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Andrew Bonar: Leviticus, Covenantal Premillennialism, and Ezekiel

April 3, 2017 1 comment

As part of the 2017 Challies Reading Challenge, for the commentary I’m currently reading Andrew Bonar’s classic and highly-recommended commentary on Leviticus (1846).  I’m a little over halfway through, and greatly appreciate it, as a verse by verse, chapter by chapter commentary that is straightforward reading for the layperson, with many good devotional thoughts.

I have read other works by Andrew Bonar, including his Christ and His Church in the Book of Psalms, and (earlier this year) his biography of Robert Murray McCheyne, which I especially enjoyed.  I like reading his perspective as a covenantal premillennialist, a view not often seen today, due to the over-reaction by many Reformed against the errors of dispensationalism–to the point of rejecting even what has historically been affirmed by Reformed / covenantal theologians.  For Bonar, in the Reformed tradition, saw the unity of scripture (Old and New Testament), and noted in Leviticus many types (figures, allegories) of Christ—yet also affirmed what the scriptures say regarding Israel’s future and how the scriptures describe the future millennial age.

Here, from Bonar’s commentary – published in 1846, years before dispensationalism had taken hold of much of evangelical Christianity – come some interesting thoughts regarding Leviticus and the last chapters of Ezekiel, regarding the future millennial temple.  He notes (as did the later dispensational writers) the differences in this temple as compared to the previous tabernacle and temple, and relates the types and shadows of Leviticus to their educational, instructional purpose:

Is it not possible that some such end as this may be answered by the temple which Ezekiel foretells as yet to be built (chap. Xl., &c.)  Believing nations may frequent that temple in order to get understanding in these types and shadows.  They may go up to the mountain of the Lord’s house, to be there taught his ways (Isaiah 2:3).  In that temple they may learn how not one tittle of the law has failed.  … Indeed, the very fact that the order of arrangement in Ezekiel entirely differs from the order observed in either tabernacle or temple, and that the edifice itself is reared on a plan varying from every former sanctuary, is sufficient to suggest the idea that it is meant to cast light on former types and shadows.  … As it is said of the rigid features of a marble statue, that they may be made to move and vary their expression so as even to smile, when a skillful hand knows how to move a bright light before it; so may it be with these apparently lifeless figures, in the light of that bright millennial day.  At all events, it is probably then that this much-neglected book of Leviticus shall be fully appreciated.  Israel—the good olive-tree—shall again yield its fatness to the nations round (Romans 11:17).  Their ancient ritual may then be more fully understood, and blessed truth found beaming forth from long obscurity.”

The commentary itself includes many references to New Testament passages as well as the Psalms, to give a complete picture of the Levitical worship and what various texts in Leviticus symbolized or paralleled elsewhere.  As for instance, the concluding remarks on Leviticus 1 relate the sacrifices found here to the original sacrifices and features of Eden, explaining these details of God’s progressive revelation from earlier to later Old Testament revelation:

Let us briefly notice that the rudimental sketch of these offerings, and the mode of their presentation, will be found at the gate of Eden.  …  Just as we believe the Hiddekel and Euphrates of Genesis 2 are the same as the Hiddekel and Euphrates of later history; and the cherubim of Genesis 3 the same as those in the tabernacle; and the “sweet savour” of Genesis 8:21 the same as that in Leviticus 1:9 and Ephesians 5:2; so do we regard the intention of sacrifice as always the same throughout Scripture.

In Mosaic rites, the telescope was drawn out farther than at Eden, and the focus at which the ground object could be best seen was more nearly found.  But the gate of Eden presents us with the same truths in a more rudimental form.

… opposite to this sword [at the gate of Eden], at some distance, we see an altar where our first parents shed the blood of sacrifice—showing in type how the barred-up way of access to the Tree of Life was to be opened by the blood of the woman’s bruised seed.  …when we find clean and unclean noticed (Gen. 8:20), and in Abraham’s case (Genesis 15:9,10), the heifer and goat, the turtle and the pigeon, and also “commandments, statutes, and laws” (parallel to Lev. 26:46), we cannot but believe that these fuller institutions in Leviticus are just the expansion of what Adam first received.  The Levitical dispensation is the acorn of Eden grown to a full oak.  If so, then may we say, that the child Jesus, wrapped in his swaddling-clothes, was, in these ceremonies, laid down at the gate of Eden!

