Romans 11 and the Destiny of Israel: A Comparative Study

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Photo Credit: Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Introduction

There is no shortage of biblical scholarship pertaining to the destiny of Israel in Romans 11. Amillennialists and premillennialists alike have posited heavily researched articles and books that attempt to place Romans 11 in the context of the Apostle Paul’s letter. Both have also tediously endeavored to correctly analyze the grammar and syntax of this controversial yet important chapter in God’s Word. Despite such painstaking efforts, it is doubtful that simply the exegetical arguments presented by the amillennialist will convince the premillennialist, and vice versa. The reason being has virtually nothing to do with intelligence or close-mindedness, but rather with one’s theological method. Therefore, in this research, the views espoused within amillennialism and premillennialism must be first considered as stated by their proponents. Subsequently, several exegetical observations will be addressed to identify where the differences are between amillennialism and premillennialism, but most specifically in regards to the destiny of Israel, namely, whether or not a mass conversion awaits national Israel in the future. Based on a comparison between the views, it will be contended that the premillennial perspective provides the most natural and normal interpretation of the data, which is based on a literal hermeneutic that seeks to understand the text of Scripture without basing assertions largely on theological presuppositions.

Amillennial Views of the Destiny of Israel in Romans 11

John Calvin is a Christian thinker heavily respected by men and women who adhere to both amillennial and premillennial positions of eschatology. While Calvin’s soteriology might be more broadly shared between the two views, his eschatology favors the amillennial view. According to Calvin, “The Israel of God is what [the Apostle Paul] calls the Church, gathered alike from Jews and Gentiles.”[1] Therefore, when Romans 11:26 speaks of how “all Israel will be saved,” Calvin’s interpretation, which is shared by many amillennialists, would indicate that Israel has no ethnic purpose in this context, but is equated with the universal Church. The amount of diversity in opinion from amillennialists alone, however, is notable. Charles Hodge has explained the opposite opinion of Calvin in regards to the ethnic ramifications of Romans 11: “Israel, here, from the context, must mean the Jewish people, and all Israel, the whole nation. The Jews, as a people, are now rejected; as a people, they are to be restored. As their rejection, although national, did not include the rejection of every individual; so their restoration, although in like manner national, need not be assumed to include the salvation of every individual Jew.”[2] Calvin and Hodge are two renowned Reformed thinkers who would share similar beliefs about eschatology, but Romans 11 is a passage that can divide amillennialists.

One of the reasons why amillennialists have trouble finding common ground with fellow proponents of their eschatological system is the interpretive question of how to understand the time length involved in “Israel’s” salvation. Some believe that the timeframe is “synchronic,” which refers only to “Israel” at the end of the time of the “fullness of the Gentiles,” while others take the “diachronic” view, which requires “all Israel” to be referring to ethnic Jews, and specifically to believing Jews of all times.[3] There are amillennialists who take the synchronic view that would only consider “all Israel” as referring to the elect believers who are ethnically Jewish, and that number could be quite minimal. Charles M. Horne argues, “[W]hen Paul states that ‘all Israel shall be saved’ he means to refer to the full number of elect Jews whom it pleases God to bring into his kingdom throughout the ages until the very day when the full number of the Gentiles also shall have been brought in. In keeping with the context, ‘all Israel’ means ‘the remnant according to the election of grace’ (11:5), not the nation in its entirety.”[4] There are even some amillennialists who think that there will be some type of mass conversion prior to the return of Christ.[5] But Horne has adamantly insisted, “If Paul is speaking in 11:26 of a future mass conversion of the nation of Israel, then he is destroying the entire development of his argument in chaps. 9-11.”[6] Thus, the synchronic view of the timeframe noted in Romans 11 is an open discussion within amillennialism.

The diachronic view is also a thoroughly defended theory within amillennialism that must be evaluated. Regarding the timeframe of the fullness of the Gentiles and the relevancy of “Israel” being saved, Ben Merkle has written, “This phrase is essentially terminative in its significance, implying the end of something. Yet, only the context can determine where the emphasis lies after the termination. Often the phrase is used in an eschatological context, where the termination envisioned contains a finalization aspect that makes questions concerning the reversal of the circumstance irrelevant.”[7] Merkle compared the construction of ἄχρι οὗ (translated “until”) with First Corinthians 11:16, referring to partaking of the Lord’s Super “until” he comes.[8] N.T. Wright holds a similar view as Merkle, viewing Jews who are saved in the present age as composing “Israel,” that is, elect believers within the Jewish nation.[9] All of these amillennial views are theoretically plausible, as interpreters have found ways to fit the texts of Romans 11 into a particular conclusion, even though the different views within amillennialism cannot coexist. The question is whether or not the theological method instituted to arrive at such conclusions is most preferable.

Premillennial Views of the Destiny of Israel in Romans 11

Premillennialists likewise have plenty of flexibility among themselves in terms of opinions on matters related to eschatology. Whereas covenant premillennialists consider only one people of God throughout history, dispensational premillennialists distinguish between Israel, which includes saved and unsaved people throughout history, and the Church, which only includes believers, both Jew and Gentile, in the present age. Nevertheless, premillennialists can find some common ground in the meaning of Romans 11. Michael G. Vanlaningham has argued:

Currently beset by a partial spiritual hardening toward God, a significant group of Jews will experience a future repentance and salvation. This will come at some future point in the church, perhaps as one of the series events that will compose Christ’s second coming. Paul adduces proof of this salvation with two quotations from Isaiah. Through this significant passage God’s future program for Israel becomes clearer than before.[10]

 

Meanwhile, John F. Walvoord, a stalwart defender of dispensational premillennialism would not view the timing of Romans 11 as being during the church age, but during the end of the Tribulation, and preceding the Second Coming of Christ. Walvoord has said, “The contrast throughout the passage is not between the believer and unbeliever, but between Gentiles as such and Israel as a nation. In Romans 11:25, the issue is brought to a head with the revelation that Israel’s present blindness and unbelief will be concluded at the same time that the present Gentile opportunity is ended.”[11] Thereafter, “all Israel” will be saved.

