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PFRS Home > Doctrinal Studies > Progressive Dispensationalism >

Israel's Role
In God's Redemptive Plan
Copyright © Tim Warner

The strength and primary feature of Progressive Dispensationalism is its ability to explain the overall purpose of God for mankind in a single unified plan. God's plan to redeem mankind flows through a series of progressive dispensations. The nation of Israel was chosen by God as a conduit to reveal Himself and His plan, through His interaction with them as a people. The eventual goal was to call out of every nation a people unto Himself. Remember how a teacher might take one student in the class, bring him up to the front, and use him as an illustration for the whole class? This is what God did with the nation of Israel, using one nation to illustrate His character, and to provide an example for the rest of the nations. Because of this, the Gentile powers (like Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, and Cyrus) were forced to acknowledge that the God of Israel was sovereign in the affairs of man. Because of God's singling out this nation, Israel was put under scrutiny, and bore a heavy burden of responsibility. And Israel was held to a much higher standard than the rest of the Gentile nations.

1 Cor 10:11
11 Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.

Israel was entrusted with the written Words of God. She was given a much heavier burden to bear regarding holiness and obedience to God, than the Gentile nations surrounding her. Jeremiah complained to the Lord using the original 'Olive Tree' metaphor (Jer. 11:15-15 & 12:1-2). He compared Israel to a good Olive Tree whom God had planted. Yet, God was judging Israel harshly, breaking off the branches. Jeremiah reasoned that God had planted the other trees too (Gentile nations), but couldn't understand why God was judging Israel harshly, and didn't seem to judge the pagan practices if the Gentile nations. Jeremiah didn't understand the unique role of Israel among the nations.

Throughout Israel's history, there has always been a believing remnant, and the unbelieving majority, just like every nation today. The promises to Israel in the Old Testament were conditional. The Jews were told repeatedly that the promises depended on their keeping God's covenant with them. Each generation of Israelites had its faithful remnant, and unfaithful majority. It was through the faithful remnant that Israel retained its connection to the covenants and promises. For this reason, at the resurrection, not all of the Jews will be raised to inherit the Kingdom. This is clear in Daniel 12:1,2, where the angel told Daniel that MANY of his people who sleep shall awaken to everlasting life. But the rest to eternal damnation. The promises to Israel did not depend solely on being the seed of Abraham, but also having the faith of Abraham, and maintaining one's connection to the covenants and promises through faith. This is what Hebrews 11 teaches, by recalling the great men of Faith from Israel's history, and telling us that they held on to the promises through faith.

In the New Testament, the connection between the Jews who believed and the Old Testament promises remains intact. By believing the Gospel, a Jew did not, or does not, sever his ties with the Patriarchs, or the promises of God to Israel, as Traditional Dispensationalism teaches. He is not merely a generic 'Christian.' He is a Christian, but still has the same hope as his forefathers, being a part of the Israel - the head of the nations - in the Millennial Kingdom of Christ. The land inheritance promised to the twelve tribes in Ezekiel remains for all of the twelve tribes who are raised in the resurrection of the just. That includes the division of the land of Israel by tribe, and the granting of land by 'lot.' I mentioned the practice of casting 'lots' to divide the land by family, because the Bible clearly says that this is how God commanded it to be done in Joshua's day. And, it will be the same in the Millennium. The proof is in Daniel 12, where the closing verses are a personal message to Daniel. He would die, but would be resurrected to stand in his 'lot' at the end of the 1290 days of great tribulation. This shows that the inheritance of the Old Testament saints after being raised is indeed the land promises. The land inheritance is NOT merely for the surviving Jews of the tribulation, as many Traditional Dispensationalists teach. It is for saints in resurrected bodies.

That Israel (including Jewish Christians) is to enjoy specific literal promises in the Millennium is not to say that the Gentile believers are slighted. It is only that Israel's inheritance is much more explicitly explained in Scripture. All believers will be rewarded and receive an inheritance in Christ's Kingdom here on earth. It is simply that God told the Jews in much greater detail what theirs would be. Jesus even told the disciples, who were to be the elders of the Church, that their position in the Kingdom would be to eat at Christ's table, and sit on twelve thrones as governors, ruling each the twelve tribes of Israel.

