattaavah because they have been too busy receiving and getting than serving and doing! The Church of Jesus is not a grandstand and should not be filled with spectators but with participators. This too is the abiding message of the Day of Pentecost recorded in Acts chapter two. The Disciples of Jesus were filled with the Spirit so as to go into all the world and serve.

 

The Power of the Holy Spirit

Lastly, Zechariah, the restoration Prophet, reminds us that all of God’s work is pursued through God’ ability. “Not by might, nor by power but by my Spirit says the Lord.” This power of God’s Spirit builds a Temple that is completed with shouts of grace (Zechariah 4: 6-7). All this also reminds us that spiritual life is sustained by corporate life. That is, we should worship together and we fail God when we forsake our assembling together (Hebrews 10:24-25). Certainly the outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon the first Christians in the upper room was a “together experience” (Acts1: 1). Only the Holy Spirit can give us real unity and order and so, when we claim to have His anointing but cannot live together with other believers in unity and love we contradict our claim. Pentecost birthed the Church and formed a people into a community of love no matter what their national, racial, status or gender differences were. When the Spirit came the confusion of tongues that began at Babel was reversed and the multitude heard them speaking as one in the tongues of men (Acts 2:5-12). The multitudes without Christ are ever waiting for the truth about God to be lived out before them and consequently they will respond, as they did on the Day of Pentecost, when the Church embraces and demonstrates this truth through the Word and Spirit of God.

 

Given all of the above it is clear that we have much to learn from the Festival of Pentecost.

 

Malcolm Hedding.

 

 

Pretextology

Pretextology

Blog

                           Dismantling Replacement Theology One Step At A  Time

 

                        “I will make your descendants as numerous as the stars

                         in the sky and I will give your descendants all this land

                         I promised them, and it will be their inheritance forever.”

                                                                        Exodus 32:13

 

                        “The characteristics of Bishop Ryle’s method and style

                         are obvious. He is pre-eminently and always scriptural

                         and expository. He never starts with a theory into which

                         he tries to fit various scriptures. He always starts with

                         the Word and expounds it. It is exposition at its very

                         best and highest. It is always clear and logical and invar-

                         iably leads to a clear enunciation of doctrine. It is strong

                         virile and entirely free from the sentimentality that is

                         often described as ‘devotional.”

                                                                        Martin Lloyd-Jones

 

                        “I believe that the Jews shall ultimately be gathered again

                         as a separate nation, restored to their own land, and

                         converted to the faith of Christ…”

                                                                        Bishop Ryle of Liverpool

                                                                                    1816-1900

The Leaven of Error

 

There are certain teachings that have infiltrated the Church through the centuries, and even today are widely accepted, that have no biblical backing whatsoever. An example of this is the doctrine of infant baptism. There is not one verse in the entire Bible that validates this practice and yet it is practiced in many churches. This is just the truth and even the great Church Father Tertullian recognized this and condemned the dogma and practice as unbiblical.  In the same way the teaching of Replacement Theology, and for that matter Fulfillment Theology, is not found anywhere in the Bible. This doctrine, again widely accepted by many in the Church today, has no biblical backing whatsoever. It rests on the premise that the Abrahamic Covenant, which vouches safe Israel’s everlasting possession of the land of Canaan (Genesis 17:7-8; Genesis 13:15-18; Psalm 105:7-12), has been adjusted or abolished and consequently Israel’s modern day restoration is debunked as having no biblical credentials. There is absolutely no statement in the entire Bible, and especially in the New Testament, that supports this notion; absolutely none! And yet many in the Church believe it. (4) See footnote

 

Those who claim this position put forth very weak arguments that constantly take scripture out of context and thereby distort it and turn it into a pretext. This is what I call “pretextology”. In other words pretextology is that teaching that, having no biblical basis, is imposed upon scripture.

 

Having said this, it must be acknowledged that pretextology or replacement theology has been embraced by segments of the wider Church because it does contain an element of truth in that, as we all do, it affirms that no one can obtain salvation apart from exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross (John 14:6; Romans 1:16, Acts 4:12). It thereafter goes astray in that it seeks to undermine and deny the integrity and efficacy of the Abrahamic Covenant that bequeaths to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession; even though this Covenant is in all respects everlasting and was made by God with Abraham in such a way that it was unconditional. (5) See footnote. For pretextologists then, the modern day state of Israel is nothing more than an accident of history and thus holds no biblical significance.

 

The Abrahamic Covenant

 

So then, in terms of the Abrahamic Covenant; the Bible, always in context, vouches for its efficacy and integrity. These are bound up with the character of God so that if it fails or is adjusted or abolished in any way then God’s character is brought into question. That is, He is unfaithful and unreliable! This is a very serious accusation to place at God’s door but this is an accusation that exponents of Replacement Theology constantly make. It must be remembered that, while the Abrahamic Covenant has many aspects to it, it is essentially only one Covenant and therefore if one part fails all the parts fail. The same is true of the Mosaic Covenant or Ten Commandments; if you break one you have broken them all because it is one Covenant. (James 2:10-11) The aspects or clauses of the Abrahamic Covenant may be listed as the following:

 

  • God will make Israel a great nation,
  • God will bless Israel
  • God will make Israel a blessing,
  • God will curse those who curse Israel,
  • God will bless those who bless Israel,
  • God will give the nation of Israel the land of Canaan forever and,
  • God will give to the world a Savior or Seed who will save it from its sins.

(Genesis 12:1-3, Genesis 17:7-8, Genesis 22:18)

 

New Testament Validation of the Abrahamic Covenant

 

So, the context of Hebrews chapter six is that of Jewish believers in Jesus who were, for whatever reason, tempted to doubt the faithfulness of God to them as expressed in the New Covenant. The writer then assures them of God’s faithfulness by holding up before them His faithfulness to the Abrahamic Covenant. In other words they can trust God to fulfill all His promises to them in the New Covenant because He has kept and will keep all His promises made to them in the Abrahamic Covenant. These promises He made unconditionally to Abraham and swore to them by His word and character. He affirmed that they were everlasting and could then not be altered or revoked (Genesis 17:7-8; Romans 11:29). This, and this alone, is the contextual argument of the chapter; an argument that the writer makes years after Israel’s rejection of Jesus’ Messianic credentials. Those discounting the promises made to Israel in the Abrahamic Covenant are actually accusing the writer of Hebrews of deception and God of lying since He has in reality abandoned crucial aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant and has in effect then not been faithful to it. This of course is not true!

 

“Thus God, determining to show more abundantly to the heirs

                         of promise the immutability of His counsel, confirmed it by an

 oath, that by two immutable things, in which it is impossible

                         for God to lie, we might have strong consolation, who have

                         fled for refuge to lay hold of the hope set before us.”