In recent years, premillennial scholars have put forward interpretations of many different aspects of Israel’s future in regards to Romans 11. Four of them are worth considering in this discussion, though more exist. First, while many often attack the discontinuity approach from a premillennial perspective in the understanding of history, Samuel A. Dawson sees both continuity and discontinuity in the plan of God throughout the ages. He has explained:

To forcefully drive this point home Paul uses an olive tree analogy to establish the continuity and discontinuity of God’s plan in dispensing his mercy. And although Paul begins this analogy by emphasizing the one historical root from which God dispenses his mercy to both Jew and Gentile (continuity), he mainly emphasizes the diverse way in which God dispenses his mercy throughout history (discontinuity), which opens up a future salvation for Israel that is in harmony with Old Testament prophecies.[12]

 

A second important contribution to premillennialism comes from Jim R. Sibley in his work on Romans 11:15. This verse reads in the Greek as follows: “εἰ γὰρ ἡ ἀποβολὴ αὐτῶν καταλλαγὴ κόσμου, τίς ἡ πρόσλημψις εἰ μὴ ζωὴ ἐκ νεκρῶν;” The issue here is whether or not Paul’s question of Israel’s “rejection” is to be rendered as an objective genitive or a subjective. Especially since Paul just insisted that God would never reject His people of Israel, and for a variety of other reasons, Sibley affirms that the phrasing of Romans 11:15 should be understood as Israel rejecting salvation in the present age, not as God rejecting Israel.[13]

David Q. Santos has provided yet another interpretation worth evaluating. His research focused on Romans 11:19-24, though in his article he provided a thorough background of the epistle as a whole. His thesis might be summarized as follows: “Paul’s conclusion regarding Israel is that, while it may be a mystery, Israel does have a future in God’s plan. There will be a time when the blinders will be removed from the nation and Israel will no longer live in unbelief. At that point, those natural branches will be regrafted and all Israel will be saved.”[14] Finally, Matt Waymeyer’s analysis of Romans 11:28 requires some attention:

Romans 11:28 is an often neglected verse that helps in determining which of the views is correct, because the pronoun “they” in v. 28 refers to the same people as the “all Israel” of v. 26. Since context requires that the pronoun “you” in v. 28 refers to Gentiles, the “enemies” and the “they” of v. 28 must be ethnic Jews, thereby eliminating the possibility of “all Israel” being the church. The two clauses in v. 28 describe what is true of ethnic Israel at the same time, not on condition prior to Israel’s salvation and another subsequent to that salvation. That eliminates the view that “all Israel” depicts an elect remnant of believing Jews, because they could hardly be enemies according to the gospel after becoming believers. The view that “all Israel” is the ethnic nation of Israel has v. 28 speaking of Israel’s dual status: simultaneously they are enemies according to the gospel and beloved because of the fathers.[15]

 

Both amillennialists and premillennialists have put forth countless hours of research to prove that one view is superior to the other in terms of understanding the context of Romans, grammatical observations, and general theological principles. Thus, a conscientious awareness of where the differences are is urgent, requiring a closer look at some exegetical observations from Romans 11.

Exegetical Observations in Romans 11

The first exegetical point requiring focus is the identity of Israel in Romans 11. According to Walvoord, “[T]here is not a single reference in the New Testament to Israel which cannot be taken in its plain meaning. Not a single instance requires the term to include Gentiles.”[16] Amillennialists would surely have a problem with Walvoord’s assertion. The first clause might be challenged in reference to Romans 9:6, which says, “For they are not all Israel who are descended from Israel” (οὐ γὰρ πάντες οἱ ἐξ Ἰσραήλ, οὗτοι Ἰσραήλ).[17] The NASB added the phrase “descended from,” so the verse could read: “For not all of Israel are Israel.” In the context of Romans 9, it can be readily deduced that Paul is referring to the fact that not all people within the nation of Israel are truly “Israel,” which is to distinguish the “children of the flesh” (national Israelites, but unbelievers) from the “children of the promise” (national Israelites, but believers). Walvoord’s second clause, however, places much more of a burden of proof on amillennialists. In Romans, Paul speaks quite frequently of Israel, and he does distinguish, as Romans 9 indicates, between believing and unbelieving Israelites. However, a literal interpretation of the data requires one to restrict “Israel” to only include Jews, but never Gentiles. In chapter 11, Paul includes the title “Israel” in verses 2, 7, 25, and 26. Clearly, he is referring to national Israel in verses 2 and 7, and there is no indication whatsoever of a change in meaning in verses 25 and 26. Jews and Gentiles share equal privileges in the Church, but in Romans 11 and elsewhere in the epistle, the amillennialist relies on a presupposition that “Israel” can include Gentiles. A much more natural reading of the text would restrict “Israel” to simply Jews, and the context would determine whether or not Paul is speaking of believing or unbelieving Jews.

A second exegetical observation necessitating comment is the meaning of the “fullness of the Gentiles.” Similarly to how Paul had already identified Israel in this context prior to verses 25 and 26, so also has he spoken about Gentiles (verses 11-13). The most natural way to interpret “Gentiles” is to conclude their identity as being non-Israelites. Therefore, when verse 25 speaks of the “fullness of the Gentiles,” the people being identified can be contrasted with national Israelites. Most believers in the present age are indeed Gentiles, but there will be a future moment in which the last Gentile will be redeemed. Furthermore, the Old Testament quotations of Isaiah 27:9 and Jeremiah 31:33-34 are massively significant. Ungodliness will be removed from “Jacob,” which can be understood as Israel since the patriarch, Jacob, had his name changed to Israel, and he is the progenitor from which the twelve tribes of Israel arose. The second passage refers to the New Covenant, which again originally referred to the nation of Israel, but in Jeremiah 31. Although Paul did not include the first clause from Jeremiah 31:34, surely he would not have disregarded its importance, where it says, “‘Know the Lord,’ for they will all know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.” Jeremiah 31 speaks comprehensively of Israel, which fits the context of Paul’s argument in Romans 11, “and so all Israel will be saved.” The partial hardening will not last forever over the people of Israel, but the fullness of the Gentiles must first come to a completion.

Conclusion

There are a variety of opinions on the meaning of Romans 11 and the destiny of Israel. However, Paul gives no clear signs that he means something different regarding the identity (and thus, the destiny) of Israel in verse 2 compared to verse 26. The fullness of the Gentiles indicates a time in which, according to both the Old and New Testament, all of Israel will be saved. This usage of “Israel” is no different than the Israel Elijah accused of killing God’s prophets and tearing down His altars (Romans 11:3). What is distinct is not the identity of Israel as being composed of something other than Jews, but that the fullness of the Gentiles will have to accomplish its purpose in provoking Jews at the end of their “partial hardening.” Walvoord summarized it well many decades ago, “During the present age a remnant of Israel is saved through the Gospel. The hardening or blindness is ‘in part.’ When Christ returns, the situation will be changed. Instead of a remnant, instead of a small part, Israel as a whole will be saved. It will be a national deliverance.”[18] Marvin Richardson Vincent has rendered “πώρωσις ἀπὸ μέρους” (Romans 11:25) as “Not partial hardening, but hardening extending over a part.”[19] Indeed, a large part of Israel is spiritually blinded from the true Messiah, while there is a remnant composed of believing Jews. The destiny of Israel is based off of the New Covenant promises of Jeremiah 31. Paul, in Romans 11, differs in no way in describing that future glory, but until the fullness of the Gentiles is completed, Israel remains composed of a remnant of believers and a large portion of unbelievers.

