The Gospel of Israel, part 4 (the Hope of Israel)

Israel’s Future Hope
Israel’s prophets told stories of Israel’s post-exilic future – stories of a new age of the kingdom of God in which God’s purposes for Israel were at last fulfilled. It is my belief that NT theology only makes sense against this background.

It is not easy to put all the different, overlapping prophetic visions together into a single, fully coherent picture. However the following themes, whilst not all found in all of the visions, are recurring (sorry for the patchy refs - I am racing against the clock to write this).
  • Israel’s Gentile enemies would be destroyed (e.g. Isa 34:1-4; Zech 12:1-9; 14:1-5, 12; etc.)

  • The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah would be brought back from their respective exiles to their Promised Land (e.g., Jer 33:7).

  • In later traditions there was the expectation of a resurrection of the dead to vindicate the righteous martyrs of Israel – they too would share in the blessings of the new age (e.g., Dan 12:2; 2 Macc 7).

  • The land would flourish under divine blessing (e.g., Ezek 36) and, in several traditions, under the restored rule of a king from the line of David (the Messiah) (e.g., Jer 33:14-18; Ezek 37:24-27; Zech 9:9-10, etc).

  • Israel and Judah, divided after the time of Solomon, would be reunited under a new Davidic king (e.g., Ezek 37:15-28).

  • The Jerusalem temple would be rebuilt and YHWH would dwell there again (e.g., Ezek 40-48).

  • God would make a new covenant with Israel and Judah that included
    - pouring out his Spirit on Israel (e.g., Joel 2:28-29; Ezek 36:27)
    - enabling Israel to obey the Law of Yhwh (e.g., Deut 30:6; Jer 31:31-34; Ezek 36:27)

  • The word of the Lord would go out from Jerusalem to the nations (e.g., Isa 2:1-4).

  • The survivors of the nations would come to Jerusalem – no longer as enemies but as pilgrims coming to learn the ways of Israel’s God and to worship him (e.g., Isa 2:1-4; 11:10-12; 18:7; 19; 45:20-25; 60:1-16; 61:5-6; 66:12, 18, 23; Ps 86:9-10; Zech 14:16).

  • Tentative suggestion that needs more thought: The restoration of Israel in its land would represent and bring about the redemption of the whole creation – a redeemed cosmos. The roots of new creation eschatology are found in the book of Isaiah 65:17ff in the context of the restoration of Israel and Jerusalem. This idea may be grounded in the links between Adam/humanity in Eden and Israel in the Promised Land (something N.T. Wright makes much of). So Israel in the Land can represent humanity in the earth (a point well made by Christopher J.H. Wright). Consequently the restoration of Israel is linked somehow to the restoration of humanity and the whole created order. Just a thought. I'd need to ponder that a lot more.

Whilst attempts to piece together a unified chronology for the occurrence of these hoped-for events is a precarious business (you won't catch me mapping out a timetable of the Last Days!), the very broad structure is clear – first God restores Israel and then, through Israel, he reaches out to save the nations in accord with Israel’s mission of blessing the nations.

With those ideas in place we can look at the NT.

Comments

M Slater said…
“Israel’s prophets told stories of Israel’s post-exilic future – stories of a new age of the kingdom of God in which God’s purposes for Israel were at last fulfilled. It is my belief that NT theology only makes sense against this background.”

Robin,
Excellent series thus far. I had not replied yet to it, but have been keeping a close eye on how you are developing this difficult issue and have quite enjoyed your insights.
I have come to very similar conclusions on those points, as to what Israel expected in its restoration, and fully agree that we must read the NT with those themes in mind. The only one I would add off the top of my head would be that when Israel is restored that this seems to equal forgiveness of sin (Lamentations 4:22).
Not sure if this is where you are going with these themes (see below) but I think that reading the mission of Jesus the Messiah, the 12, and the other early followers of the Messiah in light of these themes really brings to light how God fulfilled and reformed the hopes of Israel in a way which climaxes in the death and resurrection of Jesus as Israel’s true king.