                                                                        Hebrews 6:17-18

 

The Galatian and Roman Letters in Context

 

So, the context of Galatians 3:16, as I recently pointed out in an earlier article, has to do with the conflict between Law and Grace that erupted in the early Church. Paul’s very strong argument is that 430 years before the Law was given at Sinai God promised in the Abrahamic Covenant that an individual would come (a Seed) and He would save the world from sin. In other words if He, the Seed, saves us by His finished work on the cross then the Law does not save anyone but it is our teacher to bring us to the Savior or Seed of promise (Galatians 3:24)(Romans 3:20). In context, Paul is not discussing the other aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant at all and indeed he tells us that he can appeal to the authority of this Covenant because as a whole it “cannot be annulled” (Galatians 3:17). Indeed Paul compares the Abrahamic Covenant to a human contract that is binding between two entities once it has been signed but affirms that the Abrahamic Covenant is more significant because it is bound to the character of God Himself. This is exactly what the writer of Hebrews does. But, our pretextologists contradict this by asserting, without any biblical grounds, that the other aspects of the Covenant have been annulled. Where did they get this from? From their own imaginations! They are attempting to impose a dogma on the Bible that doesn’t exist. They are pretextologists!

 

“Now to Abraham and his Seed (Jesus) were the promises

                         made. He does not say, ‘And to seeds,’ as of many, but as of

                         one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.”

                                                                        Galatians 3:16

 

Pretextologists further distort the meaning of Galatians 3:16 by falsely asserting from it that God in fact made no promises to the descendants of Abraham save the one that has to do with the coming of a “seed” or Messiah. In other words, they assert that 4000 years ago when God entered into a Covenant with Abraham He only promised them a Savior and nothing more! This is not only absurd but it is just plain nonsense for God did indeed also promise to the descendants (seeds) of Abraham that the land of Canaan would be their everlasting possession. A simple reading of scripture confirms it. Note: Genesis 13:14-18; Genesis 17:7-8 and Psalm 105:7-12. And, by the way, what is wrong with these people that they just cannot understand the word, “everlasting?”

 

So once more, if they cannot win the contextual argument then they “cherry pick” scriptures, again out of context, in order to debunk the promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant. It is worth noting that without any biblical authority they are the sole arbitrators as to which of the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant are in and which are out! One of these pretextologists recently wrote that Romans 4:13 is proof that God has broken His solemn undertakings in the Abrahamic Covenant because Abraham was called to be the heir of the world which, in his view, goes beyond any promises of land made to the Jews. Once again the context of Romans 4 is about the conflict between Law and Grace and has nothing to do with the other promises that God made in the same Covenant to the Jewish people. In fact the Covenant, in its original form, states that God’s purpose is indeed to reach the peoples of the world, “In you all the families of the earth will be blessed” (Genesis 12:3).  We then agree that Abraham is the father of many nations and the “heir of the world” by the promises contained in this aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant. There is nothing new about this and we believe it but it does not remove or change any part of the original Covenant that also bequeaths to the Jewish people the land of Canaan as an everlasting possession.  However, in the context of Romans 4, this promise was made to Abraham on condition that he receive it by faith and not by the works of the Law. In other words, it was only Abraham’s believing faith that brought him into right standing with God and not the works of the Law. This is Paul’s punch line and to then suggest that he is debunking the other promises in the Covenant is again pretextology at work. Here below is the verse in question:

 

“For the promise that he would be the heir of

                         the world was not to Abraham or to his seed

                         through the law, but through the righteousness

                         of faith.”

                                                            Romans 4:13

 

The Attempt to Discredit Christian Zionists

 

Another weak theological position is the idea that if you believe in the integrity of the Abrahamic Covenant, including of course the promises of the land of Canaan to the Jewish people as an everlasting possession, then you are somehow undermining the Gospel and preaching the Gospel of Zionism. This is just nonsense as if it were true then some of the greatest preachers, Church leaders and evangelists of history must be guilty of this! For instance the Wesley brothers believed in the integrity and efficacy of the Abrahamic Covenant but they in no way were compromising or weak on the nature and content of the Gospel. They preached it faithfully, as do many Christian Zionists, and so they were totally committed to the truth of the Gospel that teaches us that we are only saved by faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. To assert otherwise, as the pretextologists frequently insinuate, is to indulge in mischief and deception. One of these pretextologists recently asserted that he was challenging biblical Christian Zionists because his only concern was that of preserving the truth and purity of the Gospel. The insinuation behind this comment is clear; that is, if you believe that the Abrahamic Covenant is still intact in all aspects, including that of a promise of land to the Jewish people then you are a preacher of a false Gospel! This is also absurd because he would then have to lay this accusation against vast segments of the Church world-wide and against great preachers like Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Jack Hayford of the Four Square Church, Derek Prince, Robert Murray McCheyne, Angus Buchan, David Pawson, Franklin Graham and Reinhard Bonnke, who, by the way, has led one hundred million people from all over the world to Christ. Once again this pretextologist routinely lifts texts out of the Bible that in context have no application whatsoever to the various aspects of the Abrahamic Covenant. By this practice he routinely seeks to nullify these aspects and thus claims that Israel’s modern day restoration is a political accident that enjoys no biblical justification. In other words he is imposing upon the text an interpretation that is nothing more than a pretext. This is the habit of all those espousing pretextology.

 

Paul’s Defense of the Truth

 

Further more, it must be underlined that Paul was not a theological innovator and he did not anywhere advocate for the adjustment or annulment of any part of the Abrahamic Covenant. Paul’s dramatic conversion on the road Damascus opened his spiritual eyes to the fact that salvation can only be received by exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. He, a man who had dedicated his whole life to keeping the Law (Philippians 3:1-6), realized that Abraham and David were not saved by the Law but by faith in God (Romans 4). The Law could only convict of sin and nothing more (Romans 3:20). To reach the Gentile world with the Gospel he realized that he had to counter the belief that Law keeping was the way to the righteousness of God. Thus in writing the book of Romans he sets out its theme by stating that in the Gospel of Jesus alone, for Jew and Gentile, is the way to the righteousness of God (Romans 1:16-17). Actually, in almost all of his epistles he stresses this truth time and time again and to prove it he relies heavily upon that part of the Abrahamic Covenant that promises salvation in the coming of a redeeming Seed. To construe from this then that the other parts of the Abrahamic Covenant have therefore been abolished is nothing short of presumption because this is nowhere stated. In fact, when writing about the people of Israel in Romans eleven, he stated that God would indeed fulfill all his promises to them because, “The gifts and calling of God are irrevocable” (cannot be altered, taken back or changed) (Romans 11:29) and that they are beloved of God “for the sake of the Fathers” (Romans 11:28). The God of the Bible clearly has a relationship with unsaved Israel that He definitely does not have with other nations! Indeed Paul warns his readers that if they as Christians despise the Jewish branches that have been cut out of the Olive Tree because of their unbelief they will incur the displeasure of God (Romans 11:17-21). The Bible makes no statement like this concerning any other nation or people group.