 

Notes:

[1] John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans, trans. and ed. John Owen (Grand Rapids: Baker, reprinted 1993), 437.

[2] Quoted in John F. Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” Bibliothecha Sacra 102:408 (October 1945), 411. Italics original.

[3] Ben Merkle, “Romans 11 and the Future of Ethnic Israel,” The Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 43:4 (December 2000), 711.

[4] Charles M. Horne, “The Meaning of the Phrase ‘And Thus All Israel Will Be Saved’ (Romans 11:26),” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 21:4 (December 1978), 334.

[5] For this discussion, see Lee Irons, “Paul’s Theology of Israel’s Future: A Nonmillennial Interpretation of Romans 11,” Reformation and Revival 6:2 (Spring 1997), 104.

[6] Horne, “The Meaning of the Phrase ‘And Thus All Israel Will Be Saved’ (Romans 11:26),” 333.

[7] Ben Merkle, “Romans 11 and the Future of Ethnic Israel,” 715.

[8] Ibid.

[9] For a critical essay of Wright’s view, see Michael G. Vanlaningham, “An Evaluation of N. T. Wright’s View of Israel in Romans 11,” Bibliothecha Sacra 170:678 (April 2013), 189. Vanlaningham says Wright’s “weakest” part of his argument concerns a lack of explanation of ἄχρι οὗ. However, taken under the umbrella of Merkle’s explanation, Wright’s view would likely be little or no different.

[10] Michael G. Vanlaningham, “Romans 11:25-27 and the Future of Israel in Paul’s Thought,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 3:2 (Fall 1992), 141.

[11] Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” 405.

[12] Samuel A. Dawson, “The Historical Outworking of God’s Plan to Dispense His Mercy Illustrated in the Olive Tree of Romans 11:16-24,” Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal 21 (2016), 107. Italics original.

[13] See especially Jim R. Sibley, “Has the Church Put Israel on the Shelf? The Evidence from Romans 11:15,” Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society 58:3 (September 2015), 576-580.

[14] David Q. Santos, “Israel and Her Future: An Exegesis of Romans 11:19-24,” Journal of Dispensational Theology 19:56 (Spring 2015), 84.

[15] Matt Waymeyer, “The Dual Status of Israel in Romans 11:28,” The Master’s Seminary Journal 16:1 (Spring 2005), 57.

[16] Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” 409.

[17] All English translations are from the New American Standard Bible.

[18] Walvoord, “Eschatological Problems IX: Israel’s Restoration,” 410.

[19] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 3 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), 130.

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Eschatalogical Conversion of Gentiles

Introduction

Much is written in the Bible about the eschatological implications of salvation in relation to Israel. The Great Tribulation strongly focuses on Israel (Daniel 9:24-27; Matthew 24:15-28; Revelation 21:1-8), as does the Millennium (Isaiah 2:2-4; 62:1-12). It may seem to some that God has neglected to speak about the salvation of the Gentiles in eschatological chapters of Scripture. But with just a brief overview of passages in both the Old and New Testaments, one will be able to realize that while God has not neglected His chosen nation of Israel and her promised eschatological blessings, He has also not left Gentiles without the hope of eschatological redemption and glory. Indeed, God has much to say regarding the salvation of Gentiles, specifically in the “conversion” of Gentiles. Thus, biblical observations will be presented to argue such a case.

 

Biblical Observations Concerning Eschatalogical Conversions of Gentiles

 

            Starting canonically in the book of Genesis, the very first prophecy of conversion pertaining to the Gentiles (though certainly Israelites would be included too) is the “proto-evangelium” passage of Genesis 3:15. God had not revealed to Adam and Eve His plans for an elect nation, only that, “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” The “offspring” who would gain victory over the serpent (who is Satan) is, of course, the Lord Jesus Christ (Revelation 12). But in considering the conversion of specifically the Gentiles, one must begin with the “first Gospel” (proto-evangelium) to see that it is by faith in the Son of God that anyone, Jew or Gentile, can be saved (Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:5).

Narrowing down to a more eschatological study, the passages to consider next would be from the book of Isaiah: chapters 2, 19, and 60 to name a few. Isaiah 2 speaks of a glorious future “concerning Judah and Jerusalem,” but within that prophecy is hope for surrounding nations, specifically their conversion. When Christ sets up His Kingdom reign, all nations will be attracted to the King and Zion itself, desiring to learn from and worship the LORD (2:2-3).

In Isaiah 19, Scripture speaks of the peace that is to come between historically contentious nations of Egypt, Assyria, and Israel. God even makes the mesmerizing prediction in verses 24-25, “In that day Israel will be the third with Egypt and Assyria, a blessing in the midst of the earth, whom the Lord of hosts has blessed, saying, ‘Blessed be Egypt my people, and Assyria the work of my hands, and Israel my inheritance.’” Some would count this passage as being shocking to hear with God’s comforting words towards non-Israelite nations, but indeed God has always had compassion for all people groups. Victor Buksbazen says verse 25 is “one of the most glorious lines in all of the Old Testament Scripture;”[1] one could hardly blame him. Israel (the believing remnant, that is) will turn back to God via the Great Tribulation, but interestingly, God’s Word provides the same hope for Egypt: “And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them” (Isaiah 19:22). Applicably, then, all nations have a future hope and a prophesied conversion (see Isaiah 60:1-3), but only through the Tribulation. God will strike the world to ultimately save it, so that all who repent and turn to Christ will enter the Kingdom of God.

            The precise details of Gentiles being converted and regenerated by God are foundational in the Old Testament, but further information is articulated in the New Testament. Whereas passages such as Isaiah 19 note that Gentile nations would have many converts to the LORD, preceded by God inflicting judgment, it is through Jesus’ Olivet Discourse that these future events are more clearly manifested. Following the Tribulation, Jesus Christ is about to set up His earthly Kingdom, but He must first judge the nations, illustrated in his parable of the “sheep” and the “goats.” Matthew 25:32 makes it clear that Jesus is referring not just to Israel, but all nations, declaring, “Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.” Barbieri and Barbieri note the comparison to Joel 3:2, 12 and then further state:

The expression “these brothers” must refer to a third group that is neither sheep nor goats. The only possible group would be Jews, physical brothers of the Lord…A Gentile going out of his way to assist a Jew in the Tribulation will mean that Gentile has become a believer in Jesus Christ during the Tribulation. By such a stand and action, a believing Gentile will put his life in jeopardy. His works will not save him; but his works will reveal that he is redeemed.[2]

Therefore, by linking the Old Testament to New Testament prophecies of Gentile conversions pertaining to eschatology, one can begin to understand how God will save people from both Israel and Gentile nations.

