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PFRS Home > Doctrinal Studies > Progressive Dispensationalism >

"That Prophet"
& Israel's Division
Copyright © Tim Warner

Dispensationalists mistakenly think that God's program for Israel was suspended on the Day of Pentecost, and "the Church" was begun. Many non-dispensationalists think God's program for Israel was cancelled completely, by Israel's rejection of Jesus as Messiah. Both are wrong. When Jesus came, a prophesied change occurred within the nation of Israel. This was the direct fulfillment of a prophecy given through Moses. When the Law was given, Moses prophesied that another 'prophet' like him (Moses) would come bringing a new Law (Torah). Moses was God's prophet, delivering God's words to Israel. But, another prophet, like Moses, would come, bringing a new Law. Israel would forever be divided between those who would listen to "that prophet" and those who would not. Those who would not listen to "that prophet" would be cut off from Israel.

Deut 18:15-19
15 The LORD thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken;
16 According to all that thou desiredst of the LORD thy God in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, Let me not hear again the voice of the LORD my God, neither let me see this great fire any more, that I die not.
17 And the LORD said unto me, They have well spoken that which they have spoken.
18 I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him.
19 And it shall come to pass, that whosoever will not hearken unto my words which he shall speak in my name, I will require it of him.

The Jews of Jesus' day were keenly aware of this prophecy, since they revered Moses. When John the Baptist came preaching, the Jews thought that maybe he was "that prophet" of whom Moses spoke.

John 1:19-21
19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?
20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.
21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

John 6:14
14 Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world.

Jesus identified himself as "that Prophet" when he rebuked the scribes and Pharisees in John 5:46,47, "For had ye believed Moses, ye would have believed me: for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?"

In Peter's second sermon, He also identified Jesus as "that prophet," and reminded the residents of Jerusalem that those who refused to listen to "that prophet" would suffer the wrath of God.

Acts 3:20-24
20 And he shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you:
21 Whom the heaven must receive until the times of restitution of all things, which God hath spoken by the mouth of all his holy prophets since the world began.
22 For Moses truly said unto the fathers, A prophet shall the Lord your God raise up unto you of your brethren, like unto me; him shall ye hear in all things whatsoever he shall say unto you.
23 And it shall come to pass, that every soul, which will not hear that prophet, shall be destroyed from among the people.
24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.

The judgment predicted on those of Israel who would not hear "that prophet" was twofold. It included their being broken off from the people of God, as Paul plainly describes in the parable of the Olive Tree in Rom. 11, and it also included the destruction of Jerusalem predicted by Daniel and Jesus (cf. Dan. 9:26 & Luke 19:41-44).

The Division of Israel Begins
John the Baptist came to prepare the way for "that prophet." Notice his prediction of the judgment on the unbelieving part of Israel, because of their rejection of "that prophet."

Matt 3:7-12
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance:
9 And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham.
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire:
12 Whose fan is in his hand, and he will throughly purge his floor, and gather his wheat into the garner; but he will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.

John was referring here to Israel being separated into two camps. In verse 10, John spoke of the 'axe' being used to chop down those trees of Israel that were not bringning forth fruit. Notice in verse 8, he equated those who were truely coming to be baptized by Him as bearing fruit, and the Pharisees and Sadducees as bearing no fruit. So he refused to baptize them. He used another analogy in verse 12. The 'fan' that he spoke of was a tool used by those working on the threshing floor. Wheat was beaten or ground to remove the chaff from the kernels. Then the wheat was tossed into the air and the evening breeze would carry the chaff away, while the much heavier wheat kernels fell back to the floor. John used this analogy to depict what Christ was about to do with Israel, separate the wheat from the chaff.