 

The Restoration of all Things

 

The truth is, once making a promise God never goes back on it! In the end the Jewish people, through a process of restoration, will be grafted back into their own spiritual tree (Romans 11:24) and “all Israel will be saved” (Romans 11:25-26). Jesus spoke of their regathering to Jerusalem (Luke 21:24) and Zechariah states that, having been regathered to Jerusalem, they will “look upon Him who they have pierced and mourn for Him” (Zechariah 12:10-11). Ezekiel tells us that their final regathering will be in unbelief and then, once in the land of promise and of their forefathers, they will receive a new heart and a new spirit, a reference to the New Covenant, and consequently they will live in the land forever (Ezekiel 36:24-28). One pretextologist recently stated that God would not deal with an unbelieving Jewish state. He knows “not the scriptures or the power thereof” (Mark 12:24) because this is precisely what God says He will do! The Jews will come back to the land in unbelief and then the God of the Bible, who has never broken His Covenant with them, will redeem and transform them in Christ. (2) See footnote

 

If all of these glorious things happen to the Jewish people in the great city of Jerusalem, including the Old City, then surely it is God Himself who will bring them back and plant them again in Zion? Yes it is, and His basis alone for doing so is a Covenant that He termed to be everlasting and that He made with Abraham four thousand years ago (Genesis 13:14-18). All of Jewish history testifies to this truth, as does Israel’s modern day restoration and Paul confirms that one day the “Deliverer”, Jesus, will finally come “out of Zion” (Romans 11:25-26). This affirms that He will again arise out of and from amongst His own people in Jerusalem meaning that their embracing of Him will bring Him back a second time to the Mt. of Olives. With this Jesus Himself agrees! (Matthew 23:37-39)(3) See footnote.

 

Defending the Truth

 

The conclusion to all of this is that there is no verse or passage of scripture that teaches that the Abrahamic Covenant has been partly or wholly abolished. This Covenant, with all its promises and undertakings, remains entirely intact and this in turn means that Israel’s modern day restoration is not a political accident but indeed evidence of God’s faithfulness to a Covenant that He made with Abraham four thousand years ago. It also means that, as a people, Israel is on a collision course with the “Seed’ (singular) of the Abrahamic Covenant (Genesis 22:18) or with the Prophet “like unto Moses” of the Mosaic Covenant (Deuteronomy 18:15-19). This is the promised Messiah and the One who saves apart from the Law. It is He, who by the New Covenant, died for the sins of His people Israel and for those of the world and by Whom then all the families of the earth have been, are being and will be blessed. So then, Israel’s role in redemptive history has been, and is, to birth God’s redemptive initiative and purpose into the world. She is the vehicle of world redemption or the platform upon which the God of the Bible has built His engagement with the humanity (Romans 9:1-5). Jesus underlined this truth when He said that “salvation is of the Jews” (John 4:22) and John the Apostle recognized this truth in the vision of the pregnant woman clothed with the sun, moon and twelve stars recorded in the twelfth chapter of the book of Revelation.

 

This vision given to John is a reference to Genesis 37 where Joseph has a dream wherein his mother and father are the sun and moon and he and his brothers are the twelve stars. In other words, the pregnant woman of Revelation twelve is none other than Israel; a truth confirmed by the fact that she gives birth to a “Male child” who is destined to rule the nations with a “rod of iron” (Revelation 12:1-5). This is without doubt Jesus and so most definitely the woman is not the Church but Israel. It is Israel that births God’s purpose into the world and so the woman, Israel, brought Jesus into the world and He brought the Church into existence; not the other way around.

 

The Ultimate Goal

 

The goal of Israel’s role in history is to bring forth a Bride for Christ the Messiah (Revelation 19:5-9). This Bride is the real Israel of God comprising all those, whether they be Jew or Gentile, who have exercised saving faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross (Romans 1:16)(Galatians 5:16). These all are a part of Paul’s Olive Tree in Romans eleven and they are designated a “new man” by scripture (Ephesians 2:14-18). This under-lines the fact that all those who are a part of this Bride of Christ are freed from all prejudice and this in turn means that in this body there is no racial, gender, economic, religious or cultural discrimination (Galatians 3:26-29). It is a people freed from all hatred and prejudice and they will be married to Jesus at His second coming. Their great privilege will be to reign with Christ as joint-heirs for all eternity (Romans 8:17-17)(Revelation 3:21).

 

When that day dawns, as it surely will, the peculiar role of Israel in world redemption will come to an end but it will be eternally recorded because the foundations and gates of the eternal and glorious city of God, the New Jerusalem, will be inscribed with the names of the twelve Apostles and the twelve tribes of Israel; all of whom are Jewish (Revelation (Revelation 21:10-14). Above all, the city will have a great King who is none other than Jesus the Lion of Judah (Revelation 5:5) and the great Son of David (Revelation 22:16).

 

The Evils of Pretextology

 

Replacement theology or Pretextology has historically unleashed an avalanche of evil upon the Jewish people culminating in the Holocaust. Sam Clarke writes, “(The).. Application of this theology ranges from a subtle way of reading and misinterpreting Scripture to a vicious form of anti-Semitism that has been responsible for the murder of millions of Jews.” Bishop Ryle wrote, “What I protest against is, the habit of allegorizing plain sayings of the Word of God concerning the future history of the nation of Israel, and explaining away the fullness of their contents in order to accommodate them to the Gentile Church. I believe the habit to be unwarranted by anything in Scripture, and to draw after it a long train of evil consequences.”

 

It is no coincidence then that those Church movements that have embraced Pretextology have been most responsible for anti-Semitism through the centuries. Martin Luther, whose life and times we will again celebrate this year, subscribed to this theology and became an anti-Semite (1) See footnote. A well-known Anglican cleric aggressively pursued this theology for years and finally he went too far and the Anglican Bishop, under whom he served, accused him of anti-Semitism and placed him under discipline. Is it not interesting that those churches that have not embraced pretextology have no record of anti-Semitism? Even the apartheid government of South Africa was galvanized from this false teaching! Dutch Reformed Ministers, the most famous of which being the Rev. Dutoit, who was the architect of “Grand Apartheid” and the Rev. D. F. Malan, the first apartheid Prime Minister of South Africa, used Replacement Theology as the foundation upon which to build their ruthless ideology of racial discrimination.

 

Jesus said that we would know the validity and truth of certain teachings by the fruit they produced (Matthew 7:17-20) and in this case the fruit speaks so loudly that we cannot hear the preaching of those who advocate for such a misguided theology. Selah.