Yet, there is one more passage that is worth considering in these brief and by no means exhaustive biblical examples: Revelation 7:9-17. Here, the people in focus are “from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages” (vs. 9). These people are identified as “the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb” (vs. 14). John Walvoord says, “It seems evident that these ‘who have come out of the Great Tribulation’ have been martyred and were then safe in heaven.”[3] Therefore, while the Gentile believers in Matthew 25 were survivors of the Tribulations, those in Revelation 7 were killed for Christ’s sake. Hope of redemption for all Gentiles both now and in the eschaton is found in the LORD alone: “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” (Revelation 7:10)

 

Conclusion

 

            Although much of eschatology is related to God’s dealings with the nation of Israel, the idea that Gentile nations are neglected would be far from the truth. The conversions of Gentiles to Jesus Christ are made possible by the eschatological works of God through the Tribulation and Christ’s Kingdom. As always, the Holy Spirit will provide regeneration, the basis for salvation will be through the blood of Christ, and the requirement for salvation will be faith in Christ.[4] Far from being an afterthought of the LORD, Gentiles hold a special place in eschatology as evidenced in Scripture, all for the glory of God and the good of His followers.


[1] Victor Buksbazen, The Prophet Isaiah (Bellmawr, NJ: Friends of Israel, 2012), 218.

[2] Louis A. Barbieri and Jr., “Matthew” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Mt 25:34–40.

[3] John F. Walvoord, “Revelation” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Re 7:13–17.

[4] See especially J. Dwight Pentecost, “Salvation in the Tribulation,” BSAC 115:457 (Jan 1958), 56-59.

The Great Tribulation

photo credit: ivarfjeld.com

photo credit: ivarfjeld.com

Introduction 

To some theologians, the idea of a 7-year period of time of “tribulation,” preceding a 1,000-year reign of Christ is thought of as an invention of fundamentalism. It would even seem somewhat unnecessary to many others. Why would God spend so much time on future events in prophecy when it would be much simpler to purely have a general, final judgment of the saved and unsaved, followed by eternity future? The swiftest response would be that God’s Word expresses such details of a rapture, a tribulation period, and a millennial reign of Christ. However, for purposes of this research, the focus will narrow down to the great tribulation, namely, its biblical precedence and its importance in all of future prophecy.

Biblical Overview of the Great Tribulation

There are many biblical passages one could begin with in a discussion of the tribulation, but for beginning with “why” a tribulation period would be necessary for God’s plans as revealed in His Word, Romans 11 would be pertinent. Paul says in verses 25-27:

Lest you be wise in your own sight, I do not want you to be unaware of this mystery, brothers: a partial hardening has come upon Israel, until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in. And in this way all Israel will be saved, as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, he will banish ungodliness from Jacob”; “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.”

John Witmer comments on this section of Scripture by stating, “God’s sovereign plan to put Israel aside temporarily in order to show grace to Gentiles is no basis for conceit on the part of the Gentiles; it is designed to display further the glory of God.”[1] And it would seem most reasonable from this passage that God would be most glorified through a profound, national repentance of Israel. With national Israel in an almost unanimous rejection of the Messiah, how would such a dramatic change take place? The biblical answer is via a great tribulation.

The next passage to consider is Matthew 24, where Jesus speaks of some rather descriptive events. In verses 15-16, He says, “So when you see the abomination of desolation spoken of by the prophet Daniel, standing in the holy place (let the reader understand), then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains.” Obviously, it would be significant to know what Daniel was talking about in his text. In Daniel 9:26-27, the Scriptures say:

And after the sixty-two weeks, an anointed one shall be cut off and shall have nothing. And the people of the prince who is to come shall destroy the city and the sanctuary. Its end shall come with a flood, and to the end there shall be war. Desolations are decreed. And he shall make a strong covenant with many for one week, and for half of the week he shall put an end to sacrifice and offering. And on the wing of abominations shall come one who makes desolate, until the decreed end is poured out on the desolator.

Clearly, then, there are expected “abominations” to cause severe commotion. Subsequently, Matthew 25:21-22 connects the passage in Daniel to what Jesus is prophesying, “For then there will be great tribulation, such as has not been from the beginning of the world until now, no, and never will be. And if those days had not been cut short, no human being would be saved. But for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.” While Barbieri and Barbieri state, “The awful character of the Tribulation period cannot be truly grasped by anyone,”[2] the details that are given do not match up with anything in past history; the great tribulation must be still to come.

Two biblical books that speak quite definitively on details the tribulation are Daniel and Revelation. Alva McClain once wrote, “If [one] desire[s] to expound the Book of Revelation, [he] must begin with the Book of Daniel.”[3] In Daniel 9, we are told that the tribulation period will start with a covenant between the “prince who is to come” (the “little horn” from 7:24-25) and the “many,” which would be the nation of Israel. The Apostle Paul refers to this individual as “the man of lawlessness” in Second Thessalonians 2:3-4. Scripture leads its readers to believe that a temple will be formed in the tribulation and that it is the “man of lawlessness” who “takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God” (II Thess. 2:4). In time, however, many acts of judgment against Israel, specifically, and the entire world, generally, will result, as detailed in Revelation 6-19: the seal, trumpet, and then bowl judgments.[4] Meanwhile, there will be political alliances forming, the covenant between the “man of lawlessness” and Israel will be broken, Satanic influences will progress, and intense persecution will become inevitable. After the sheer horror of the “time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7), finally the Messiah will return and set up His Kingdom. And so the question must arise once again, “Why would God do this?” The simple answer is so that Israel might repent and believe on Christ as the Messiah and be banished of “ungodliness” (Romans 11:26). Jesus even prophesies the timing of His coming, as He spoke to Israel, “For I tell you, you will not see me again, until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord’” (Matthew 23:39). Until then, Israel will be under a “partial hardening” (Romans 11:25).

Conclusion

            The Bible is saturated, particularly the Old Testament, with national redemptive prophecies concerning the nation of Israel. Even the apostles became eager for such a time of restoration in Acts 1:6, asking Jesus, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” They must not have been listening to the words of Jesus in Matthew 23, for that time will come by God’s sovereignty through the great tribulation and by Israel’s repentance by turning to “him whom they have pierced” (Zechariah 12:10). Such a horrific time period as it is, nevertheless, will be used by God for His glory and for the good of His people. It will be the necessary precedent for God to fulfill His promises to Abraham and David, and to have the Palestinian and New Covenants come into fruition in the Kingdom. While the tribulation is about judgment and the repentance, ultimately, it is about God being glorified through fulfilling His promises. And although the path to that end is filled with great destruction, the glories of the Kingdom and eternity will be worth the trials and “great” tribulation.