“Whilst attempts to piece together a unified chronology for the occurrence of these hoped-for events is a precarious business (you won't catch me mapping out a timetable of the Last Days!), the very broad structure is clear”

I am curious where you are intending to go with this. Although as I said above I would agree that we must see the NT against the important themes you laid out, the quote above would appear to imply you see these events as coming to pass primarily in a future time, as opposed to primarily in the first coming of the Jewish Messiah and his ending of the exile on the cross (as in Wright). That’s fine if you are going that way, and I’d love to see an example of how it can be done without becoming dispensational (something I’d like to avoid) but let me know if I’m reading you correctly.
Teresita said…
Israel’s prophets told stories of Israel’s post-exilic future – stories of a new age of the kingdom of God in which God’s purposes for Israel were at last fulfilled. It is my belief that NT theology only makes sense against this background.

If we take the OT "prophesies" to be idealized hopes for the future of Israel, or ambiguous predictions which have a Christian fulfillment, we do well. But if we take them to be divinely-given visions of the actual future, relayed to us from God's point of view in eternity, we run into trouble, because the Hewbrew prophets, effective voices for social and religious reform, were some of the lousiest prognosticators we've ever seen. Christians who are opposed to biblical innerrantism perhaps won't go so far as to compile all the failed prophesies in the OT, but atheists have no compunction against doing so, and their evidence abounds.

It is not easy to put all the different, overlapping prophetic visions together into a single, fully coherent picture.

The Catholic Encyclopedia has tried to do the same thing for all the contradictory resurrection accounts in the gospels. I have posted a streamlined version here. It works, but all the plot gyrations are made assuming that all the accounts of that Sunday morning are given without error. It is much more likely that the authors of the gospels simply did not take great care to establish a consistent narrative, or perhaps had their own ideas about what happened they intended to override the details of other gospels. So when I read your proposed timeline of the future of Israel I approach it with the attitude of caveat emptor.

Israel’s Gentile enemies would be destroyed (e.g. Isa 34:1-4; Zech 12:1-9; 14:1-5, 12; etc.)

This is true for the most part. We don't see the Amalekites or the Romans or Nazi Germany around anymore. Egypt is still there, but they are at peace with Israel.

The northern kingdom of Israel and the southern kingdom of Judah would be brought back from their respective exiles to their Promised Land (e.g., Jer 33:7).

The problem with this is that intermarriage and a deliberate policy by the conquering Assyrians to eliminate the tribal identity of their subjects has totally destroyed most of the components of the Northern Kingdom. They are truly scattered. Only the tribes of Judah, Benjamin, and Levi remain more or less intact, and these have been absorbed in turn into the construct we call "Jews".

In later traditions there was the expectation of a resurrection of the dead to vindicate the righteous martyrs of Israel – they too would share in the blessings of the new age (e.g., Dan 12:2; 2 Macc 7).

Later Hellenistic encrustations imported into Christianity developed this theology of the resurrection into a system where human souls were considered innately immortal, like the angels, and the whole panoply of salvation amounts to a procedure like we see in Harry Potter, where the students are sorted by a talking hat into various rival houses according to their temperament.

The Jerusalem temple would be rebuilt and YHWH would dwell there again (e.g., Ezek 40-48).

If so, then the Muslim mosque called the Dome of the Rock, which occupies the physical location of the former Holy of Holies, exists as a sort of cork on the fulfillment of Jewish eschatology. And if Yahweh dwells there again, it will need to be consecrated, and the Jews will resort to animal sacrifices which Christians believe have been superceded by the final, universally efficacious sacrifice of God's son. So the consecration would amount to a temptation of God: If the rituals are carried out and he fills the temple with his presence, as he did in the time of Solomon, it would be a repudiation of the New Testament. God would be saying, "I never heard of Peter, Paul, or this carpenter guy."
Jim Deardorff said…
Israel’s prophets told stories of Israel’s post-exilic future – stories of a new age of the kingdom of God in which God’s purposes for Israel were at last fulfilled. It is my belief that NT theology only makes sense against this background.

By my reckoning, NT theology cannot make sense until it settles upon a true definition of theos/God. Don't we know, these days, that the whole of creation was not made just for man on our little planet in the Milky Way, that the cosmic intelligence that initiated the Big Bang (and its predecessor) and the laws of nature governing several hundred galaxies in the universe(s), and the spiritual world, were not crafted by an entity that wrestled with Jacob?

On the other hand, have we not had a sufficiently great number of high quality UFO reports, and revelations by such persons as former astronaut Ed Mitchell and Clark McClellan, former NASA Science Officer for 34 years, that extraterrestrials are very real and in our presence? Can we not put 2 + 2 together and realize that the gods and goddesses of yore were ETs, some of whom did not take sufficient care not to become worshiped as Creators of the world? And one of whom chose the people of Israel to concentrate his attention upon?