 

Malcolm Hedding

 

 Footnotes

 

  • In 1543 Martin Luther published a pamphlet entitled “On Jews and Their Lies.” Europe was rife with anti-Jewish sentiment. Luther added fuel to the fire by asking the question, “What shall we do with this rejected and condemned people, the Jews?” He recommended that houses of Jews be “razed and destroyed”, and their religious books burned. This pamphlet and later his anti-Semitic writings, “Annuls of the Jews”, paved the way theologically for Hitler and the Nazis. (The Holy One of Israel by Sam Clarke)

 

  • It is important to note that at Sinai, and through the Mosaic Covenant, God brought the Jewish people into a special relationship with Himself (Exodus 19:1-8)(Deuteronomy 26:16-19). They were thus to reflect to the nations the light that they had received. All of this was based on faith and not on Law keeping, a fact established by Deuteronomy 30:13-14 and confirmed by Paul in Romans 10:6-9. This in turn meant that they were to be a holy and royal nation and that they were to live on the land bequeathed to them as an everlasting possession in righteousness and holiness. In short only a holy people could live on a holy land! Failure to live in a reconciled relationship with God would remove from them the privilege of living on the land of Canaan but it would not remove from them the possession of it. They land would always and forever be theirs, by the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant, but their right of domicile would not. This is then the story of the Major and Minor Prophets who held the people of Israel to account for their sin and rebellion against God. The result was two exiles but there was always a promise of restoration and redemption (Obadiah 17)(Amos 9:14-15)(Deuteronomy 30:1-6).

 

So then, the undertakings and promises of God in the Abrahamic Covenant were unconditional but the promises and undertakings of God in the Mosaic Covenant were conditional upon Israel’s obedience and faithfulness to them. Failure to understand this makes it difficult to understand how these great Covenants are interconnected and therefore to be understood.

 

 

  1. There is absolutely no doubt that for the first two centuries of the present

Church era up until the Church Father Tertullian, the only eschatological

view and teaching of the early Church was that of a coming, as they put it,

“Jewish Kingdom.”  That is, the end time events would be characterized by a

return of the Jews to the land of Canaan, their spiritual recovery, the reign of

Antichrist, the visible return of Jesus to the Mount of Olives and the ushering-

ing in of the Messianic Age.   All the early Church writers beginning with

Polycarp, the Bishop of Smyrna and the disciple of John the Apostle,

wrote of this. There is not one writer of this period that expounds the errors

of Pretextology  or Replacement Theology, not one!   The eschatological

commentator Peters writes:

 

‘Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, Aristio, John the

Presbyter-all these are cited by Papias, who according to Irenaeus,

was one of John’s hearers, and intimate with Polycarp. Now this

reference to the apostles agrees with the facts that we have proven:

that the disciples of Jesus did hold the Jewish views of the Messianic

reign in the first part of this century and that, instead of discarding

them, they linked them with the Sec. Advent. Next Clement of Rome,

who existed about A.D. 40-100, Barnabas about A.D. 40-100, Hermas

from A.D. 40-140, Ignatius, Bishop of Antioch, died under Trajan,

about A.D. 50-115, Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna, a disciple of the

Apostle John, who lived about A.D. 70-167 and Papias, Bishop of

Hierapolis lived between A.D. 80-163.”

 

On the other hand Pretextology or Replacement Theology had its beginnings

with a Church Father called Origen who, coming from the Alexandrian School

of Theology, propagated the allegorical method of interpreting the Bible and

thereby discounted the promises made to the Jewish people in the Abra-

hamic Covenant and transferred them to the Church. Augustine, A.D.185-

254, a man of great intellect, embodied these views in his famous work called

“The City of God.” This work rejected the notion of a “Jewish Kingdom” and

introduced a whole new theory about the Millennium called Amillennialism.

Dwight Pentecost writes:

 

“Thus Augustine made several important assertions which molded

eschatological thinking: (1) He denied that the millennium would

follow the second advent, (2) he held that the millennium would fall

in the inter-advent period, and (3) he taught that the church is the

kingdom and there would be no literal fulfillment of the promises

made to Israel….”

 

The views of Origen and Augustine have been adopted by many parts of the

Church until today because Martin Luther’s Reformation, consumed with

establishing the truth that we are put right with God by exercising faith alone

in Jesus’ finished work on the cross, failed to reform this misguided

teaching which contradicted that of the Apostles and early Church leaders.

Again, it is those holding to Pretextology who have, through the centuries,

despised the Jews, persecuted the Jews, exiled them, murdered them in

pogroms and crusades and gassed them in industrialized killing facilities.

 

It was only in 1965 that the Catholic Church finally did away with “The

Teaching of Contempt” that for centuries had echoed the words of

Augustine who stated “it was the will of God to keep a remnant of

the Jews alive in a degraded state as living witnesses of the Christian

truth.”

 

  1. Bishop Ryle has made the following observations:

 

“I believe it is high time for the Church to awake out of its sleep about Old

Testament prophecy. From the time of the old Fathers, Jerome and Origen,

down to the present day, men have gone on in a pernicious habit of

“spiritualizing” the words of the Prophets, until their true meaning has been

well nigh buried. It is high time to lay aside traditional methods of interpreta-

tion, and to give up our blind obedience to the opinions of such writers as

Pool, Henry, Scott, and Clarke, upon unfulfilled prophecy. It is high time to

fall back on the good old principle that Scripture generally means what it

seems to mean…”

 

“It is high time for Christians to interpret unfulfilled prophecy by the light of

prophecies already fulfilled. The curses on the Jews were brought to pass

literally: -so also will be the blessings. The scattering was literal: – so also will

be the gathering. The pulling down of Zion was literal: – so also will be the

building up. The rejection of Israel was literal:-so also will be the

restoration.”

 

  1. Indeed God made (cut) the Abrahamic Covenant in such a way with Abraham

that He alone passed through the sacrificial offerings and then He required of

Abraham that, as a demonstration of his commitment and obedience, he

should sacrifice his only son Isaac on an altar at Mt. Moriah (Genesis 15:17;

Genesis 22:1-3; Genesis 22:15-18). Abraham faithfully obeyed this require-

ment and thus, from that day forward, the Covenant would be uncondition-

ally fulfilled by God Himself; a promise that He has never faltered on. Daniel

Lee writes:

“Most modern evangelicals classify the Abrahamic Covenant

as unconditional. But the label is ambiguous. A review of the

covenant passages strongly suggests that the blessings prom-

ised to Abraham were conditioned on his obedience-making

the covenant in this sense conditional. On the other hand,

once Abraham obeyed God’s commands, the covenant became

prophetically guaranteed-and is, in this sense, unconditional.”