[1] John A. Witmer, “Romans” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Ro 11:25–27.

[2] Louis A. Barbieri and Jr., “Matthew” in The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, ed. J. F. Walvoord and R. B. Zuck (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1985), Mt 24:15–26.

[3] Alva McClain, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1959), 6.

[4] See Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Chicago, IL: Moody, 1999), 542.

A.C. Gaebelein: A Compassionate Dispensational Premillennialist and Friend of Israel

Introduction

Through the years, Dispensationalists have been caricatured by a plethora of names, some positive, while others negative. John Gerstner, in his book Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth, called Dispensationalism a “cult.”[1] The well-acclaimed A.W. Pink described the conclusions of Dispensationalism as being “dreadfully superficial.”[2] John Bowman, in referring to the teachings of Dispensationalist C.I. Scofield said they “[represent] perhaps the most dangerous heresy currently to be found within Christian circles.”[3] Furthermore, Gerry Breshears and Mark Driscoll spoke of the practical implications of adopting a Premillennial, Dispensationalism as “a gloomy, pessimistic underrealized eschatology that thinks we can’t make a difference in the world as the church by the power of the gospel…”[4] Instead, a Covenant Theologian, according to Driscoll and Breshears, will be more inclined to “labor in hope until he returns by working on both the spiritual and physical needs of people, caring for the whole person including their food, water, shelter, education, and clothing.”[5] Perhaps all of these included accusations against Dispensationalists are correct. Maybe Dispensationalists are both doctrinally unorthodox and practically immobile towards the physical needs of the downtrodden and poor. But history argues against both conclusions, particularly in the case of A.C. Gaebelein. Rather than drawing out heretical teachings from Scripture, Gaebelein has produced both historically orthodox and intellectually satisfying writings on Scripture. Instead of being numb to the social and physical needs of others, Gaebelein exemplified a life of generosity, service, and compassion. Though not perfect in all his ways, Arno Clemens Gaebelein was still a great hero of the Christian faith, particularly in the areas of Jewish missions and in proclaiming biblical doctrines related to eschatology.

Childhood and Young Adult Years

Arno Clemens Gaebelein was born on August 27, 1861 in the country of Germany and later immigrated to the United States at the age of eighteen.[6] Very little is known of his childhood years, for even in his autobiography he begins with his call to preach.[7] Prior to his call to preach, at the age of twelve he, in the words of Gaebelein, “had a definite experience in which [he] accepted the Lord Jesus as [his] Saviour.”[8] With the prospective thoughts toward full-time missionary work already in mind, it was not long until Gaebelein pursued work in Christian service. Late in his teenage years, and after immigrating to America, he started working at a “woolen mill” in Lawrence, Massachusetts.[9] In that city, he also attended a German Methodist church where he developed a close friendship with a Boston University student named Augustus Wallon, the son of a Methodist preacher.[10] It was through Augustus’s father, Louis Wallon, that Gaebelein first had been approached with Dispensational, Premillennial theology.[11] In Gaebelein’s own words, he said, “[Louis] Wallon was an ardent Premillennialist, and he tried hard to convert me. But it was too much for me at that time. He talked to me almost daily about the antichrist, the great tribulation, the blessed hope, the kingdom and Israel’s future, but I was unable to grasp it.”[12] Likewise, it was Louis Wallon who gave him Emile Guers’ book, La Future D’Israel, French for “The Future of Israel.”[13] While being acquainted with Dispensationalism, he also would travel from Lawrence, Massachusetts to Bridgeport, Connecticut in order to serve at the German Methodist Mission.[14] By winter of 1881-1882, Gaebelein had applied to serve in a local church ministry within the East German Methodist Conference, and was given the opportunity to lead a small congregation in Baltimore, Maryland.[15] Therefore, in the early stages of his life, Gaebelein did not necessarily live the most exciting of lives, yet he benefited from different influences that proved to be foundational for the rest of his life.[16]

Adult Life and Ministry

  • A.    Pastoral and Preaching Ministry

Over his many years of ministry, Gaebelein spent much time and effort in pastoral labor and preaching in addition to being greatly involved in publishing theological material, working in missions, and in serving the needy. First, he served in his Baltimore ministry, doing pastoral work, though not yet being ordained as a Methodist bishop. He took over for a man named John Lutz, and continued there for three years.[17] His ministry flourished, and as he reflected on this time he wrote, “In a few months the audiences had more than doubled, so that the chapel was filled to its full capacity.”[18] Once his term of three years expired, the Methodist Episcopal Church transferred him to a new ministry position.

This new assignment led Gaebelein to serve a church in Harlem, New York where he was ordained as a deacon.[19] Instead of pastoral-like ministries, as in Baltimore, Gaebelein was in charge of helping his new church to rid itself of a “heavy debt.”[20] Much greater of importance than his work of traveling to other congregations to raise funds was that he met his future wife during his ministry in Harlem. Gaebelein happened to encounter difficulty in finding a place to live, so the Presiding Elder, C.F. Grimm, offered to let the newly ordained deacon stay in his home with his family.[21] It was in that very home that Arno met Emma Grimm; both later confessed in unison, “It was love at first sight.”[22] Before long, Arno and Emma were married while their ministry in Harlem continued to prosper. At the end of a three-year term in his diaconal ministry, as was customary in the Methodist Episcopal Church, he and his wife moved onto a new field of ministry.[23]

Upon arriving in Hoboken, New Jersey, Gaebelein was ordained as an elder to lead a Methodist Episcopalian congregation.[24] While in this new ministry, one of A.C.’s Jewish congregants had heard how fluently he could speak in Hebrew and said to him:

It is a shame that you do not make use of your knowledge. You should do a greater work than preaching to a German congregation…Jews [are] coming in by the thousands from every European and several Oriental countries. You should go and preach the Gospel to the Jews. I believe the Lord made you take up these studies because He wants you to go to my brethren, the Jews.[25]

Gaebelein took these words to heart, and started serving alongside of Jacob Freshman, the son of a Jewish Rabbi and director of the “Hebrew Christian Mission” in New York City.[26] It soon became apparent that God was leading the Gaebeleins to full-time ministry at the “Hebrew Christian Mission.” And whether or not A.C. knew it at the time, this was just the beginning of many years of ministry presenting the Jewish people with a message from Scripture concerning the Messiah, Jesus Christ.