Recent Future Of Israel Conference

October 23, 2013 6 comments

After the recent excitement over the “Strange Fire” conference, some may have overlooked another conference held earlier this month in New York.  “The people, the Land and the Future of Israel” conference featured several speakers including Dr. Michael Vlach, and the videos are now available.  I’ve listened to a few of the messages so far, including Dr. Vlach’s and a panel concerning questions about current events in Israel.

Dr. Vlach’s message gives a brief summary of church history in reference to Israel’s future, considering the four main periods of church history:  Patristic (A.D. 100 to about 450), Medieval, Reformation (16th century), and Post-Reformation (17th century to now).  Using the same terminology as Barry Horner, he distinguishes between ‘replacement’ and ‘restoration’ views; the latter, restoration, refers to the belief of Israel now under divine judgment but having a future restoration as a nation (and restoration to their land).  As noted in his lecture (and also in Dr. Vlach’s book ‘Has the Church Replaced Israel?’), the early church was premillennial but supersessionist — though with belief in a future salvation for ethnic Israel.  Before the post-Reformation era, though, few Christians understood a restorationist view of Israel.  Since the Reformation, though, and starting in the 17th century, we find many prominent theologians who have affirmed a future restoration of ethnic Israel.

What I’ve listened to from other messages is also interesting, including discussion about the middle East and current events related to Israel, and the future of Israel in light of the holocaust (Barry Leventhal).

The Future Restoration of Israel: 12 Points In the Biblical Argument

September 9, 2013 8 comments

From Robert D. Culver’s “Daniel and the Latter Days”, the following list of 12 related points: what the scriptures say regarding “the restoration of Israel to the land and the conversion of the nation, to be followed in the Millennium by the fulfillment of the Old Testament covenant promises distinctive to that nation.”

1.  Numerous Old Testament predictions which treat of a repentance and restoration of Israel in eschatological times which is distinct and separate from that which followed the Babylonian captivity.  Reference:  Hosea 3:4-5; Ezekiel 37:11-28

2.  The perpetuity of the nation of Israel, in spite of repeated apostasies and restorations after divine chastening.  Reference:  Lev. 26:44-45; Numbers 23:9; Jeremiah 30:10-11; Jeremiah 46:27-28; Amos 9:8-11

3.  Isaiah 11:1-12:6an Old Testament prophecy which in unmistakable and utterly unambiguous language predicts a national restoration of Israel in yet future Messianic times.

Verses six to nine following describe conditions in that final kingdom of earth’s history, the Millennial kingdom. It is a time of universal peace and prosperity among all of God’s creatures. Verse 10 adds that the peoples of the earth shall seek Christ, in that day–something, by the way, which can never, and will never, take place during this present age.

4. The Scriptures speak of a restoration of Israel which will be absolute and permanent.  Amos 9:14-15

5.  Jesus predicted events in the future which presuppose the restoration of Israel to Canaan and the re-establishment of the ancient tribal organization of the nation.  Reference Matt. 19:28 and Luke 22:28-29Unless the nation of Israel is to be revived and restored, this prophecy has no meaning at all.

6.  In his most important eschatological address, Jesus suggested that a period of Jewish rulership of their ancient city, Jerusalem, would follow on the conclusion of this age, which He called “the times of the Gentiles.”  Luke 21:24

7.  It was the plain belief of the apostles, even after the death and resurrection of Jesus, that the kingdom would be restored, as of old, to Israel.  Acts 1:6

8. The Apostle Paul declared that a time is coming in which “all Israel shall be saved” and that in such a context that the national repentance and conversion of the nation, if not national restoration, is a necessary inference.  Romans 11:25-26

9.  The Scriptures describe a future time when a temple of God in the Jewish city of Jerusalem shall be appropriated by God as His own and be misappropriated by Antichrist.  Revelation 11:1-2; 2 Thess. 2:3-4

10. The Revelation predicts a resumption of God’s dealing with Israel in the sealing of 144,000 Israelites, organized according to their tribal divisions.  Revelation 7:1-8

11.  The prophets speak as if the honor of Jehovah God is at stake in the restoration of Israel in a final and permanent way.  Ezekiel 36:21-22

12. The Bible reveals that the very worthiness of God as the object of the faith of the patriarchs, requires that He yet restore Israel and fulfill the promises to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.  Romans 11:28; Lev. 26:40, 42-45; Jer. 33:25-26

Historic (Classic) Premillennialists: Free Online Books

August 20, 2013 18 comments

Update (addition) to the resources listed here:  an online discussion group for Historic (Classic) Premillennialism.