(Daniel Lee-Quodlibet Journal: Volume 6 number 3, July-September 2004.

Issn: 1526-6575)

 

 

 

 

 

 

The House that Fell

The House that Fell

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            “If the peoples of Europe in the seventh and eighth centuries,

             and on up to and including the seventeenth century, had not

             possessed a military equality with, and gradually a growing

             superiority over the Mohammedans, who invaded Europe,

             Europe would at this moment be Mohammedan and the

             Christian religion would be exterminated. Wherever the

             Mohammedans have had complete sway, wherever the

             Christians have been unable to resist them by the sword, Christ-

             ianity has ultimately disappeared…”

 

             Theodore Roosevelt, 26th President of the United States of America

 

            “The trouble is not that Islam has been violent, it has always

             been violent. It has a consistent record of violence that goes

             back over a thousand years. If history is any guide it will go

             on being violent a thousand years from now, if the world

             continues to be plagued by its savage barbarism for that long.

             Complaining that Islam is violent, that it is abusive, totalitarian

             and rejects co-existence on equal terms is as much as complain-

             ing that the rain is wet.”

                                                            Daniel Greenfield

 

            “The Arab regimes are a noxious brew of theocratic tyrannies,

             military dictatorships and/or nepotistic monarchies.”

                                                            Martin Sherman

 

According to Islamic theology the world is divided into two parts; the House of Peace and the House of War or the Dar al Salaam and the Dar al Harb. Those living in the “House of Peace” are under Sharia Law, which is Islamic rule; they enjoy the most advanced civilization on earth and consequently live in paradise. Theirs is by far a superior religion and culture to any other and those outside of it are inferior infidels or kaffirs that by Jihad, the waging of holy war, have to be overcome and brought into submission to Islam and thereby into the magnificent House of Peace.

There is just one small problem to all of this in that that those living in the House of Peace everywhere are in revolt and consequently overwhelmed by the brutality of war and barbarism and are in fact tearing one another apart. Those that can are attempting to escape paradise by fleeing to the “Crusader West!  Martin Sherman writes, ”Across virtually the entire Arab world, from the Atlantic Ocean in the West to the Persian Gulf in the East; from the Sahara desert in the South to the upper reaches of the Euphrates in the North, naked violence engulfs entire countries-Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Libya. Others-like Lebanon and Egypt-are perennially on the cusp of its eruption; and in others (like Bahrain and Saudi Arabia), it lurks, simmering just below the surface, constrained only by the iron grip of police-state tyranny.” To be blunt those living in paradise quickly discovered that this meant the removal of their freedoms and human rights and their subjugation under the heel of despots, murderers and thugs who, in the name of Islam, have robbed them of their human dignity and perpetuated this never ending cycle of abuse by handing over power to their sons or “friends.”

In other words, there is no “bright shining city on a hill” in the Islamic world giving credibility to their utopian claims. The house has fallen; it is split open and thereby laid bare for all to see the truth. No wonder the Islamic block has been desperately trying to get a resolution passed in the United Nations that, if passed, will make it a crime to criticize Islam. They knew all along how bad things were and wanted to cover it all up and then the arrival of ISIS made it all quite embarrassing. Too bad that Twitter, Face Book and text messaging came along in the “nick of time” as well to reveal the truth!

And, what may we ask of the so-called moderate Islamic movement that was fêted, entertained and heavily promoted by the Obama Administration called, “The Muslim Brotherhood?” This “moderate” expression of Islam has relentlessly embarked upon a murdering rampage against the Coptic Christians of Egypt. They have burned Churches down to the ground and literally hacked the Christian worshipers in them to death. Is anyone taking notice and, more important still, is Islam really a religion of peace? If murdering Christians is what moderate Muslims are committed to doing then how can we believe that Islam is really a religion of peace? Muslims, to be sure, have some explaining to do.

Now, of course, as war and conflict engulfs the Muslim world of the Middle East it will all be blamed on Israel and in particular its top secret Shark that now swims free in the Red Sea gathering vital intelligence for the Zionist entity and on its Eagle that embarks on reconnaissance flights over the region likewise gathering sensitive information for its Israeli handlers!

The real truth is that, the peoples of the region are tired of the theocratic rule of Islam that has only kept them poor, enslaved, illiterate and subjugated even though the region enjoys fabulous oil wealth. By the way, where has all this wealth gone? The answer is simple; into the pockets of the ruling elite! Is it not incredible that Israel’s Gross Domestic Product or National Economic Output is bigger than that of most nations in the region combined? Could this have something to do with democracy and freedom? What do you think? And, while talking about Israel, one thing that has emerged by this widespread upheaval in the region is that Israel is not the real Apartheid State in the Middle East but the Arab nations are! In the House of Peace there has been no democracy, no freedom of religion, no equality under the law for minorities, no freedom of press, no equal rights for women, no independent judiciary and no freedom of speech. I grew up in a country like this, it was called South Africa!! Thank God this house also fell because a house built on oppression and human rights abuses must eventually implode. South Africa did just this just as the House of Islam is today. For sure the only “shining city on a hill” in the Middle East is Israel. Of course to concede this is definitely not politically correct. A few Arab journalists who recently did were relieved of their positions and strongly warned not to stray again into such nonsense.

It therefore appears that the truth is finally out and not because of the West or because of the European Union or the United Nations (They were far too busy passing resolutions against Israel and designating the Old City of Jerusalem an Islamic site) but because men and women, mostly young at that, on the “main street” of the Islamic world have decided that enough is enough. No one really knows how all of this will turn out but we can only hope that once the dust of this many-sided conflict in the Middle East has settled that the “house” that emerges will be a kind, compassionate and peaceful one where everyone is free and protected by a truly democratic system guarded and watched over by an independent judiciary. Actually, much like Israel. Oops, I shouldn’t have stated that. But come to think of it; Israel, having built such a house in only a few years, could be well placed to give some good advice to the Islamic world on nation building and financial prosperity. Just a thought.

Malcolm Hedding

The Message of Repentance – Week 17 / April 25

The Message of Repentance – Week 17 / April 25

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“Blessed is the Lord God of Israel. For He has visited

                                                 and redeemed His people, and has raised up a horn

                                                 of salvation for us in the house of His servant David.”

                                                                                                                Luke 1:68-69

                                                “Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but

                                                 now commands all men everywhere to repent.”

                                                                                                                Acts 17:30

                                                “Then He said to them, “Thus it is written, and thus

                                                 it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise

                                                 again from the dead the third day, and that repent-

                                                 ance and remission of sins should be preached in

                                                 His name to all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.”

                                                                                                                Luke 24:46-47

As days of violence, anarchy, wars and natural disasters cover the earth we can be tempted to give way to despair and therefore wonder where it will all end. Add to this the degradation of the environment and the picture only worsens. Our world is in trouble, we are in trouble!