Until theology learns to make the distinction between ETs with their sky chariots (UFOs) and the Universal Conscousness (true God), it will remain replete with illogic and nonsense. Unfortunately, however, the above view is considered blasphemy, which deters its dissemination.
Teresita said…
On the other hand, have we not had a sufficiently great number of high quality UFO reports, and revelations by such persons as former astronaut Ed Mitchell and Clark McClellan, former NASA Science Officer for 34 years, that extraterrestrials are very real and in our presence?

Not sufficiently great, not sufficiently high. Where's the signals from their homeworld? Where's the alien artifacts? Always we get explanations that man is not ready to handle the existence of ET's so the ET's are extremely good at cleaning up their landing sites, or keeping the entire galaxy on radio silence.
Jim Deardorff said…
If the ETs were no more advanced than we, and did not pass through a brief stage of radio communication hundreds of thousands (or millions) of years previously, then your wonderment over our not coming across their radio signals could make some sense. But with their capability of traversing space in a manner that avoids the speed-of-light limitation, surely they similarly possess much more advanced means of communication than radio.

As to alien artifacts or the lack of, research indicates that our special branches of the military are very prompt at hauling away any and all crashed disks, as at Roswell.

Perhaps the next best thing is the voluminous evidence left behind by UFOs that scraped among trees, or landed and left impressions behind, etc., as collected, e.g., by Ted Phillips.

Or, if you can accept it, there are the alien implants that have been removed from some of the UFO abductees.
Teresita said…
Jim: As to alien artifacts or the lack of, research indicates that our special branches of the military are very prompt at hauling away any and all crashed disks, as at Roswell.

Your list of crashed UFOs (complete with body counts!) reads like a history of general aviation fatalities. Yet we are told these are advanced beings with superior technology. And always the evidence is "believed by some to be buried" or "reported recovered" or "the memo also states that it was believed" and even reports from foreign governments are said to be shut down by the US government. And every single scrap of wreckage is whisked away by the military which is omnipotent in this area, but so incompetent they allowed B-52s to fly over the USA armed with nuclear warheads (for which the Secretary of the Air Force was sacked by Robert Gates recently). I'm an employee of the US Navy so I know how slipshod the military really is. But in the end we have no objective dataset of observations to base our theories on. In the realm of Christianity we can get away with this because we all agree that "faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen" but in the realm of science we aren't allowed this luxury.
Jim Deardorff said…
And every single scrap of wreckage is whisked away by the military which is omnipotent in this area, but so incompetent they allowed B-52s to fly over the USA armed with nuclear warheads

That latter was great incompetence indeed, even if it involved attempted espionage that almost succeeded. However, if you read up on the Roswell case (e.g., Witness to Roswell by Carey & Schmitt (2007)), you learn that some of the small debris got overlooked by the military clean-up crew and eventually came to light. The military wasn't quite omnipotent. There were pieces of very strong "metal" that "could not be cut, bent, scratched or burned," along with six other categories of debris with anomalous properties. This information came from both civilian and military sources.

Science should not ignore the testimony of credible witnesses. The usual rule of science requiring replicability of evidence obviously does not apply to a phenomenon involving intelligences as advanced (or more advanced) than we.

Thanks to Robin for allowing this discussion to go on a while.
Teresita said…
Jim: Science should not ignore the testimony of credible witnesses. The usual rule of science requiring replicability of evidence obviously does not apply to a phenomenon involving intelligences as advanced (or more advanced) than we.

The rule is not strictly "replicability of evidence" but simply the falsifiability of hypotheses generated from that evidence. It's not possible, for example, for other astronomers to replicate the observation of a certain brief gamma ray burst, because it was a one-shot. But if that astronomer makes the hypothesis that no gamma ray burst exceeds 60 seconds in duration, he has stated a falsifiable hypothesis. Subsequent observations of other gamma ray bursts can be made by other astronomers. If one of these bursts is five minutes long, then that astronomer can publish a paper that tears down the original hypothesis. But now he has generated a new falsifiable hypothesis that gamma ray bursts of five minutes in duration can exist, which spurs more observations. And so on. In this way, the scientific method slowly but inexorably discards false models and arrive at true and useful ones.