Beginning with John's preaching, Israel had to choose between hearing "that prophet" who brought the new Torah, or insisting on following Moses only and rejecting "that prophet." As you know, MOST of Israel rejected Jesus. But, Jesus' disciples and a number of others heeded "that prophet." By their acceptance or rejection of "that Prophet," Israel was forever split into two camps. The believing camp who followed Jesus received the New Covenant, promised to Israel in Jer. 31:31-34. The unbelieving camp was "cut off" as Peter said in his sermon above. In Peter's other great sermon in Acts 2, speaking to the "men of Israel," Peter pleaded with them to "save yourselves from this untoward generation" (Acts 2:40). He knew from both Old Testament prophecy, and Jesus' predictions in Luke 19:40-44 & Luke 21:12-24, that Jerusalem and the Jewish people were about to be destroyed, because they refused to listen to, and crucified, "that Prophet." This was fulfilled in AD70, when the Romans destroyed the Temple and Jerusalem.

God hardened the hearts of the majority of Jews in order for His plan to go forward. Jesus HAD to be rejected by the leadership in order to be crucified. Their rejection of Jesus was also part of God's plan for the Gospel going to the Gentiles. This hardening of the majority of Israel was actively going on all during Jesus' ministry. In fact, Jesus spoke to the crowds ONLY by parables in order to keep them in the dark.

Mark 4:9-12
9 And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.
10 And when he was alone, they that were about him with the twelve asked of him the parable.
11 And he said unto them, Unto you it is given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God: but unto them that are without, all these things are done in parables:
12 That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them

Mark 4:33-34
33 And with many such parables spake he the word unto them, as they were able to hear it.
34 But without a parable spake he not unto them: and when they were alone, he expounded all things to his disciples.

The parables were used by Jesus as a double-edged sword. They were illustrations for the disciples, that Jesus used to convey His points, and then explained them to them in plain language when they were alone. But, they were also used to CONFUSE the crowds, particularly the leadership of Israel. Jesus spoke to them in "riddles," just as Isaiah prophesied. Why? "That seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest at any time they should be converted, and their sins should be forgiven them."

As you can see, this division of Israel, and hardening the leadership, was a part of God's plan to bring about the crucifixion. God was not caught offguard by the Jews rejecting His Son. He planned it.

Peter acknowledged both God's sovereignty and Israel's stubbornness in the crucifixion of Christ, in his sermon on the Day of Pentecost. We should not assume that God blinded the nation of Israel, and then damned them to hell with no opportunity to repent. Yes, God blinded them. But after the crucifixion He opened up the Gospel to ALL the Jews, INCLUDING those who were formerly blinded during Jesus' ministry. Peter's first sermon on Pentecost was to the nation of Israel. And 3000 Jews were saved that day in downtown Jerusalem.

Acts 2:22-24,36-39
22 Ye men of Israel, hear these words; Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs, which God did by him in the midst of you, as ye yourselves also know:
23 Him, being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain:
24 Whom God hath raised up, having loosed the pains of death: because it was not possible that he should be holden of it. ...
36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly, that God hath made that same Jesus, whom ye have crucified, both Lord and Christ.
37 Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?
38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
39 For the promise is unto you (Israeli Jews), and to your children, and to all that are afar off (Jews of the Diaspora), even as many (Jews) as the Lord our God shall call.

Here, Peter was addressing Jews of Israel (vs. 22) and also those of the Diaspora who had travelled from foreign lands for the feast of Pentecost (vs. 5). Many of these Jews had been in Jerusalem only 7 weeks earlier for the Passover, and had been part of the mob that cried "away with him, crucify him." They had been blinded by "the determinate council and foreknowledge of God," and had crucified Jesus. But, it was all according to God's plan. After Pentecost, the Holy Spirit convicted them through Peter's preaching, and 3000 were saved in one day! You didn't think this was just because of Peter's great preaching, did you? Peter preached again a little later, and 5000 more were saved. In fact, when you get to Acts 21, the Jerusalem church had grown to many thousands of believing Jews! Not bad for a "blinded" nation!

To the Jews First, then to the Gentiles
Right after preaching that Jesus was "that prophet" in his sermon above, Peter said the following in his invitation:

Acts 3:24-26
24 Yea, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days.
25 Ye are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying unto Abraham, And in thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. (Gentiles)
26 Unto you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.