Barry Horner, in Future Israel and other writings (see page 5 here and page 14 here) has mentioned several names of classic (Judeo-Centric) historic premillennialists.  The list mentioned by him, and mentioned elsewhere in connection with Horner’s work, includes well-known preachers such as Charles Spurgeon and J.C. Ryle, and many others as well:  Adolph Saphir, David Baron, Andrew and Horatius Bonar, Robert Murray M’Cheyne, George N.H. Peters, Nathaniel West, Henry Grattan Guinness, B.W. Newton, S. P. Tregelles, Joseph Seiss, and Charles Simeon. These men lived and wrote during the 19th and early 20th century, and much of their work is now available in the public domain, free in online and e-book format.

See this previous post for many available works from Adolph Saphir and David Baron.  The following is a links-reference to the many available works by these other Christian premillennialists, as well as a good resource from a 20th century writer, Robert D. Culver.  Note that many, but not all, of the titles here relate to prophecy and premillennialism.  Google Play is one of the formats available, but for those desiring e-pub or PDF format, note that Google Play includes options to download e-pub and/or PDF formats available for many of the titles.

Robert D. Culver (1916-) :  Daniel and the Latter Days (1954)

Andrew Bonar (1810-1892):

Horatius Bonar (1808-1889):

Volume 1 (1849)
Volume 2 (1850)
1854 
1855
1857
1858
1864
Volume 19 (1867)
Volume 23 (1871)

J.C. Ryle (1816-1900):


George N.H. Peters (1825-1909):

Nathaniel West (1826-1906):


Henry Grattan Guinness

Joseph A. Seiss  (1823-1904):


 Benjamin Wills Newton (1807-1899)

Many of the titles are tracts less than 50 pages.  Full-length books include:

Tracts relating to eschatology:


Samuel Prideaux Tregelles (1813-1875)


Alexander Keith (1791-1880)


Websites:

Supersessionist Fascination with the Holy Land, and Israel’s Great Future

May 24, 2013 2 comments

Another true and timeless quote from Alva McClain’s “Greatness of the Kingdom” (p. 253):

some of the most incorrigible opponents of a millennial religious center in Jerusalem, at the same time have an untiring enthusiasm for “trips” to the Holy Land here and now.  Surely it is a great privilege to walk where the Son of God once lived, suffered, and died. If this be so, how much more wonderful it will be to go there when He is once more there in visible manifestation and glory.

In recent months I have observed this very phenomenon: a church pastor —  strong supersessionist (no future for Israel), Amillennial Preterist, old-earth creationist — who yet shows “untiring enthusiasm” in sharing pictures from his trip to the Holy Land last year.  Such interest has even resulted in a lengthy Sunday School series for the main adult Sunday School class, complete with slides, diagram drawings and general geography and archeology sessions, and such trivia as the size of Jerusalem (in acres) at various times in biblical history. (Among the trivia: Jerusalem was 44 acres in size in Jesus’ day.)  The lessons go into all the details in the biblical accounts of how the men in Hezekiah’s day affected the water supply, and other basic information that I tend to think of as appropriate for general, secular education.  Certainly geography and archeology of the Holy Land is of some interest, even to natural man, as something concrete and part of our natural world.  Yet where is the spiritual content of such a series, in light of the massive biblical revelation?

The biblical references in this series are basic and well-known to serious students of God’s word, but such a topical series comes across as disappointingly shallow.  Consider the great depth and riches of what God’s word has to say regarding Israel (past, present and future): the great biblical covenants (especially the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants), and (as especially brought out in Alva McClain’s great work) the beginnings and details of God’s Mediatorial Kingdom in Israel, in Old Testament History and Prophecy.  Then Israel’s apostasy and what that actually meant: not that the nation itself was completely cut-off and divorced from God, but that judgment fell on particular generations – and yet, as SLJ observed:

There are people who look at the Old Testament and say, ‘All fulfilled, of no real use to us today.’ That, the apostles would have been strongly against, for that was their Bible. And all that they taught they related to the Old Testament teaching. In fact, the epistle to the Romans is really nothing more than an Old Testament theology written in the light of the coming of Jesus Christ and the fulfillment of those promises in Him. The Jews have a future. Their place in the program of God in the present time is similar to that of a train which is passed onto a siding — the purpose of God has passed them by, not because they have no future but because they did not believe.