The news that a Gentile would be preaching from the Old Testament concerning God’s future plans for Israel struck a significant amount of interest among the thousands of Jews in New York City. Gaebelein explained in his autobiography, “On the day before the Jewish Sabbath, when thousands were passing, I wrote in Hebrew characters on a piece of cardboard the following: ‘Tomorrow, Sabbath afternoon at 3 o’clock, a German Gentile preacher, who knows Hebrew and is a friend of Israel will give a lecture on the Bible.’”[27] While the size of attendees grew fast, plenty of Jewish men entered with an antagonizing spirit about them. Often, Gaebelein would allow for questions during his sermon, and sometimes, distraught skeptics would leave in the middle of the services.[28] Though opposition would be persistent in his ministry, nevertheless, God had blessed his efforts with visible fruits of people coming to know Christ as Messiah and Savior. As a result of his intense research of the Old Testament, his theology was undoubtedly shaped by a focus on God’s promises to Israel and how the rest of the Bible speaks of these prophecies.[29]

By the late 1890s, Gaebelein’s ministry saw a great extension in terms of widespread influence. Michael Stallard says, “The year 1899 was a pivotal one in the life of Arno C. Gaebelein. It marked the transition from the Jewish outreach in New York City and the constant need for travel and support of the local ministry to a truly national ministry where the declaration of the message was the major thrust.”[30] While there were some changes in ministry philosophy, such as leaving the Methodist Episcopal Church and rejecting the tenets of Messianic Judaism’s ecclesiology, his ministry as guest speaking in Bible conferences was just beginning to bloom.[31] According to Timothy Demy, “Between 1900 and 1915, [his] reputation as a Bible teacher and…prominence grew significantly.”[32] From the Niagara Bible conferences, slightly before the twentieth century, he was not only able to have his voice heard, but also established contact with other Dispensationalists, including members of the Plymouth Brethren denomination.[33] Another critical point in history was in 1901 when Gaebelein spoke at the Sea Cliff Bible Conference in Long Island, New York with C.I. Scofield. These annual conferences continued until 1911 and were impactful, though perhaps more importantly, his relationship with Scofield helped for the propagation of Dispensational Premillennialism.[34] Stallard declares, “For the first two decades of the twentieth century, Scofield and Gaebelein were perhaps the two most prominent names in the world of dispensational premillennialism on the American scene.”[35] Furthermore, Gaebelein left an impact on this world through his teaching experience at the Evangelical Theological College (now known as Dallas Theological Seminary). Gaebelein spent one month there every year from 1924 until 1931, serving as a Bible teacher under the presidency of Lewis Sperry Chafer.[36] Until the end of his life and ministry, Gaebelein continued in his public profession and instruction of Christian doctrine via the ministry of preaching and teaching. However, another significant facet of Gaebelein’s ministry to be discussed was his publication efforts.

  • B.    Publication Ministry

While Gaebelein’s pastoral and preaching ministries were tremendously important, had it not been for his publication ministry, it is difficult to ascertain whether or not he would have achieved such a height of influence. In 1893, a point in his life when he was serving in New York City at the “Hebrew Christian Mission,” he began the publication of Tiqweth Israel-The Hope of Israel Monthly.[37] This particular ministry of Gospel literature for the Jews was not only well received by many in New York City, but also in countries around the world, particularly in Europe.[38] Along with monthly publishing work, Gaebelein was also responsible for the publication of many Gospel tracts and booklets over his lifetime.[39] Just a year later (1894), Gaebelein began publishing a monthly magazine pertaining to Jewish evangelism titled Our Hope.[40] Contemporaneously, Dr. James H. Brookes, publisher of another magazine, The Truth, urged his readers to also subscribe to Our Hope.[41] As a result of the generous recommendation, Our Hope grew in influence and demand.[42] Gaebelein also served as an associate editor of the Scofield Reference Bible, a major contribution to the lasting impact of dispensational, premillennial theology.[43] Additionally, he was responsible for the publication of multiple commentaries on the Bible and biblical topics, especially on prophecy.[44] Stallard is convinced that Gaebelein is “one of the most prolific premillennial writers of all time.”[45] Though much more could be said of Gaebelein’s contributions from his publication ministries, it is quite clear that Gaebelein’s writings were incredibly significant for the cause of the Gospel and for advocating his biblical convictions of eschatology.

  • C.    Missions and Social Compassion Ministry

Thus far, it has been maintained that Gaebelein was undoubtedly a man of biblical insight, a hard-working pastor/preacher, and a prolific writer. But in addition to his theology, he was a man who had a heart for the physical and social needs of others. His actions of sacrifice were clear proof.  While serving at the “Hebrew Christian Mission” in New York City, Gaebelein recorded his own concerns for the thousands of persecuted Jewish people who came from Russia and Poland:

It appeared to me a grand opportunity to show to them the practical side of Christianity. I had a visitor who went through the tenement houses, and numerous families were found on the verge of starvation. I appealed to wholesale grocery and commission houses to send barrels of potatoes, flour, etc., to the church building, and there was a generous response…Many times I denied myself the most necessary things in order to help them in their distress, and many times I felt great joy and His approval in loving and helping the suffering members of the people who are still His people.[46]

In the summer of 1895, Gaebelein traveled to Russia in order to get a better understanding of how poorly the Jewish people were treated in that country, and while he was there, take the message of the Gospel. Gaebelein recorded one of his intense situations from that trip regarding his train ride from Poland into Russia:

My heart beat faster and faster the nearer we came to the Russian-Polish border. Finally the train stopped and a heavily armed Russian officer demanded my passport and I had to leave the carriage with my belongings. ‘Ah,’ he said, ‘You are from America.’ He spoke in German and engaged me in a friendly conversation. He wanted a lot of information about our country and why I had come over there, what I intended to do, how long I would stay. Then he pointed to my large suitcase, and the box filled with tracts. I told him that these were my personal belongings, and he kindly answered: ‘I am not going to trouble you unpacking everything; I shall just look into one of the two.’ Then he selected my suitcase and looked through it, and the box with the literature was not opened and escaped confiscation.[47]

Later on in his life, Gaebelein sought to be compassionately involved during the Holocaust years. Ironically, Gaebelein has been accused of being anti-Semitic, though such labels were carelessly and inappropriately given.[48] In 1937, Gaebelein went to his home country of Germany with the hope of being used by God for a spiritual revival in that country.[49] However, he only came back to America with dismal reports of the horrid condition that Germany was in as Nazism progressed.[50] Gaebelein later reported on the sheer horror of World War II in Our Hope with deep sorrow over the actions that have been committed by Germany:

It is now a fact that more than two million Jews have been slaughtered in this four-year-old-war. We say it again – all these sufferings and these terrible devastations it is our lot to hear about, move the Christian believer to deep sympathy, and millions of prayers are now made that our all-wise God, Whose oft mysterious ways are beyond our ken, may soon end it.[51]

At the time in which Gaebelein wrote these words, it is clear that his heart was broken for the Jewish people. Simply put, Arno Clemens Gaebelein was not just a man of theological convictions pertaining to Dispensational Premillennialism, but one who exemplified compassion towards others, especially Jewish men and women.