The root of this trouble lies in humankind’s nature. To put it simply; there is something wrong with the human heart because it has rebelled against God and consequently, having been cut off from God, is predisposed toward evil. The Prophet Jeremiah put it this way; “The heart of man is desperately sick and wicked above all things” (Jeremiah 17: 19). David, the great Psalmist of Israel, declared that, “There is none good no not one,” (Psalm 14:1-3) and Paul writing in his Roman epistle said, “For all have sinned and have fallen short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). He also asserted that the human heart has become a enemy of God and is therefore not neutral but antagonistic to the things of God (Romans 5:10). These notions of humankind’s sinfulness are of course rejected by our secular world and sadly even by some in the Christian church. For “these worlds” humankind is essentially good and all its problems are largely caused by one’s position in life or by circumstances outside of one’s control. We are all victims and not responsible for our behavior and misery! The Bible affirms that we are indeed the sinful troublemakers that it makes us out to be! Addressing the human condition Dr. Peter Watt writes:

William Temple, Archbishop of Canterbury during the Second World War

wrote, “There cannot be a God of love’, men say, ‘because if there was,

and He looked upon the world, His heart would break.’ The Church points

to the cross and says, ‘It did break.’ It’s God who made the world men say.

It’s He who should bear the load.’ The church points to the cross and says,

‘He did bear it.”

For those then who love God and who have consequently cast themselves upon His grace and redeeming love in Christ, there is a bright, glorious and eternal future (Psalm 1:1-3). The key then to rectifying our “broken and diseased hearts” is, and always will be, repentance. This means owning up to one’s personal wickedness and repenting at the cross for all that one has done and has become. Again, this notion is generally rejected by our arrogant world because of pride. The fallen heart does not easily come to terms with its awful condition but when it repents and embraces Jesus as Lord it enters into God’s only solution for it. This solution is grounded in that which Jesus did for us on the cross. For this reason God commands all men everywhere to repent (Acts 17:30) and Jesus began and concluded His ministry with a call to repentance (Mark 1:15; Luke 24:46-47).

For those who have the courage to embrace God’s gift of repentance and atoning love in Christ there is laid up for them a pathway of hope, joy and eternal life. This is the unfailing promise of God and this is the only way to travel through a world fast falling apart. We have heart trouble and only the God of the Bible can permanently rectify this condition. In fact His love for the world is so great that His word states that “He is not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2Peter 3:9).

As we continue to reflect on the great events surrounding Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection we are reminded of God’s grace and love and of His willingness to redeem lives that are sinful, broken and even given over to the Devil. This redeeming love was first brought forth and seen in Israel and then it has gone to the four corners of our world (John 1:6-13). It seeks for and redeems hearts that are humble enough to submit to it and it constantly reminds the world that Jesus came into the world not to condemn it but to save it (John 3:17). This He did by bearing in His own body the awful consequences of the world’s rebellion against God; His sufferings were substitutionary or in our place but He rose from the dead triumphant enabling us all to begin again in fellowship and friendship with God and free from our sins and fallen natures. This is good news!

May you experience the joy, peace and blessing of God in this special season of contemplation.

Malcolm Hedding

Passover and Easter – Week 15 / April 10th

Passover and Easter – Week 15 / April 10th

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                                “Now on the first day of Unleavened Bread, when they killed

                                 the Passover Lamb, His disciples said to Him, “Where do you

                                 want us to go and prepare, that You may eat the Passover?”

                                                                                                Mark 14:12

                                “The next day John saw Jesus coming toward him, and said,

                                 “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the

                                 world.”

                                                                                                John 1:29

                                “….and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said,

                                 “Take, eat; this is My body which is broken for you; do

                                 this in remembrance of Me.” In the same manner He also

                                 took the cup after supper, saying, “This cup is the new

                                 covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in

                                 remembrance of Me.”

                                                                                                1 Corinthians 11:24-25

 

This year, as in some previous years, Passover and Easter fall in the same week. Their connection is not just one that has to do with our annual calendars but they mirror each other, though separated by thousands of years in terms of their historical context. The one took place 3300 years ago in Egypt and the other 2000 years ago in Jerusalem. What they both have in common is:

  1. The condemnation of the world.

Without the vicarious suffering of another the world, including all of Israel in Egypt, would fall prey to death at the hands of the Angel of Death. Death is more than just our physical expiration; it is being separated from God for all eternity.  We are all a people condemned to die because of our sins.

  1. The marvelous grace of God.

That which saves us from death is not our good works or efforts but the grace of God alone. The Jews in Egypt were as much at risk as the Egyptians were when the Angel of Death approached. Their only hope was the blood of a lamb that had to be appropriated on the door posts and lintels of their homes. In like manner only the blood of the Lamb of God, applied to the doorposts of our hearts can save us from death. God’s grace is wonderful and frees us from a “works based” attempt to please Him. By grace we have been saved!

  1. The changing of our circumstances.

The Israelites of old had to be dressed and ready to leave Egypt in haste. They would now be a changed people who would find their new life in God who came down to deliver them by His mighty hand. They would never be the same again. In like manner we leave the world (Egypt) and follow Christ Who has transformed us, changed our hearts and made us “new creatures.”

  1. The pursuit of the enemy.

Though redeemed and brought under God’s protection, the Israelites were relentlessly pursued by the Egyptians at many levels and not just physically. It’s one thing to come out of Egypt but it’s entirely another to get Egypt out of your heart! For forty years and more the Israelites battled and struggled with the latter. We too have been saved from sin but it takes a lifetime to get sin out of our hearts! In both cases however the enemy has been defeated. “The horse and rider has been thrown into the sea!”

  1. The care, provision and protection of God.

The Exodus story serves as a marvelous lesson about the love that God has for His people. Those redeemed by the blood of a lamb are God’s precious people a holy nation and a royal priesthood. He watches over them day and night. Likewise the Church is also deemed a holy nation and a royal priesthood and Jesus said “Lo I am with you always even unto the end of the age.” The lesson is clear; those that are” blood bought” enjoy God’s presence and cannot be separated from Him.

  1. The hope of a promised land.

The Israelites went out of Egypt with the sure assurance that they would inherit a land of milk and honey; and they did. We too have gone out of the Egypt of sin looking for a city that has “foundations whose architect and builder is God.” God desires to dwell forever with His children and indeed He will. Jesus said, “In my Father’s house are many mansions; I go to prepare a place for you that where I am you may be also.”

Isn’t it amazing how Passover and Easter reflect each other? The truth is, they do reflect each other and are really one and the same! Jesus celebrated Passover with His disciples and in the middle of this celebration, as He drank the cup of Redemption, He stated that this represented His blood that, like that of a lamb, would be poured out for the saving of the world and as He broke the Matzos Bread, He called their attention to the fact that this was a symbol of His body that would be broken for the world and for the healing thereof.

