Summary: Part 1 of 3 Many claim that the church is now Israel. After examining the scriptures, we cannot draw that conclusion without denying the accuracy of the Bible. This section examines the New Testament promise that God has not forsaken Israel and the Old T
(Part 1 of 3)
It is often argued that the futurist view of prophecy is a modern view, therefore it has less merit. This is partially true. Even though we can find 1st and 2nd century writings that agree with the futurist view point, it was not the focal point during the Reformation Period and did not regain popularity until the last 100 years. It is also pointed out that the great theologians in the Reformation Period in the church rarely address prophecy and this is assumed to be in agreement with the Preterist view which believes all prophecy has already been fulfilled. It is true that Reformation theologians did not write extensively on prophecy; however, if we look at the focus of the reformers we can see why prophecy had such a low priority. Why were they called reformers? The church was split because the reformers were looking at the church of the day and the church of scripture and the two did not agree. The focus of the Reformation was to straighten out doctrinal differences. Martin Luther was excommunicated because of his famous stance in 1517 when he nailed his 95 thesis on the church door Wittenburg. When he opposed these 95 errors he saw in the church, he created a firestorm. When debating the church leaders, he pointed at scripture and stated, “Here I stand, I can do no other”. Church traditions had replaced scriptural doctrine. When the two disagreed, the church of the day would not budge from tradition. In protest to these violations of scripture, the Protestant movement was born.
The focuses of the Reformers were on the doctrines of the church and the doctrines that applied to salvation and Christian living. Understanding prophecy took a back seat and rightfully so. If the church has confusion within its doctrine, all other issues, including prophecy, are meaningless. After the foundational doctrinal issues had been hashed out, we then see doctrines concerning prophecy beginning to reemerge. After the turn of the 20th century, modern technology and the First World War began to shed light on prophecy. The book of Revelation speaks of world conflicts, but until WWI this was unheard of.
We also should remember that Israel was no longer on the scene. Sixty years ago, when someone looked at prophecy and saw Israel mentioned, it never quite fit. Church leaders tried to fit the church into Israel’s roles. The problem with this is that many, many scriptures have to be explained away in order to rationalize this view. Whenever Israel is mentioned by name, many people claimed that it was symbolic of the church. Some teachers went out on a limb and actually claimed that Israel was Israel and not the church. Sixty years ago, this seemed to be an impossible idea. How could a nation destroyed and scattered 2,000 years ago revive and return to their homeland? How could a people who were hated by the world and had no political clout possibly gain the power to reclaim their land? It was a preposterous idea. Yet theologians like H. A. Ironside claimed that this would happen. Ironside looked at the scriptures and stated that the only way prophecy could be fulfilled is that Israel must return to their homeland. If the Bible is true, he claimed that Israel must become a nation again. He made these claims in the 1919 and published his lectures in 1930. Ironside was not alone in his belief that Israel would be restored. Here are other quotes:
"The postmillenarian assumption, that Israel is nationally cast away forever, that God has no national future for Israel restored, and that Israel is now the ’Church,’ is the one fundamental and false postulate that blinds so many to the true interpretation..."
Nathaniel West in 1889
"About the time of the fall of the Othman empire and of the Christian Antichrist, the Jews shall turn to the Lord, and be restored to their own land. Innumerable are the prophecies concerning the conversion and restoration of this people."
Thomas Newton in 1760
Till the Jew is brought back to his own land, and the temple and its sacrifices are restored, the prophetic part of the Apocalypse does not begin." Robert Govett in 1861
’By many, and even by the most recent commentator, Dusterdieck, these sealed ones are taken to represent Jewish believers; the chosen out of the actual children of Israel.’ Among these we may note Irenaeus, Bullinger, Grotius, Bossuet, Bengel, Eichorn, Heinrichs, Maitland, Zullig, Hoffman, B.W. Newton, Kelly, ’Matheetees,’ and others...What, then, is the implication, but that when this period is once reached, Jerusalem will have been largely repopulated by the children of its ancient inhabitants, its temple rebuilt, and its ancient worship restored Joseph Seiss 1865
"In Scripture the glory and resurrection of the Church of the firstborn ones is always connected with the time when Israel (who will have returned to their own land in unbelief) ’shall know the Lord.’" George Muller in 1875