Conclusion

Gaebelein had the privilege of seeing the end to World War II, but did not live to see the day in which the Jewish people were able to return to a national homeland.[52] He died on Christmas day, 1945.[53] It is hard to ignore the providential irony that, of all nationalities, it was a German man who helped lead the way in nineteenth and twentieth century missions to the Jewish people despite the cultural pressures of anti-Semitism prevalent among many of the Germans at that time. Instead, Gaebelein willingly sacrificed his own comfort for the benefit of the persecution-stricken Jewish people, spoke out against Nazism, and lovingly communicated the Scriptures to the most Orthodox of Hebrews. Additionally, Gaebelein was devoted to accurately understanding the Bible, particularly in its application to prophecy. Yet, his devotion to the Gospel’s importance was never hindered. Consider these words:

The knowledge of the Gospel has been throughout my life and ministry an ever-expanding knowledge. I fear those who speak of the master of the Gospel, as if the Gospel were the most simple thing in our Christian faith, have never looked deep enough. It is very true that the Gospel of our salvation is very simple, yet there are depths which no saint has ever fathomed. Not until we reach the Father’s house in everlasting glory shall we know the fulness [sic] of the Gospel.[54]

Truly, Arno C. Gaebelein was a compassionate Dispensational Premillennialist and friend of Israel.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Works Cited

Bowman, John. “The Bible and Modern Religions: II. Dispensationalism,” Interpretation 10

(April 1956).

Breshears, Gerry and Mark Driscoll. Vintage Church. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008.

Demy, Timothy. “Arno C. Gaebelein,” n.d., http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/arno-c-gaebelein.

Gaebelein, Arno Clemens. Half a Century: The Autobiography of a Servant. New York, NY:

Publication Office “Our Hope,” 1930.

Gerstner, John. Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism.

Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991.

Pink, A.W. The Divine Covenants. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1973.

Rausch, David A. Arno C. Gaebelein, 1861-1945: Irenic Fundamentalist and Scholar. Lewiston,

NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1983.

Stallard, Michael. The Early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein.

Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002.


[1] John Gerstner, Wrongly Dividing the Word of Truth: A Critique of Dispensationalism (Brentwood, TN: Wolgemuth & Hyatt, 1991), 150.

[2] A.W. Pink, The Divine Covenants (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1973), 10.

[3] John Wick Bowman, “The Bible and Modern Religions: II. Dispensationalism,” Interpretation 10 (April 1956): 172. Italics added.

[4] Gerry Breshears and Mark Driscoll, Vintage Church (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2008), 61.

[5] Ibid.

[6] David A. Rausch, Arno C. Gaebelein, 1861-1945: Irenic Fundamentalist and Scholar (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 1983), 1.

[7] Arno Clemens Gaebelein, Half a Century: The Autobiography of a Servant (New York, NY: Publication Office “Our Hope,” 1930), 1.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid., 2.

[10] Ibid., 3.

[11] Ibid., 5.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid. Although, as Michael Stallard in The Early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, (Lewiston, NY: The Edwin Mellen Press, 2002), 62, points out, this was most likely an abbreviated title of the original, “Israël aux Derniers Jours De L’Économie Actuelle ou Essai Sur La Restauration Prochaine De Ce Peuple, Suivi D’Un Fragment Sur Le Millénarisme.” [Israel in the Last Days of the Present Economy; or, An Essay on the Coming Restoration of this People. Also, a Fragment on Millenarianism].

[14] Ibid., 6.

[15] Ibid., 8-9.

[16] There were at least three major influences, and not all were mentioned above. (1) Dispensational Premillennial theology, particularly from Louis Wallon (2) Ministry to the poor and needy, namely from his time serving in Lawrence, Massachusetts and Bridgeport, Connecticut (3) Exceptional linguistic abilities. Louis Wallon encouraged him to study as much as possible on his own, rather than seminary training. Gaebelein mastered several languages, and particularly his proficiency in Hebrew proved to be one of the greatest tools for his future ministries. See Ibid., 4, 11, 19, and 55-72 for a few examples of his impact through languages.

 

[17] Ibid., 9.

[18] Ibid., 11.

[19] Ibid., 12.

[20] Ibid., 13.

[21] Ibid., 14.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid., 16.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Ibid., 19.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Ibid., 25-26. Italics added.

[28] Ibid., 26-29.

[29] Up until his Jewish ministry in New York, Gaebelein confessed that he interpreted Old Testament prophecies in accordance with the “spiritualizing method” (pg. 20). However, upon studying the texts of Scripture in the Old Testament, he soon became convinced that there are unfulfilled prophecies regarding national Israel that are to be fulfilled literally and in the future. Perhaps, too, the influence of Louis Wallon and the writings of Emile Guers were finally making sense.

[30] Stallard, The Early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, 28.

[31] For more information on his dissension from the Methodist Episcopal Church and his response to Messianic Judaism, see Gaebelein, Half a Century, 81-82 and Stallard, The Early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, 32.

[32] Timothy Demy, “Arno C. Gaebelein,” n.d., http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/arno-c-gaebelein (accessed January 24, 2013).

[33] Gaebelein, Half a Century, 84-85. Also, Stallard, on page 35 notes, “It is…clear that Gaebelein had no knowledge of the [Plymouth] Brethren and of Darby until 1898. His conversion to premillennialism in 1887 was only indirectly influenced by Darby through Guers.”

[34] Stallard, The Early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, 42.

[35] Ibid., 42.

[36] Ibid., 42-43. See also Gaebelein, Half a Century, 115, 178-180, 207-208 for information regarding other academic teaching experiences that included Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and Elim Chapel in Winnipeg.

[37] Gaebelein, Half a Century, 33.

[38] Ibid.

[39] Gaebelein records the titles of several tracts/booklets on Ibid., 34.

[40] Ibid., 44.

[41] Ibid., 45.