As we therefore celebrate these things let us do so with great reverence and fear, for God Himself has come down to save and deliver us from our sins and to give us a new and glorious start in life. To Him be all the praise and glory!

Malcolm Hedding

Galatians 3:16

Galatians 3:16

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                 “Now to Abraham and his Seed were the promises made,
                  He does not say, “And to seeds,” as of many, but as of
                  one, “And to your Seed,” who is Christ.” – Galatians 3:16

 

                  “Also I give to you and your descendants (seeds) after
                   you the land in which you are a stranger, all the land
                   of Canaan as an everlasting possession; and I will be
                   their God.” – Genesis 17:8

Those who see no biblical significance in Israel’s modern day restoration believe that Israel, by virtue of her rejection of Jesus, has forfeited the promises pertaining to Canaan made to her by God in the Abrahamic Covenant. For them all these promises are now fulfilled in the person of Christ and, as proof of their position, they routinely quote Galatians 3:16 and then go on to build a whole theological system that violates the context of this passage and the wider body of scripture.

 

The truth is:

1. Galatians 3:16 is not in context dealing with God’s promise of the land of Canaan to the Jewish people. It is in fact dealing with the great question of Paul’s day, and indeed of ours, which is, are we saved by attempting to keep the Law or by exercising faith in Jesus’ once for all finished work on the cross? Paul is advocating for the latter.

2. Galatians 3:16 as quoted by Paul is only referring to one aspect of the Abrahamic Covenant and thereby it does not negate the others. So, in this regard it is referring to Genesis 22, where, after Abraham’s obedience to God is confirmed by his willingness to give up his only son Isaac, God promises him that the blessing of salvation will come to the world through one person, “a seed”, and consequently the Law that came 430 years later does not negate this promise (Galatians 3:17). This in no way means that the promises to Israel, “the seeds”, have been removed as some assert and Galatians 3:16 is definitely not advocating for this. Indeed Paul in this very same passage confirms that the Abrahamic Covenant, in all its aspects, cannot be annulled. The writer of the book of Hebrews, writing to Jews, states that it is impossible for God to ever annul the Abrahamic Covenant because God cannot lie and has confirmed it by His oath and character (Hebrews 6:13-18).

3. Galatians 3:16 is therefore no grounds whatsoever to assert that the promises in the Abrahamic Covenant giving Israel everlasting possession of Canaan have been removed. This is no where stated in the text and it is not the context under discussion. This means that Israel’s modern day restoration is evidence of God’s faithfulness to His covenant made with Abraham and has biblical credentials. It is therefore not an accident of history.

4. Galatians 3:16 is indeed a promise, given 4000 years ago, that a Redeemer will come and by His sacrificial work, mirrored in Isaac’s sacrifice or binding, will save those who trust in Him. Salvation is not brought to us by the Law, which came to the world by the “seeds” (people of Israel), but by exercising faith in Jesus’ finished work on the cross. This is Paul’s point.

5. Galatians 3:16 therefore constitutes a promise that was given in a body of promises that made up the Abrahamic Covenant. None of these promises have failed or will fail because in essence it is one Covenant. If one part fails then all the parts fail. James applies the same principle to the Mosaic Covenant (James 2:10). So, Israel journeyed to the promised land from Egypt, was exiled twice and has returned twice to the promised land because of God’s faithfulness to this Covenant. History is thus a testimony to its efficacy. God has been faithful to the “seeds.” The assertion then that part of the covenant has been annulled is just nonsense.

6. Galatians 3:16 is in every way a prophetic promise that “a seed” or Savior would come into the world to redeem it from sin. This coming Messiah is served by the “seeds” or people of Israel since He arises out of and from them. Jesus acknowledged this when He said that, “Salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22). Was He by this statement negating His saving work? Definitely not! He was merely asserting the context and world out of which He arose and all because of the promises of the Abrahamic Covenant. This context or “world of His brethren” will shortly, by their present restoration to Jerusalem, provide Him with a platform to again return to the world so as to rule it with a “rod of iron.”

7. Galatians 3:16 does not contradict an amazing body of prophetic literature referring to Israel in the Bible that has yet to be fulfilled. These clearly foresee a time when Israel will be restored to the land of Canaan never to be uprooted or exiled again (Amos 9:13-15). The Jewish people were uprooted in 586 BC and 70 AD and now I believe that they have returned never to be removed from the land again. The Prophet Obadiah speaks of a restoration of the Jews to Canaan whereby, for the first time in history, they will possess al the land promised to them (Obadiah 17). Ezekiel also speaks of a day when Israel will return to the land in unbelief and thereafter be redeemed by the reception of a new heart of flesh and consequently she will live in the land forever (Ezekiel 36:24-28). The Prophet Jeremiah goes a step further by declaring that as long as the luminaries are in place just so long will Israel exist as a nation before God. Notice that the Prophet is not referring to a dispersed people in exile but to the people of Israel regathered in nationhood (Jeremiah 31:35-47). All of these prophetic statements pertaining to Israel’s future are the outflow of God’s promises to the Jewish people embodied in the Abrahamic Covenant. They will not fail and those who assert that Galatians 3:16 negates them are just plain wrong.

All of this brings into focus the following question, ” Was Paul a theological innovator or Bible expositor?” The well known Christological  theologian, James Denney, says that the answer lies in the latter. Paul was no innovator but rather a faithful expounder of biblical truth. He did not change the clear and simple meaning of scripture and certainly did not give himself to innovation when dealing with the Abrahamic Covenant when he penned the words of Galatians 3:16. The Abrahamic Covenant has therefore not been adjusted or abolished in any way and those quoting Galatians 3:16 in order to claim this are not rightly dividing the word of God.

Malcolm Hedding

Some Thoughts About Purim – Week 11 / March 17

Some Thoughts About Purim – Week 11 / March 17

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                  “For if you remain completely silent at this time, relief
                   and deliverance will arise for the Jews from another
                   place, but you and your father’s house will perish. Yet
                   who knows whether you have come to the kingdom
                   for such a time as this?”  Esther 4:14

The story of Purim, which records the deliverance of the Jews, from certain genocide, by Esther is an interesting one indeed. We of course have this record preserved for us in that book of the Bible that goes by Esther’s name. Given that the festival of Purim has just been celebrated by the Jewish world it is worthwhile to meditate on a few things concerning this story.

Some things are unaltered.

As it was in Esther’s time, the hatred of Jews and Israel continues as an evil phenomenon. The Festival of Purim is taken from the word Pur which actually can be interpreted as, those who cast lots (vote for) the destruction of the Jews. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to discern that this evil desire has not gone away. In one sense Haman lives on today.