Now suppose that gamma ray bursts were really test detonations of US nuclear warheads in space, and the military was interested in keeping this fact secret. As soon as a scientist reported that 80% of gamma ray bursts occur on the earth's rotational plane, indicating a nearby event, imagine the military swooping down into his observatory and taking all his data. Now imagine foreign astronomers being shut down by their government after political pressure from America, even in places that are military rivals of the United States. That is what you are asking me to believe. That the United States reserves a monopoly on alien artifacts, such that even if they fall on foreign soil our special forces get to haul them off to be reverse-engineered, and our military and economic rivals say nothing about it.
Jim Deardorff said…
...you are asking me to believe. That the United States reserves a monopoly on alien artifacts, such that even if they fall on foreign soil our special forces get to haul them off to be reverse-engineered, and our military and economic rivals say nothing about it.

Teresita,
One can't do much more than speculate on this, but if you were in charge of the military of a foreign government, wouldn't you be almost as eager as the U.S. to cover up the fact of any alien/UFO crash, especially 20-60 years ago? That reaction would be due to fear of adverse religious repercussions, and/or lack of knowledge as to how it could be explained to the people, and/or fear of loss of governing authority or respect for local nationalism, and/or desire for selected engineers and scientists of your own nation to secretly back-engineer it in hopes of reaping the benefits of new technology or sources of energy.
So I'd speculate that some agencies within foreign governments have their own cache of alien artifacts.

Some other countries in which a UFO crash has occurred (I believe that Mexico and Argentina apply) would be happy to have the U.S. military take the onus and responsibility of what to do with a crashed disk off their hands, but would wish to keep the whole affair secret for some of the same above reasons.

But are you sticking to your belief that actual detailed UFO/alien reports from credible and sincere persons, such as Clark McClelland, are of no evidential value? And that the accumulation of many such credible reports is of no more value than just one, even when pertaining to the same event? Would you like it if a judge in a court of law were to hold that view?
Teresita said…
But are you sticking to your belief that actual detailed UFO/alien reports from credible and sincere persons, such as Clark McClelland, are of no evidential value?

In this modern digital age, even photographic evidence is of no value, let alone eyewitness reports. But we aren't offered clear photos or video of flying saucers, only blurry handheld video of some lights floating in the darkness which could well be the parking lot of a desert roadhouse. I don't accept the word of Ed Mitchell solely on the basis of his status as one of the twelve moon walkers, because that is an fallacious appeal to authority. This is what I would accept as evidence:

1) Images taken by the aliens of their own homeworld.

2) A sample of alien DNA.

3) A piece of wreckage composed of an exotic material never yet produced on Earth.

4) A mathematical proof which would be quite routine for the alien but which has not been solved by us on Earth at this time.
Jim Deardorff said…
Teresita wrote:
This is what I would accept as evidence:

1) Images taken by the aliens of their own homeworld.

I think you would need the alien, too, to attest that they are his/her images, since photo manipulation can be so convincingly done these days.

2) A sample of alien DNA.
FWIW, I've read that we all have alien DNA within our "junk" DNA. And too many instances of DNA-compatible alien impregnation of Earth women have been plausibly postulated, as e.g., in the case of the "sons of god" in Gen 6:2,4 and in 1 Enoch.

3) A piece of wreckage composed of an exotic material never yet produced on Earth.
Any particular reasons why you weren't satisfied with the removed implant data?

The one analysis of a piece of UFO debris I know the reference for produced several strong indications of being alien, from its anomalous isotopic ratios.

4) A mathematical proof which would be quite routine for the alien but which has not been solved by us on Earth at this time.
In analyzing one or more (genuine) crop-circle formations, several new geometrical theorems were discovered in 1992. The large, complex, overnight-appearing formations have long since been found beyond any capability of human hoaxing, and have been strongly linked to an alien source.

How about a #5)? Records obtained from from several different radar installations of multiple anomalous pips (no transponder echoes) that correlate perfectly well with spectacular visual observations of UFOs from multiple witnesses.

This occurred in January, 2008 in the vicinity of Stephenville, TX.
Robin Parry said…
Sorry guys but I was not posting on the theme of aliens and don't wish to get into a discussion about them here (fun though it looks)

I may do a post on aliens though - thanks for the idea

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