[42] Gaebelein also includes that when Dr. Brookes died, a few years following Our Hope’s beginning, The Truth merged with another magazine and was identified as Watchword and Truth. Over time, it became evident that Watchword and Truth was not aligned with the eschatology espoused by Gaebelein and Dr. Brookes, and thus, many more subscribers transferred over to Our Hope. Gaebelein stated, “And so it came that Our Hope was looked upon as the true and legitimate successor of The Truth with the result that hundreds of the old Truth readers became readers and supporters of Our Hope.” Ibid., 46.

[43] Stallard, The Early Twentieth-Century Dispensationalism of Arno C. Gaebelein, 42.

[44] Ibid.

[45] Ibid. On this point, Stallard notes, “The amount of material produced by Gaebelein probably exceeds that written by Brookes and Scofield combined.”

[46] Gaebelein, Half a Century, 35.

[47] Ibid., 56.

[48] Stallard discusses how such claims came about. First, he records that a “bizarre” document entitled The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, written by Serge Nilus, propagated incorrect claims concerning Gaebelein and his ministry. Stallard quotes Rausch who said, “The Protocols are of Russian origin and are the alleged secret proceedings of a group of Jews plotting to destroy Christianity, challenge civil government and disrupt the international economy in an effort to control the world.” Other writers, too, have interpreted Gaebelein as being anti-Semitic, such as Ruth Mouly, Roland Robertson, and George Marsden. Overall, though, this supposition was a result of reading Gaebelein’s book, The Conflict of the Ages, without understanding the rest of Gaebelein’s life and his intentions in writing it. Gaebelein’s theological criticisms were twisted by historians to have been meant for racial condemnations instead. Most definitely, however, “Gaebelein had no animosity towards the Jews…” See Stallard, 47-54.

[49] Ibid., 59.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Quoted in Ibid.

[52] Timothy Demy, “Arno C. Gaebelein,” n.d., http://www.pre-trib.org/articles/view/arno-c-gaebelein (accessed January 24, 2013).

[53] Ibid.

[54] Gaebelein, Half a Century, 10.

Debate: Dispensational Premillennialism vs. Covenant Amillennialism (w/ Robert Morgan) – Part 3/3

  • Conclusion (John Wiley)

Well, I don’t know about you, but that was pretty intense! I don’t know if either of us (Robert or John) convinced you, the reader, of a certain view. Whatever the case, I hope that this has helped in understanding the differences between the two views. To conclude this discussion, I’d like to include 5 final points, each are related to Robert’s section. I will try to respond progressively through his section in my concluding responses.

(1) Spiritual Jews – I absolutely believe that Romans 2 teaches that Jews can only be saved through faith in Christ. What I would like to comment on is this conclusion: “if gentiles have joined Jews as heirs to Abraham’s promise, as children of Abraham and as Real (spiritual Israel/Jews) [then] scripture concerning the effects of the Abrahamic covenant must be applied to gentiles.” The rest of what you said in the paragraph might be some intermingling between Gentiles and BOTH spiritual and natural Jewish promises. That might sound fuzzy at first, but I think the Bible Knowledge Commentary explains it well:

“Any discussion of the seed of Abraham must first take into account his natural seed, the descendants of Jacob in the 12 tribes. Within this natural seed there is a believing remnant of Jews who will one day inherit the Abrahamic promises directed specifically to them (cf. Rom. 9:6, 8). But there is also the spiritual seed of Abraham who are not Jews. These are the Gentiles who believe and become Abraham’s spiritual seed. They inherit the promise of justification by faith as Paul explained earlier (cf. Gal. 3:6-9). To suggest, as amillenarians do, that Gentile believers inherit the national promises given to the believing Jewish remnant—that the church thus supplants Israel or is the “new Israel”—is to read into these verses what is not there.”

(2) 70 A.D. – While there contain a few similarities between Matthew 24-25 with what Jesus said then with the events of 70 A.D., I still find a lot of what Jesus said to be missing in history – i.e. I am convinced that these are still future happenings. For example, where are the Matthew 24:29-30 events in all of history? A darkened sun, no light from the moon, Stars falling? With phrases such as “immediately after the tribulation” and in vs. 30, “then will appear” – seem to imply Christ’s 2nd coming as being right after the Tribulation…I know there are Amillennial responses, but that’s just a personal observation I felt inclined to say.

(3) 69-70 Week of Daniel Time Gap – 2 passages that would be helpful in this: Daniel 9:24-27 and Romans 11:25-27. Since much has already been said on this,  won’t take time to further comment other than to bring into question, “have we experienced what the 70th week is described as saying?” Likewise, how does this work with the concept of the “fullness of the Gentiles?”I wish I could write more, but due to a busy schedule I’ll have to withhold from continuing. Just keep in mind that the Messiah was said to be “cut off” in Daniel 9…perhaps that relates to the time gap.

(4) Christocentricity – I hear Luke 24:27 to be interpreted as: “Every single minute detail in the Old Testament is about Jesus” RATHER than interpreting this verse to mean “Jesus taught all of what was said about Him in the Old Testament.” Let me clarify: Jesus is spoken of all throughout the Old Testament. BUT, wasn’t Jesus taking the individual texts “specifically” pertaining to Him? When capitalizing this verse for emphasis, we are also being true to the text to capitalize “THE THINGS concerning himself.” What are the “things”? …just something to think about.

(5) Kingdom in NT – actually the New Testament is filled with examples of Christ coming back to establish His earthly kingdom. If we are to go through the progress of Matthew 24-25, the logic goes: Tribulation, 2nd Coming Judgment, Kingdom. In 25:31 talks about Jesus who “will” (future, active, indicative) sit on the throne. In verse 34, there’s that special word: “kingdom.” When Christ is about to ascend to heaven in Acts 1, the text says that Jesus spoke of the kingdom of God. If you look a few verses down, to vs. 6, the question is whether Jesus will restore the kingdom of Israel. This is the common interpretation of covenantalists: they often (I’ve heard it preached!) say that Jesus was probably shaking his head at them, thinking that they still didn’t understand…How about looking at verse 7, “It is not for you to know  times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.” That doesn’t sound like a rebuke or frustration on Jesus’ part. To me, it sounds like the kingdom is still in the future…I’ll leave that part of the discussion where it stands for the reader.

I would love to write more and respond to what else was said, but due to a lack of time and the already large conversation, I will leave the rest up to the reader to research and study. I hope this debate was helpful, as it helped me to better consider my interpretations of Scripture as well as considering what others think. Check out the bibliography on section 1 for some good overviews of eschatology and theological systems. I recommend Paul Enns’ “Moody Handbook of Theology” and Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology” for a general comparison of the different views. They do a pretty good job of collecting the various views, representing them accurately, while presenting their own views as well.

Thanks for reading, feel free to comment in order to add to this discussion!