Just think of the following:
There has been in one year a 34% rise in anti-Semitism in the UK alone. The Jews of France, Sweden, Belgium and the Netherlands are constantly being subjected to anti-Semitic attacks of one type or another and then in recent weeks the Jewish community of America has been consistently targeted by anti-Semites who have desecrated Jewish grave yards and community buildings and have consistently threatened their schools with bomb attacks. Israel, the “collective Jew”, exists under the constant threat of attack from the north, south and east. All of this just seventy-five years after the Holocaust.

Some things are unusual.
Esther was the Queen of a Gentile Media-Persian King, the truth is she had held her Jewish identity a well kept secret. It also means that to a great degree she had assimilated, and thus in every way she had lived like a Gentile. How else can one explain the fact that not even the King knew of or suspected her Jewish identity and yet God had planted her at the very heart of the kingdom? The God we serve does unusual things in terms of His protection of Israel and the Jewish people. Even now He has Esthers planted in the right places of power and prestige in order to save His people. Joseph is another example of this; he dressed as an Egyptian, worked as an Egyptian and even looked like an Egyptian but he was a Jew sent before his people to save them from starvation and extermination. This is indeed unusual. Ruth, a Gentile woman, is another example of this and she gave hope to Naomi, saved her from poverty and shame and then took her place in David’s lineage.

Some things are unexpected.
Mordecai said to Esther, “…you have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.” Most Christians understand this coming to the kingdom as referring to the kingdom of God. This is not true and is a violation of the context. The “kingdom” to which Esther came was the pagan kingdom of the Media-Persian empire. In other words she had been cunningly placed by God, Who in fact is not referred to at all in the book, in the heart of this pagan empire so as to use her influence in it to save her people.

In like manner, we all have a sphere of influence in the world and we must use it to defend Israel and the Jews and in fact to proclaim the Gospel. Our ” kingdom” is our place of influence in an ungodly world.

Some things are undecided.
Giving verbal support to these things is not good enough and thus it remains undecided whether we will arise like Esther and use our position in the world to defend the purpose of God and even risk our lives for the Church and the Jewish people. There comes a time when having meetings and even praying is not enough to please God, we have to act. The book of Esther is about action and this is why God is not mentioned in the book but His purpose is clear and it needs defending!

Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the now famous Lutheran Priest, fled Germany just before the Second World War as he wished to escape from the tyranny of Hitler’s Reich. He thus went to New York. One day, as he stood gazing at the Hudson River, he heard the voice of God say to him, “Who are you and what are you doing here.” In short, God was saying to him, “What are you made of and why have you abandoned your sphere of influence?” Consequently he went back to Germany and in his ministry stood up against Nazism. He embraced his sphere of influence that he had abandoned and eventually gave his life for it as the Nazis hanged him just before the war ended. The lesson is, as it was with Esther, will we decide to take the challenge and embrace our world of influence? Mordecai knew, when he spoke to Esther, that the issue was undecided and therefore he told her that if she didn’t rise to the challenge someone else would. This challenge applies to you and me today and the outcome remains undecided!

Malcolm Hedding

Behold I Make All Things New – Week 9 / March 2nd

Behold I Make All Things New – Week 9 / March 2nd

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“For behold, I create new heavens and a

new earth; and the former shall not be

remembered or come to mind. But be

glad and rejoice forever in what I create;

for behold, I create Jerusalem as a rejoicing,

and her people a joy.”

Isaiah 65:17-18

 

The world we presently live in has been subjected to futility and consequently decay and death are everywhere evident (Romans 8:18-22). Even we are “trapped” by physical death that, while having no sting because of what Jesus did for us, nevertheless still holds a certain foreboding in all of us. Then there is the raging of the ungodly that brings misery, sorrow, destruction, persecution and war to our earthly experience. This should not be because a lonely cross set on a hill in Jerusalem defeated these things 2000 years ago but it remains ignored and even mocked and so the rot continues.

The good news is that God is going to make all things new again! This is His promise and indeed it is required because of what Jesus did; the cosmos must be set in order (Ephesians 1:9-10). A “new creation family” must have a new world to live in and in this world they will shine like the sun (Daniel 12:3; Matthew 13:43). So, the final two chapters of the book of Revelation tell us about the coming:

New World Order (Revelation 21:5)

For those who overcome there will be a new order that is truly beyond description. It will be the inheritance of those who have embraced Jesus as Lord and who, in their lives on the present earth, have honored God with transformed lives and deeds of righteousness in the face of great and overwhelming challenges (Revelation 19:8). They have “overcome” this evil age and have become what God wanted them to be by the power of the cross (Galatians 1:3-4).

This new order will be characterized by:

  1. A new heavens and a new earth (Revelation 21:1)

The beauty and glory of this coming creation will be amazing because it will not be retarded by the principles of death and decay. These will be things of the past.

  1. A new city (Revelation 21:2)

The great Patriarchs of our faith went out in pursuit of God because they were given a glimpse of the City of God (Hebrews 11:10; 13:14). Indeed, like them we too abandon the “attraction of the earthly city” because God has something better for us. The eternal City of God will be 1500 miles wide, long and high; its glories are indescribable but John does give us a description of them (Revelation 21:10-21).

This city will have Jewish under-pinnings thereby eternally memorializing the particular role that Israel has played out for the redemption of the world (Revelation 21:12-14) Jesus recognized this when He said, “Salvation is of the Jews”(John 4:22).

  1. A new relationship (Revelation 21:3-4)

God Himself will be visible and amongst His people and He will personally remove the “former things” from them. What a glorious day this is going to be! This embodiment of the divine presence will find its full expression in the person of Jesus. The passage tells us that He:

  • Will be the joy of the city (Revelation 21:9)
  • Will be the desire of the city (Revelation 21:22)
  • Will be the light of the city (Revelation 21:23)
  • Will be the door to the city (Revelation 21:27)
  • Will be the life of the city (Revelation 22:1)
  • Will be the King of the city (Revelation 22:3)
  1. What is absent? (Revelation 21:8; 22:15)

This list is challenging because it tells us that those who:

  • Worship themselves or things other than God
  • Reject the sexual boundaries created by God
  • Practice the occult in rebellion against God
  • Habitually lie and contradict the character of God…and,
  • Take life and thereby dishonor the image of God……………

Will go to hell! They will find themselves “in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.

The abiding expectation and longing that God’s new people have is for the coming of Jesus. We should constantly hold this before our spiritual eyes as it is certain and it constitutes a blessed hope that will keep us true to our confession of faith in Him. “Behold, Jesus says, “I am coming quickly” (Revelation 22:7, 12,16, 20)

“Amen. Even so, come Lord Jesus!

 

Malcolm Hedding