Peter's point here is that the covenants were Israel's. They should embrace them despite the fact that most of the nation was being cut off because they refused to listen to "that Prophet." Yet, Peter reminded them here that the covenant God made with Abraham also concerned the Gentiles. All nations would be blessed through the 'seed' of Abraham. Peter let them know that the opportunity to embrace the covenants given to Israel dependeded on their listening to "that Prophet," and that the opportunity they were afforded was given to them FIRST, before the Gentile nations would embrace the blessing of Abraham. It was only fitting that the natural sons should embrace the covenants first.

Paul wrote that the Gospel was "to the Jew first, and also to the Greek" (Rom. 1:16, Rom. 2:9,10). This is borne out historically in the Gospel accounts. When approached by a Gentile woman, Jesus said to her, "I am not sent, but to the lost sheep of the house of Israel." (Matt. 15:22-28). In Matthew 10, Jesus sent His disciples out preaching, telling them NOT to preach to the Gentiles, but ONLY to Israel. This was because the New Covenant was specifically promised to Israel (Jer. 31:31-34). Israel had to be offered the covenant, and given the opportunity to receive it first. Israel was divided, part rejecting the new covenant, and part accepting it.

Paul was a Jew. He was of the portion of Israel that believed, and received the new Torah of "that prophet." Yet, he lamented the fact that most of his nation was blinded, and did not receive the New Covenant. This is the theme of Romans 9, where Paul speaks of "election" of a remnant of Israel, and the rest of the nation being blinded.

Rom 9:1-18
1 I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost,
2 That I have great heaviness and continual sorrow in my heart.
3 For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh:
4 Who are Israelites; to whom pertaineth the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the law, and the service of God, and the promises;
5 Whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came
, who is over all, God blessed for ever. Amen.
6 Not as though the word of God hath taken none effect. For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel:
7 Neither, because they are the seed of Abraham, are they all children: but, In Isaac shall thy seed be called.
8 That is, They which are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God: but the children of the promise are counted for the seed
9 For this is the word of promise, At this time will I come, and Sarah shall have a son.
10 And not only this; but when Rebecca also had conceived by one, even by our father Isaac;
11 (For the children being not yet born, neither having done any good or evil, that the purpose of God according to election might stand, not of works, but of him that calleth;)
12 It was said unto her, The elder shall serve the younger.
13 As it is written, Jacob have I loved, but Esau have I hated.
14 What shall we say then? Is there unrighteousness with God? God forbid.
15 For he saith to Moses, I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion.
16 So then it is not of him that willeth, nor of him that runneth, but of God that sheweth mercy.
17 For the scripture saith unto Pharaoh, Even for this same purpose have I raised thee up, that I might shew my power in thee, and that my name might be declared throughout all the earth.
18 Therefore hath he mercy on whom he will have mercy, and whom he will he hardeneth.

In the bold part above, Paul was making the point that only a portion of Israel received the promises. Contrary to what many think, he was not referring to Gentiles becoming "Israel." Gentile believers are NOT "Israel." When he said, "they are not all Israel who are of Israel," he was saying that not all of those who descended from Jacob (whom God renamed "Israel") are the true "Israel." Only a remnant of those descended from Jacob were the true "Israel." In other words, Paul was limiting "Israel" to ONLY those Jews who listened to "that prophet," and received the New Covenant. Then he said, "but in Isaac shall thay seed be called." This is a referrence to God's promise to Abraham. Remember, Abraham had two sons, Ishmael and Isaac. But, both of Abraham's physical descendants did NOT inherit the promise. The promise proceeded through Isaac only, not Ishmael, even though both were the physical seed of Abraham. Paul used this as an example of the current situation. Israel was divided into two camps, the believers and the unbelievers. Paul was likening the unbelievers of Israel to "Ishmael" and the believing remnant to "Isaac." Next, he used Jacob and Esau as another example of the same point. Both were physical sons of Isaac, but only Jacob received the promises.