Also the prophecies regarding Israel’s present condition, such as the prophecies of Balaam, and especially of Hosea (Hosea 3:4-5):

For the children of Israel shall dwell many days without king or prince, without sacrifice or pillar, without ephod or household gods. Afterward the children of Israel shall return and seek the Lord their God, and David their king, and they shall come in fear to the Lord and to his goodness in the latter days.

Oh the great riches in God’s word concerning Israel past, present, and especially future in the kingdom of God upon the earth, as described in so many passages of scripture, the Old Testament prophecies as well as great references in the gospels and New Testament passages.  Yet, as Alva McClain observed over half a century ago (that which is still true) some professed believers rigorously oppose the idea of God having anything future to do with Israel, and yet they are content with and even have unending enthusiasm for trips to the Holy Land.  Many of us have never had opportunity to visit the physical sites of the Holy Land, and perhaps never will get that opportunity in this life, yet we can dig into the treasures of God’s word regarding the nation Israel, and God’s purposes for Israel and the Gentile nations in the future Kingdom of God upon the earth. Indeed, “how much more wonderful it will be to go there when He is once more there in visible manifestation and glory.”

The Song of Moses: Israel’s History and Several First Mentions

June 26, 2012 Leave a comment

S. Lewis Johnson’s “The Jewish People, Jesus Christ, and World History” series mainly looks at the book of Zechariah, with material similar to his previous Zechariah series.  However, the last message looks at the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 32, with an overall exposition and outline of this text and its panoramic look at the nation Israel throughout human history.

The Song of Moses has seven divisions:

  1. Exordium:  verses 1-3
  2. Theme:  verses 4-6
  3. Extol the goodness of God:   Verses 7-14
  4. Perversity of Israel toward God:  Verses 15-18
  5. Judgments of God:  verses 19-25
  6. Pleadings of Divine Mercy:  verses 26-33
  7. Apocalyptic Events:  interposition on the part of God, vindication of his nation, and atonement:  verses 34-43

In going through the different sections, several things are worth noting:

The two witnesses in the introduction are heaven and earth. (“Give ear, O heavens, and I will speak, and let the earth hear the words of my mouth.”)  These two witnesses are there from the beginning of Israel’s history, and will be there at the end.  The Old Testament uses similar language in other places, regarding the permanence and lasting of creation itself.  I think of Psalm 89:36-37, His offspring shall endure forever, histhrone as long asthe sun before me. Like the moon it shall be established forever, a faithful witness in the skies,” and the promises in the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31), which again appeal to the enduring creation.

The song of Moses contains several “first mention” doctrines: the first time a particular idea is mentioned in the word of God.  In the theme, verses 4-6, we see the first scripture reference to God as a rock.  All later references in scripture to God as the Rock refer back to this first passage.  Verse 39 has the first use of the expression “I am He,” an expression found later as especially in Isaiah.

Verse 14 makes reference to the blood of the grape: probably the source of the use of wine at the Lord’s table, the wine representative of blood.

The Song of Moses is quoted in the New Testament, especially the last section dealing with God’s vindication (verses 34-43).  Verse 35 contains the well-known words, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”  Paul quotes this in Romans 12:19, and Hebrews 10:30 references verses 35 and 36, “For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again,  “The Lord will judge his people.”

Finally, verse 39 shows great hope, a hope found only in God.  the sequence is important: “I kill and I make alive. I wound and I heal.”  The God with whom we must deal, does not “make alive and then kill.”  The Song of Moses is a wonderful text, showing Israel’s history along with application for us and our waywardness, as well as God’s Sovereignty, His Divine Plan and Purpose.  He will bring His people to Himself, punishing but then bringing redemption and salvation.

Romans 11: And So All Israel Shall Be Saved

May 21, 2012 Leave a comment

From my study through Romans with S. Lewis Johnson, I now come to the great chapter of Romans 11.  Note:  S. Lewis Johnson also did a more extensive study of this chapter in “The Future of Ethnic Israel,” a six part study.  The full-book Romans series (which I’m currently listening to) includes four messages in Romans 11; in a few places he says he doesn’t have time to go into further detail on certain points, so I expect that his other, separate series on Romans 11 expanded more concerning these details.

It’s been a while since I’ve studied the Romans 11 text.  Concerning verse 26, “And so all Israel shall be saved” (ESV:  And in this way all Israel will be saved), SLJ discusses several of the interpretations that have been suggested, and the errors in the incorrect ones.