Regarding the role of Gentile believers, the world is a very big place, particularly once the followers of the Antichrist have been removed. The land of Israel is a small place. Remember the parable of the Talents? The reward for faithful service now is authority in Christ's Kingdom over various cities. National distinctions will remain in the Kingdom even for the saved in resurrected bodies. The land promises will be realized by all of believing Israel. But, just as national distinctions do not create an issue within the Church in this dispensation, neither will they in the next. Do we get all worked up about national distinctions between the Church in Russia and the Church in the USA, or China? No. We are one body in Christ despite such national distinctions. Why should such distinctions (not divisions) get us worked up in the Millennium? The Word of God plainly shows that national distinctions will extend through all eternity. Speaking of the New Jerusalem, God says...

Rev 21:24
24 And the nations of them which are saved shall walk in the light of it: and the kings of the earth do bring their glory and honour into it.

The Church is not really an extension of Israel. The Church is the believing remnant of Israel and the believing remnant of all the other nations, joined in one body. It is just that God has singled out Israel for a place in history of greater responsibility, but also great blessing. The blessings come as the result of the covenants. Israel under the Law provided the example for the whole class (the nations). We saw through God's dealings with Israel as a nation a microcosm of His dealings with all of mankind. It is a demonstration of God's character and holiness, and why He cannot tolerate sin, for the whole class to see and learn.

In the present dispensation, the New Covenant was offered to Israel, as Jeremiah prophesied. Some of Israel received it. But, as always, the majority of Israel remains in unbelief. At Kadesh Barnea, when they failed to go into the promised land, the majority separated themselves from the blessings of the Covenant. So it was with the Jewish majority who rejected Christ. But, the Gentiles are 'brought nigh' to the blessings promised Israel. The same KINDS of blessings are ours through faith. So, the Church is not really an extension of the nation of Israel (although it could be viewed as an extension of the believing remnant of Israel). Israel is simply the conduit for the blessings to flow to the remnant of faith from all the nations. Israel is partially blinded in this dispensation, so that the nations can sort of catch up and partake in God's redemptive plan. The Great Commission provides for the Good News to be proclaimed to all the nations, while Israel for the most part is held back. But, at the proper time, ALL Israel (one whole generation) will come into the Church in a single day, when the blindness is lifted, and they "look on Him whom they have pierced."

Each dispensation contains a microcosm of the next dispensation. What is seen in limited form in one dispensation is fully developed in the next. After the tower of Babel, and the division of the population into nations by the confounding of the languages, God's redemptive plan began to gather steam. It started with one man and his family, Abraham. The promises were limited to one man, then to his son Isaac, his son Jacob, and then to the twelve tribes. Under the Law of Moses, God began to deal with a whole nation as a unit, as a microcosm of His future plan. 'Israel' under the Law was an illustration of God's dealings with the whole world in the next dispensation. Rather than the remnant of one nation being solely the people of God, the remnants from all the nations become the people of God (the Church) in this dispensation. In the age to come, the remnants of faith from all the nations will rule the earth (no longer being a remnant, and evil will be kept under wraps by Christ's ruling Kingdom. In the eternal state, all evil will be eliminated from the earth, and the entire population of the earth will be limited to the redeemed. God's Kingdom will go on forever with the nations of the redeemed.

This is also the process whereby God's creation is being progressively made holy. While the whole world was pagan at the time of Babel, God started with one man of faith, Abraham. From Abraham was produced a nation, Israel. From Israel was produced a remnant of holy people (a perculiar people, a holy nation). In the present dispensation, righteousness further displaces evil by God's calling a remnant from among the Gentile nations, joining them to the remnant of Israel, creating the 'Church.' At the end of this dispensation, God will force the whole population of the world to either choose Him or the Antichrist. At the coming of the next dispensation, those who worship the Beast will be removed, and the present little remnant (the true Church) will rule the world with Christ! In the final eternal dispensation, evil will be banished entirely.

All of this has been made possible by God's using Israel as His channel to reveal Himself and His plan, as a living example of His interaction with man, and as the conduit for the salvation of the remnant from all of the nations, and to bring forth one from Abraham's seed (Jesus Christ) through whom all can inherit eternal salvation. For this reason, Israel will be the head of the nations in the Millennium.

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