Paul then went on in the rest of the chapter to speak of God's election of the believing remnant of Israel, and his blinding the larger part of the physical seed of Jacob. Paul argued for God's justice in doing so.

Sometimes when Paul spoke to the Gentile believers, he did so, not from the perspective of being a generic "Christian," but from the perspective of being part of this special remnant of Israel. He recognized that being a Messianic believer had a certain advantage.

Rom 3:1-3
1 What advantage then hath the Jew? or what profit is there of circumcision?
2 Much every way: chiefly, because that unto them were committed the oracles of God.
3 For what if some did not believe? shall their unbelief make the faith of God without effect?

Paul's point here was that being a Jewish believer is adventageous in a certain way. That SOME of the Jews did not receive the New Covenant DOES NOT make the promise void. It merely excludes from the true "Israel" those who rejected it. He was implying that, just as the promise to Abraham went through Isaac, bypassing Ishmael, and then from Isaac through Jacob, bypassing Esau, the promise continues in the believing REMNANT of Israel - the Messianic believers of the first century - and bypasses the unbelieving majority of Jews. Paul made the same point in Rom. 11.

Rom 11:1-5
1 I say then, Hath God cast away his people? God forbid. For I also am an Israelite, of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
2 God hath not cast away his people which he foreknew. Wot ye not what the scripture saith of Elias? how he maketh intercession to God against Israel, saying,
3 Lord, they have killed thy prophets, and digged down thine altars; and I am left alone, and they seek my life.
4 But what saith the answer of God unto him? I have reserved to myself seven thousand men, who have not bowed the knee to the image of Baal.
5 Even so then at this present time also there is a remnant according to the election of grace.

Paul thought of himself not merely as a generic "Christian," but as a Messianic Jew. Verse one demolishes the ant-dispensationalists claim that God is finished with Israel. But it also destroys the dispensationaists claim that God has set aside Israel. Notice that Paul counters the claim that God has cast away His people, Israel, by appealing to the fact that He (Paul) was a Jew of the tribe of Benjamin. He then goes on to explain that a remnant of Israel was NOT cast off by God, but continue in the covenant relationship with God. Paul gave an Old Testament example from Elijah's day to show that this was really how it has always been with Israel. The majority of the nation has always been in unbelief. That is how it was in the wilderness, when Israel refused to go into the promised land.

Paul continued with the Olive Tree parable, a milestone passage that explains the continuity between the nation of Israel and the Church better than any other passage.

Rom 11:13-29
13 For I speak to you Gentiles, inasmuch as I am the apostle of the Gentiles, I magnify mine office:
14 If by any means I may provoke to emulation them which are my flesh, and might save some of them.
15 For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world, what shall the receiving of them be, but life from the dead?
16 For if the firstfruit be holy, the lump is also holy: and if the root be holy, so are the branches.
17 And if some of the branches be broken off, and thou, being a wild olive tree, wert graffed in among them, and with them partakest of the root and fatness of the olive tree;
18 Boast not against the branches. But if thou boast, thou bearest not the root, but the root thee.
19 Thou wilt say then, The branches were broken off, that I might be graffed in.
20 Well; because of unbelief they were broken off, and thou standest by faith. Be not highminded, but fear:
21 For if God spared not the natural branches, take heed lest he also spare not thee.
22 Behold therefore the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in his goodness: otherwise thou also shalt be cut off.
23 And they also, if they abide not still in unbelief, shall be graffed in: for God is able to graff them in again.
24 For if thou wert cut out of the olive tree which is wild by nature, and wert graffed contrary to nature into a good olive tree: how much more shall these, which be the natural branches, be graffed into their own olive tree?
25 For I would not, brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel, until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in.
26 And so all Israel shall be saved: as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob:
27 For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.
28 As concerning the gospel, they are enemies for your sakes: but as touching the election, they are beloved for the fathers' sakes.
29 For the gifts and calling of God are without repentance.