The “Dutch view” of the Holland Covenant theologians is that the text refers to the remnant trickle of all Jews saved throughout the Church age, rather than to a national conversion at Christ’s Second Coming.  A look at the context, though, shows that the referent for “and so” or “and in this way” is the immediately preceding verse, which has to do with the salvation of Gentiles:  the mystery, the partial hardening of Israel UNTIL the fullness of the Gentiles has come in (Gentile salvation).  Thus, “all Israel” will be saved as a result and after the fullness of the Gentiles, as a result of the Jews being made jealous (verse 14).  Furthermore, these verses indicate future time, not present: verse 12 “how much more will,” also verse 15 “what will their acceptance mean.”  Some might try to argue that these are referring to the present, but then what about verses 23-24: “will be grafted in,” for God is able to graft them in.  The text is also national, referring to the nation Israel, not to individuals.

But the preceding context is most closely related, not to the salvation of Israel as it is to the salvation of the Gentiles.  He has just said, “Hardening in part has happened to Israel until the full number of the Gentiles be brought in.  And so, by the bringing in of the full number of the Gentiles all Israel shall be saved.  What is meant is not what our Dutch friends mean, but rather, by the total salvation of the Gentiles, when that has been completed, Israel shall have been brought to jealousy and to return to the Lord.  “And so all Israel shall be saved” is the provocation by the full number of the Gentiles which will lead to Israel’s salvation.

Regarding John Calvin’s idea that this means “spiritual Israel” instead of ethnic Israel:  well, then all the verse means is that all the elect are going to be saved.  We already know that; that is not a mystery.

“I would not have you to be ignorant brethren of this mystery.  What does he mean when he says “this mystery,” this secret?  … Well, that’s not a mystery, that’s not a divine secret in the true sense.  There’s hardly anything that is clearer from the apostle’s writing than that the elect shall be saved.  There must be something more to the point when Paul says, “I don’t want you to be ignorant of this secret,” this divine secrets, “lest ye should be wise in your own conceits.”  I think that what he means is explained by the “that” clause.  That hardness, in part, has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles be come in.  The time, the meshing of the time of the salvation of the nation and the salvation of the nations, and how this is all to be worked out in the thousands of years of human history, is the secret.  In other words, we may put it by simply saying that the mystery is the divine program of the salvation of the nations in its various steps, that’s the mystery, it would seem.

Note, too, that the text cited immediately after “and so all Israel shall be saved” is from Isaiah 59:20-21, a text that is talking about the Second Coming.  The preceding verses (Isaiah 59:17-19) describe Him putting on garments of vengeance, repaying wrath to His adversaries and repayment to His enemies, and the people, worldwide, fearing the name of the Lord.  SLJ also notes a few other scriptural references and allusions here, blended together:  Isaiah 27:9 (Therefore by this the guilt of Jacob will be atoned for) and Psalm 14:7 (Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion!).  Also, the background of all these quotations and allustions here – Isaiah 59, Isaiah 27, and Psalm 14 – includes the Abrahamic, Davidic and New Covenants, and thus reference to Israel’s election and salvation.

I’ve heard the spiritualized attempts to say that all of what the prophets said was really talking about what happened at the cross and our glorious church age.  But again, such a distortion of meaning leaves us with nothing more than Paul saying the mystery is that all the elect shall be saved.  Words do have meaning, and these verses are describing a condition that did not happen at the First Advent: Christ coming in judgment, which is His Second Advent.

Finally we consider if “all Israel” means every single individual:  of course other prophetic texts give more detail, such as Zechariah 13 (that two-thirds of the people will be cut off and perish during the Great Tribulation).  Further, the term “all Israel” is a technical term, an expression that refers to Israel as a whole, as a nation.  S. Lewis Johnson specifically notes the following interesting references to “all Israel”: 1 Kings 12:1, 2 Chronicles 12:1-5, and Daniel 9:11.  Additionally, Romans 11 itself gives us the clue to the answer:  the rejection of Christ by the nation at His First Coming.  We recognize, as something clear and undisputed, that the nation Israel rejected their Messiah at His First Coming.  Yet not every single individual Israelite of the first century rejected Him; Paul, the other apostles, and at least several thousand other Jews, did receive Him.  So too, at the Second Coming, the nation will accept Him, but not every single individual. The context of Romans 11 is again affirmed, that Paul is here talking about nations: the nation Israel and the gentile nations.  Yes, nations are composed of individuals, but the Bible still talks sometimes, as in Romans 11, about national entities.