There is a clear continuity here between the natural branches before and after Christ. The 'Olive Tree' was in existence long before Christ came. In fact, Paul borrowed this parable from Jeremiah 11,12, where the good olive tree was Israel, and the wild trees were the gentiles.

Jer 11:16-17, 12:1,2
16 The LORD called thy name, A green olive tree, fair, and of goodly fruit: with the noise of a great tumult he hath kindled fire upon it, and the branches of it are broken.
17 For the LORD of hosts, that planted thee, hath pronounced evil against thee, for the evil of the house of Israel and of the house of Judah, which they have done against themselves to provoke me to anger in offering incense unto Baal...
12:1 Righteous art thou, O LORD, when I plead with thee: yet let me talk with thee of thy judgments: Wherefore doth the way of the wicked prosper? wherefore are all they happy that deal very treacherously?
2 Thou hast planted them, yea, they have taken root: they grow, yea, they bring forth fruit: thou art near in their mouth, and far from their reins.

Jeremiah was contending with the Lord here, because God was judging Israel harshly. As a good olive tree that God had planted, He was now breaking off the branches and burning the tree. This was in referrence to God's judgment on Israel during the Babylonian captivity. Jeremiah reasoned that God's judgment was too harsh. After all, He had planted the other trees as well (the heathen nations), yet He seemed to prosper them and not judge them nearly as harshly as He was judging Israel.

This is the parable that Paul brings into Romans 11, but with a new twist. Once again, the branches were being broken off from Israel. These branches were the Jews who did not listen to "that Prophet." But, as is apparent, SOME of the natural branches remained in the olive tree. These are the Jews who listened to "that Prophet," like the disciples, and all of the Jews who were saved in Acts 2, and even Paul himself. Then, Paul speaks of branches from the wild trees being grafted in AMONG the natural branches. These are the Gentiles, who believed the Gospel after Israel had largely rejected Jesus. Notice the definate continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament saints implied by this passage. The Olive Tree was in existence before Jesus came. It contained many branches. The tree remains even after SOME of the branches were broken off, and others grafted in.

When Paul wrote to the Ephesians, he did so from this same perspective. Yet, much of Ephesians was designed to show Gentile believers that they (the wild branches) have become EQUAL in Christ to the Messianic believers (the natural branches). This does not mean there are no DISTINCTIONS, only no DIVISIONS or DISPARITY between the Jewish branches and the Gentile branches.

Eph 1:11-13
11 In whom also WE have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will:
12 That WE should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ.
13 In whom ye also trusted, after that YE heard the word of truth, the gospel of YOUR salvation: in whom also after that YE believed, YE were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise,

Notice the distinction in verses 12 & 13 between "we" who are identified as those who "first trusted in Christ," and the "you also" who later "believed" and who were later "sealed." In these verses, when Paul spoke in the first person plural, he was including himself in those who "first trusted in Christ," (the Jewish remnant). When he switched to the second person plural in vs. 13, he was speaking of the Gentile believers of Ephesus. There is a clear distinction here between the Jewish remnant (the remnant of Israel drawn by Jesus {as per John 6}, and who believed the Gospel) and the Gentiles of the Ephesian church, who were included in Christ after most of Israel had been blinded, and had rejected Him.

How do we reconcile then the fact that Paul spoke of Israel being blinded "until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in," yet thousands of Jews being saved in Acts? Simply because God instigated the INITIAL blindness in order to carry out His plan. However, once the leadership of Israel committed themselves by crucifying Jesus, and persecuting the Church, they had begun down a road that was very hard to turn around. Pride took over. Paul says that the Gospel going to the Gentiles provoked Israel to jealousy (Rom. 11:11), and the Jewish nation could not turn back to Christ, because of a self-imposed 'blindness.' Instead, unbelieving Israel began to persecute the remnant of Faith.

Gal 4:21-5:1
21 Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22 For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23 But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24 Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25 For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26 But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27 For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28 Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29 But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30 Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31 So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
5:1 Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage.

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